Raising Compassionate, Globally Conscious Children

Hippie in Disguise ro and sen Chassin Rideau Canal

Environmental Consciousness. Social Change. Mindfulness. Global Compassion. Minimalism. Holistic Living. Arts. Adventure. Education. Inspiration.

These are words that drive me, that I try to knit together in the way I live and in the way I raise my children. They are also words that perfectly describe the Global Guardian Project.

Last August I wrote about my friend Rebecca‘s new idea: The Global Guardian Project, a digital multimedia capsule for children and families that teaches about the world, global stewardship, sustainability, plants, animals, social and environmental activists, and lots more. The capsule is basically an interactive digital magazine for families to help learn more about the planet, country by country.

The intent of the Global Guardian Project is to expose ourselves and our children to the wide world of not just nature, but the intricate connections between human cultures and the ecosystems that support us, with the ultimate goal of helping us raise the next generation as global guardians, stewards of the planet.

Hippie in Disguise Rideau River Ottawa

With this in mind, the capsules are designed to educate, but also to inspire action. That is, to cultivate a greater caring for the earth and all its inhabitants and to inspire us to take small (and big) actions to improve the health of our planet for the collective good. The capsules were initially very popular with homeschooling and worldschooling families, as they cover a lot of science, geography, art and language curriculum, but they have also become popular with families seeking more enriching digital (“screen”) time and others just interested in learning more about the world. I should mention that while the capsules are digital, they can easily be printed, so if you are not keen on screen time then you can read the capsules the old fashioned way: on paper.

  • What is a learning capsule? Picture a digital magazine that is interactive, with videos to click and watch, art and activity downloads, links to TED talks and other resources, as well as beautiful photography, original art and lots of educational facts and information, interviews and more.

After receiving my first capsule I got even more excited about the project, there is really no resource like the Global Guardian Project out there. The multimedia format is unique and engaging. The content is interesting and inspiring. But most importantly, the core mission of the project: to raise a generation of global change makers by teaching children about how to care for the earth is so critical and close to my heart that I knew I wanted to be involved in helping the project grow. As the weeks and months passed I found myself suggesting ideas, writing content, working with contributors and generally being an all-around cheerleader for the project.

After noting my enthusiasm and my tendency to write a lot (sorry, for this long introduction, by the way..) Rebecca asked if I would like to be the Guest Editor for the upcoming capsule on Canada. To say I was excited would be an understatement. I said yes, though I invited my trusted writing (and life) partner, Matt, to plan and edit the issue with me. I invited some great thinkers, artists and friends to help out too: artist Erin Wetzel, nutritionist Kylah Dobson and permaculture farmer Zach Loeks. Together, with the team of Global Guardian Project regulars, we put together an amazing interactive digital magazine.

Global guardian Project Homeschool Curriculum Canada Animals Plants

And….the issue is now available for purchase from Global Guardian Project’s website either as a single issue (“a la carte”) or as part of their monthly subscription program. If you subscribe, you save considerably, and you get the advantage of building on learning each month, especially with the world map activities. As well, you can cancel at any time, even after one issue.

Here’s a little preview:

Each capsule is comprised of:

  • Over 50 pages of facts and information covering the country basics like size and geography, endangered animals and how we can help them, indigenous plants, related vocabulary and definitions for new words like (fossil, aerodynamic, habitat and so on), book reviews, and much more.
  • Videos showing children taking action in their local communities, for example by helping turtles.
  • Healthy, local recipes and demonstration videos
  • Profiles of activists, ecological leaders and inspiring people from the featured country to inspire action
  • A podcast guided meditation appropriate (and fun) for children and families
  • Art projects and downloads, such as colouring sheets
  • Map projects and other interactive activities
  • Lots more!

I hope you’ll consider buying one for yourself or someone in your life. While the capsules are geared to children (ages 3 and up), homeschoolers and teachers, lots of adults have been saying they enjoy them and have learned a lot from reading them. If you know Matt, then you know he has a knack for finding really cool facts and stories about natural phenomena. Keep in mind, the capsules make a great last minute gift for any occasion, since there is no delivery time.

  • You can buy the Canada edition ($16.99) or subscribe to the series for $13.49 per month, using my discount code HIPPIEINDISGUISE.
  • If you subscribe by January 14th, 2017 you will receive the Canada capsule, if you subscribe after you will get the Sri Lanka capsule, since a new capsule is released to subscribers on the 15th of each month.

You can read more about the Global Guardian Project here, you can visit their website here, find them on Instagram @globalguardianproject. If you sign up for their email list you’ll get a free mini capsule about Ocean Life. Why not try it out?!

Any questions, please leave a comment below.

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Interview with a Minimalist: Ksenia

Somedays, some posts, I worry that I’m a broken record. I just keep saying “minimalism isn’t about stuff, it’s so much more” (with emphasis on the emotional, psychological and interpersonal benefits of minimalism).

I’m passionate about minimalism, but not because it means I have a sparse, stylish, tidy home that is as white as possible. No, I don’t have any of these things. Minimalism – living with less – is really about voluntary simplicity and slow living, mindful acquisition and unburdening. In my view, through minimalism, the paring down of our possessions and commitments (and everything else), we come to know ourselves very well. We don’t have the distractions that keep us from sitting idle and reflecting on our lives and the people and things that surround us. When it comes to stuff, and often minimalism starts at the basic level of stuff (yes, decluttering is the gateway), parting with things we thought we needed, but find we don’t miss, is instructive. We learn about ourselves, our habits, our dependencies.

Paring down material possessions opens the gate to a bigger minimalism (irony intended). This is the minimalism that unburdens us of the things, ideas and ways of thought that do not serve us and allow us to spend our time, energy and money in better ways. (Personally, I try to take this a step further by dispensing with ideas, practices and things that do not serve the community and planet well. Emphasis on ‘try’, because, well, I’m far from perfect.)

In crafting this series of interviews with minimalists I sought to debunk the perception that minimalism is a visual aesthetic, or that it is a narrow, prescriptive lifestyle. I’ve purposely chosen to share as many photos of minimalists outside their homes (outside the context of things they own or don’t own), to show the joys and freedoms that come with a minimalist lifestyle, to show that minimalists live in a wide variety of ways. What is common to the minimalists I speak with (and choose to feature here) is that they have experienced massive improvements in the quality of their life, their enjoyment in living, by voluntarily reducing the number of things, people and commitments they are responsible for.

Today, I have an interview with Ksenia who views minimalism as part of her spiritual journey. She recently went on a decision detox, where she undertook a personal experiment to minimize, that is, to apply minimalism, to decision making. I found this absolutely fascinating and asked her to share. Below you’ll hear about Ksenia’s minimalism journey, the benefits it has brought her and her family and perhaps some inspiration for your own unburdening.

Dear Ksenia, let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?

My name is Ksenia. I was born and raised in Latvia by the beautiful Baltic Sea. When I was four years old the Soviet Union collapsed and Latvia became independent. The fall of communism brought radical changes to all the spheres of the society and opened doors to many influences from the West and from the East. My parents where among the first to embrace changes. They raised us in a beautiful home surrounded by nature in a yogic environment that was unusual for that time. Our family traveled to places that most Soviet people couldn’t even dream of visiting. My childhood had profound influence on my perception of the world.

I moved to the United States 10 years ago where I live with my husband Daniel and my son Anton. These days I am a stay at home mom and I love it. My passion lies in the realms of creativity. I love embroiding, crocheting and drawing thangka (Tibetan spiritual artwork).


What part of the world do you live in?

I live in New York. I met my husband during a trip to England. While we were deciding on a place to start our life together, the Universe sent us a lucky green card lottery win. And so we moved halfway across the world to NYC.

How many children do you have and what are they like?

I have a son, Anton. He is a curious little toddler with endless energy. He always moves and spends his days dancing and singing.


I was intrigued and inspired by your recent Instagram post about minimizing decision making. Can you tell me more about this?

I always felt mentally exhausted from all the irrelevant decisions I had to make every day. What should I eat for breakfast? What should I wear? These thoughts would come to my mind in the mornings when I was still in bed. I never liked to feel rushed and I always dreamed of days that will start with meditation and a long cup of tea. When I came across the theory about decision fatigue I was blown away. Research shows that our brains are capable of making only a finite amount of choices a day. Every additional decision, no matter how small, exhausts our “brain muscle” and consequently weakens our ability or desire to make a right choice.


And so I decided to go on decision “detox”. My patient husband approved of this experiment. We started making weekly food plans, started making budget, we decided to eat the same thing for breakfast, quit shopping except for necessities and chose to restrain from entertainment. The list goes on.

This practice turned out to be very liberating for me on many levels and I am excited to see where it will take me in the future.


I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you? And, in what ways are you a minimalist?

Minimalism above all is a part of my spiritual journey. I believe that I am a visitor in this world searching for love and light, I am here to grow and to learn. I don’t want to spend my days around artificial things that are not really important. Minimalism is not a style for me, it is a tool I use to free my mind from the distractions of the world.


What has been the greatest benefit of minimalism?

Minimalism helped me discover a new state of mind, that shines light on all areas of my life.


What is your story, how did you start on a path toward a minimalist lifestyle?

It all started from my trips to India. When I first traveled there four years ago I was in awe from the simple life people lead there and felt that we are missing the point in the West. I attempted to mimic this simplicity in my life, but I didn’t reach my minimalist Nirvana at that time. Last year I was lucky to spend another six weeks in India. While I lived in the ashram I was following a strict ashram schedule. I was amazed that I was able to do all the things I am desperately attempting to do in my everyday life with very little effort. I had time for meditation, for work around the ashram, for socializing with friends, for Anton and even for reading. There were several things that stood out to me immediately, one, was a limited amount of possessions I carried with me and another had to do with a steady ashram routine.

Upon my return I was determined to project ashram lifestyle in Himalaya’s onto my own life in NYC. And so I dove into simplifying once again.

Is your parenting influenced by minimalism?

Yes, it definitely is. When we were preparing to welcome Anton into this world we were dreaming to do this as gently for the environment as we could. We asked friends and family not to shower us with abundance of baby gadgets and we restrained from buying toys. However it didn’t turn out exactly as we hoped. Anton was becoming more overwhelmed with each gift he was receiving. I knew I had to do something about it. I decided to trim the amount of toys he had to one box of quality toys that went along with our parenting philosophy. We removed all media entertainment from him, stopped excessive socialization with other toddlers and cut down on his scheduled activities. He was left with unlimited time in the park to explore nature and with a lot of my undistracted attention. My goal was to conquer overstimulation. It took about a week for all of us to get used to it but it turned out to be a great experience. Boredom turned into imaginary play almost instantly, single-toy-at-a-time created unbelievably long attention span for his age and his vocabulary expanded tremendously. Now looking back, I am so glad that I found strength to go full force on simplifying his busy little life.


Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?

  • Buddhist and Hindu thought on non-attachment.
  • The Minimalists, I had pleasure of seeing their new movie. These guys are simply incredible.
  • Instagram, it has been my source of inspiration from environmental minimalism, people like you { thank you Ksenia! } and reginenordz make me try harder every day.
  • My guru Haidakhan Baba, he placed Simplicity in the center of his teaching. Without him I would not have started on this path.

In what ways/areas do you struggle with keeping things minimal? What is your weakness?

Minimalism didn’t come naturally to me, I went through many struggles while I was letting things and ideas go. The biggest challenge was in the area of my creativity. I was parting with my old art projects, with yarn I didn’t use for crocheting, with oil painting supplies I didn’t see myself returning to since becoming a mother. It was very intensive time. The experience was similar to deep self analysis. I discovered that I attached many emotions to things that brought me joy in the past, like a dress I wore when I was pregnant or gifts I received from loved ones and no longer used. Separating emotions from objects was a break through for me. I feel that I have reached a happy place right now, but I probably still have too many books on my shelves and too many jars of delicious herbs in my tea cabinet.


Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?

My husband was very supportive of my search for meaning through voluntary simplicity, but when I was loading our car with donation boxes for the third time he asked me to slow down a bit. It has been a while since that time and recently he told me that he is finally feeling positive effects of minimalism and is willing to dive deeper into this process.


What have been some unexpected experiences (positive or negative) you’ve had with minimalism?

I was able to embrace my inner introvert more. I used to feel all sorts of feelings when I needed to take a break from an outside world. Minimalism taught me to say “No” and not to feel guilty about it.

What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?

It is hard to give advice because everyone’s life and circumstances are so different. I would suggest to stop things from entering your home first. Stop shopping and take some time to reflect on what you own and what no longer serves you.

Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?

No particular goals this year, but our vision for the future is to live in our own small home surrounded by nature, homeschool Anton and travel a lot.


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Thank you, Ksenia, for sharing and inspiring! Readers you can follow Ksenia’s world over on Instagram @ksenjaisa

POPULAR POST: Best Books to Get Inspired and Informed about Minimalism

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Hippie in Disguise Saturns Sister Mushrooms

In the News: Saturn*s Sister Author, Sisterkeeper & Muse

Hippie in Disguise Saturns Sister Mushrooms

We are headed off to camp for the weekend, but I first wanted to share some very exciting news with you. A few months ago I was asked by my friend Tiff if I’d like to join a circle of women that would form a creative group of women and sisters to share their respective knowledge in a mutually supportive way. It sounded pretty great. As the idea evolved and other women joined and we prepared to launch the site I knew this was the right fit for me and that something special was blossoming.

On Wednesday, Saturn*s Sister soft-launched, opening its arms to the world. Please visit! We have a blog that shares stories of motherhood and ideas for bringing calm to our chaotic and creative lives — and there is a lot more in store for it so check back often. Right now, the blog features posts with women from the collective sharing their thoughts on chaos, calm, creativity, practice, clarity, space and inspiration.

You can read my post “Chaos as Magic, Chaos as Life-Giving” here.

Here’s a little excerpt:

“When I am open to the chaotic unknown as potentially beautiful, fresh, new and positive I welcome chaos as everyday magic. This doesn’t mean that having two baskets of laundry to fold and a sink full of dishes feels magical, but it does bring a pleasant mindfulness to the chaotic mundane.”

In August, Saturn*s Sister will launch it’s community circle (a subscriber group), which will be a supportive online circle where the women of the Saturn*s Sister Collective will share their knowledge, including: yoga practices, home health care and apothecary, recipes, inspiring stories, meditations, and much more. Stay tuned for the launch! And if you’d like to sign up now you can use my code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for a discount.

Saturns sister hippie in disguise discount code

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In the News: Project Calm, Mindfulness through Making

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A few months ago I was approached to contribute to a new magazine titled Project Calm, a mindful magazine for creative types. Project Calm is all about “mindfulness through making”. It was an honour to be asked to contribute as mindful creativity is to close to my heart and soul. It’s also serendipitous that the magazine was launched during the Slow Living month focused on nurturing, given the magazine aims to help busy folk slow down and nurture themselves through craft, encouraging us all to channel our energies into creating mindful beauty.

Bringing mindfulness to craft and creativity is so important (which I wrote a little about here, in relation to picking flowers and making flower crowns), both in terms of the personal, spiritual and mental health benefits of mindfulness, but also the environmental benefits of being mindful about how and what we create. I am always inclined to create from natural materials as much as possible, so that our projects have no waste from packaging and is fully compostable (for example, Ro’s halloween Mother Nature costume, made from real leaves, or our holiday Botanical Advent).

For this first issue of Project Calm, I contributed my Real Flower Temporary Tattoos tutorial. It is so exciting to see my work in print!

GIC_08_p8-9_naturenews_72dpiCopies are almost sold out, so if you’d like one order soon. They are available for purchase here.

Here’s a little sample of what you’ll find in the issue among the four sections covering Home, Nature, Travel and Mind & Body:

  • Paper-based crafts to make, colour & create
  • Positive features to inspire and enrich
  • Case studies and profiles of successful creatives
  • Travel, retreats and courses to try
  • Papercutting template on card
  • Paper animal kits
  • Poster with floral illustrations

Or, you can take a look at the preview here…

 

Thank you to my friend Erin, the florist, who collected discarded petals and flowers for my tattoo project. And, thank you to Kate for connecting my work to the folks at Project Calm.

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Interview with a Minimalist: Claudia

Minimalism recently crept up on me, it was lurking in the shadows, subtly suggesting itself. Or, maybe it’s always been there, but without a name or firm identity I couldn’t recognize it. Perhaps, now that the term ‘minimalism’ is popular and applies to a lifestyle – a way of life – rather than just an art historical movement, aesthetic sensibility or home décor trend, I can more easily recognize it as part of my life. I think about my childhood, my personality, and my intense need for mental calm, my need for order and simplicity in my surroundings because clutter in the outside world has always meant clutter in my inside world. It’s never been simplicity / less / minimal for the sake of simplicity / less / minimal, but for what these enable: a sense of peace and calm, and, ultimately, a sense of freedom. Freedom from things, unnecessary decisions, emotions and thoughts, maintenance work, stress and strain.

In talking recently with Claudia (interviewed below), I was reminded of another early start on my minimalist path: yoga and my related study of non-attachment, drawing from Tibetan and Buddhist thinking. I initially thought I’d talk about that in my introduction to her interview, but I’ll leave that for another time, because she dropped this one on me: “The process of becoming minimalist itself is minimalism.” Thank you Claudia! I won’t dissect this from every angle but want to suggest a few things to think about.

Minimalism is a perspective, it’s not an end state. It’s a process, a path, but we don’t arrive. In this light, minimalism is a lens through which we make decisions (“one pair of rain boots is all I need”), it doesn’t decide for us (“I can’t get rain boots because I already own 50 things, and 50 is the limit”). Principles ground our decisions, ground our practice of minimalism, but they do not dictate. In fact, a minimalist dictatorship could be quite dangerous. That is, care has to be taken to not go too far with minimalism.

So…don’t give away your last mixing bowl if you make pancakes every Sunday, unless you want to mix the batter in your rain boots.

When we begin applying minimalism to our lives it can be a challenge because we are used to holding onto things, ideas, emotions, obligations; but once we get started it’s easy to keep going. Our minds shift from “less is good,” to “less feels great”. But we need to be careful to not take things too far or to be too rigid with our rules; we need to re-evaluate along the way. Less for less’s sake should never be the goal. Minimalism is a process, it has ebbs and flows, rhythms and phases; it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

For those of us on the path, we are always on our way, we are always arriving, but never there.

In what follows Claudia shares her experience and insights related to minimalism – there are many delicious nuggets to savour, please take your time. In recent months, Claudia has been a huge inspiration to me, as I walk along my path, with her open mindedness, encouragement, and worldly wisdom. I know you’ll enjoy reading this interview and I encourage you to pause, ponder and share with others.

Dear Claudia, let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?

I was born in Cuba, the daughter of an ex-political prisoner. We were granted asylum in Peru and later in the United States, where I was raised amid the Cuban diaspora in Miami, Florida. Unsurprisingly, I became an early advocate for human rights, joining Amnesty International at 15 years old. I earned a BA in Psychology and International Affairs and an MA in International Studies with focus on human rights, refugees, and migration policy. After graduate school, I worked as a program coordinator assisting individuals who suffered from torture and other forms of persecution in their home countries secure asylum in the US, followed by a brief stint in a consulting firm before welcoming our daughter. These days, I’m a stay at home mom and while I look forward to one day returning to a career in advocacy, I’m enjoying this new stage in life and the immense rewards and challenges that come along with it.

What part of the world do you live in? 

NYC [ New York City ]

How many children do you have and what are they like? 

I have a 12 month old daughter named Eleanor. She is joyful, curious, daring, and strong. A real charmer and people person. While intensely observant she also loves to explore and is always busy, but never fails to find her way back to my lap or arms. She gives the sweetest bear hugs and I love that she is independent but still so connected to us. It’s been amazing, though bittersweet, to see her hurtle through milestones – she is such a force. We are utterly in love with her and feel she’s given us an immense sense of fulfillment.


I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you? And, in what ways are you a minimalist?

I’ve made a commitment to living with less (even when my means allow for more), living sustainably, embracing mindfulness, choosing with care, and prioritizing experiences over the tangible. This translates to a smaller home and fewer possessions; less wants and more reflection; and being as conscious of the mental clutter as the physical. In practice, this has led to perpetual evaluation. I’m always, by habit now, taking stock of what I have and trimming the excess by identifying what I can do without – whether it be possessions, time commitments, or even expectations and goals.

I believe minimalism is much more than an uncluttered home, capsule wardrobes, and Scandinavian design. To me, minimalism is freedom – from attachment, from obligation, from possessions, from draining relationships, from frivolousness. It’s about eliminating excess and living with intention.

The process of becoming a minimalist itself is minimalism.  

What has been the greatest benefit of minimalism?

How liberating it is.

What is your story, how did you start on a path toward a minimalist lifestyle?

My husband and I went to a museum on our first date. There was a traveling exhibit of Tibetan monks working on a sand mandala. The work was beautiful but painstaking and I was taken aback to learn that once finished, it would be swept away rather than preserved. Years later, during my graduate studies, I spent a month in India working with Tibetan refugees and was once again exposed to this non-attachment philosophy. Tibetans believe attachment to be one of the three root causes of suffering. The combination of Tibetan monks, the humbling foothills of the Himalayas, and having successfully lived off only what I could carry in my hiking pack left an undeniable impression. While I had always been prone to de-cluttering, when I returned home I truly embraced minimalism on more than a purely aesthetic level and began the journey of reassessing and refining my needs and wants – physical, emotional, and otherwise – accordingly. That was over six years ago, and each year since I’ve felt lighter and more empowered as a consequence.

I know many people come to minimalism through circumstance – already overburdened by excess they can’t control and desperate for change or otherwise forced to downsize due to finances or other environmental pressures (like moving from the suburbs to the city) – for me, however, there was no breaking point, no line in the sand, no forced hand. There was just introspection and a desire to evolve past unhealthy attachment, whether it be to a thing or an idea, in order to focus on what and who matters most to me.

Is your parenting influenced by minimalism?

Absolutely! I would say that minimalism along with the Montessori method, the two of which I find often overlap, have been most influential in my parenting style. From the beginning, it meant rejecting ‘more’ and ‘bigger’ as cornerstones of parenting. We opted for less of everything – ultrasounds, interventions, baby gear, expectations. We never owned the majority of what our consumerist society has declared “must haves” for infants and new parents, and have thrived regardless. People are often taken aback when they come to our home and see no exersaucer, no chests brimful of toys, even no crib (for the curious, we’ve embraced cosleeping and a Montessori floor bed instead). As with everything else in our lives, our approach is quality over quantity. Her toys, which are limited in quantity and selected with great care and thought, are put out on her shelves a few at a time, spaced out, and rotated often. We avoid screens, prize open-ended play, and so forth. More importantly, I reject the idea that childhood has to be busy or encroached with academics. I believe there is more to be gained from exploring a fallen leaf than flashcards.


Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?

One of the Tibetan monks I volunteered with in India told me how in the south of India, people would cut holes in coconuts, fill them with sweets, and tie them to a tree to lure monkeys. The monkeys would come, fit there hand through the hole and grab at the sweet, but now, having made a fist around the sweet, were unable to pull the hand back out through the hole. The monkey wouldn’t think of letting go of the sweet, and so it held itself prisoner and would ultimately be captured — all because it didn’t think to let go. That parable has stuck with me since.

I’ve also found a great deal of inspiration from the works of Henry David Thoreau:

Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify, simplify! … Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.

…and Leo Babauta’s blogs.

With regard to parenting, I recommend Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne [ my favourite too! ] and The Anthropology of Childhood by David F. Lancy – which is a dense, academic title but offers invaluable perspective.

In what ways do you struggle with keeping things minimal? What is your weakness?

Digital clutter – articles bookmarked for later reading, news subscriptions, and an ever-growing photo library. Digital clutter is easy to overlook because it’s not tangible and doesn’t take up visible space, but, as with all else, the more you have, the more upkeep it requires. My digital clutter stresses me out and I work, seemingly tirelessly, at reducing it, but it always feels like an uphill battle.

Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?

While my husband is not as intentional about minimalism as I am, we’re largely on the same page. Although he occasionally hangs on to a few smaller things, like old t-shirts, longer than I’d like, he embraces living small and is incredibly supportive of my passion for minimalism.

What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?

As with the sand mandalas, it’s in the process not the product.

Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?

I want to document less, which can be quite a challenge as a new parent in the digital age. Also, while we recycle, repurpose, compost, and shop locally and “green”, I believe there is still more we can do as a family to live sustainably. Inspired by the zero waste movement – which I see as an extension of minimalism – I’m hoping to continue to reduce the amount of packaged goods we bring into our home.

Thank you, Claudia! So much to think about. Readers you can find Claudia on Instagram @thearroyos. [ update October 2016: Claudia closed her Instagram account ]

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Have you subscribed to the Global Guardian Project yet? These are monthly learning capsules for children and families to learn about global stewardship. Each month features a different country’s wild life, landscape and challenges, and includes art projects, activities, meditation, recipes and more! Use my discount code: HIPPIEINDISGUISE for 10% off, you can read more about it here

Social Media Minimalism: How To Balance Instagram and Family Life

“Life is what happens while you are staring at your smartphone.” – anonymous

Nico Nico Clothing Hippie in disguise Ro and Sen

A few people have asked me variations on the same question. How do I live slowly when I clearly do so much? How do I stay connected with my children, family and friends, when I’m also very connected to social media, in particular Instagram? I can’t answer all at once, but I thought I would start by sharing how I use Instagram and remain connected and present for my family. I will explain below, but first…

Last night I arrived home a little early from work and from picking up the kids, so rather than jump straight into dinner preparations I sat on the couch to read for a few minutes. Sen was already on the floor building with his blocks and Ro was on the couch knitting. I pulled a magazine from the shelf and opened it to a random page. Leaving things to the universe, I like to think that the page I land on will have information or inspiration that I need in that moment. I landed on an article about Japanese Tea Ceremony relating it to the concepts of presence, mindfulness and ichi-go ichi-e. I usually have a strict policy of not putting forward my own understanding of another culture’s practices, of simplifying something very rich by laying it over my life. But I was struck in the moment that this concept applied so well to me and how it’s easy for me to prioritize my family and children over social media. According to the article, ichi-go ichi-e is a concept suggesting that each encounter is unique and will never be recreated. With this view we can bring greater presence, intention and gratitude to each encounter we have. Not having much of something is often an easy way to appreciate it. Not having much time with my children, I appreciate the time I have. Knowing that this moment with Sen quietly humming and building with blocks, Ro knitting and humming her own tune, me reading and Matt playing with a new musical instrument my sister gave us – this perfect moment will never happen again. I’m breathing it in, not breaking the hum by starting a conversation, and just appreciating these few minutes before dinner begins. This is life.

Before I tell you how I keep my social media use in check, a little more about me might help you understand…

My academic background is in the social history and art historical understanding of photography. In this sense I came to parenthood with a very keen and deep sense of the role of photography in history and in human self-development (sense of identity). Matt and I have always taken a cautious and reserved approach to documenting our lives and the children. We didn’t photograph many major events in our life because of this. Sometimes, admittedly, with regret.

As a parent I have been inspired and deeply influenced by the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. Among other things, Payne advocates limited exposure of children to media and screens. I took this approach to heart and have tried my best to maintain a home and dynamic with my children that minimizes time with screens. That being said, my children do watch shows on an iPad, they see me use my iPhone (which is my phone, camera and computer all in one), because screens are a reality of life, like the newspaper at the front door once was. I try my best to limit it, without at the same time raising my children in a bubble that will inevitably burst.

So…my use of Instagram and social media is heavily influence by my academic studies of photography and particularly its impact on human personality and development and by my alignment with simplicity parenting and the importance of minimizing screens and electronic media for children’s healthy development.

Preamble over –> on to Instagram now.

Instagram is the predominant social network in my life. I also have a Twitter account, which is almost exclusively auto-fed information from my Instagram account and my blog. I have yet to learn how to use Twitter effectively. Probably never will. Don’t really care to. I also have a Facebook account, which I’ve used more in the last year to connect with people I know in real life, since my Instagram account grew too large beyond my circle of friends and family to keep up with.

So, a few details about my life and my Instagram account are important to share and set the stage for how I use social media:

+ I work full time outside of the home

+ My Instagram following is too large to keep track of notifications and new content (a blessing in disguise)

What do these two things mean?

First, working full time outside of the home, a minimum of 40 hours a week, plus my commuting time (by bicycle) to get to and from work, means that I have a lot of time away from my children. My time with the children during the work week is very limited, about an hour in the morning, and about 2 hours at night, during which time I have to do all the parenting duties that come with having children, feed, clothe, bath, homework, which leaves usually about 15-20 minutes of unstructured free time. This means my time with them is precious and I have no interest in wasting it away on Instagram or other social media. But working outside the home means I have plenty of time during the work week on my break time to engage in social media.

Second, my Instagram account has grown to such a size that I cannot keep up with the notifications that come in. I could be slightly off on the exact number, but basically Instagram will only provide you with the last 100 notifications related to you (notifications are the likes and comments others have left on your photos or in response to comments you left on other photos). I used to be able to open Instagram once or twice a day and not miss any news in my notifications, I could easily see when someone replied to a comment I left them and then go back to continue the conversation. This was because when I signed in I would have 20-40 notifications. Now that my account is much larger I easily have 100 notifications every hour. If I’ve just posted something new I will have 100 notifications in 5 or 6 minutes. In order to stay on top of the notifications I would have to open Instagram many times an hour not to miss anything. (Perhaps there’s an app out there that tracks expired notifications but I haven’t bothered to look and wouldn’t want it anyway).

My Instagram account grew fairly steadily (except for the two times that Instagram added my name to the Suggested User List). I was able to manage the notifications at first; I would check in three times a day, then four times a day as my following size grew. But after a certain point it was impossible to keep on top of the notifications. For example, when I woke up in the morning there would always be 100 new notifications in my feed, which meant I necessarily missed some news. At first I was little stressed, thinking I could have missed an important message from a friend or that possibly I was rude for not answering someone. But when I stepped back for a moment, I realized there was no reasonable way to control any of this and that my real friends wouldn’t drop out of my life if I missed an Instagram comment. I certainly wasn’t about to wake up during the night to make sure I didn’t miss anything! So, I conceded that I couldn’t stay on top of the news. And then realized that this was actually a freedom.

Freedom.

Freedom to check in on Instagram only when I felt like it. Freedom from the tyranny of notifications (overstatement, I know) and from keeping up with all the new content.

Since this time, I’ve had a much less engaged relationship with Instagram. There are trade-offs for not being on Instagram and constantly liking and commenting on others photos, or replying to comments: I don’t get as many likes on my photos, I lose followers and I don’t get new ones as quickly. But this doesn’t bother me, because the gains are far greater: lack of stress related to keeping up and greater presence during family time. And, my enjoyment, experience, engagement and connection to the Instagram community has not been adversely affected.

So, here is how I use Instagram:

Because I work full time outside the home, I have many hours away from the children each day. I use my break times at work to post to Instagram, to check in on others accounts or to reply to questions. This way I’m not using Instagram when my children are around. When I’m with them I’m either doing parent and household tasks or playing with them. I save Instagramming for breaks at work. I post on the weekends when they are asleep or playing with friends. It’s that simple.

A few other things:

  1. I do not have the notifications turned on. Never have.
  2. I do not worry about missing a post from a friend.
  3. I do not worry about seeing, liking and commenting on all of my friends and others photos coming through my Instagram feed.
  4. I do not scroll through the Instagram feed each day, usually only once a week. Sometimes less often, really.
  5. When I sign into Instagram, I will choose a few friends or accounts to visit and I will catch up on their photos that way.
  6. I do not use my time to reply to and thank people for every comment made on my photos. I try my best to answer questions and particularly thoughtful comments, but I know that I definitely miss some. C’est la vie! That’s life!

Taking Photos.

Photography is a big part of Instagramming, so I thought I’d share how I incorporate photography into my children’s life. First, I use an iPhone for photography, which is great for it being small and much less conspicuous than a conventional DSLR camera – you can take photos in a way children often don’t take notice of.

Clearly, however, even with an iPhone camera, my children are aware of the device and its presence in their lives. I do not photograph my children as much as it may seem. In the late fall and winter I very rarely take photos. If I look at my camera roll now, until very recently I had only taken photos of them 3 times since December. I do a lot of recycling. I pull old photos that I never shared or repost favourites with new captions. During the more temperate seasons in late spring, summer, and early fall I do photograph the children more often, but only when they are unaware or okay with it. My style of photography and the photos I like are un-posed, organic and capture something authentic, in this sense my photography excels when the children aren’t aware that I’m taking pictures. I also make a clear decision not to photograph them every day or to capture all their moments in digital form. I can write more on this in a subsequent post if there is interest.

There you have it: a little social media minimalism for you. You really don’t need to be on social media all the time to stay connected and engaged in a community, you won’t lose real friends or real community. Maybe some fickle people will leave you behind. You don’t need them! As I have experienced, I can still find lots of inspiration by way of images, captions and conversation on Instagram without having to digest it all. I haven’t lost any real friends for it or my sense of being supported by a virtual tribe of like-minded people. You can design your relationship with social media to be what you need and what adds to your life, rather than letting it suck away the time in your life.

What can you do if you are a stay at home parent?

If you are a parent who is home with children many hours a day and would like to scale back the amount of time you spend on social media, try adapting my approach to your situation. Pretend you can only use Instagram during your break time (when the children nap?). Resist the urge to photograph every milestone and day of their life. Just be in the moment and use your grey matter to remember things. Old school style! Or, try to be okay with letting the memory fade. If I’m an example of sorts, you can definitely capture enough photos of your child’s life by taking photos once or twice a week (or less), you don’t need to take photos every single day just because you can.

On the topic of living slowly while also having a busy life, I talked about this in a guest post for Ruth & Ragnar. In the post I talk about slow living and how I incorporate a slow focus into my busy, hustled days, in particular where and when I choose to be busy or choose to be slow and present. Read it here.

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Danielle Chassin Mama Mala Thief and Bandit

Motherhood is Magic: Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness

Danielle Chassin Mama Mala Thief and Bandit

Motherhood is magic. It really is. It’s also really hard, most of the time. But those moments of magic remind us of how special motherhood is, of how fortunate we are to share our lives with children. In my view children are the best teachers, showing us the everyday magic around and within us. They show us how to forgive and forget quickly. They show us how fascinating life is. How special a flower petal is or how inspiring a stick is. They show us how we can live life full to the brim with curiosity and joy. Children are magical beings, full of wonder and belief. 

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In reality, all this magic I’ve described, the things I’m calling magic are the simplicity and yet deep complexity of the natural world and human perspective – which we are too often closed to. Magic, essentially is about bending reality against the normally understood rules of the universe. With magic, things do not go as planned, our expectations are challenged. I suppose this is the magic of motherhood: things do not go as planned. But when we open our perspective to the beauty and potential of the unknown, the unplanned, to the awe of the moment and the complexity of life, we are opening ourselves to everyday magic. We’re encountering reality with a fresh perspective, one that does not repeat stereotypes and closed perspectives. With magic things appear very simple and yet are actually very complex. This is the same as nature. Nature, its scale, diversity and complexity are truly mind-blowing, and yet nature appears to be the simplest of things. We can find the magic of nature in ourselves and around us, with the help of a child’s perspective.

As mothers and primary caregivers we are fortunate to be part of that magical world children see, spin and invite us into. A large part of this magic comes from living present in the moment, opening our perspective to something new, rather than applying existing expectations to a situation. Children are expert at being here now. Opening themselves up to all the opportunity and wonder available in front of them and inside of themselves.

I was asked to share a yoga, meditation or mindfulness practice as part of the Motherhood is Magic week, and I couldn’t think of better inspiration than children. Below you’ll find easy instructions for a simple meditation you can do alone or with children.

 

 

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My friend Heather, from Mama Malas, has organized a week long challenge celebrating presence and intention in motherhood through yoga, meditation and mindfulness. Starting this past Monday, a simple challenge is shared by one of the hosts each day, a yoga pose, a meditation or mindfulness exercise to help mothers. Although Monday has passed, it is not to late to join in! We know mothers are busy people, so join in when you can. Participants in the challenge who follow the hosts and sponsor accounts and share a photo on Instagram will be eligible to win prizes. { update: winners were drawn and notified on March 14, 2016 }

Here’s how to participate:

  1. Find the hosts on Instagram and follow them to get notified of the daily challenge: Hosts are: @coldcupoftea, @ameliakyoga, @hippieindisguise, @mamamalas, and @namastetiff.
  2. Find the sponsors on Instagram and follow them to be eligible for prizes!
    1. @BYogaNow is a Canadian yoga mats, accessories and apparel line that is eco friendly! B Yoga Now is offering a B YOGA Mama Pack, a B Mat Strong (6mm) – extra cushioning and thickness for Mama’s comfort, and 2 B Blocks- for support and modifications for Mama, plus a surprise Pre-release B Yoga Product
    2. @kanthabae is an American textile inspired brand making gorgeous handmade designs for women and babies. Kanthabae is offering a stunning RingSling
    3. @thelovemoreshop is an American shop selling products inspired by love, encouraging others to love more. They share the profits with couples to help them nurture their relationship by sponsoring date nights. The Love More Shop is offering a Gift Certificate
    4. @mamamalas  is a Canadian company making mindfulness jewellery. Mama malas is offering a mala of the winner’s choice
  3. Repost the challenge image (see above) on your Instagram account OR tag a few friends on the Instagram image and ask them to join you, link to the image here
  4. Post a photo of you on Instagram completing any (or all!) of the daily challenges and tag #MotherhoodIsMagic and the hosts and sponsors

Join in as often as you can!

So, here’s my challenge to you: 

I have found profound benefits through meditation and mindfulness practice, especially since having children. I like meditation because you can put just a little time in a get a lot of benefit out of it. At first, I was thinking of sharing a meditation practice that I do with my children, that is relatively simple and enjoyable, but I was really inspired by the simplicity of the challenges shared by Amanda (a mindful walk) and Amelia (savasana/corpse pose) earlier this week, so I wanted to share something everyone could accomplish. Often, for the uninitiated yoga, meditation and mindfulness can seem complex. On top of this, mothers and primary caregivers usually don’t have a lot time or energy to spare, so I wanted to share something that anyone could fit into their day. (However, if you are craving a slightly more involved meditation with children, check out this post here, where I explain the Sa Ta Na Ma meditation I practice with my children and myself.)

Tea Meditation

My challenge to you is to find the magic in a moment, an ordinary moment, by bringing your full attention to it, by connecting to the present. This means focusing on now. Be here now. Be where you are now. Be here in space and time. Leave out thoughts of things to do later today or tomorrow. Leave our regret of things past. Just be in the moment. Do this alone or with your children. Try to spend 5 minutes just living now, only now. As I said above, children are very good at this so don’t hesitate to include them.

If you haven’t done this sort of mental exercise before you may find it challenging. Your mind will wander forward and backward in time. Your mind may be drawn to check your phone, to pay a bill or to compose a grocery list. You might imagine yourself in a different room or outdoors. When it wanders just gently bring your focus back to the present. It will really help if you have something to easily focus on in the present.

Making yourself a warm cup of tea before you start will help. Start your five minutes with your hands gently hugging the mug, feel the heat, the sensation will keep you in the present moment. Feel your skin against the mug, feel the gentle vibration between your hands and the mug. Observe the smell, observe the steam. If you find your mind wandering hug the mug with your hands, remind yourself to be here now, be present. (If you don’t like tea, substitute another drink, if you like cold drinks that works too). It may help you to gently, slowly repeat the mantra “be here now” aloud or in your mind.

This meditation encourages mindful presence and connection to the moment. Children really enjoy this, so feel free to include them in it, with their own cup of (luke warm) tea. And, of course, you can choose something else to focus on, tea is just an example, but a tasty one!

Mama Mala with lavender tea
I hope you enjoy this challenge and find a way to practice it not just today, but everyday. Five minutes of pure presence will be greatly beneficial to your mental energy and your feeling of inner calm. This sort of active meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety and encourage compassion, patience and understanding. Enjoy!

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Long time readers of this blog might remember that I’ve interviewed a few of the mothers hosting this challenge. If you’d like to know more about @Namastetiff read an interview with Tiff here “Empowering Motherhood” (and see some stunning photos!), @mamamalas read an interview with Heather “Malas and Human Connection” here, @coldcupoftea (and @thelovemoreshop owner) read an interview with Amanda about the Love More Stories here.

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Slow Living Project

Slow living.

If you know me from Instagram or in real life, it’s no surprise that I am drawn to slow living. It’s probably a combination of my natural disposition and a reaction to the pace of my day job, which is hustled and unpredictable.

I’m not sure if there’s a gold-stamped definition of the term, but I know what it means to me. Slow living is about being present in the moment. That’s about it. Sounds simple, right? It is. And yet, it isn’t. Our minds race forward and back through time to what we are doing later today, to our to do list, to a conversation we had last week, to an article we want to finish reading. In body, we are always here, but in mind and spirit, we are quite often busy time travellers.

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For the past few years, I have been working to slow down and be present, especially when I am with my children and family, this means connecting with the moment, focusing my attention there, and enjoying exactly where I am. This has allowed me to put my whole heart and mind into what I’m living now. I think it has been a very good thing for my own sense of calm and for my connection with family and friends.

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In the last few months I made an acquaintance with the lovely Melanie from Geoffrey & Grace. Melanie has a beautiful Instagram gallery of images featuring her young daughter, time in nature and at home. You can also find her writing about life over on her blog. I’m excited to be collaborating with Melanie on a year long hashtag project around the theme of slow living. The project officially launched last week, you can read Melanie’s post about it here. But since I was away on vacation I’m getting around to my post…slowly.

For the project, there will be a monthly hashtag focused on slow living. Over the course of the year we want to look at all the different ways we can bring a slow living approach to our lives, through the seasons and holidays, in the home and outdoors, with family and friends. For the month of August, we are focusing on the word ‘explore’ and what this might mean in terms of slow living.

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What we are looking for is your participation in this hashtag by posting photographs to Instagram that fit this theme for you. We hope you will join us and share the project with friends too. At the end of each month we will choose our favourites moments to share. If you’d like to be considered for a selection please use the hashtag #slowliving_explore and tag Melanie @geoffreyandgrace and me @hippieindisguise. At the beginning of each month we will announce the next theme.

We hope this will help us all slow down a little more and enjoy the fleeting moments we live each day with a more open and full presence. If you’d like to see some of the photographs already posted you can click here. I’ve been blown away by all the beautiful moments shared already. This project is going to be pretty great!

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Mindfulness & Making a Flower Crown

I had planned on sharing photos, of our recent trip to the United States, in chronological order. But as I was biking home from work today, I was struck very strongly with the urge to share our experience making a flower crown with Kaity Ferrell while we were in Nantucket, which happened closer to the end our trip. I hadn’t planned on writing a post about making a flower crown, since it was a spontaneous activity, but it was such a lovely, mindful learning experience that I wanted to give it it’s own space on the blog.
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Now, first off, for those of you who don’t know me very well, I do not let my children pick flowers, pluck leaves from trees, tear at grass, or in anyway take the lives of plants needlessly or for aesthetic reasons. This is not because I have any special knowledge of what a plant death is like, but out of an interest in living consistently and holistically, as much as possible. We do not eat animals or animal products, and limit the inclusion of animal fibers in our wardrobe, including them only when they are the more environmentally friendly option. We do this because we don’t think it is our human right to take life. Animal life or plant life. Having said this, we know that, however mindfully and carefully we tread upon this earth, we do take lives. We eat plants plentifully to nourish ourselves. And we certainly indavertently and accidentally take the lives of countless animals, mainly insects, as we go about our lives. However, when we had children we decided that we wanted to be as consistent as possible with our children in terms of the belief that taking a life is not a given right, a life should not be taken lightly, and a life should never ever be something we take “just because we can,” because we are a dominant species. Picking a flower is easy to do, a young child can do it with little effort. If and when our children do take lives we want them to be mindful about it and always limit it as much as possible. Enough of a diversion into our flower politics…on to making a crown.

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When we arrived on the island of Nantucket our first host, the absolutely divine, Kaity Ferrell, along with her son Iley, greeted us at the port. Their big smiles and sweet souls wrapped hugs around us as though we’d been friends forever. It was a beautiful welcome. Kaity took us to a favourite beach and then after some time in the sun and a dip in the ocean we returned to her beautiful, simple homestead.

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I am not someone who plans their day, even while on travel. I really like to be spontaneous and go with the flow of where things take me. So, of course, upon arriving at Kaity’s we had no particular idea of how we would occupy our time. While Sen and Iley set to playing with Lego, Ro and I were curious to see Kaity’s garden, where she grows fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs. Given that Kaity’s garden is source of ingredients for her foods and the goods she sells, we were surprised by how much space was afforded to growing flowers. I asked Kaity what she used them for and if she sold them at the farmers market. She replied “I sell some, not many, but they are just beautiful to have around, right?” Yes! I felt a little silly for assuming that she would necessarily pick or cut them for her products and goods.

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As Ro and I admired a bouquet of flowers, that was now a few days old, sitting on Kaity’s dining table, Kaity suggested that we make a flower crown. Not surprisingly, we have never made one, since we would never happen to find and collect enough fallen flowers (with stems intact) on a given day to make one. In that moment, I instantly felt as though this was the right time and place to make a flower crown. Kaity’s reverence and connection to her garden and the lives she grows there assured me that if ever there was a time and place for respectful, mindful picking, it would be done here, with Kaity as our guide. My intuition also told me this experience would deepen Ro’s respect for plant life and wouldn’t lead to a slippery slope of picking flowers for aesthetic purposes.

Ro and I followed Kaity around her garden as she gently cut a few flowers, naming them as she did and talking about her experience growing them. Once she had a small bouquet cut, she sat with Ro and started to braid the flowers, explaining to Ro how to continue the braid and how to handle the flowers with care. Ro took the flower braid and continued until all the flowers had been used. Then Kaity looped the braid back on itself and tied it securely with some kitchen string. The braid was the exact right length for Ro’s head, with no wasted flowers. It was as if it was meant to be! But I also knew there was some sort of deep embodied knowledge in Kaity that allowed her to know exactly how many flowers to cut, and how the braid would come together.

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Overall the experience of making a crown with Kaity was wonderful. While on an intellectual level, I have to admit that cutting flowers was a conflicted experience for me. On a bodily level I feel at peace with the experience. Ro wore the crown for the rest of the day and evening, and Sen, without any prompting asked to wear it too! We saved the crown during the rest of our travels gingerly protecting it in our picnic basket, and it will, in its dried form, hang on the wall in Ro’s room (see it here), as a reminder of our experience with Kaity, but also as a reminder to live mindfully and with respect for all life.

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Thank you very much, Kaity, for hosting us in Nantucket and for sharing your positive energy and kindness with us. Readers: you can read more about Kaity in my interview with her here and please find her on Instagram @fareisle and on her awesome website www.fareisle.com and her blog here.

Clothing details: Canadian-made merino tops worn by Ro and Sen by Luv Mother; Ro’s plaid tunic by Kids on the Moon; Ro’s dijon skirt from Little Heirloom; Sen’s organic striped leggings by Mabo; Ro’s sandals from Mini Mioche.

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mama mala meditation

Malas and Human Connection

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Before I launched this blog I thought about what I wanted to use my teeny tiny platform for. I knew I wanted to have a space where I could share what the children and I were up to, mostly our city adventures and our art projects. I knew I wanted to share my passion for sustainable living and the arts. But I also knew that I wanted to make it a space that celebrated other mothers, other creatives and entrepreneurs, and so I started a series of interviews with inspiring and creative mothers.

I am excited to share my second interview in my Creative Mothers series. Through this series I am hearing from women who have been able to translate their passions into meaningful work. Today, you will hear from Heather Mudry, owner and designer of Mama Malas. I first met Heather through Instagram, a little while later I got one of her malas and was astounded by the energy it brought into our household. I felt so strongly about its positive impact that I asked Heather if she would share more about her malas through my blog. In talking with her over email, I got to know much more about her and her lifestyle and how it all fits together in a holistic way. It was music to my ears! I hope Heather’s story will inspire you too.

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Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background?

My name is Heather Mudry and I’m a mom to one squishy, energetic almost three year old, and wife to a funny, handsome man named Mike. I love bonfires, coffee and the mountains.

What part of the world do you live in?

I’m originally from the Canadian Prairies, but am very happy to call Calgary, Alberta, my home.  I love being nestled into the foothills of the Rockies and being able to take day trips to the most beautiful places in the world.

How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

I have one son, Owen, who turns three in June (2015).  He is the funniest, most thoughtful and pure soul I know.  I can’t believe how in tune and observational he is, he blows me away daily.

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What are your core family values?

Be nice, live in the moment, and make time to play.

How do you spend most of your days?

Every day without fail, I am woken up at 6:00am by my son Owen (I swear his internal clock is unstoppable).  We laze in bed together for a bit and then head downstairs for some breakfast and coffee.  Most days we will do a quick 5 minute yoga session which he loves to direct, and then I fit in a quick meditation when he plays.  Twice a week when I drop him off at his toddler yoga class, I head to a coffee shop and work for a few hours, otherwise we head to the forest and go for a walk or just hang out and play at home.  After lunch Owen goes down for his nap and I work for a few hours.  After nap time I put my work away and we play outside, and prep dinner.  We always try to have dinner together as a family when my husband gets home from work, and then all three of us head upstairs for a bath and bedtime stories (probably my favourite time of the day).  After Owen is in bed I do some yoga, and spend some time with Mike talking or catching up on our shows.

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What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

My absolute favourite family activity is to take a day trip to the mountains. I always feel so at peace there, and once we are there it feels as though we are in our own little world.  It’s like a mini vacation and we always come back refreshed and connected.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about staying present and keeping healthy boundaries with technology.  I think it’s so amazing that we live in this age where we have so many advantages, and technology that should allow us more time to connect with those we love, but it’s amazing how easy it is to jump at every beep and ping from your phone or iPad, and forget about the people right in front of you.  I’m passionate about being engaged with those around me when I am with them, especially my family.

What inspires you?

My son, my husband, my friends and community, the forest, the mountains.  Whenever I feel uninspired I go within and sit in meditation. Works every time.

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What are malas and when did you start making them?

The thing I love about mala beads is that they can represent whatever you want them to.  They are traditionally used in mantra meditation to keep track of the number of times you repeat a mantra, which traditionally is 108 which is why the malas have 108 beads.  They represent your intentions in life and are a tangible reminder of the person you want to be.  I made my first mala when I realized how easy it was to be distracted from the mother I wanted to be for my son by the unimportant things in life.  I needed to create something to bring me back to my core intentions and desires, and since I’m such a tactile person a mala was the perfect solution. Every day when I would put it on I was reminded to meditate for a moment on my intentions and then it served as a reminder throughout the day whenever I felt it tap against me.

Why are malas important to you? And for mothers?

My malas are important to me because I find it so easy to be distracted by the unimportant things in life, especially as a mother.  With digital devices taking over our lives, it can be hard to put everything aside to just play with our kids, take some time for ourself, and to remember that we are a spiritual beings.  As a society, we feel the need to fill every moment with distractions, and for me my mala beads bring me back to the moment and remind me that I want to be able to sit with my son without checking Facebook, or compulsively researching something online.  It helps me disconnect, go inwards and live in the moment.

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Why did you decide to start your own business?

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to have my own business, although throughout the years none of the plans stuck. I achieved some level of success with some of my previous ventures, but lost interest and felt like something was missing.  I had actually decided after closing my previous business that I wouldn’t open another.  It was almost a little embarrassing telling everyone that, yet again, I was starting something new, but I had such a strong belief in how much the malas could help other mothers that I couldn’t not do it.  I had finally found a business that I felt could make a huge difference in the world, and in turn it has become successful because it comes from the heart.

Did you career aspirations change once you had a child?

Absolutely. The biggest change was that I had this powerful need to do something that would make the world a better place for him to live in, money was no longer important.  I have learned that success comes when you set out to be of service to others, not yourself.

What are your dreams for your business?

I would love for Mama Malas to reach as many mothers as possible, and to create a supportive community of women that celebrate and encourage each other to live a life that is authentic, intentional and fully present.

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What has made you the most proud of what you’re doing?

By far the most rewarding part of this adventure has been the emails I receive from women telling me how much of a difference their Mama Malas have made in their lives.  I’m so touched by the number of women who take the time to thank me for giving them back time they would have otherwise missed, or to let me know that their Mama Mala has helped them become more engaged and present with their kids, or served as a reminder to be still and take some time for themselves. I’m so grateful that Mama Malas can play a small part in these women’s lives.

You can find Heather on Instagram @mamamalas and to learn more about her malas or to purchase one visit her website Mama Malas and make sure to check out her BLOG page, there are some lovely posts over there.

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