Mindsight and Mindfulness: How to integrate these two practices into your life

I first learned the concept of “Effort and Surrender” in yoga teacher training at the start of this year. I was immediately drawn in and intrigued by this c​omplimentary contradiction a​nd have been reflecting and integrating this into my life ever since. I found truth in this for my breath; inhale is the effort, exhale is the surrender. I have also found this supportive in how I pursue the things I want in life; action and experience is the effort, while letting-go, accepting the present moment for what it is, and embracing and loving who I am, is the surrender. Two seemingly unrelated concepts (effort versus surrender), yet when brought together create a beautiful, balanced, and unique way to approach living, striving, and thriving.

What has become clear to me is the equal importance and power of these two concepts working in harmony. In regards to gaining clarity and direction in oneself, I perceive e​ffort​ as mindsight, and surrender​as mindfulness. Let me explain.

In the book ‘Mindsight’ by Daniel J. Siegal, he describes Mindsight as,

“...a kind of focused attention that allows us to see the internal workings of our own minds. It helps us to be aware of our mental processes without being swept away by them, enables us to get ourselves off the autopilot of ingrained behaviours and habitual responses, and moves us beyond the reactive emotional loops we all have a tendency to get trapped in.”

So what does this mean?

Mindsight is the act of taking a step back to observe and notice what you are feeling, what your reactions and impulses are directing you towards, and what meaning you are projecting into this reality. It is you standing on the balcony, observing without judgment and sticking to the “brass tacks” of what the moment presents. It is you saying... “wait a second, what am I noticing here? and, what do I really want?”

Our brains are fascinating, vast and intricate. So much so that they are almost incomprehensible; logical yet mystical, straight forward but oh-so complicated. One of my favourite sayings is “where your mind goes, energy flows,” and as I learn and experience more I see why this speaks volumes when striving to live with intention. Siegal refers to this in a different way; “[h]ow we focus our attention shapes the structure of the brain.”

Everything you do in life can be broken down into habits. Habits of thought, habits of actions, habits of speech, and the ultimate - habitual (emotional) reactions. We are constantly forming new habits, whether we realize it or not. The key to mindsight is to utilize conscious effort, repetition, novelty, and/or emotional arousal, to form new neural pathways that will take over the old pathways and become the new path of least resistance. We can be in the driver-seat of our own life and literally re-shape our brains to react and create habits that serve who we truly want to be.
Traumatic experiences (extreme emotional arousal) or limiting beliefs (based on experience in the past or taking the word of a “wise elder” without feeling and experiencing for ourselves) can create an overly sensitized reactivity loop in the limbic area (aka “fight or flight”). We know that higher levels (or a constant flow) of cortisol is toxic for the body and brain. Mindsight allows us to step away from this reactive loop and recruit the higher functioning areas of our cortex to “override” this limbic system. How? In comes Mindfulness.

So what is Mindfulness? Siegal says,

“Mindfulness is a way of intentionally paying attention to the present moment without being swept up by judgments or thoughts.”

So, basically, Mindfulness creates a sense of receptivity and openness to the current moment without attachment. It allows us to be open to whatever the moment presents, with an open heart and an open mind. Siegal says:

“Openness implies that we are receptive to whatever comes to our awareness and don’t cling to preconceived ideas about how things “should” be. We let go of expectations and receive things as they are, rather than trying to make them be what we want them to be. Openness enables us to sense things clearly. It gives is the power to recognize restrictive judgments and release our minds from their grip.”

There it is: mindsight and mindfulness. Two wings of the same bird. Effort (mindsight) to create direction, to bring presence and clarity into each moment, to understand your brain and who you truly are, and surrender (mindfulness), that reminder to exhale, to embrace and love who you are, where you are, and trust that you can handle whatever the next moment brings into your awareness.

Now that you have an idea of what these two concepts are and why they are pivotal in taking charge of your own life, what’s next? How do we actually integrate these and put them into practice?

In order to retrain your brain into adopting a new vocabulary, a new perspective on life, or new habits of thought and action, you must repeat it, play with it, talk about it, reflect on it, write about it, and surround yourself with other people who strive to live in this mindful and intentional way.

This is only scratching the surface of what it means to live an intentional and purposeful life. Take some time to reflect on how these concepts are landing in your body. What do you notice? What are you curious about? What do you need to let go of to make space for mindsight and mindfulness? What do you need to embrace to remind you of the energy you want to bring into your life today? Write it down. Set reminders in your phone to take 5 deep mindful breaths throughout your day. Notice when you are feeling anxious and allow yourself a few minutes to talk yourself through it; what  am I feeling? what am I making it mean? what am I becoming more aware of? what am I learning? what do I really want?

Mindsight is the effort; that view from the balcony, detached from the ‘waves’, yet observing, noticing, and feeling with curiosity (and not judgement). Mindfulness is the surrender, the exhale, the moments of peace and contentment despite the storm or distractions of daily life.

This all takes conscious and mindful energy at first, but after a week it will bring insights and awareness into your reality that will surprise, entertain, and comfort you. After a few weeks it won’t take energy, it becomes your new normal, your new reaction, your new way of living, your new perspective on how to show up as your best self.

So do yourself a favour and commit to setting up reminders around your home, in your phone, or in your most-looked-at-notebooks.

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If you are curious to hear more, feel free to reach out to me at marinmccue@gmail.com or follow me on Instagram for daily motivation @ malymc13


YYC Nutrition - Why Eating Fat Won't Make You Fat

Fat started getting a bad rap in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Low-fat and fat-free diets were all the rage. “Cut fat from your diet, and you’ll lose fat from your body” was the message that food marketers, dietary counsels and fitness fanatics promised. 
 
So what ended up happening? We started eating more sugar and processed carbohydrates to replace dietary fat. 
When low-fat, Olestra-laden, Foreman grilled foods boomed in the marketplace, obesity numbers started doubling, then tripling! Why Jane Fonda?!! Why did you lead us astray?!  
 
The public was being warned that fat was to fear. But, this left us hungrier than ever. So we turned to carbs, bottomless non-fat yogurts, Wonder Bread and Tofurky. 
 
Eventually, we began to really look at the body processes behind obesity: fat wasn’t to blame. It couldn’t be. It had been cut in record amounts from diets everywhere. 
 
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Why don’t whole food fats (in moderate amounts) make you fat? 
 
1. When you eat fat, your body doesn’t instantly turn it into body fat. It’s not as simple as a 1:1 ratio. Whole food, non-processed fats are used by your body as a powerful slow-burning energy source. Fat helps you feel satisfied and gives you energy.  
 
2. Cutting Fat Makes You Hungry. 
Fat provides flavour and helps us feel full. Most importantly, fats digest more slowly than carbs or protein, so they satiate longer. 
 
3. Always hungry? Studies show low-fat food eaters are more likely to turn to carbs to curb hunger. More carbs (especially refined carbs) means more blood sugar highs and lows, cravings and eventually weight gain. 
 
4. Less fat = more sugar. To make foods fat-free, food companies turn to excess processing, added chemicals and sugars to keep textures and tastes appealing. These additives (gums, inulin, maltodextrin, plydestrose, modified food starch) are carbohydrate-based fat replacers. Basically, they are just fancy names for sugar. 
 
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However, all fats aren’t created equal. Trans-fats are obviously a bad idea. They raise your cholesterol and can increase your risk for heart disease. Certain saturated fats (coconut products),  monounsaturated fats (avocado, olive oil), and polyunsaturated fats (fish oils), actually help protect you from disease and deliver the power-punch of slow-burning energy good fats are made for. 
 
 
They’re high-quality, whole, natural, health supportive fats that help to improve digestion, compose part of cell membranes, activate and produce hormones and build immune function. 
 
 Swap out the bad fats –corn, soy, and vegetable oils, margarines, shortening, and other fats primarily used in processed foods and packaged meals - and you’ll start to feel a difference in your body.  
 
Keep in mind that when it comes to the sheer weight loss, a calorie is still a calorie. Adding a ton of healthy fats won’t magically melt away those extra pounds, but they will support your goal of ultimate wellness and nutrition. If you’re unsure of amounts and how to include these fats in your diet, talk to a professional that can help clarify quantities for you. 
 
6 Superfats to start eating today 
 
1. Coconut Oil 
Coconut oil is readily used by the body as an energy source. The high smoking point of coconut oil makes it ideal for cooking.  It comes with a naturally delicious flavour, it’s easy to eat and you’ll enjoy powerful antiviral and antibacterial benefits, as well. 
 
 
2. Avocado 
Avocados pack about 14 grams of healthy fat per 1/2 fruit. Add them to salads, smoothies or “puddings”, or eat them straight with a spoon. They’ll keep you sated throughout the day. Plus, avocado consumption actually aids in the absorption of vital nutrients when eaten with other fruits and vegetables. 
 
3. Fish Oil 
You can take it in a supplement, but I recommend you eat it as a meal. Fish oil is full of Omega-3’s, known to promote weight loss, support gorgeous skin, prevent cognitive decline as seen in Alzheimer’s,  and  even may help prevent cancer. 

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4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
Not ideal for cooking as it has a low smoke point. But, it’s great as a dressing or drizzle. It’s high in antioxidants and is a natural anti-inflammatory. Use it on top of your salad after whisking it together with salt and pepper. 
 
5. Nuts 
Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts (my personal faves). Nuts come with added protein and fibre.  Nuts are super easy to pack with you on the road.  
 
6. Red Palm Oil 
This oil hasn’t had as much publicity as coconut oil but unrefined Organic Red Palm Oil offers potent antioxidants rich in phytonutrients. It also has a long history of use as a healing food among ancient civilizations particularly, in West Africa. 
 
 
 
 
For clients following the Pristine Body program, the focus is on blood sugar stabilization and anti-inflammatory foods. I teach my clients how to stick to prep meals that leave them feeling sated and satisfied so they can enjoy life without obsessing about food.  
 
Recipe Time! 
 
Research confirms that when we start our day with protein and fat (rather than focused on carbs), we feel more relaxed around food and eat less overall. The right amount of fat and protein will depend on the person. Less mindless snacking and grazing will increase human growth hormone and testosterone levels, which helps you shed weight, maintain lean muscle mass, and increase insulin sensitivity.  
This chia pudding provides you with protein, fat and fibre to keep you full. It’s my new favourite A.M meal! 

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Chia Pudding 
 
Ingredients: 
tablespoon ghee or coconut oil 
2 cup coconut or almond milk 
3 tablespoons chia seeds 
3 tablespoons ground flax seed 
 
Optional Toppings: 
4 tablespoons chopped pecans 
2 tablespoons hemp hearts 
¼ cup mixed fresh berries 
 
Choose Sweetener: 
1 serving vanilla Protein Powder 
3 Stevia drops 
1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar 
 
-In a medium nonstick fry pan on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of ghee, 1 cup of coconut milk, chia seed and flax. 
-With a silicon spatula or wooden spoon, continuously stir all ingredients until pudding is thick about, 3 minutes. 
-Pour warm pudding into a bowl, option to stir in sweetener of choice. 
-Top with nuts, hemp seeds coconut milk and berries. Serve warm 


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Amy Karl RN, BN, RHN
The Pristine Body
www.thepristinebody.com
amykarl@thepristinebody.com


YYC Health - Posture On Point

Keeping That Posture On Point


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There are many ways to define the term evolution. A common theme to all of these definitions is change and adaptation. Although evolution is most often thought of as positive, advancing and/or forward thinking, it is sometimes the opposite.

The evolution of technology is proving detrimental to our physical well-being. Take a moment to think about what you do on a daily basis: from the minute you wake up, to the moment you rest your head at night. I can guarantee that a significant portion of your day is spent sitting plus or minus the use of technology.
Whether it is a car, computer, tablet, cell phone, TV, robot or the latest hottest Apple product, we spend most of our waking hours SITTING and using these devices. Not only are we sitting, but we are also slouching, looking down, leaning to one side with your cat/dog lying on your chest, holding your baby, sipping a pumpkin spice latte as you catch up on your emails, WHILE lying on a bean bag chair. Okay this is extreme, but you get the point.

This is by no means a stab at technology; it is integral to our way of life and future advancement. Thus, as I happily sit here on my MacBook, slouching as I cruise through my Instagram feed, I remind myself, and all of YOU (YYC CYCLE Biker Gang) to check yourself before you wreck yourself.

As September rolls on and we go back to school, back to work, back to driving and are required to sit more and for longer periods of time, our bodies will change and adapt to the posture in which we choose. Bad posture can lead to recurrent back and neck pain, headaches, chronically tight/weak muscles and joint dysfunction. It is unrealistic to eliminate sitting all together, thus certain tips and exercises can be helpful in the prevention and management of these conditions.

seated-posture

Notice the obvious differences between the picture on the left vs. the right. The left demonstrates poor seated posture. On the right (good seated posture), Dan has placed his feet flat on the floor, knees, hips and elbows are approximately at 90 degrees, shoulders are pulled back, the spine is in a neutral position and his chin is tucked back.

Postural Relief TIPS – in an office/school setting

Ensure good ALIGNMENT in chair or standing
  • When sitting, use the features of your office chair to sit up straight, aligning ears, shoulders and hips. Keep the shoulders back and use your arm rests to ensure shoulders are relaxed.
  • When standing, distribute weight evenly from left to right and keep a neutral spine
  • Avoid unbalanced positions for long periods of time such as crossing feet/legs, leaning to one side, tilting head, etc.
Take periodic breaks – MOVE
  • Stand up and walk around every 20 minutes for 5 minutes.
  • Do a few yoga flows, shoulder rolls, stretch, do jumping jacks, shadow box – this is your break, do what you love
Use ERGONOMIC AIDS – this will be a personal preference as to what works for you
  • High low office desk
  • Ergonomic office chair
  • Sit on Swiss ball – maintaining good posture of course
  • Use sit disc – rubber disc that you sit on to prevent stagnant position
  • Extra support for wrists at keyboard
  • Bluetooth headset so hands are free to multitask and shoulders/head stay level
EXERCISE!
  • Spin, lift, run, cycle, jump, climb, dance, walk etc. do all things involving movement and do them often.
Postural Relief Exercises:

The following exercises are examples of ways to gain relief from postural strain, stretch tight muscles and gain more range of motion through the joints of the spine, shoulders and neck.

Exercises were taken from “Postural Exercises” by Craig Liebenson. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies (2010).

1. Vertical Foam Roll – Arms at Side

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Start on your back. Hands at your sides and palms up. Breathe in and out from your abdomen. Take 10-20 deep breaths.
What you should feel:
  • Feel your abdomen moving in with each exhalation, and out with each inhalation
  • Feel your shoulders falling back towards the floor



2. Vertical Foam Roll - Arms Overhead

layingarms

Raise your arms overhead. If possible, let the back of your hands touch the floor. If not, then lower your arms. Hold for 10-20 breaths.

What you should feel:
  • Feel your abdomen moving in with each exhalation, and out with each inhalation
  • Feel your chest and shoulders stretching
  • Note: If you feel excessive or persistent pain in the front of your shoulder(s) then lower your arms until you don’t feel discomfort.


3. Horizontal Foam Roll

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Extend your back over the foam roll. Keep your chin tucked in. Stretch and roll. Arms can be up beside the head or folded on the chest. Reps: Roll back and forth 8-10 times.

What you should feel:
  • Feel your upper back stretching backwards


Common mistake to avoid:
  • Poking your chin out


4. Upper Back Cat/Cow

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In the table top position with hands and knees on the floor, round your back up (letting your head hang relaxed) and breathe in (cat). Let your chest drop down and breathe out (cow). Hold this position for another breath in and out. Reps: Perform 8-10 repetitions

What you should feel:
  • Focus on feeling your upper back and chest stretching down towards the floor
  • Feel the front of your shoulders stretching

Common mistake to avoid:
  • Shrugging your shoulders up towards your ears.


Note: If you feel excessive or persistent pain in the front of your shoulder(s) when you drop your chest down, discontinue this stretch.

Okay YYC CYCLE Bikergang – let’s keep these important points in mind when attaining our best posture possible!

In health,

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Dr. Amy MacKinnon, DC, BSc. HKin (Hons)
Chiropractor, ProActive Health Group
403-225-3842
(dr.amy.mackinnon@gmail.com)

References:
Liebenson, C. (2010). Postural Exercises on a Foam Roll. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies; 14; 203-205.