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At Moksha Yoga Waterloo, we teach a sequence of movements that we fall back on while teaching, with a bit of variability depending on who is leading the class.
Sometimes these movements can seem repetitive or “boring” and it’s easy to default to autopilot.
At the studio, we encourage students to take this feeling of boredom as a sign that they should deepen their awareness and really lean into the experience of the moment.
When we find our minds drifting off while our body finishes the tasks they’ve performed numerous times, we miss out on valuable opportunities for mindfulness.
Consider digging a well: you could try digging 1000 holes that are only 1 foot deep each, or you could use that effort to dig 1 hole that is 1000 feet deep. Going deep is going to get you closer to what you are looking for.
Each time you mindfully bring new energy into the same tasks or experiences, you’re assigning deeper meaning to whatever it may be.
Here are some simple ways you can deepen your awareness and create healthy habits INSTEAD of switching into autopilot.
Every day, we build mental and physical shortcuts to use each time we attempt certain repetitive tasks. And while this is an AMAZING thing our bodies can do for us, it’s also easy to fall into autopilot and perpetuate habits that don’t always serve us.
How often do you do things like rush out the door to walk your dog instead of taking time to be present, pay attention, and really enjoy the way animals react to different sounds and smells?
Do you wolf down your breakfast before hurrying to work or do you take a few minutes to really taste your food (see this post for mindfulness and eating).
In a similar practice to Frank Jude Boccio’s Bells of Mindfulness, paying attention to what happens on autopilot (and bringing deeper meaning into those things) is a way to switch our perspectives on simple or mundane tasks.
When you notice yourself falling into old patterns and switching into autopilot, try making one small change to your routine.
I always go on a very similar walk but, every once in a while, I stop halfway and walk the other direction. I’m always amazed at what I discover! Next time you’re on your way to work or off on your morning job, try using a different route.
One of my favorite teachers, Pema Chodron, recently cited that 85% of people on the highway are moving on autopilot. YIKES! Simple tweaks to your everyday routine (like taking a different turn or using a different road) can break the autopilot cycle.
When we try new things, it’s natural for us to feel nervous at first. But don’t let those initial jitters keep you from experiencing the fun of what you’re trying!
I know from personal experience that putting myself outside of my comfort zone can make me feel vulnerable (check out my Instagram for some crazy stories!) When this happens, take a deep breath, remind yourself to be thankful, and start something new with a positive mindset. You’ve got this!
Next time you find yourself absentmindedly doing anything, try these steps to be more present and let me know how it goes!
I recently had the honor of chatting with a longtime dear friend and incredible mentor of mine, Frank Jude Boccio, who I began studying with over 10 years ago
Frank is a certified yoga and Dharma teacher who has been dedicated to teaching accessible mindfulness techniques that fit into our everyday lives.
His eclectic approach is influenced by his study of a variety of Yoga approaches and his many years of Dharma practice, evidenced by his emphasis on mindfulness and compassionate action.
During the interview for our group coaching program, Frank discussed a method from his book, Mindfulness Yoga that he calls “bells of mindfulness.” These are ordinary triggers that he takes as signs to take a minute for meditation. As you’ll see in the list below, these signs can be anything as mundane as a eating a sandwich or stopping at a redlight. This way, you can practice mindfulness no matter how busy your schedule is!
I was so inspired by this technique, that I created 10 of my own “bells” that remind me to stay present. These are so simple and accessible that you can use them multiple times during your own day!
This is something that we’ve done on autopilot for SO LONG that it’s basically become reflexive. However, this simple task is a perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Instead of rushing through the process, try and take those three to five minutes to prepare yourself for the day ahead and clear your mind before the daily grind. It’s so easy to get swept up in the morning rush, so it’s important for us to check in on our wellbeing before running out the door.
This is a great time to get in some quick meditation!
Because you can’t take your phone with you (ahem… even your waterproof phone should stay OUT of this space), this becomes a relaxing time to focus on the hot water or the feeling of becoming clean with minimum distraction.
Take this time to actually smell your coffee, enjoy those first sips, and appreciate the sensation that it invokes in your body. For most people, this morning drink is very ritualistic so it is SO easy to be in meditation during this time.
Frank gave me a great tip about how to use alcohol in a way that allows you to enhance your meditation without drinking too much and losing the experience (for reals).
Frank’s advice is to focus on the drink that you have in your hand, and not the drinks you may have later in the evening. This way, you can really enjoy all the different elements of the drink: the spike, the color, the smell, and even the relaxed feeling it brings on.
This bell is especially fun. How could meditation get any better? Side note: You can do this same practice with chocolate too….SO GOOD RIGHT?
Whether you’re out for a special occasion or having a salad in the office breakroom, eating is one of the few things that humans MUST do in order to survive.
That said, mealtime is a great opportunity to nourish not only your body, but your mind as well! Remember the three C’s: chew, cherish, and chill? This blog post talks all about the importance of taking your time chewing in order to have good digestion while also enjoying the taste of your snack and the feeling of recharging your body.
AND don’t forget to chill (my fav of the 3 C’s) and try not to think about anything that brings your stress during this precious time you have for yourself.
Even if you work in an office space or corporate environment, there are still moments everyday where we have to “travel” from one point to the other.
While intentionally going for a jog or run is totally valid, you can make movement EVEN MORE accessible by parking further back in a parking lot or opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator.
By incorporating walking meditation into simple tasks such as taking out the garbage or using the stairs, you give yourself a mental boost while also making boring actions more interesting.
If you let it, a light turning red JUST as your car approaches can be one of the most irritating things that happens in your day.
What better way to shift our perspective and radically change our attitude than by using stop lights as reminders that you WILL get to your destination while welcoming these small breaks in between? Take this time to be grateful for something that’s happened along your journey or breathe deeply for a few moments.
Instead of feeling anxious, use these moments to refocus and become present.
A great way to take your mind off of daily pressures (both big and small) is to optimise your time cleaning the dishes.
Similar to the showering step above, scrubbing away stains has a surprisingly satisfying feeling. Focus on the warmth of the water. Be thankful for the clean, running water you have access to. Imagine washing away your stress as the dirty water flows down the drain.
You can do lots of household chores with meditation in mind. Not only will this help to change your perspective, it will also making these tasks just a bit more enjoyable! This used to be one of my least favorite chores and now I have actually come to enjoy it.
If you’re having a particularly hectic morning, making sure the sheets are nicely tucked and pillows fluffed falls pretty low on the list of priorities.
However, straightening the bed takes only a couple of minutes and allows you a second of reprieve from the morning grind to focus on the symmetry of the bedskirt or the smoothness of a duvet.
Consider it a gift to yourself, remembering that your comfort is worth the extra time. Think about how nice it will be to come home to a nicely made bed after a long day!
Getting dressed in the morning is an AWESOME chance to set yourself up for the day ahead.
If you intentionally chose your clothes to reflect who you are or how you want to feel, you can radically influence the emotions and energies you bring to your daily life.
Think about why you LOVE wearing certain things. Do you like the way it looks? Do you love how comfortable it is? Take a moment to appreciate what you’re wearing, and use that gratefulness to guide you through the day.
Remember, you deserve this time AND you deserve to feel your absolute best!
Practicing these bells of mindfulness begins by bringing awareness in small ways to simple things.
Things like brushing your teeth or drinking coffee can become mini self care practices that grow and help you navigate relationships or increase your overall awareness in the world.