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The 5 Minute Difference

Last week was a lively one in the studio as we prepared the print copies of the summer Studio Yearbook for mailing. It was a joy to pack them up with love and send them on their way before the long weekend here in Canada began! I must admit though that when things get busy, I have a terrible tendency; I take root. I stop moving my body. I simply tuck myself in front of the job at hand and stay put for the duration. (My Fitbit and creaky body tell the tale!) This is when I need to remind myself of something I teach all the time…

There is power in 5 minutes.

When we’re super busy or have a big project on the go, it’s easy to feel like we don’t have 5 minutes. And even if we did, we tell ourselves, what difference would 5 minutes make? It’s too short a time to be worth it! Isn’t it better to just get 5 more minutes of work done? We can eat, rest, stretch, etc., when we’re done.

That’s what I used to think until I built my entire meditation practice on the gift of 5 minutes. I had been thinking about learning to meditate for some time but wasn’t finding my way to actually doing it. One day, I realized a simple truth; if I didn’t have 5 minutes to meditate, I was overextended. None of us should regularly be so busy that we can’t take 5 minutes for ourselves. I started to meditate that day and have been doing so ever since.

I’ve also seen the power of 5 minutes in Journal Club and Mindful Mondays. In both classes, we regularly do a 5-minute free write and the impact is clear:

  • In 5 minutes, we release internal pressure.
  • In 5 minutes, we connect to where we are.
  • In 5 minutes, we see what we are thinking.
  • In 5 minutes, our to-dos are revealed.
  • In 5 minutes, we have more clarity than we had 5 minutes before.

Want to try it with me now? Set a timer for 5 minutes, just 5 minutes, and let the words flow onto the page. Don’t edit. Just write. Pour out whatever is on your mind and in your heart. Stop when the timer goes. Notice the impact. What’s different because you took 5 minutes to write?

It’s easy to underestimate the gifts available in such a short period of time. Here are some more 5-minute breaks and activities, all of which I have used to unglue myself from my seat and to remind myself that I am a living, breathing, organic being not a tireless workhorse of a machine.

More 5 minute breaks…

  • Doodle
  • Stretch
  • Make a cuppa
  • Get a glass of water
  • Cuddle with your fur babies
  • Open your window and breathe the fresh air
  • Step outside
  • Read a poem
  • Listen to the birds
  • Draw an oracle card
  • Listen to one song
  • Dance to one song
  • Grab your camera and find a photo opp (or 7)
  • Tidy one spot
  • Make your bed
  • Fold your socks
  • Give your counter a quick wipe
  • Take out the garbage
  • Wash your face
  • Massage your feet
  • Put lotion on your elbows
  • Lie down and close your eyes (Set a timer if you’re worried you’ll fall asleep)

5 minute breaks I don’t recommend, especially if you need a break from the computer!*

  • Watching YouTube
  • Checking Facebook, Instagram or other social media.
  • Checking email.
  • Anything that leaves you sitting in the same place.

Having a strong focus and deep commitment is a good thing, as is working hard, but it’s also important to remember that we are human. We need time to breathe, to move, to eat, to sleep, to rest, to play and to be free. Let’s see if we can get into the habit of booking in a bit of extra time for each activity we schedule. Let’s give ourselves some white space and some wiggle room. I truly believe that we will do better and more sustainable work if we allow ourselves to regularly take a 5-minute break.

Now, I just need to remember that!

What Remains?

The packing has begun in earnest as we get ready for our renovation. Today I stood in front of my bookshelves, frozen. Do I keep everything? Do I let some things go… a lot of things go? What metric do I use to decide?

I remember so well taking the books down off of my mom’s shelves. I thought, “Here is her life: math, music, Kabbalah, painting, sacred geometry. Here is her life in books.”

I feel the same as I look at mine: creativity, art, writing, coaching, memoir, photography.

If I give these away, am I dismantling my life the way I dismantled hers?

How do I choose what remains?

Sick Day

My sinuses convinced me to take a sick day. Though I spent most of the day in bed, I was just too uncomfortable to sleep. Luckily, I had marvelous company. I also had a laptop, which meant I could spend some time diving into inspiration and catching up on a few of my classes.

I did a few of the exercises from Carla Sonheim’s 365 class in my accompanying sketchbook. In one lesson, Carla also mentioned a book by Maira Kalman, which sent me down a rather inspiring rabbit hole.




After quite a journey exploring Maira’s work, I found she had left me with one overwhelmingly powerful question:

“What protects you in this world from sadness and the loss of an ability to do something?”

This is certainly a question worthy of deep and useful contemplation. For Maira the answer is work and love, which sounds about right to me.

I believe that the men in this video might answer, “Dance.”

What would you say?


Tourist in My Own Town

Studio Diary: June 2, 2017

Today I am filled with gratitude for so very much, which seems both auspicious and appropriate for the beginning of this new and much-desired venture into sharing my Studio Diaries. It may take me a while to find my feet, to stay unattached and experimental, to fill it with the truth of my creative life and exploration as it is right now without making it to precious, to let myself sketch and wonder and imagine and explore, to truly let this be a diary – unfettered and free.

Justin at Georgia OKeeffe

Justin is home after a week visiting his father in Curacao. It was so good for him to go and so weird for us to be apart. We, in fact, couldn’t remember the last time we had been separated. We Skyped every day and throughout the week Justin would send me fun pictures of his adventures, from the surprise of iguanas to grocery shopping with his dad.

My fear of flying made the beginning and the end the hardest part of the trip, even though it wasn’t me that was getting on the plane! On each travel day, I loaded Justin’s flight number in a flight tracker and watched with anticipation, sending love to the flight and everyone on it. I am so thankful he arrived and returned safe and sound.

Georgia O'Keefe at the AGO

Today we went on a wonderful Saturday adventure to the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. This year I decided to become a member and I am so thrilled I did. In fact, I quickly took advantage of a special offer and signed up until 2019! There is such joy in not only being able to go whenever I like but also to share. I went to Mystical Landscapes three times, once by myself, once with Justin and once with Shannon. Plus, I’m surprised by how much I feel like (and like feeling like) a part of the gallery.

I knew I would enjoy this exhibit and I did, especially the abstract pieces and yes, of course, the flowers. I was captivated again and again not only by colour but also by composition. The velvety richness of Georgia O’Keeffe’s oil paintings made me want to give the medium a try.

Even more than the art, I was fascinated by the artist. I searched through the gallery’s write-ups for clues about who she was. I was struck by her strength and her presence. I wanted to sit with her at a table under the night’s sky with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and listen to her talk about her life and her work. I will follow the threads of this desire.

Lion Velvet Door

After our visit to the gallery, Justin and I kept with our tradition of going out for a bite and chatting about what we had seen. Of course, we also stuck with our tradition of taking a while to choose a place to eat! It didn’t matter. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the temperature was idyllic. We walked by our old apartment building right behind the Art Gallery and through our old Queen Street West neighbourhood. We remembered Justin’s late night walks and remarked on how so many of the stores and restaurants on the street had changed.  We reminisced about Taro, The Tequila Bookworm and Velvet Underground. (The photo is of the door to that nightclub.)

We stopped for a coffee and looked on Yelp to find a local spot we might like. We decided on Beast and it looked like a treat but by the time we got there it was too late. They were wrapping up their lunch service. We put it on our list for another day. In fact, it inspired a really fun idea, which I will be writing more about. Perhaps you’ve seen people create their 40 in 40 lists – 40 things they want to do in their 40th year. Justin and I have decided to do a similar list based on the years we’ve been married – our 15 in 15! So far we’ll be making homemade gnocchi and going to the Scarborough Bluffs.

 Lunch at Canteen

For today, we ended up at Canteen on King Street, sitting on the patio with a view of the CN Tower and having a lovely meal. It was so good to be together, to have walked 10,000 steps in downtown Toronto, through old haunts and new finds, and doing it all together.