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  • New Year's resolutions: to ask or not to ask?

    by Chantal Bufe New Year's resolutions: I've always had a love/hate relationship with them, or rather, liked/ not liked being asked about them. On the one hand, I know that most people who ask simply want to open the door to a fun and possibly meaningful conversation. A kind gesture that I wholeheartedly appreciate. But on the other hand, asking about my New Years' resolutions is as uncomfortable to me as a question about my underwear. Really. And so I have learned to evade this question like a pro: 'canned' answers, 'bridge' responses' – you name it. Over the years, I have become an artful 'dodger.' After much introspection, I think I struggle with this question because I never seem to be able to deliver an answer that is satisfying (enough) for my conversation partner. I quickly dive in way too deep, immediately worrying that I have overexposed, leaving the inquisitors uncomfortable and wishing they had never asked in the first place. It's awkward. Over the years, I have found that most people seem to desire a crisp statement that clearly defines my level of proactivity and commitment to a resolution rather than a soul-bearing conversation. Stop smoking! Stop drinking! Work (out) more! Work less! Go skydiving! It seems a New Years' resolution is supposed to be just that: resolute. Full of determination, firmness, and purpose. You're not supposed to stray from this definition and, please, remember to keep it fun… and short. While the answers I want to give have everything to do with purpose, to me, it's not that simple. People tend to forget the one crucial thing: We are human, and living a life for 365 days is complicated. Much less planning and committing to that life one whole year in advance! Even if our resolution pertains to just one part of our life. It's all interconnected, don't they see? For me to know precisely (and verbalize coherently) a purposeful resolution (one that I have agency over and fully embrace) requires one thing above all: courage. Before I can answer anything about my future, I need to bravely take a (long and hard and honest) look at the past year and ask the only two questions that will ever matter - in life and on New Years Eve: "Did I live a life that truly nourished my soul (last year)?" "Which parts of my soul still feel unnourished?" As the year ends, this is where I begin. Gently, I peel back the layers of past experiences and examine all parts of my life and myself over the past year. What worked out, what didn't? Why? Where am I standing at the end of these 365 days? In the sunshine? The shadows? And where do I want to be standing at the end of next year? By asking myself these questions, it's easier for me to identify my hopes and dreams and think of ways to translate them into the desire and fire to fuel my actions for the new year. I believe that this is how a purposeful resolution is born. How it can live, survive, thrive. For an entire year and beyond. Replaying the past year - evaluating what to let go of and what to carry into the new year - is both the bravest and most vulnerable thing to do. Always personal. Always painful. Always sacred. And so, maybe, as we muster up the courage and face our truth at the end of each year, it would be wise to remember that not all people have earned the right to hear your story, your truest answer. Hearing it is a privilege that should be reserved for those who deserve it (Brene Brown). So, instead of feeling unsure or uncomfortable, like me, I am giving you my blessing to evade and avoid this question - interrupt or laugh - whatever it is you need to do. Because, at the end - of a year or a lifetime - the only person you owe your most authentic answers to is you. May 2022 be your year. With love, Xx Chantal PS: I am also having a love/hate relationship with social media and currently pouring my writing into yet another heart's desire/project. But for all those who have kindly asked: I am still here!

  • The magic of grounding

    by Chantal Bufe If you are looking for a way to calm your mind, get centered, and feel more energetic, why not try grounding ? It's easy; it's quick and perfect even for skeptics who will be skeptics no more after trying this technique. First off, there are numerous physical and mental grounding practices (many of which you have certainly been doing without even knowing) that usually involve our senses. In those moments, we savor the scent of delicious food, listen to the song of a bird or feel the cold between our hands as we watch ice melt. We stop in our tracks - even just for a moment - to become present, regain our balance, and feel a little less tense. But if it's also the strength and energy you are looking for (I know I am), we need to go a little deeper (pun intended) and remember the power directly beneath our feet: earth energy. You remember from science class: volcanoes, geysers, hot springs - geothermal power! Undoubtedly, there is energy potential inside our Earth, and if we connect to it, we can feel the benefits. You see, we rarely walk barefoot anymore; we do not sleep on the ground and predominantly work in buildings that reach high into the sky. You could say we are thoroughly disconnected from mother earth. So here is a simple technique that will allow you to soak up some earth energy, decrease pain and stress, improve your circulation and recharge your batteries. This meditation practice takes approximately 10 minutes, but the more you practice, the better: find a comfortable seated position find a point across the room and let your eyes rest breathe and close your eyes inhale, and as you exhale, feel the energy in your body notice your root chakra (the base of your spine) extend your energy downward from your root chakra like a tree or waterfall deep into the Earth visualize it going down to the center of the Earth let the grounding become as wide as your body, rooting you into the Earth feel the positive energy coming upwards into you as you release unwanted energy down the grounding and into the Earth allow yourself to hold on to this vital energy for the rest of the day, breathe and open your eyes And? How did it feel? Revitalizing? Balancing? Weird? Keep practicing, and it will feel more and more natural. And while it is wonderful to invest ten minutes or more in this practice, know that you can ground yourself anytime, anywhere - whenever you feel like you need it: just close your eyes and envision your grounding cord going into the earth. And did you know that it is also possible to ground other people and places? So far, I have grounded our home, my children on their first day of school, and Congo's Virunga National Park - one of the most dangerous in the world - on the day my friend traveled through it, which worked. You know what they say, energy moves mountains. If you are interested in learning more about this subject, you can take a look at the following resources: The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The effect of grounding the human body on mood. Earthing (grounding) the human body reduces blood viscosity-a major factor in cardiovascular disease. Earthing: health implications of reconnecting the human body to the Earth's surface electrons. (Photo: Jared Rice/ Unsplash)

  • Breathe: the 4 - 7 - 8 technique

    by Chantal Bufe If you haven't yet heard of the 4 - 7 - 8 breath, it's time that you do. Knowns as the Relaxing Breath, this is one of the quickest and most effective breathing techniques that can be done anytime, anywhere. Developed by integrative medicine pioneer Dr. Andrew Weil, this technique reduces anxiety, manages stress, and even helps you fall asleep fast. This is how it works: - Exhale completely through your mouth and make a whoosh sound. - Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. - Hold your breath for a count of seven. - Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. Tip: what is essential is the 4:7:8 ratio, not the amount of time spent on each phase. So try it out, slow the exercise down or speed it up - whatever works for you. PS: this technique is also wonderful for kids, as is the Take 5 breathing technique

  • Book Guide: We are the gardeners

    by Chantal Bufe In We are the Gardeners, Joanna Gaines lovingly teaches children that it takes patience and dedication to grow a garden. That there will be setbacks (too much water!) and surprises (goats!) but that it is always worth the work because a garden is "everything". Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (a follow up to Over and Under the Snow and Over and Under the Pond), or the adorable book If you Plant a Seed (talking about the power of one kind act!).

  • Our February gratitude list

    by Chantal Bufe 2021 is here, and does anybody else have a feeling that it's moving faaaast? It's already February! This is strange since some days never seem to end (mostly bad homeschooling days). So, since I am 'hunkering down' at home (literally feeling like a hiker who is finding shelter under a cliff waiting for the storm to pass), most of my days are spent trying to master the skill of working while homeschooling; trying to string words for a manuscript together so that they make up a coherent sentence while being interrupted every five to seven minutes with requests to solve maths problems, explain spelling, fetch water, hand tissues. Homeschooling has been a learning curve for all of us - I will forever file it under 'self-growth,' which will hopefully implant this experience as positive, significant, and formative into my memory. Here's hoping. So, since I am currently somewhat unresponsive to the outside world, there is still a lot going on and even more to be grateful for. Here is a list of the 21 little and big things that in '21 have made me happy so far, in no particular order, as a little reminder that - no matter your situation - there is always something to be grateful for... 1. spending so much time with my husband and my kids (both chance & challenge) 2. seeing the first snow since being back in Europe - pure blizzz 3. the birth of our dog Indiana and the excitement of preparing for Indy's arrival in April 4. creating a yoga space in the basement to help with a better morning routine: instead of phone and news, it's yoga and meditation - game changer 6. watching the Queen's Gambit 7. starting a mother-daughter journal with my daughter Joséphine - now I am in the know 8. phone conversations with my girls - my literal lifeline 9. going for long walks into the forest, visiting 'our' deer, drinking Glühwein 10. deciding to purchase a Vitamix, best investment 11. getting a hug from my pre-teen and hearing him tell me that he loves me - for no reason 12. deciding on a membership at Mindvalley.com, just what I was looking for 13. looking outside at our beautiful pond and the three ducks who have recently moved in 14. knowing that most of our family and friends are healthy and doing well at this time 15. trying out more plant-based meals and discovering their benefits 16. being grateful for our wonderful, supportive, and healthy grandparents 17. having chosen crazy fabric for our dining room - finally living (and eating) dangerously 18. deciding to get the Dyson hair wrap, another game-changer, especially during lockdown 19. becoming a godmother to the most special little boy - can't wait for our adventures, H! 20. dreaming (of and planning to) travel again soon 21. being endlessly grateful for my amazing husband, even on the hard days (especially on the hard days! 2021 is another year full of chances, possibilities and opportunities. What's on your list? PS: connecting with your child (Photo: Gabrielle Henderson/ Unsplash)

  • One great way to connect with your child

    by Chantal Bufe 2020 had me scrambling for many ways to ensure that I stayed connected to my kiddos. Throughout the past year, I sourced activities, made sure we were creative, exercised, and were mindful together. Still, there were many moments where I felt that I didn't know how my kids were feeling. Were some behaviors or lack of communication ordinary, or a reaction to negative feelings that the effects of this pandemic had on them? Feelings that I, as their caretaker, should know about? Pandemic or not, when you reach that point when you would like to communicate with your child better right now or want to encourage a more in-depth, continuous conversation, a useful trick is journaling. As soon as your little one can read and write, this form of communication is a fun tool to stay connected. The child will feel special to have a judgment-free space for them and their caretaker to share their thoughts and worries confidently (without anyone else, like nosy siblings, interfering). And when you make an effort as an adult to keep the conversation flowing by asking questions and inquiring more, you open up the possibility to move beyond the original question/concern to a more extensive discussion. (Only remember to never, ever correct the child's grammar!) A simple blank journal will do, but if you are looking for more engaging guided journals, the Just between Us and the Love, You and Me series is adorable. PS: Take 5 - the easiest breathing technique for kids (Photo Jess Bailey/Unsplash)

  • The importance of giving

    by Chantal Bufe 2020 is coming to a close; there is still no definite end to the COVID pandemic in sight, and the emotional rollercoaster ride we have all involuntarily been part of continues. While the emergence of a new vaccine evokes hope, news of a new variant of the virus with greater transmissibility has the world holding its breath. And as so often this year, I look at my three kids who - besides the occasional fit of boredom - are the lucky recipients of everything that makes up a happy childhood. And a merry Christmas, for that matter. They have enough food, a warm shelter, a caring family, and love. There is a Christmas tree and presents. And thanks to easy access to free Covid-19 testing, my children will most likely also spend Christmas day with their grandparents. My heart fills with immense gratitude and relief when I see their carefree smiles. But my acknowledgment of their (our!) luck is always accompanied by the reminder that it is just that - luck. I am very aware of the painful truth, which is that the impact of this pandemic is not distributed equally, but that it correlates directly to the extent and range of economic and societal disruptions. Children who have previously been living in poor, disadvantaged, or vulnerable circumstances will suffer the most from this pandemic's harmful effects - physically and mentally. The amplification of their hardship is unfathomable to most of us. It is to me. It is heartbreaking because child suffering due to poverty is not inevitable (as Pope Francis reminded us in the fall of 2019); there are chances to combat poverty with the right efforts. But while all children deserve a voice, only those who receive physical and mental protection and access to education (i.e., those who will not die in childhood or risk being deprived or excluded) will get the chance to be heard. So with two days until Christmas (or whenever you will be ready this!), here is my gentle plea to you: as you acknowledge the many blessings among the hardships that you had to face this year, extend whatever you can to those who are in greater need than you. From donations to care packages, from kind gestures to loving words. No matter how small, any positive action will have an impact and, in the best case, a ripple effect.... And let's include our children in this process so that they acknowledge their fortune, take steps to contribute as participants of this world, and grow up to be compassionate, caring, and kind sons and daughters, partners and friends, neighbors, and co-workers. PS: our children chose the UNICEF corona children's crisis appeal for donations - click on the link to donate.

  • 2020: a challenging year... with a silver lining?

    by Chantal Bufe Only 21 days until Christmas. Only 28 days until New Year Eve. I am not sure how you feel; as for me, I am a little confused: One part of me can not wait for this year to be over. It's the part that is tired and anxious, the one that went insane having to homeschool three kids simultaneously while trying to get some work done myself. The part that felt overwhelmed having to cook, clean, and care for five people while planning (and executing) a cross-continental move during a pandemic. And yes, it's the part that continues to worry about our friends and family's safety and wellbeing every day. Undeniably, this year has challenged us all in so many ways. It impacted how we work, how we learn, and how we interact with each other as we tried to stay connected while practicing social distancing. Without sufficient interpersonal contact and increasing social isolation, we had to manage our depressions, addictions, anxieties, or 'just' the general stress from Covid - 19. As a parent, I struggle /ed with the constant, continually shifting, conflicting flow of information around this virus and the pandemic (and now the vaccine!) as a whole. What information should I be paying attention to? Which source is reliable? Whom can I trust to tell me the truth so that I can make informed decisions to protect my children both physically and mentally? Some news outlets say one thing, while the article I read last night states something completely different. These diametrically opposing views are exhausting, as I am trying to keep up with (truthful) information while feeling like I have to continually justify myself for wearing a mask / not wearing a mask, meeting people / not meeting people, staying indoors / going outside. You pick. So far, I have relied on a small circle of people I trust and know more than me (i.e., doctors or medical researchers) and my gut. It's all I can do. So, yes, I feel a great yearning for this uncertainty and struggle to end and for clarity and stability to reemerge. But (and I know this is a small but!), I do have to admit that a part of me does not want this year to end, for reasons that I am still trying to figure out. It's the part that is very aware of the challenges we have faced and continue to deal with, but that always also sees the silver lining - the good side, the break in the clouds. The part that recognizes a meaningful shift from inaction to action within people and examples here is endless. For one, this pandemic has forced people to come together in recognition that this is a collective, shared experience that requires a mindset that is less egocentric and more altruistic. We wear masks not only to protect ourselves but also our next of kin. We have a newfound respect for doctors and nurses - all frontline workers! Also, this pandemic has taught us to learn to expect the unexpected, as we all still do not fully know how long this pandemic will last and whether it will have lasting effects on our future. We have become more flexible, more understanding, and more prepared for the future. Hopefully, we have become more open-minded to other possibilities and maybe even towards other people? Undoubtedly, we also have been reminded just how finite our life is and how precious our time is. We reevaluated our priorities and made lifestyle changes to make our physical and mental health better. We changed our diets, began to exercise, changed professions, or at least somehow attempted to inch ourselves a little closer to finding out what makes us truly happy. And maybe this is what I love about this year: that we were all forced to get to know ourselves a little better. I, for one, encountered facets of my character that I didn't think I had. Let alone knew how to deal with (thank you, homeschooling, and lockdown). It was interesting, painful, revealing. Necessary. For I am convinced that it is those moments that make us more authentic. The moments that push us to limits we never knew we had; moments that shine a light on our darker side. Because when we finally see those facets of ourselves and accept them as a part of us, only then are we whole. Human. And as I look around, I can feel that people around me have become rawer - more truthful - about who they are, what they want, and what makes them happy. I witness this shift within myself and my little family; I feel it when I speak with friends or relatives. Sometimes, it is a small shift - palpable ever so slightly - but it is always there in some form or another. I cherish this feeling because it means that something has changed. And change always encourages growth. Whether we like it or not. So, maybe, I was wrong: I am wholeheartedly looking forward to a new year. Maybe I don't want us to forget the truths that we have learned about ourselves this year, not to forget who we are and what makes us truly happy when the wheel of pandemic-free, everyday life starts to spin again (whenever that may be). And maybe this is not a reminder for you. But really for myself?

  • Parenting during a pandemic

    by Chantal Bufe Carefree. How much are we all looking forward to living this word? To a time with fewer restrictions and more freedom, with fewer worries and more confidence. As we are waiting for the world to open up, many are concerned for our children. How is this pandemic impacting them right now? How is this pandemic affecting their mental health, influencing their behavior, and shaping their future? We will never fully understand the emotional and behavioral consequences on children and teens, but we will receive a glimpse from studies such as the Baltimore study. The question is whether these findings will provide additional parental tools should this pandemic last longer (or should another crisis follow)? For now, all parents can do is rely on their children's words, their behavioral cues, and our parental instincts to determine their emotional state. This proves tricky, especially during moments when we can't tell whether the child's irritability/ nervousness/ lack of concentration / (fill in the blank) is 'normal' or their reaction to a feeling stems from the effects of this pandemic has on them. And the problem is, we can't even ask the people around us, like other parents. Hey, do you think I am doing ok as a parent? Are our kids on the right path? How are your kids doing? We used to get this reassurance daily in personal interactions: at drop-off, pick-up during the day, or parent evenings. These face-to-face exchanges - even if they lasted only a couple of minutes - were our sounding board, providing us with a good sense of how our children were doing collectively, what problems they were all facing and what we as parents could do about it. Together and inside our home. While parents can still connect digitally, that collective sense of parenting - keeping an eye out for each other and each other's kids - has become so much more difficult. It is much harder to tell how another person is doing from a distance. And it is much harder to describe how your child is doing while you live within that distance. There is so much truth to the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a kid, not because it implies that a child is too much work for a parent to handle alone, but because it correctly points out that a child needs interaction with many different people, who provide various inputs, to grow into a well-rounded adult. Until distances between people and parents become smaller again, we have to help ourselves and use the available resources, like the raisinggoodhumanspodcast or theconsciouskid. And there are, of course, still actual people who can help, like doctors or child psychologists. Currently, many pediatricians also offer mental health assessments (telemedical or in-person) via conversations with the children to ensure their emotional wellbeing. Make use of this if you think your child would benefit. Not only will it reassure you that you are doing the best you can, but knowing that your child will also have another person to talk to and confide in - another member within their 'community' who will watch out for them and guide them - is priceless. Especially since our children are not only dealing with a pandemic, but with additional issues that occupy their minds and impact their behavior, like school and friendships. In our case, puberty has recently joined us at the dinner table—an interesting companion. But that's a whole other crisis altogether. (Photo: Kelly Sikkema/ Unsplash)

  • It's fall y'all - get in tune!

    by Chantal Bufe We all know that spring and fall are times of transition, from one season to the next, preparing us for either the full bloom of summer or the quiet reflection of winter. Or at least, we used to know. Nowadays, modern technology and travel allow us to escape nature's cyclical rhythm to climates far away and locations that quickly make us forget the coming season's changing altogether. We depart for a while and are often disappointed by our (cold) reality once we return. A form of escapism, if you will. Which, someone once told me, can be fatal to our health: while we may whisk our bodies away to places immune to seasons, we do not allow our minds enough time to deal with this 'interruption' of our natural flow.' This creates a change in consciousness which, in turn, affects our biological rhythms (and there are four: the circadian, the diurnal, the ultradian, and the infradian). So, with our minds quieted, we are no longer mindful, no longer fully attune to signs our bodies (or minds) are sending us. We become oblivious to (adverse) symptoms and no longer notice any departures from normal function or feeling, leading to unstable health - both physically or mentally - in the long run. This theory took me some time to understand, let alone accept. I, for one, love to travel, and when given the opportunity, I will gladly escape (yes, escape) to milder lands to quench my soul's thirst for warmth, recharge my batteries, boost my Vitamin D. But somehow, this hypothesis stuck with me. Throughout the years, it never ceased to pop into my head every time I felt a seasonal change, reminding me to be mindful of and sensible to the fact that (some form of) transition was upon me. Over the years, I have created a ritual of some sort: on the first day when I can feel a seasonal change upon me, I will stop for a mindful minute to acknowledge and welcome the new season and get myself ready for whatever is to come. A preparation, if you will. (When living in CA, where the climate is mostly mild throughout the year and you can feel seasonal changes only subtly, it required extra attention not to miss this moment). You see, most of us already do something like this - only in the physical sense. Taking cues from the outside world, we decorate our homes with tulips and daffodils in the spring, arrange sunflowers in summer, collect and display chestnuts and pumpkins in fall, and flood our homes with red or white poinsettias in winter. For seasonal produce, we reach for kiwis, and apricots in spring, buy blackberries and watermelons in summer, serve figs and cauliflower in fall, and are soothed by beets and turnips in winter. Regarding our bodies, we do our best to exercise more and get more hours of sleep in the fall when the days begin to shorten. We aim to boost our immune system by eating the right food and staying hydrated. Rightfully, we pay close attention to nourishing our bodies (our senses) when seasonal change is looming, which is essential (during spring and summer, suicidal rates, for instance, are said to be highest while the transition from winter to spring sees a peak in anxiety and depression rates). But how do we complement our physical efforts and better nurture our minds, souls, and spirits at the same time? Mindful senses. When you let your senses interact and play with the environment, you will be so much richer for it. There is nothing like noticing the color of yellow croci leaning their heads towards the sun in spring or the intoxicating smell of sweet alyssum in summer. Or the feeling of breathing in that first cold rush of crisp fall air as if it was the first real breath you have taken in months. Or when you can't help but marvel at the uniqueness of each snowflake on your palm. You are using your senses, but you are feeling with your mind. Gratitude. I know, I know, this seems obvious, but a new perspective always helps. Appreciating the rain - whether as nourishment for our soil or a sensory experience for our little ones - helps shift a negative attitude towards a positive outlook. When we practice gratitude, our mind is stimulated by the dopamine and serotonin that our brain releases. We feel happier. And that's a fact. Relax. Next time you are feeling cold, try and notice what your body is doing. If you are anything like me, you will catch yourself clenching your jaw or hunching your back (a protective reflex that has left me with post strains on my muscles and joints in my shoulders many times). Once you relax (and mind and body accept the temperature), you will notice how you will begin to experience the weather differently. Let go. To maintain healthy mental wellbeing, we must let go of the old and embrace the new. Ideally, we should be doing this every day. And while we may forget to follow this (frequently very challenging) mantra, the seasons' changing offers another beautiful opportunity to do just that. When we let go of past painful experiences or people, we can focus on the present moment while our minds can regulate our feelings more effectively. We start to see life more clearly, which, in turn, makes us feel safer and content. As I am writing this, travel is (once again) more restricted, and many of us will find ourselves confined to our home, slowing down - whether we like it or not. But wherever you may be in the world, escaping a season or indulging in it, try and remember to nourish both your body and your mind with some of the tips I have given you or with whatever soothes your soul. You deserve physical and mental health to fully accept, embrace, and enjoy all that is given to us. After all, how lucky are we to "live in a world where there are Octobers"? (Photo: Jacob Owens/ Unsplash)