Rewind to reset

3 steps to get back on track

By Leziga Barikor

As the spring season begins to blossom leaving the winter season behind, many people’s New Year’s goals they set in January have already being scrapped. Whether the fitness plan has been on a one week or one month pause, or your healthy eating habits have been self sabotaged for the 4th time this week, it is very likely your early sense of motivation has began to wane. It can be both disappointing and extremely frustrating to fall off track with goals as it’s essentially breaking a promise you’ve made to yourself. But how do you find that motivation again, or if you never even put your goals in action to begin with, how do you start now? It may be tempting to scour the internet for new self help books or new blogs (hello!) to kick start your motivation, but the real solution to getting back on track is often simpler than you think. I’m constantly resetting, which is how I’ve come to this three step method to finding my motivation again.

Go back to the beginning

When I first got started on my fitness journey, I had only a couple small goals in mind and was really motivated by Rachel Aust an Australian YouTuber. And I’d say many of the goals I’ve set for myself throughout the years can be traced back to either a book I read, advice from a mentor or some other resource I found inspiring in the moment. So when it comes to trying to get back on track with goals you’ve let slide, your first best defense is to try and recapture the mindset you had when you made that goal. Who or what was it that pushed you into thinking this was the right move for you? Chances are you haven’t reflected on your initial motivators in a while. So before even attempting to force yourself to get back on track take the time to get yourself re-motivated.

It can be easy with all the different messages we get online and in real life on the daily to lose track of what speaks to us personally. If you like journaling or haven’t tried it before, a good simple exercise to help you get back into the proper mindset to achieve your goals is to reflect on all the things that initially motivated you to start. If that was a YouTube video, book, podcast, or even a conversation with a friend go back to that moment and write about how it initially impacted you. What made you excited about this goal? What impact did you anticipate this having on your life short term and long term? If you can, completely revisit the your inspiring moment by listening to that podcast again or re-reading that blog post. If this goal still aligns with your values, these prompts will remind you of why and make you feel excited about them again.

This idea of shifting your mindset through resources you already know works because when it comes to goals you’ve already set, chances are you’ve already done much of the groundwork. You don’t need another new year or a newly packaged book on the topic. You need to put the information you already know into practice. But before you get started on your goals again excitedly consider some of the factors that led to you falling off track to begin with. Because leaving those unaddressed will only lead to another crash and cycle of disappointment. A likely cause for your goals falling to the wayside could be your environment.

Forget discipline, change your environment

In James Clear book Atomic Habits, he details the pivotal role your environment plays in the success of your goals. It can be easy to overlook, but it just as easily has the biggest impact on your behavior. Consider how if you’re trying to eat healthy, how hard it would be to stick to that decision if everyday a platter of your favorite desserts was placed on your kitchen table. Sure you could avoid it one day. Throw them out the next. But if you were faced with that temptation daily, it would become easy to justify eating just one this week. And maybe if you fit in an extra workout make that just two.

And while we don’t all have environments that magically tempting, there are often other things in our environments that we don’t think of often that still are hindering our goals. The small daily habits we already have in place go unnoticed by us after years of getting used to them. So we need to change our environments to make them more friendly towards our goals, and less hostile to them as well. In Clear’s book he discusses a couple exercises to become more mindful of your current environment and habits that feed into it. One I like to do on a very typical day is to write down (or type if you’re more of a Notes app person) everything you do in the day. That means everything from getting up, turning off the alarm, going to the bathroom, checking your phone, making breakfast, etc. The very process of doing this exercise can be enough to encourage you to adapt your behavior mid day, particularly as you start to notice just how frequent habits like checking your phone are.

But this is an essential step to then making the necessary changes to your environment. What activities do you end up doing instead of working on your goals? Chances are those activities are built into your environment. So now how do you build your goals into your environment? The most effective strategy here is to both make your more distracting hobbies less appealing and the goals you want to achieve more appealing. So if you want to eat healthy, but still have unhealthy snacks in your kitchen then get rid of them and perhaps bring your healthy snacks more to the foreground. Add filled water bottles into your workspace so you’re more easily encouraged to drink water. The night before you go to bed pick out your workout outfit and place it on your dresser so it’s top of your mind when you get up to start the day.

Find those small steps that signal the start of your goal and put little environmental reminders in place. Adjusting your environment is all part of the process of making your goals easier to remember and work towards. And maybe you’ll find that your goal is too ambitious for your current life style, but assessing that also allows you to make adjustments. Maybe the time of day you original picked doesn’t work out, but now that you’re aware of other conflicts you can adjust accordingly. Building your ideal environment is all about giving yourself to the grace to make your goals both easy and accessible for you to achieve.

Set new types of reminders

Lastly, I believe the real key to reaching your goals is consistently reminding yourself what those goals are. It can be very easy in the rush and bustle of daily life and your other seemingly more substantial to dos to forget long reaching goals. That is a natural part of life and doing things like reflecting on what inspired your goals and adjusting your environment to fit will go a long way to keep you reminded. But taking it a step forward, consider using other means to make give yourself a gentle reminder of your goals.

Vision Board

If you didn’t start the year with a vision board that doesn’t mean you can’t start now. Especially if you are someone who responds well to visual cues, printing off photos of things related to your goals and putting them into a vision board somewhere in your home space will help a lot. Whether you print out photos or go the old school magazine cut up route, the important part is to place your collage or photo gallery somewhere you pass through frequently. It doesn’t need to be framing your bathroom mirror, but maybe on the inside of your bedroom door or outside your closest door would be ideal.

Another even easier and potentially more helpful way to keep your vision board front of mind is to create a collage and make it your computer desktop. Especially if you work on it daily having that desktop reminder can be a powerful subtle cue each day. I used Canva to create my virtual vision board, and also have a physical one too for days when I’m not really on my computer. All of last year I used a vision board for my desktop, and I definitely noticed it still months later.

Planners (weekly/daily)

Using a planner is one of my favorite things for productivity, but even then your daily and weekly tasks don’t necessarily go along with your goals. Taking the time to re-write your main goals and the small steps you are going to take to achieve them each week has been a practice that has helped me a lot. If you use a virtual planner too, find a place to incorporate a weekly goal that feeds in to the goal you are trying to achieve. If your main goal is to read more, than each week write or type down that your goal for the week is to read a page a day. Using a planner allows you to get both more specific and start small because you likely didn’t set a yearly goal that can be achieved in just one week or day. Again this step of using planner helps you stay reminded and break your goals into achievable steps. I personally love the Life Map Daily planner by MuchelleB and it has all the prompts you need for both weekly and daily goal setting.

Set multiple alarms for one day

You may realize especially if you try Clear’s activity of tracking everything you do in a day, that there are certain times a day you tend to lose track of focus. For that something that I’ve found helpful is to set mindfulness alarms for myself the day prior. I won’t actually want to set up 6 alarms for myself every day, but if I notice I’ve gotten into a rut of distractedness then I will set alarms for the next day. There are also apps you can download to tell you the time every hour. And those little frequent reminders that time is passing serve as good motivators to do something with your time. I wouldn’t recommend setting alarms for yourself every day for things you want to do in your free time, but doing it for a couple days can help you jump start the routine adjustments you are looking to make. If you usually get lost in Netflix around 8p.m. but want to practice meditation instead, setting that alarm reminder will help you notice and get started. I find then the next day I am more aware of time passing on my own and get started on things faster. Another trick that Clear talks about in his book is pointing and calling. So if you have a free moment in the afternoon and you reach for you phone to hop on Instagram, say outload, “It’s 3p.m. and I’m checking Instagram.” This type of overt self awareness can help reinforce the need to be mindful about your time even if it seems silly because it gets more areas of your brain engaged.

Reset is constant

No matter the goals you are trying to achieve the best thing you can do is realize that you don’t have to work on them perfect. Making 80 imperfect attempts to start is far better than making none at all. So take advantage of your feelings of motivation and simply get started. And get familiar with the concept of reset and adjustment because finding your flow when you start something new does take time. Even if you were able to work on your goals consistently for three days, but hated how it fit into your day, reset for day four and try a different approach. Your pathway to achieving something like better fitness or more reading will be unique to you, so keeping making adjustments until your find your way. And for days when you don’t feel motivated try anyway because consistency will help you get way further than feelings of motivation in anything in life. Maybe like me you’ll find those days you stayed consistent over motivated inspire you even more to keep going. It proves to yourself that you are capable of more than you imagine. And there are few things quite as fresh and invigorating as proving something to yourself.

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Renouncing the doctrine of white evangelical apathy

By Leziga Barikor

The past 7 years of political discourse within white churches in America reflect a certain trend that came to an obvious end this week. It would be one issue if conservative right wing extremists took over the country’s Capitol simply out of nationalism. Those type of extremists always existed in America. But these domestic terrorists wanted to make it clear they were not simply moved by a warped sense of nationalism, but by raising crosses and waving flags stating “Jesus 2020” their motivations were clear. Their “pure religion” was that of political power and privilege that they refuse to see curtailed in even the slightest way. And these people aren’t as extreme as you’d like to hope. They probably fill the pews of many of your local churches, and if not the white evangelical church has become the safest place for white supremacists to thrive.

Perhaps you are uncomfortable with considering the idea that predominantly white churches in America have a white supremacy problem. Fine then, let’s leave that idea on the shelf for the time being. Instead let’s consider how the white evangelical church and white Christians have actively and passively neglected the call in Micah to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with the God of scriptures.

Seeking justice

From the outset, white churches seem to be very passionate about justice. Quick to affirm and celebrate law enforcement and the military. White Christians have been consistently vocal about wanting justice for the unborn. And there were many Christians in the abolitionist movement. But when confronted with their history with Black Americans, white evangelicals quickly get both dismissive and forgetful.

Many an author and historian who’s done far more research than me, can explain the role Christians played in the South upholding slavery and then segregation. Although this is where white evangelicals like to pivot and say, remember the Northern Christians disagreed. Yes, but only to a point, still failing to embrace the full humanity of Black people as fellow image bearers. Slavery lasted the longest in the South, but segregation and the belief of white supremacy was upheld all throughout America. The sins of these ideas and colonialism to indigenous groups were never fully confronted as much as they were actively forgotten and erased from history.

The lasting and continuous error white evangelical Christians make today now when confronted with these topics or current racial injustices is perpetuating a theology of color blindness. Yes we are all image bearers of God. Yes we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. But from Genesis to Revelation, no where in God’s design is there a blank non descript monolith of peoples praising him. So as Christians repeat out of context Colossians 3:11 as confirmation of our sameness, they neglect the creation stories of Genesis where God creates the nations twice and the confirmation in Revelation 21 that those nations will be represented again at the consummations of all things. Surely it is only by our earthly weakness and sinful natures that we can look at what God made different and say it can only be good if it were all the same.

Surely it is only by our earthly weakness and sinful natures that we can look at what God made different and say it can only be good if it were all the same.

The reality of scriptures taken for its word also shows a God willing to step into human history at a certain time, place and within a certain tribe. It should be entirely non-controversial to affirm that Jesus of Nazareth on earth was not a white man. The discomfort race brings to white American Christians is shameful and entirely antithetical to how Jesus interacted with race in the gospels. Racial identities created by God do not exist to divide and as part of his creation are good. And thus wherever racial injustice is found, all Christians should be united in affirming it as such.

American racial injustice exists in the form of white supremacy. The white church has historically held up this hierarchy from excluding Black people from attending their congregations and from church leadership. Segregation in churches is still as pronounced today as it was 50 years ago and so on and so forth. Intentional exclusion does not go away without intentional outreach. Praying for the nations of Revelation 21 is good. But in the year 2021 with modern technology, we do not lack names nor knowledge of who and where those nations are. While the 2020 census is still delayed, your local church still has access to older data on the demographics in your local neighborhood. The day of Pentacost in Acts 2 was special in that the gospel reached many nations at once in one area as Jews around the world had gathered for that holiday. The early church was never a monolith and American churches are long overdue to follow suit.

Love mercy

It is frightening just how unsafe it is to be emotional vulnerable within white churches. If you make the mistake of sharing a slightly left of center opinion with white evangelicals it is paid back in full. Perhaps you don’t get into online or in person political debate. But as early as 2014-2015 as the Obama administration was coming to a close, conservative political discourse was slowing warming up to an uncouth reality TV show host. It seemed beyond hypercritical at the time to excuse a candidate who spoke so poorly of others, but white evangelicals maintained political expediency over moral judgement.

Jesus never came to become a part of a political structure and said so repeatedly, but syncretism of conservative politics and Christian identity happened anyway. Maybe it wouldn’t matter if American politicians became as crass as the British parliament if it wasn’t a matter of faith to be standing on one side. Still yes there are more people who simply haven’t yet come to acknowledge that their political ideologies outweigh their Christian convictions. But if the conservative party can count on anything, they count on white Christians to vote with them despite anything they may or may not bring to the ticket.

It was never the place of the church to demand seats of political power. And with your sympathetic party platform reading, you can’t deny that this idea Christians have of voting based on faith is always incomplete. White evangelicals have cherry picked bible verses and issues to make into major political sticking points. But we’ll never see a candidate running on promises to rid America of all other forms of religion, penalize all sex before marriage and make adulatory a capitol crime. This is not simply because the constitution grants more freedoms than that or because with the cross of Christ we have forgiveness. Those are simply many issues that Christians think to only apply to other Christians not everyone en masse including non believers.

And on the other end of the spectrum, conservative tradition treats programs made to aid the general population on the level of socialism which is decidedly bad despite James describing pure religion as caring for the widows and orphans. In that context, it’s not the government but private Christian charities who should hold that responsibility. However you want to craft your economic perspective is on you for the purpose of this post, but the issue is clear that political power is never going to bring shalom and white evangelicals toying with the idea that it might has been harmful.

White evangelicals who’ve thrown themselves into the pursuit of political power with Trumpism have sown the wind and are rightly reaping the whirlwind. People were criticized and mocked for not wanting to support a political candidate who made them feel uncomfortable. Popular conservative commentators Christian and otherwise religiously identifying have proudly touted that feelings don’t matter in this pursuit. And this isn’t limited to political, other social issues have been denigrated by white evangelical leaders because adherence to scripture mattered more than the fruit of their actions.

None so clear as the constant hand wringing around #BlackLivesMatter as white evangelicals nitpick 101 ways to not support protests. Buzz terms like Critical Race Theory and concerns about it’s pro LGBTQ plus allegiance are debated into fine dust when the question was simply will you affirm that no one should lose their life to racisms? At best Christians are silent, and at worse hostile to the pain their BIPOC brothers and sisters in Christ are going through. And to be clear, racism is a painful experience that no amount politeness or socioeconomic status can protect Black and brown people from having. Yet white evangelical churches have only exasperated that pain in their silence and skepticism.

The false belief in political ideology reflecting faith has now led to a global demonstration of that idolatry. Fun fact, not one of any American presidents we’ve had has ever had has been an outspoken atheist. So what are you so scared about when voting? When polling? And the opposite and expected conclusion to spiritualizing republicanism is the demonizing of democrats and other liberals. Christians are supposed to know that our enemy is not of flesh and blood and it isn’t in our political parties. The worst extremists now are convinced demons are taking over the white house in two weeks and not in a joking manner. How do you love your neighbor and uphold that idea in the same breath? You can’t. And you don’t.

Walk humbly

It is easy to complain online about things as if it doesn’t apply to me, but it does. I am as much a product of my environment growing up in white evangelical churches and not seeing the white supremacy at play there or in my schooling or other areas of life. I was the worst of these white American evangelicals and I’m not even white nor American. Unlearning is actually as essential to our spiritual growth as learning is. It’s uncomfortable to admit when you’ve been wrong and harder still to go back and live out that correction.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on how Jesus engaged with the religious elite of his day and age who he knew weren’t interested in changing their opinions. As they brought out a woman caught in adultery, I wonder if she was even fully clothed as she lay there exposed on the center of the court bracing for their stones. The just and right punishment for this sin was death. They scribes and Pharisees knew that. They were goading Jesus by asking the question. It’s worth considering at this point in his ministry by John 8, Jesus had already proven himself to be a problem for the religious establishment in a big way.

Jesus filled with zeal for God’s kingdom had already whipped and overturned tables in the temple. He had already shared the gospel of his kingdom to a Samaritan woman leading to many in the city to believe in him. Many have been healed and he’s already enraged the Jews to the point of murder over his knowledge of the scriptures. This is post walk on water Jesus, I frankly wouldn’t have any other ideas on how to test him at that point.

But test they did and it’s one of my favorite stories although Jesus’ words are few. In fact he is silent when they ask him what they should do with this obviously guilty woman instead deciding now would be a good time to practice doodling on the ground. I have much to say back to those Pharisees and scribes on the other hand. Where is the man whom I assume they also caught in the act of adultery? Why does the penalty for a two person crime fall squarely on the shoulders of the one woman? What grants a person in that time to be more worthy of repentance versus someone else? And how were they using the Mosaic law as it was to justify that?

But Jesus takes care of any of the questions I could think up and more in a simple statement, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus already understood what it takes us all so much longer to realize which is debating people at their own standard is always a losing battle. The standard I set for myself, and you for yourself always puts us in the lead by a wide margin. But when we look to God’s standard, the humility that follows is how we should’ve approached the situation all along.

As the story goes, slowly they all walked away. The difficult part is what people choose to do next after their introspection is out of my hands and out of my control. I was a journalist working on the front lines when peaceful protesters were treated like invading armies, and I never thought I could be so disgusted to see police passivity the way we saw this week. I would hope introspection would bring more white Christians to a place where they are no longer passive nor silent about the evils of white supremacy in America. That we could see where white church leaders enabled and encouraged syncretism instead of heeding the many warnings of where it would lead.

The one solace is Jesus’ message is clear for the one person left. The woman who in Jesus in his sovereign grace does not condemn. Just says for her to go and sin no more. Notice how he didn’t say that to the crowd. He let them walk away and I think it’s because he knew what their hearts were and were not ready for. But as believers that message “Go and sin no more,” is for us. Whether you’ve been forgiven little or forgiven much. What would it look like to go and sin no more?

The white evangelical witness to the world this Wednesday, Jan. 6 was crosses, nooses, confederate flags, insurrection and white supremacy. American churches cannot simply distance themselves from this — they must step in. Declare who Jesus is and don’t stop with simply saying who he is not. Jesus is not with those domestic terrorist. But if he is in your passively quiet all white church, you should not be content with that either. The nations are your neighbors — seek them. Affirm their identities as image bearers different from you. Comfort them. Love them. And walk with them and our God.

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The Death of Minimalism

Where is minimalism declining?

By Leziga Barikor

As minimalism grew in online prominence and the Netflix even caught on to the “Tidying Magic of Cleaning Up” by giving Marie Kondo her own show, it seemed like the lifestyle was slowly reaching every American home. But from Elle Magazine’s summer 2020 issue to the popular Financial Diet blog, the message emerging is that people are moving on from minimalism. But what type of minimalism is dying and why are people seemingly ready to buy back the things they initially thought they didn’t need?

Well before we do a full autopsy on minimalism, we should define the forms of minimalism that are on the chopping block.

Minimalism as an aesthetic

The minimalist aesthetic is focused on appearance. The classic images that come to mind are big empty rooms with white walls and perhaps black furniture. One of my favorite minimalists Rachel Aust had the aesthetic absolutely locked down for years.

But as our lives change and ultimately we change, it’s not surprising that many longtime minimalists are switching up the color palettes to invite in warmer tones. Along with that, house plants have seemed to be a welcome intrusion to blank white or black walls, and I’d say the minimalist aesthetic has grown much more lively over the years.

Minimalism has grown into incorporating more warm tones and color schemes. Minimalist aesthetics no longer have to be black and white.

Looking at minimalism beyond the home, the minimalist aesthetic has grown ever more popular in the world of graphic design and tech. People have noticed it most prominently in branding as companies from Microsoft to McDonald’s have sharpened out the logo’s edges and incorporate more visual simplicity. Some trend forecasters in design think the next step is more abstraction and high color designs that lean less towards minimalism.

Regardless, it seems that this home style design might still be seeing new peaks in it’s popularity. I think the sense of order minimalist aesthetics provide is one reason that people seem so interested in bringing it into their homes. Or taking it out if you’re still in the decluttering stage.

Minimalism as lifestyle

The minimalist lifestyle is best described as seeking to simplify all areas of life the bare necessities. This often means decluttering your more physcial possessions, but is also easily applied to your digital life and finances.

The lifestyle minimalists are the ones decidedly in a state of decline. This can be due to a lot of different factors one simply being like any social fade it’s run its course. But one key factor is also the socio-economic considerations this lifestyle trend ignored.

Even in the early days of minimalism broaden sphere of influence, people were quick to point out the minimalist lifestyle promoted the idea of living as though you had few means while that was not the case. The Minimalists were six-figure earners who got rid of their stuff because they wanted to, not because they had to. The privilege in being a practicing minimalist is that choice to get rid of excess appliances or clothing, while people in actual destitute financial situations or disasters go without those things among other necessities.

The minimalist lifestyle can also be seen in the lens of gentrifying poverty. This is the experience within the images of the moseleum esque Kardashian-West home. Even West’s Yeezy brand has taken that aesthetic to it’s extremes selling plain blank tees for hundreds of dollars. But although those shallow portrayals of minimalism exists, this doesn’t diminish the practical benefits of frugal minimalism.

Minimalism as money

The frugal minimalist are focused on the lifestyle of simplifying things but with an end goal in mind of having financial freedom and often put more value on life experiences. This subset of lifestyle minimalism focuses on financial literacy and using high levels of discretion before purchasing items. It’s not something that will go away anytime soon as taking care of your finances is always going to be important

Minimalism mindful consumerism

The ethical minimalist is often most concerned with sustainability and is highly critical of the way they consume products. We only have one planet, and we’re buying and throwing away things faster than we ever should in our modern times. The mindful minimalist seeks to lower their impact on the world by spending less and spending carefully. People take this many different routes whether it’s committing to thrift shopping or zero waste. This sub branch of a minimalist lifestyle stays fairly steady in popularity and will hopefully grow as more people consider lowering their environmental impact whenever they can.

Minimalism as mainstream

Minimalism might’ve reached it’s peak in our spheres of cultural discourse, but minimalists are here to stay. People who have committed to minimalism and cultivating a simplified life are steadily working towards those goals. Whether it’s through blogs, books or podcasts, I see minimalist growing more and more comfortable with the choice they’ve made to make possessions less of a focal point in their lives. While design trends and the top Netflix binge craze come and go, minimalists remain content with what they have.

Do you know anyone who has quit minimalism? Or have you decided it didn’t work for your lifestyle? If not, what keeps you motivated? I’d love to learn more from you in the comments.

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How to be present with God

Finding motivation to read the bible daily

By Leziga Barikor

In Christian faith circles it seems the constant question or area of spiritual growth people are working towards is how to be consistent in reading the bible. It is a spiritual discipline we feel like we should be doing it, but by the numbers and personal anecdotes it just isn’t happening the way we’d like. But creating a habit of bible reading won’t happen if we approach it like reading any other type of book. I’ve gone through periods of consistent reading and inconsistent reading, and what I’ve found to be most helpful is to not approach the bible as something you read alone but as a time of fellowship with God. Creating that fellowship time isn’t obvious or natural to us, so here is my method to creating a bible reading habit you won’t easily break.

To be alone with God

In Genesis we get the most beautiful and tranquil picture of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and it’s an idea repeated in Psalm 23 as David describes God as leading him beside quiet waters. From these passages, we can gather that before you can even begin to effectively build in a bible reading habit you need to carve out uninterrupted time.

Between appointments, at the end of you lunch break and other short transitional periods aren’t usually going to be the best times especially if you know these fluctuate day to day. You can’t be in a hurry while trying to be present with God. Mornings are the best time I would recommend, but you know your schedule and body best. Maybe not right at 5 a.m., but at 7 a.m. you can have free time and be a functioning person. Nighttime routines and patterns also need to be adjusted to make mornings be effective and productive.

Next you need to consider your environment. Does it resonate with the idea of quiet waters and green pastures? You don’t need to hike out to the countryside, but finding a space maybe in your bedroom, the kitchen counter, your back porch or some place else where you can sit comfortably for a while and not be distracted is key.

Lastly, you need to start with silence. This is the most awkward and difficult step towards being more present with God. But it’s important because we know God is already with us. The real issue is we live so utterly unaware of his presence throughout the “normal” every day functions of our life that aren’t spent in church. The promise Jesus made to be with us always in Matthew 28:20 is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).

As A. W. Tozer writes, “The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition” (The Pursuit of God). He also writes that our souls have a “conscious personal awareness” of God. So taking time to sit in silence helps us catch up to what our souls are already aware of daily.

In Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (EHS), he describes in detail his method for spending time with God which he calls a Daily Office. He builds this into his schedule for multiple times in one day which is a super cool commitment, but also a lot at once if you’re trying to just start staying consistent for at least once a day. He incorporates a short mindfulness meditation before silence. So pausing, taking deep breaths and being attentive to his environment.

I think mindfulness also helps you focus your attention before going to God with that essential step of silence. As Scazzero translates in his book, the still small voice Elijah heard in the cave in 1 Kings 19:12 is better described as silence heard from God. One way to incorporate that quiet meditative time, is start with an open ended prayer for God to make his presence known to you. As simple as that one request, or perhaps phrasing it in a declaration “God you are here,” and let that be your only words of prayer as you sit in silence breaking only to repeat it if your mind starts to wander.

Reading the Word of God

The bible in its entirety is worthy of reading, but the next problem I think people can run into with being consistent is not knowing where to start or how to read. There are so many methods and resources out there, but what is most important is that you have a plan and stick to it.

I know for me in times when I was able to be most consistent, I had a specific plan or idea of what I was going to be studying. I usually prefer depending on the book to take it one chapter at a time, and my bible plan was to finish reading this one certain book. People often jump right in with Genesis, and I honestly love it and find the histories to be really interesting. But sometime that can get to be too much and confusing for people who don’t have a lot of background knowledge or a reference bible to easily tie in new testament themes.

Reading anything in the bible the most important thing to remember is that it is ultimately God’s story and each book while having global and eternal implications were written for a specific people for a specific time and place. The Bible Project website and app Read Scripture is really helpful for explaining the extra context that isn’t obvious to modern day readers.

Remembering the context and the fact that it is God’s revelation of himself to humans is helpful, but it is also good to remind or acknowledge for yourself that you’re reading in light of your present circumstances and life experiences. The book EHS is really helpful for getting you to realize ways your life experiences are affecting the way you read the bible and interact with God.

An easy example I think a lot of people can relate to are the passages where we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:15). It’s easy for me to think of that as just trying to be perfect and then go into the mindset of comparing myself to others who I consider to be better at certain things than me. But that’s a horizontal perspective, whereas the scripture is actually calling us to look up to God and his standard for holiness. And before I get completely disheartened, that causes me to remember God’s grace for all the ways I fall short of his standards.

Lastly, it is okay to try different studies from devotional books or other blogs, but before you switch reading plans make up your mind. For anyone who just likes reading in general or watching TV on streaming services, you may have run into that weird lull where you end up not watching or reading anything for a while because you don’t know where to go next. Don’t let that happen with your bible study time, figure out what you’re going to study next while you’re still in the middle of your current study. The transition will be smoother and you avoid breaking the habit.

Decide who you are going to be

This last main step for creating consistent bible time may be a little confusing, but it is the most important step for building any habit. You need to take ownership of it, whether that means calling your time in the bible something more personal to you than “bible time,” “quiet time” or “God time.” A lot of those phrases exists within the American Christian culture, but they don’t say much about your personal faith journey.

People with hobbies define themselves by them all the time. From runner’s clubs to different entertainment fandoms, people tie their best and worst habits to the identities. Like habits they may want to break, such as thinking and saying you’re a person who always runs late. For people who identify as Christians in America, that means a lot of different things and interestingly enough doesn’t always reflect lives much different from their self identified secular counterparts. Whatever your denomination is, if you want your personal faith journey to include bible reading that needs to come out of the identity God has given you as his child.

James Clear wrote is his bestselling secular novel Atomic Habits, “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”

So with each day that you get up early and decide to spend time with God, you are making a vote towards your identity as a follower of Jesus. Or a child of God (John 1:12), or a redeemed woman once caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11), or a formerly blind beggar (John 9) or a cripple now seated at the table of the king (2 Sam 9). Wherever your faith journey has brought you from, God has found you here and longs to walk with you in the cool of the day. It is only by his mercy and grace that we’re invited at all, so there’s nothing to fear. He’s with you at every step.

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Waterloo’s largest family flea market

Cars were parked in packed rows already for the first day of Waterloo’s Largest Flea Market event. Although from the outside appearing to be the typical flea market event, for those involved this was more than a chance for bargain shopping — it was a function with family at the center.

Sustainability in used goods

The question of sustainability in making purchasing decisions has grown more in popularity among consumers. There are many different options in this expanding market, but the classic option will always be shopping for used goods. This can also be the most cost effective because new sustainable brands tend to lean towards more expensive with the…

Aerobic exercise and mindfulness

The benefits of mindfulness can be integrated into exercise especially the aerobic variety. Since the early 1990s there has been a rise in mindful exercise also known as mind-body exercise. There have been many studies on the benefits of mindfulness and physical exercise. By using aerobic exercises to cultivate mindfulness, people can reap both the…

The Minimalist Approach to Slow Living

By Leziga Barikor

Being a minimalist in many ways can become a narrow goal until you incorporate the idea of slow living. Minimalism and de-cluttering are challenging pursuits, but if you’re committed you can get them done. But once they are done, it can hard to keep up the motivation to maintain your minimalist space.

This is where slow living comes in.

What is slow living?

The pursuit of slow living is very close to simple living and has been going on around the world for ages. Some people point to lives of Jesus or John the Baptists as examples of minimalism by living nomadic lives with few possessions. From the church to secular philosophers, the idea of living simply is hardly a new concept.

I think one thing that has become slightly new is the trend of minimalism as its own pursuit. Marie Kondo’s highly successful book was merely the tip of the iceberg brewing in the blog-sphere surrounding minimalism and tidying up. But the idea of minimalism was never meant to exist outside of a broader perspective of changing your lifestyle holistically.

A slow living lifestyle is the difference between minimalism to get your house clean or as interior design and minimalism to change the way you live and consume products. It is choosing to live with less in every area not to deprive yourself, but as a way accepting and acknowledging you don’t need a lot. Especially in Western countries, we all have so many basic needs provided for so why do we keep buying more?

Slow living invites people to live in constant awareness and thankfulness for what we already have. In contrast, living in constant pursuit of more, bigger and better means consuming faster than we even have time to appreciate.

How do you slow down your lifestyle?

Once you can see slow living as the natural foundation to practicing minimalism, it then becomes a question of how does slow living apply to my life besides minimalism?

First slow living requires assessing how you currently live your life in the areas of time and attention. How much time do you spend thinking about what you don’t have or what you want? How much attention do you give to things that don’t matter to you or the life you’re trying to build? Do you even pause to reflect on the type of life you are leading? Basically the first step is practicing mindfulness in your daily life.

Slow living can also be called intentional living. Then it’s no surprise that from Henry David Thoreau to Bon Iver that time spent living in simple conditions leads to much introspection and fantastic art. You can’t passively live your life with intention. So ask yourself some hard questions. Maybe a good first one is how busy are you?

It may be hard to see yourself as passively living your life if you always think of yourself as busy. But even when I was at my busiest working, studying at college and volunteering, I still had a lot of time and opportunities I let go by passively. A free moment spent on social media or money spent on snacks I didn’t need. Nothings wrong with those things in themselves, but their only purpose was to pass time. Filling time just for time’s sake isn’t intentional, it’s just wasteful.

Minimalism for slow living life style blog green graphic with tree on green wall

The minimalist and simple living

The connection between minimalism and simple living are so close it can almost be seen as interchangeable. To live simply is to apply minimalism to your largest asset in life — time.

You may have heard it before, but it can never be overemphasized that life is short and unpredictable as we’ve all learned with the recent world events. Outside of your adolescence, you are given more and more control with how you use your time. How long would you want to keep scrolling through social media if you knew your tomorrow wasn’t coming?

Maybe that’s a bit dark, but on the opposite side of the spectrum what would you be pursuing if you had all the time and resources in the world? I still don’t think you’d be aspiring to hit refresh just one more time in that scenario either.

Using minimalist practices on your time is the best way to get close to achieving even a little bit of the goals you may have for yourself. Can you turn off your phone for a few hours? Pause your latest TV show binge? Or maybe you don’t even know where to begin finding all the time you don’t think you have?

One of the best ways to see where your time actually goes is to track it. You can find many time trackers online that go from hourly to every 15-30 minutes. Time tracking is the minimalist equivalent of taking all the items from your rooms and cupboards to see what really belongs and what you can do without.

Now the best time to time track is going to be when your life is most “normal” so possibly on a Monday through Wednesday during a regular week. Not during an appointment filled week or holiday season. Even in this social distancing time period, you’ve probably built up a routine within this madness that’s similar to your usual routine. I think it’s easy to try and save this for a “Saturday project” when you have more time, but what you really need is a fresh record of how you actually lived your life in at least a couple of days.

Now doing an honest time tracking sheet is important, but don’t get mad at yourself about it. Spending three hours watching “The Office” isn’t always a bad thing and does not make you a bad person. More likely you’ll find that your free time is filled with activities that you find quite satisfying in the moment. For me that can be a lot of YouTube videos. The next objective isn’t to simply get rid of everything you do enjoy, but to leave space for change.

For deciding what to cut out of your schedule, take the time to think and reflect over what you would like to do with your time. Maybe it’s easier for you to just attribute a positive or a negative sign to an activity. Or if you want to go deeper about your habits ask yourself these questions and maybe journal about it:

  • How is this benefiting me?
  • Is this in anyway harming me?
  • How do I feel after this activity?
  • What’s something I’ve wanted to do but never felt I had the time to?
  • Why do I spend time on this?
  • Is this to avoid boredom or silence?
  • Do I like even like this?

Consider what activities you want to still be a part of your life and make a new schedule that includes that in much smaller doses. What I recommend is going through your time track sheets and calculate loosely or specifically how much time is spent on unnecessary activities (not work or basic life necessity related). Then see if you can dedicate at least half of that extra time to one new hobby and more intentionally spend time with your usual hobbies. What to do with the other portion of your newly found free time? Here’s an idea — nothing.

Well not just nothing, but especially for people who feel constantly busy and may not have that much time even with cutting down on activities they find to be a net negative it can be really freeing to see time in your schedule for you to do nothing.

For other people, you may categorize a lot of the activities you filled your time tracker with as habits that you may not want to continue or engage in with more moderation. Maybe you’ll find limiting some habits give you more time to accomplish things you usually don’t get around to doing. Simple living in itself is a habit that needs to be developed and honed to start doing more of what you actually love and less of what you simply tolerate.

Now in all honesty, I know this applies much differently for people with families especially with young children. But there’s still plenty of slow living resources out there, if you’re interested in finding out how to make that work for your specific situation.

What does living simply mean?

Another major component to living simply is gratitude. Minimalists realize that when you are appreciative for the things you currently have, you no longer desire to purchase more things.

The best benefit to simple living is a higher sense of gratitude for your daily life. Living in constant pursuit of the next weekend or vacation isn’t much of a life. Simple living allows you to maximize your days, so that they don’t feel wasted. An hour spent doing something you really enjoy versus doing something mindless will have immediate benefits to your day.

And by pursuing slow living, you are committing to a process on the journey of life. It makes minimalism less of a monthly chore and more of a reflection of the person you are. You don’t just have less things, you enjoy what you do have more. It’s not something you’ll get perfect overnight, but that’s okay because you’re changing slowly.

If you feel like you’re failing, it’s okay I’m failing too. But once you get started, you’ll be surprised to see how much you can accomplish. I hope you keep reading, so we can make progress together.

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Mindfulness Matters More than Ever

Try this mindful coping idea for COVID-19 worries

By Leziga Barikor

It is very rare that a news event has as far reaching impact and implications as what has happened with the COVID-19 pandemic. To even find an event comparable, we have to go back over a hundred years to the 1918 flu commonly known as the “Spanish flu” and it still doesn’t come close. According to professionals, the best approach we have to maintaining the least amount of lost lives is social distancing which has uprooted many of our daily routines.

From record breaking job losses, to closures of schools and many of our favorite non-essential businesses, and, for the spiritual, the inability to gather in community can have many questioning what is left? Sure spending unlimited time on streaming platforms and sleeping in has it’s short term appeal, but it quickly becomes clear that isn’t all most of us want out of life.

And to top it all off, the pandemic itself — as daily reports pour in about positive cases and deaths and constant reminders to wash your hands, it can be overwhelming. The immunocompromised and otherwise at risk make up more of our friends and family than we ever thought to worry about, but now we are. Worried. And it’s during a crisis like this that we need to be practicing mindfulness more than ever.

Worry and anxiety in the COVID-19 era

To be clear, I’m no psychologist or medical professional, and I highly recommend you seek one out if you’re feeling daily life has become unmanageable. But today I am writing as a person with worries when it comes to COVID-19, and I hope some of my coping strategies can help you during this difficult time. This pandemic has put us all in the unique position of having many of very real and valid fears. Will I loose my job, will my mother get sick, will my friends get sick, how will I ever find toilet paper all comes to mind.

So how do we practice mindfulness when our anxieties all cover a range of various valid possibilities? Well first, I think we need to get a better understanding of mindfulness and what our brains and bodies are doing during times of high stress.

Now mindfulness can have many different definitions and applications, but for my purposes, it is the practice of using your five senses to fully be in the moment whatever it is and wherever it is. It’s a practice most commonly associated with therapy, but need not be limited to professional settings. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, but they aim at the same goal of accepting without judgement your current state of being.

The major issue we’re facing with this pandemic is an uncertain future, and anxiety is often related to concerns about the future. What a lot of us are experiencing is natural response to an common enemy — the unknown. Not knowing what to anticipate is both frustrating and scary, and that’s okay. You don’t need to fight or immediately make these feelings go away. To practice mindfulness is to let yourself be and feel whatever is happening in the moment, and actually allowing yourself to feel the worry won’t make it worse. It instead gets you further on the process to feeling better.

Mindfulness in the midst of real chaos

Now I feel like a lot of well meaning blogs discussing mindfulness require people to jump into the deep end and start by recommending meditations. I do meditate and find it very useful, but besides carving out 10-20 minutes of your day for calm, that still leaves time for stressers to pull you back down again.

The battle against racing thoughts is at a fever pitch when every inconvenience or negative consequence of the pandemic is making daily life challenging. So the first step towards mindfully quelling daily worries and anxieties is to notice them and how they’re making you feel. Accept the feelings but challenge your thoughts. Consider what the location is in time and space for these thoughts being mindful that anxiety is often future focused.

  • Asking what ifs. . . (What if that person who just coughed has it?)
  • Thinking in absolutes. . . (This quarantine is never going to end.)
  • Future forecasting. . . (First I coughed this morning and again right now, I must have it.)
  • Minimizing the positives. . . (My work is keeping us all home, but I’ll probably get sick at the grocery store.)
  • Conclusion jumping. . . (They just announced a case in my parent’s town, it must be them or their direct neighbors.)
  • Should/shouldn’t. . . (I should’ve bought toilet paper when this first hit the news.)

There are plenty more models you can find to help you identify anxious thoughts, and that’s an essential first step to changing your mindset.

What your body needs after going through these feelings is for your autonomic nervous system to reset. The various physical responses you have to anxiety are seen in the autonomic nervous system without you ever thinking about it like regulating your breathing and heartbeat. The sympathetic division is where your “flight or fight” responses come from, and the subsequent calm at rest state is managed in the parasympathetic division. But since a virus isn’t an enemy we can fight or run from, our body’s next resort is a freeze response.

Freeze and turning location services on

Since we can’t flee or fight the threat this pandemic poses, freeze responses, essentially having your body shut down, is the next place you could go. This may be reflective in you losing focus, having a lack of motivation and desire to just sleep all the time. And honestly, get the extra rest. And take a deep breath to help kick start your parasympathetic nervous system to calm mode.

The next way to get through the anxiety after you’ve paused to accept your negative emotions and identified your thought patterns is to turn on your location services. Not on your phone, but with your present environment. Where are you, what is your current outer environment? It may seem silly at first, but answering those questions in your head very specificially can help pull you back into a more mindful state all without having to take a mediation break.

The physical reactions we have to anxiety are all to deal with danger, so you have to tackle that question to move forward. Your body doesn’t think you are safe and wants to protect you, so you have validate that internal concern. This great podcast episode gives four questions to ask yourself to get into a more mindful state, and I’ll paraphrase a few here.

  • Are you safe here and now?
  • What are your five senses telling you about how safe you are now?
  • How does your body feel now that you’ve established your physical environment is safe?

Now the fourth step is to savor that feeling of okay-ness. And things are going to be okay. The next time you notice yourself worrying excessively, you can use the same location setting questions to pull yourself back into the present. Are these thoughts based in a present reality or a future concern? Well if it’s a future concern, then it’s time to check back into the present moment.

Why mindfulness

Now the goal isn’t to ignore very real problems you may be facing because of this COVID-19 crisis, but to give yourself a better mental framework to operate in it. My job is very focused on the topic, and our normally daily routines have been disrupted in ways we could’ve never imagined. But practicing mindfulness reminds us even through this mess, we can still find things to be grateful for and we are resilient enough to meet the challenge.

Once you find your own inner calm, your friends, coworkers and family members will be drawn to it. You’ll find taking care of yourself not only gives you the benefit, but those you socially distantly interact with will experience it too.

Stay safe, and if you can, stay home.

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The Capsule Wardrobe for the Fashionable Minimalist

How to know when to shift your capsule wardrobe

By Leziga Barikor

So you’ve already completed your journey of minimalism and have an amazing capsule wardrobe. Your life feels less hectic, and your closet is finally order. But as the seasons change, and your life changes too, you might begin to question the reliable of your capsule wardrobe.

Maybe you don’t even see it as that. Perhaps you’ve noticed yourself using less and less of your clothes and doing your laundry more and more. Perhaps the old shopaholic twinge suddenly goes into overdrive now whenever you see a new trend piece. You may push the thought away and remind yourself how French women didn’t become style icons through following trends.

But these all may be signs that your capsule wardrobe has now reached time-capsule status. Simply old memories of the fashionista turned minimalist that you used to know.

Maybe it’s time to bring your shopping totes out of retirement.

Sparks Joy? The New Closet Purge

You might’ve already realized that you needed to re-Marie Kondo your closest, but depending on your lifestyle that can still be a difficult process all over again. Me being ever the early adopter, created my capsule wardrobe in 2016 before starting my sophomore year of college. I’ve always loved fashion, but I loved it even more as I recognized people consistently giving me compliments on outfits they’d already seen me wear!

If you’re still new to minimalism and the whole capsule wardrobe idea, let me assure you it definitely works. No one notices that you only have 2 pairs of jeans and 4 rotating tops. They’re far too busy worried about their own appearances. But after merely three years with my own wardrobe, I’ve begun to recognize a lack of love for my old go-to items.

That was just one tell-tale sign that things needed to go a new route. Along with big life changes (hello graduation!), job changes and natural wear and tear, it was clear I’d let my small wardrobe once again turn into a huge hassle. Here’s a list of questions to ask while you consider purging through your own capsule wardrobe.

  • What clothes do you avoid wearing?
  • What has the most visible signs of wear and tear?
  • Has your figure change?
  • Has your career/lifestyle changed?
  • Do you even like it anymore?
  • Was this a maybe item you still hadn’t gotten rid of?
  • Has your taste/color pallet changed?

After you go through and find all the items that you no longer want in your capsule wardrobe, set them aside for donation or trash if they’re not resalable.

Get in loser, you’re going shopping!

Does it make me a bad minimalist to enjoy shopping, even a little? If you’ve ever questioned that, rest assured its less the action of accumulating things and more the experience of something new. The best part of a good capsule wardrobe is it allows you to try new outfit ideas often without buying new things. But if you’re jeans got a little too tight or baggy, then it’s time to treat yourself to something new again.

I did my best to mainly subtract and fill gaps when it came to having base clothing. The basic white tee and blue jeans haven’t failed me yet. But my far too trustee green jeans just weren’t looking as bright as they used to. Take this time to really plan out what you want to wear and subsequently buy. Remember that you only need to fill in gaps left by getting rid of your main items whether it’s a new office blouse or a nicer pair of slacks.

If you decided your statement pieces or accent colors are too outdated for your tastes, this is the perfect opportunity to redefine your style. Try out new colors in the changing room. Remember the rule of versatility and basics. Don’t get sucked into whatever the current trend is, but if you do find something trendier catches your eye don’t be afraid to see how you could incorporate it long term.

Sustainability for life and your lifestyle

One great natural benefit to minimalism is that it allows you to lower your carbon footprint by consuming less and throwing away less. But it can be easy to get sucked into a self- sacrificing pit of holding on to things far too long just for the sake of not throwing things away.

I am not living a zero waste lifestyle currently, but I commend those who do. It’s a worthwhile long-term goal as a global citizen of planet earth. Sometimes despite our best efforts, the journey of personal style discovery isn’t a straight line. Even though I essentially crafted my capsule wardrobe three years ago, I’ve added and subtracted different types of dresses in the mix. Why? One reason is I love dresses, and find it difficult to attend multiple major life events wearing the same one. But I’ve also switched career paths and gone from a student to young professional which necessitates some wardrobe changes.

Your personal style is just that. Personal. So taking the time to figure it out may not be as sustainable as you would like in the moment, but it will get there once you do. Being honest with yourself during the process will help as you can be quicker to donate or possibly gift items gently used so they get another chance.

You should also take responsibility for your shopping habits when it comes to human trafficking. At this point, it’s textbook knowledge that the people working on your iPhones are working in conditions so mentally horrible that suicide is a common workplace occurrence, but don’t let other brands fool you into thinking that’s simply an Apple problemConsider shopping secondhand consignment, locally or from sustainable brands who are clear about their business practices.

The beauty of minimalism isn’t just for what it does for you in simplifying your life. But it’s the beauty in what it fights against. Fast fashion and consumerism culture has a negative global impact, but your choice to step out of that absolutely matters and has an impact too.

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Creamy Garlic Tuscan Shrimp

Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Here’s a simple but delicious recipe for those of you who like good food, but don’t have the patience for it. One of my favorite things that I miss about eating dairy is creamy foods. With a few tweaks, this recipe turned out great!

If you’re about simplifying things, don’t feel obligated to use all fresh ingredients.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (or butter substitute of your choice)
  • 6 cloves finely diced garlic
  • 1 pound of shrimp (cooked or uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 yellow medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup of coconut milk (or 1 can)
  • Salt and pepper for taste
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon of red chili flakes
  • 3 cups washed baby spinach leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons dried herbs of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped


  1. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. First melt your butter substitute and then add garlic and fry briefly till fragrant. If you’re cooking shrimp, now’s the time to fry them in the garlic mixture. Regardless set aside your shrimp till later.
  2. Next fry the diced onion in the garlic mixture left in your pan. Add your cherry tomatoes and fry them for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Lower heat to to low-medium and add the coconut milk (shake first) in a medium sized pot. Allow it to simmer and stir occasionally. Add salt and pepper for taste.
  4. Throw in spinach and allow it to wilt. Bring it to a simmer again. Here add cornstarch to thicken the mixture as well as the tomatoes and what’s left of garlic mixture.
  5. Toss the shrimp into the pot and add the herbs and any other spices. Stir thoroughly.
  6. It’s ready to serve over rice or gluten free grain of your choice. Use steamed veggies if you’re looking for a more low carb option.

Try this recipe? Please let me know on social media with the hashtag #HNAFeats. Comment down below if there are any recipes you’d like to see next.

Mindfulness for outdoor adventurers

Lessons from the leading medical doctor in nature and forest therapy

By Leziga Barikor

The practice of mindfulness and outdoors sports would seem to oppose one another, but for Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller M.D., they make the perfect combination. Bartlett Hackenmiller serves as the medical director for the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy and leads workshops that combine outdoors sports with forest bathing. She has spoken nationally and internationally on the topics of nature therapy and integrative medicine.

See my full interview with Dr. Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller here.

Starting nature therapy

Bartlett Hackenmiller’s journey to becoming the leading doctor in nature therapy and integrative medicine didn’t start until after she had began practicing medicine. She is was and still is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, but as her personal life grew more hectic, her journey into mindfulness and nature therapy began.

“I practiced that [OB-GYN] for several years and found myself to be fairly burned out in the late 2000s,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said. “And it was about that time where I learned about integrative medicine and that there’s a fellowship in it.”

Bartlett Hackenmiller then went on to start and complete the fellowship in integrative medicine through the University of Arizona finishing in the winter of 2013.

“But along that time my husband was dealing with lung cancer and ultimately passed away from lung cancer in 2012,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said. “He was part of my journey for sure, into how this all happened.”

“I found myself after his death trying to reconcile death and dealing with kids and dealing with my practice that I was still kind of struggling through, conventional medicine and all of that. And learned about this idea of forest bathing, during the same time that I was spending a lot of days outdoors in outdoor adventure.”

As part of her treatment for grief and burnout, Bartlett Hackenmiller was spending a significant amount of time outdoors doing activities like hiking, mountain biking and trail running. It was during this time that she became aware of the pros and cons of outdoor adventures and mindfulness and found the balance between the two activities.

“I learned of this idea of forest bathing in about 2014 and started kind of dabbling in it shortly thereafter,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

The Japanese practice of forest bathing also known as Shinrin-yoku is one activity that Bartlett Hackenmiller has specialized in and leads various workshops. She is certified with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy as a forest therapy guide.

“Now I serve as the medical director for that organization,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy certifies guides all over the world and there are currently several hundred guides internationally according to Bartlett Hackenmiller.

Forest bathing

On Saturday, April 20 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Bartlett Hackenmiller led a workshop at the Hartman Reserve in Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. The guided meditative walk encourages people to engage with their surroundings. The workshop was limited to 20 participants.

“It’s always fun to take people out for the first time,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

The basic rundown of a forest bathing experience involves mindfulness.

“It’s about taking in nature through the various senses,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

She described the standard sequence that guides go through which is to take participants deeper and deeper out of their everyday conscious which she refers to as the “monkey mind” and into the subconscious mind which she calls the “liminal state.” The whole process takes at least two hours.

“We don’t cover a lot of ground,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said. “It’s not a nature identification walk or a hike for physical fitness or anything like that, it’s a very slow mindful walk.”

During the walk there are various pauses called “counsel” where participants share what they’re currently experiencing. It helps solidify the memories in their mind, according to Bartlett Hackenmiller. The forest bathing also always ends with a tea ceremony.

“We actually forage a plant from the woods,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

It is also during this time that she explains the herbal and medicinal properties of the tea that they begin to brew. All this knowledge comes from her background in herbal medicine.

Bartlett Hackenmiller has completed a 500-hour course in herbal medicine with the well established Dr. Tieraona Low Dog. Low Dog is a founding member of the American Board of Integrative Medicine, has worked for health related bureaucratic government committees and authored various books and research articles on integrative health.

“There’s so much that we can use from nature for healing whether it’s taking it in and using plants medicinally or just the chemicals that are emitted from plants as we’re out in nature,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

A post from Bartlett Hakenmiller’s blog explored the long term effects of forest bathing walks. She cited various attendees from her workshops and conducted a survey with the participants. According to her research 61 percent of her participants reported improvements in both depression and tension after the forest bathing activity. She also cited that 65 percent reduced their feelings of anger and 70 percent felt more vigorous.

New book for outdoor adventurers

Even while actively practicing medicine and leading workshops, Bartlett Hackenmiller has had time to write a new book on the topic of forest bathing. Her book, “The Outdoor Adventurer’s Guide to Forest Bathing,” is set to release on July 1 and can be pre-ordered today.

“It’s a combination of all the things I love,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

She was contacted a year ago by Falcon Guides a year earlier and asked to write about forest bathing. As she started working with her editor on the book, the idea of looking at various types of outdoor activities through the lens of forest bathing was one they both liked.

“It’s something I do on a regular basis whether I’m out kayaking or biking or hiking or trail running,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

The activities which will be included in the book includes those mentioned above and cross-country skiing and climbing. People interested in various activities from paddling, hiking to biking can find a forest bathing guide including in this book.

For each activity, Bartlett Hackenmiller includes an invitation of forest bathing and she also combines what she calls “plant wisdom” to it as well. She said that she hopes people will be able to experience the medicinal qualities of plants more in depth than they might usually when on an outdoors adventure.

Healing outdoors

There is a challenge Bartlett Hackenmiller faces with having to practice medicine indoors when, as she writes, her heart “physically aches to be outdoors.”

“I think I’ve often felt very confined seeing patients in four sterile walls of an exam room, and often thought ‘Why can’t we just take this outside?’” Bartlett Hackenmiller said. “I’ve spent some time in a third world country in the South Pacific where they had open air clinics.”

Bartlett Hackenmiller continued: “I’ve always kind of clung to that feeling, ‘Why can’t we be outside? Doesn’t greater healing take place outdoors?’”

She explained a story about a patient she had who had autism. This patient was agitated in the examination room, leading the doctor to suggests to the caregivers going outside for the treatment. The results after a few minutes outside were drastic.

“A calming came over her and she took my hand at one point,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said. “That was very monumental to her parents and we were able to get to the bottom of what was going wit her and at least come up with a plan.”

For Bartlett Hackenmiller, that was defining moment for the idea of healing and the outdoors being connected. She said that she doubts there would have been progress had they continued indoors.

Nature therapy and outdoor adventures

In another story, Bartlett Hackenmiller recalls helping a group of adults with intellectual disabilities forest bathing. She ran into the challenge of some of them having wheelchairs.

“We managed to do it on a paved sidewalk behind the conference center we were at where there was a grove of trees and there was a garden of wildflowers,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said. “And it was a really great experience for me, and also I believe the participants.”

She also includes ways to get people in special populations in her upcoming book.

Getting outdoors daily

For most business professionals facing the challenge of fitting in an experience like a forest bathing workshop could make it seem like an impossible task.

“I feel like forest bathing is something that’s accessible to just about anyone and you can do it in a city, do it at a resort, you can do it in a courtyard, I’ve done it on a golf course with people,” Bartlett Hackenmiller. “It’s something that as long as you don’t take ‘forest’ too literally, as long as there are some elements of nature you can make it work.”

Taking even a brief moment to step outside of the office and walk can give people therapeutic nature health benefits .

To encourage more people to do just that, Bartlett Hackenmiller started the hashtag #OutdoorAdventurer365. The goal of the challenge is to go out for maybe 10 minutes a day and enjoy nature. She has seen a good amount of feedback from the tag on Instagram.

“I just think that there are ways that we can take little tiny breaks even in our day and appreciate nature and I think it does something for us when we do,” Bartlett Hackenmiller said.

For more information on the doctor and her workshops, visit her website here:

She sees both patients both in Webster City, Iowa and online through eVisits.

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Waterloo’s largest family flea market

Shopping in community

By Leziga Barikor


Cars were parked in packed rows already for the first day of Waterloo’s Largest Flea Market event. Although from the outside appearing to be the typical flea market event, for those involved this was more than a chance for bargain shopping — it was a function with family at the center.

“There’s a lot of family here,” said Ellen a vendor who has participated in the event for man years. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Launching things off on a brisk Thursday morning, the event ran from April 18-20 running from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m Thursday Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

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The owner operator of the event, Shirley Sommerfelt said the help from her family was essential in putting together the event from setting up the canopies throughout the 5 acres of land it spans to its future.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Sommerfelt said. “I enjoy doing it. And even though I’m 77-years old, and I think I’ve only got one more flea market in me… then my daughter and my granddaughter are going to take it over from there.”

Sommerfelt has been holding this flea market event every year since 2002. It happens twice a year with one in April and another in September. This April was the largest it has ever been with over 40 vendors.

“We’ve got every spot filled,” Sommerfelt said.

Sommerfelt said they usually have a food vendor and then people who sell clothes and antiques, collectibles and other items. But this year, she got a new type of vendor join her flea market.

“I do have a gal who does fingernails,” Sommerfelt said. “I’ve never had that before.”

The early morning customers gathered around Maria Spilde’s small, but impressionable vendor table for Color Street Nails. Customers were able to get a free demo of her product in the form of a manicure. Fighting against the wind, Spilde put Color Street Nail product on an attendee

“It almost goes on like a sticker, but it’s real nail polish strips and then they adhere dry,” Spilde explained for the customer.

The product that is also available online had a lot of appeal for people who may already spend a lot of time washing their hands and see painting their nails as more time consuming for the fading effect.

“Wow, those are pretty,” one attendee said after her nail job was complete.

This flea market being broad in size offered potential customers many options from the new to used to handmade items.

One vendor was holding down the fort alone with his handmade items. But these weren’t solo projects.

“My wife and I both do [handmade items],” Gary said. The vendor explained how their collection of rugs, potholders and bags were all made by themselves at home.

Gary is rather new to the crafting game by about a year and a half.

“She’s been selling all her life,” Gary said of his wife.

With such a large assortment of items, one could assume it required a big time commitment.

“Some do, some don’t,” Gary said. “The rugs take quite a while.”

Gary’s family isn’t the only one that came together to showcase original works. Jesse Henke although setting up alone had family help with his items as well.

“[It’s] all homemade from a barn I tore down with my dad,” Henke said.

His items varied from furniture to home decorations and all made with parts from that torn down barn.

“The tin roofing, I cut out, the animal shapes and stuff like that,” Henke said. “And I built the tables with a majority of the wood. And then I used plywood and pallets for some of the other stuff too.”

Where some people use flea markets to sell original works that took, others use them to display items they may not have made themselves but invested years into nonetheless.

People like Ellen, who’s table featured many old toys from a golden era. Specifically original Barbies that would be difficult to track down now.

“[The] 70’s, 80’s is when I was collecting them,” Ellen said. “There’s a lot of them and I stuck to special ones: Easter ones, Valentine ones, Halloween, Christmas.”

Unlike Stilde, Ellen prefers to keep her business outside the eCommerce realm and besides this flea market sells them at the occasional garage sale.

This year’s flea market saw the return of a lot of veteran vendors like Ellen and some new people like Henke. But it’s not simply the commerce opportunity that keeps people coming.

“Oh you get to meet lots of different people,” Barb said.

Barb has been attending Waterloo’s Largest Flea Market as a vendor to around 5 to 6 years now. She sells a wide variety of items from antiques, to essential oils, home and beauty items. She also visits other flea markets across Iowa to sell her items.

The flea market also has its repeat customers year to year. Mother and daughter Laura and Elizabeth visited the market early Thursday morning to peruse the various vendors. Laura said they usually go for items like pictures and mirrors.

“Stuff for the house,” Laura said.

“I have a lot of regulars and I have a lot of new ones [customers],” Ellen said.

Although this year was the largest that this flea market has ever been, not all the regulars came out for this April event. Ellen’s two uncles who usually set up as vendors weren’t there this year. And yet, Sommerfelt anticipates continued growth for her flea market.

“It gets bigger and bigger,” Sommerfelt said.

The September flea market usually takes place in the third weekend, but this fall it will happen in the second weekend. The September event tends to be even busier than in spring.

“We had to move it up,” Sommerfelt said. “So hopefully, it will be a good one too!”

Information on Waterloo’s Largest Flea Market can be found on local flyers and through an accompanying Facebook event.

Cover Photo by David Izquierdo via Unsplashed

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