On Thursday I woke up with a violent migraine, an aching body and not much in the mood to drive for an hour to the spectacular gardens of RHS Wisley.
Efforts had to be made as it was my partner’s Birthday so I lay in bed and listened to my own Healing Now download which triggered the energy needed to make breakfast and drive us via the M25 into Surrey… it was my treat.
I couldn’t have made a better choice! The beauty and elegance of the gardens at Wisely is staggering and within ten minutes of going through the entrance I experienced a tremendous sense of peace and wellbeing.
A one point I sat for ten minutes of eyes open mediation … bliss!
You really can’t beat nature when you need a little soothing and healing. Being surrounded by the full spectrum of vibrant colours, with the sound of gentle water running from miniature waterfalls accompanied by birds singing, was only surpassed by the subtle waft in the air of perfume from the flowers.
It was heart warming to see so many people volunteering their time to create a place of such beauty. It has a really strong sense of community there. I overheard a couple talking, they were financial contributors and had a sense of ownership and pride about the place.
We watched people enjoying picnics, drinking coffee and eating ice cream in the cafe’s.
We smiled a lot! It’s a place that melts tension and brings peace.
A limb of yoga known as Ayurveda suggests that most people benefit from being surrounded by nature. Why not make a weekly date to bathe in nature, whatever the weather, you can wrap up warm or peel off layers as you go out to your local nature reserve, woodland or coastline and spend some quality time soaking up the blues and greens of the earth.
I wanted to share a little of my day with you so take a moment to watch the clip and allow your eyelids to be heavy as you watch the screen and breath in for three and out slowly for five. You can watch and replay this as often as you like for a de-stress and mini energy boost. Enjoy!
Isn’t that what life is? Just a moment or should I say a series of moments. It’s true. If you really think about it, five minutes time, tomorrow or next week hasn’t happened yet and two minutes ago, yesterday or ten years ago is the past. So the only bit that’s real is now! Enjoy it!
Looking back and realizing what a great evening that was or anticipating the enjoyment of a forthcoming holiday is something we all do. Whilst it’s pleasant to reflect on the past and future, we may be in danger of actually missing out on the moment, the here and now, the present.
If you’re one of my yoga students you’ll know that I’m always directing your awareness to the presence of the ego mind. This is the part of the mind that is in charge of filtering. It sifts and sorts, categorizes and labels and is an essential part of our thinking. Without it we would all be bonkers!
Although an essential part of the mind, the ego can take over, acting as if it’s the only ‘mind’. It can gather steam with its labeling, comparing, judgments and criticism and before long it’s the only part of our inner dialogue that we hear.
If your ego mind is very busy and loud it will drown out deeper intuitive thoughts from your Self. These thoughts could be considered as natural perceptive ‘gut instincts. They have just as much, if not more value. They wish to serve you in the pursuit of being the ‘best’ you. They may for example alert you to a health issue that you are not paying attention to, this pushes you to take the necessary action that could be preventative.
Think of it like tuning a radio. If you only ever listen to Radio 1, how do you know that radio 4 exists, with all its amazing programs and information?
How do we access this deeper intuition you might ask? By being present is the answer.
Being here now equals less stress. If we want to enjoy life more and feel less pressured we need to make a conscious effort to be in the moment. Being present requires being ‘psychologically awake’ and more conscious.
Take a moment to notice what you can see right now around you. Now notice every single sound near and far. Next observe what you can feel… hungry, happy, and irritable, the fabric of your clothing, the air in your nostrils, the wind on your face and so on.
Practice this as often as possible so that you become the observer… the watcher… the listener… then you may wonder ‘who am I’?
Enjoy the Easter break I wish you lots of light, love and peaceful presence.
In the words of the famous song ‘All You Need is Love!
I would agree that love is definitely the antidote to FAGS that’s fear, anger, guilt and shame.
I’ve witnessed many people discover a gentle love and compassion for themselves that dissolves much of the negative chatter that lives in the ego mind.
How though? How do you use love to heal?
Try this exercise. Quickly write down as many answers as you can to the following statement.
Do it NOW! Don’t think about it too much.
Now do the same for this statement
I feel loved when…..
Next write down all the ways you can do this for yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to fulfil your needs and dreams, get into a great relationship with yourself by attending to what makes you feel loved and cherished. So if it’s touch. When did you last gently massage a beautiful cream or oil into your body? Make a date with yourself to do this. When did you last treat yourself to a beautiful bouquet of flowers, great bottle of wine or a trip to a show? Do that for you. If you need to hear words of love … start saying them to yourself… you get the idea? Stop waiting for someone else to meet your needs, meet your own. Your answers should tell you a lot about your view of love. If they’re negative responses you might want to do some deeper work on yourself. If that’s the case, drop me a line at ‘Ask Sue’ here at thestresshacker.com and let me know and I’ll include some exercises in a subsequent blog.
For my yogi readers. Sit quietly place your right hand on your heart and your left hand on top and softly chant the seed sound to the heart centre LAM you can resonate on the aaaah sound and also the mmmm chant for at least five minutes.
I love that quote …“Think you’re enlightened? Spend a week with your family!”
For many family is the messiest part of life. People just won’t do what we want them to do will they!
Christmas holidays often mean spending prolonged periods of time with people who can push your emotional buttons, so what’s your plan to survive Christmas and the strong opinions or personalities that can arise at this time? Check out my tips below.
The Christmas holidays are a perfect time to develop a regular mediation habit. Start with 5 minutes, building to 7 and then 10 minutes a day by week two. Along with enormous health benefits, at this time of year meditation can offer you the perfect excuse to get away and give yourself some much needed time and space. Check out my other blogs or click here for simple meditation techniques.
2. Breathe To Alleviate Boredom
I remember someone telling me of their dread of the office party and the boring conversations they had to endure each year. If you get stuck with the office bore try practising a simple breathing technique whilst they’re talking to you. Keep looking at the person and subtly bring your awareness to your nostrils, silently count One on your next inbreath, two before you breathe out, three as you exhale and four before you breathe in again. When you’ve counted 5 ‘whole’ breaths in this way make your excuses ” well, it’s been great catching up and I want to talk to …. now, enjoy the rest of the party” and run!
3. Develop compassion.
If step 2 seems a bit harsh, maybe you can develop the art of active listening? You’re with the office bore again (except you no longer refer to them in such a way) imagine you can drop down into a very peaceful space within and begin listening with an open heart, i.e. with absolutely no expectations, no desire to escape and without a need to fix them, question them or judge anything they say. Good luck with that!
4. Boundaries. Where are yours?
What is your tolerance level for a particular person? So for example you don’t get along with your sister can you sit open-heartedly listening to her for 5 minutes or 10? What and where is your limit? It’s important to know yourself in this respect. Think about these interactions ahead of time. Once you’ve reached your tolerance level with that particular person have an “I need to get up and get some water”statement handy, so that you can change your position and your state. Plan ahead, is it possible to arrange to sit next to someone you do enjoy talking to?
5. Booze. Is it time to monitor your intake?
At what point might you say something you could regret? If two drinks leave you merry and sweet but four make you a bit mouthy… perhaps you need a plan. Think ahead. How do you want to feel when you wake up after you’ve been out partying? When you look back over the previous evening’s events do you want to be happy with your ruminations or will you be cringing because of something you said or did? Will that extra drink make the difference? Plan ahead and decide when enough is enough. Before you go out think about an alternative to alcohol get a really clear picture of it in your mind, for example imagine a nice glass of sparkling tonic water with a shot of lime cordial and a twist of lemon, or a pot of freshly brewed coffee.
Christmas is an especially good time to be thoughtful, kind and generous to others but I hear so often of people (usually women) who have run themselves ragged trying to make the perfect Christmas for others only to end up ‘coming down with something’. So be kind to yourself first, it’s then easier to give authentically to others. Make time for you and as you give yourself a bit of space ask yourself “what do I want, what do I need.” When your cup is full there’s a tendency to only want for the good of others and if you’re okay, you’re in a better position to take care of others.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs, visit the site and purchase products I really value your feedback.
Wishing my family, friends, clients, yoga students and readers a great Christmas and all you would wish for yourself throughout 2017.
Remember if you know of anyone who might benefit, my shop is stocked full of programs designed to help with confidence, stress, anxiety, sleep problems and other issues. Psst! Pass it on please…
Several of you have asked why I haven’t written a blog for some time… Well, I made space so that I could do some other interesting things, alongside teaching yoga and working with great clients, I also had a couple of gigs, attended a jazz vocal course in London, went to some yoga days, explored foreign shores, partied with friends and picnicked with family… I’ve also had some nice mediations…
I’ve talkedbefore about the importance of mediation for a happier, calmer mind. Give yourself just a few minutes each day to begin meditating and enjoy the amazing benefits!
Getting in the groove
Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting too big a goal, my approach is a little and often until it develops into a disciplined practice.
Where’s your commitment? On a daily basis will you honour yourself with say, SEVEN minutes a day? Fantastic! That’s a great start.
The next important thing is to choose your time – morning or evening? How about both? 7.00am or 6.15am or 9.30pm. Set a time and stick to it.
Space to breathe
Set up a space to meditate and ALWAYS meditate in that place Ensure it’s clean and tidy, you don’t want any unnecessary distractions. If you only have one room, make a corner of the room your mediation area and sit there.
Don’t Be Flaky
Make yourself physically comfortable, whether thats cross legged on the floor or sitting on a chair and once your time starts, close your eyes and make a deal with yourself to remain still. DON’T fidget, ignore any itches or irritations, they will go away but if you keep scratching and fidgeting you’ll never get into a good practice. If you have to cough, of course do so – it’s common sense to be comfortable then just sit still and be. This is your training.
Rinse and repeat
I always say repetition is the mother of all skill and as you repeat the daily meditation you’ll build up a reservoir of inner peace. As you become familiar with the stillness it will become easier to hook into it at other times during the day. You’ll notice after time, an ability to step back and observe your thoughts, feelings and reactions and in this way you can begin to choose whether to ‘play’ in the dramas of life or whether to quietly step back sometimes and choose a different way to be.
When you’re regularly and effortlessly meditating for seven minutes each day, you can extend that time to ten minutes, then fifteen, twenty and so on.
In no time at all you’ll be meditating effortlessly for 30 minutes a day and enjoying the amazing benefits that come as a result!
How Do I Know Which Meditation Style Is Right For Me?
1. Breath Focus
It’s particularly good if you are more kinesthetic, you can focus on the feeling of breath in your nostrils and follow its journey into the body.
Start with a regular daily practice of two or three minutes. Sit quietly where you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes, and take your awareness to your nostrils. Be aware of breathing in and out through your nose for a few breaths and then silently count 1,2,3,4 as you breathe in and 1,2,3,4 as you hold your breath then 1,2,3,3 as you exhale and 1,2,3,4 as you pause.
Do this for 10 breaths. If it helps imagine your are breathing around a square.
Your mind is likely to wander, this is true for all of us since the nature of the mind is to be constantly moving. When this happens simply go back to ‘one’ and start again. This is a mental discipline and the ultimate aim is to get to ten breaths uninterrupted by thoughts.
Mantra isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but useful if you’re very auditory – i.e. very tuned into sound – or if you really have a poor attention span!
So which mantra? It could be something from any faith, for example the Lord’s Prayer, or it could be a Buddhist Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or a yogi’s Om Namah Shiva, or even the repetition of a western word such as Peace, Relax, Be or I am Still.
Repeat your chosen mantra slowly mentally and silently over and over for the duration of your mediation.
Technically trataka is a kryia ( a purification process) but can also be used as a meditation especially if you’re very visual. It’s also a great approach if your eyes are tired from too much computer work.
You do need to be sitting still and best done in the privacy of your own home. Light a candle about two feet away from you at eye level. Relax your body, sit up straight and soften your gaze to one of receiving the light into your eyes rather than staring. As soon as you blink or your eyes water, gently close your eyes and hold the image of the candle flame in your inner eye. As soon as the image fades, open your eyes and begin again.
NBRemove contact lenses prior to trataka
My favourite is No. 1 – Breath Focus. It can be done open-eyed, and even standing in a queue or sitting on a train. It can be done in addition to your regular practice and used any time you need to control your mind, emotions or body.
You could also try to develop a system. Something like this: bring your awareness to your breathing on the hour every hour – or as near to it as possible.
The most important thing is once you have found a method that works for you, STICK to it. If you keep chopping and changing you’ll never establish a discipline, and that’s the key.
So, don’t take my word for it. Do it yourself. Commit to a month and see the benefits for yourself.
If you have any questions about mediation post them on the ‘Ask Sue’ section and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Take guidance from your Doctor or health practitioner if you have been diagnosed with any personality disorder or mental illness, before practising mediation.