Growing outside your comfort zone 

A major benefit of getting still and increasing my mindfulness practice has been my increased ability to be open to guidance when I need it the most. Just recently I have found that the right nudges are happening serendipitously and, it’s just possible, that this has always happened and I haven’t been still enough to notice. 

So over the past few weeks opportunities have arisen for me to use what I know about mindfulness practices to help more people. This is what I have wanted in my heart for a long time and is ultimately why I trained to teach mindfulness, however, the moment these opportunities presented themselves I found many excuses to stay small and not move forward. 

My excuses include:

1. I’m not ready, I don’t know enough. 

2. Everyone will realise I don’t know anything. 

3. I will get it wrong and lose credibility. 

4. I’m scared of failing so I would rather not try. 

5. I will be ridiculed. 

6. I’m too busy already, I will be over whelmed. 

As I am busily making my list of reasons not to move forward and grow, an email comes with an invitation to Gabrielle Bernstein’s free online training about running a spiritually based business. So I get my journal and a cup of tea and get set up to watch the video. Within the first 5 minutes she has wiped out my excuses!

She stresses the point that “it’s not about me!” All my excuses are ego based fears about how I will look or feel when in fact, it’s all about the benefits I can provide to others. I just need to be of service. 

So far, so good, but I still don’t have the time. Taking on more projects would just leave me over whelmed I tell myself. Then a video blog from Mastin Kipp comes into my inbox entitled “dealing with overwhelm”. I want to shy away from this challenge so badly I almost delete the email. I don’t want any more of my excuses addressing. I like my excuses, they keep me safe! But I watch the video…….

So Mastin Kipp tells me that “joy, love, connection and abundance are my destiny, but I will never get there if I always stop when I feel overwhelmed”.  He goes on to give reassurance that we are never given more than we can handle and that overwhelm is just us growing outside our comfort zone. We need to reframe overwhelm as our bodies adjusting to a new life and see it as a reason to keep moving forward. 

So now I’m scared! My excuses are being picked off one by one by these amazing thought leaders who inspire me so greatly. I might actually have to push myself here and go ahead with these opportunities to grow and develop my mindfulness practice. If I could just get the fear under control……..

So I’m driving along listening to Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness podcast and he starts talking about fear and discomfort. He explains how if you are not feeling fear and discomfort you really are not pushing yourself far enough. We don’t achieve greatness without feeling outside our comfort zone. If you want to feel comfortable, he says, we have to be happy with staying small and not realising dreams of greatness. 

So now I’m convinced. I know I have to feel the fear and do it anyway. If mindfulness has taught me anything it is how to be with discomfort. I’m sure the exhilaration of achieving this level of growth will far out weigh the discomfort. I just need to step forward and start. 

Breathe In

 

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There are often times in our lives when we feel out of control. An interview may be going badly or our children are rebelling. We may have a sick relative and there is nothing we can do to alter their state. At times like these it is helpful to focus your attention on the one thing you can control, and the one thing you will always be grateful for – your breath.

Your breath is a miracle life-giver. You breathe in life fuelling oxygen right to the base of your lungs and this diffuses out into the blood stream to nourish every cell in your body. Your exhalation carries waste gas (carbon dioxide) out into the atmosphere. Everything throughout this exchange, from inhalation to exhalation is synchronised to perfection.

When you feel you have nothing to be grateful for and nothing is going your way try the following practice to remind yourself you always have your wondrous breath of life.

Take a second to be still. This practice can be done standing or sitting and nobody needs to know what you are up to. You can do it in the waiting room at the doctors or in the supermarket checkout queue.

Get as comfortable as you can and just bring your attention to your feet planted on the floor and may be scan your body to notice where your body presses against the chair (if you are seated). Now, just start to explore your breathing. Notice the air moving in and out of the nostrils. The temperature of the air as it flows into your body. Does one side of the nose feel more open than the other? Where does the breath create movement in your body? The ribs might move outwards or your shoulders may move. Watch the air flow back out of the nostrils.

Now experiment with your breathing. Increase the length of the in breath and out breath slightly. Maybe count the in breath and out breath. If your attention wanders away from your breathing, just notice this and come back to watching the breath.

Let your breath settle back to its natural rate and depth and continue to explore and consider how it is nourishing your whole body. Be thankful for your breath. Continue this as long as you feel comfortable to do so.

 

 

The Instagram Effect

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I have been thinking lately about Instagram and it’s effect on the amount of “appreciative moments that I have”. When I used to travel with my friends we always reminded each other to stop and have an appreciative moment when we were doing something amazing like sailing around Sydney harbour or walking a beach in Thailand. Unfortunately, the appreciative moments were reserved for holidays….. Until Instagram came along.

Now I am constantly stopping to appreciate my surroundings and whipping out my phone to capture the moment.

Far from boasting about great experiences, I think it is great to see people really appreciating the simple things in their posts such as a hug with their sleeping child or a crisp glass of white wine at the end of the week. Instagram is vastly increasing the number of appreciative moments in our lives and keeping us all present in the moment. I for one am grateful for the “Instagram effect”.

Wellbeing Toolkit

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Over christmas I was closing down my old journal which spanned two years. Reading through it was enlightening to say the least. I have a relatively peaceful life with good friends and family, a job which I would describe as my vocation and enough money to live comfortably. Like most people however, I encounter difficulties which sometimes wipe me out and make me sad and fearful. I was pleased to find an entry in my journal which I had written as a letter to myself after I had recovered well from a particularly heart breaking situation.

The letter to myself reminded me that, whilst in the middle of the crisis I felt that I would surely never recover, I did recover. I then listed all the things that I did to aid the recovery to be referred to in the future should the need arise. It is good to make this list while you are clear-headed and feeling positive because when you are feeling despair you might not be able to motivate yourself to come up with solutions, but you can easily refer to your list, pick a helpful activity and do you best to take part. I would call this list your “wellbeing tool kit”.

Take some time to think back through any challenging events in your life that might have taken you to your knees for a while. Now in your journal, on your iPhone or just on a pice of paper make a list of the activities, people and things which brought a smile to your face and lightened your heart just enough to see you through. What helped you to gain perspective? What gave you the boost to push through to a better place?

Here are a few of the things on my list:

1. Dancing with my niece.

Children are free of burdens and are so disinhibited that being around them, and engaging in childlike play never fails to lift my spirits.

2. Walking in nature with friends.

We call it “walking therapy”. Just half an hour out in the fresh air, exercising whilst we moan, gossip, laugh and cry always leaves us feeling like at least a tiny part of the problem has been solved.

3. Yoga

To me yoga is a cure-all. If your tired it revitalises you, if your wired it calms you down. If you are fragile you can take it easy or even just sit on your mat and breath. It will always leave you feeling better than when you started.

4. Mindfulness

I used to be lost in my stressfull thoughts most of the time before I discovered mindfulness. Now I’m still lost in thought but not as much. Mindfulness practice provides me with a balcony view over my thoughts. This allows me the space to recognise that they are “just thoughts” not facts!

5. Retreat

The picture above is me on a beach at sunset. During time away on holidays and short breaks I can clear my mind and be peaceful. If you can’t afford a holiday then plan a small at home retreat. A day of “nothingness” to just relax and unwind. Eat some nourishing food and read a good book.

6. Books

Motivational reads are perfect for challenging times. See the “on my bookshelf” page for some ideas.

7. Friends

When times are hard surround yourself with your support team. Those friends that listen, make you laugh, give you the home truths and leave you alone when you need it. I look to people who inspire me and people who have been through difficult times and recovered to be stronger than ever. These are the friends from who we can learn and grow.

8. Nourishing the body

Taking care of the body is so important during stressful and upsetting times. adequate sleep and a good nutritious diet will push you through to a better place much more quickly than self neglect. Even if you’re feeling low and de-motivated try to care for your body as you would take care of a little child, with lots of love and kindness.

 

Self-care

 

 

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There are so many clichés around self-care. We have all heard the advice about putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others and filling your own cup before giving to others. We all know that to be a good friend, mum, wife, husband and employee we need to be physically and mentally well. To support others we need to be grounded and strong enough to support ourselves first. But do we really invest enough time in self-care? Are we as kind to ourselves as we are to others? Do we talk as nicely to ourselves as we do to others? Do we give ourselves treats and rewards for a job well done? May be not as often as we should.

When I think about self-care I think about taking time for myself, being peaceful and quite, a hot bath, a new hair cut. All physical things to pamper myself. But when I looked for other forms of self-care, I realised there are much more subtle ways of taking care of, and protecting ourselves. For example, saying “no” sometimes if something feels wrong or we are too busy. Saying “yes” sometimes to offers of help or opportunities that inspire us. Trusting our instincts to know when to say yes and when to say no and not trying to be a “people pleaser”. Staying away from people or situations that creat drama or negativity as much as you can and most importantly not speaking badly to ourselves or about ourselves.

So try to make the effort to nurture yourself as you would a child. Don’t chastise yourself or be self-critical. Protect yourselves from negativity and most of all…. Love yourself whole heartedly.

 

 

Just for today…….

Reiki-Principles

As I prepare to further my Reiki training, I have been studying the principles of Reiki and realised how closely they link with Mindfulness and present moment awareness. Dr Mikao Usui developed the five principles of Reiki (or the 5 Reiki intentions) to help us gain the most from Reiki and understand the ancient secret method for gaining happiness. Dr Usui believed that applying the five principles or intentions in our lives, in conjunction with Reiki practice, helps to increase our wisdom, compassion and inner strength.

The appealing aspect of the Reiki principles is that we only have to think about today. The thought that it is “just for today” can often make any difficult or daunting life experience seem manageable. Maybe when we are making a lifestyle change such as stopping smoking or dieting, the prospect that we might never smoke another cigarette again or will have to go for weeks without our favourite food, seems unbearable. If we bring more present moment awareness to the experience and remind ourselves we only have to do this today, and tomorrow is a new day, things somehow feel more achievable.

This fits in nicely with the mindful approach to living and present moment awareness. Our tendency to be carried away by our thoughts into future events or fears is a common source of stress. Reminding ourselves of these intentions, and living just for today brings us back to the now.

I found these intentions particularly helpful when I was grieving for a very dear and beloved grand parent. I found it over whelming that I would never see her again. Imagining my whole life stretching out before me without her in it seemed frightening and heart breaking. Just thinking about it in these terms now as write, makes my heart race and my eyes fill with tears. But, if I ask myself will I be OK if I just don’t see her today? The answer is yes, just for today I will be OK without her.

So if you are grieving, trying to change a habit or stuck in a job that you dislike and are feeling stressed about spending the next few months there, ask yourself, can I do this  just for today? The answer will probably be yes. You might think that this approach may prevent you from moving forwards in life or changing unhappy circumstances, however, when you remove the stressful thoughts of a future that hasn’t arrived yet, you achieve some mental clarity and space to take positive action.

 

 

5 Habits of mindful people

 

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If you want to become succesful at something, a good place to start is to find a role model and examine their habits.

On my recent Enhancing Mindful Resilience training I was impressed and in awe of the trainers who seemed to embody mindfulness and exude the serenity that mindfulness can bring. So I have spent some time watching people who I consider to be “mindful masters” to compile a short list of habits that promote mindful living.

1. Meditation

Mindful people prioritise their meditation time. They don’t wait to see if they get everything done and then if they have time, squeeze 10 minutes of meditation in. They meditate (usually as part of a morning ritual) and then begin the rest of their day. If you feel like you don’t have time to mediate, set your alarm just ten minutes earlier, when it goes off hit snooze. Then sit up in your bed and meditate for the 9 minutes until your snooze alarm sounds. You will feel the benefits for the rest of the day.

2. Conscious Listening

How often are you involved in a conversation and whilst the other person is talking, you are planning your answer, wondering if you will finish work on time or wishing you had bought those shoes in your lunch break? You are not in the present moment, consciously listening to the other person, you are in the past or the future.

When I observe mindful people in conversation they are calm and you can sense that they are present and listening fully. They don’t rush to provide answers or respond in the conversation. Their speech is unhurried and considered. They creat space to engage fully in the present moment. Being in conversation with a person who is mindfully aware is noticeably different and a much more enjoyable experience.

3. Mindful Eating

How often do you eat your sandwich at your desk or eat your tea whilst watching TV? You are not concentrating on your food. You are not enjoying the tastes, the textures or the smell of the food. More importantly you are not paying attention to when you are full, and so you mindlessly eat until the plate is clear. Experiments have shown that when a person is blindfolded during their meal, they eat less. They are not distracted and cannot see when the plate is empty, and so they stop eating based on their sense of feeling full.

Mindful people will treat their meal times like a ritual. Preparing the food and eating the food without distraction. Try turning the TV off and sitting quietly to eat your food. Savour each bite, chew the food for longer and take some time between forkfuls. Listen to your body and stop when you feel full rather than when the plate is empty.

4. Uni-tasking

I often find myself checking my emails on my i phone whilst I am walking round the supermarket. Or writing an email at work whilst I am on hold on the phone. By multi tasking we are doing neither task to the best of our ability. Rather than save time, we are probably causing more problems for ourselves and wasting time. I might forget half of my shopping list due to being on my phone and have to go back to the supermarket. I might make a mistake in the email because I am concentrating on the phone call.

Mindfully completing one task at a time will save time. Look at each task like a ritual. Give it your full attention and do it to the best of your ability then move on to the next task. Try to remain in the present moment. When your thoughts wonder to the next thing on your “to do” list, notice this and gently guide your attention back to the task at hand.

5. Self Compassion

One of the key principles guiding mindfulness and mindful people is self compassion. Being kind to ourselves as much and as often as possible. Don’t judge yourself for your thoughts, actions or lack of action. If your mind is busy during meditation, don’t get frustrated,  just notice the thoughts, acknowledge the busy mind and guide your attention back to the breath and the present moment. It is not possible to do a mindful meditation incorrectly, just a moment of quiet and stillness will benefit you. Don’t stop practicing because you fear you are not meditating correctly.