5 easy ways to turn frustrating situations into calming mindful pauses

How often are you kept waiting for things and find yourself frustrated? Waiting at the school gates when you need to be home and starting the tea, stuck in traffic and late for a meeting or, waiting to find out if you got the job that you just interviewed for. Life moves so quickly and we all feel that when we already need more hours in the day, anything that holds us up is just another stress. Well for those of you who just don’t have time for a regular meditation practice, follow these five tips to turn those frustrating events in your day into calming mindful pauses and soon you will be wishing for more traffic jams.

1. Stuck in traffic

Being stuck in traffic can be frustrating and stressful particularly when you have to be somewhere. The fact of the matter is, that unless you have a hover board that you can hop onto, you are stuck. So get comfortable in the seat, put your favourite CD in the CD player, and listen mindfully to the songs you love. Use the music as your focusing anchor. Listen to the words, the melody and the sounds. If your attention drifts and you catch yourself wondering if you’re going to be late, don’t judge yourself just gently bring your attention back to the music. If you don’t have any music in the car, use your visual senses. Look around and take in your surroundings. Try not to attach any description to them just observe. Again if your attention drift just acknowledge this and come back to what you can see. Do this for as long as it feels effortless (or until the traffic moves)!

2. You’ve been put on hold

I wonder how much of lives we spend on hold, calling the gas supplier or our mobile phone provider? And just when you manage to get through to a real human, they kindly inform you that you have the wrong department and put you back on hold whilst they transfer you!
I now try to use these times as my meditation time. I get comfortable either in a chair or on the floor, I put the phone onto loud-speaker and put it close by and I do a short mindfulness practice. I take a few moments to settle and then I bring my hands to belly and focus on the rise and fall of my belly as I breath in and out. When my attention drifts which it always does, I notice it and guide it back to the feeling of my hands rising and falling against my belly.
You will become so peaceful during these times that you may wish that you could go on hold a little longer! And, when the call handler does answer the call, you will have a much clearer and calmer mind to deal with the situation at hand.

3. Waiting in a queue

Queueing can be very frustrating. I have the wonderful skill of judging queues very badly and after lots of deliberation I always end up joining the one that moves the slowest.
When this happens, stand with your feet hip distance apart, rock back and forth slightly to ensure your weight is even throughout the whole foot. Soften your knees a little. Now just bring your focus to the feeling of your feet on the floor. Taking your focus to the feet takes you out of your head and your thoughts. Notice where your feet make contact with the ground, which parts of your feet press more firmly onto the ground? Notice which parts of the feet don’t make contact with the ground. Practice moving your weight slightly from one foot to the other. When needed gently bring your attention back to your whole body and the matter at hand.

4. Waiting for the kettle to boil

How often do you impatiently flick the kettle off before it has boiled? The next time you are making a drink, take your time. Pay attention to all the actions involved in the process. Filling the kettle, flicking the switch, putting the tea or coffee into the cup. Think about the tea or coffee, where it came from, what processes it may have been through to get to your kitchen. Listen to the sound of the kettle boiling, watch the steam rising. If you thoughts wander just notice it and bring your attention back to the kettle boiling. Don’t flick the switch too soon, just enjoy the process and then maybe sit quietly and mindfully enjoy the drink.

5.  Waiting for the friend who is always late

We all have at least one friend who always turns up late. The one you tell a little fib to and give them an earlier meeting time than everyone else just so that they might turn up at the proper time 15 minutes later. If you are alone in a bar or  waiting restaurant for someone you can sometimes feel self-conscious and find yourself, pretending to be on the phone or scanning your twitter feed. Next time this happens, try to avoid feeling the need to distract yourself. Get comfortable in your seat, feet flat on the floor and take a few mindful moments. Nobody in the restaurant will notice what you are doing. You could choose to focus your attention on the noises around you or the smells. Or just focus on you in breath and out breath. When your friend arrives they will wonder what your secret to looking so serene is.

 

Mindfulness should be easy and effortless. It is simply the practice focusing our attention onto a neutral anchor such as the breath, a sound or a sensation. When our attention drifts (which it always will) this is just a welcome opportunity to notice where our attention has gone to, and bring it back to our focusing anchor. It just takes us one step back from the often continuous dialogue in our minds, and gives us some welcome peace. It also keeps us in the present moment. So welcome the mundane and frustrating moments as blessings and never miss the opportunity to give yourself a mini mindful meditation.

Advertisements

Meditation for a flatter stomach

meditation-lg

Many of you will have heard of the ‘fight of flight’ response. It is the physiological response to feelings of fear. It enables us to avoid danger by either, running away or fighting. So when you are faced by a dangerous situation, circulation to your brain increases for faster reactions, blood pressure rises, your heart beats faster and your muscles tense ready for action. Adrenalin and cortisol levels increase to sustain this state for a short time. This response is life saving when we are in danger however, many of us are living under constant stress and our bodies are remaining in this fight or flight state for prolonged lengths of time.

Over time, raised cortisol levels brought on by chronic stress can lead to impaired cognitive function, blood sugar imbalance, decreased bone density, high blood pressure, lowered immune system and increased abdominal fat. In fact one of the main causes of increased abdominal fat is raised cortisol levels. Our body stores fat expecting to need it for energy for the high stress situation that we are facing.

So by finding ways to initiate the relaxation response in our bodies we can lower cortisol levels, thereby stabilising our blood sugar and reducing food cravings. Lowered cortisol levels should also help reduce belly fat. Studies have shown that mindful meditation may significantly reduce cortisol levels leading to the reduction in the risks associated with raised levels.

So take a few moments each day to consider how your body feels. What thoughts are running through you mind? If you don’t have the time for a regular meditation practice, try taking 5 minutes on your commute to work or take a mindful walk outside on your lunch break.

If you have the time, try this short mindful meditation practice for a few minutes and if you are able too, build up the time you allow for this each day.

Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor. Notice what is going on around you and within you. What can you hear, smell or sense? What are your bodily sensations, body weight, temperature, contact points with the chair? What is happening in your mind? What emotional feelings are present? Allow whatever is there to be there without judgement. Now Narrow your attention down to your breath. Notice the rise and fall of your abdomen, the depth and length of the breath. When your attention drifts, acknowledge that it has drifted and gently bring the attention back to the breath. After a few minutes, broaden out you attention again to the thoughts, emotions, body and surrounding area. After a few more moments you can go back to your day and enjoy the benefits of reducing your stress hormones.

Karma

Some people view karma as a punishment for past sinful actions but this limited interpretation of the word prevents understanding of it’s true meaning. Rather than a cause of suffering karma is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Karma is a Sanskrit word for “action”. All action causes a reaction and, if we deviate from our path karma puts us back on track. Karma is not bad luck or fate, it is simply aligning us to our soul purpose. So if we are experiencing suffering, it could be a sign that changes need to be made to re-align us with the happiness and satisfaction that is intended for us. When we have peace and stability we can be sure that we are living peacefully, following the path of natural law.

If I experience a period of feeling tired, stressed or unwell when I examine my life I can usually find more than one area in which I am not taking correct action. Maybe I am not getting adequate sleep or I am making less than healthy choices in my diet. If I take action to correct this and re-align myself (easier said than done) I should see improvements in my well-being.

In recent years I have had many episodes when I have felt physically or emotionally out of balance. Once I understood that these were signs that I needed to take action I felt more in control of my well-being. Karma has nudged me towards a path of enquiry and learning about mindfulness, relaxation techniques, Reiki, massage and other holistic therapies, all of which contribute to my well-being and the well-being of others. This blog is my lifelong project to stay on my true path and help others to do the same, hence the name, the Karma Life project.

Lessons from a meditation retreat

 

image

 

This weekend I had the luxury of spending a day at a meditation retreat. This was a new experience for me, I went alone and I did not know anybody there so I was a little apprehensive. When I first walked in and saw the meditation cushions on the floor my first thought was that I would never be able to sit on a cushion for a whole day. Thankfully everyone there had the same thought and we all opted to sit on chairs (phew!).

From the moment that I walked into the room I felt relaxed, my shoulders lowered a little and I soaked up the peaceful atmosphere. Everyone was there for a break from daily life, for retreat. Everyone remained quiet most of the day with little need for small talk. This is very new for me as someone who feels compelled to fill every silence with nervous babble. Before long I felt comfortable just sitting in companionable silence (no need for nervous rambling after all).

So I learned many lessons from the retreat. First, just because we are meditating does not mean we have to sit in an uncomfortable lotus position and second, I will not explode if I sit quietly with another person without talking. From David, the excellent meditation teacher I learned the principles of Anapanasati Sutta (the awareness of breathing) and I will talk about this in a later blog. My most important and valuable lesson from the day came from a passing comment from the mediation teacher during his introduction to the day. As we all settled down to begin the retreat he advised us that “if we had any expectations for day, we should leave them at the door as they will only get in the way of our experience”.

At first I was a little disgruntled by this. After all if he didn’t want to know my objectives for the day, how would he ensure that the retreat met my needs? I consider myself a driven person. I set goals, creat a plan on how I will reach those goals and then systematically work towards them. I came to this retreat wanting insight and enlightenment. I wanted to observe his teaching style to inform my own practice of guiding mindful meditation with my patients. I wanted to spend time at the end evaluating how my expectations had been met.

After giving some thought to his comment I realised how right he was. I have let my expectations get in the way of many life experiences. When I go on holiday, I research the area, spend hours on-line working out an itinerary, I track the weather leading up to departure, discuss plans with friends and imagine how wonderful it is going to be . Inevitably, when I arrive on the holiday, if I have to deviate from the plan or something does not meet my expectations, my experience is somewhat dampened.

conversely I will spend sleepless nights expecting a busy day at work, a difficult organisational meeting or a nerve-racking interview and in reality, the experience is never as harrowing as anticipated and could have actually been enjoyable if not for my poor expectations (and lack of sleep).

So I am due to spend some time on the beautiful Dalmatian Coast in a few weeks and the plan is……………. there is no plan! I am not going to spend hours online or pour over guide books before we depart. I am simply going to turn up and experience the moment, no expectations.

Schedule your healthy rituals

image

 

 

We all have certain rituals or activities that feed our soul and improve our well-being. I like to spend an uninterupted hour with a mug of tea and my favourite magazine. I feel that my week is missing something if I miss my weekly ashtanga yoga class. What small rituals lift your spirits? Maybe you love a hot bath with essential oils or an hour in your favourite cafe with a good book and a hot chocolate. Now you have a vision in your mind of your ideal way to spend an hour try to remember when you last had the time to indulge in such activities.

In the midst of our busy lives, between the school run, the commute to work, the unpaid over time and the household chores, the things that truly feed our souls and bring us peace get pushed the bottom of the list.

I recently completed Leonie Dawson’s “Create your amazing year” work book. In it she suggests that we schedule  these activities into our diaries to help us prioritise the “me time”.

If you have 10 minutes to spare, sit down with a pen and paper and think of all the things (it doesn’t matter how small) that nourish you. Now see if you could schedule these into your week rather than having a vague longing that you should do it when you get the time. Make little appointments with yourself in your diary for some bliss time.

I managed to schedule a 90 minute yoga class every monday and an “early to bed” night on Tuesdays. On Thursdays I create time for a twenty minute mindful meditation. I schedule 30 minutes  journalling time on Saturday mornings and a walk in nature on Sundays. I set all my activities in my iPhone as a weekly appointments with reminders to keep me on track. I don’t always keep all my “bliss time” appointments but I do have more since it became part of my weekly schedule. This makes me happier and healthier. All positive steps towards a Karma Life.

 

 

Mastering the mind

mindfulmasterOur minds are often dominated by automatic thoughts. As we drive to work in the morning we often have no recollection of the journey because we are lost in thought. We don’t notice that the blossom is coming on the trees or that there is a new shop open on the high street. Often these automatic thoughts are negative and are about an event in the past or the future. We are missing the present moment, the only moment that truly exists. Being mindful is simply being fully aware of the present moment experience.

We don’t need to sit in an uncomfortable position for prolonged lengths of time or join a cult to practice mindfulness. We just need to stay present in the moment and notice where our attention wanders too and gently bring it back. We can look at our thoughts rather than from them and in this way creat some space between our experiences and our reactions.