To Still a Busy Mind

I was either going to crash and burn and that was not going to be pretty or I was going to pull back and find a better way to live my life. As you will be aware if you have read my earlier blogs on meditation this was something I wanted to do but had yet to perfect how to do it.

Taking lessons from my less than stellar beginning, I decided the sofa in the sitting room would be a better location. I also decided twenty minutes of guided meditation first thing in the morning while the tea was brewing would be a good starting point for the day.

Dandelion
Dandelion by Coen Dijkman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/3GXXg2 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I also found a better guided meditation. There are hundreds to choose from. It is all a question of what suits you best. I found some talked too much – it is hard to concentrate on your breathing and still your mind when you have someone yabbering away incessantly in your ear. It is also crucial to find a voice that does not get on your nerves – hard to relax if the way they speak is grating on you. All this takes a little experimentation. Eventually I found the perfect meditation for me. A soothing voice, helpful instructions and crucially long periods of quiet when nothing is said at all. Perfect.

Bubbles
Bubbles by Stellajo1976 courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/ajYXq8 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

For two weeks I began my day with the same guided meditation session. Did I notice a difference? I had been prepared for a slow burn, signs of improvement but gradually probably over weeks if not months. The change, however, was much more immediate than that. I began sleeping right through the night, every night – not waking up at 2.00 a.m. and struggling to get back to sleep, my mind teeming. Because I was sleeping better, I was also waking up better, refreshed and ready to get up instead of clinging to the duvet. I also noticed that I was so chilled after my morning session that I went about my routine without any stress or rushing about. I lost the habit of checking the clock and yet when I was ready to leave the house and I did glance at the clock I was early. Life seemed so much easier than it had before.

calm
Calm by Ana Sofia Guerreirinho courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/fcVB51 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Like any new habit you need to stick with it long enough that it becomes second nature. That is my next challenge but when the benefits have been so positive, it’s a challenge worth taking on.

If you are any doubt whether meditation is for you give it a go but make sure you give it a go over a long enough period that you have chance to experience the benefits. Twenty minutes a day for two weeks was ideal for me and even the busiest of us can squeeze in an extra twenty minutes can’t we?

 

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Adventures in Meditation – Part Two

Meditation2
Meditation by Luckey_Sun courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/bxK3mR https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

As I recounted in Adventures in Meditation – Who Has The Time?! (see below) I knew the tangible benefits of meditation and that they could specifically help me. Mind buzzing all the time? Finding it hard to let go? Want to concentrate on something more important than a Facebook post? Yes please!

https://ellieholmesauthor.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/adventures-in-meditation-who-has-the-time/

So now that I had made the decision to give it a go, how did I actually begin? Before I got into the heavy stuff of scheduling where and when on a daily or even weekly basis I thought it would be a good idea to have a trial run.

For my first session, I chose a sunny Sunday morning when I was fairly sure I would not be interrupted by the outside world. I had already got a load of washing underway in the machine and I had taken my dog Willow for a long walk.

First dilemma – where should the meditation take place? Chair? Bed? Floor? I have tried practicing meditation on the bed in the past – I would usually fall asleep and then wake up cold so I discounted that idea. I decided to compromise and lay down on the sofa in the conservatory which was toasty warm from the early summer sun. This I thought also had the added benefit of the birdsong coming in through the open back door and the gentle fluttering of the blinds in the breeze. All an aid to relaxation, surely?

Relax
Relax by Dave Doe courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/o18eto https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The next question was how was I actually going to do it. I decided twenty minutes was long enough to give it a good go but not so long that I would start panicking about my to do list. That length of time also seemed doable on a daily basis which was my ultimate goal.

Should I set the timer on my phone and go it alone or should I choose one of the many guided meditations that are available on the internet which, helpfully, have their timings included and a little about what the guided meditation will entail.

I thought as a novice I should accept a little help – a bit like a kid with stabilisers on their bicycle.   I choose a guided meditation that did not look too worthy or daunting. I plugged my headphones into my iPad and settled down.

Except I could not hear a thing. I fiddled with the iPad but could not figure out how to increase the volume on the app. I abandoned the iPad and reached for the iPhone. Searched for the same guided meditation, plugged in my headphones and settled down. Again. This time I had sound. Hurrah!

It all started well enough. With a little squirming around and the re-arranging of cushions I managed to get comfortable, retrieved the earbud that fell out in the process and settled down. Again. I started to concentrate on my breathing. I let the voice soothe me. I began to relax. And then…the dog started barking. I remembered I had left the back door open thinking the birdsong would help. I got up, brought the dog in, closed the door.

I settled down, put the earbuds back in and picked up where I had left off. I got a little further with the relaxation exercise. I could feel it starting to work when my washing machine when into its spin cycle and sounded as though it was readying itself for liftoff. I made the effort to block it out.

Now my whole body was relaxed and it was time to start counting backwards from 10 and go to my ‘special place’. I hadn’t been warned I needed a ‘special place’. I quickly cobbled something together in my mind and began to descend. I had just arrived when Willow, my dog, decided to jump on my chest and settle down for a spot of meditation of her own. I was back in the present with a bang, one earbud forlornly dangling and my special place ripped away without any count back. I was just debating whether to start over when the washing machine beeped to indicate it had finished. I took it as a sign and went to hang out the washing.

Meditation speaks
Except maybe not in my house! Meditation Speaks by Tejvan Pettinger courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9tARE8 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

My first attempt at meditation had not been a complete disaster. I had learnt a lot. Mostly what not to do but at least I would be better prepared for next time and I was determined there would be a next time….

Adventures in Meditation – Who has the time?!

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Om by Wendy Cope courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/rgdL5q https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have flirted with meditation in the past. I bought a book about it once. I even read it. I know it is a positive and worthwhile endeavour. I know the benefits to my general health and wellbeing are potentially immense. But when I am already stressed because I have so much to do how can I find time in my overcrowded day to sit and do nothing? Chance would be a fine thing!

Then a few weeks ago two things happened to me. Firstly, I began to realise I was suffering with burnout. The second thing that happened was that I went to a friend’s house to join a new group she had started – likeminded individuals who wanted to talk about their spiritual and life experiences without judgment or dogma. We began the meeting with a guided meditation session.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the experience of letting go, even if only for a short time, to concentrate on my breathing and nothing else.

Meditation2
Meditation by Luckey_Sun courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/bxK3mR https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

During the meeting, we talked about the serendipitous nature of coincidences and how we had all got our friend’s email at a time in our lives when what she was proposing really chimed with us.

I left the meeting feeling as though I had made a group of new friends [I did not know any of the other people who attended apart from my friend] and with a lightness in my step.

Walking home, I realised that time to practice meditation or anything else for that matter was not going to magically materialise. I had to carve the time out. There was no point, however, sitting down to meditate with one eye on the clock, muscles tense thinking about all the other things I should be doing instead. Meditation in those circumstances would be impossible not to mention counter productive. I was either going to do it and do it properly or not at all. I resolved to make the effort and see where it led me.

In the next instalment of Adventures in Meditation I will let you know how I got on.

 

Seize the Day

At the moment, in my part of the UK, we are being blessed with wonderful weather. Anyone who knows the British weather will know this situation is unlikely to last and we will all probably be shivering into our thermals within days. But, right now, it is lovely.

As is usually the case, I woke up today with twenty-one hundred things to do but when a nice day comes along it is important to seize it and make the most of it. So beyond writing this blog, my stuff to do list is on hold for a day.

My puppy, Willow, and I have been on a long walk across the fields near our home – blissful peace and quiet, rolling countryside bright with sunshine and the only sounds were the very distant whisper of traffic, the occasional dog bark and loudest of all beautiful birdsong.

Countryside
The Ridgeway by Dave_S. courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/eEr2pb https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Now back, a long afternoon and evening stretches ahead of us in which we will both spend time pottering in the garden which is a mass of spring colours. Later we will relax, either outdoors or on the comfy sofa in the sun lounge, me reading a good book, Willow, nearby having a snooze. ! daresay a glass of something chilled may also be consumed. By me not her!

Glass of wine
Glass of wine by fauxto_digit courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/89PXSg https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Slow Sunday? Yep. I deserve it.

I bet you do, too.

 

Happiness Jar

Over the Christmas break I read an article about a happiness jar. Inspired by the tale, I decided to have my own happiness jar for 2017.

jar
Jar by Michelle Carl courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/9hJqe4   https://goo.gl/RMH4Qx

The idea is that you make a note on a slip of paper or a post it note of anything and everything that makes you happy as they occur to you. It can be as mundane as a warming cup of hot chocolate on a bitterly cold day or the big stuff like family. You only add to the jar when you want to and there is no set limit on how many notes you put in or when you add them. It’s your jar of happiness and it is supposed to make you happy not stressed out. If it becomes another thing on your to do list then that would make it the unhappiness jar after all and who would want one of those?!

What you record is entirely up to you – I have noted down some memories as they came back to me, people, pets, places, situations, food, drink. The list is as endless as the things that make you happy. Your jar will probably have lots of different things in it than mine does but some of the fundamental things we will all share.

I plan to keep the happiness jar going for the whole of 2017 and add to it whenever the feeling takes me. At the end of the year I will open the jar and see just what made me happy in 2017. It’s a lovely idea and an easy way to remind ourselves of how many things we have to be grateful for because it is all too easy to forget how lucky we are sometimes as we struggle with the daily grind.

Grateful
Grateful by Sharon Sinclair courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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So why not join me? Give it a go and start your own happiness jar.

Happiness
Happiness by Moyan Brenn courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/cd6X4C   https://goo.gl/GWaI3v

 

Walking by the sea

What is it about walking by the sea? Now that my puppy is old enough to go for longer walks it is my new-old favourite thing to do. I had forgotten just how much I enjoy it.

footsteps
Footsteps on the Sand by Paula J. Andrews courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/bWL5QY  https://goo.gl/Dv0zaN

There is something about being faced by a large expanse of uninterrupted water that puts everything else into perspective, something calming about the way the muscle of the sea ripples back and forth.

A couple of weekends ago the sun was shining and sheltered from the wind Willow and I found a piece of leftover summer on a deserted beach. The sea was gentle that day, whispering back and forth across virgin sand and my puppy had her first paddle in the water. The sea wall was a sun trap on which to sit and while away time day dreaming, the sun casting a million jewels upon the water to dazzle our eyes.

lapping-waves
Lapping Waves by goatsgreetings courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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The next weekend was very different. Stormy and cold with a raging wind, autumn had arrived with a vengeance. Willow and I loved it just the same. Confined to the promenade because the tide was so far in, it was exhilarating to be buffeted by the gusty wind. The onrushing waves were high and angry, battering the beach and sending foaming spray up on to the promenade to land at our feet. It was easy to lose myself in thought as I watched the peaks and troughs of the restless sea, the swells concealing hidden depths and dangers. It was a world away from the summer of the previous weekend.

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Splash by Simon Turkas courtesy of flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/oB6vZF    https://goo.gl/QkpDKw

Walking by the sea is good for our souls. Our problems seem to diminish in relation to the vastness of the water. It puts us back in touch with nature, the cycles of the seasons and the heartbeat of the world. It reminds us how small and inconsequential we are. And that is a good thing.

 

Money isn’t everything

In Colchester, Essex the hunt is on to find the holder of a lottery ticket worth £8 million. They have until 13th March 2017 to claim their prize.

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Lottery by K J Payne courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/8iqy1o  https://goo.gl/b9K5iH

It’s a life changing sum of money but there have been plenty of instances of lottery winners who thought their dreams had come true only to see that dream turn into a nightmare because money isn’t everything and a large sum of money can bring with it a complex set of problems alongside the flying champagne corks and I’m not talking about whether you should buy a yacht or a sports car or both.

sunseeker
Sunseeker v Baja by Lets Go Out Bournemouth courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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Squabbles amongst families and rising tensions between husbands and wives are the stories that hit the headlines months and years after the champagne has gone flat. It isn’t the money itself that tears people apart rather it has a way of exacerbating the fault lines that already existed in a relationship before the potent mix of lots of money got added to the pot.

It’s good to aim high. It’s lovely to have dreams. Just make sure your foundations are solid before you start reaching for the stars or have them handed to you on a plate.

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Tell the people you care about that you love them.
  3. Show that love in what you do not just in what you say.
  4. Take pleasure from the simple things in life – a leaf caught on the breeze, a beautiful sunset, a roaring fire.
  5. Cherish happy times.
  6. Look for the good in people.
  7. Give second chances to yourself and to others.
  8. Smile even if your heart is breaking
  9. Practice random acts of kindness.
  10. Remember that somewhere inside all of us there is a clock ticking so don’t waste precious moments on those who don’t deserve your time.
  11. Never be afraid to live, laugh or love.
  12. Don’t strive to be happy because happiness is ephemeral. Strive for contentment instead.
contentment
Contentment by Mario courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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