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….

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Adventures in Meditation – Who has the time?!

Meditationjpg
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.

 

Forgive Yourself

I recently blogged about the Beauty of Forgiveness.

https://ellieholmesauthor.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/the-beauty-of-forgiveness/

That blog spoke about the need to let go of anger and bitterness because nursing old hurts and grievances reverberates negatively within us and ultimately hurts us far more than the original hurt perpetrated against us.

This week I want to talk about forgiveness again but this time a different aspect – forgiving yourself.

We all have instances in our lives where we wish we had said or done something at a particular time but, for whatever reason, we did not. The guilt associated with missed opportunities particularly involving loved ones who are no longer here can be sharp. We know if they were here they would tell us not to worry about it and yet we still beat ourselves up.

Negative Emotions
Emotions Explained by GollyGForce courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/jp8Yf4 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I am not a person who generally holds grudges or nurses bad feelings. I am quick to forgive and yet I do not tend to offer myself the same compassion for my own misdemeanours and transgressions.

Compassion
And May They Rise Up #compassion by Leigh Blackall courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/uwZgLu https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

This is because I hold myself to impossibly high standards. I always expect to excel and should I fall short, I berate myself about it:- I’m not good enough, I didn’t work hard enough etc.,

The trouble is I always reach for the stars and because I am only human, I am consequently setting myself up to fail more often than not. Why is it I always think I can cram so many things into a limited number of hours and wind up feeling tired and dispirited when I haven’t ticked everything off my stuff to do list for instance? Sound familiar?

So I have decided to make a concerted effort not to be so hard on myself in the future, to be a little bit more compassionate and kind to myself as well  as to others. We all fail and make mistakes. It’s how we learn to become better people.

Forgiving myself for such mistakes is a small step but an important one.

Begin Again
Buddha Quote by Hartwig HKD courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/dtMGUq https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

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.

 

Spin the dial

I am sure we all have morning routines. Part of my routine is to have a local radio station playing in the background when I’m getting ready in the morning. I don’t want the intrusive babble of overbright voices too early on in my day – I covert that initial quiet time when most of the world is still asleep. But it is handy to catch up on the news and local travel.

Tea
Cup of Tea by NicehotcupofT courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/bkfNg5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

But here’s the thing – I don’t particularly like the DJ. I find him borderline annoying and the music they play is pretty safe, middle of the road stuff. I ought to change the station and tune in to someone new but the other local radio station is even worse. They have a couple of morning DJs, a man and a woman, and the woman sets my teeth on edge so that’s a no go. There are, of course, plenty of other stations to choose from but it’s the effort, it’s the time. I have a pretty tight timetable in the morning so I stick with it, take the good stuff, try to ignore the annoying stuff, hold on to my routine and get on with my day.

Radio
Radio by Robert Ashworth courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/eSwjZW https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Earlier this week the station or the transmitter suffered a meltdown. Suddenly there was nothing coming out of my radio. I stared quizzically at my old battered radio in case it had had the radio equivalent of a cardiac arrest but on moving closer I could hear the static so I knew the radio wasn’t to blame. I have been told that a DJ’s worst nightmare is what they describe as “dead air”. Well there was plenty of that.

If I wanted music, news and noise I now had no choice but to spin the dial and find another station. With a sigh of impatience I did just that. After a few detours into classical music (perfect for chilled out evenings with a glass of wine but not frantic mornings) and hard edged rock (perfect for driving or doing the housework) I found a substitute. And what a substitute. The DJ made me laugh within two sentences and even the music was more my style – rockier (but not headbanging).

I now have a new accompaniment to my morning routine and it is better than the one I had before.

radio dial
Radio Dial by James Cridland courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9UsSUa https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

There is an analogy there for other parts of my life and probably yours too. All too often we stick with what we know even if we are unhappy about it because it is easier, less hassle or because that’s just the way it’s always been. But why not make the effort and challenge the status quo? You may, like me, be glad you did.

We should all spin the dial occasionally.

 

Don’t forget to enjoy it

Enjoy
Enjoy by Elizabeth M courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/aAMBVR https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Sometimes as life sweeps us along it’s all too easy to get lost in the day to day grind. We have so many things to tick off our stuff to do lists, so many obligations and commitments to honour and people to please we forget about making time for ourselves and for the people in our lives who really matter.

So next time you are working out your schedule for another busy week, remember to schedule some fun stuff too.

  1. Take five minutes out with a cup of tea or coffee first thing in the morning when the house is quiet to count your blessings.
  2. Factor in some fun time with the kids and the pets.
  3. Book a date night with your partner.
  4. Give your Mum and Dad a call or better yet a visit.
  5. Don’t feel guilty about watching your favourite TV show while the ironing pile gets higher.
  6. Meet your friends for a coffee and a chat.
  7. Run a bubble bath, light some candles and switch off from the world for a while.
  8. Buy some fresh flowers for your home or if money is tight take a walk in the park at lunch time – just being near beautiful things will lift your soul.
  9. Cut toxic people out of your life.
  10. Smile more – it’s infectious.

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

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

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