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….

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.

Daydreamer

Nowadays there seems to be a compunction that we all have to be doing something all of the time. Even if we are waiting in line for something the ubiquitous mobile phone will be scanned and checked. Down time is a concept that seems to be frowned upon by modern society but I believe it is essential.

daydream
Daydream by Jonas Tegnerud courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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Bombarded by constant stimulation when do we have chance to recalibrate? As our bodies need sleep to repair and regenerate so our minds need quiet time to re-energise. Giving ourselves the opportunity to stare into space and drift off wherever our minds might take us should not be seen as a waste of time. We should think of it instead as essential maintenance for the soul.

dreamingjpg

https://flic.kr/p/kR9kG6   https://goo.gl/TOd8tJ

Opening our minds up can lead to some interesting outcomes – Memories can bring people and places back to our attention after a long absence, solutions to problems can sometimes present themselves to us even though we weren’t directly focusing on them, ideas occur that would make life easier or better. But freeing our minds needn’t be so productive it can also lead to aimlessly drifting from one inconsequential thought to another and that’s all right too.   Sometimes it’s not about doing, it’s about being.

If your life is normally busy and full make time for a few daydreaming sessions here and there. Turn off all your devices and give yourself permission to step back and do nothing for a while. The busier you are, the more beneficial time out will be.

Tuning out the white noise of modern life and letting yourself drift is a great stressbuster and best of all it’s free.

jaguar-relaxing
Jaguar relaxing by Zyggy32 courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/68ydh8   https://goo.gl/TOd8tJ

 

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

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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.

splash
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.

 

Refilling the Well Part Two

Earlier this week I blogged about the need to refill the well without apology if you are an introvert i.e. factoring in down time after every social engagement to allow yourself a chance to recover. From a writing perspective this is crucial too. A lot of writers are introverts. We spend the majority of our days in solitude typing away on our keyboards living in fantasy worlds of our own construction. It is important to have some interaction with the outside world, of course, but we don’t feel as though we are missing out if we are not at every party or social gathering.

Party
Party by Eric McGregor courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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That’s all well and good but what happens when your book is written and it’s time to get the word out? Suddenly the introvert has to become, to a greater or lesser degree, an extrovert whether they like it or not.

I have found myself in that situation a lot this summer as I have been hand selling my book at various craft fairs or summer fetes. It is not something I would choose to do for fun. But this year for me (my first of publication) is all about trying different things and seeing what works.

The idea of being ‘up’ for a social engagement of several hours, interacting with the public throughout and basically being ‘on duty’ does not exactly gladden my heart. Leaving aside the practicalities of whether the event is a success from a selling point of view (a mixed bag on that front) or whether spending the time in my study writing would have been more productive (quite possibly), the simple act of being ‘on duty’ for any length of time in a social situation is exhausting for an introvert like me.

Exhaustion
Exhaustion by Jessica Cross courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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As writers who wish to sell books we have to be prepared to push ourselves out there. No one else is going to do it for us. Even the superstars have to do their fair share of marketing, the only difference is they have a team to organise it, the writer still has to do it. For the rest of us, we are our own teams.

The internet and social media have allowed introverts to project themselves into the wider world from the comfort of home but not everything can be done through a computer screen. Sometimes, showing up in person is the only way. Writers who are introverts need to work out how much face to face contact they can take on. Be realistic. Just because you should be doing all these things because someone else who is successful told you you should does not mean that you will be able to handle it. We are all different. Know your limitations and work within them. If you attempt to suppress your nature by trying to be all things to all people you will crash and burn, it’s a question of when not if.

Burn out
Burn out by Paul Sableman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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The world won’t stop turning if you attend three events instead of four but taking your introverted nature into account when planning your marketing strategy may make all the difference between success and failure. Better to succeed on your own terms and enjoy the experience than spread yourself too thinly. If you go for the full on option and pretend like you are an extrovert you may still achieve success but at what cost? My guess is you’ll be miserable and exhausted and that, for me, is too high a price to pay.

 

As you will be aware if you read my post from earlier this week the cover of my book The Flower Seller is taking part in Author Shout’s Cover Wars this week 24th July – 30th July. As I type this I am currently in the lead but only by 7 votes! If you like the cover and would like to vote you can do so by visiting the Author Shout site http://authorshout.com/cover-wars/ You will need to like their Facebook page, tweet or G+ them and then you are able to vote for your favourite cover BUT you must only vote once in every 24 hour period of your vote will not count.

If you are already voting for the cover of The Flower Seller – and I know a lot of you are – thank you so much! #goteamellie!

The Flower Seller Cover and Blurb
Have love and loyalty gone out of fashion? The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes available from Amazon now https://goo.gl/KFi7kw

The Simple Life

Deep down it’s what most of us yearn for and yet in our fast paced lives and our frenzied pursuit of material things what most of us have lost sight of.

Simple Joys
Simple Joys by Jayel Aheram courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/jX74N    https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

Count your blessings if you have:-

  1. A place to call home.
  2. People who love you.
  3. Enough food to stay healthy.
  4. A reason to get up in the morning.
  5. A passion that drives you.
Grateful
Grateful by Sharon Sinclair courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/vyzFgL  https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

Life is simple. We’re the ones that complicate the hell out of it, mostly because of our unrealistic expectations or our misguided sense of entitlement. I am as fond of material comforts as the next person but I recognise them for what they are – a way to make my life more comfortable. They are an enhancement. A choice. Would I be able to survive without most of them? Probably.

The acquisition of material things should not be what drives us and if it is then maybe it is time to step back and recalibrate.

Oxford Street
Today in Oxford Street by Lars Plougmann courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/4aBSQ2    https://goo.gl/OOAQfn

It’s time to think again when:-

  1. Your smartphone is more important than your partner.
  2. You are slogging your guts out to pay for a mortgage on a property you never get to spend any time in.
  3. You are maxed out on your credit cards just so you can drive the latest car when an older model would get you from A to B just as well.
  4. You eat at the hottest places in town because they are the hottest places in town not because the food is any good.
  5. You and your friends are engaged in a constant battle of one-upmanship about clothes, shoes, bags and holidays.
Smartphones
Man Woman Smartphones Restaurant by David van der Mark courtesy Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/y6sdfD   https://goo.gl/OOAQfn

Most of us come back from a holiday refreshed and relaxed because we are able to step away from the white noise of our everyday lives and just be. It gives us a chance to think, to feel, to breathe away from the pressure cooker of a nine to five existence. How nice it would be if we could carry that sense of freedom back to our everyday lives. The first step to doing so comes from within. Life will always throw us curveballs, stresses and strains are part of being alive. We learn from them and grow but if you can spend a little time each day counting your blessings and reminding yourself of what is important and crucially what is not, the simple life may not be as far away as you imagined.

Quiet pleasejpg
Quiet please by Paolo Fefe courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/8viv4s  https://goo.gl/VAhsB

 

Be kind to yourself

Are you guilty of offering good advice to friends who are in need but failing to follow that advice yourself? I know I am. How many times have you replayed a conversation in your head and thought that was great advice, I should try it some time! We give ourselves such a hard time trying to be all things to all people, never wanting to let anyone down. It is an admirable sentiment but in order to never let anyone down someone always has to come at the end of the list and that someone is usually you.

Me time is a concept that all of us are familiar with but how many of us actually indulge in it? Instead of viewing it as a beneficial part of our lives, we see it instead as something shameful to be whispered from the side of our mouths. We say ‘I had a little me time’ as though it is unacceptable and to be frowned upon. That’s if we even allow ourselves to take time out for ourselves in the first place. It seems somehow selfish and so we feel guilty about doing so. But we shouldn’t.

Chillaxing
Chillaxing by Christopher Michel courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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A little me time in each day should be achievable without the world of families, work and chores collapsing in on itself. You may think all will crumble around you if you don’t step up to the plate every minute of every day but it just isn’t true.

A little me time could be that first cup of tea or coffee when the day is fresh and new and the rest of the house are asleep. A precious little window of time, just a few minutes long, to daydream and clear your minds of all the twenty-first century clutter. It could be a walk in the park at lunch time, play time with your kids or your dog. It could be a soothing bath or ten minutes with your favourite book. It doesn’t have to be hours out of your day.

Reading2
Reading by Vladimir Pustovit courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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A few minutes as many days of the week as you can manage will make you feel calmer, more centred, able to face the world refreshed. It is quality that matters not quantity.

peacefuljpg
Peaceful by Twentyfour Students courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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So next time when you are feeling overburdened and stressed try to be your own best friend. Step outside of yourself and imagine what advice you would give if you saw one of your friends in a similar situation. And then – this is the tricky bit – act on it. We already have a lot of the answers within us but most of the time we just don’t listen.

A little me time is a blessing to be treasured not a guilty pleasure. So try it! You’ll feel better for it – and the world won’t end, I promise!

Relax
Relax a While by Shawn Rossi courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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