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5 Steps to Happiness

The many faces of emotion

Emotions – we all experience them. Some people share their emotions, they don’t try to hide them. They make it known exactly how they are feeling. Other people hide their emotions and you never quite know what they are feeling. What’s right? There is no right or wrong way, but what we must ensure if that we are not ruled by our emotions. They are fleeting sensations and experiences that we give a label to, give meaning to. Sometimes we cling to those emotions and become identified with them, sadness, anger, fear, shame, disgust. It is when we cling to those emotions that there is suffering. It is ok to feel anger if a situation warrants it but when that anger is uncontrolled, unwarranted or held on to for excessive periods then then it becomes destructive and leads to suffering. It is ok to feel fear in situations, it drives us to take action, but if we constantly live in fear then it prevents us from taking any action at all. Similarly, with sadness and grief – it is ok to mourn the loss of a loved one, but we also need to remember the joy and happiness that person brought into our life. Emotions are energy, they carry a vibration. Negative emotions really draw us down to the root chakra and our sense of survival. Positive emotions lift us up but we also need to be careful that we don’t get too attached to positive emotions. All emotions cloud the way we see the world around us.

Our main aim in life is to be happy, but that happiness has to come from within. It is not the responsibility of anyone else to make us happy or for an object to make us happy – as once that person or object is gone then so is our happiness. Take control of your own happiness.

5 Steps to cultivating happiness within

  1. Gratitude – Spend time each day giving thanks. It might be being grateful for the roof over your head, the food on your plate, the money in your pocket. The more we focus on the things we can be grateful for the more we are training our minds to focus on the positive.
  2. Meditate – Spend time each day meditating. Calming the mind so that you can see the world as it really is. Meditation allows you to witness your thoughts and see those emotions for what they are.
  3. Watch the energy around you – What is the energy around you? Remember that no one is responsible for making you happy and likewise you are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness. Are you surrounding by people that drain your energy? Take time out so that you can refocus your energy. Visualise a protective bubble around you that shields you from negative energy.
  4. Move – When we feel a negative emotion it’s important to move. How we sit or stand has an impact on how we feel. If we always walk with our head down, shoulders hunched we are sending a message to our brain that we are sad. Adopt a more positive position. Stand upright, o for a walk. This can be really hard to do if you are feeling down but make yourself shake off the emotion and you will feel a whole lot better.
  5. Choose to be Happy – Happiness is a choice. If you actively choose to be happy rather than sad, angry, fearful you are also training your brain in happiness. You might have to keep reminding yourself to start with that you choose to be happy but eventually happiness will become the default setting.

Spring Detox Part 4 – Body

This week’s detox focus is what we put on our bodies.

The skin is the largest organ of the body.  It is a semi permeable barrier and offers a line of defence against germs and toxins.  It also allows toxins to be released from the body via sweat.  But what about the products we put onto our bodies willingly?

Some products just penetrate into the layers of the skin, the molecules too big to pass deeper into the body and into the bloodstream.  Other products are able to be absorbed deeper into the body and into the blood stream.  Drugs in the format of HRT patches or nicotine patches show that products can be absorbed directly from the skin deeper into the body and into the bloodstream.

So what about all the various beauty products that you put onto your skin?  Whether it’s in the form of makeup, body wash/lotions, suncare, haircare.  Do you know what’s in them and whether they are harmful to your body?  Have a look through your products and see what’s in the ingredients.  Do you know what those ingredients are?

The body has to deal with toxins that come in via the skin in just the same way as it deals with toxins that we ingest directly.  Ultimately they end up at the liver to be broken down and processed.  So you might unknowingly be giving the liver more work to do

My bathroom used to look like an aisle in Boots but over the years I’ve become a lot more conscious about what products I use on my body.  Where they come from, how they are tested and whether they come from natural sources.

There are now many brands offering natural organic products – ranging in price from reasonable to ridiculously expensive!

I like Neal’s Yard & Korres but I also often just use plain coconut oil or some almond oil mixed with a drop of essential oil instead of body lotion.  Tropic skincare has recently been recommended to me on my search for a decent natural deodorant that works but I’ve yet to try this one.

Whatever your budget though your body is worth looking after.  So take time and look at what you are putting on your body and search for alternatives if needed.  It might take a bit of time and effort but your body, and the environment, will thank you for it.

Meditation

I know the idea of meditation scares a lot of people.  The idea of being alone with your thoughts when there is so much going on in your head.  It can be an overwhelming concept.  I also hear people saying to me that they can’t meditate as their minds are just too active and they can’t quieten it down enough to meditate.  Trying to meditate and not being able to quiet the mind can be another stick to beat ourselves with!

The practice of meditation though is just that – a practice.  The more you practice the more you can train your mind to become quiet.  Some days it happens, you get moments of peace, calm, serenity.  Other days the mind flits from one thing to another, to another, to another, to another…………

When you practice meditation you become the witness, and when you can rein the mind back in you can observe the thoughts.  From this position of neutral observer you can be objective about the thoughts and notice whether they are of use to you or not.   You can let go of anger, judgement, resentment, shame, inferiority and much more when, from this place of neutral observer, you see that the thoughts are only causing you suffering.  Only you can hold on to these thoughts, and you also have the power to let them go if you choose.

There are many different forms of meditation and the ultimate aim of meditation is finding bliss.  Sat Chit Ananda – truth, consciousness, bliss, as the yoga sutras say.  Ultimate awareness of reality, resting in our true nature.  The act of meditation is not the same as achieving sat chit ananda. Through meditation we might have glimpses of this blissful state.  If we practice long enough and become skilled enough we might achieve samadhi, that place of truth, consciousness & bliss.

But how to meditate?  Withdrawal of the senses and single pointed focus (pratyahara and dharana, respectively,  in the 8 limbs of yoga) help us.  Having a point of focus such as the breath, a candle to gaze at, or focussing on the pressure of the feet on the ground in a walking meditation.  These allow us to transcend the mind and become the witness, to see things as they truly are, dive deep into meditation and maybe attain Samadhi – the state of pure bliss.  You don’t need to be able to site in lotus pose or even cross legged!  There are many different way to bring that focus.

It is not a scary place to be – it is quite the opposite.  Allow yourself to be curious and to explore.

If you’re interested in learning more about mediation join me for my Finding Stillness Workshop 28th April or 26th May.  We’ll be exploring different forms of meditation alongside yoga practice and pranayama techniques to help support the meditations.

Both sessions take place 3-6pm at Seasonal Yoga Academy, Glasgow

You can book here or contact me for further detail fi@fishepherd.com

 

Spring Detox – Part 1 – Food Focus

Spring is now here, lighter evenings, rising energy.  in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the liver and gallbladder are associated with Spring and so this is the ideal time to show your liver some love and give it a detox.

The liver performs many functions in the body – it is a temporary energy store, breaks down toxins in the body, breaks down spent hormones and medication and stores vitamins and minerals amongst other functions.  The liver does most of its work over night between 1am and 3am when we are asleep and the body is resting.  Foods rich in chlorophyll are ideal for detoxing the liver – think rich vibrant green foods such as spinach, kale, spring greens,  broccoli, green beans, peas etc.   these foods are rich in vitamins and minerals and the fibre helps eliminate the toxins from the body.

Juicing is great as the weather gets warmer but if you feel it’s not quite warm enough yet for juicing try having some delicious green soups instead – simply cook peas, broccoli and spinach in some vegetable stock and then blend.

Also cut down on processed foods with high levels of salt and sugar.  As the liver is a temporary energy store excess sugar goes to the liver for storage in the short term before being converted to fat if it isn’t utilised.

Get more vegetables into your diet – simple stir-frys are great in Spring when we aren’t quite ready for salads but want to move away from the heavier, comforting foods of Winter.

Plus, drink lots of water to flush the toxins out of the body.

The Art of Manifesting Part 2

Another full moon this weekend so another excuse for some manifesting! Following on from last months blog on manifesting this month I’m exploring what happens when you’re not sure what your goals are.  Some people set out on things with no idea where it will lead.  They have some vague idea or notion but can’t yet get clear on what the end result looks like.  It feels like too big a commitment to say “that’s definitely what I want”.  There may be too many options to consider which all look appealing.  How can you choose a definite path?

So this month I’m working with “this is where I’m heading for now”.  Taking things one step at a time, see where things lead.  Remember nothing is permanent and things can change. And they will change!

Look back across your life and see how many changes you’ve been through – new homes, new jobs, new relationships. So just because you manifest something into your life it doesn’t mean that you can’t then make changes in the future.  It’s an ongoing and evolving process. And the more you do it the more skilled you’ll become so when you are ready to make those big changes you’ve had plenty of practice.

We need to commit to our goals and visions. If we go into them half hearted the end results will reflect that. But there will always need to be tweaks, we may not get things quite right so we can continually adjust and fine tune. And once in a while you might see the need for a complete overhaul. Don’t stress about it! Let it flow.  

My life has twisted & turned through varying jobs, careers, friendships, romances, interests & hobbies. Each one manifested from what I put out and each one an opportunity to learn and evolve. Some of them stick with you for life, some don’t. It is all part of life’s rich experience – and you are the creator of your life.

The Art of Manifesting

The Art of Manifesting

Yes, Spring has finally Sprung!!  It’s a time for visioning, setting goals for the year ahead, and with a second full moon this month, a Blue Moon, what better time to set some intentions and start manifesting what you want from life.

When it comes to manifesting it doesn’t actually matter when you do it – full moons, new moons, beginning of the season or month, beginning of the year, beginning of the week, a new day or any  symbolic moment in your life.  Any particular time you feel drawn to creating a new beginning is a great time for setting intentions and manifesting.  Listen to your intuition – if you are wanting to make changes then “now” is a good time to start.  In terms of Seasons, Spring is the perfect time for looking ahead, for setting out what you want to achieve in the year ahead.  Planting those seed intentions and then nurturing them throughout the year so that they can grow and expand.

I like to create some rituals, to create a space to think and dream. Nothing overly complicated, do what feels right for you.  You might want to light a candle, grab a notebook, have an object with you that will be symbolic of the change.  Meditate to get you into calm and focussed state of mind.  Then start to dream.

  • What do you want to achieve over the next year?

Be specific, dream, but start to create a clear picture in your mind of what you want to achieve, how it looks. Take time to really explore that picture in your mind and see how it feels through all 5 senses.  Let go of the if’s, but’s and maybe’s – this is your dream and it is limitless.  What does that dream look like?  Explore that picture – the sights, sounds, smells.  How does it feel?  How do you look in that picture?

Once you have this picture your unconscious mind can start looking for opportunities that align with your dreams.

  • Why do you want to achieve this?

Understanding why you want this, what your purpose is, gives you a context for achieving your goals.  Like having a compelling picture in your mind, having a compelling reason for what you want to achieve is great for keeping you on track.

Make sure that reason is for you and not linked to someone else’s expectations.

  • What do you need to do to achieve your dream?

Now you have this compelling picture in your mind you can start thinking about the steps that you need to achieve it.  It might be a big goal or dream so start breaking it down into chunks.  What can you start doing now that aligns to your dream and will help you?  What tasks are on a slightly longer timeframe?  Plan them out, write them down.

Once you start breaking it down into smaller chunks what might seem like an impossible dream suddenly looks achievable.

  • What do you need to let go of?

What is stopping you moving forward with this dream?  What is holding you back?  Acknowledge these things.  Ask what purpose they are serving in your life.  Wht are they holding you back?  The majority of times it is fear that holds us back – fear of the unknown, fear of change.  If this dream is something that you really want then something has to change.

Can you let go of these things that are holding you back and no longer serving you?  Revisit that picture in your mind of what you want to achieve – make that picture so bright and compelling.

  • Take Action in alignment with your dreams

Start taking action – start making progress on those small steps that you’ve identified.  Don’t put them off.  It’s amazing how quickly times passes by so start taking action NOW – by taking action in alignment with your goals you are sending a powerful message to the universe that this is where you are going, this is what you want.  Once you start taking small actions it also reinforces the dream in the unconscious mind and it will keep looking for opportunities.  Keep taking small steps forward and the plan will start to come to fruition.

When we take action that’s not in alignment we are sending messages to the brain that it doesn’t really matter, it confuses the brain & it will direct us back towards comfortable habits.

Take action now.  Do it with purpose and focus.  No half-hearted measures.

  • Stay open to possibilities and opportunities

Don’t become too rigid in your goals.  In Spring time when we set goals we can become too wooden, allow space for flexibility, for new ideas and opportunities to present themselves and above all, allow space for magic to happen.

When we stay open it is amazing what opportunities might present themselves to get you to where you need to be.

  • Tune into, and Listen to, your intuition.

Sometimes we become so fixed on our goals that we say yes to things that seem like they might be good but our intuition says “No”.  They might be part of someone else’s dream and tempting as it sounds might not be quite in alignment with what you are doing.  Listen to your gut instincts

  • Get EXCITED

When we are manifesting new things we are manifesting changes to the current status quo and change can be uncomfortable thing.  Pushing us out of our comfort zone, into unknown territory.  Be curious about where that could take you, get excited about where that could take you.  See it as an exciting new adventure full of learning, full of new possibilities.

Where will your dreams take you?

Spring – Detoxing & Energising

Spring has Sprung

Spring has finally sprung and with the clocks going forward last weekend we now see the lighter nights.

Winter always seems so long, just when you start to notice the longer hours of daylight and think spring is finally here – bam, a deluge of snow, a beast from the east!  But finally, some lovely sunshine over the last few days, spring bulbs sprouting up from the earth, new leaves forming on the trees.

Spring is a time for growth, rising energy pushing up from the ground.  The organs associated with Spring are the Liver and Gallbladder – the liver removes toxins from our bodies so it’s a great time to be thinking about spring cleaning – home, body and mind.  The gallbladder is our decision maker so it’s a time for getting clear on your goals for the year, setting some objectives and starting to take action move you forwards.

Cleansing and Detoxing

Greens are great for the cleansing the liver.  Try vibrant green juices with spinach or kale or make simple stir-fired greens.  The liver works hard to process toxins from the body, processing alcohol, drugs, excess hormones etc.  If the liver becomes overloaded the toxins build up in the body so it’s important we give the liver some TLC and ensure it’s in tip top condition.

Detox your environment too.  Spring clean your home, car, office space.  Get rid of things you don’t need and also consider the quality of your environment – get some plants to improve your air quality.  Have a look at the cleaning products you use – are they creating more toxins in your home environment and the environment as a whole?  Have a look at switching to eco-friendly products.

Detox your self-care routines – have a look at what you are putting on your body as well as in your body.  Your skin absorbs products you put on the skin so make sure they are full of natural ingredients and not leading to more toxins in your body.

Detox your mind – how toxic are your thoughts?  Take some time to cultivate a positive mind set, maybe keep a gratitude journal, have a digital detox and step away from social media, meditate.

Goal Setting

Over the winter months we’ve had time to reflect on what we want and don’t want so now is the time to start putting some thought into setting goals.  What do you want to achieve this year?  How are you going to get there?  Big goals can be overwhelming but when we start to break them down into smaller goals they start to seem possible.  Set some clear visions, create a clear and vibrant picture of that vision in your mind, see it through all five senses so it becomes so compelling your unconscious mind starts looking for ways to make it a reality.  Create a vision board that you see everyday to remind you of what you want to achieve.  Then start taking positive action to achieve your goals.  It’s only through taking action that your goals will materialise.

Finding Time

So many people say to me that they really want to do something but don’t have the time.  My response is always the same – if you really want to do it you’ll find the time.  The question is how much do you really want to do this thing?

Whether it’s getting to an exercise class, eating healthily, making time for friends or family, learning a new skill, finding time for yourself.  Work takes up so much of our time and so our “free time” is extremely precious.  But do we act as if it is as precious as it is?  Do we fritter the time away – wonder where the weekend’s gone when we’ve binged on the latest boxset and then we beat ourselves up because we really wanted to get to the gym/out for a walk in the fresh air/spend time with a friend……

Let’s put things into perspective:

There are 168 hours in a week

  • If you sleep for 8 hours per night that leaves you with 112 hours
  • You might work for 40 hours a week, deducting this leaves you with 72 hours.

72 hours of free time, that’s more than the hours you work in the week!!  It’s 3 whole days!!  What could you do with all that time?

Okay, so you might work more than a 40hour week, you might have a long commute which eats into your non-work time, you might need more than 8 hours sleep a night (and you might need less giving you some more free time!) and you need to eat within some of that time.  Sit down and work out how much free time you actually have, then consider how you spend it.  Do you spend it wisely?  Take 5 minutes out of your day to figure out how you spend your time and how you could use it more wisely.

I’ve spent the last year changing my life around to work more flexibly so I have time to do the things that matter to me.  But that still means getting up early and doing meditation, sometimes going to an early morning yoga classes at 6:30am, studying late into the evening.  My yoga practice matters to me because it helps me develop for both my teaching and for my self-development.  Learning is also important to me, again for my teaching and for my self-development, so I’d rather spend time learning than watching TV.

Where can you make changes in your life to fit in the things you really want to do?  Can you get up 20 minutes earlier to get in some exercise?  Can you utilise a train commute for learning something new?  Is your life working for you or are you working for your life?  How committed are you to doing the things that you say matter to you?  Will you look back on your life wishing you’d watched more netflix?

I’m not suggesting that you need to fill all your time but if there are things you want to do you have to make time for them.  That might mean saying “No” to some things and prioritising.  I believe whole-heartedly that if you really want to do something you will make the time for it.  Do you keep putting things off saying “when I have more time”,  “when the kids are older”.  Yes, we need to consider events in our lives, but where can you make even the smallest bit of time to do the things that matter to you.  Even if it’s small steps that start you on the path.

What could you do with 3 whole days?  What will you do with that time?

Seasonal Yoga – Winter

Winter is a time for relaxing, restoring and recharging your batteries.  The kidneys and bladder are the organs associated with the season of winter according to traditional Chinese medicine and the kidneys can be thought of as our own battery pack.  We need to ensure they are recharged to support us through the year.

It is a time for reflecting – contemplating what continues to serve us and what no longer serves us.  But this is not a time for taking drastic action or making radical changes.  It is a time to reflect and contemplate, building a bigger picture so that we can start planting seedlings in spring that we can nurture and grow.

Water is the element associated with winter.  It reminds us to go with the flow or to be still and reflect.  When the kidneys are out of balance we tend to feel fear – the adrenal glands are paired with the kidneys and are involved in our ‘fight or flight’ stress response so if you are feeling a bit stressed or fearful practice some gentle flowing yoga or find stillness in meditation to calm the body and mind.

With the start of a new year many people choose this time of year to go on a diet but this is the time when the body is seeking warming hearty meals such as soups and stews.  That doesn’t mean you have an excuse to be unhealthy at this time of year!  Fill up on healthy vegetable with warming spices – curried parsnip soup or cumin spiced roasted root vegetable.  Check out @seasonaleats for some weekly inspiration.

Winter Recipe: Spice Roasted Winter Vegetables

  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Sweet potato
  • 2 cloves garlic – peeled
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • Olive oil

Wash & peel the vegetables & cut into large chunks/wedges.  Combine in an ovenproof dish with the garlic and cumin seeds.  Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven (180C) for 30-40 mins or until the vegetables are tender.

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Watery Winter Moon Flow

This lovely practice is great for easing out tension and gently moving the body.  Moving between child’s pose, upward dog & downward dog. Flowing through the spine, closing your eyes and taking your attention inwards.  Listen to what your body is asking you for, spending a few breaths in one particular posture, perhaps swaying the hips from side to side in updog or down dog.  Keep the focus on the watery, fluidity of the movement.

Child’s Pose – Up Dog – Down Dog – Up Dog – Child’s Pose

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There are still some spaces left at my Mini Retreat this Sunday (14th January) at Prana Yoga Hamilton.  Give yourself some time and space to relax and recharge.

Or join my weekly Restorative or Yin Yoga classes at Seasonal Yoga Academy Glasgow

I’m also starting a monthly meditation workshop which kicks off on 11th February.  This monthly workshop is suitable for beginners and those with a regular meditation practice.  It will offer a supportive space to learn more about meditation, develop a regular practice and dive deeper

Restorative Yoga – What is it?

On Tuesday 9th January I’ll be starting a new restorative yoga class at Seasonal Yoga Academy.  But what is restorative yoga and how can it benefit you?

Restorative yoga is all about bringing the body to relaxation.  We hold so much tension in our bodies – sometimes without realising and it’s not until we try and relax that we suddenly realise how tense we are; sometimes we know just how much tension we are carrying around with us but don’t feel able to do anything to release it. Tension accumulated through stress, poor posture, repetitive movements, injury etc.  And the more the tension builds the more we start to compensate with other areas of the body – an injured knee perhaps leading to more weight being put through the opposite leg or adapting the gait putting more strain on the hip.

Restorative yoga aims to gently stretch the body in a relaxed way.  Using bolsters, bricks, cushions, foam rollers, chi balls (you name it, we have it!) to support the body and ease out the tension.   Postures are typically held for several minutes to allow the body to fully relax into them.

Restorative yoga gets us back into the parasympathetic nervous system – our body’s rest and restore setting.  We live so much of our lives in the sympathetic nervous system – the fight/flight setting – always on, always active and releasing stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol) into the body.  By switching over to the parasympathetic nervous system we allow the body to clear away all those stress hormones bringing it back into balance.

Restorative yoga is a great complement to more active exercise and sports – allowing the muscles to relax fully and recover from injury and stresses placed on them, gently increasing flexibility and restoring the body’s natural balance.

Whether it’s stress, injury, general aches and pains, long term illness or just space and time for relaxation come and join me on Tuesday evenings 8pm at Seasonal Yoga Academy.