Tag Archives: meditation

Locked Down in Paradise

It is now 4 months since I arrived in India.  January seems like an age ago and it feels like I have been here forever. My plan had been 3 months here & see what it leads to……hmmmm!  When I arrived the ashram was very busy getting ready for Amma’s South India Tour, then it was really quite for a few weeks with so many people away for the tour.  Mid-February the numbers had swelled again as the tour returned and then March numbers started to gradually dwindle as new visitors were no longer allowed into the ashram.  Mid-March we were only allowed to go out of the ashram for essentials – the bank or pharmacy – but we could still go across the road to the beach.  Then complete lockdown, across the whole of India.  The ashram closed its doors completely to all but supplies.  Over the last month there’s been a further dwindling of numbers as people take repatriation flights back to their home countries.

I now haven’t been out of the ashram for 2 whole months.  Fortunately, the ashram is large enough that there is space for everyone to move around – maybe not with a 2metre distance – and there is sunshine, amazing views over the backwaters and to the sea and we have delicious food (I haven’t cooked a meal in 4 months!).  Whilst I can’t go anywhere I am not considering myself ‘stuck’ here.  Anything but.  I feel very blessed indeed to be here at this time.  Amma normally has a very busy tour schedule and is not usually at the ashram for long periods of time so to have this time is truly a gift.  I have been learning loads, being completely immersed in Eastern philosophy, the Bhagavad Gita and vedanta and also finishing off my Psychology and Philosophy degree with the Open University – thankyou coronavirus for my end of module assignments being cancelled!  Lockdown gave me time to focus on my last two assignments over April.

Ashram life is not all love and light – whilst that is what everyone is aspiring to, every day in the ashram brings you something to work on! Someone to challenge your inner peace, situations to see how you react/respond!  There are plenty of opportunities for self-development.  I’ve shared a room for most of the time here and not every roommate has seen me as a gift from the universe, likewise I’ve not seen every roommate as a gift from the universe either!  There’s also the uninvited roommates – bees, mosquitos, moths, geckos – to contend with!  And the heat.  It has been beautifully sunny but hot, and now the rainy season is definitely here.  Mother nature has been treating us to fantastic lightening shows most evenings, but now they are accompanied by torrential downpours, and they are becoming more frequent.  The downpours don’t last too long but a whole lot of water leaks out of the sky in that short time, and they are becoming more frequent.  I can see why Kerala is so green and lush.  Of course, after the downpour everything becomes humid – if you didn’t get soaked in the rain you’ll soon be soaking from the humidity after.  With that amount of rain it takes a little while for it to drain away so some wading is required too!  It’s great to see and experience the change in season and weather.  I don’t think I ever would have chosen to come to Kerala during the wet months!

I’m missing teaching and coaching.  Trying to find ways in which I can share some teaching online, however, struggling to find a place where I could film from.  My internet connection isn’t very stable either to be able to run an online class – guaranteed to have you holding plank for more than a few breaths, I’m not sure anyone is going to appreciate that!  I am still exploring though so watch this space.

I’m not sure how long I will be here for – Lockdown across India has been extended until the end of May.  There’s speculation of international flights starting back up in June – but who knows!  The Indian Government is extending visas for 30 days from when international flights resume, fortunately I haven’t needed to go through the visa extension process, so far – some people are on their third visa extension process!  It looks like I will be here for at least another month or 2!

Despite all the uncertainty I feel very content here.  It has its own craziness but it feels like being in a bubble from the rest of the craziness of the world.  We don’t know what the world will look like a week from now let alone in 6 months time but one thing is for sure – we need to get used to living with uncertainty.  Nothing is permanent, nothings stays the same for very long and we are seeing that more than ever now.  Being in the present moment and acting with compassion are therefore essential.  It’s how we should be but I know how difficult it can be, especially when there is so much fear around.  So we have to put in the practice, witness our thoughts and weed out the negative and destructive ones, adopt a mindset of curiosity rather than judgement when you do spot those negative and destructive thoughts.  Let go of the ego that wants to control so you can be more open and allow for the good stuff that is there underneath all of the madness.

Om Shanti

🙂

 

Change

India is now in its third day of lockdown and the ashram is mirroring what is going on outside.  While the people in the ashram have been pretty much isolated for a while now the government and health department have concerns over the number of people here and so did an inspection today.  Checking to ensure that similar procedures are being followed to the rest of the country in lockdown. “2 metres” is becoming a new mantra!

I’ve been speaking to a few people this last week about change – we are going through a period of unprecedented change in the world just now and we need to start doing things differently.  For some, change is not comfortable but it is part of the cycle of life.  Yin and yang, as one phase ends a new phase begins.  Sometimes change is within our control, sometimes it is not.

I was speaking to one person here at the ashram, dissatisfied with her life currently and wanting a complete change.  I asked her what she was doing about changing her life – she said she couldn’t do anything.  She was due to fly back to Germany this week but due to the lockdown and cancellation of flights coming in to the country she isn’t going anywhere just yet.  So she’s frustrated, she feels stuck, she misses being able to go to the beach here too.  She’s worried about losing her job if she has to stay here longer.  I asked her what would happen if she lost her job, what would she do?  She said she would look for a new job.  I suggested that this might be an opportunity to make changes to do something different but she didn’t seem convinced!

I know so many people in similar positions, they just keep doing the same thing over and over again yet still wanting things to change.  And then something happens that forces them to make a change – some recognise that opportunity to change, others just keep on trying to do the same things and getting frustrated, angry, hankering back to the ‘good old days’

For some, they are not looking for change, they are quite content breezing through life when something forces change upon them.  Again they have two choices – some adapt, seize opportunities to do things differently, others need to be pulled along, some with gentle leading, some dragged kicking and screaming.

How do you react to change?

What is happening in the world right now is making us all sit up and take notice that things have to change.  The planet needs to take a breath and we need to think how we can do things differently so that we look after the planet and each other – live in a balance.  I am heartened to see people starting to make changes, some stepping out of their comfort zones to do so.  Businesses forced to make changes that previously they would have said weren’t possible.  But rather than just trying to live as normal a life as possible is it time to create a new normal?

I know you are already having to do things differently to normal but what are you going to consciously change or do differently this week?

How do you want your life to be?  What one thing can you do this week that makes a difference to your daily life and takes you a step closer to how you want to live your life?  Change doesn’t need to be a big bang and often isn’t.  Making one small change every week can amount to big things over time.  Times like this can feel overwhelming and like we don’t have any control but you still have so much freedom to make choices – choosing to eat healthily, making exercise or meditation part of your daily routine, learning something new.  How many times in the past have you said “I wish I had more time to do x, y or z” Now we have time at home are you using it to do any of these things?  There are so many possibilities and this is a big opportunity to shake your life up and reshape it.  Don’t just do what you’ve always done but in a slightly different way.  Take time and think, then take action rather than just reacting.

For some of you learning or developing your yoga practice has been on your list of things to do & I am delighted to see so many fantastic yoga teachers I know offering their classes online.  I know for some this has meant stepping out of their comfort zone but they are adapting and finding new ways to do things to help people maintain their practice and stay fit and healthy. I’m not able to offer classes online just at the moment (other exciting things are being worked on!) so I’ve listed some fabulous teachers below who are live streaming their classes.

For those of you reading my blog that worry about going to a class in person because you’re ‘not flexible enough’ etc, no excuses now you can try in the comfort of your own home.

Stay safe and well

Om Shanti

🙂

Yoga Classes Online:

Julie Hanson & Karen Naismith @ Seasonal Yoga Academy

Carla Webster @ Prana Yoga Studio

Alison o’Donnell – Easy like Sunday Mornings, Sundays 9.30am – Text NAMASTE to 07771 867582 & Alison will send you details

Mark RussellKridaka Yoga

Feeling Contented – Santosha

It’s a few weeks since my last update from the ashram.  I was due to be coming back to Glasgow later this month but this last week I took a decision to extend my stay here.  With so many travelers to the ashram there has been a lot of consideration about risk of coronavirus and last week the ashram stopped accepting new visitors and there is no public darshan with Amma.  This means there are a lot less people at the ashram – relatively speaking! – and so quite a unique and interesting time to be here I think.  I have been feeling like a limitless sponge over the past few weeks as I learn and experience more here and don’t feel like I’m done yet!!  So flight has been cancelled and I’m staying 🙂

I feel very fortunate to be able to stay – a lot of nationalities can only stay in India for 3 months at a time, for the UK it is 6 months.  There are a number of people that need to leave the ashram due to their visa requirements and for a while at least will not be able to come back.  As for everyone in the world it’s creating a lot of uncertainty but it’s time to put into practice putting our fears aside.

I’m missing everyone back in the UK so keep sending me your news.  It’s lovely to hear what everyone is getting up – I hear the hot topic is toilet roll shortages, please use it wisely!

We are moving into the raining season here.  There is a torrential downpour some mornings around about sunrise and it is quite humid.  I think the humidity is to increase.  When I arrived I could put laundry out to dry in the evening and it would still dry quickly, now there is a window of opportunity during the day to get it dry, if you miss this window it just stays damp!  And you have to do more laundry because it is so hot and sweaty!  The humidity is also an issue for getting my hair dry – that same window of opportunity!  It’s kind of just like being in Glasgow really but warmth with the wet!

Diet is also on my mind at the moment with me staying longer.  To be honest food is always on my mind!!  There is a lot of choice of food at the ashram – Indian and western options.  I mostly eat Indian food for lunch and dinner but I still can’t get used to curry for breakfast.  I’ve discovered ragi pancakes – ragi is a grain like millet and makes really good pancakes.  It’s got quite a lot of nutrients in it, including iron which is very much lacking in this Indian vegetarian diet.  I have it with some fruit – bananas, mango, papaya or pomegranate and some jaggery syrup.  Jaggery is used here instead of sugar but mixed in water makes it is a bit like golden syrup.  There’s plenty of lentils, chickpeas and beans in the curries but a lack of green veggies so spirulina is coming to the rescue.

In the evening you can get Dosa for dinner – a thin pancake stuffed with spiced potato curry & served with sambal (a sort of thin spicy gravy) and coconut chutney or Puri – a deep fried puffed up flatbread.  Here it is usually served with a chickpea curry.  I think Puri is absolutely my favourite thing at the moment, but it’s not the healthiest!!

There are a lot of snack options too – Samosas (yum), paneer or curry puff pastries, vada – a savoury spiced donut – I sometimes have with curry instead of rice

There is also lot of sweet food available in India but it’s very very sweet – coconut naan (a Danish pastry type thing with coconut and candied fruit. Ada – Cooked rice soaked in sweet stuff then wrapped and steamed in banana leaves.  Fortunately I don’t really like these, although I have been trying everything purely so I can tell you all about it.

Ragi Pnacakes with mango and banana

Puri

Samosa and paneer puf pastry

I would have more pictures of food but either I’ve eaten it before I remember to take a picture or it doesn’t look nearly as good as it tastes!

I have good food, sunshine and still have my comfy pillow – Santosha! (contentment)

Om Shanti

x

Sunrises, sunsets & smiles

Greetings again from India.  Sending warm sunny vibes to wherever you are in the world.

Three weeks into ashram life.  I’m really getting into my seva serving chai in a morning.   I also serve filter coffee, and other teas.  There’s another window people go to for the fancy coffees (cappuccino, Americano etc), I’m not advanced enough for that yet!  It’s really nice doing this thing in a morning – greeting everyone with a smile for 2 hours leaves me smiling for the rest of the day.  Just as I started doing this seva I was reading a book (Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell) which reminded me about the physiological effects of our facial expressions on our mood – when we feel happy we smile, when we smile we feel happy.

I notice not everyone in the ashram smiles – some people come to my chai window in a morning looking a bit grumpy, in need of their coffee, chai or tulsi tea to pick them up.  Others come frustrated with the system – you queue to pay and then bring your token to get your beverage of choice, possibly needing to queue again!  The ashram teaches patience in that respect!  A smile costs nothing and can help lift someone’s mood.  You might never know the effect that your smile has on someone’s day.  And who doesn’t want to feel happier?  I on a mission to infect the ashram with smiling.  There are some that know this secret already – Hari at the coconut stall, every day he has a smile on his face as he chops the coconuts for their water; The chai-wallah – proper Indian chai poured from a great height to mix the tea and milk (maybe I’ll graduate to that one day!); the Indian snack man serving sweet treats in a morning – this has now become my regime before my seva in a morning – chai and a slice of banana cake or a sweet banana fritter type thing!

Other news this week – I have found a little bit of beach where you can get down to the water and swim in the sea – hurrah.  I go there most days after my chai stint.  It’s really nice bobbing about in the warm salty water, especially after I’ve been standing for a couple of hours, it’s like a big warm salt bath!

My study this month has been about weakness of will and I have been thinking about it in relation to morning practice.  As I said in my last update it is definitely easier getting up in a morning here – it’s warm, I don’t need to think too much about what to wear, the temple is only a 5-minute walk away, the laundry roof for my sunrise practice is just 3 floors down from my room.  Some mornings though I wake up and think how little sleep I’ve had and, as I get used to the noise of the birds and the fishing boats, could just stay in bed for a few more hours.   I could say to myself there are plenty of mornings ahead that I could practice.  But I remember that practice requires consistency, and habit makes it so much easier.  Some philosophers say that weakness of will doesn’t exist, rather that we fail to take account of the relative size of the immediate pleasure vs the longer term pain.  I think this is true in some instance and we need to keep focussed on the longer term gain.  Others suggest that we are just very good at revising our options – this seems a bit of a get out to me!  A further idea is that when we are tired and our resources are depleted we switch from consciously making decisions to acting unconsciously out of habit and familiarity.  The good news is though that we can anticipate when this might happen and put strategies in place to help us – e.g. getting organised the night before so you can just roll out of bed onto your yoga mat!  So this week I want you to focus on the longer terms gains of anything you are trying to achieve to keep yourself motivated and strong-willed.  The more we do this the stronger we become mentally so it’s a win-win.  And if you can do it with a smile on your face…….. all the better 🙂

Om Shanti

x

Blue Skies & Backwaters

I’ve been at the ashram for 2 weeks now – I had a few days to acclimatise myself and then I joined in a retreat for a week so it’s only just now that I’m finding the flow.  It’s a lovely place.  The ashram is nestled amongst the palm trees on a strip of land between the backwaters and the Arabian Sea.  The sun rises over the backwaters and sets over the sea so I’ve been searching out my spots for practice.  In a morning it’s the laundry roof top overlooking the backwaters for a sunrise yoga practice.  In the evening it’s down to the beach for some meditation at sunset.

It’s not a quiet place – in a morning the birds are awake early making a cacophony of noise, the fishing trawlers are motoring down the backwaters heading for the sea and then there’s the sound of chanting coming from another ashram or temple across the river.  The noise makes it harder to sleep in so getting up to go to the Kali Temple for 5am and chant the 1000 names of the Divine Mother is not so difficult.  Getting up is the easy part –learning the 1000 names is the hard part, I’ve got a long way to go there!

The ashram has everything you need – food, snacks, a shop, laundry, fresh juice, fresh coconuts, yoga, meditation, although things are only open at set times!  The ashram relies on seva – selfless service –  people chipping in and helping with jobs.  You can get involved with all sorts – for the first few days when I arrived I helped with food prep, chopping vegetables and then during retreat we did seva for the yoga studio.  Now the retreat has finished I have a regular seva job serving chai at the café in a morning.  It’s a nice seva as you get to see everyone as they come for breakfast.

The ashram is pretty relaxed at the moment while Amma is on tour in Southern India.  There are less people here as a lot of people have gone on tour with her.  When I say relaxed, that excludes the times when the free chai is served in the morning and afternoon – It’s a serious business getting in that queue and getting your cup or flask of chai!

My room is on the 10th floor of one of the accommodation buildings.  It’s basic, shared accommodation but the room is at the end of an open corridor with a little balcony at the end where we can see out to the sea and to the backwaters.  Being higher up also means there’s a nice breeze coming in off the sea.  It’s pretty warm otherwise, 25-30C.  I think it gradually gets hotter as we progress towards March/April time and then it gets wet and humid.  Apologies to those of you in Scotland reading this – I believe it’s been pretty wet/snowy this last week!

There’s a bridge over the river into a small town – I’ve only ventured over as far as the ATM so will update you further on that when I’ve explored more.  You can walk over the bridge or you can get a boat over.  There’s a motorised boat or a traditional hand-poled boat.  I opted to come back via the hand-poled boat, I did think I might end up swimming part of the way – it wasn’t the most robust looking of boats it has to be said, but the old Indian man knew the flow of the waters well to get into just the right spots to help guide the boat across to the other side!

There’s a real mix of people here – people who live permanently in the ashram, renunciates, people staying for a few months and people just staying a day or two.  People from all nationalities, all ages, people visiting for the first time and people who have visited many times.  It makes for interesting people to chat to and who knows whether your paths will cross again in the future.

It’s time to go get in the 4pm chai queue so I’ll leave you with this brief insight into ashram life & hope to be sharing further updates over the coming weeks.

Om Shanti

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

 

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

Self-Esteem

Today I’m talking about self-esteem………

Self Esteem is defined as confidence in our own worth or abilities.  Like many things though it’s not something we have or don’t have but something that fluctuates throughout our life and on a daily basis.  We might remember periods of our life when our self-esteem was particularly high or low but also within those periods our level of self-esteem could vary.  I’m sure we’ve all had times when we’ve been feeling great and then someone makes a comment.  Suddenly our self-esteem plummets through the floor and we need the help of a JCB to unearth it.  Other times we feel invincible and can just brush off comments – water off a duck’s back.  Why is this?

Usually when we feel good about ourselves we are more likely to be able to brush off comments easily. Positivity breeds positivity and our brain ignores the negative.  The conscious mind can only process a limited amount of information and yet it is bombarded with millions of pieces of information from all five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.  The conscious mind has to decide what information to take in and will use past experience to help decide what is important and what is not so important at that moment.  If we are in a positive mood the mind will pay more attention to positive things around us and so we can see when things have been said in jest or just let something wash over us.

If we are already feeling low, however, already telling ourselves negative things the mind will pay more attention to the pieces of information that reinforce this negative state.  The more we do this the more evidence and experience the mind builds to seek out negativity.  Our mind is clever and trying to protect us and keep us safe but it is doing so in a not particularly helpful way.

So how can we build and maintain our self-esteem?

We can use Positive Affirmations. Short positive sentences or mantras repeated a number of times to build or reinforce a positive state.  The mind has to buy into the affirmation though and believe it.  It’s no use repeatedly saying “I am amazing, I can do anything” when the first thought that pops into your head after saying it is “No you’re not, you completely messed up that exam last week”!  In those instances adjust the message slightly to get the buy in from your mind. If you are in a low state of self-esteem it might simply need to be “I am doing the best I can”.

Accept Compliments.  Don’t brush compliments off.  The people around you want to be around you and so if they pay you a compliment accept it, they mean it! This might feel a bit difficult and strange at first so just start with saying “thank you”.  When we accept the positive compliments the conscious mind is actively taking in that positive information.  When we hear negative comments the mind will consider these against our past experience – if that experience is hearing compliments and positive comments it will be able to dismiss negative comments more easily as they don’t fit with our experience.

Drop Negative Self Talk.  If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.  This goes for speaking to yourself as well as speaking to others.  We all bombard ourselves with negative self-talk, about our bodies, our abilities and a whole myriad of subjects.  That drip, drip, drip into the mind provides a reference point which the mind will go to when evaluating the information coming in from external sources.  If the external information aligns to the internal representation it reinforces that message.  Look out for when you are utilising negative self-talk and flip it into something positive.  A bit like the positive affirmations, make sure it is something that you can believe.  It might take a bit of practice.

Surround yourself with people who raise you up.  Make sure you have plenty of people around you that make you feel good about yourself.  As with the positive affirmations and accepting compliments the more your mind has positive reference points to compare external information to the more it can ignore negative comments and more easily put negative experiences behind it.  It would be great to live in a bubble of positivity but there will always be challenging situations and people that we do not to interact with that don’t bring out the best in us.  But by taking steps to build and maintain our self-esteem these situations will not affect us so deeply.

Don’t keep these tips to yourself – remember Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe.  Help to lift up others, pay them compliments and help build their self-esteem.  Use your positivity to breed more positivity around you.

 

Meditation or Relaxation – what is the difference?

 

I’m often asked by people in my classes what is the difference between relaxation and meditation.  They both have some similar effects on the mind and body and I believe they are both important in modern life but they are two different techniques.

Let’s start with relaxation.

There are two aspects to our nervous system – the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.  The sympathetic nervous system is where our ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response comes from if we are confronted by danger or some form of stress trigger.  The body releases adrenalin and cortisol to get the heart pumping faster and the breathing rate increases to get more oxygen around the body, particularly to the large muscle groups so that we can get out of danger quickly.  The parasympathetic nervous system on the other hand is our ‘rest, relax and restore’ response. The heart rate slows down, the breathing rate slows down and blood is transported all around the body to all the organs allowing them to function properly.

These days our lives are very much centred in the sympathetic nervous system.  We are so busy with so many competing demands for our time and energy the majority of us feel some form of stress on a daily basis.  And a small amount of stress isn’t a bad thing, the stress triggers us to take some form of action.  But if we are constantly in the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ mode then we are putting a lot of pressure onto our bodies and minds.  If the body is focussed on getting out of danger the mind is making very short term decisions, the blood circulation is diverted away from our digestive system, our blood pressure is increased for prolonged periods of time.

We therefore need to take time out and relax.  But this is easier said than done.  The common way to relax – a glass of wine in front of the TV.  We may think we are relaxing but we are still being bombarded with information which can create stress triggers.  The easiest way to relax is to find a few minutes of quiet time each day, lie down, focus on the breath and allowing all the muscles in the body to relax.   This allows the heart rate to slow down and the body to restore itself.

So what about meditation?

Meditation is a technique that allows us to become aware of the body and mind a to bring more awareness and compassion into our daily life.  Meditation works to quiet the internal chatter so that when we act we are acting out of choice rather than making habitual reactions to a situation.  It helps us to respond rather than react.  It also allows us to live in the present moment, not clinging to the past or pining all our hopes onto some future time or event.

Similar to relaxation techniques meditation also has the effect of switching on the parasympathetic nervous system but by tuning into the body and mind and choosing how we respond to situations it can reduce the effect of the stress triggers.  That’s not to say that if you’ll be more prone to danger because you can’t react fast enough rather it gives you the space to decide whether you need to react or not.

There are lots and lots of different meditation techniques but the general theme is a single point of concentration which then allows the mind to quieten.  It could be focussing on the breath – the sensation of the air flowing in through the nostrils, filling the lungs and the sensation as it leaves the body or one of the myriad other techniques.  Some days the focus may come easy other days it may be hard to quieten that internal chatter, the key is not to judge – it is what it is.  As with anything, regular and consistent practice is the key.

Over the next few months I’ll be exploring relaxation and meditation techniques in more depth and compiling some guided meditation and relaxation downloads.

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