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meditation

Exploring what it means to have a soul & how to take care of it

Over the past few years, I have been reading a lot more books on spirituality. Exploring the areas of looking inward, being mindful, finding joy in the every day, expressing gratitude, living simply, & more recently praying. The soul is often mentioned in my readings & it is an area I’m looking to expand my knowledge & understanding. Below is my understanding of what the soul is and how we can do small things every day to take care of it. My understanding comes from all my readings & the practices I do every day to help care for my soul.

The word soul is often combined with the mind & body to make up the entirety of a person. The soul is a part of us. But what is it? The mind and body are easy to recognise, the soul, however, is surrounded by mystery. The soul seems mythical, we cannot prove it is there. When I think about my soul, I have to use my imagination to help create visions of what I believe it is. The soul for me is the absolute good in everyone. The light that burns inside each one of us. This light can be shown in the love we have for our family, friends, pets, art, & work. It is the hope that drives us through hard times. It’s the belief in the greater good. It’s the trust we have in humanity & ourselves to eventually do the right thing. It’s the strength & grace that helps us through grief. It is our love for our environment & all the creatures in it. The soul shines in many different ways. It is eternally with us and lives on when we die. Where it goes is a mystery.

Our souls are all connected, unifying every being and making us one. Our actions have a direct impact on others & our environment around us. If you smile at a person, 99% of the time the person will smile back. Our actions & inactions don’t just affect us, they affect everyone. It is said that when a butterfly beats its wings in Japan it can cause a storm somewhere else. Care for our soul is vital as it has an effect on everyone else. We need to look internally and see who we can become, we need to work on ourselves to uproot the weeds of greed, anger, jealously, & fear. We need to plant the seeds of gratitude, hope, care, compassion & kindness. This involves personal reflection, mediation & action.

It is hard to prove the soul exists as it cannot be proven by science, there are no facts to describe the soul. Feelings & emotions are how we describe the presence of the soul. We can tell if a person has a soul by looking into their eyes, there is where you will see zest for life. The eyes are often described as the windows to our soul. A statement we often hear in the music industry is when an artist has a soul. For me, when I hear this, I think this person is authentic, living & breathing their art their way while being a kind & unassuming person. Soul food is wholesome simple food prepared & cooked with love. A meal prepared with love requires the presence of mind and attention to detail which exudes through the meal and fills the bellies of the guests with joy, comfort & appreciation.

The soul is the part of us that feels all the emotions, good and the bad. It may seem like sometimes it feels like we have no soul. We feel down & depressed, devoid of hope & happiness. However, the soul is always with us. It always remains we just have to care for it. Going through hard times is normal & a good challenge for the soul. It is natural for us to go through tough times in our lives, the soul needs to experience the downs as well as the ups. We appreciate the good times all the better because of our daily little struggles. So how do we care for the soul?

It’s very simple, care for it every day by small gestures, practices & rituals to make your day a more fulfilled & pleasurable experience. Think about how you start your day, do you give thanks for a new day, the gift of life for another 24 hours? How about listing 3 things you are grateful for in your life every morning. Do you love a cup of tea or a mug of coffee in the morning? How about drinking your favourite warm drink from a beautiful cup, waking 10 minutes earlier than everyone to enjoy it alone in silence. Look around your home are you surrounded by simplicity & beauty or do things look a little chaotic? Start by arranging your home in a way that generates happiness. For me it is simply having clean floors by the end of the night, everything in their place and the lights low so I can relax. Taking pride in your home, keeping it clean and welcoming creates a space that is both inviting & warm.

Take the daily chores of everyday life and turn them into a ritual which you know will make you & your family feel better, food for the soul. Don’t underestimate the power of a clean & well-kept home.

Another area we can care for our soul is exercise. A simple walk is great for our health, however, a walk in the park among trees or by the beach is so much better for your soul than walking in the shopping mall. Skip the mall and go outside. Feed the soul.

Take time every day to meditate for 10 minutes, sit and breath & do nothing else. This will eventually lead to a greater understanding of who you are & who you want to become.

Write down your life goals. Don’t let life slip by, have a purpose & work on that purpose every day in a small way.

Read a great book while drinking your favourite tea, or hot chocolate. Get up for sunrise, watch the sunset. Listen to the birds for 1 minute, cuddle your pet, call a friend. Play with your children, be present with them. Learn from your children, be patient.

There are so many small things we can do every day to care for our soul. It doesn’t take much, be present in your life, don’t let it slip by & the soul will be happy. Start with smiling at a stranger every day & see how it makes you feel, gradually add more to your list & I guarantee you will feel so happy……these everyday rituals work but we must do the work. Do the work for you, do it for the planet & do it for all living beings.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Theresa xxx

 

 

 

Finding Space to Think & Hear My Thoughts

I sit writing this blog perched on my bed with a cushion under my laptop & me sitting upright in a crossed-legged position in front of the cushion. Its 8:43 am and we have finished breakfast and baba is ready to have her morning playtime. Usually, it would be mama who plays with baba while dada goes to work. However, its Saturday and dada is home. I have decided to take 30-40 minutes of alone time in the bedroom to write. Just as I write the first 3 words of this blog I hear the excited breathing of my 9-month-old crawling towards the open bedroom door. A little scratch on the door to push it open and she appears with the biggest brightest smile. She found mama. It’s so hard to resist such a cutie, the love I feel for her is so strong it’s hard not to pick her up & go play with her. However, I have learned over the past 10 months that I must carve out a little time or space for me to think, read or write every day. This time however it failed as baba wanted her mama.

Our little girl is almost 10 months old; she is still very much attached to me. I am still nursing her and will continue until she is 12 months. Until then she will still be very attached to me. As a new mom, I have found the lack of personal time the hardest thing. The interrupted sleep I can deal with, it’s not having the opportunity to turn off or reset when I want to is the hardest. I run by baby schedule, which changes all the time & keeps me on my toes. The only thing I can do is accept this and know that I will get my quiet time back someday and to comprise a little until then.

Quiet time for me can be just 5 minutes being left alone. That can be 5 minutes in the bath, drinking my tea really slow, reading, sitting and doing nothing, staring into space & having the capacity to let thoughts pop up. These are the moments that I miss, however, I have been trying to intentionally fit small snippets into my day so I can breathe, take note of where I am, what I am doing, how I am feeling and basically being aware of that moment of time.

One thing that is guaranteed in my day is my daily walk. My walk is a ritual that I prefer to save for myself & my sleeping baba. I prefer to savour this time for me. I prefer not to meet people for a chat on my walk as I use it as a time to think, clear my head and just be aware of my mood, my body & my surroundings. It may seem unsocial & it is but I need it. Others may crave the opposite they need human connection & to chat to feel better, I’m not like that, quite the opposite, I like to be alone and think things through myself. It makes me come across as a little bit unsocial at times. To be clear I am a very social person but there is a time and a place for me. Being social with people I need to be in the right headspace, to get there I need space to decompress before meeting others.

Once evening comes and baba is in bed, I am wrecked physically & mentally. My ritual is to make a pot of camomile tea and have a treat. I savour this simple moment before moving forward with the evening. I like to sit in silence for at least 10minutes before chatting George. I usually have 2 hours in the evening before bed to unwind. My favourite ways to unwind are to read, play a board game or watch a funny tv show. For now, my evenings are spent inside as baba takes a while to really settle down to sleep, I’m the only person who can settle her right now.

Our baby is still very much dependent on me and because of that the freedom of doing what I want when I need it is not available. Lately, I have been dreaming about going to a yoga/mediation retreat in some warm place to rest & relax. Perhaps the reason for this is because I watched “Eat Pray Love” recently or its because I really need rest. I know this period of my baby’s development is short and she will sleep through the night and will need her father more in the very near future. For now, small snippets of peace & silence will do & I will try fit them in as many places as possible. Dreaming of future silent retreats in sunny destinations will also help. My aim moving forward is to keep my daily habits of walking by myself & meditating 15 minutes a day, to this I will add as many minutes as possible of quiet alone time to do nothing. Wish me Luck;-)

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Practical Tips On Maintaining A Consistent Meditation Practise

We have written many blogs on meditation and the benefits. It changed my life, I went from being a stressed out, reactive person who exploded when things went wrong to a (relatively) calm person who is more or less in control of their actions.

The three main actions I put in place to help me were:

  • Meditation
  • Fresh air
  • Exercise

You can read more about my anger management issues and how I dealt with it here.

If you don’t currently meditate I recommend you try it. Hopefully, you’ll find the following tips useful. They’re also great if you struggle to keep your meditation practise consistently. Consistency is the key to meditation. There is more value in meditating every day for five minutes than in meditating once or twice a week for twenty minutes.

1. Create a comfortable space

The space you practise in is important. You won’t be able to settle into a relaxed state or let go of what’s going on around you if there are distractions, whether it’s noise or discomfort it will be on your mind. Background noise is sometimes ok, for example, if you’re meditating outside and there are distant voices or traffic but a close-up conversation or loud distracting noise will throw you off.

If I’m travelling or for whatever reason, I can’t meditate at home I have a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a blindfold. Theresa constantly makes fun of me when I use these, especially if I happen to be wearing my poncho at the same time but that is the way it goes I suppose.

I use a meditation cushion because I can’t sit on the floor without some support. I also like to sit on the floor because if I sit in a chair I tend to fall asleep as I meditate early in the morning.

2. Meditate at the same time in the same place every day

Just as consistently meditating every day is important it also helps to meditate in the same place at the same time every day.

I meditate in the morning for two reasons. I need to get up before the baby (little babies don’t seem to agree that we should sit still in silence), also it sets me up for the day ahead, especially if I have a stressful day in work ahead of me.

Being consistent with the time and place also makes it easier to form a habit. You will hear different opinions on this but it generally takes about 40 days or so to form a habit and come to a point where you will do something without really thinking about it, like brushing your teeth or making breakfast.

Make it part of your morning routine.

3. Start Small

I meditate for 20 minutes every day and have been doing this consistently for about four years. I have certainly missed practises or not gotten my full twenty minutes in over the years but generally, I have been hitting the 20-minute mark every day.

I don’t recommend starting out at 20 minutes, that’s likely to lead to an inconsistent practice. Start small – 5 minutes a day or even 2 minutes a day. Try to keep it up for a month.

You won’t feel massive benefits from 1 or 2 minutes a day but you will feel some difference. Notice that difference and once you have a consistent short practise that’s where you can build up gradually to 10 or 20 minutes a day.

20 minutes is what works for me, I tried half an hour for a while but it was a little much for me at the start of the day from a practical perspective.

4. Use an App to help

I understand that meditation is about getting away from screens and input from everyday life but there are apps available that are very helpful.

I like to use an app because I can see how consistent I am and it’s useful for the timer. I keep my phone in flight mode with the screen black and white and light dimmed so I’m not interacting with it or receiving notifications which will distract me.

It is very important to keep the notifications, emails, texts etc out of your day until after meditation. Also, keep a buffer period between the meditation and screen time. My phone is set up so most of my apps are unavailable until after 7 am. I’m already out of the house at that time. If you’re curious about recommendations to limit screentime you can find them here.

I use Insight Timer. It’s free and it also has thousands of guided meditation available but you can also try Headspace. There are many others out there also that I have not tried.

One little thing I’d like to mention – many apps keep track of how many consecutive days you have achieved. Try and stay away from the competitive mentality of getting a tally of many days in a row. Consistency is the key but it’s not about being “good” at it or hitting 100 consecutive days.

5. If you don’t feel like meditating cut it shorter

If I am in a hurry in the mornings or got up too late or just don’t feel like meditating for whatever reason, I will try to do 10 minutes instead, or even 5 and then sometimes when I reach the 5-minute mark I may be in a state of mind where I continue.

If I miss completely I try to get it in the evening before bed even if it’s just 5 minutes.

Remember, It’s ok to miss a day, just try not to miss two or three days in a row or you will start to form a new habit of inconsistent meditation.

 

I hope this helps. Working towards the 20-minute mark is a good place to be for consistent meditation. Many people recommend 30 minutes or an hour or I have friends who get great benefits from 20 minutes twice a day but that is not always practical.

Do what works for you and notice how you feel after.

Peace,

George

 

Useful links:

My current yoga/meditation routine – How it has changed since baby

Meditation challenge – 40-day sadhana – Habits define you

A daily meditation practice – Make it work for you

Meditation – It takes two minutes

 

My Mindset When I Am Guiding A Yoga Class

I’ve been teaching yoga for a couple of years now. It is only in the last few weeks that I notice my head goes to a different place when I teach.

Maybe it’s like when someone gets in the zone, I don’t know, I’m not sure I’ve ever been in “the zone.”

I find as I walk through the pillars of people as they take the postures I offer, I look, really look at them. The judgement disappears from my mind. It is just me and the practice. There are no assumptions, no background chatter, no fluff spinning around my mind.

It’s a very meditative experience, there is no room for anything else. It is the one chance in the week I get to really focus.

I am fully there, with strength. A different commitment takes over and I am filled with a determination, a drive to give this class my best.

There is neither time nor space for nerves, nor is it necessary if I am properly prepared. I am doing an injustice to those who have shown up if I am not prepared. They have shown up, expecting to have a qualified teacher who can lead them through the class with confidence and purpose.

There is only the now. No past regret, no future indecision, just now. That now is filled with the breath. I stop and ask all of us to listen to the breath. The breath is the most beautiful thing when you teach a yoga class.

There is also great strength in the moment, the strength of the people who have come to class, mental strength which is being carved through a tough rock of turmoil with a blade of calm as I wander through the students standing strong in a balance posture like a great statue in tribute to a long-gone hero.

I don’t really agree with the term “yoga teacher”. We are not actually teaching anything. Yes, we ensure our students are safe and will not harm their bodies but I like to think that we are guides rather than teachers. I don’t have any great wisdom to offer, in fact, I learn through the wisdom and humility of those who I guide through the yoga practice.

If I am the one guiding the class, all that means is that it’s my voice in the room. I have to remind myself that it is not my class, the class is for those who attend. I need to drop the ego and put out what is needed, not what I want to put out.

It is my responsibility as the voice in the room to put out positive energy, even when I struggle. I need to offer a class that serves the people who attend and let go of how I like to practise and serve those who come to be served.

I find it difficult at the end of class to really and truly express the gratitude I feel towards those who attend. It is truly humbling to be given the chance to offer something that helps others and to be enabled to express myself through a practice that has helped me so much through life.

Thank you.

Peace,

George

PS. Theresa and Naoise return from the old country today so we will try to get back to weekly log posts.

Thank you all for reading.

My Current Yoga & Meditation Routine: How it has Changed Since Baby

Before our pregnancy I had a regular yoga practice, averaging between 3-4 classes per week. Mornings would always begin with a meditation session and some light stretches before breakfast. How does this compare to my current routine? It simply doesn’t. I have not been attending any yoga classes and a regular meditation time in the morning is not possible at this stage of my baby’s life. Do I miss yoga and a regular meditation practice, yes, so much.

My body is so tight, especially around the neck & shoulders. They are working hard holding the baby and breastfeeding. I miss the regular morning meditation because I love routine and this practice helped ground me every morning before I would start my day. My mornings start very different now and will remain this way for the next few months. I wake at 5:30 am to feed baby and then we get up. I make the bed, open the windows and curtains (even when dark outside), wash my face with a warm face cloth and prepare breakfast. This is the new routine and has been for months. Baby then naps on me for about 2 hours while I read and listen to audiobooks. I have to say the mornings are one of my favourite parts of my day. However, I don’t get time to sit undisturbed in a seated position to meditate or stretch.

Moving forward I want to incorporate meditation in my routine, I plan to fit it in just before I start reading. I am not in a seated position or lying down…my posture is terrible, to be honest. However, I’m still and I won’t be disturbed, I don’t have to worry about baby as she is sleeping on me. I have started a 40-day meditation challenge. I don’t want to use the excuse of not having time for it, which is kind of true. I don’t have time to sit undisturbed on a cushion for 20 minutes ever. However, if I just alter my way of thinking and use my downtime in the morning while baby naps on me it will work just fine.

The above picture is how I meditate now, noise-cancelling headphones, baby & me

When our baby was a couple of months old, I got to go to 6:00 pm yoga on a Wednesday however her schedule has changed and she is going to bed earlier. I cannot make the 6 pm classes anymore. There are no classes that fit my schedule right now. Therefore, I am not attending any yoga classes. Even though I miss my practice so much, I know this is just temporary and I will be back in no time. I’m trying to be easy on myself as there is no rush to have my life back to the way it was, it may never go back but I don’t want to add stress just to say “I’m back to yoga”, my baby needs me more right now.

The one thing I look forward to every day is my walk. Around 11 am each day we go for a walk regardless of the weather. This is my new meditation. I usually walk by myself while babe sleeps in stroller. I find the fresh air & movement so calming. I use this time to think and let my mind wander. It is a stress-free environment once the baby falls asleep. I just love walking under the trees or by the beach. Sometimes I’ll buy a tea and a treat. This is me time. I’m grateful for it every day.

I suppose what I am trying to express is that I realise I am not practising yoga; I miss it but I am giving myself a break and not stressing over it as I know it is temporary. It may be another 6 months or a year before I get my practice back but that’s ok. I believe we can be very hard on ourselves. We try and be everything at once when we should just be. We should slow everything down, free up our schedules as much as possible to have time to ourselves. Go for long walks while baby is asleep in the stroller, when baby naps don’t feel bad you have spent 2 hours reading and resting.

Yoga will be there for me when it is time to go back. In the meantime, to help with my tight body I have booked monthly massages and I want to fit in 10min of stretches a day even if I have to do them with baby on the floor. My meditation will hopefully get back to a daily practice.

 

Thanks, so much for reading,

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa