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meditation

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

 

Reactivity – Don’t Let Your Automatic Actions Control You

In this world of over-stimulation, my nature is reactive. It always has been, even before we had so much visual input and interruptions in our lives my first instinct was always to lash out before I stopped to consider. It begins inside, like a spark which triggers an instant movement, thought or feeling which is usually, immediately followed by an action with no thought. There is no space between the trigger and the reaction.

This space is important. There is great power in this space. Imagine the great tragedies which could have been prevented if people stopped to think instead of reacting immediately?

Quick action does indeed have a place in the world but so does thought and deliberateness.

How do we go from trigger-feeling-reaction to trigger-feeling-pause / think-reaction? We need to create and cultivate space to allow it to expand, grow and develop.

It’s just like decluttering your desk or tidying your home. It can be achieved in different ways but the end goal is to give your mind space to sit down and think about what to do next.

And just like decluttering your home or your desk, take the time to notice the work that needs to be done. Where is the clutter?

Let everything settle and listen to yourself. You will soon see where the issues are, where the cleanup work needs to start. It is like taking all the obsolete information off your computer’s hard drive. What burdens do you need to carry and what can you put to one side or drop completely?

I sometimes find it useful to just sit with my thoughts, almost like the opposite of meditation, I set a timer and sit. I do not allow myself to move or interact with anything but let my mind wander. I let it go where it goes and interact with the thoughts as much as I wish. It helps me see where my worries are and where the internal housekeeping is needed. This can show up in the form of unfinished tasks, worries which have been weighing on my mind or someone I need to contact. The best way to clear them away is to act on them, immediately. If that’s not possible, then schedule a time. This will help create the space.

I will not go into meditation on this blog as we have both written on it before but I cannot recommend it enough. It has changed my life and helped create the space I need for calm, consideration and right action. Have a look at the bottom of the post for some blogs we have written on meditation.

Just like the unfinished tasks I mentioned, unhealthy habits will fill space also. Too much screen time, too much artificial stimulation, bad diet. When I talk about filling the space, I do not mean taking up your time, your time is important but what I mean is bad habits taking up space in your mind. Filling your quiet space with additional unimportant information or data which cannot be cleared out without deliberate action.

It is when we reach a point of no capacity that we no longer have the objectivity to stop and analyze.

We all have bad thoughts (at least I hope I’m not the only one) whether it be anger towards a stranger, judgement towards someone we know nothing about based on their appearance, impatience, selfishness or whatever arises at the time.

These thoughts do not define who we are. It is what we do with these thoughts that defines us. It is how we react and act on our thoughts and impulses that shows who we are as people. We can only be judged by our actions. Someone cuts me off in traffic and I have an urge to honk and pull up alongside them to extend the all useful middle finger and wave it in their direction.

The impulse is there, but so is the choice. I have the choice of whether to act on that impulse or not. If I do not have that space or use that space, I will not make that choice, I will simply keep going and do what automatically happens. I will become a slave to my automatic self.

I am still a victim of my own reactivity, I recently tore one of my favourite hoodies apart just because I did not pause and consider. Incidents like this happen much, much less now but what this shows me is that I still have to work on creating, maintaining, seeing and using that space. You can read my blog on my anger issues if you are interested.

Working on creating this space allows me to take the time and pause before I react. The reaction can be intentional rather than automatic. The feeling, impulse or thought will pass quickly, within a couple of minutes then it will be forgotten but if I act on it I will carry it with me.

Here are a few simple tips to cultivate, maintain and use that space. I hope it helps.

  • Spend time with your thoughts. Search for what needs to be cleared out.
  • Meditate daily to cultivate and maintain the space.
  • Use the space: Stop and examine the feeling or impulse. Think.

Let me know if you have any feedback or if you find yourself in a similar situation to me.

Peace,

George

 

Links:

How can we put down the burdens we carry?

meditation-challenge-40-day-sadhana-your-habits-define-you

a-daily-meditation-practice-make-it-work-for-you

meditation-it-takes-two-minutes

how-i-overcame-my-anger-issues

 

 

 

 

Cover photo by Javardh on Unsplash

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Worry – Is Your Free Time Being Hijacked?

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking of something you should have done at work or something you missed? It’s human nature, it’s just a pity these damn thoughts pop unto our heads when we’re trying to have a good night’s sleep or enjoy our weekend.

I will often be at home, on a hiking trail or in a yoga class and an unwanted thought rudely invades my headspace. It could be work, it could be something else. It lurks around in the back of my mind, waiting for a time to pounce, just before I get too comfortable, then it jumps out and starts demanding my attention.

Obligingly, I take the bait and start worrying as I am expected to. There is so much out of our control, or more accurately out of our control at this time, right now. If we cannot deal with the issue that’s taken up residence in our headspace there and then, we can kindly ask it to leave.

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.

We can catch these thoughts and save them for later. If its work related I generally send myself an email, so there is a reminder sitting waiting for me when I get in. Otherwise, I make a note or if I’m driving, I ask Siri to set a reminder or send an email.

Unwanted thoughts don’t have to hijack our headspace. We can save them for a suitable time and place to deal with them. When you are in a position that you will not forget what has come up it is easier to stop worrying about it.

It can be tricky to catch these thoughts, it comes with practice. Daily meditation is so important. Start small and build up but be consistent, even if it is only a few minutes a day, eventually, you will become more aware of your thoughts and your state of mind when you’re not at ease. (See the end of the page for some of our previous blogs on meditation)

Meditation and concentration are the way to a life of serenity.

What if it doesn’t go away? When you affirm something, your brain listens to you. I often tell myself, “I don’t need to think about that right now.” My brain listens to me and I can dismiss the thought. It may keep popping back into my mind, especially if it is something troubling but repeat, repeat, repeat.

Your unconsciousness is not the one in charge, you are. You do not have to take all the suggestions the unconscious mind throws at you.

Beware of the procrastination bug also, you can only tell yourself “I don’t need to think about that right now,” so many times before it’s effectiveness will fadeThe defences against worry and preoccupation breakdown. Acknowledge whatever it is that’s bothering you and set aside dedicated time in the future to think about it. If you can do something about it there and then, it is best to act rather than defer but it depends on the situation. If a professional item pops up when you’re in the middle of family time you’re not going to drop everything.

If you can’t act on it or chose not to for a good reason, set something in place to remind yourself and tell yourself that you do not need to think about that right now. After time and practice, you will start to catch your uninvited worries sooner and more often.

The future can be a source of anxiety and stress and it is something we must think about and make decisions about but I believe in deliberate thought rather than background worry which in the long run will only add wrinkles to your face and grey to your hair. Allow yourself to set the worries aside for the right time.

Peace,

George

Further Reading:

Meditation Challenge: 40 Day Sadhana “Your Habits Define You”

A Daily Meditation Practice: Make It Work For You

Meditation: It Takes Two Minutes