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Stu

platesHow Meditation and Mindfulness Can Help

Plate spinning is a circus manipulation art where a person spins plates, bowls and other flat objects on poles, without them falling off. Plate spinning relies on the gyroscopic effect, in the same way a top stays upright while spinning. The actual art of plate spinning is not too dissimilar to what many of us try to do in everyday life. Stay upright while running to and from meetings; focusing on multiple goals; KPI’s; more meetings; remembering to have lunch; looking after staff; remembering to respond to that email from 3 weeks ago; booking the insurance for that holiday in 2 months time… And the list goes on! In the beginning, spinning plates can be fun, give us variety in our day, and can be quite rewarding as we manage to pull off achieving multiple goals in a day or a week. But after a while some things are forgotten, unfinished and become stressors in our already busy lives. To add to this forever growing to-do list, we have our smartphone constantly in our pocket, vibrating, ringing and reminding us of how many plates we actually have up in the air at one time. We have got into the habit of constantly checking our phones for new emails, Facebook status updates, Twitter feed, missed message and calls. Once upon a time we would leave work and begin to switch off. That phone from back in late 90’s and early 2000’s didn’t have data or a screen that could read more than 1-2 lines of text for that matter. By the time we reached home we would be ready to change down another gear, chat with family, sit down and watch a favourite TV programme, read a book. Ultimately, we would log out, switch off and unwind from the day we had just finished. What if we could use this technology we have now, to take time out of our day to switch off for very small periods of time and reset our minds? All of a sudden some of the plates we thought were important would vanish. Our minds would become more focused. Stress levels would decrease. Things would become clear and simple. Real focus and clarity would begin to creep in and we would all look much less like a circus act trying to spin a whole lot of unbalanced plates in mid-air while running down the road! I have been doing yoga for about 18 months now. It gives me both physical benefit from the stretching and strengthening of muscles, and the mental benefit of clearing my mind from the day-to-day clutter it accumulates. But I wouldn’t have time most days to do a class in the middle of the day, even though this is when I would benefit most. So recently, my very mindful, present and yogic partner put me onto the idea of downloading a meditation app for my smartphone. So I did! Since then I have been endeavoring to use the app at least once a day for 10 mins. I find it’s great for removing all those redundant thoughts and stressors which simply get in the way of me achieving what is important to me in my day. The app I am using at the moment is Headspace which has various guided meditations to suit you. So, my advice to you: click on the app store, search for ‘Headspace’, download, put your earphones in and press play! It’s only 5-10 mins out of your day, and the change that it can bring is absolutely incredible. Just do it!

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Tania

The Challenge: Meditate Every Day for Thirty Days As you may be sensing, I’m good at doing something for a short period of time. I like the idea of an end date, to make the focus seem more manageable because you don’t have to do it forever. However, there are some things that I want to build into my life permanently. Meditation is one of those. I know I feel better, clearer, more focused and calmer when I have a regular practice. So I’ve set myself a rather large goal of 365 days of meditation. I’ve made it through the first thirty and wanted to share some of my thoughts with you

1. We make time for that which is important to us. I am so over people saying that they are busy and wearing it like a badge of honour. What does it even mean? That you tried to fit too much into your day and wore yourself out? That you didn’t give your brain anytime to be still and get creative? I can have a packed day and I will find time for a meeting with my boss (or Instagram scrolling). If I can make time for important people (or not so important things), why can’t I make time for myself? For something that is going to help me show up for all of that other stuff as more present, more authentic, more ME.

File_000 (1)2. Making things easy for myself is important. Since I’m not much of a morning person (more to come on that later) I didn’t want to start building a new habit that was going to be a struggle, i.e. no 5.30am meditation alarms. Instead, I decided to make my meditation time late morning. As I started to think about lunch, I would take myself off to our Talanoa Room (Board Room) to sit and meditate for twenty minutes. It fit in well with my schedule, a key component to building a new habit. Don’t make your new habit harder than it has to be.

3. Meditation is not just about those twenty minutes. It spills over into the rest of my life and how I’m showing up. Things that previously would have been an effort are just coming naturally now – like speaking to people that in the past have intimidated me and I would have been lost for words; giving a friend some feedback she didn’t want to hear; having a difficult conversation with someone at work. I feel more like an observer when situations arise so that I’m able to respond rather than react.

In the past, I’ve used the One Giant Mind app and this time around I bought the subscription version of Headspace. I really like both, although they are quite different. If you’re interested in starting a practice, having a look around the app store as there are lots in there. Or go old fashioned and just sit and watch your breath for five, ten or maybe fifteen minutes. I promise that you’ll feel better for it. I know I do.

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Tania
The Challenge: No Alcohol for 30 Days

Drinking is such a common part of Kiwi life that often when I make the decision to stop it for a little while, people think something is wrong with me. Or I’m pregnant. (Full disclosure: I’m not pregnant.) I don’t drink as much as I used to in my younger days so not drinking for 30 days didn’t hold as much challenge as it had in the past. Regardless, I was at the point of having a quiet glass of wine most nights, and more than a few on the weekends. Because life is for enjoying right! But I don’t like being dependent. And some nights it felt like I HAD to have a glass of wine to unwind. Or to celebrate. Wine works wonderfully on both occasions. So I decided to stop. Just for 30 days, to give my body a rest. I didn’t miraculously lose weight, get clear skin or become a millionaire from all those dollars I saved. But I did learn a thing or two which I wanted to share with you.

1. The reaction from some people is interesting. By me not drinking, does that make you feel something about your own drinking? Do you need me by your side, enabling you? I felt really clear about what I was doing. My why was a little more unclear, which is what some people seemed to struggle with. If I couldn’t give them a clear reason, they couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t be drinking. But why does drinking need to be the norm? Why do you need an explanation for not drinking? Why can’t it be the other way around?

2. You may not be going downhill, but maybe you aren’t going uphill as fast as you could be. My head was definitely clearer in the mornings. I wasn’t drinking to hangover levels before I stopped, but I would wake up with perhaps a little ache in my temples. Or just feel a little lethargic. Without the alcohol in my life, my head just felt better. Clearer, stronger, faster and ready to take on the world.

3. Weekend afternoon drinking seems like the perfect treat to enjoy on my days off. But as someone who has two jobs + a side-hustle, a Sunday afternoon could be used to write a blog post, work on our upcoming think.eat.move workshop or a dozen other things. Or even something as simple as a bush walk or a hike up Rangitoto.

My thirty days is up, and I am back drinking again. And I am enjoying it. But I feel like having a drink is more of a decision that I’ve made rather than an automatic reaction. I actually consider whether I want/need another glass of wine. Which means I’m appreciating it more and being more mindful. But more to come on the mindfulness soon. I’m not telling you that you should enjoy a drink, but I would recommend taking a step back and thinking about why you’re drinking and how it is really making you feel. And if you’re not sure of the answers to those questions, maybe take a few days off the alcohol and see how you feel. At least you’ll be approaching the questions with a clearer head.
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Stu

platesHow Meditation and Mindfulness can help

Plate spinning is a circus manipulation art where a person spins plates, bowls and other flat objects on poles, without them falling off. Plate spinning relies on the gyroscopic effect, in the same way a top stays upright while spinning. The actual art of plate spinning is not too dissimilar to what many of us try to do in everyday life. Stay upright while running to and from meetings; focusing on multiple goals; KPI’s; more meetings; remembering to have lunch; looking after staff; remembering to respond to that email from 3 weeks ago; booking the insurance for that holiday in 2 months time… And the list goes on! In the beginning, spinning plates can be fun, give us variety in our day, and can be quite rewarding as we manage to pull off achieving multiple goals in a day or a week. But after a while some things are forgotten, unfinished and become stressors in our already busy lives. To add to this forever growing to-do list, we have our smartphone constantly in our pocket, vibrating, ringing and reminding us of how many plates we actually have up in the air at one time. We have got into the habit of constantly checking our phones for new emails, Facebook status updates, Twitter feed, missed message and calls. Once upon a time we would leave work and begin to switch off. That phone from back in late 90’s and early 2000’s didn’t have data or a screen that could read more than 1-2 lines of text for that matter. By the time we reached home we would be ready to change down another gear, chat with family, sit down and watch a favourite TV programme, read a book. Ultimately, we would log out, switch off and unwind from the day we had just finished. What if we could use this technology we have now, to take time out of our day to switch off for very small periods of time and reset our minds? All of a sudden some of the plates we thought were important would vanish. Our minds would become more focused. Stress levels would decrease. Things would become clear and simple. Real focus and clarity would begin to creep in and we would all look much less like a circus act trying to spin a whole lot of unbalanced plates in mid-air while running down the road! I have been doing yoga for about 18 months now. It gives me both physical benefit from the stretching and strengthening of muscles, and the mental benefit of clearing my mind from the day-to-day clutter it accumulates. But I wouldn’t have time most days to do a class in the middle of the day, even though this is when I would benefit most. So recently, my very mindful, present and yogic partner put me onto the idea of downloading a meditation app for my smartphone. So I did! Since then I have been endeavoring to use the app at least once a day for 10 mins. I find it’s great for removing all those redundant thoughts and stressors which simply get in the way of me achieving what is important to me in my day. The app I am using at the moment is Headspace which has various guided meditations to suit you. They also collaborate with corporates such as IBM to create corporate meditation programmes! So, my advice to you: click on the app store, search for ‘Headspace’, download, put your earphones in and press play! It’s only 5-10 mins out of your day, and the change that it can bring is absolutely incredible. Just do it!
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Dave
Busyness has slipped into the driving seat with modern day living. While we can get immediate validation from its short term benefits we also get tiredness, a lack of personal time and an incessant noise in our minds. Many of us feel like we are missing out on the very quality of life that we are striving so hard to achieve. To understand how busyness is taking grab of many of our lives we need to mention the physiology at play. On one hand we have the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is the accelerator of the body and known colloquially as the fight or flight response. It is this response that is in play when we are consumed by busyness. In contrast, the PNS, which is known as the rest or digest response, is the brake that activates all restorative functions of the body, creativity and emotional resilience. Ideally we find a happy medium in between but in reality one system usually prevails at the expense of the other. Busyness is not the main reason why people get injured and sick. Busyness can be highly productive and satisfying and is often the catalyst that can draw the best out of us. People instinctively know this, because there is a defensive argument where people assertively claim that they thrive on stress and love the fast lane. They are right. The issue is that busyness can become so entrenched that it can turn into busyholism. This is when a person is unable to activate the PNS and restricts themselves of the necessary restorative processes that life in the fast lane entails. It can be an addiction for people and letting go requires a conscious effort and a fight. There are four main areas which research has shown will activate the PNS; youth, positive thinking (mindfulness), exercise and rest. Moderate exercise is enough to have a positive effect on every part of your life and is not the poor cousin to ‘real’ exercise. Intense exercise actually attracts the busyholics. Intense exercise can be addictive and can reset our perception on normal exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 5 days a week of 30 minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking for healthy systems all round. The danger signs of busy holism (When the oil light goes on in your car) -fatigue, mood changes, sleep problems, an upset golf swing, a social blip, a sense of spiritual loss, or a negative flare-up of your own personal idiosyncrasies. A sore throat or a mouth ulcer is an early danger sign (no water for windscreen wipers). This is easy to trivialise. Severe chest pain is a late danger sign and like when the oil light flashes. This needs to be listened to and the appropriate action undertaken. A classic example of a person who is investing too much on the SNS is the over training athlete who is prone to injury, fatigue, depression, weaker immune systems and poor sleeping patterns. Rest is not the occasional cat nap or the active rest of something like gardening-true rest comes from a chemistry that is activated from the inside out, through changes in thought, posture and breath. Rest hasn’t been made a priority. To conclude this article I would like to state the benefits of the PNS
  • Replenishes energy stores,
  • Releases hormones that repair the wear and tear on your body.
  • Allows the full expression of your immune system, digestion and reproductive organs.
  • It activates your thinking for new levels of innovation and creativity and opens up pathways that allow us to process emotions in a positive way.
  • Improves memory.
  • You will be less reactive and easier to live and work with, with an appreciation of the bigger picture instead of your immediate concerns.
References Rest: A science and an Art by Ros Broome.
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Sarah

  Source: Pinterest  

I don’t have a regular meditation practice.

There—I admit it. I’m a yoga teacher, yet I don’t meditate on a regular basis. You know what? I just find it really hard. Is that a terrible excuse? Well, that’s really what it comes down to. The strange thing is that when I do meditate, I enjoy it immensely. I have had some incredible experiences, sensations and revelations. Yet, I still cannot keep a regular practice. I practice Ashtanga Yoga, known as a moving meditation, five days a week, where I incorporate meditation at the beginning and at the end of my practice. Yet, I feel I’m still not going that one step further, sitting on my own, observing my breath, watching my thoughts, feeling the sensations. So, instead of a regular meditation practice, I’m working on incorporating mindfulness into every day activities. Bringing awareness to each moment gives me this great feeling of presence. Paying attention to my physical body has helped ground me and calms me down in times of stress.

Are you also struggling to keep a regular meditation practice?

If so, ask yourself these questions: 1. Do you really want a meditation practice? Is this something that will actually benefit your life? If so, how? If it is just something you feel you should do because of articles like this telling you it will transform your life then maybe that’s why you’re not feeling committed to it. To be able to have a regular meditation practice you’re going to want to do it for yourself, because you can see how it will benefit you. 2. Can you force yourself into a regular meditation practice? I’ve tried this, yet it only ever lasts a few minutes, days or weeks before I want to rebel. Seriously, it’s like my inner teenager comes out and ruins the party. Maybe my ego thinks I’m doing something against my will. Discipline is great, and is needed in these practices, but having to force yourself into something you really don’t feel connected to often ends in failure. 3. Can you bring mindfulness into every moment of your life? Maybe a scheduled daily practice isn’t quite what you need at this point in your life? Instead you could start to bring more awareness into your life. Awareness of every moment, awareness of every activity, awareness of every emotion. Maybe just being mindful of the air as it enters through your nose and fills up your lungs, maybe the sensation of the soles of your feet as they walk on the warm sand.

Here are some ways I bring awareness into my everyday life:

Driving. Unfortunately, I live in a city where I have to drive, a lot. Sometimes it gets a bit much, I feel confined to the small shell of my car, almost claustrophobic. So I bring awareness to the sensations I feel in that moment. I feel my back against the chair, the sides of the seats pressing against my legs. I feel my hands on the steering wheel and I focus on everything that is happening on the road. I allow the normal chatter to dissolve as I bring full attention on what is going on outside. I often have moments of true clarity when I’m driving and have actually had some big realizations. Warning: This can be dangerous if you start focusing too much on your physical body and not so much on what’s happening on the road in front of you! Exercise. Whatever it may be—yoga, running, swimming, cycling, weight training—bring awareness to what you are doing. People often say exercise is their form of meditation and I think that’s great. Surprisingly enough, it’s a lot easier to get into a peaceful state when we are physically exerting ourselves – there’s no time for thoughts when you’re sweating like a pig and gasping for air! Dive even deeper into this awareness, feel that peace and just be with it. Slow down, take a breath. Breathing has helped me deal with a lot of anxiety and stress. Just slowing it down, focusing on it completely. Sometimes I have to lie down on my back, place my hands on my stomach and feel the movement of the oxygen as it moves in and out of my body. It really does work every time I find myself overwhelmed with emotion. Don’t judge yourself. I will not judge myself for not having a daily meditation practice. I will remove this expectation that as a yoga teacher I am expected be a disciplined meditator. Judgment towards ourselves is such a wasted and unnecessary emotion, when instead we can just be with what is, accept where we are right now and be ok with it. We don’t have to be master meditators to live a life with presence and awareness. Right now in this moment I know what’s right for me—awareness, self-love and continuing my yoga practice.   This article was first published here on elephant journal. Image: Pinterest
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