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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Stu


Do you ever wake up in the morning to your alarm blaring? You get an initial fright, press snooze, drift in and out of sleep with thoughts of your to-do list for the day coming at you like trucks on a busy highway? Or are you awake 15 minutes before your alarm in anticipation of the day ahead and thinking back to those same ominous trucks from the day before that you didn’t manage to clear from you ‘brain highway’?


Brain highway. That’s what I like to call our conscious/ unconscious thought process. The hundreds, if not thousands of thoughts that pass through our heads everyday. Research shows that we actually have 2500-3300 thoughts every hour! Most of these thoughts pass through fleetingly and move on into the background. But some tend to stick around for a bit running tight circles in our head with their foot on the accelerator and blaring their horn, like a big scary truck! Just picture that. A big scary truck doing tight circles around you while blaring its horn at you! You can do nothing but notice it. In fact you are more than noticing it at this stage, the truck is huge in your field of vision and blocks everything else out. All you can do is concentrate on this one seemingly horrible, scary thing in front of you! Everything else that you were doing a few seconds ago is completely blocked out and your body starts getting into fight or flight mode. Your stress hormone cortisol starts to rise. You start to sweat and get anxious.


What if I told you that you could take control of this situation. You could get that nasty truck back on the highway with the other trucks and cars and off into the distance. As a physiotherapist I teach people every day how to perform exercises to strengthen a muscle or tendon in their body. They go away, do the exercise for a specific amount per day and week then come back with less pain and more strength. We can apply the same model to our brain and thoughts. The brain is the muscle and the stressful thoughts being the injury or niggle.


I was going through a particularly stressful time with my business at the same time. Thoughts were rife, my highway was the size of a Los Angeles freeway. The five-lane variety! Because my mind was so busy with trying to wear the many hats of a business owner working on and in my own business, I couldn’t decipher, allocate and file each task in its order of importance. I would get anxious, worried, angry, frustrated, down and tired trying to do it all!


This thought process and a little nudging from my partner got me started on a little app called Headspace. I made a conscious decision to take control of my thoughts, to give my head a little… space! I’m great at getting to sleep at night. I’m asleep within about 10 breaths of the light going out. It’s 4.30/5am that my mind decides to wake up with a jolt. Thoughts, concerns, stories left over from the day before. Scenarios played out in my head, which have not even happened yet. Numbers, figures, reports, forecasts… you get the drift. So this was my plan. I would start meditating 5 minutes after my alarm went off every morning. Just 10 minutes of headspace. I started with the intro pack, a nice way to dip my toes into the world of meditation. Two sessions in and no epiphany, no higher level of consciousness. I thought, this meditation thing doesn’t work, it’s a hoax! But a little voice inside me kept saying, just another session, keep it up. So I did. Five sessions in and I was still doubting. But on returning from work one day after maybe my tenth session my partner asked me how my day was? A very normal question which a few weeks previously would have got my heckles up, got me all frustrated with a short answer in tow. Not this time though. ‘It was good thanks, it was very productive, clear and I had lots of fun’ was my reply! Such a contrast from my previous mindset. Life was good again even though I was still dealing with the afore-mentioned stressor. I had clarity of thought and was less distracted, which led me to be much more productive in my day.


A few months later with the acute stress over I managed to meditate 100 days in a row. Pretty awesome for a guy who had no idea what meditation meant a few months prior.


Moral of the story: “Meditation” the art of calming and focusing the mind, give it a go! What’s the worst that could happen? 

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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
I am pretty comfortable admitting I’m addicted to my phone. I use it a lot for work which means it’s never far away from my hand. At the same time, I absolutely loved my digital detox in Fiji recently, where I had ten days with zero connectivity to the rest of the world. Just quality time with my boyfriend, my friends, the sunshine and the salt water. I still had my phone with me though, as even without the connection to the world, my phone is filled with apps that keep me fit, happy and healthy. Below are my top three that I don’t think I could live without. bag-and-hands 1 Giant Mind. Their team recently upgraded this app and I am loving the sleek new look. The meditation on this app is mantra based and doesn’t change from day to day. You start off with a 12 day programme to get you used to the style of meditation. From there you can either progress on to the 30 day challenge or just set the timer anywhere, any time, and away you go. I’m up to Day 24 of the challenge and I’ve definitely noticed that I’ve got a much calmer approach to life. Also, if I’m feeling stressed, I can just take a moment to think the mantra to myself and I’m immediately transported back to that meditative state of bliss. (iOS and Android) Janet Stone Yoga. Yoga classes are pretty magical places. The energy that’s created when people come together to go yoga is almost impossible to recreate. But sometimes it’s just not possible to get to a class. Maybe you’re traveling. Or maybe life just gets a bit too busy and you’ve only got 20 minutes to spare. This is when having a home practice is so important. But sometimes even thinking of a flow of postures can be too much if your brain is full up from work. Or you want something a little different than your usual. I’ve been using the Janet Stone Yoga app for a little while now and I find it a great way to practice as it allows me to switch my thinking brain off and just follow the yoga flow. Plus she’s an absolutely amazing teacher. (iOS only sorry) Couch to 5k. I am not much of a runner. I did a half-marathon once. I haven’t said I’ll never do another one, but I’ve only laced up my shoes a couple of times since (and it’s been almost a year). But when I was learning to run I had a habit of running for as long as I could (not very long) and then walking for a bit (generally, the rest of the way). Not exactly the best way to get from being a non-runner to a runner. With the app, you work through a programme that slowly builds you up. The first ‘run’ alternates between 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking. By not running for as long as I possibly could and burning myself out, I have the energy to do the other bursts of running. And by having the walking timer on, I will actually start running again, rather than just walking the rest of the way. There’s also a Couch to 10k app for when you’ve ticked a 5k run off the goal list. (iOS and Android) I’m sure there are lots that could be added to this list! Feel free to share yours in the comments below.
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Tania
Huff_9780804140867_cvr_all_r3.inddWhile Team Wellness was in Fiji, I managed to power through three books. I finished off The Athena Doctrine and re-read the Yoga Sutras. I also finished reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington and I’m feeling so inspired by her words of wisdom. The idea of judging our lives and achievements by more than just money and power has resonated with me for a while. Being asked my occupation as the next most pressing question after my name has always bothered me. It made me feel like it was given far too much importance as a defining feature. I loved meeting people in hostels when I was travelling. Often I’d never learn what people did back in their other lives. There were always other more interesting topics to be discussed. Arianna asserts that we should include a Third Metric, alongside money and power, to truly define how successful we are. This Third Metric is made up of four pillars: Well-being, Wisdom, Wonder and Giving. By adding this Third Metric to our definition, we can make sure we remain happy and healthy while we’re out taking on the world. The book as lots of great takeaways of little steps that we can all take to help us Thrive. The biggest things that spoke to me were:
  • The importance of getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep shouldn’t be worn as a badge of pride as it is actually making us less productive, less creative, less than what we  can really be. Since getting back from holiday, I’ve been striving to get 8 1/2 hours sleep a night, as this seemed to be what I was getting each night on holiday, waking up without an alarm. Life is a little busier in NZ than on island time, so it’s a work in progress, but I’m getting there.
  • Mediation, even ten minutes a day. I’m still loving the 1 Giant Mind app and currently working my way through the 30 day challenge. I am dealing with a few potentially stressful things at work at the moment, but having a regular practice seems to be keeping me in a balance so far.
  • Listening to our inner voice. There have been times when I’ve been hesitant in making a decision, or worse, gone against what my gut told me was the right thing to do. And funnily enough, things generally didn’t work out when I’ve done that. It’s all a learning experience, but there is so much value in listening to what you feel and following that path.
  • Focus on the joys in your life. We spend so much time rushing from one thing to another, on to the next goal, bigger and better. I reminder to stop and appreciate the joys in our lives – whatever they are – is important to making the most of life. It’ll also help you work out what’s important and where you should be spending your time and energy.
  • Find a way to regularly give back. I once spent five weeks volunteering on a turtle conversation project in Guatemala. It was an absolutely amazing experience and I felt so good helping out an endangered species as well as a local village. But giving back doesn’t have to be on such a grand scale. One goal for me is to find a way to fit more giving back into my everyday life.
1

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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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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