A Charmed Life


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one size fits all

Do you think you breathe properly? I’m here to tell you, chances are you probably don’t, most likely you are a ‘shallow’ breather (as in you only use your chest). Unless you specifically seek it out, learning to breathe properly is not a life skill we are taught, mores the pity for breathing properly creates a positive domino effect in every aspect of your life and who’s saying no to that right?

I say this from experience for, it wasn’t until I took up meditation that I discovered a) just how lousey a breather I was b) the benefits gained in getting this breathing gig right; and as someone who suffers from anxiety I can’t tell you enough how this – to be able to apply a breathing technique to counterbalance any threat of a panic attack – has changed my confidence and all round mental health. The reason for this, as Yogis have always known and the medical profession finally agrees with, is because breathing is intimately connected to the autonomic nervous system and the mind. Don’t worry I’m not going to go into the science of why you should be using your diaphragm when you breathe or why breathing through your nose is much better for your health, that would be too much for a science dunce like me to explain, I’ll leave that for you to GOOGLE, instead I am just going to share my go-to breathing practice for anxiety.

Here goes:
♠Close your mouth. Breathe in through your nose counting to four as you inhale.
♠Hold your breath again counting to four.
♠Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of four.
♠Pause for four.

This is one breath. Repeat the cycle as the practice gains in power with repetition. Continuing this breathing for one minute or for four full breaths is good start for a beginner. As you improve you can increase your counts to six then eight and your body will tell you when you are ready to stop.

This one size fits all tool has served me well. It’s easy once you get the hang of it AND it really works in alleviating stress and restoring calm AND it is so handy to have up your sleeve, ready to use whenever wherever you are aware of any internal tension.

Sat Nam

Also this week: My favourite instagram follow HUMANSOFNY is currently sharing stories from refugees in Europe/Middle East. I urge you to read/follow if you haven’t already, en masse the crisis feels daunting and impersonal but reading these individual stories provides context – feel your stomach clench in knots and the tears roll down your cheeks – its hard to digest but it’s real and if it projects you into doing something proactive to help PLEASE DO #HealtheWorld #MakeItABetterPlace • As a rule I am anti religion, spiritual yes but religion can go do one as far I’m concerned but this Pope Francis he seems a bit alright; progressive and remorseful in all the right places #ImaStMarysOldGirl • And at the very other end of the progressive spectrum – this Putin guy, I don’t get his motivation at all. If I ruled a country I would push my country to thrive in all areas. Putin has done the opposite over and over; LGBT rights, freedom of the Press, Ukraine, Syria and okay you hate America but learn to communicate in English effectively – seriously you’ve been around too long not to, surely that must be a prerequisite for world domination 101.  #WhatWouldTolstoyThink • RWC15 the All Blacks are through to the quarter finals, no surprises there. I won’t say anything about England except that I was gutted #ImaFauxBrit but #aRealProperKiwi #goABs


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my favourite ‘bit’

What would be the point in having my own blog if I didn’t indulge in my favourite things now and then AND because I want to spread some cheer today I’m sharing my all time favourite ‘bit’ of cinema with you. This ‘bit’ only lasts two minutes and twenty five seconds and is nearly fifty years old; and recently I was thinking wouldn’t it be fun to see it again which in the age of you tube means there is no reason why that couldn’t happen but for whatever reason I didn’t actively seek it out, instead the universe provided the opportunity when, late one night rendered unable to sleep I switched on the tele and there it was – the very scene from the film To Sir, with Love which I hold so dear.

When you think of warm and fuzzy childhood memories you never really know if the reality is as good as the memory you hold. The first time I saw this movie, I was home sick from school. I remember feeling very snug lying in my parent’s bed sipping milo, flicking channels until I found this film. The film itself is really pretty rubbish – acting is average, story so so and Lulu’s hair and voice grates on you after a while, it falls into the same bucket as Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, The Ron Clark Story; where a teacher begins new job teaching a tough class and through the course of the story inspires the students to turn their life around. For whatever reason I persevered through it and to my delight I discovered this gem of a dance scene towards the end of the story. Over and over I can watch this ‘bit’ and still get the same pleasure out of it as I did that first time. I know the scene so well now, that I can dance the scene as Mr Thackeray or as Pamela to the letter.

Why do I love it so? Well there is the distinctive music, dance, and fashion which encapsulate my vision of Britain in the 60s, an era I love. There is the Sidney Poitier element. This was the movie that introduced me to him and he is so fine in this scene. There is this innocence and hope; a teacher willing his pupils to believe in themselves like he believes in them and a student ready to bloom. AND best of all there is happiness. I think that is why I treasure it, it is a happy moment and it makes me tingle with happiness to watch it. Have a look and let me know if you think it is completely naff or if it made you want to put on your best mod outfit and get into the groove.

Sat Nam

Also this week: Continuing to keep the refugee crisis foremost in our minds because knowing about something doesn’t change it. After the compassion explosion a few weeks back, the situation remains the same for too many so sign petitions, attend peaceful protests, donate, pray… whatever you can – just DO #LetsgetTogetherandFeelallRight #OneLove • Meryl Streep I love you, when you talk, I listen. Not sure my heart bleeds for you only earning eight million compared to Robert Downey Jr.’s 80 million in the last year, talk about first world problems BUT I totally have your back in your battle towards achieving equal rights for women #GirlPower • Speaking of kick arse women – Amy Schumer, what a revelation, you slay me #ProperFunnyChick •  Another kick arse woman… the legend that was Jackie Collins (did I really just have to write that in the past tense) oh to have had access into your mind, thank you for introducing a thirteen year old me to smut #LuckyIsMyHomeGirl • And the Rugby World Cup has commenced, we all know who will win of course (she says with fingers and toes crossed) #goABs #WhateverHappensAlwaysaProudKiwi

 


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good morning beautiful people

morning

My favourite time of day is first thing in the morning. I love waking to the idea of a new day with no mistakes on it yet and in order to start the day off on a positive vibe this what I do before I get out of bed:

My guru once told me if you have forgotten the language of gratitude you will never be on speaking terms with happiness. accordingly I have made an attitude of gratitude a focal point in my life. I start expressing gratitude the second I am conscious, I go through a mental dump of all the things I am grateful for. It’s a fun exercise I’m always finding the most peculiar things to be grateful for.

Forgive myself for yesterday’s mistakes. Through self forgiveness (and I’m all about forgiveness these days) I find I cleanse myself of any regret and/or baggage and hence forth set myself up to start the new day with just a focus on the present.

For no particular reason other than to flex the muscle I like to smile for about a minute.

To wake up my body up and for mental clarity I take five long deep saturating breaths in and out (the in through your nose, feel it in your lungs  and out through your mouth kind).

I like to give my eyes a bit of a workout so I do a little yoga for my eyes this involves blinking, near and far viewing, side to side viewing. I know this sounds a little woo woo but we live in the age of smart devices, and I already wear glasses for seeing long distances so I’m trying to limit further damage to my eyesight.

You know that saying start as you mean to go on that is why I like to set my intention for the day first thing in the morning, it helps to focus my mind.

And then it is time to meditate as the sun rises.

Tell me about your mornings: Are you a morning person? Do you have any kind of early morning routine?

Sat Nam


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the art of letting go

photo (4)

I found myself singing ‘Let it go’ today, on account of spending time with a five year old who is obsessed with the movie Frozen (is there any little girl who isn’t?) I have these words stuck in my head ‘Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore. Let it go let it go. Turn away and slam the door.’

Letting go, if only it was as easy as turning away and slamming the door. The first sutra of the Aquarian Age is to recognize that the Other Person is You and I have struggled with this because I allowed negative energy to live in me. For years I held resentment towards a family member for perceived wrongs I felt had been done; this resentment affected my relationship with my family, the way they interacted with each other and it affected me personally in that this negative energy seeped through all aspects of my life – how I thought, how I felt, how I expressed myself. I can’t remember the last time I attended an extended family Christmas and I have been known to coordinate trips to visit my family with this person’s trips abroad so there could never be any danger of bumping into them. Carrying this bitterness never sat well with me but I continually ignored that inner voice that kept on trying to steer me to let it go. Even when mindfulness entered my life, and I had started to recognise that this resentment was only hurting me, I stubbornly stuck to my resolve. I was right, everyone else was wrong.

“Remembering a wrong is like carrying a burden on the mind.” Buddha

Then a miracle happened. I had a breakthrough in therapy. Through therapy I learnt the art of letting go, which began with forgiveness. For me, the forgiveness bit happened the second I decided to forgive – long before I actually saw this person again. In that moment of deciding, it was like a huge weight lifted and in its place I was left with an overwhelming feeling of love. When I finally saw this person I found that I didn’t hold any bitterness at all – the past was firmly in the past. I enjoyed my time getting to know them again – and recognizing how similar we are. I would even go as far as saying that it saddened me that I had wasted so many years not being present in this person’s life, still no point in dwelling on that  – regret is a useless emotion.

“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.” Ajahn Chah

It is easier said than done, this letting go business, that is why I call it the art of letting go. My particular story may come across as though it was relatively easy but I had spent years – decades – angry and bitter and in the end I think I was just tired, tired of carrying that extra burden. Situations can be challenging, people can be challenging – we are all guilty of  carrying some baggage  – I truly believe if you want to live happy and mindfully and in peace – you have to let go of any bitterness. Although in some circumstances it may take a lifetime to truly let go, here are some tried and tested (by me) techniques that may help with the process:

Forgive   forgive and then forgive some more – forgive yourself, forgive the other person, forgive the situation – whatever it is forgive it. Recognize that the Other Person is You and as such treat them with kindness. Wish that person well and, if possible, send them your feelings of love. What started me on my journey to letting go were some words my counsellor said. He said ‘forgiveness is for you, not the person you are forgiving – it is a gift you give yourself.’ It’s not a new thought but something in those words and the timing in which he said them vibrated in my soul and I knew in that moment I was ready.

Write it out. I’m have become a great proponent of the idea ‘better out than in’ and I find writing a cathartic outlet to do this. Whether you journal your thoughts OR blog OR write a poem OR write all your stresses down and then throw them away/burn them OR write a song OR write a letter/email to the person who has upset you (which you may or may not want to send) – whichever mode – clarifying your feelings will help you come to terms with your reality as it is now.

Cry it out. I have always thought there is nothing like a good cry but then I would seeing as I am a cry baby. It now appears science agrees with me for it has been proven that crying away your negative feelings releases the harmful chemicals that build up in your body when you are stressed, so cry like there is no tomorrow I say.

Rant Window. Set aside some time, a window, where you allow yourself to let it all out – a day and hour whatever is required but be strict about the time once that time is over move on. If you need to confront someone who is troubling you ranting first may diffuse the hostility and give you time to plan a rational confrontation.

It can be hard to let go of something when that negative thought/feeling is constantly in your head. Try wearing a rubber band on your wrist and flick it when that thought/feeling is upon you. This action will train your mind to associate that type of persistent negativity with something unpleasant and in time that thought/feeling will become less dominant. I also used this technique when I felt I was swearing a lot and it worked, swearing is practically non existent for me now.

Engage in a physical activity. My favourite one size fits all remedy. Exercise decreases stress hormones and increases endorphins ergo it improves your state of mind. This one is a no brainer for me.  

Throw it away. One method I learnt in therapy was to hit (or toss) tennis balls (always remembering to retrieve them afterwards). Another just as effective way is to throw pebbles in water. Whether its balls or pebbles  – label each one as a part of your anger then as you offload them feel the tension subside.

There will never be a time when life is simple but if how you choose to respond to life is all that matters, then surely it is worth letting go any negative baggage. ‘Let it go, let it go. Turn away and slam the door.’ 

Sat Nam


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do – skipping

What was your favourite playground activity when you were younger? Was it Tag? Or Bullrush? How about Rounders? The Jungle Gym? Or was it Hanging off the monkey bars? Elastics? Or Knucklebones? Mine was Skipping and yet as much as I loved it I outgrew it, as one does with many childhood occupations and so it would have remained but a fond memory, had it not been for a bout of acute insomnia which led to late night tele watching – got to love those infomercials!

So I picked up a jump rope and rediscovered my love for it. Now I can’t get by without my daily fix. Yes for some of us it’s a skinny mocha, pour moi its 1800 jumps in 15 minutes. I’m not so good at being consistent when it comes to exercise; I lack passion for the gym, I don’t live near horses to ride regularly, I’m not a strong enough swimmer, I’m fickle when it comes to running and I’m still a newbie when it comes to cycling. I do love yoga but twice maybe three times a week is enough for me. So skipping has been quite the revelation – an exercise that I feel inspired about and can do everyday AND it is the exercise that keeps on giving – here’s a list of reasons I’ve compiled as to why skipping rocks:

♦You’ve done it before so you know what to do. Who didn’t jump rope when they were younger even if it wasn’t something you did by choice at lunchtime, you still had to for Phys-Ed or at the very least for the jump rope for heart fundraisers.
♦You can do it anywhere; backyard, garage, in front of the tele, in a park, hotel room, foyer – basically any empty four by six foot area.
♦Totally portable, you can take the rope with you in your handbag/man bag and it’s a fits all ages and sizes exercise.
♦The only gear you need is your workout clothes (ladies, a good sport bra is a must) and a jump rope.
♦Assuming you already own workout gear the only outlay is for the jump rope and if you still have your rope from when you were young happy days you don’t have to spend a single cent. Although it has to be said ropes are fancier now, forget cloth ropes, most are now made from moulded plastic, metal wire coated in acrylic or space-age polymers – all made to be smoother and lighter. There are also digital ones available that can track number of jumps, time taken, calories lost.
♦When I started skipping I knew if I was consistent I could end up with killer calves. I have since learnt that it is a full body workout for apart from using your legs for jumping, shoulders and arms for turning the rope it hits almost every muscle in some way chiefly the biceps (front of upper arm), triceps (back of upper arm), forearms, deltoids (shoulder) core (abdominals, lower back and obliques), glutes (butt), quadriceps (top of thigh) and of course your calves. This makes skipping the perfect total body toning exercise. It’s high intensity cardio so using a jump rope improves your heart rate and blood pressure. Other health benefits – it is less jolting on your joints than running AND improves flexibility AND as skipping forces you to keep a rhythmic pace and use proper form it enhances your coordination and balance  AND it is a weight-bearing exercise so can help in improving bone density, which we need to ward off osteoporosis.
JumpRope.jpg♦Once you get into a flow there are many different variationsthere is no boredom factor.
♦You can do it at your own pace for as long as you like. It does take a few attempts to get into a rhythm but even a few minutes skipping can make a difference to your well being. It has taken me a good few months to work up to my current regime, this involves doing three 5 minute bursts with 10 second rest in between twice a day.

Skipping – Easy, Convenient, Fun and Good for you. I totally recommend it. Relive your youth and have a go.

Sat Nam

 


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here I am… Girl, Interrupted

detourJohn Lennon sang ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans¹.’
I think it is a pretty safe bet to say that so far, this year has not exactly gone the way I planned. One minute there I was, travelling along everything being fine and dandy and then the next minute it wasn’t and all it took was a trigger and off I was – on a totally different path. As result I missed out on a much desired job opportunity, deadline after deadline on my book’s journey to publication, a horseback adventure in Montana and most poignantly a dear friend’s very special birthday celebration.

You can run but you can’t hide. How honest are we really? We go about our lives projecting ourselves as people we want to be perceived as, this generally means trying to disguise our flaws. I know I have. My act has always been ‘I’m fine’ and anything less than fine in my mind was a sign of weakness or failure. I have never been good at dealing with the icky stuff. When something bad happens to me, I tend to put on a brave face and carry on. And this act served me just fine for a very long time. Even I was duped into believing it. Only it didn’t really. What I didn’t understand was that not dealing with ‘life’ as it happened was creating chaos in my head. So when my latest detour started it all came crashing down into one hot crazy mess and when putting on a brave face and carrying on didn’t work, I was left with no choice but to clean up the mess.

We all know life doesn’t play by any rules and that ultimately we have little to no control over outcomes. What we can be confident of is that there will be plenty of detours in life and detours, by their very nature are unexpected and not always easy to navigate through. While my detour may have started horrendously² I’ve come to see this detour as good and necessary – here’s why:

Embrace the detour I’m the chick that sticks to routines and gains genuine pleasure from ticking things off my to-do list. Any shift to my routine tends to make me come undone but this time after initial kicking and screaming I embraced my detour with an open and positive mind. By doing this I learnt that routine can be just as negative as it is positive, for by sticking to routines, we close ourselves off from exciting opportunities and even better ways of doing things.
Try saying ‘I don’t know’ more often When I was busy living the ‘I’m fine’ way of life, it became nay impossible to ask for help. Why would I ever be in a position to need help if I am always fine? By opening up and getting the help I needed I feel honest for the first time in my life and being able to say ‘I don’t know’ has been life changing simply because quite frankly how much do we really know?
You had the power all along my dear Although I have had loads of help through my detour (by way of comprehensive therapy) it was ultimately me who did the work and it is the very same me that has come out the other end pretty much intact and this is an incredibly empowering feeling. After all how you choose to respond to life is all that matters don’t you think?
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes I did not choose to be on my detour and it has been about as far from being on holiday that you could possibly get, in fact at one time ‘hell’ would have been an accurate description of where I felt I was. I have run a whole gamut of feelings these last few months: I’ve gone from feeling scared, anxious hopeless, angry, helpless to being emotionally drained and completely broken to feeling (believe me I know how cheesy this sounds but I can’t stop using the word) renewed.
Eye on the prize I might not be where I wanted to be but I’ve never been more clearer about who I am and more focused about the future.

I end this with some words that came to me via a good friend, words which provided me much comfort during my detour ‘For I know the plans I have for you declares The Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11.

Here I am… Girl, Interrupted. Proof positive the universe always has your back.

Sat Nam

¹ Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) – John Lennon
² More on my actual detour another day…   maybe


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do – Ho Ho Ha Ha

I first heard about Laughter yoga when Fearne Cotton talked about it on her radio show. Thought it sounded interesting but I didn’t give it another thought. Fast forward a few months later and today I find myself at a Laughter yoga class. What can I say? I saw a sign for the class and it had to be done.

Here I am, it’s a small class, five people including me and six others all wearing the same purple t-shirts so I’m assuming they are making up the numbers (turns out I’m right, apparently this type of yoga is done best with a crowd). Once our instructor welcomes us in prayer, we begin with clapping – palm to palm clapping – to which chants are added HO HO HA HA (reminds me of the scene in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ when Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio are at lunch and Matthew starts beating his chest and chanting Hmmm). This warm up is done to increase energy levels.

Next to follow are deep breathing exercises and then for the next fifty minutes we continue to do the breathing with stretching and different types of Laughter exercises including one that had me fake milking a cow. The instructor keeps repeating that we want to attain a child like playfulness. We are encouraged to make eye contact with each other as this encourages laughter.  Anyone want to pretend to be a lion with me (yet another exercise we did).

SOME FACTS: Laughter yoga was created by Indian physician Dr. Madan Kataria. The concept of Laughter yoga is based on the scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits. Clinical research show that Laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc) in the blood and it helps to change your mood within minutes by releasing endorphins. Yes its true people laughter really is the best medicine.

MY VERDICT: Before I went to this class, someone said to me ‘Laughter yoga? Come on yoga is yoga – don’t bastardise it with all kinds of weird variations.’ And he is right, that is exactly why I was intrigued in the first place and having done the class I’m still not sure what the ‘yoga’ component was meant to be and I did feel a sense of the ridiculous at first, but eventually fake awkward laughter gave way to real laughter and it felt good.

And although I have never had a problem laughing or laughing in public for that matter, as this is a physical rather than a mental laughter you are left feeling uninhabited. If I had to describe how I felt after the class I would say energized and open – kind of loose if that makes sense.

I’m not sure I’m going to convince the skeptic in you to give it go except I will say when does it not feel good to laugh? I would say give it go if you are up for anything, in need of a laugh or just plain curious. Laughter clubs are popping up everywhere and my class was free so you are not left out of pocket (well I did make a donation).

I will leave you with this fact: In the 1950s people laughed for an average of 18 minutes per day, but now the average is just six minutes. I think we all could do with a little bit more laughter in our lives – wouldn’t you agree?

Love


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one proud kiwi

I’m having a little bit of a kiwi moment right now, in the last week Helen Clark has been rumoured to be the forerunner to take over from Ban Ki-Moon as Secretary-General of the United Nations, Lorde won two Grammys and we bet India in the cricket. Rewind a few months back – a kiwi also won the Man Booker Prize (Eleanor Catton for the Luminaries), rewind a wee further back to when we passed legislation to make same sex marriage legal and by last count we still held the Holy Grail that being the Rugby World Cup. Okay we didn’t win the America’s Cup this time but we are still the nation that gave birth to the people behind ‘Top of the Lake’, ‘The Hobbit’ (the movies) and ‘Shrek’ as well as a wealth of talent that can be found all over Australian television and on a global stage.

Can I just say – for a small country in the arse end of nowhere – we certainly make ourselves known.

Love