A Charmed Life


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we’re all in this together

These words are directed at the predator-in-chief who sits in the Oval Office.

“A reader on this blog once challenged me to say five nice things about you. I tried. I promise I really tried but there is nothing. There ought to be something. Everyone has a saving grace don’t they? Even the other deplorables I find as morally reprehensible as you – your fellow reality show alumni – that family that starts with a k, even they have their hustle, no other way to explain their journey from sex tape to world domination. But you do not even have that. You have never hustled for anything in your life. You wouldn’t know a hard day’s graft if it hit you on the head. You were born into privilege and you have been coasting ever since. Damn the consequences.

That is what has made these words spill out today – consequences. You see I spend far too much of my precious time thinking about you; about what motivates you to get out of bed every day, about how someone like you can be reasoned with. Often I fine myself constructing these missives to you in my head. Today’s missive needed to come out my head, you see you make me so angry. So angry that expletives leave my mouth, c*#t and motherf*@ker seem like they were created for you. But anger is not a good look on me. And I certainly do not like thinking about you. And yet there you are, always there stirring the pot, bullying, stoking fires, and oh how you love taking credit for everything. Today I found myself waiting for that tweet of you taking credit for New Zealand’s progress in the America’s Cup.

And now you have made the ultimate dumb arse move, in a long line of dumb arse moves since January 20th – pulling your country out of the Paris Climate Accord. I believe you have done this because the first word is Paris not Pittsburgh. I believe this because you might believe climate change is real, but your action demonstrates you have no understanding what climate change is. I have got to admit I took a while to get there too. I was rubbish at science at school, every year it was a miracle I managed to pass for I never learnt Newton’s Laws, I lacked patience to grow watercress, I skipped class anytime something was being dissected and I still do not know what is means to split an atom. No science never held my interest, that gene went to my brother who practically from the cradle had this innate grasp of how everything in the universe is interconnected and how vital it was to protect the lives of all creatures.

For me it was the green revolution, that picked up momentum during my last years at college, that got me thinking about my place on this planet of ours. It is now some twenty years hence and there is no escaping climate change is happening and we do not have the luxury of time to fix the consequences of stupid decisions. We all know the only person you care about is you, so as you think your vapid thoughts sitting in the Oval Office do you ever look out into the rose garden or up at the clear blue sky or how about when you are at Mar-a-Lago playing golf as you putt do you ever appreciate the verdant landscape. No of course you don’t. If you did you would understand that the rose garden, the clear blue sky, the green grass are not givens.

How about your children! Got to say I am not a fan. They just seem like five versions of you and anyway I will never be able to erase the image of your boys holding the dead cheetah they killed from my memory nor will I forgive it. You are a fan of your children yes? Do you want them to be healthy and live well? Rising temperatures due to climate change (known as global warming) will bring more disease which will affect, if not you, your progeny. Count on it. This is Fact. A Real Fact. So you see, you have made a stupid mistake by pulling America out of the Paris Climate Accord – We’re All In This Together; Parisians, Pittsburghers, me, your family and the only person who matters to you  –  you.

I am not delusional I know you will not read this. But I also know this – as I vibrate love peace compassion respect everything you are not, you will feel my energy and the energy of the tsunami of stakeholders who have since stepped up. You see amazing things can happen when people come together, this is how rEVOLutions begin. One Planet. One People. Be careful donnie: When you stand for nothing. You get nothing.”

 Sat Nam

And... one human I am absolutely grateful exists in my orbit is David Lynch for he is the man who gave me Twin Peaks and Transcendental Meditation. April 1991 is when this brilliant man came into my life when his Twin Peaks aired on newbie channel tv3 in New Zealand. I am dreamer with an expansive imagination and before Twin Peaks the only other dreamer I could relate to was David Bowie so Twin Peaks was a moment for me. It was weird, freaky and brilliant And there had been nothing like it ever. Can you think of another show where a lady talks to a log and thinks it talks back! David Lynch manages to capture our dreams the way they actually happen in our minds. Dreams are weird. And David Lynch gets that. That mind of his – much like that of Bowie come to think of it – is a fertile marvel; so much so that looking for literal answers to anything he does defeats the point of his output entirely. I mean have you ever tried to describe something he has created, you can’t, his work requires you to be present. It is about the experience. So I am thick into the Twin Peaks experience once again after 25 years. It has been the longest wait of my life and its so damn fine to be back.Watching these new episodes, catching up with the old characters, getting my head around the newer ones, trying to make sense of where the plot is going – its all a completely damn fine mindfuck and I wouldn’t have it any other way ♥ So Thursday is the election and neither leader of the two main parties enthuses much confidence; Theresa May is one cold fish and Jeremy Corbyn has never felt like a leader to me. Oh well what will be will be I suppose. One thing is certain I do not envy them one bit, a rocky road lies ahead #RockYourVote  And finally it has been a shocking few weeks, so much senseless loss. There is no making sense to be done. As the one year anniversary of Orlando approaches this kiwi girl sends love to all those affected by that tragedy and by the recent atrocities that have occurred in Manchester, Portland, Kabul and London. May our tears deliver us to wisdom #OneLove #PeaceLove


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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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debunking

Med

I meditate. Morning and night and anytime in between if desired. One of the questions I get asked a lot is how do you find time to do it? My response – do you have time to breathe? It really is that basic, well it is to me at least and as I believe meditation should be an essential part of every soul’s journey I’ve set about debunking (love that word) some commonly held myths about meditation – myths I myself held at one point in my life – and by doing so just maybe (if you haven’t already embraced it) convince you to give it a try.

Myth No. 1: I can’t because… I don’t have time. If you have time to check Facebook then you have time to meditate. If you have time to sit in front of the tele then you have time to meditate. If Oprah and Rupert Murdoch have time to meditate then you have time to meditate. There is an old Zen saying: ‘You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.’ Here’s the reality: Meditation actually makes you more efficient, present and productive with your day-to-day. Author Peter Bregman writes that “Meditation makes you more productive. How? By increasing your capacity to resist distracting urges.” He continues, “Our ability to resist an impulse determines our success in learning a new behavior or changing an old habit. It’s probably the single most important skill for our growth and development. As it turns out, that’s one of the things meditation teaches us. It’s also one of the hardest to learn.”

I currently meditate 43 minutes first thing in the morning and eleven minutes before bed and in between I add in mini meditations (one-three minutes) just to bring some awareness into my day. Now it comes easy but it took years for me to get into this routine, I chose to commit then made a conscientious effort to keep at it. If meditation becomes a priority in your life, you will find time for it. Start small, even just a few minutes at a time is better than no minutes.

Myth No. 2: I can’t because… I can’t be sitting crossed leg. The lotus position is the ideal position to sit but it is not the only acceptable position. The Lotus Pose or Padmasana is the über pose when meditating because, by aligning the spine and opening the channels that run through the centre of the body, upright sitting encourages an unimpeded circulation of prana (energy); which in turn contributes to wakefulness on all levels — physical, mental, and spiritual AND it is a very balanced and symmetrical posture, which means the body can be held motionless with the least distractions.

However lotus position does require open hips and a lot of practice seeing as most of us won’t have sat cross legged much since leaving school. Meditation is meant to be calming and relatively easy so if lotus causes discomfort in any way you can stand up, sit on a chair or even lie down (just watch you don’t fall asleep), just as long as your spine is reasonably straight.

Myth No. 3: I can’t because… I don’t think I can still my thoughts. There is this idea that meditation is about banishing or controlling thoughts but just like you cannot stop hearing you cannot stop thinking. Try it. The more you resist the more it persists. The practice of meditation is to observe what happens in the mind in a non-judgmental way, and by focusing your mind on something else (an image, mantra, your breathing) you consciously withdraw your attention away from these thoughts, this allows the mind to slowly calm down. Anytime you catch your monkey mind wandering then you bring it back to the present moment (to your meditation) again and again and again and again. As you continue to practice, in time you will notice that although thoughts are present you aren’t getting lost in their content.

Myth No. 4: I can’t because… It’s not for me. For years I held the preconceived idea that meditation only worked for the devoutly religious or tripped out hippies and whilst being a tripped out hippie has always appealed to me, even as meditation grew into a global widely known practice I stubbornly resolved ‘I wasn’t that type of person.’ However it is my belief that you can talk yourself in or out of anything, so if you think meditation isn’t for you than it probably isn’t but I think if you feel a calling for it like I did or just simply want to give it a go – then it is absolutely for you. There is no right type of person when it comes to meditation. All that is required of you is that you show up and commit to the practice.

Myth No. 5: I can’t because… I would feel silly chanting. Then don’t or do and feel silly anyway. There are so many types of meditation and ways to meditate, some involve chanting of mantras but there are plenty others that don’t. I have a friend who says running is her meditation and another who says he feels he is meditating when he is out hiking. At different stages of my study I have learnt mindfulness meditation (non chant), mantra meditation (chant), guided meditation (non chant), kundalini meditation (chant) and transcendental meditation (chant). That said don’t discount the merit (and fun) of chanting altogether, the silliness won’t last but the feel good sensation you have inside will. I’ve always found when I take myself out of my comfort zone that’s when l thrive.

Myth No. 6: I can’t because… I’m already a better person Maybe you are but isn’t there always room for improvement. Meditation came into my life when I was living an unhappy chaotic existence. I’ve mentioned previously that it was calling, I’ll explain why. Years ago I was walking down the high street near my home and I walked passed a monk, not an usual occurrence I didn’t live near temple or anything like that, so he was noticed by moi. Next day same again, this time he smiled at me. Then the next day I said to myself before leaving home ‘I wonder if I will see that monk again.’ I walked along the same street looking out for him but to no avail so I went about my business and forgot about him. Three hours later eight tube stops away I bumped into him outside Pizza Express in Baker Street. He caught me staring at him, we smiled at each other as if acknowledging a comrade. That night and for the following four nights I dreamt of that monk, each time he would be in meditation. After that fifth night I woke up feeling a call to meditate, I actually said out loud ‘that’s what I’m going to do.’ I never saw that monk again in real life or in my dreams.

To put this story into context at this point in my life I was looking for something – meaning, purpose anything… I’d read so many books The Art of Loving, The Celestial Prophecy, The Secret, a little Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Thich Nhat Hanh and on and on, learnt The Kabbalah(some), seen tarot card readers and psychics, dabbled in yoga but hadn’t found a practice I enjoyed yet, had my astrology chart done, you name it I was trying it or at least thinking about trying it – all the while I was ‘finding’ myself  I was also engaging in destructive behaviours – nothing was sticking. Then I had this experience and I just knew. Something had finally stuck. It was one of those moments I could feel the universe had my back. Does meditation make me a better person? It definitely helps. I found my way in meditation and my regular practice leaves me feeling energised and this incredible feeling filters through into all areas of my life. I see it as an addenda like eating greens and drinking water.

I find myself going into a meditative state in the most unlikely places like when I’m dancing or more recently colouring, as in colouring in books (yes its a thing, adults do it now too) and that’s because there are no rules when it comes to meditation, no right or wrong way, all it takes is commitment but then so does anything worth having in life.

Sat Nam

Also this week: Gold for Jessica Ennis-Hill at World Championships in Beijing, whop whop! #WonderWomanlives • And while we are in China… how about that stock market! Aiya! #DominoDancing • ‘Straight Outta Compton’ in memory of my brother’s pet frogs Dre, Tupac, Snoop and Warren G I think I want to see this movie #BoyzntheHood #OldSkool • 1D to split, to you fans – I feel your pain, I went through it with Wham #ItDoesGetBetter #1DAnonymous

 


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this princess needs her sleep

sleepI’m not the greatest television watcher – no patience for the ads you see – so I tend to dip in and out of shows. Last week was one of those weeks in which I dipped right in, like many Eastenders fans I was sat watching each episode with bated breath during live week and I’m still reeling from the shock that Kathy is alive (only in soap land can a character not be truly dead, note to the Coro producers, bring back Haley – Roy’s not same without her, he’s beating up people). Anyway I digress Eastenders live week came with so much hype… the whodunit element, the live segments and the 30th anniversary of the show.. that every night I was left wonting, impatient for the next episode. It’s the kind of tele that renders one unable to sleep. Being unable to sleep is something I know all too well. That’s why I had to do something about it.

Now I know people who love to sleep, they say they function better on a good night’s sleep and I always mistook this for weakness, for I was the better person because I could exist on minimal sleep. A completely asinine thought I know that now, but only after a severe bout of insomnia. Sometimes it takes being deprived of something to understand the importance of it in your life, to then take action to get it back.

So take action I did, unable to help myself, I sought out a hypnotherapist who help me to see how I had been suffering serious sleep debt for most of my adult life. Through hypnosis I learnt to sleep again, to sleep longer and deeper but unless I wanted to listen to a recording every night I knew I had to figure out how to sleep better naturally. I did my research, spoke to a load of folk; my therapist, nutritionist, friends, even my manager at work, listened to subliminal messaging recordings and I read articles (I bypassed books, only now when I think about it, reading a book on ‘how to sleep better’ might have been just the ticket to put me to sleep), dipped into a little ASMR and I even emailed a professor of sleep but received no reply. Don’t you think it bizarre how we know we need sleep but we rarely spare a thought on why we do other than because we are tired.

“I have one piece of advice for you: sleep your way to the top.” ~ Arianna Huffington

Turns out I had always been pretty rubbish when it came to sleep. It wasn’t just that I was sleeping less, whatever sleep I was getting would be interrupted by a slight sound, the need to pee, checking my phone for texts/calls/emails/Facebook or angst of the previous day; and once I was up I found it difficult to get back to sleep. So on average I would sleep for four hours. Actually let me rephrase that for full impact – on average I was functioning on four hours sleep a night (except when I was on the sauce, of course then I would sleep like a baby).

Bona fide ways I improved my sleep
Change Mindset: This was a game changer for me as I held the belief that sleep was a waste of time and the idea of sleeping more actually made me feel more anxious which obviously defeated the purpose. In one conversation I had with my therapist he said ‘sleep is not a guilty pleasure.’ Now I have a mother who is always on the go and who survives on very little sleep and I guess I fancied myself to be just like her so remained delusional in equating sleep with reduced productivity so guilt hung like a noose around my neck. This was why I researched sleep in the first place I needed to understand the impact the sleep in order to think and act differently. I learnt to not feel guilty about having a lie-in, or going to bed early. Even extra hour of sleep a day can make all the difference, as your body switches off and calms down so the brain can reprocess the day in turn helping you get over a particularly stressful day. Some scientists believe a good night’s sleep can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease as it allows the brain to sift and store memories. There is an abundance of benefits.

Eat/Drink: Maintain a balanced diet as fluctuating blood sugar levels can trigger early waking. Don’t eat too late in the evening(leave at least two hours between eating and sleeping). Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol after 3pm as the sugar and caffeine will keep you awake and you’ll miss out on those precious extra hours. Also limit the amount of tea and coffee you consume to 2-3 max a day.

Exercise: Exercise in the late afternoon as you’ll tire yourself out, leading to a deeper sleep BUT avoid exercise within a couple of hours before bedtime as exercise will give you energy and you are less likely to get a good night’s rest.

Take those devices out of the bedroom: How did we survive before smart phones, tablets, laptops even tele? I still marvel at the way these gadgets have taken over our lives.  In any case not only do they disturb pillow talk, the blue light in them halts the production of the sleep hormone melatonin so get rid of them from the bedroom.

Meditate: Mindfulness is proven to reduce the time taken to fall to sleep and improve sleep quality, the way to do this is instead of dwelling on stressful thoughts, notice and let go of them by focusing on how cosy your duvet and pillow are, watch how the light reflects around the room, having an awareness on your body and the room around you. I’ve been meditating for a good few years now but even so I didn’t connect the idea of meditation to a good night’s sleep, introducing a nightly meditation into my life made an vast improvement to my state of mind thus making sleep easier

Stay in bed: Bringing in these improvements didn’t change my sleep pattern overnight, I still woke up in the night. I had to resist the urge to get out of bed in the middle of the night as getting up trains the body to wake up more frequently.

Regular routine: Much like the aforementionedno alcohol after 3 pm,’ keeping to a regular routine is not an easy feat but heading to bed at roughly the same time each night strengthens the link between the night-time and sleep consequently keeping your body clock on an even keel.

AND here are some other ways that are said to assist with better sleep: Ensure the bedroom is conducive to a good sleep (ideally it should be quiet, cool, dark, comfortable and about 17°), Invest in a good bed, and don’t hit the snooze button when you wake up (you are most refreshed after unbroken sleep), recharge with a power nap (no more than 30 minutes).

“A problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” ~ John Steinbeck

We’re all guilty of aiming to have an early night but being distracted by our phones or binge-watching a television show or in my case a movie I’ve already seen like a million times already… only to realise its past one and you have to be up early the next day. That sleep is vital to your good health and well being is like saying you need to brush your teeth twice daily for dental hygiene – a no-brainer right? But like brushing your teeth it is worth taking a few seconds to consider if your sleep routine is ensuring you reap the many benefits sleep provides.

As for my own sleep journey I am happy to report that I am much better friends with sleep, we meet on average for at least six uninterrupted hours most nights; and the difference in my cognitive function is evident every time I do The Guardian crossword, which I can now finish in under fifteen minutes something I couldn’t never do before (she says with smug grin).

Sat Nam


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do – right here, right now

lotusIn previous blogs I have talked about being mindful, taking it for granted that its meaning is a given. It wasn’t until a friend asked me if being mindful meant being aware and if it did what were you meant to be aware of – I realised that maybe I might have been a tad presumptuous thinking people would just know. After all I didn’t know about it until I started looking into it.

For years I have been practicing mindfulness in my morning mediation and in my everyday life. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it yet but I’m getting there. So what is it? Inherited from Buddhist tradition, my friend is right – it does mean exactly that – being aware but to quantify it further mindfulness aims to achieve a relaxed, non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts, feelings and sensations at any given moment. For much of our lives we are on autopilot and unfortunately in living like this we miss the gifts of the present. When you live in mindfulness you live consciously moment to moment so for example when walking down a street you are noticing the colour of the sky, the people you pass, the buildings, the footpath, you are conscious of your breathing, the smell of grass, sounds of traffic and so forth.

The benefit of mindfulness is that it takes you away from living in your head thus aiding you to live calmer, focused, alert, creatively and with less anxiety. Who doesn’t want to live like that? Such are its benefits that it is used to help deal with depression and it has been included in the curriculum at some schools around the UK.

See Think you need more convincing to see if this is for you – watch 10 mindful minutes AND/OR

Read Recommended Books for all ages.
1) 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving our children – and ourselves – the skills to reduce stress and anxiety for healthier, happier lives by Goldie Hawn and Wendy Holden
2)The Miracle Of Mindfulness: The Classic Guide to Meditation by the World’s Most Revered Master by Thich Nhat Han

Do If you are at all interested in learning how to incorporate being mindful into your day – check out tips on how to AND/OR are you an app person? Then head over to headspace AND/OR Londoners if you are interested in mindful meditation I highly recommend London Meditation, based in Camden they hold informative workshops for all levels in a calm urban sanctuary.

Love


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do – floatation tank

I had my first experience in a floatation tank yesterday. Twenty four later I am still feeling the effects of it, my body feels floppy and my mind is relaxed.

Float7.jpgWHAT IS IT  A floatation tank – also known as an isolation tank, sensory-deprivation tank or restricted environmental stimulation therapy tank – is sold on the idea that it is the closest possible simulation of being in the womb. You float naked and weightless in complete darkness, enveloped in a salty solution. But, unlike the womb you can play music.

WHAT HAPPENED After taking my clothes off and a quick shower, I stepped into the tank which was about ten inches deep, made up of a solution of Epsom salts and water that is the same temperature as the outside of your skin. Once in, I closed the door shut, Float5switched off the lights and lay myself down in a supine position with my arms over my head (as instructed). I let the music relax me into it. There was a little movement at first as my body adjusted but then there was just stillness.

As for my mind… firstly I had these random thoughts  – ‘there is water going in my ears’ ‘can I drown’ ‘how do I possibly stay buoyant the entire Float5.jpgtime’ ‘if I fall asleep how will remember so I can blog it’ 😉 – but then as the music stopped I could feel my brain activity reducing to nothingness and I entered into a near meditative state of complete calm and in this state I could only hear my heartbeat. One hour later music played again to announce that the float session was coming to a close. I was so out of it I wasn’t even aware of it coming back on. It wasn’t until the pumps started that I gently aroused back into consciousness. Taking my time to get my bearings, I made my way out of the tank and had a refreshing shower to rid myself of the salts and then after getting dressed I made my way to the chill out lounge. Feeling like wobbly jelly I plopped myself onto a sofa and relaxed with a cup a tea.

AND IT FEELS LIKE As for the experience, as mentioned above, it is meant to feel like being in the womb but I can’t remember that far back so can’t quite relate to that. I can only akin it to the idea of being in space or beingFloat8.jpg buoyant like seaweed  – that kind of weightlessness. As I transitioned back to the real world I could feel my senses heightened. Out in the street the surroundings felt sharper. I went to lunch afterwards and as I was seated everything around me felt brighter and my hearing was more acute, my taste buds more intense. This is to be expected as being in the tank effectively shuts down all your senses. I also had a very deep sleep last night (not usual for me).

It is called floatation therapy even though there is no therapist involved, it is just you and the tank but it is a form of therapy. Epsom salts are made from naturally occurring minerals and are renowned for their health and beauty benefits; reducing stress, soothing muscles, helping with anxiety, pain, swelling, insomnia and jet lag. I will definitely be doing it again (and again and again). If you want an all over feeling of immense relaxation that lasts definitely give it a go; even on the off chance you have no need for relaxation in your life, it is still a pretty amazing experience to try.

Love


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do – all together now everyone say … ‘OM’

I have been fascinated with meditation for years mainly because I felt it could never work for someone with my energetic and sometimes excitable personality. For a long time it stayed with me, as something I would like to know more about but that I was not quite ready for. Then a few years ago, due to some life changing events I felt the calling to take up the challenge to learn how to meditate. Ever the student; I read what I could, spoke to those who practiced it, attended workshops, found some gurus to guide me, visited the Buddhist centre in London; basically whatever I could get access to I did and I started to meditate – experimenting with different types to see what suited me best.

As with most things in life through practice and constant repetition you can achieve anything and now meditating, like breakfast, has become a daily event for me. I have learnt to shut my mind off from the outside world and as a result I feel calmer, and centred. Always open to learning new ways to meditate, recently I have taken up the practice of learning mantra meditation. If you are like me when I said mantra meditation you immediately pictured a room full of people chanting ‘OM’ over and over. Well all I can say to that – being one of the converted – is give it try, it is very powerful.

Why you should try mantra meditation:

Most newbies to meditation find it hard to clear their minds so after a few attempts will give up thinking it impossible. With mantra meditation, when you are concentrating on saying a mantra over and over, there is less room in your headspace for thoughts to form therefore it decreases inner mind chatter.

The meaning of mantra in Sanskrit is man ‘to think’ and tra ‘designating instrument’ so together this translates to ‘instrument of thought.’ In practice this means that a mantra delivers us from our sense dependency (which is the unrelenting habit we all have of looking toward the senses for gratification) from pleasures that are and that will always be fleeting (how much can you eat? Or do? Or buy?). Sense gratification never really gratifies. We are always left either unfulfilled and/or guilty. Chanting is a pleasure that transcends the senses, it takes us beyond the boundary of time and space (which is why we don’t have to understand the mantra). It relieves us from the sights and sounds and stimulation of the material world and delivers us into a spiritual space, where the sound is God. Material needs are reduced to nothing. Through the sweetness of devotional surrender, mantra turns the negative into positive.

What we think we are. Our thoughts reflect and affect our mood, our attitude and our general being. Our thoughts are silent sounds. And sounds are electromagnetic vibrations. The more refined our thoughts, the more elevated our vibration; the more elevated our vibration, the closer we get to the highest vibration of all, our own divine nature. The entire universe was built on sound, which is nothing but vibration. By vibrating a certain combination of sounds, we are able to tune into various levels of intelligence, or consciousness. This means chanting mantras is a conscious method of controlling our moods thus increasing our radiance.

And it is easy. You don’t have to sing well (case in point: ME). You can do it alone or in a group. You can chant softly or in full voice. I always sit in the lotus position when I am meditating but you don’t have to. Some mantras can move you to dance, others to walk, you go with what you feel comfortable doing.

My wish is for everyone to incorporate some kind of meditation into their busy lives. I really do hope you give it a go.

Sat Nam


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namaste

mudra2I just ended my meditation practice with a namaste and it got me thinking about the gesture. It’s so easy to take for granted that there is a meaning to putting your hands together, being Indian I grew up with the namaste salutation as a part of my life. Saying namaste to elders and after prayers every morning was expected at my home and if we were abroad in South Africa or India, every adult had to be greeted with a namaste practically every day. So when I became a teen, as with anything I had forced upon me I grew to despise it and eventually rejected it into the ‘all things heathen’ pile.

Lately though, I’ve come to see the beauty in the gesture. In Sanskrit the word namah + te = namaste and in English it translates to “I bow to you.” I find saying the word namaste and performing the physical mudra of the meeting of the palms with the head nodded forward towards the chest – a calming action AND it feels like lovely way to show genuine respect and honour god in the person you are greeting.

Love


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vow of silence

So there I was last week out in the English countryside armed with all sorts of yoga paraphernalia: mat, strap and blocks – all set for my yoga retreat; looking forward to being up to my neck in asanas and meditation. Only it didn’t quite turn out that way. Ever signed up to do something you looked forward to doing, but come of it having done something different which turned out to be even better? Well that is exactly what happened to me at my yoga retreat.

After an initial namaste on arrival at the retreat, I was given a structured wellness programme for my stay. Nothing too strenuous I noted but something caught my eye – all participants were asked to take a vow of silence. And so began an interesting few days…

This silence idea takes some getting used to for it does not come naturally to someone as unaccustomed as I am. Every action from the moment we are conscious creates noise, this combined with our internal chat leaves little room for silence in our day to day lives. When you take out all that clutter what you are left with is actually very empowering – for in silence you can actually observe yourself.

For me, once the external chatter was gone my first instinct was to fill the void with thoughts and emotions that flooded into my mind, we were told to let them flow and observe them but not to react to them. It took some practice but I found that by embracing them they floated through me eventually. What I was left with is this awareness that left me energised. I spent a lot of time at the retreat outdoors and whether I sat, walked or practised yoga I was acutely mindful of my surroundings. Everything looked as if in high definition, sounds were sharper even the food tasted better – it was like I had this ultra perception. I felt like a bit of a superhero

At the end of my journey I felt like this blanket of peace had come over me leaving me relaxed, balanced and renewed. It was a high like I have never experienced before. I totally recommend unplugging even if only for an hour… away from technology, away from to-do lists, away from chatter… just you and silence.

Love


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mood lifters

In a funk? Get out the wrong side of the bed this morning?

When we were young my brother and I would play cards or crank up some music and dance. In the beginning I think we did these activities as some kind of bonding ritual but as we got older we continued because they put us in a happy place. I still smile when I think of those times. We all need mood lifters at one time or another, these are mine:

Be Grateful: This is my number one mood lifter as its easy and can be done anywhere. Whenever I have a ‘rainy days and Mondays’ moment, I construct a gratitude list (either mental or written). A list whereby I go through everything I am grateful for (my support network, technology, food that I eat, the sun, grass, the air I breathe….). There is so much to be grateful for, we really do live in a friendly universe. You will find that as you go on with the list your mood will visibly change.

Brain Dump: Sometimes when you are low it can be constructive to let all your feelings out. I call it a brain dump where I write how I feel for 10 minutes and then walk away. No need to read it over, the act of writing helps to make me feel better. By the time I have finished I am usually feeling much better.

Daydream: Visualize what life would look like if things were going the way you would want it to.  Then, for the next few minutes, imagine you are acting a part in a play. Speak and walk and behave as your ideal self living your ideal life OR take a virtual vacation. Look up a place you have always wanted to go on Google (I used to work with someone who was always planning their next trip, she would spend her lunchtimes meticulously organising trips to amazing lands and she was always happy – coincidence I think not!)  OR still using Google look up the address of your childhood home. Have an imaginary conversation with the kid who used to live there. What would you say to them?

Deep Breathing Exercises: Anytime someone comes to me saying they are anxious about a situation in their life, the first words out of my mouth are ‘deep breaths, take 3 deep breaths…’ The way we breathe affects the whole body. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. The key to deep breathing is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting as much fresh air as possible in your lungs. When you take deep breaths from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, short of breath, and anxious you feel and your body is able to enter into a relaxed state.

Get out of the house/Go for a walk: A change of scenery can do wonders – and not just because you are exercising the physical body – this simple act helps to clear your head and allows your creative juices to flow. I get many ideas away from my computer; often I will be out walking and will have to stop to record or write an idea AND besides being out with nature and people – soaking up your environment – helps you to recognise that you are but one little cog in this big universe.

Give: There is nothing like the act of giving to those in need to make you feel appreciative of the life you lead. Visit your elderly neighbours, walk dogs at an animal shelter, feed the homeless at a food shelter, teach English, or assist with special needs children. Do your research and you will find a group that can use your talents and skills. If time is an issue give a £10 donation to a charity you believe in. In these times of austerity every cent counts.

Laugh: Did you know it is impossible to have negative thoughts when you are laughing? So laugh; watch a funny movie or youtube video/laugh with friends/watch children…  whatever it takes to make you laugh. My current go tos: a little bit of Ellen and a whole lot of Modern Family.

Listen to Music: I think this will resonate with everyone. Isn’t it pure magic how a tune can instantly change a mood and take you on a journey? Love it.

Meditate: I have incorporated meditation into my daily life for nearly two years now. Its easy to do (as with everything it gets easier with practice) and you can do it anywhere. I once spent an entire plane ride from Sydney to Brisbane meditating.  For a simple meditation try this for 5 to 10 minutes:  Sit and listen to the flow of your breath. When your mind begins to wander, gently pull your awareness back to your slow, deep breathing.

Offload: What’s that saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’? Well my best friend knows this well as I am always offloading on her. Sharing how you feel with someone else can help you gain a different perspective to how you are feeling and/or help you to find solutions that you weren’t arriving at on your own.

Just remember however you are feeling right now ‘this too will pass’.

Love