Browsing Tag

mindfulness

Yoga & Meditation

Why I Chose Stillness and You Probably Should Too

October 25, 2016 • By

Beach Yoga

2015 was meant to be my year of achieving things. On New Year’s Eve 2015 and wrote three things that I wanted to achieve in 2016. It’s good to have goals and I wanted to make a dramatic change to my life.

The goals:

  1. Buy my first home
  2. Qualify as a yoga instructor
  3. Witness the completion of my partners feature film (not a direct goal for me but one that affected me nonetheless)

Pre New Year’s Eve 2015 my life was fairly familiar to most. The stressful 9-5 job in a passionless environment, the micronutrient guzzling, health conscious gym goer who practiced yoga daily and always, always, always dreamt of better things to come. I knew that by setting some, rather large yet very achievable goals for the year I would be forcing a change in my life. Dissatisfaction comes when we believe we have no choice or control over our current circumstance, so I was dissatisfied because I felt a lack of control, trapped without choice. I’d unwillingly subscribed to a lifestyle that gets sold to many of us from a young age; work hard, get a well-paid job, earn lots of money, retire rich, die. Nowhere in this sales pitch did anyone mention happiness or what to do when there is a day to day lack of it.

When January rolled around I signed up to a yoga teacher training course. I thought I was ready for the challenge to come but, my goodness, teacher training is hard! It requires all of your energy, focus, adaptability and strength. Probably not the most sensible time to buy a home but during my course my partner and I found our perfect house, put in an offer and waited with baited breath.

The offer was, of course, rejected. Ouch.

The second offer was accepted too much relief but then follows that horrid period of having to deal with lawyers and agents and bankers and builders and contractors. Everyone who wants as much as possible from you in a very short space of time. It’s hard to find stillness when legal pages need signing and flooring needs choosing and removal men have broken your favourite mirror.

I kept moving through the bustle. Working the 9-5 job, travelling 200 miles each weekend to train to teach and then I read, revised, practiced and panicked in pockets of free time. I never stood still.

In May I got a phone call from my doctor that said something along the lines of ‘We’ve had your smear results back, the test is showing quite a severe abnormality and you need to go to the hospital as soon as possible, this week in fact’. The phone call that every woman dreads. The cervical cancer call.

What followed was weeks of tests and procedures and tears and panic and what felt like an eternity of waiting. But still no stillness.

Following this news, and in the midst of yoga exams, my body become this place I no longer wanted to be. I shook constantly, my muscles twitched, my neck was stiff, my head pounded, my heart palpitated, my stomach couldn’t handle food, I panicked if I was away from home for too long, my periods become irregular, I became exhausted and my fuse was short. I lay awake at night and struggled to get up in the morning. I didn’t want to roll out my yoga mat and practice asana but I forced myself to because I felt it would help me, plus I was about to become a qualified yoga teacher so how could I not practice asana (yoga poses)?

Once qualified I was prancing around at the front of a class of yoga students, preaching health and happiness. Then I’d go home and keep my misery company. I found some solitude in red wine, heck all wine but I feared being alone. Unfortunately my third yearly goal was to support my partner in achieving his dream, a goal that took him away from home every week, took my strength and support away. So I was forced to be alone, to sit with my fear and my misery and the body I no longer wanted to be in. It is really, really difficult to sit with fear. So even though all was now quiet, there was no stillness.

You see, there is a difference between quiet and stillness, silence and peace. Just like there is a difference being sitting and meditating. Everyone sits but not all are meditating. Everyone can be quiet, but not all are still.

In these quiet moments my body raced with fear until, one day, I chose to stop. Fear, anxiety and stresses don’t just go away overnight, but you have a choice about how they affect your life. So I stopped watching the television, the news scared me. I stopped scrolling through newsfeeds and tweets and updates because my body only knew how to absorb the negative. I stopped drinking caffeine, for now, because it made me feel worse. I tried ever so hard to step away from my smartphone, the gateway to infinite symptoms that made my heart race. And I chose to be still, to just sit attentively, dedicated and focused on this stillness. Letting it do its magic and wash my woes away.

Stillness can only be found deep inside of yourself, you can create the perfect surroundings, dim the lights, burn some non-toxic candles, sit on a comfy cushion and block out the external noise. But stillness is something you bring out of yourself into the world we live in, not vice versa.

It took me 9 months of madness to realise that my body craved extended moments of stillness. More than just taking a long bubble bath or a relaxing autumnal stroll, it wanted to hear that quiet little voice inside that says ‘Everything is going to be okay’.

Finding real stillness requires dedication, time and bravery. You may have to sit with emotions you’d rather avoid for a little while but what happens on the other side is the realization of the entire universe residing within you, a place you can visit in times of need, a tool you can utilize when the road gets a little rocky. And eventually you will find yourself sitting in stillness with the bravest soul in the entire world, you.

 


Yoga & Meditation

Mindfulness at Work: Will it catch on?

September 28, 2016 • By

Meditation at work Everyone’s talking about it. Nowadays you hear the word ‘mindfulness’ used in the most obscure places; by big brands and official organisations. Massive corporations are jumping on the bandwagon and you’ll see ‘mindfulness’ exercises being pushed upon employees in most workplaces. But what’s the big deal? Can a few minutes of meditation really change your day?

In 2007 Dr Yi-Yuan Tan from Dalian University of Technology, China carried out a study which concluded that a meditation practice can reduce stress and increase attention to detail in just 5 short days. It went on to show a reduction in anxiety related issues, depression, fatigue and anger.

In 2015 35% of workplace illnesses were stress related, resulting in a 43% of all sickdays. These figures are pretty shocking. People are becoming increasingly aware of their health and happiness (rightly so) and leaders of organisations are finally understanding the importance of a happy healthy workforce.

The answer seems so simply in hindsight, your employees are feeling the stresses of modern day life, meditation reduces the symptoms of stress and makes employees sharper and more attentive. Let’s roll out meditation exercises in the workplace!

Unfortunately the reality isn’t always as simple as it sounds. So why aren’t more employees jumping at the chance to Workplace Meditationmeditate at work?

  1. Most industries are made up of an older, old-school age group and meditation is for hippies.

People don’t like change and they also don’t like being told what to do, especially if they have worked in that company for 45 years and the new HR manager is a twenty-something, green juice guzzling weirdo. You probably aren’t going to persuade Eric from finance to sit in lotus for the next 20 minutes breathing his stresses away. Eric prefers to have a pint and a moan.

Unfortunately, sometimes health isn’t valued until sickness comes. And it isn’t until that point that people are willing to consider changing their ways. Never force people to join a meditation session unless they actively want to do so, the benefits just won’t be the same and they’ll go off thinking meditation is a bit rubbish.

Let people become open to it in their own time. Openly share the rewards you have reaped from your own practice but don’t expect Eric from finance to feel the same. Choose your battles.

  1. Meditation makes people feel self-conscious.

It’s not a usual environment to be in with your colleagues. You can hear everyone’s breath, your thoughts are screaming so loudly in your head that surely Sandra from legal can hear them and how do you know everyone has really got their eyes closed, what if they are just sat watching you struggle to meditate?

Mindfulness at workPeople within the workplace like to have a leader, so if you are introducing meditation into your office you need to keep it within a format your workforce are used to. Hire a meditation guide, someone who will talk your employees through a 15-20 minute practice. It will make them feel a lot more comfortable to be guided, less lonely and it will give them the tools to go off and practice in their own time.

My first workplace meditation was one of those awkward moment where the manager got really excited about trying something ‘experimental’ with his workforces and had us all sit around in his office whilst the ‘teacher’ guided us through a ‘meditation’. It turned out that she wasn’t a meditation teacher after all, but had listened to a few YouTube videos and then labeled herself a guide. We were then all asked how we felt afterwards. Just plain weird.   If you’re employees are happy to try meditation at work don’t ask them how they feel afterwards. Let it all settle and then maybe follow up with some feedback later in the day.

Explaining some of the benefits of meditation can make it more appealing to people. Benefits such as;

  • Reduces anxiety by teaching people the importance of controlling their breath
  • Stops symptoms of stress (such as headaches, tightness in the chest, tingling in the hands and feet etc.)
  • Makes it easier for people to concentration on one task at a time
  • Makes people feel more compassionate
  • Makes for a kinder workplace
  • Increases the happy hormone
  • Reduces insomnia
  • Encourages a healthier lifestyle
  • Brings a sense of calm to modern day living
  • Helps you feel more in control
  • Slows the ageing process
  • Reduces high blood pressure

And all you have to do is sit still, control your breath and focus. It really is that simple.