Tag Archives: mindfulness

Meditating with the MagnifiCat

MeditatingwiththeMagnifiCat

Clients and students often ask me about creating and sustaining a meditative practice when their children are demanding their time, energy and attention.

I recommend making them a part of their practice (being fully present with whatever’s going on). Sometimes, I tell them about how I use Rainbow MagnifiCat’s interruptions during the day to enhance my mindfulness practice. As she looks expectantly for attention, I make my lap available for her, pausing work or whatever (unless I’m with a telephone or online client, obviously) and relax into the Rainbow Appreciation Time, hearing her purr, feeling her fur (and claws and weight) and generally feeling pleasantly present and grounded.

This morning, I realised that this is not (of course) the full story. Most days, I let her out while I do my morning meditation and a little yoga. My eyes frequently open and glance towards the door, checking in case she wants to come in.

This morning, with a lot of pent up energy from her snow avoiding time indoors yesterday, she didn’t want to go out while I meditated. I told her (and her angel) that I’d be meditating and focusing on my experience yet still noticed myself getting very distracted. Lots of opportunities this morning for noticing this (with as much self-compassion and curiosity as I could muster) and gently bringing my mind back to the meditation.

And Rainbow’s a cat. Babies and children (and puppies and goats etc) are far more demanding.

What can you do to make them part of your practice in a way that’s practical for them and you?

As with everything, some days, it’s much easier to be present than others. Many mornings, Rainbow’s so peaceful and quiet on the bed, I do my meditation next to her there before I even brush my teeth.

This morning, I could have easily locked Rainbow out of the room but I wanted to challenge myself to stay focused. (I can almost hear her howl, ‘Mwah hahahaha’ from the other room where she’s been peaceful and still since I finished and put my yoga mat away.)

Children and animals are wonderful at bringing us into the present moment.

This isn’t to say it’s always easy. Just as it’s often easier to be aware of our bodies and what they need when we feel strong, fit and healthy, it’s when we’re in pain that the biggest benefits of being present and really paying attention to what we need can pay off.

Do you include your children and/or animals in your meditative practices?

When is it easiest?

When is it most challenging?

What helps you most?

Feel free to share below.

love,

Eve

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My DIY silent retreat

fullsun

I saw a few clients last week but mostly, have been off since before Crimble.

So naturally, I set myself a ridiculous amount to accomplish today, raring to go, hoping to start the new year as I mean to go on.

Lots of deadlines, lots of clients. An extra yoga nidra class to teach each week. Other exciting projects. I love my work and it’s great to be busy.

But, I know it’s not sustainable to work crazy hours. I really loved all the extra downtime over Christmas. Catching up with loved ones.

And even though my Christmases are tame by comparison to many (not a huge family), my inner introvert was very relieved to be alone again, after a gorgeous day with loved ones.

I’m also conscious that Yule / Winter Solstice, the Pagan holiday Christmas took inspiration from, is about recharging, quiet and stillness. This can feel at odds with modern extravagances.

Because I was feeling spoiled with all the time off I was allowing myself (I’ve been my own boss for more than 11 years but, even though much of my work is about encouraging self-care, it’s taken a long time to do so for myself), I decided to experiment with a 24 hour silent retreat.

I warned loved ones I’d be doing this and said to ring the landline twice in case of an emergency as my mobile would be switched off and I’d be ignoring other landline calls. I also had no music, no computer, no telly.

And I told Rainbow MagnifiCat that I’d be communicating silently with her for the next 24 hours.

Apparently, I’m an extraverted introvert and my need for space and company is a tightrope walk sometimes.

Yule / Crimble felt like a perfect time to play with this as I knew that, in this part of the world, most others had too so I wouldn’t be missing out on anything.

I felt like I was jumping into a deep end (I’m not a naturally silent person. I can’t help chattering away to strangers a lot of the time) but I was also reminding myself that this was purely for my benefit. An experiment.

I got a lot of benefits from a semi-silent retreat I had to do as part of my yoga therapy training but where my yoga friends were looking forward to repeating the experience voluntarily, I felt like the pre dawn yoga and meditation sessions and bulk of silence along with a schedule of different types of meditation and yoga…. beneficial but more ‘Woo hooooooo! Survived! Can talk again!’ than, ‘Can’t wait to do that again!’

I prefer deciding on my own schedule. And while I did a predawn yoga practice for Yule, dawn was just before 8am so not too bad. Generally, predawn anything other than sleep does not appeal.

My DIY silent retreat was going to be about tuning into what I needed and wanted.

After the first hour, I was loving it. Before two hours was up, I’d had almost an hour of spontaneous mindfulness meditation, aka Rainbow Appreciation time (she leaped onto my lap for strokes for 25 minutes, jumped down and then back up again. Without the telly or other distractions, she had my full attention and I was mindful of her purrs, her furr, the feel of her claws (gently), the other sounds in the room and my breath.

Since adopting Rainbow, I’ve had lots of unexpected Rainbow Appreciation Time mindfulness but I’d not had such a long stretch before (or since). Obviously (being human), my mind wandered but it was a pleasure to bring my focus back to the MagnifiCat and my breath.

I began to feel smug thinking that normally, practically the only time she goes to bite (nip, but still) is when I’m meditating but this must have been extra special meditation as she had been good as gold and then… nip…

I was also conscious of how loud my thoughts felt, especially in the silence. Time seemed to stretch. After a couple of hours, I felt like it had been 4 hours. Everything seemed to slow down.

Again, being human, I thought ‘Ooooh’ and made copious notes in order to write about it later. Some anxieties crept in, too. There were some people I’d forgotten to tell and an arrangement for a couple of days later hadn’t yet been confirmed. I didn’t want to miss out but told myself I’d only be responding 24 hours later. I resisted the urge to log on.

After 4 hours, I decided to take a book to bed and curl up to read or maybe even get an early night. I did sleep but woke up a few hours later after a pretty nightmarish dream in which we were all part of the primordial ooze. Still, I went back to sleep and woke up refreshed the next morning.

I’d accidentally broken my silence a few times whispering to Rainbow as I often do before remembering, Silence and so sending her these thoughts telepathically. I also ‘sang’ her little songs in my head rather than aloud. I think she preferred it.

Waking up in the morning with her sleeping soundly next to me, I did my morning meditation in bed so as not to disturb her and it felt different to my usual, ‘Right, brush teeth, meditate, yoga, start day…’ As I wasn’t switching my phone on for several hours, there was no rush.

I wanted to go for a walk but decided to postpone it as I knew I’d struggle to remain silent if I bumped into a neighbour or friend (or, after several hours’ silence, a stranger or even pigeon).

Although I’d promised myself that if it got too much at any point, I could quit, I was enjoying it all more than I’d imagined. The fact that I was allowing myself to read whatever I felt like reading and I even wrote a few thank you cards (so, technically, not especially retreaty) made it easier to stick to. I wanted the experience to be a treat not punitive.

I also felt extra appreciative of all my Christmas presents as I found new homes for them, putting them away in silence rather than with music on in the background.

Apart from my own thoughts sounding very loud at points, the clock, fridge and other sounds I usually barely notice felt loud. And Rainbow’s purr was like the motorcar purrs she did as a kitten.

While I rarely put music on for my yoga practice (I went through a phase of doing it to Metallica a few years ago), both days’ felt especially peaceful. I chose to break the silence to do a little chanting at the end.

With just three hours to go, I ate some leftovers. Without the telly being on, I understood what all the research around people eating less when we eat mindfully meant. I stopped only 1/3 in as I just wasn’t hungry. So I popped it away to eat later on (yay microwaves) when I’d appreciate it more rather than just going through the motions.

As the last hour passed, I became impatient to go for a walk and mentally thought about who I’d phone ON said walk. But all in all, it was a luxurious treat.

I’m definitely not the type to crave joining a convent / monastery etc but I realised that I definitely want to bring more silence into my 2016 and beyond.

24 hours, while not the several days of the semi-silent retreat, is still a big chunk of time. I think I’ll aim to do that at least 3 or 4 times a year. But each week or so, I’d like to aim for maybe 6 hours (I’m aware writing this that I completely forgot to do this the weekend just gone!)…

I’m also aware that I have it easy – no kids or other dependents.

But if more silence sounds good to you, what might your own DIY silent retreat look like?

Have you done something similar yourself in the past?

What did you learn?

What would you do differently next time?

Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve x

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Are you, generally, happy in your own skin?

Image courtesy of Alan Cunningham, 2014
Image courtesy of Alan Cunningham, 2014

I often reassure students and clients with arthritis and other painful conditions that it’s easier for us to be more embodied when we’re feeling strong, well, healthy, flexible and so on.

When we’re in pain, it makes sense that we might try to mentally escape our own bodies. But while it’s more challenging, the benefits make it worthwhile. Research shows that mindfulness helps reduce the symptoms of chronic pain conditions including headaches, fibromyalgia, back and neck pain (as well as stress, anxiety and depression). Best of all, when followed up four years later, participants were still reaping the benefits.

I was reminded of this recently when a chronic pain condition flared up for me. While aware of it (I upped my self-care, ate better, got more sleep and generally was a bit kinder to myself), the fact that I’d been doing lots of swimming, yoga and cycling in the run up meant a few painkillers (spread out appropriately) were all I needed.

The last time this had flared up, for the first time in years the painkillers hadn’t even dented the pain. I’d been back wanting to simply lie face down on the ground until it all went away. Standing upright took an enormous amount of effort.

Coming after years of managing it so well that I can teach yoga (albeit less dynamic) even with flare ups, it was a little disheartening but my mindfulness practice helped me understand that my self-care hadn’t been adequate in the run up and my body basically screamed at me as a way to remind me that I need to be more disciplined about my own self-care.

Because I’ve become friendlier with my own body through yoga and so on, I am better at quickly pausing to say, ‘OK, Body, what do you want from me? What do you need?’ Usually, it doesn’t need to scream at me because I’m mindful enough to heed the whispers and regular voice warnings.

I knew that a cold had meant I hadn’t been having my usual swims and this meant I hadn’t been cycling as much. It was actually great (with hindsight. It sucked at the time) to get the reminder about exercise being so healing and preventing pain.

During that bad flare up, I felt so sorry for myself, even though I was mindful of it not helping, I amped up my sugar and crisp intake (I’ll never give up chocolate and crisps but I feel better when they’re treats rather than meal replacements).

So lesson (for now, I’m human. Bound to forget and relearn again when I get complacent about it) learned.

What are your warning signs? 

Maybe you have a chronic pain condition with clear warning bells?

Maybe you’ve got to know your body’s stress signals? (An estimated 90% of GP visits are due to stress and stress symptoms exacerbating existing conditions) What tells you you need to amp up your self care?

Do you listen to your body’s whispers to guide you back on course or do you sometimes make it scream for attention?

What have you learned about your body that will help you put supports in place for the next time you feel vulnerable and less happily embodied?

What’s a nourishing, gentle and easy to implement treat you can soothe yourself with even on your most amoeba like days? (I genuinely start feeling like an amoeba if I don’t get my swims in.)

Feel free to comment below.

Trust your body.

Make friends with it.

Bionic medical advances aside, it’s the only one we get.

love,

Eve x

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Inside Out – fab film and potential reminder around mindfulness of our emotions

InsideOut

I saw it last night and loved it.

And it’s another tool to help us notice when we’re being run by our emotions. The ever fantabulous Amy Poehler was especially terrifying as Joy when she was trying to hijack the other emotions, especially poor old Sadness (Phyllis Smith embodied her voice beautifully).

While they were the main characters (Joy suddenly finds herself not the main emotion in little Riley’s life after an unexpected move away from all her friends and hobbies), Disgust (Mindy Kaling – can’t wait for her new book to arrive), Fear and Anger were also essential.

Claudia Hammond wrote a gorgeous book some years back called Emotional Rollercoaster: A journey through the science of feelings. Inside Out made me want to dig it out and reread it.

This film felt (to me) like an emotional rollercoaster – I nearly made it through without crying although they’d been some near misses but, well, no. In my defense, I wasn’t the only one. And the tears felt good!

When you think of the Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust in your own head, which are you most aware of?

Which do you try to repress? (Remember poor old Sadness being instructed to stay in her teeny tiny circle?)

Has repressing your emotions ever worked?

It may seem silly now, considering the work I do, but when I first saw a counsellor in my early 20s, she asked me how I was feeling and although I was clearly being run by my emotions, I simply couldn’t tell her, or myself. Her simple ‘How does that feel?’ may as well have been in Russian (which I sadly cannot speak or understand).

Just checking in with yourself, a few times a day and wondering, which are you most conscious of, can help you better understand the language of your own feelings. There’s no need to try to change anything, simply give yourself permission to feel it.

This won’t, as Fear might have you believe, leave you completely hijacked by your Anger or Sadness. Instead, those feelings will pass more freely and easily leaving you less likely to act out on them.

You might also want to think about ways in which you can express your Joy more freely? What naturally sparks Joy for you?

What helps you deal with Sadness? How might you allow yourself to feel some of that pain, loss and grief and let it go more naturally? (A good cry at a fab film can help! I recommend this one).

What about Anger? We (especially women, in whom, even in 2015 it’s still less socially acceptable than in men) definitely don’t want to suppress this.

Look at how Anger at injustice has changed the world for the better when expressed lovingly by people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Scilla Elworthy, Gloria Steinem, Eve Ensler – the list is endless.

What makes you angry? How can you channel that perfectly legitimate emotion into action you feel good about?

And, awww, Disgust. I failed to hold back a judgmental and disgusted, ‘Oh dear God’ as a small child spat (maybe he thought he was a professional footballer, whatever – eeeww) on the floor very near me yesterday. I’ve been known to turn this Disgust against myself for feeling it but, hopefully, with Mindy Kaling’s help (she embraced it fully), I’ll come to accept my own squeamishness more.

Are you easily disgusted? How might you express it in as healthy a way as possible?

Just noticing our usual default emotions in different situations can help us being to gain more freedom as we’re guided rather than hijacked by our feelings.

Good luck!

What might you choose to do differently to better express all of your emotions from today?

Feel free to answer below in the comments!

love,

Eve x

 

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Talking energy work and coaching at BACP Coaching’s UEL meeting last night

Even though the transpersonal is so embedded in modern coaching (Sir John Whitmore learned a lot from psychosynthesis creator Assagioli), going to an academic environment to talk about energy work and coaching felt a little like coming out of the closet (don’t burn me at the stake!).

Instead, it was fun to share some of the processes I use with a lovely group more accustomed to hearing from executive coaches.

We covered grounding, HeartMath, Metta (loving kindness), a little mindfulness, some Resolution Magic, ENLP, bifocal vision, Good Will and more.

Big thanks to Gill, Becks and Christian for being so welcoming and to everyone there for being open.

Metta,

Eve

x

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BACP’s Private Practice conference on anxiety – London 2014

JamesRyeBACPPrivatePractice

I’ve had a really lovely day at the BACP Private Practice conference on anxiety. I was helping the lovely Gill Fennings Monkman on the BACP Coaching stand and it was great to meet BACP Coaching members as well as BACP members who had an interest in coaching or were already coaches or coaching in some capacity.

The speakers were interesting and participants very vocal – all very thought-provoking.

Not only was Private Practice Chair, James Rye, clearly passionate about the subject but he also pointed the way to cupcakes :)

University of Greenwich professor, Richard Hallam, spoke about Anxiety: Problems and principals not disorders and techniques and Cracked author, Dr James Davies, spoke (almost comically disturbing) about the Making of Mental Illness and the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM)

Unfortunately, I was only able to attend two of the workshops (no one could attend more unless we could somehow clone ourselves) and both (one on Attachment theory and anxiety from cradle to grave and the other on anxiety in the workplace) were very interesting.

Others spoke highly of the other workshops including on OCD and hoarding and Solution Focused Therapy.

If you’re struggling with any anxiety related issues, click here for more information about some of the ways we might work together.

Metta,

Eve
x

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