Was it just me or was yesterday an unbelievably productive day? I spent 7 hours cleaning the inside and outside of my apartment and once I'd got over the initial resistance in my mind, I loved every minute of it and couldn't stop!
Isn't it strange how we resist doing things which we know deep down will be rewarding? That voice in our head is so adept at convincing us that doing something else, ANYTHING else is going to feel so much better. But when we listen to that voice (our ego) we create the perpetual cycle of procrastination-guilt-anxiety-stress etc because the thing we know we need to do, still hasn't been done. And when we hold such thoughts in the back of our heads, they affect every other aspect of our lives because we can never really relax and enjoy the moment. So why don't we just do the thing and avoid the pain? Good question, which Eckhart Tolle could so brilliantly answer, but for now I can tell you from my own experience, there is a way through it...
As you know, I've recently finished recording my first full length Guided Meditation. Do you now how many years ago I bought the equipment and procrastinated? FIVE Yes, it's shameful, but everything kept getting in the way; finding somewhere to live (back then) admin, class plans, advertising, studying, cooking, cleaning, I was too tired, unwell, too many other projects on the go, wasn't in the right frame of mind, didn't know how to use the software & equipment, socialising, family duties, Facebook, Instragram etc etc. There's no end to the excuses but only YOU can decide when enough's enough and when you do, BOY IS IT AWESOME!!
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed recording this mediation. It took two solid weeks with most days on the computer all day learning how to use the software and equipment (which in my mind was going to be overwhelming, but was in fact joyful), experimenting with sound effects, timing, my voice, music etc. I was completely immersed and the outside world didn't exist, nor did any of my habitual thought patterns. My mind was stilled because I was completely PRESENT and focused on what I was doing and it was....IS the most incredible feeling in the world.
So it seems, the level of resistance equals the level of joy that you will experience doing the very activity that you're avoiding like the plague. Does that make sense? In other words, the more you resist, the more you will enjoy! So what are you resisting? Is it exercise, a new way of eating, getting to bed earlier, mowing the lawn, sorting out your cupboards, or a creative project? Try if you can to get over the initial hurdle, because when you do, you're in for a treat as the universe will flow through you, and that feeling is quite simply OUT OF THIS WORLD!!
If you'd like to listen to my meditation, please click here
It’s very difficult not to be affected by the fear that the media instils in us about the uncertainty of our country and the world around us. But these fearful thoughts may as well be real in terms of the effect they have on our bodies as they activate what’s called the ‘fight or flight’ response:
Designed to prepare us for imminent physical danger, stress hormones are pumped in the bloodstream to give us courage to fight, and blood is diverted from the inner organs to our muscles to give us strength to flee.
This is all very well if we have time to recover, which activates the ‘rest and digest’ response, but that often isn’t the case as we are constantly under some level of stress whether it be about money, work, family or our health.
But did you know that stress is caused by our thoughts about these things, not the actual things themselves?
That is the impact of our thoughts. It is our thoughts that cause our pain, but is it also our thoughts that create our happiness.
So how can we change our thoughts? By becoming aware of them.
This is where Yoga and Mindfulnesscome into play. Not only do they activate the ‘rest and digest’ response, allowing our bodies to physically recover from stress, but they teach us how to observe our thoughts.
With practice, we learn to tame our minds and think better thoughts. When we think better thoughts, we change how we feel, which helps us to feel more safe and secure in a world that’s going crazy around us. Self care is not only an investment in yourself, but for your loved ones as your feelings and attitudes affect everyone and everything around you.
As some of you know, since meeting the Kundalini Master Hari Nam Singh Khalsa in December, I've been getting up before dawn to chant the Kundalini Aquarian Sadhana mantras. Something changed in me after meeting this wise and humble man. I cried nearly all the way through the workshop and at the end I held his hands and thanked him and realised, for the first time in my life, I was in the presence of someone beyond description - my Guru. Just thinking about it still brings me to tears. It was the very next morning that I felt compelled to start chanting....
The practice consists of 7 mantras sung in Gurmukhi, a Sikh language. Each mantra holds a particular vibration that connects us to a higher frequency, that frees our mind from limiting thought patterns. I particularly love Snatam Kaur's versions of the mantras as she has the voice of an angel.
The first thing I noticed after two weeks of chanting, was an amnesia of my worries. I had that feeling when you know you've forgotten something, but you can't remember what it is? I soon realised, however, that the 'something' was just thoughts about things that weren't real and didn't matter. I could still remember the things I needed to, I just couldn't remember the ruminating rubbish!
I'm more organised, I have more time and I have so much more energy. I've also found that I can remember stuff. I no longer forget what I'm looking for when I go into a room and I even go shopping without a list! Every day I notice something new and I feel soooo good that nothing is going to stop me from getting up every morning to chant these beautiful mantras. I even chant myself to sleep, so I never have trouble sleeping and should I wake in the middle of the night, I just get up and chant, so nothing can beat me!
In just a few weeks, the mantras have made me feel more complete. For the first time in my life, I feel like I want for nothing. I'm not worrying about how I feel my life ought to be. I don't stress about who or what should be a part of my life. I'm not over analysing everything single thing (I could win prizes for that) and I'm not procrastinating like I used to. Instead I feel that my life is already exactly as its supposed to be, and that it's perfect, exactly as it is. I'm not exaggerating, that's how I feel, and it really is extraordinary.
Of all the practices I've experienced over the years, this has had the most powerful and sustainable affect on how I feel. Of course I still practice yoga every day, so the mantras were the missing piece that I had neglected. I didn't really understand them before, because I had never practiced them regularly enough, but now that Hari Nam Singh Khalsa has touched my heart, I cannot imagine my life without them.
Mantra clears away the rubbish in our minds and the subsonscious. It draws out unnecessary thoughts and helps us to return to our natural state of bliss. It is our birthright to be happy, but we need to feel connected to be healthy, happy and whole.
First of all we need to connect to ourselves, which connects us to God, the universe, to spirit, the angels...whatever your belief may be. Then, we must connect with each other in Sangat (fellowship, community) and have the courage to be our true selves, open, genuine....and vulnerable, for it is only through vulnerability, that we sincerely connect with others and experience the true depth of happiness.
Canadian born, Hari Nam Singh Khalsa came to the feet of Guru Nanak Dev Ji (the founder of Sikhism) at the age of 24 and has been sharing his teachings and the Sikh way of life for 40 years.
All of his teachings can be found on YouTube and Sikhnet.com.
Isn't it amazing how even a photo of paradise can make you feel at peace? But did you know, you can also feel that way by looking inwards? Inside of us is a space untouched by trauma and pain. A space where we can feel safe and protected, so why are we so fearful of moving inwards and simply being with ourselves?
I remember the first time I had to sit in an hour-long silent meditation. There were 12 of us sitting in a circle in a candle-lit cabin in the mountains in Spain. From the moment I walked in I began to panic as I realised I wouldn't be able to leave. Of course I could have, but I was too shy to get up and walk out, so I felt trapped and started to hyperventilate. The only other time in my life that I'd experienced anything like that was when I was scuba diving at 35 metres, gasping for air and wanting to escape to the surface. But how could my mind think this situation was comparable to a life-threatening one?
In my life, I'd always made a point of facing my fears head on by deliberately putting myself in challenging situations like travelling around the world by myself, engaging in extreme sports, moving several times, trying out different jobs and searching, always searching for the next big thing. I thought I was being strong and brave but in fact, all my feats and goals were a perpetual attempt to escape from myself. By making my outer world as stimulating as possible, there was never time or space to listen to what was happening inside of me and that's why I never felt happy or settled. However, all that changed when I discovered Kundalini yoga, as I'd never felt so at home in my life.
Kundalini Yoga allowed me to be with myself in a way that felt natural and comfortable for me through movement and breath. The healing that took place in my body and mind as I continued practicing daily, was tremendous, so I could not have anticipated such a powerful aversion to sitting in silent meditation a year later. It seemed I had even been using my yoga practice as a distraction from my deepest darkest self.
So what did I do in that situation up on the mountain? The exact same thing I did at 35 metres. I negotiated with myself. I told myself that if I gave into my unfounded fear, it would affect the rest of my life and I would look a fool. I was, in truth, shaming myself, but it worked.
Needless to say, I am no longer frightened of sitting in silent meditation and have just completed the 8 week Mindfulness programme for the second time because I really want to get to the bottom of why I was so scared back then and why I still resist sitting with myself.
Well, I can conclusively say that it has had yet another profound effect on my life. I have learned so much more about myself and in identifying my thought patterns, I have freed myself from unnecessary stresses and find myself so much more at peace. Our practice helps us to peel away layers of ourselves that don't serve us and reveal that pure, untouched space inside. It does require work, and sacrifices need to be made in terms of time and commitment, but surely nothing is more important than feeling at peace inside and experiencing your life to its full potential.
So why was I so scared back then? I have no idea? Fear of the unknown is just that. We don't know what's there, so why not face it and find out? Inevitably, it's never as scary as you think. Imagine how much happier we'd be if we could let go of all our fears and just lived our lives open and free?
When we connect with ourselves, our outer world begins to transform and we find our inner paradise reflected on the outside in every way possible. The people we meet, the new experiences we have, the joyful surprises. Even life's challenges reveal themselves to be part of the fabric of our growth and make us a tower of strength for those around us.
As some of you know, I'm taking the 8-week Mindfulness course for the second time as part of my commitment to more self-care.
This course had a profound affect on my life the first time round, so I had not anticipated what it would reveal this time. With the mindful practices already being integrated into my daily life, I am now working on a deeper level, which has uncovered habitual thoughts patterns that have been causing me anxiety for years and ones which I thought were acceptable. I thought being self-employed, self-sufficient and self-supportive meant that it was justified for there to be some level of anxiety in my life. But that's rubbish! These thoughts and rules that I've created in my mind have prevented me from moving forward because I always have the feeling of being overwhelmed and never having enough time.
The irony is, I prayed for years for my life purpose to be made clear and now that I've found it, I am flooded with ideas and ways to express and deliver these practices and yet I've done very little to materialise them because I don't know where to start. I've talked about them and planned them, set deadlines and made promises, but I keep getting in my own way. So while the universe has delivered, I am PROCRASTINATING for England because of my limiting thoughts and beliefs.
Nothing should cause us anxiety as anxiety isn't real. It's just a thought about something imaginary in the future that may never happen. It’s impossible to feel anxious in the present moment because you are IN the moment, experiencing it physically with your body and mind, right here, right now....that's where Yoga & Mindfulness come in! If we're not fully present, anxiety creeps back in, as your mind begins to worry about the next moment before it even happens. How often have you been anxious about something and it's never been anywhere near as bad as you thought it would be? Almost always!
Anxiety keeps us one step away from happiness and contentment and can keep us immobilised, unable to move forward for fear of the unknown. How crazy is that? It's not even tangible and yet it has so much control over us...at least only until we spot it! Once we recognise something in ourselves, it becomes powerless because we are now AWARE and it can no longer hide in our subconscious controlling our behaviour. We do have a choice over our thoughts, but we need to become aware of the ones we already have in order to change them.
Healing and wholeness emerge from awareness. We need to be with ourselves to allow each layer to be revealed and peeled away when it's time. As Buddha said "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear" We are in fact our own teachers, our own Gurus. We don't need to spend months living in an ashram in India to become enlightened. We just need to spend enough time with ourselves in quietude, fully experiencing our bodies and minds in the present moment. In this space,we can truly listen, and in this silence, we can find the answers to everything we're looking for...
I had a great time in Cornwall despite the weather. It's absolutely essential to let go sometimes otherwise our responsibilities and obligations can become overwhelming and our body begins to force us to slow down by producing physical ailments. But we really shouldn't let it get that far. If we look after ourselves on a regular basis, we can avoid illness and low moods and stay connected to that feel good place inside of us. It's always there, just waiting for us to quiet our minds, listen and feel....
So I have made a commitment to myself for more self-care this year. Of course I do look after myself as I practice yoga & meditation regularly and I eat really well, but nothing will sustain you if you never take time out. For the past few years I kept thinking that some opportunity would miraculously arise so that I would be able to take a break, but of course it didn't because I needed to make that decision for myself. No one else is going to do it for us, so we have to decide if we care about ourselves enough to carve out that time to nourish our bodies and minds.
So what is your self-care plan for this week/month/year? What are you going to do for yourself that will make you feel good? How often are you going to commit to it? Put it in your diary like any other appointment. This is YOU time and no matter what you may think, you DO deserve it and probably most likely need it too.