Category Archives: Mind

Mindfulness in Val Gardena

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I was tired. It was early in the morning, and my fingers were already numb with the cold. It was even snowing inside the cable car. I glared at the other people in their ugly ski clothing, who had pushed me on their way into our car, the first one, to reach the top before anyone else. It was the third day of our ski trip in Italy, and I was irritated. By everything.

It hit me then, how wrong this was. It was supposed to be my mindful month. I was supposed to enjoy each moment. And there I was, sulking away, for no substantial reason. So, I made a simple decision. I was not going to let my stress and bad mood ruin the rest of the trip. From now on, I would enjoy it. I turned my mind away from the other people, and watched the small, perfectly formed snowflakes that fell onto my jacket. I watched them melt. And slowly, I calmed down.

By the time we reached the top, my irritation was gone. When I saw the view, I didn’t mind the other people anymore. Their pushing was justified. How could you not want to struggle a bit for this? To get the first ride down these perfectly soft, newly pisted ski slopes. That morning, I had the best skiing of my life.

When I chose to savour things instead of letting them get on my nerves, there was suddenly so much to enjoy. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sun for a while, instead of getting irritated by the fact that I had to wait so long for my grandmother at the end of each slope. I sat back and enjoyed the beautiful British accent of the guys in the same chair lift, instead of grumbling about the cold wind in my face. I enjoyed four days of skiing with a newfound friend from the same coach journey, who suddenly started to talk to me, probably because I looked more friendly and open when I wasn’t angry. And when everyone else started to complain that the food wasn’t as good as it used to be, I kept quiet and enjoyed tasting new things.

I also noticed than when I was skiing more mindfully, I was less scared. When I was fourteen, I collided with another skier, and ever since, I have been a bit afraid. However, when I started to pay more attention to what I was doing, to the sound of the snow beneath my skis and the structure of the slope and the shapes that was formed by me and the other skiers, I had so much more control over the situation. I had time to choose my path and avoid risks, and for once, I could ski fast and without fear – even in the black slopes.

Sometimes bad things happen, things that provoke feelings that you cannot, and should not, control. But in everyday life situations, you always have a choice. You can choose where to put your energy, what to focus on and what to ignore.

In that cable car in the Alps of Italy, I chose to be happy. And suddenly I was.

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Filed under Attention, Fear, Feelings, Letting go, Mind, Mindfulness, Miranda, Physical exercise, Traveling, Uncategorized

I’m in meditation mood!

The other day I made a new and lovely discovery during my meditation session. It took me just a few minutes sitting their on my cushion before I got the feeling you get when doing a physical relaxation program. You know, when you go through your body, tightening your left hand and relaxing it, then tightening your right hand and relaxing it, and so on.  After a while it feels like your whole body is soaring above the bed, armchair, floor, or wherever you’re lying or sitting. That’s the sensation I reached – without a single second of physical relaxation – several times over the last few days, and it certainly does not make me less inclined to do my mediation.

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Filed under Meditation, Mind, Soul, Titania

Compensating for missing sleep

One of the five people in my life that I miss like crazy when going “on tour”.

Last night I slept on a train while travelling from one end of my country to another. Sleeping on trains is usually something I enjoy – and I particularly enjoy not flying and leaving big dirty ecological foot-prints when train is an alternative. This time, however, I was a bit unlucky. Firstly, a group of students going by train to their new campus decided to have a late-night party (= loud music and loud voices) in the compartment next to mine. Secondly, I woke up at four o’clock while the train was standing still for some time, and couldn’t manage to go back to sleep although I didn’t have to get off the train until 6.30. Besides, I didn’t feel comfortable doing my daily evening meditation in the minuscule compartment in the company of two unknown women. Having worked for 12 hours the day before and having to work for about as many hours today (including giving a four-hour lecture), the situation could have turned into a real disaster. But it didn’t.

The reason – at least I strongly believe so – was that when I couldn’t fall asleep because of all the noise yesterday night, I decided to treat myself to a reiki healing session. As I almost always do, I fell asleep before having gone through my whole body, but I still seem to have got the energy I needed to cope with today. I’ve heard somewhere that a reiki treatment can correspond to four hours of sleep. If that is true or not I cannot say, but I haven’t been tired at all today – in spite of only four hours of sleep and two really hectic working days. No headache either. I have actually had a really lovely day, in spite of  rainy weather, the best part being when one of the teachers participating in my workshop exclaimed that “This was a hallelujah moment!”.

PS. Note to self: Whenever I get to bed too late, do a session of reiki, no matter how short, before I fall asleep.

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Filed under Mind, Reiki, Soul, Titania

In the name of love

Ho, ye thoughtful, strong and gorgeous ladies. So many ideas, goals and strategies! Whatever you do the coming year – flood it with love for yourself! Work with your habits and possible flaws only because you love the divine person they are part of – and love that person because she has those flaws, not in spite of her having them. Love is the stream capable of carrying your project the whole way through, and much further. Lots of love and luck to you both!

The words come from my friend S, one of the wisest people I know, and a constant source of inspiration in my daily life. What she writes is so true: acceptance, tolerance and – especially – love are important ingredients in a project like ours; otherwise there is always the risk of ending up with performance anxiety, an ingredient we definitely don’t need. Something that makes my part of the project a bit different from Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project is that I’m not so much trying out new things in order to find out if they could make me happier. I am already happier than I’ve been in my entire life. I have stopped hunting, and found happiness all around me. What I want to do is simply to find  more room for things that I really enjoy doing.

With this perspective as the starting point, I feel that my project is infused with love, in every part of it. The commandment I put at the top of my list runs Give love, respect and attention to yourself and people around you. The very essence of my project is to show love and respect towards myself by focusing on things that I know make me feel good, or that are good for me. For instance, I loved my daily meditation routine three years ago, and I’ve longed to get back on track. However, with a life so filled with activity and people needing me as mine, it’s sometimes difficult to find time to do all the things I enjoy. I’ve tried, half-heartedly, for several months, but as soon as I integrated meditation in my project it became so much easier to prioritize.

Being able to document and reflect in writing on what happens in my project is another way for me to prioritize something that makes me go wild with happiness, thus again giving love to myself. Many thanks to you for patiently reading what I write!

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Filed under Love, Meditation, Mind, Soul, Titania

Mindful mowing

In recent years I have found an excellent strategy for coping with household chores and garden work: listening to radio programs (from online archives) on my smartphone. It now feels so much less boring – instead I get some time and space to be on my own, while beings served glimpses of interesting life stories or documentaries on exciting topics. Welcome laundry, dishes and lawn mowing, let’s have some quality time together!

Sunset behind our neighbours’ field next to our garden.

Today I’ve been doing garden work all day – splitting logs and mowing the lawn in our huge garden – and thus had an excellent opportunity to listen to the radio for hours. I was a little disappointed then, when doing the last 20 minutes of my mowing and my smart phone ran out of power. Suddenly all I could hear was the distant sound of the lawnmower outside of my hearing protectors. But then I decided to  turn the last part of my mowing into really mindful mowing. So I focused on feeling the grass under my feet, the handle of the mower shaking in my hands (the machine is a really old one), smelling the newly mown grass and watching the sun set.

And then tonight, I dug out my old yoga DVD from behind all the children’s movies and did a short session. I became a bit nostalgic when I heard the voice of the yoga instructor; it reminded me of my last pregnancy – I haven’t done any yoga since then. I had forgotten how hard it is when your body is unused to the positions (especially, I think, “the dog position”), but I will definitely give it a try.

To finish off this day, which has been very much focused on physical rather than mental activities, my younger daughters and I had a few lovely (and mindful!) minutes in the garden just before they went to bed, trying to spot bats, which tend to fly around our house at night. Before getting back inside, we also sang a traditional Maori song that we learnt at a wonderful camp a few weeks ago: Ma The Aroha – Where There Is Love, There Is Life!

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Filed under Mind, Mindfulness, Soul, Titania, Yoga

Recognise it, pause, breathe and deal with it (part I)

It is suddenly Sunday evening and I’ve spent the last few hours finishing my homework, slightly nauseous from wearing glasses for the first time in my life. Unlike Titania’s, my first week has been far from smooth. For various reasons I haven’t had the time or focus to keep up with my habits very well. I’ll try my best to get properly started with the project next week. However, the obstructive events of this week really made me see how important some areas of this project will be for me, especially the next two months, when I will focus on Confidence and Love. Swindling on the edge of disaster a few days ago, I truly realised how much my boyfriend and our relationship means to me, and how great an effort I am willing to make to improve it. I have also come up with a strategy that I think will be especially useful during these next two months.

When I was 17 years old, I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. I had cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for some time, until my therapist finally decided it didn’t help enough and prescribed antidepressants instead, which I never took (which I am tremendously thankful for today). I graduated from high school shortly afterwards, and since my biggest problem was related to classrooms, I managed to break the worst of my vicious circles on my own. The last few years I have developed a lot as a person, and I’m not even sure my social problems would count as a disorder anymore. Although I’m still scared of social situations I don’t run away from most of them anymore.

But this doesn’t mean I’m done working with my behaviour and myself. Two nights ago, I think I had the worst row of my life, and it was to a large extent caused by my insecurity. It came down to an ultimatum. Or well, I managed to play down his “leave and never come back” and promised to pull myself together, to quit being scared and insecure, to quit over-analysing things, and to let him be himself. Easy to say, hard to do, but for his, ours, and perhaps especially my own sake, I really must do this. Yesterday, I took a long walk with my mother and figured out a strategy to help me focus and remember what I need to do to work this out.

I believe the most difficult aspect of personal development in general is remembering all the things you need to remember to be able to change. When behaviours don’t come naturally you have to start doing them consciously, and when there is a heap of different behaviours you need to learn, it gets complicated. Take a conversation with a person you’re not totally comfortable with yet, for example. To have a normal conversation I would need to keep telling myself to keep eye contact, ask follow-up questions, say more than yes or no, stop picking at my nails instead of listening, and so on…

In the case of my relationship there are a lot of things I need to remember in order to change my behaviour for the better. To make things simpler, I have identified five things that affect my relationship badly, and that I really need to work with: fear, anxiety, jealousy, sulkiness and insecurity. When I’m scared I avoid things, like being myself at a party or telling my boyfriend what the matter is. When I’m anxious I try to keep control of everything (read: him). When I’m jealous I get sulky and feel anxious and insecure, when I’m sulky I ruin the mood, and when I’m insecure, being myself becomes even harder. It’s a vicious circle of destructive feelings that lead to no good at all. The good thing about these five feelings is that they are all quite easily recognisable. So what I need to do, to prevent these feelings from choking our relationship, is recognise them, pause, breathe and then deal with them.

If I can learn to follow this strategy, I think I will be able to deal with a large amount of different difficult situations by just remembering these four feelings and the right ways to deal with them. And which the right ways could be, I will figure out and write about in another post, because now it’s time to step away from the computer and do my back exercises. And tomorrow I’ll go running. The times they are a-changing, but I’m honestly happy, even in the middle of this chaos.

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Filed under Feelings, Mind, Miranda, Personal development, Relationships, Social anxiety

Back on the meditation track

I didn’t think it would be this easy to get started with a daily routine of evening meditation, but after a few days it already feels just as natural as it did a few years ago. Even if I’ve been up very late at night lately, I have had no problems motivating myself to sit down for my little session before going to bed. Yesterday I got the feeling that I recognize so well from the time in my life when I actually did meditate every evening: the feeling that I could sit there for ages – although it was over one 0’clock in the morning. Simply lovely!

When I did my mindful walk to the mailbox this morning I noticed that I was walking very slowly. This reminded me of the time when I was on parental leave with my youngest child and started doing things – such as shopping, laundry, watering my houseplants – very slowly (often because there was a little one hanging from a baby carrier in front of me). I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this, that it felt like meditation, and I decided that one part of my mindfulness project will be doing things, such as driving my car and eating, more slowly (otherwise I’m the kind of person who usually does things at high speed…).

My “office” for today!

I have also created a playlist for my Reiki sessions (for the first time in many years I did half a session the day before yesterday). A session is one hour long and contains twelve positions – so twelve tracks, five minutes each. The playlist also works very well as background music when I’m working (today I’m doing this at a really cosy café in the town where I live – and in a little while a friend of mine will be joining for a cup of tea). Enjoy your day!

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Filed under Meditation, Mind, Mindfulness, Reiki, Soul, Titania