Never Got Anything To Wear?

Maybe the problem isn’t your wardrobe. And maybe the solution isn’t a new outfit.

Maybe the problem is that you’re not really happy in your own skin?

That dissatisfaction with yourself, and your life as it currently is. How often does it spur you to spend money on things you don’t need? Things that provide temporary upticks in the otherwise constant-hum of background discontent?

You know you’re carrying excess weight but rather then addressing the core issue you buy yourself a new outfit to make yourself feel better, from the outside in.

Or maybe you’re caught up in the cultural obsession with self-flagellation, perfectionism and all-round self-bashing with the never-good-enough stick. So you buy yourself a new outfit to temporarily feel good enough, from the outside in.

I was doing yoga teacher training with Rod Stryker once and I remember him joking about this concept. How we convince ourselves that if we just buy that new scarf/bag/dress/coat/haircut we’ll be happier. Nirvana is just one more transaction away.

We buy into it, because it does work. Temporarily.

For a short spell we feel closer to the kickass-badass-goddess deep down we know we are. Our outer appearance feels temporarily more in alignment with our inner vision. But it’s a bandaid. It’s not the actual solution to the problem we’re seeking to solve.

I remember another time in my life. A time when I had indeed found the solution to the inner discontent.

I was having a lot of fun. I was partying. I was making friends. I had lots of options and opportunities at my feet. I felt like the whole world was my oyster.

This was all mindset btw. This was how I was choosing to experience my relationship to life.

I was in love with life.  Someone actually pulled me up on it and asked me to spill the beans. To tell them who I’d met. No-one in particular. Life was my lover.

And guess what? I never once at this time felt like I had nothing to wear. I was happy wearing anything. Everything in my wardrobe had its charm.

I felt great, so everything I wore looked and felt great. To me at least. And that’s all that matters, right?  I remember a particular cardigan that cost £2, primark-second-hand through a charity shop. It was great, I looked fine and dandy in it and enjoyed wearing it. The End. No clothes drama. Ever. I was having far too much fun revelling in how wonderful it was to be me to care all that much about what I was wearing. Honestly, I would have been comfortable and confident rocking a bin-bag!

So what’s the point of all this? Next time you feel like you ‘have nothing to wear‘ consider this:

Self-care is the best outfit.

Self-love is the best make-up.

Do something for yourself that will truly fill you up with love and light, from the inside-out. 

 

 

 

If you’re done with band-aid-solutions to your woes and ready to get stuck into making real lifestyle changes that will have you radiating from the inside out, check out my Happy Healthy Habits course.  Next courses start September 2018 and January 2019. Register your interest now if you’re ready to start feeling your best.

You’re The Author Of Your Own Story

A few years ago I was in a major early-adulthood rut. I hit a fork in the road and had to make a major decision about which direction I wanted my life to take. I made the right choice but the process knocked the hell out of me.

I was energetically-depleted, and, despite being pretty “health-conscious”, didn’t feel all that in control of my health and wellbeing.

My waistline was expanding for a start. Not massively, but enough for me to see that, despite being relatively healthy by our cultural standards, I was still basically on the usual ageing trajectory which = degeneration over time.  Slower for some. Faster for others.

I did not like what I was experiencing. My yoga training had also told me, and shown me countless times, that this was not an inevitability.  Images of 150-year-old Indian yogis tied up like pretzels and prancing around like spring chicks kept cropping up.

You’ve heard the phrase “when the student is ready the teacher appears”. Well, just as I was in my slumpy-rut-a-tut-rut wondering what the hell to do next, I saw an advert on facebook for a 10-week programme that promised to get my life on track by guiding me step-by-step through the 10 core habits of yogis that ALL humans need to thrive.

The timing was divine. It was exactly what I needed. Structure. Support. A step-by-step plan.

I LOVE a good plan. 🙂

The best bit is, after implementing just habit 1 for a few weeks, I was out of my rut and back into the flow of my life.

I was so impressed by this course and how effective it was in getting me back in the driving seat of my life and into an upward spiral that I quickly signed up to become a yoga health coach so I could offer the programme myself.

And here I am doing just that.

So if you are in a rut. Whether you know it or not.

If you are feeling less than your best (and fyi: 99% of us are nowhere nearexperiencing the full potential of how good we can feel and how awesome we can rock this life!)

If your body is experiencing the effects of ageing and of our modern stress-filled life.

If you have aches, pains, niggles, extra pounds, random injuries and chronic sickness/illnesses.

If you haven’t got the energy you once had, but still have so much you want to do with life.

If you keep on repeating the same old patterns that you know no longer serve you, but can’t work out how to get yourself out of this trap.

If your body is sending you various signals and your mental response is “oooh, guess that’s because I’m getting on now”.

If you’d like to do more and feel better, but feel stuck in “I can’t”, “it’s not possible anymore”.

If you’ve given up on yourself, but not quite entirely yet.

If you’re resigned to the fact that degeneration over time is just a fact of life.

I’m here to tell you that this is all OPTIONAL!

It’s a choice.

Your write your own story, any way you want.

Just so you know.

You have so much choice.

Choice and power.

Over how you feel, physically, mentally and emotionally.

If you’re not rolling around reveling in just how much power, choice, and control you have over your life and how you feel. If you’re not consciously deciding how awesome you want to feel each day, but you’d like to, then please, PLEASE, for the love of all the goddesses, don’t struggle solo any more. It just ain’t fun. Or effective.

Take the first step now and register your interest in the next 10-week Happy Healthy Habits course which starts in September. There mightn’t be enough places left for you this time around but at least you’ll have taken a small step today and you’ll be on the wait-list for the next time around.

The next course is heavily discounted for the last time and I only have 5 out of 10 spots left as of today.

So if you want to take a giant leap in your well-being this year, don’t dilly-dally on yourself.

The. Time. Is. Now.

 

You’ve heard my story, but here’s an update from a  dear client who took my last course…

The last course really kicked started things for me – I’ve started yoga classes 

again and regularly run.  I had never ran before, always wanted to but didn’t think I could due to arthritis and ‘can’t do’ attitude.

The people on the course inspired me along with the kaizen steps. I even managed a half marathon earlier this year with another one planned in October! I NEVER thought I would do that!! 

You’ll notice the client used the term “kick-started”. The power of this course doesn’t just lie in the course itself and the 10-weeks we spend together, but the new and better trajectory that you step onto as a result of doing this work, and the positive compound effect this continues to have on your life throughout the rest of your lifetime.

Will your epic testimonial be featured here this time next year?

Here’s a fun exercise if you’d like to be in a position to write something like the above a year from now. This exercise will literally get you writing a new story for yourself. Enjoy!

OTHER UPCOMING EVENTS

 

Two free online talks coming up next month on Lifestyle Medicine.  Pick up some simple tips on how to add more years to your life and more life to your years,  from the comfort of your own home. How easy is that?

More details and registration here.

5 Things I Learned From Tidying Up

A blog about tidying up, really? Really. It’s a game changer. If you do it properly.

Your Must-Read Tidying Manuals

Looking to overhaul your lifestyle and take it up a notch in 2018? You might want to start  by putting your house in order.  In fact, I highly recommend you do.

I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up a few years ago. I partially applied the information, as I do with so many books and resources, and got partial results. Still, I was hooked in. This woman is clearly onto something.

Towards the end of last year I had a niggling sensation that I needed to put my stuff in order, properly. Once. And. For. All. The accumulation of stuff that I didn’t need or find joy in was creating a lot of background noise and taking up bandwidth I no longer had to spare with an energy and attention-hungry seven month old around. 

I re-read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying over Christmas along with her companion book Spark Joy. Spark Joy goes over the same approach but gives  lots of practical tips on how to go about the process. The two books were just the inspiration I needed to get my house in order. I’m about half way through, but already I can see some big shifts.

If you too are feeling like life could be simpler and more joyful in the process, like you’ve accumulated too much stuff and it’s weighing you down unnecessarily, I highly recommend reading either, or both, of these wonderful books!

The Basic Tidying  Principles

There are a few basic principles to tidying that MUST be adhered to, at least if you’re looking to follow the KonMarie method and do one mother-of-all-tidies, and then be done. For good. Ahhh the dream!

  • Commit to this one big-mother-of-all-tidies. It’s a bit of effort yes, but committing a few days or weeks now will save you hours and hours of time of daily and weekly tidying and sifting through unnecessary bumf for the rest of your life. It’s an investment. Plus, you’ll love your environment, and all the things you choose to keep in it will bring you joy. Now doesn’t that sound nice? Hold onto that vision. Things will get a little messy before they get clearer.
  • Tidy by category NOT by location. The order of categories to be tackled is clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous stuff, and finally sentimental items.  DO NOT stop to tackle sentimental items sporadically along the way. This will derail you, for sure. Leave it until the end. Follow the order and all will be well.
  • In order to tidy by category you have to gather all your possessions within that category to deal with them in one go. Only by doing this can you realise just how much stuff you have. I never realised, for instance, that I have about a billion hairbands. Because I’ve never tidied properly, nor do I have one location for such items, so I end up buying more. I also found about 5 iPhone chargers, 5 Kindle chargers,  and 3 spare working headphones. My partner had bought more of these items as they kept disappearing, into the murky underworld of my unorganised stuff.  Oops.  Time and time again I kept finding things that could be in use but that had been forgotten about buried under other things. There is literally no point in owning more stuff than you can keep an eye on and actually use. If it’s buried and forgotten it might as well not be there.
    All or the pencils I found stuffed in books as I was sorting my book collection. Now is that any way to treat your books?

     

  • The order of categories is also important as you must start with the easiest items and move your way along to the more challenging i.e. those tough sentimental items (I’ve yet to tackle this category thoroughly). The criteria for tidying is that you first decide what to keep and what to discard. You take each item in turn and ask ‘Does this spark joy?’ So actually you’re just choosing what to keep. If it sparks joy you keep it. If it doesn’t, you thank it and discard it. This is a key point with the method; don’t focus on what to discard, focus on what to keep, focus on what brings you joy.

Another reason it’s good to gather all your possessions by category is that you can work out what sparks joy through comparison.  If you’re struggling to decide what sparks joy pick out your three favourite items in the category, for example, your three favourite items of clothing.  Your house is burning down and you can grab three items of clothing. Which do you salvage?  Once you have these notice how these make you feel. Compare other items to these. You quickly work out what really brings you joy.

  • Another important point is not to put things away until you’re done selecting what to keep. Only then can you see how much you have left and find each item a suitable home.

 

5 Things I Learned Through This Process

 

  1. By God I love the Japanese.  There’s a concept in Japan called Ikigai, it’s your raison d’etre, your purpose or mission. This is one of the things that keeps the Japanese living long healthy lives. They find something they are passionate about and they dig in deeeeeeeep. Marie Kondo has been obsessed with tidying since she was little, only by following this passion allllllll the way has she been able to illuminate so many lives by showing us the impact of something seemingly mundane such as tidying. So, whatever it is that really floats YOUR boat, whatever your deep interest is, follow it, follow it, follow it, follow it. The world needs people to dive deeply into whatever they love and share the jewels they find in that particular spot.
  2. This process of tidying is really a deep look at your life, at who you are,  and how you want to live. Confronting your stuff is really about confronting your Self. What  do I love? How do I want to spend my time? What brings me the most joy? What struck me most as I was going through my clothes was that I’d never really, really, contemplated what brings me, me personally, joy. How odd is that? I’ve been accumulating stuff pretty much unconsciously. I went through many items of clothing that were nice, in good condition, looked good on me, that I’d bought myself, and realised that there were lots that just did not spark joy.  I now have a clearer idea of what brings me joy.  I find it much easier to let stuff that’s served its purpose go, even if its purpose was just to teach me ‘you idiot stop spending money on stuff you don’t really need or love!’
  3. Each item has a spirit and wants to bring  its owner joy. We are doing our possessions a disservice if we cling on to items that cannot spark joy in us. We are depriving them of the opportunity to fulfill their function and spark joy in someone else. As I pulled out clothes that had been buried and unused for months, or years even, I apologised to these items and put them on the ‘set free’ pile to be sent back out into circulation and continue their journey. If you’re finding it hard to let go of something even though you don’t use it and it doesn’t spark joy, ask yourself, would you give this item to someone who had nothing and really needed it? Then let it go with that intention in mind, sending it on its way with blessings and butterflies.
  4. For those items that bring you joy and you choose to keep, Marie Kondo suggests thanking them regularly for how they work to support you. The more love and appreciation poured into each item the more they sparkle. So, yes, it’s a bit weird, but as I put my clothes neatly away at the end of the day I thank them, ‘good job guys’.  By clearing out all the stuff that doesn’t really bring me joy I’m also noticing my relationship to the stuff that’s remained has changed. I’m more careful about how I fold and put clothes away (there is A LOT of information about folding in the books :-), I’m also noticing  when an item of clothing has a hole in it and I find myself taking the time to sit down and stitch it back together again. I’m using the things that remain more. I have more time and energy to use, enjoy and properly care for the things I’ve chosen to keep. That feels nice.
  5. I learned all about poverty consciousness and letting go of fears about not having enough. There’s a lot of trust involved in letting go of possessions. Trust that if you need something in the future you will have the means to acquire it again. Letting go of ‘just in case’ items is letting go of our poverty consciousness. Trusting that we have what we need now and if our needs change in the future they will be met then also.

“When you wear and surround yourself with the things you love, your house becomes your own personal paradise”  – Marie Kondo

How’s your space looking? Have you ever had a tidying festival and put your house in order?

Kitchen Sadhana

sadhana is a spiritual practice, or discipline, done repetitively and consistently for the refinement of Self.  Kitchen Sadhana is the practice of conscious food preparation.

My yoga teacher says “yoga starts in the kitchen.” High vibe food, lovingly made with our own hands, or “happy food” as my teacher calls it, is the earthy, most tangible foundation of awake living.

The food we eat becomes the tissue of our physical body. Happy food makes for happy, healthy tissue. Junk food, or “grumpy food” as guru-ji likes to say, makes for unhappy and ultimately confused and sick tissue. If we fill our trunk with junk we can’t hope to thrive or experience our potential.

We want to nourish to flourish, and that means shining the light of awareness into our kitchen. Us Yogis like to take control of our biochemistry to experience the bliss that is our true nature. Our bodies are our laboratory, and so is our kitchen.

Kitchen Sadhana For Modern Times

I first came across the concept of Kitchen Sadhana in Maya Tiwari’s Ayurvedic book A Life of Balance. Her kitchen sadhana involves lots of hand grinding grains and spices. I’ve taken the concept and adapted it liberally for my preference for faster-paced food prep.

I don’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen daily, but I love spending a 1-2 hour chunk of time each week purposefully on my Kitchen Sadhana.

When I’m hungry I want to eat NOW. I don’t want to jump through the hoops of deciding what to make while looking through cupboards and the fridge to see what ingredients are on hand. But I also want to eat well.

Behavioural science shows us that if we want to take certain actions, like making better food choices, we have to make it as easy as possible for ourselves to do this. Otherwise, it just won’t happen.

I find this to be so very true.  If I’m trying to elevate my food choices to nourish myself better than I have in the past, I need to make decisions around how this is going to happen and what this next version of myself would like to eat ahead of time.

If I wait until the moment when I’m stepping into the kitchen after a long day working to decide what to eat, it’s already too late. I’m probably maxed out on decision fatigue and in the split second it takes to decide what to make I’m highly likely to step on the old, well-worn path and repeat old patterns, because that’s easy.

It’s much easier to make decisions and consciously plan better food choices for the week ahead of time. My kitchen sadhana is my opportunity to do this. To take some time, when I’m not hungry, in a rush, or needing to make food quickly, to align my kitchen with the sort of nourishment I want to gift myself in the coming week.

Why You Want a Kitchen Sadhana

Each time we eat we’re making an offering to our physical body. We have an opportunity at every meal to shape who we’re evolving into each day through conscious food choices.

A single meal might not seem like a big deal but consider this, we eat three meals a day, 265 days a year for an average lifespan of 81 years, that’s 88,695 opportunities to have a conscious and healing and nourishing interaction with food.

Each encounter is an opportunity to step into greater health and vitality, or to create inner sludge and toxins – ama in Ayurveda- that eventually leads us to disease. So there’s a lot at stake. The foundation of our future wellbeing lies in our kitchen today. Is your kitchen set up in such a way that that making the best possible food choices is the path of least resistance?

How To Create Your Own Kitchen Sadhana

Ask yourself:

  • How do I want to nourish myself in this next phase?
  • What do I want to eat this coming week?
  • What can I prepare ahead of time to make it super easy for me to do this?

My Kitchen Sadhana usually takes places on a Saturday or Sunday. I might stick some music on and get stuck into the fun of cleaning, tidying, soaking, drying, washing, chopping, and whatever else needs doing to pave the way for a healthy week full of happy food.

Here are some of the things I might enjoy doing as part of my kitchen sadhana time:

  • Clearing up cupboards. I find things can get a bit disordered in the busy-ness of mid-week so this is a time to straighten things out and put things away in an orderly fashion so I can quickly navigate the kitchen during the week.
  • Stock check: I check what I’ve got in stock so I can plan meals around what I already have and avoid wastage, or buying and stocking more than I need. I’ll also note what’s missing and make up my shopping list for the week as I do this. I shop with Ocado and find their app invaluable, I just add things to the trolley on the app as I go along.
  • Meal planning: I’ll write out some simple meal ideas for the week. Often I’ll browse through my recipe books for inspiration and perhaps pick out a new recipe or something I haven’t made in awhile. I don’t necessarily stick to the plan religiously but it helps me to have a range of options and ingredients so I can quickly pick something each day and do whatever food prep is needed in the morning  or the night before. This might not sound that useful but honestly, it makes it so much easier to stay on track during the week when you’re tired and maybe less motivated, if you can simply look at a meal planner and read the directions from the highly-motivated-weekend-version-of-yourself.
  • Food prep: I might use this time to actually prepare some of my ingredients, maybe washing and chopping vegetables, soaking beans or
    nom nom batches of sauerkraut, fermented beets and humous!

    nuts and seeds. I’ve been making tabouleh a lot recently so I might chop some carrots, cucumber and tomatoes and have those ready in a container so that I can simply add hot water to the bulgar wheat in the morning (1 minute job) and then mix in the veggies at lunchtime (another 1 minute) to complete the meal. So fast, so easy!

  • Batching food staples: I might also make up some batches of foods thatcan be combined with different meals for variety throughout the week. I like making a big batch of hummus for instance, or sauerkraut. This week I made a big batch of vegan coleslaw which spruces up any salad in an instance and adds a nice dash of colour to most meals.
  • I’ll usually buy bulk packs of grains and legumes so I might spend some
    mmm vegan coleslaw with nuts and seeds. I can chuck a few spoonfuls onto some kale or lettuce for a snazzy salad in an instant.

    time replenishing the smaller mason jars I keep on hand with this stock.

Kitchen Sadhana allows me to make quick, healthy meals on the fly, with minimal effort or thought on days when I’m busy and pinched for time. I like to see this time I spend prepping ahead as a gift to my future, busier, self.

As a new mum this practice has become essential in allowing me to continue rustling up healthy meals in the limited time I have available.

Five Simple Rituals to Detox This Spring

Spring is the yearly equivalent of early morning. It’s full of potential, we have everything ahead.

Just as how we spend the first few moments of each day sets the tone for the rest of our day,  the start of spring is also a powerful juncture where we have a unique opportunity to positively impact what’s ahead.

Here are five simple practices to get this new beginning off to the best start.

  1. Detox Your Outer Space

There’s a natural desire to cleanse at this time of year. That extra layer of winter fat is no longer helpful or needed, it’s just weighing us down. Spring is a dynamic and buoyant time when we’re naturally poised to thrive, but it’s difficult to soar when we’re weighted down with excess, including external excess.

Spend a week or two clearing out your space. External clutter is just internal clutter on display. If you need some inspiration check out Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You can listen to the audiobook on youtube for free.

The approach is simple, divide your stuff into categories – clothes, books, gadgets/equipment, sentimental items etc… – then tackle each one in turn.

For each item ask yourself whether it’s still useful, have you used it in the last 6 months? Will you use it in the next 6 months? If it’s not useful, then, does it spark joy? If it’s not useful and it doesn’t spark joy, pass it on, allow the item to be useful or joyful to someone else.

When our space is cluttered we block the flow of new ideas. Our space shouldn’t be a museum to who we’ve been but an open invitation to the person we’re becoming. Cherish who you are now by releasing the stuff that no longer serves you.

Another wonderful resource for this first step is www.theminimalists.com. They also have a great podcast, tune in and get some inspiration on your commute to work. Joshua Becker puts it beautifully, “There’s more joy to be found in owning less, than could ever be found in pursuing more.”

“Elimination equals illumination”- Elson Hass

2. Detox Your Inner Space

You might find that your inner space starts to naturally detox just by following step 1. I’ve heard of many people who’ve tried the Marie Kondo method, or some other form of minimizing, and found excess weight dropping off as a side effect. As above so below, and as without so within, it would seem.

Detoxing our inner space is a lot like detoxing our outer space. If we don’t clear out our outer space from time to time we end up with excess stuff cluttering up our space and creating inefficiency in our lives. Think of kitchen cupboards that get full of old food. When we accumulate too much over time some stuff get stuffed to the back of cupboards, we forget its even there, it essentially becomes useless, just taking up space. And then it goes off.
I like to think of a physical detox like clearing out our internal cupboards. For a short period of time we stop the influx of food and dial everything down to zero. You might do a complete fast, or you might just simplify your diet down to nourishing juices, smoothies, and soups.

The focus is on simple foods that are easy to digest so that your digestive system gets a much-needed break. When our digestive system isn’t so busy continuously breaking down complex foods it has time to go rummaging around in the cupboards of the body and pulling out the old stuff that’s no longer useful, often stored as fat!

Take some time to cleanse internally in spring and your body will reward you tenfold throughout the rest of the year.

The body loves efficiency, when we allow it to clear out the excess inner space-invaders we’re rewarded with greater physical energy and mental clarity.

3. Spend More Time Outdoors

Make the most of the longer and warmer days and get outside to soak up the vitality of the season. We know intuitively that being in nature feels good so make the most of this free source of healing energy.

If you haven’t heard of Earthing then definitely look into it and give it a whirl. It’s as simple as taking your shoes and socks off and stepping out onto your garden lawn. I won’t go into too much detail here, I wrote this blog recently where I dive into my experiences with it this last month, so if you’re interested, check it out.

I will just say that it’s reduced my partner’s anxiety levels from a 7 to a 3 in the space of a few weeks.

He is nowhere near as far down the “hippy” end of the spectrum as I am. He’s definitely more your ‘man-of-science-type’ and is generally skeptical about these sorts of things, but he’s been totally hooked on earthing since he first stepped barefoot onto the grass for 10 minutes a few weeks ago and noticed that it took the edge off his anxiety. He’s been doing it every day since and has felt better than he has in a long time.

It seems that making direct contact with the earth harmonises our physiology. It reduces inflammation, pain, speeds up injury recovery and has a positive effect on our emotional and mental wellbeing. It’s basically magic as far as i can tell 🙂

4. Detox Your Habits

Take a little time-out at the beginning of spring to simplify your routine and spend some quiet time in reflection. The space we create during a time-out gives us access to a new perspective, it allows us to take stock of our existing habits, patterns and behaviours.

Assess whether your habits are still serving you, or what they might be costing you. Are you a five-coffees-a-day person? What’s that costing you, if anything? Do you tend to over-schedule and be constantly busy? What might that be costing you?

What stories and thought patterns are perpetuating old habits?

What are you ready to release from your mind space?

During detox we come off auto-pilot and make some conscious course-corrections, we want to be sure we’re heading in the right direction, towards greater health and wellbeing.

5. Plant New Seeds of Intention

Once all the clearing and cleansing is done we can focus on setting positive intentions for the year ahead. Carve out some quiet time where you can sit and journal.

Here are some enquiry questions to get you started:

What are the challenges I face right now?

How do I want to feel?

What’s one simple thing I could start doing to feel how I want to feel tomorrow, next week and next month?

What diet or lifestyle routines do I want to change?

Am I getting enough sleep?

What yoga or exercise routine feels the best to me right now?

Take time to pause now and do some of the above and you’ll head into the rest of the year with a spring in your step!

 

The first Vibrant Living course was a blast! A group of 12 health adventurers committed to a 10-week, self-care deep-dive.

We picked apart our daily routine to up-level our habits and experience more energy, vitality and ease in our daily lives.

You can read all about it here If you want to join our Vibrant Living community, the next course starts in September. Discounts are available for the first five people to sign up, so if you’re interested in up-levelling your health apply here and we’ll chat soon.

 

 

Yoga Isn’t About Touching Your Toes – It’s About What You Learn On The Way Down

There’s a common misconception that you have to be flexible to practice yoga.  This couldn’t be further from the truth. While increased flexibility is one of the many side-benefits of practicing yoga, it’s certainly not a prerequisite or even the goal.

How flexible you are is pretty much irrelevant and of little interest. The heavens don’t open when your pelvis touches the ground in full hanumansana , there’s no spontaneous self-realization when you finally master that arm-balance that’s been your nemesis since you began practice. Touching your toes isn’t the goal. Standing on your hands isn’t the goal. The goal is creating a space to see yourself as you are. The fruits of the practice are in the practice itself. Our yoga practice reflects our life and as with life it’s all about the journey, not the destination.

 

Yoga poses aren’t about the poses

Yoga poses reflect the diverse situations we encounter in life. Some we like, some not so much. Some are pleasant and come easily to us. Others appear to defy physics and/or feel like they’ve been sent to destroy us personally.

But yoga poses aren’t really about the poses at all. Each posture is like a mirror within which we can see our selves and our conditioned reactivity more clearly.

They bring the out-dated beliefs, assumptions and thoughts that are imprinted in our mind (samskaras) up to the surface for evaluation. Are we going to continue to be slaves to these out-dated beliefs and habits that drive our reactivity? Or are we going to transmute them through the light of our awareness so that we’re consciously serving our highest potential? This is the alchemy of yoga, like turning base metals into gold; we raise our consciousness from a base level of reactivity to increasingly finer levels of responsiveness.

The space we create in our practice affords us the opportunity to intercept reactivity and practice instead skilfully responding in a way that optimally serves the situation.

So forget whether the shape you’re making looks like the magazine covers. Guide your awareness internally instead. What’s going on inside? How are you responding? Do you actively resist any discomfort? Do you try to wriggle away and avoid anything that isn’t pleasant? Do you make it ten times worse through a barrage of mental drama? How does your ego respond to all this? Can you breathe and cultivate and maintain a mental equanimity regardless of which pose you’re in? Can you stay connected to your breath and the ease that’s behind each moment? Or do you tense up, hold your breath and try to blast through? Are you courageously leaning into the resistance you encounter in order to explore your growing edges like a veritable adventurer or are you mentally checking out? Fleeing the scene? And can you notice ALL of this without judgement??

 

Our practice reflects our lives

Our practice reflects our life, and our life reflects our practice. How we respond to what arises on our mat is also how we respond to what arises in our lives. At first we simply notice our own reactivity, our patterns and tendencies and how these manifest. Then, in the space created within our practice, we intercept the reactivity and explore responding consciously instead. Can we maintain a steady breath, an equanimous mind and an open heart (and maybe even a smile!) even in our most challenging poses? Can we stay connected to the ease that’s behind each moment through the easy and the hard, the comfortable and uncomfortable? This consistency that we develop, this ability to stay steady, conscious and responsive, whatever arises, on and off the mat, is the promise of the practice. And sure, you’ll probably end up able to touch your toes as well.

Our practice truly reflects our life. How we offer ourselves to our practice reflects how we offer ourselves to our lives. Next time you step on your mat, notice how you approach your practice. Are you offering your full attention to your practice or is your mind elsewhere? Are you approaching it with a sense of reverence, or mechanically as though it were another item on your ‘to do’ list? Are you fully experiencing and learning what each posture has to offer or is your mind already on ‘the next thing’? Are you enjoying the process or are you waiting to arrive someplace before you permit yourself joy? If you can’t be present to yourself on the mat chances are you’re not present to your life. If you can’t find joy in the moment on the mat chances are you’re not finding joy in the moment in your life.

Our practice reflects our life; and our life reflects our practice.

Our time on the mat gives us the opportunity to change our relationship to ourselves and to our lives. When we dive deeply into our practice we create space, in our mind and in our body, and within that space we presence ourselves as we re. We observe the sensations and thoughts that pass through and decide consciously, whether we want to be unconscious slaves to each transitory thought and sensation or skilful masters of our lives. As we refine our practice we refine our relationship to life.

Some questions for exploration as you practice:

  • Am I able to bear witness to my strengths and weaknesses, without judgement? Or am I entertaining thoughts of ‘not good enough’, ‘not strong enough’, ‘not flexible enough’?
  • How do I approach my practice? Is it with a sense of reverence or as another thing on my ‘to do’ list?
  • Am I willing to be present for myself?
  • How am I offering my efforts and energy to my practice? Am I blasting through and depleting myself or am I consciously emanating a consistent and steady energy?
  • Am I fully present to this moment or has my mind already wandered to ‘the next thing?’
  • Am I opening to the process and getting curious about what I might learn about myself or am I comparing myself to others?
  • What unexamined thoughts, beliefs, assumptions are colouring my experience of this moment?
  • Am I connected to my full breath and the ease behind each moment? Or am I holding my breath and creating tension?
  • Am I creating space internally with my breath or am I sacrificing space to push deeper into a posture?

Whatever answers you find to these questions while practising yoga, remember, these aren’t limited to your yoga practice, this is about your relationship to yourself and your orientation to life.

Yoga is for anyone who’s willing to dive beneath the surface of mundane existence and experience the truth of their being. Whatever story is preventing you from diving in (I’m not flexible, strong, young, skinny [insert thought here] enough please take note, that’s just a samskara, an old story you tell yourself to stay small. Don’t play small. You’re magnificent beyond measure.

Namaste

The Compound Effect – Is It Working For You Or Against You?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, not compound interest on pensions specifically but the compound effect. This effect isn’t limited to our pension pots, it’s playing out in our lives every day.

 

Let’s look at the effect in this story.

 

Three friends, three lives

 

Jane, Sarah and Margaret went to school together. They’re still good friends and live in the same area. They have similar interests and still hang out frequently . They have similar jobs and earn similar salaries. They’re married with pretty average lives; average weight, average house, average, average. They’re in their 30s and at  a crucial tipping point. They’ve been in sedentary office jobs and in the comfort of marriage for many years now and they’re starting to see the signs. A bit of flabbiness around the expanding waistlines. A little bit of stiffness and tightness from sitting all day. A little bit of boredom from a somewhat humdrum existence.

 

Jane plods along doing what she’s always done. She’s pretty content although she complains occasionally that life’s a bit dull and, well you know, same old same old.

 

Sarah starts to make a few small changes, nothing crazy, nothing her two friends would necessarily notice. She can see things sliding in a less than optimal direction and she wants more for herself.

 

She decides to drink more water to clarify the distinction between thirst and hunger and she stops snacking thus cutting out a few hundred calories from her day. She also starts to use her lunch hour to read some personal development books and listen to some inspiring podcasts.

 

She’s ready to make some changes in her life and is curious about some small things she can do to tip things in a more positive direction.  She knows her office job is pretty sedentary so she makes the decision to park half a mile away from work so that she gets to walk 1 mile every day.

 

These are simple changes but she knows how easy it is to not do even the simplest of things, so she determines to commit to sticking with these small improvements to her routine.

 

Margaret makes a few changes too, though less well-conceived. Life’s a little humdrum so she decides to spend and entertain her way out of it. She buys a big cinema-screen TV for the living room and gets a Sky subscription so she can watch the best TV shows and movies.  She loves watching the cookery channel and takes to baking.

 

The office where she works love the treats she bakes, as do her children. She feels gratified and bakes regularly. She eats what she bakes too. Regularly.

 

She also starts drinking a little wine with dinner most nights. Nothing crazy, but hey, she wants to have fun and relax, kick back with a little tipple. She’s a responsible adult and deserves to enjoy life.

 

As 6 months go by there are no discernible differences between the three friends. There’s choices have not made any perceptible difference to their lives. There are no major declines or improvements from these small changes.

 

At the end of a year there’s still not really any difference.

 

At 18 months things start to shift.

 

At 24 months the results of the choices are showing more clearly.  

 

At 36 months the differences are evident. Margeret is now fat while Sarah is lean and fit. Sarah has lost 14 kilos just by cutting out snacking and committing to moderate exercise every day.

 

Margaret has gained nearly 14 kilos by eating more baked goods, drinking frequently, and not consciously adding a little exercise into each day.

 

They’ve chosen to move in opposing directions. The results of their choices have compounded over time and taken them to entirely different places.

 

Sarah has also invested over 1000 hours in reading self-development guides. Her marriage is thriving as a result and she’s had the self-awareness and clarity to move into a new career more aligned with her values and goals. This brings her even more satisfaction.  

 

Margaret is unhappy at work and her marriage is shaky. Margaret’s decision to invest in rich, gooey, baked goods as the path forwards has had some negative effects.

 

The extra food made her feel lethargic and less likely to exercise. She wakes up in the morning feeling tired and sluggish because of the extra calories. She takes this sluggishness into work and is less effective than she could be. She misses out on promotions and feels discouraged by her lack of progress.

 

She dives back into cakes for solace and continues the cycle. Feeling generally negged-out about life she’s less than stellar with her husband. She hasn’t the energy to do the things that would make her feel good, like go for walks with her husband.

 

Because she’s not as happy she disconnects from her husband. Lost in the mire of this downward spiral she doesn’t realise she’s the reason her marriage is rocky and that her career is going nowhere.

 

Because she hasn’t invested her time reading inspiring and illuminating material but has instead spent her time numbing out on watching Sky she has no idea that the problems she’s facing are entirely her own making.  

 

Jane is the same as she was 2-3 years ago, except now she’s a more bitter that nothing has changed or improved and another 3 years have passed.

 

The force is either working for you or against you

 

And that’s the compound effect. It’s a force to be reckoned with. You can consciously use it to your benefit or you can allow it to slowly but surely pummel you into the ground.

 

It’s either working for you or against you. If this is the difference between 3 friends over a 2-3 year period, imagine the difference over 10 years, or 20, or a lifetime?

 

Extraordinarily Successful versus Ordinary

 

Small, intelligent choices carried out over a long period of time give astounding results. It almost looks like a miracle. And yet it’s not. It’s entirely predictable.

 

Everything you need to know about your future, your likelihood of experiencing success, fulfillment, health and happiness, is right here in the small actions and choices you’re making today.  

 

Look at your actions today and imagine them compounded over 5, 10, 15, 20 years. Are they taking you to the end that you most want for yourself?

 

If you’re taking good care of your body and mind now, the interest on those assets will grow exponentially over time. If you’re not taking good care of your body and mind, the decline will be equally exponential.

 

What I’ve come to realize recently is that we have a lot of control over who we are, the sort of body we have, the experiences we get to have in life, and precisely how we age.

 

Disease and degeneration is not an inevitable part of ageing. It’s just negative compound interest. A life built on accumulated days that don’t really support you from the inside out. Days that start with a coffee rather than a huge glug of water and some exercise. Days that are spent passively absorbing light entertainment rather than actively learning new skills. Days that are spent throwing denatured food down the pie-hole while on the run versus days spent carving out time for proper nourishment. Days spent stressing and worrying versus days spent developing a deep, trusting and co-creative relationship to life.

 

The tiny choices you make every day will either take you towards the life of your dreams  or a default life.

 

The True Cost of Spending

I set myself a ‘no-spend-challenge’ this month. The idea is to see how often the impulse to purchase something comes from a genuine need for something that will truly enrich my life and add to my overall happiness, and how often it’s just consumption for the sake of consumption, chasing that fleeting buzz from a new purchase.

I’ve been inspired by the lanserad President of Uruguay who is officially ‘the poorest president’. I love his response to this title: ‘I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more, it’s a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself.” We probably Treatment all get this intellectually. He goes on to make the point even clearer: “when you buy something, you’re not paying money for it. You’re paying Warrior with the hours of your life you had to spend earning that money.The difference is that life is one thing money can’t buy. Life only gets shorter. And it is pitiful to waste one’s life and freedom that way.” 

One thing I’ve done this month is calculated how much I earn in an hour. When I come to buy something now I really consider, ‘is this worth an hour… a day…a week of my life?’

My partner and I recently got caught up in the consumption cheap mlb jerseys trap and started planning a massive redesign of our house; a mega extension that would give us heaps of space and a ‘proper phat pad’ that would have people scrapping their jaws off the floor upon entering and beholding it in its awesome glory   We got wholesale nfl jerseys some designs mocked up and several quotes.  Then we (or my partner rather, he’s clever like that) calculated the cost. Six years of our lives.  That’s a huge cost. And would we be done then?  Would this be the final splurge? No way. After one thing, comes the next, and the next, and so on and so on ad infinitum.  Bigger, better,  more, more…There is no end.

Did we want to spend six years of our lives on some extra space and fancy redesign of the house that wasn’t really needed?  Or did we want to put that money into paying off Life-Changing the debt we already have on the (abundant) space we already have so that we can be six years closer to freedom from debt?  Six years closer to the cheap nfl jerseys freedom to do whatever we want with our time. Six years of not exchanging our time for money to pay for shit we don’t need.  That’s freedom. Of course there’s a lot to be said for creating a beautiful environment too, and we might have also decided that it was in fact worth six years of our lives, that it was that important to us. The point is to be conscious of the true cost of the money we spend.

When you buy something ask yourself – Is this purchase really worth пол the hours of my life it’s costing me?

Spiritual Warrior

There is set of three poses in yoga called Warrior or Virabdhrasana I, II and III. These are easily the most iconic of the standing postures, but what’s a peace-loving system like yoga doing celebrating warriors?

The postures are inspired by a legend from Hindu mythology.  Shiva, the lord of consciousness, was married to his cheap jerseys beloved Sati. Sati’s father Daksha did not approve of the marriage. Despite being the lord of consciousness, limitless and transcendent, Shiva was also wholesale jerseys China a wandering ascetic, a dreadlocked, marijuana-smoking, forest-dwelling hippy!

One day Daksha threw a huge party but refused to invite Shiva. Sati confronted her father at the party and got into a rather heated argument with him. So heated in fact that Sati’s anger and despair caused her to burst into flames right in the middle of the party, reducing her to ashes!

When news of this reached Shiva his fury was unleashed. In his rage he pulled out one of his dreadlocks and threw it to the earth. With wholesale jerseys the force W1of his anger this dreadlock snaked down through the earth and was transformed into Virabhadra, the great warrior. Virabhadra burst into the party by thrusting himself up from deep beneath the earth with his sword held over his head in both hands, this is represented in Virabhadrasana I.

 

W2

He then located Daksha and lined up his sword ready to attack. This is reflected in Virabhadrasana II

 

 

 

w3And finally he lunged forward slaying Daksha’s head off, voila, Virabhadrasana III

Shiva arrived at the party later on and had a change of heart upon seeing all the destruction Virabhadra wreaked.  Shiva found Daksha’s decapitated body and giving it the head of a goat breathed life back into Daksha. Dakhsa returned with his pride in check and was overwhelmed with gratitude for Shiva’s generous gesture. Daksha bowed to Shiva in awe and For honour.

The moral of the story? If someone annoys you, send someone in wholesale nfl jerseys to decapitate them. Not quite. The story is symbolic; Shiva represents our higher Self, battling the lower self, the ego (Daksha).

A spiritual warrior is someone who fights the enemy within, the ego. This is the toughest opponent we’ll ever face. We need the strength and courage of the fiercest warrior to take down our own ignorance and our own ego in order to end the source of all suffering.

Remember this story the next time you practice any of the warrior poses. We can use these poses to increase our strength, endurance and patience. We’re going to need it to stay wholesale jerseys the course on the inward journey!