February – Drink Up!

Pause and Reflect

We’re 17% of the way through 2019. 59 days down. 306 days to go until 2020.

What victories can you claim so far? How have you been investing those precious moments of your life? If you’re not sure what you’ve been up to, but would like to start focusing on key areas for improvement so you can make some tangible gains throughout the rest of the year, join me in my #happyhealthyme 2019 monthly challenge!

#happyhealthyme 2019 challenge

Realising at the end of last year what a distracted-do-all-the-things-at-once-mess I was, I decided my word for this year would be FOCUS!

Part of my strategy for living out this mantra this year is to pause at the beginning of each month and assess which area of my life could do with my full awareness and an upgrade in order to move my health and wellbeing to the next level.  

The beauty of this strategy (if I do say so myself 😉) is that it allows me to slow down and really drop into one particular behaviour. And if I can make even a 1% improvement in the chosen area, and get that dialled in as the new default, i.e. a new habit, this will compound over time and have an enormously positive impact on my health trajectory. BAM!

A month is also heaps of time to practice the new behaviour.  Practice is the operative word, because more often than not we can’t just declare we’re going to do something better and then just go right ahead and do it forever more.  

A month gives me lots of times to read all the books, listen to all the podcasts, get inspired and informed, and experiment. It give me time to cock it up completely, forget about it, come back to it, and time to sit down, reassess what’s tripping me up, and try, try, try again.   

My goal is that by the end of 2019 I’ll be able to point to 12 tangible upgrades i’ve made in my life that have raised my bar.

I gave up sugar in January, you can check that story out here.  No more added sugar for me. That was a biggy. So February was something a little less huge. Water.

If you’d like to join me in this fun challenge head over to my free Essential Wellness community and let us know what you’re working on each month.

February – Drink Up

Do you drink enough water? Most of us don’t apparently. I had a sneaking suspicion that a little more water would do me good.

There are different schools of thoughts on the topic.

Some say not to overthink it, drink when you’re thirsty and you’ll be fine. Don’t worry about those ‘8 glass a day’ prescriptions. They’re a myth,

I’m so up for listening to our bodies. Trouble is, it’s such a noisy world and I think we often get confused about what our body actually needs. We may spend so long ignoring our body’s messages that our body kinda pipes down.

Sure your body will tell you when it’s thirsty. It’s not going to let you die of dehydration.

But on the other hand, does that mean you’re drinking the optimum amount of water? Or would everything work better with a bit more of the juice of life flowing through you and plumping up those beautiful cells?

 

Finding My Optimum

That was my experimentation this month. To find the sweet spot of how much I should be drinking to feel optimum, while not needing to wee every 2 minutes.

One calculation I found stated that we should try to drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, every day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, that would be 75 to 150 ounces of water a day. Bear in mind that food, teas etc, also contain liquid, so it doesn’t necessarily all need to come from straight-up water.

A few other sites, including the NHS, state anywhere between 1-2 litres a day. Again, it depends on your size, the temperature outside, whether you’re blasting out some HIIT or laying around on the  coach…so use your judgement… don’t be the ONE person that overdoes it and ends up in A&E with water poisoning. True story.

 

My Evolving Water Habit

I drink a 600ml bottle of water first thing in the morning. I dialled this habit in several years ago and it feels great. I definitely notice if I don’t do this. For this month’s experiment I was looking to add another bottle between breakfast and lunch and another one between lunch and dinner. That ended up being too much so I scaled the challenge back down to adding one more bottle.

Some days it was easy. Other days I had incredible resistance to drinking the damn water.  What the heck is that about? By this stage in my wellbeing journey I’ve learned to look at resistance with curiosity and find creative ways to break it down.

Tips and Tricks to Work Your New Health Habit

Like I said above, a month gives you a really good window to hack the habit you’re working on and get through the resistance that inevitably comes up when making changes.

Here’s what helped me:

Make it easy and obvious.

💧 Every evening before bed I fill my water flask up and take it up to bed with me. It’s so easy to wake up and drink my water in the morning. The momentum is set in motion the night before. I applied this to adding another round of water by filling up the flask again at breakfast and placing it next to my laptop, with the lid off. This last bit turned out to be a small, but crucial step. The lid off acted to get things in motion again. It was much easier for me to pick up the bottle and sip the water slowly between breakfast and lunch. Just seeing the lid off began the behaviour.  

Crazy no??  But it really is these tiny little shifts that can make a huge difference and tip the chances of us doing what we say we’ll do, and what we want to do, and turn this into what we actually do.

Set some simple boundaries

💧 Post-breakfast, I set up a rule to not eat anything else until lunch, or, until I’d had this extra bottle of water. It’s surprising how often we confuse thirst with hunger.  By focusing on drinking my water I can easily stick to my three meals a day, no snacking eating rhythm.

Jazz it Up

💧Sometimes plain water is just not inspiring. I love adding a drop of my doterra citrus essential oils, lemon and grapefruit are favourites, as is the metabolic blend.

Track It

💧Using The Moon is My Calendar Journal has been super useful as each night I sit down and draw a  little symbol to indicate if I’ve practiced the habit of the month. I draw a love heart, to indicate the practice is a practice of self-love, which it always is. Taking care of your health is self-love at it’s best.

💧Not being able to draw a little heart at the end of the day was a major bummer for me. I felt sad for not taking care of myself as I’d intended, which motivated me to do better the next day.

Reward Yourself
  • One of the most successful formulas for establishing a new habit is trigger, habit, reward. Set a trigger to remind you to do the do, do the do, then rewards yourself for doing it, at least until the reward inherent in the behaviour takes over as the rewards itself.
  • With this in mind, I spent some time thinking about what could encourage me to drink that extra bottle of water, instead of reaching for the snacks (old-less-good-habit).  It’s kinda childish, but why not? Stickers. Love hearts. Each time I drink a bottle of water I get to add a love heart to the bottle of water to decorate it. As time passes and I win at this drinking game, my bottle because full of love, which reminds me of all the love I’m showing myself with this new habit.

 

So that’s that’s 17% of the way through the year and I have kicked sugar out the door and upped my water intake to feel full and juicy AND cut out snacking between meals. Feeling #smug.

Next up – Spring seasonal cleansing. Do you do a seasonal detox? Fancy joining me on mine? 

What are you feeling called to focus on next in your life. Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Sam x

 

 

 

JOIN ME ON AN ADVENTURE TO HAPPIER, HEALTHIER HABITS

If you know you need a habit overhaul and a lifestyle upgrade to unleash the best of you that’s lying dormant within, but you’re not sure where to start or how to stay the course to see the changes through,  check out my 10-month happy healthy habits course.

Previously offered as a 10-week programme, I’m reworking it so we can dive deeper and really make changes that stick, stick stick, so we all emerge at the end of 10-months operating at a new level of frequency. High-vibes all the way.  Register your interest to join the waitlist and I’ll be in touch as soon as the course is done cooking.

Simple Self-Care for the Super Busy

So you’re super-duper busy. Who isn’t these days? Busy seems to be a way of life. Oftentimes we put our self-care at the bottom of the pile, something to get to last, if there’s time.

Thing is, self-care isn’t really optional, it’s not a luxury. It’s not fluffy-duffy-day-at-the-spa-get-your-nails-done stuff. It’s taking appropriate care of our vehicle for action in the world; taking care of our body, mind and spirit, so that we can show up as the best version of ourselves and contribute to society and the world around us.

Not having time for self-care because you’re too busy is like not having time to stop and refuel the car because you’re in a  hurry to get somewhere. Running out of fuel while you’re racing along is more time-consuming and less efficient then just stopping for regular re-fills.

That said, how do you slot those re-fills seamlessly into an already full life?

The Why

First, always, take a moment to get super clear on why you’re committing to make some time for self-care. Do you keep coming down with colds that knock you out for days? Do you keep blowing your fuse and getting into relational messes that you then have to clear up? Is your cup running empty but you’d like to have something to give once again? Are you just missing out on feeling great most of the time and sick of it?

What’s the why? We always need a strong why before making ANY change. We’re creatures of habit, without a strong why to fuel our changes we will just keep doing what we’ve always done.

The How

How do you slot self-care in when you’re busy?

The answer: 1 minute practice

If you don’t have 1-minute you really don’t have a life at all. If that’s the case, you might want to look at that! So I’m going to assume you do have minutes to spare. You’re reading this after all 🙂  Sprinkle several self-care-power-minutes throughout your day and notice the difference it makes. Setting a timer is a nice way to trigger these new self-care mini habits.

The What

What can you do in 1 minute that’s going to make a difference?

  1. Meditate, stop, drop and breaaaathe deeply for one minute. Set a timer, everything can wait for 1 minute. For 1 minute make the world stand still by letting it all go and entering a deep pause. It’s not quantity but QUALITY that matters. Take one minute and make it count. I’ve meditated for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, hours before, and sometimes only been really present when the timer went off to start and to signal the end. So get grooving with the present moment (possibly my favourite definition of meditation ever!) for one minute. 
  2. Move your body! Jumping jacks, sun salutes, walking, jogging on the spot, a mini-dance party. Whatever floats your boat. Just get your breath going, your heart pumping and your body moooooving. Notice the difference after just one minute.
  3. Earth/Ground: Go outside, take your shoes and socks off and plug yourself directly into mother earth. For bonus points look up at the sky and soak up heaven and earth for 1 minute. Guarantee you feel better.  Won’t go into why this is amazing here but if you’re not aware of earthing definitely check this out.

And there you have it, super, simple self-care for the busy bee.

 

If you’re ready to get serious about self-care, ready to dial in the daily habits and routines that will unlock the best of you,  then join me on my next HAPPY, HEALTHY HABITS adventure. You’ll gain 10 new habits in 10 weeks that will set you on a better trajectory for life!

Learn More

Top Tips for a NINJA immune system

Guard Your Sleep

Sleep is the best beauty cream and health supplement. Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis is one of the quickest ways to shoot your immunity in the foot. So get yourself a sweet bedtime routine, and wind down for some epic sleep to stay well.

My favourite ways to guard my sleep:

  • Turn off all electronics (including the TV!) an hour or two before bed. Give yourself time to literally unplug. Our devices give off a blue light that messes with our sleep hormone melatonin. The bright blue light of our dear screens and devices trick our brains into thinking it’s still daylight.
  • If you can’t bear to unplug look for special night settings that turn the harmful blue-rays down. For my computer I use f.lux, it’s a great programme that reduces your screen’s blue light: https://justgetflux.com/
  • Do something nice for yourself at the end of the day as a little self-care ritual, it’ll put you into a great mood for sleep. Some of my favourite things include making a nice herbal tea, giving myself a foot massage with some essential oils (cedarwood and lavender are two of my faves right now), and reading something inspiring, or journalling.

For more sleep tips, check this out.

Exercise & Movement

Exercise keeps our immune system-fighting strong, not least because it’s one of the most powerful anti-stress techniques. We all need lots of daily movement,  but sadly our sedentary culture means most of us aren’t getting anywhere near enough movement,

Try slotting 20 minutes of movement at the beginning of the day, before the day gets away from you. Then, whatever way the winds blow later in the day, you’ll always be getting a minimum amount of exercise each day.

If 20 minutes seems like too much, start with 10 minutes. If that’s too much, go to 5 minutes. Make it a habit! Daily is the key, even if it’s just a small amount, you’ll earn good compound interest on it over time.  

Besides exercise, keep your eyes peeled for ‘opportunities to move’.  Do you have to sit down while you take that phone call? Could you stand? Walk? Squat?! Ask yourself ‘how can I get more movement into my daily life?” and watch as the opportunities start to present themselves.  Katy Bowman’s book Move Your DNA offers lots of inspiring information and ideas. Her podcast is also well worth listening too. Just make sure you listen on the go 😉

 

Eat Real Food

Specifically lots of plants, ideally those in season.  When we eat plants they gift us their immunity, we benefit from the many wondrous chemicals and compounds that comprise their immunity.

When we eat local and seasonal fruits and vegetables we receive the immunity from plants that are set up to thrive in our area, which is where we too are looking to thrive.

Another way to get more plant goodness is to use a variety of herbs and spices in your meals. The amount of antioxidants in herbs and spices compared to regular plants is crraaaay-zy.

Check out this ORAC Scale chart that illustrates the point nicely. Something like  blueberries, which are well-known for their antioxidant punch, score around 2,400. Clove on the other hand, scores over a million!! See, craaaazy!

Don’t miss out, get your herbs and spices in there. It’s as simple as sprinkling some cinnamon on your porridge.

I’ve recently gone next level by incorporating some pure essential oils into some of my foods.  Right now I’m loving adding a drop of doTERRA’s On Guard blend to my porridge. It includes clove, cinnamon and wild orange so packs a powerful antioxidant punch, and is delicious to boot.  It’s been great while I’ve been away from home especially as I haven’t had my herbs and spices on hand and travelling about opens you up to all sorts of new bugs and possible infections, so you want to be more On Guard then ever. See what I did there? 🙂  Cinnamon is also super-duper useful in reducing sugar-cravings.

Which leads to the next point, reduce your sugar intake! It suppresses your immune system. This one’s a little tough for me as I’m a chocoholic, but the cinnamon is definitely helping!

 

Chill-ax – Reduce Stress

Stress puts you into fight-or-flight mode which suppresses functions that aren’t needed for the fight-or-flight. Our hectic modern lives are often fraught with low-level stress, so get yourself a strategy to deal with it. Create boundaries for yourself, don’t take on too much, take time out each day to just breathe and relax.

Carve out some time either at the beginning or end of each day (ideally both!) just for you, to meditate, journal, do some yoga…whatever helps you imprint a pattern of ease on your mind-body-spirit. Without some conscious practices built into your routine you’ll easily be swept up by the stress that surrounds us all. Unless you’re a complete cucumber and just too cool and totally unflappable. #envyyou

Mind Your Gut

The gut is known as the second brain. In Ayurveda it’s hailed as the root of all health. If digestion is healthy everything else is good, if digestion is messed up, all manner of problems unfold.

Did you know that 80% of our immunity is in our gut? And 90% of our serotonin!

Our gut is one place that’s full of bacteria. In fact, for every 1 human cell there are around 10 bacteria cell. We are totally outnumbered, so we better keep the bacteria dudes happy.

The best way to take care of your gut is to cut out (or seriously reduce) processed and junk food. Eat real foods that keep gut bacteria happy. You might also consider taking a probiotic – a supplement made of different bacterias that helps out the good bacterias in there.  Another great option is to eat fermented foods, these serve as wonderful probiotics. I always have a batch of sauerkraut on the go, it couldn’t be easier to make, see recipe here:

Consider Supplements

Do some research into supplements to see if you might benefit from any. Most of us in the northern hemisphere at least need to supplement with vitamin D in the winter as we just don’t get enough sun exposure and this is a vital vitamin for our healthy functioning.

 

Reduce Your Toxic Load

If you’re eating well, exercising, sleeping like a trooper, taking time to zen-out and stay cool, then it might be time to look at reducing your toxic load.

Something like 80,000-90,000 chemicals have been introduced into our environment in the last 50-100 years or so. We’ve never been exposed to such a variety of chemicals, many of which haven’t been studied or testing thoroughly. They’re in our face cream, our toothpaste, our shampoo, our cleaning products, our carpets, furniture, even in our water supply. Everywhere you look, they’ll be room for improvement.

Don’t get bogged down. Notice the products you have in your home that you’re using regularly. Check out the ingredients labels. Don’t freak out at the enormity of the problem and do nothing. Pick one things at a time and see if there’s a better option available. Better still, have fun making your own products!  

 

Action Steps:

Use the Think Dirty App to help you assess products and make better purchasing decisions. 
If you’d like to be in good company as you lighten your toxic-load then join my natural living facebook group for ideas and chit-chat on this topic. 

If you’re interested in using essential oils to uplevel your health and wellbeing then check out the link below. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, I’m here to help!

It’s In Your Hands

Our Life Is In Our Own Hands

The big lesson this year for me has been just how much control I have over how I experience life. It’s entirely in my own hands.

I choose daily, through the small actions, habits and routines I create, the sort of physical, mental, emotional and relational experience I step into.

The days string together like beads on a necklace to create the sum of our life.  Like an artist we design the necklace we end up with through our daily choices and actions.  Whether these choices are conscious or unconscious, we’re creating something.

Taking Responsibility Means Increasing Your Ability-To-Respond

One of the key components of being on the yogic path is taking responsibility for ourselves, for our health and wellbeing and our experience in life.

Taking responsibility means awakening to and increasing our ability-to-respond. Not react, or be swept away with the prevailing winds of our culture, but to consciously respond to what we see showing up in our lives.

As an example, one practice I have as part of my daily routine is to examine my tongue as soon as I wake up.

Our tongues are wonderful informants. They reflect the state of our inner universe. By looking at our tongue in the morning we become aware of what’s going on inside.

At the moment I have a lot of ama. Ama is the ayurvedic term for toxin, it’s basically undigested ‘stuff’, often food that hasn’t been properly digested either because there was too much of it, or it was too heavy, or not right for our constitution, or maybe just eaten too late at night for our body to digest. Ama can also be emotional or mental.

According to ayurveda ama is the root cause of all disease. All of it! So when you see ama in the morning on your tongue (think white gunky coating) you want to PAY ATTENTION!

When I see ama on my tongue in the morning I have a choice. I can ignore it. Or I can choose to take responsibility for what’s going on within me and respond accordingly. I can alter the actions I take for the rest of the morning and the day to deal with the ama before it builds and leads to sickness or disease. It’s in my hands.

If You Don’t Steer Your Own Ship You’ll Be Swept Along By The Prevailing Winds of Our Culture

When you don’t take your health and wellbeing into your own hands, when you don’t sharpen your awareness to the signals of your own physiology, when you don’t take full responsibility for yourself, you get swept along by the momentum of the prevailing culture.

If we had a culture that supported optimum health that might be OK. But that’s not the reality we find ourselves in.

There are so many unexamined assumptions in our culture around health. That degeneration is a ‘normal’ part of aging. That sickness and disease are sometimes just random and inevitable.  That our bodies become less intelligent as we age.  That stiff and creaky joints are just what happens when you get on a bit. That our senses will let us down, eyesight will fail, hearing will go. That weight gain is just what happens around middle age. 

There’s sometimes a recognition that these things aren’t entirely inevitable. But there’s almost a resignation under the weight of our current culture, a culture which makes it hard for us to function optimally. The momentum of our current culture doesn’t effortlessly lead to optimum health as the default outcome.

You Have To Choose Optimum Health

If you’re not making super conscious, counter-cultural choices, you’re probably on the standard track to accelerated aging and not on track to unlock the potential of your human physiology, the potential of your biochemistry to experience peace, bliss, and ease as you move through life enjoying vibrant health.

As an obvious example, we’re surrounded by junk food. It’s no surprise then that a survey for health care for England found that 25% of adults are obese. Not just overweight but obese. 17% of children are now also obese.

Our environment doesn’t support us in thriving. You have to choose thrive. You have to go against the grain. You have to take matters into your own hands.

Join/Create a Sub Culture

But it’s difficult to go against the grain, right?

I’ve been going against the grain a lot this year. One habit I’ve nailed this year is going to bed early.

The benefits are manifold. If you go to sleep before 10pm you experience a much deeper level of rest. The hours between 10pm-2am are the most rejuvenating. It’s when our body naturally detoxes. When we’re asleep during these hours, as nature intended for our physiology, our hormones work optimally. We feel well rested when we wake up, we experience a deeper energy, we’re better able to regulate our emotions and our weight. I could write a whole blog about the benefits of this. I did.

Many scientific studies have shown that people who go to bed after 10pm have a much harder time maintaining a healthy BMI (here and here and here). I don’t know about you but I for shizzle don’t want to make it harder for my body to do its job properly. It’s not efficient. It makes no sense. And so I go to bed early, I feel awesome. The sheer simplicity of what we really need to thrive is quite refreshing.

Yet making this sort of shift isn’t always easy. Our culture is geared around eating late in the evening and going to bed later. Only children or frail old people go to bed at 9pm, or so the underlying belief goes.

I’ve had more than one overweight person mock me for my bedtime. Basic self-care is practically a radical concept in our culture. Isn’t that bonkers?

But there is a solution, besides fighting upstream solo (a frankly thankless task). Join a subculture, build a tribe around the sort of life experience you know is possible. My lucky break this year has been finding such a tribe.

I got myself a yoga and ayurveda coach and joined her community of people who are gung-ho about feeling awesome. They’re willing to experiment, to change, to go against the grain, break out of existing patterns and set new patterns, better patterns, in motion. We have a culture around prioritizing self-care so we can show up for ourselves, and others, at our best.

Being part of this group has fueled my well-being journey this year about a million-fold. Yep, a million-fold.

Once you experience vibrant health, there’s no going back.

People can laugh at me all they want for going to bed early and waking up before dawn to take the best hours of the day for my self-care and personal evolution.

Once your body gets a taste of how good it can feel, a taste of what’s possible, given the right daily routine that supports your optimal functioning from the inside out, there ain’t no going back. Your body knows.

The suffering you previously experienced as ‘normal’ becomes acutely painful. You can’t ignore it anymore.

I know I’m not alone in my desire to evolve into better ways of being. There’s a huge sub-culture of people who are sick of their own excuses and ready to step forward, empowered to craft a better way of living, with their own hands. 

 

If you’re interested in consciously crafting the life you want, consider joining our vibrant living community. Our next course starts January 15th.

 

8 Simple Steps to Your Own At Home Retreat

yogamatandbook
My home retreat included plenty of mat-time fun. I love Elena Bower’s Art of Attention yoga workbook. It’s truly beautiful and a wonderful companion for a deeper dive into your personal practice.

If you’ve ever been on a retreat, or even a good holiday, you’ll know that awesome feeling of jumping off the treadmill of the daily grind and diving into legitimate me-time.  Time to decompress, relax, and remember what’s important.

We all need regular time-outs but most of us don’t have the time or money for frequent holidays or retreats. Have no fear, yoga teaches us we have everything we need right here, always.

We can honour the power of the inward pull within the existing structure of our lives and from our very own home!

I found myself with a weekend home alone recently so I decided to supercharge that time with intention and turn the weekend into a home retreat.

If you’re interested in setting up your own home retreat, here are eight simple steps:

  • Set an intention

As always, when we’re setting out to do something we need to get super clear on why. What’s the intention? How will you most benefit from a retreat? What’s missing in your life that you’d like to invite in? What would really nourish and nurture you? What do you need right now? What energy would you like to call in? What old, unhealthy patterns would you like to release for good?

yogasutras
A large portion of my retreat was devoted to binge-reading the yoga sutras. What a joy to have an extended period of time without interruptions to really dive in!

There’s a spectrum from suffering to bliss and we get to choose where we sit on that spectrum. Are we orienting to life from a point of stress on that spectrum or a point of ease? We get to chose!! How awesome is that?! If your current orientation to life isn’t bringing you joy then a time-out to reassess might be just the ticket. Create some space in your life so you can get back in the drivers seat and shift gears.

With that in mind, the intention behind my home retreat was to create a space to drop into ease and to enjoy life. To simplify everything for a weekend: to do less and enjoy more.

  • Commit

Decide how long you want your retreat to be. You might have just a few hours, a morning or an evening, a whole day or weekend. When you’re clear on how long you want and need, schedule it into the diary and safeguard that time with your life!  You wouldn’t cancel or mess about on a date with a good friend (I hope) and radical self-care starts by treating yourself as you would your best friend.  There’s that choice point again, what kind of friend are we going to be to ourselves? We get to choose!

emptycupIf you’re worried about taking time out for yourself because you think it’s selfish or you have too much to do, remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.  Self-care isn’t an indulgence, it’s a necessity. When we take time out for self-care we fill our cup, which means we step back into our lives with more to offer those around us and more energy and clarity to do the things that really matter. You’ve got to put your own oxygen mask on first, right?

  • diaryandflowersDesign a schedule

Here’s the fun bit, you get to design your own retreat schedule. The beauty of an at-home-retreat is that you can do whatever you want. You can paint, draw, write, read, nap, do yoga, meditate, journal, take long baths, bake…anything and any combination of things you want. You’re the boss. Which means you can combine things that wouldn’t normally appear together in a standard retreat. Pizza and in-depth study of the yoga sutras anyone? Just me then. What makes your heart sing?

Create a container

The space where you plan to retreat (your home in this instance)  and your intention for this time are the container for your experience. The stronger the container the deeper you’ll be able to dive into the experience. With that it mind…

  • Write out your commitments

What do you need to do (or not do!) during this retreat time? What are your ground rules, or commitments? Write it down.

I commit to keeping my laptop switched off

I commit to keeping my phone off

I commit to not going on social media

I commit to doing only one thing at a time

I commit to enjoying each moment

  • Make your space sacred

ganeshMake the space for your retreat sacred through intentional clearing the day before. Retreat time is not the time to tidy the house or do chores so make sure everything is in place and looking gorgeous ahead of the retreat.

You can even set up an altar as a centre point, with flowers, candles and your commitments and intentions written down on a piece of paper.  All this serves as a reminder that you’re doing something special and worthy.

  • Unplug

What’s so refreshing about many retreats is that they force us to unplug. We can recreate this ritual container by doing the same thing at home; put the phone down, move away from the screen, turn off the electronics, unplug the wifi. Watch time slow down and space open up almost instantly.

Seriously, let go of all distractions. Do a total media detox. If reading is on your schedule then make sure it’s intentional, forget newspapers or magazines, read something inspirational, something that speaks to your intention for the retreat. Remember, this is time out from the humdrum, make it special.

  • Get everything you need in place
pizza
Pizza-making was one of the fun activities on my schedule. I love making healthy, vegan pizza. This one has super healthy spinach pesto with cashew cheese AND the base is made from cauliflower – total NOM NOM – and I don’t even like cauliflower all that much.

You don’t want to be running around shopping for stuff while on retreat so get all the yummy food you’ll need ahead of time. If you don’t like cooking you might even batch prepare everything before the retreat. If you love cooking then making a special or elaborate meal might be one of your retreat activities. In either case, decide what’s on the menu and get those ingredients in.

  • Journal

Take a moment right before you start your retreat to write down anything that’s bothering you or playing on your mind. Turn that page over and put all that stuff on ice for the retreat period. It ain’t going anywhere and it can wait.

journal
My take home from the retreat: Ease creates simplicity – Stress creates complexity – Choose Ease

Keep your journal or notepad handy throughout the retreat. When we press ‘pause’ on all the doing we create a space to simply be. When this happens, we often find that all sorts of interesting things come to the surface.  Make a note of any insights or ‘aha’ moments. Any lessons learned or things you want to take action on when you’re back in the “real world”.

Review everything at the end of the retreat. Perhaps the things you were worried about at the start don’t seem so big anymore? When we take time out to clear out and expand our inner and outer space we create a big, spacey, container for our day-to-day lives. Our challenges and problems don’t seem so big against this broader backdrop.

However much time you have to devote to the art of retreat, or whatever format your personal retreat takes, I hope you replenish your cup and have mega fun all at once! 

Let me know what other ideas you have for home retreats and how yours goes!

live streaming film Moonlight 2016

The Power of Slow

There’s not enough time’. A common perception. Can you relate? When I felt overwhelmed on Saturday morning and chose to slow down for a yoga practice instead of hurtling into my day I realised on my mat that this was my problem. Not the lack of time, but my belief that I didn’t have enough time. The thought ‘there isn’t enough time’ is the problem. Because there is really only one problem, unhappiness. If you’re happy, tuned into your innate bliss, then there are no problems, Only opportunities, adventures, and experiences.

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Cats don’t hurry, they’re natural masters of taking life one nap at a time.

But our bliss so often gets blocked by unhelpful thoughts and beliefs. It occurred to me on Saturday that this ‘not enough time’ perspective is in fact my default modus operandi. I’m always focused on ‘the next thing’ I need to do. I always feel slightly behind, hurried and rushed because I want to get so much done. This creates a subtle level of stress and anxiety. But why am I rushing to do more at the cost of enjoying less? What’s the point of doing anything if your mind is constantly at the next thing and you’re unable to enjoy the present moment?

Yoga teaches us to challenge and face down anything that blocks the experience of our true nature which is ananda, bliss. In this particular situation, I realised that my belief that I didn’t have enough time was blocking my bliss. So what if I turned it on its head? Believed the opposite? What if I consciously switched the narrative in my head to ‘I have all the time in the world’, ‘there’s a time for everything I want and need to do.’ Wow. Suddenly everything feels more spacious, more easeful. How joyful. We might still have the same amount of things to do. We may still do the same amount, or more, or less, but, crucially, we can shift the way we feel and experience life and hit those things with a sense of joy.  We can weed out unhelpful thoughts and plant new ones. How powerful is that? We get to write our own story.

What’s your modus operandi? What unchallenged thoughts and beliefs are limiting your joy right now? Can you reframe the story, believe the opposite? Unleash the joy!

If you need to shift your relationship to time like me then here are my…

Practical yoga tips to slow down time

Uni-task

I’m terrible for multitasking to the point of only getting 10% out of each thing I’m doing. I dread to think how many podcasts I’ve ‘listened’ to while checking social media and eating, and probably a few other things thrown in for good measure.

Multitasking is like junk food, it leaves us hungry for one solid bit of nutrition, one fully presenced experience.

I need to work on this one. A lot. I want to work on this. Part of my insight from this weekend is that I want to enjoy more, which means doing one thing at a time. Because I value enjoying life more than ticking stuff off a list. And trust me, I love ticking things off lists, that’s why it’s taken me so long to realise the power of slowing down.

Use a mantra

Never underestimate the power of a few choice words dropped in at the right moment. When it feels like the world is hitting you like a torrent of water quickly erect a mental dam with a mantra.

Here are a few I’ve been using to slow down time when it all gets too much:

I have all the time in the world

There is time for everything

Nothing is mandatory, except being nice

The universe is expanding. My life is unfolding. It’s all happening

I’m here now, I’ll be there later

I’m allowed to take it easy

Instead of ‘I have to _____’ switch to ‘I get to ______’
(I find this one really switches on a childlike excitement for even the most mundane tasks)

I’m not overwhelmed. I’m saturated with possibilities.

Fortunately, ___________ is not required for happiness.

Savasana – Sacred Relaxation

We absolutely have to balance all the doing with non-doing to avoid overwhelm. And you don’t get more non-doing than dead. Savasana, or corpse pose, is yoga’s antidote to the stresses and general speediness of daily life. Savasana is the simple (and practically full-on rebellious) act of lying down and being still. Doing nothing.

The four key ingredients to accelerate your relaxation in Savasana:

  • Stillness – outer stillness is the beginning of our journey to inner stillness, resist any temptation to fidget , resist!
  • jaspereyes
    You really want to cover your precious eyes for optimum relaxation – cats know all about this, what with being masters of relaxation!

    Darkness – covering the eyes adds considerable depth to the relaxation, an eyebag is ideal as the weight of this adds gentle pressure around the eyes which helps release tension commonly held in the eye muscles

  • Quiet – use earplugs if you’re somewhere noisy. If you can’t get the sort of quiet you’d like then just accept whatever you can get. Other people don’t have to be quiet for you to find quietness inside, practice surrendering to what is, don’t look for excuses to not relax!
  • minkywarm
    My furry guru demonstrating how to stay warm while deeply relaxing.

    Warmth – wrap up warm and cover yourself over with a blanket, you’ll cool down quickly as you lay completely still and you don’t want this to be a distraction.

 

Cooking instructions, or ‘how to practice’:

Either use a yoga mat for padding or find a spot of soft carpet to lie on.
Lie down on the floor with your spine straight and your body as symmetrical as possible (this helps to reduce distractions to your brain)
Let your feet roll out, have arms out about 45 degrees aways from the body, palms facing upwards (the palms have many nerve endings and are one of the most sensitive parts of the body, we’re intentionally decreasing the number of signals getting to the brain here)
Be still – no fidgeting!
Ask yourself can I get softer in my brain, my eyes, my heart?
Let go of all expectations.

Gather the four ingredients, follow the instructions above, cook for 20 minutes.

You can stay longer of course, but 20 minutes is a good minimum time to really sink into relaxation and experience the benefits.

You might find that your mind is anything but still here. It might look more like a pan of boiling water, with all sorts bubbling up vigorously to the surface. Perfect! That there is decompression. You’re literally letting off steam and purifying your mind by the simple act of lying back and doing nothing.

If you fall asleep, you’re sleep deprived, do some radical self-care and go to bed early.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a home yoga practice or a meditation practice then savasana is a great place to start. Savasana is a practice of pratyahara (sense withdrawal) which is the precursor to dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation).

A CHALLENGE (i.e. a way to frame savasana within the ‘doing’ framework we love so much)

I double dare you to a 21-day savasana challenge: 20 minutes of savasana, for 21 days.

I’m half way through my savasana challenge and I’m already experiencing the power of slow.

Let me know how you get on!