Tag Archives: breathing

My Song

I welcome the first day of summer by attending a yoga and music workshop with musician and yoga teacher Jack Harrison.

We lie down and begin with some breathing exercises. Jack strums his guitar, recites poetry and sings.

Then he takes us through a powerful yoga sequence. No music plays now. All we can hear are Jack’s instructions and our breath.

My breathing deepens. I feel strong, present and peaceful.

Afterwards, we sit in a circle and sing. For the most part, I close my eyes and really get into it.

Occasionally, I open my eyes and appreciate what’s in front of me. The fantastic Jack Harrison playing guitar. And a group of people joyously opening their hearts together in song.

Next, Jack suggests that we sing any tune we feel like.

“Dissonance is beautiful,” he insists.

“Some of us were told as children that we weren’t good singers. I was kicked out of the school choir when I was a boy,” he laughs.

“But singing is easy,” he says with a smile.

Many of us spend our lives trying to fit in and appear normal. We’re told how to live and what’s expected of us.

But today for a change, we’re being encouraged to be different. We’ve been given licence to sing our own song in a way that’s right for us in this special moment.

We start quietly and self-consciously. But before long, we become louder and more confident.

I realise that it’s much easier to sing in unison. It’s actually harder to be different. But I’m determined to find my own song.

I go with the feeling. I put judgment aside. I allow myself to be me.

Somewhere between dissonance, unison and harmony, I hear my own voice. Tears prickle behind my eyes. Jack’s right, it is beautiful.

bird girl

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Life Loves You

I decided to accept a seven-day challenge given by Louise Hay and Robert Holden in their beautiful book Life Loves You: 7 Spiritual Practices to Heal Your Life. 

Yesterday was Day 7 so today I’m going to tell you all about this seemingly simple exercise that took me places I never expected…

Here’s the challenge (spiritual practice sounds nicer!):

Sit comfortably in front of a mirror. Inhale deeply. Say to yourself: Life loves you (or Life loves me), then exhale. Repeat this 10 times. Notice your response each time. Pay attention to your bodily sensations, your thoughts and your feelings. Write these responses in a journal. Be honest. And please don’t judge yourself.

The second part of this exercise is to look into the mirror and repeat this affirmation: I am willing to let life love me today. Once again, notice your responses. Remember to breathe. Louise Hay and Robert Holden recommend repeating this affirmation until you feel “comfortable sensations in your body, light feelings in your heart, and a happy commentary in your thoughts.”

Repeat this exercise for seven consecutive days.

So I knuckle down and I do it. Seven days in a row.

There are tears. And sadness. Anger makes a surprise visit.

My inner child wails. Self-worth wavers. I judge.

I witness my beauty. And I feel the love.

Physically, I experience tension in my shoulders and I struggle to catch my breath. My head aches.

I notice a panicky feeling in my chest. My insides fizz.

Sometimes I become distracted by my thoughts, by my eyelashes, my hair, teeth and makeup. Fears arise.

Ideas spring forth. I want to share this exercise with as many people as possible.

I doubt that life loves me. I hope that it does. I believe that it could…

Interestingly, I find it easier to say Life loves you rather than Life loves me. It’s as if I’m two separate people – one a wiser, more evolved, peaceful, loving being; the other a wounded, scared child who needs reassurance.

I make myself look into my eyes as I cry the tears of a frightened child who feels all alone and just wants to be loved and protected. I’m here for myself in this moment.

I have the awareness that every time I lost hope, I left myself. I promise never to abandon myself again.

I feel a fierce determination to let life love me. Gradually, this determination transforms into something gentler, something more accepting, something more loving.

I realise that I close down whenever I fear rejection. I decide to open my heart, to let in the good, to love myself and, in doing that, to let life love me.

As I gaze into my eyes, I actually become quite mesmerised. I get lost in the colours and the inky blackness of my pupils as they dilate and contract.

sharon vogiatzi life coach

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I recently started seeing an amazing guy who tells me how beautiful I am. As I stare at my reflection, I see what he sees. I can see the beauty in my eyes, the beauty in me.

By the end of these seven days, which are laden with emotion, insight and healing, I’m saying Life loves you and really meaning it. I’m also able to say Life loves me too. I feel happy, light and relaxed.

I could never have predicted what would have come up for me while completing this exercise. My inner child voiced how scared and alone she feels. So I started giving her the love, affection and reassurance that she needs.

It became clear that I regularly criticise and reject myself. I resolved to be there for myself and not to abandon myself any more.

I’m more aware of when I close off to others, to the world, to life and to myself. I’m going to give myself the love and care that I deserve. I know that I can make myself happy.

I’m happily choosing to open my heart. I can see the good in the universe. And everything that happens is a confirmation that life loves me. I just have to let life love me today. Because once I allow it, I can see it.

Since starting this challenge, I’ve been given countless proof that life loves me.

A sales assistant drops a free lip balm into my bag. Motorists let me pass. A barista draws a love heart in my latte. People smile at me.

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Image: Author’s Own

One morning, a friend gives me coffee, a Mars bar and a massage. Another friend gifts me with a red phone cover sporting a snowflake and a love heart. A loved one presses money into my hands for an upcoming trip.

And I can definitely feel the love with the guy I’m seeing. It’s in our hugs and our kisses, our texts and our glances. It flows in the things we share and the way we are with one another. My heart is so open when I’m with him and that feels really good.

This spiritual practice has shown me that I can feel this way all of the time, not just when I’m with a romantic partner. I can bring that openheartedness, warmth and affection to my interactions with other people too. And to the time I spend alone.

I greet people with a smile. I give people hugs and I’m present to what they share with me.

I listen to myself. I’m true to who I am and to what’s right for me. I’m nice to myself. And I appreciate life and all that it offers me in every single beautiful moment. Life loves me.

And guess what? There’s an abundance of love to go around because life loves you too.

Want to make sure? Try out this exercise for seven consecutive days. Enjoy. And please let me know how you get on.

self-love

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Oh Danny Boy!

Following on from last night’s promise to get rejected once a day by another human being, I’ve decided to ask Danny O’Donoghue out on a date. Yes, the Danny O’Donoghue from international superstar band The Script, who was a judge on The Voice UK, and who has been romantically linked with famous, drop-dead gorgeous singers and models. I don’t do things in halves.

Yesterday, I heard on the radio that Danny had signed up for dating app Tinder and couldn’t get a single date because nobody believed it was him. Or at least that’s his excuse.

This morning, with my thoughts about Rejection Therapy and Danny O’Donoghue’s woeful love life bumping around in that crazy head of mine, I came up with the genius idea of asking one of Ireland’s most famous musical frontmen out on a date.

Not that I’ve ever fantasised about Danny or put his posters on my wall or even attended one of his gigs. Sorry Danny. But I could grow to love you if you just give me a chance. But because the rule is to get rejected once a day. Not to try to get rejected but to actually get rejected.

And the likelihood that Danny O’Donoghue, who’s probably in London right now getting ready for his performance on The Voice UK live final, will say yes to a date with a non-famous, random stranger who has the balls to cold-call/social-media-stalk him are slim to none. I know, I know, think positive. But I’m positively chuffed with myself for even dreaming up this craziness.

Initially, I considered joining Tinder just so I could find him. But then I’d have to sign up, scroll through endless pages of men (#firstworldproblems), hopefully match with him and then pluck up the courage to ask him out. He might not be in the country (which means he won’t appear in my search). And he’s probably already deleted his account after being rejected by every woman in Tinderland.

I decided to direct message him on Twitter but could find no option to do so. Probably so he isn’t inundated with mails from crazy ladies like myself.

Then, I actually toyed with the idea of tweeting him. Publicly. So I could suffer my rejection in front of all of his 1.12 million followers. But I’d only have 123 characters to sell myself and that just isn’t enough. No matter how awesome I think I am.

Instead, I’m writing this post and I’m going to tweet a link of it to him. Here goes…

Dear Danny,

My name is Sharon Vogiatzi and I would like to ask you out on a date. I heard on the radio yesterday that you couldn’t get a single date on Tinder and because I’m a kind and compassionate (and beautiful and not at all crazy) person, I’ve decided to ask you out.

I’m also asking you out because I’ve just challenged myself to get rejected once a day by another human being (there is method to this madness, I promise). And the likelihood of you actually saying yes to a random self-helping stranger is probably slim to none. 

Now, if you really would like to take me out on a date (or I can take you out, I’m easy-going like that), but you worry that you’ll mess up my challenge, that’s okay. My answer is yes. I will go out with you. I’ll just get rejected by somebody else. No biggie.

In case you’d like to know more about me before you agree, I’m 34 (So are you. I googled you. It must be fate). I’m an acupuncturist, a Life Coach and a blogger.

And if this Twitter account isn’t managed by Danny, please show Danny this cringetastic letter. For the craic. He’s Irish and loves the craic.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours (too soon?)

Sharon Vogiatzi.

I feel so much anxiety in my chest right now that I might actually swoon (Hopefully Danny will too. Swoon that is, not feel anxiety, although he probably should.)

Right, I’m off to tweet Danny O’Donoghue (eek!) and try to fill my lungs with oxygen. Wish me luck!

I'm trying!

I’m trying!

Image: keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Other People

Yesterday, I texted a few of my like-minded friends to share my most recent awareness. The importance of other people.

Relationships (with a partner, friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances) accelerate our growth and teach us more about ourselves than all the spiritual retreats, self-help books, and hours of meditation and counselling ever could.

Other people serve as mirrors. They reflect back to us how we feel about ourselves and the beliefs we’re holding about life.

Every single person who enters our lives is there for a reason – to show us all the barriers we’ve placed around ourselves. Once we become aware of these barriers, we can remove them and open ourselves to love.

In Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Loveshe writes about the two main emotions we experience – love and fear. Fear closes our hearts. Love opens us up to an easier, brighter, more wonderful world.

Up until recently, I had assumed that I preferred to be alone. I’d spend most evenings on my own, reading, writing, and watching TV. I walked alone, jogged alone, cycled alone. I meditated and did yoga alone. I took myself for coffee. I wandered alone in nature and took pictures. I holidayed in the west of Ireland. Alone.

I’m proud of my independence and I’m content in my own company but sometimes a stray pang of loneliness manages to slip through my carefully constructed armour. I realise now that I was confusing strength with a refusal to budge out of my comfort zone.

I really believed that I did better at life when I was single. Romantic relationships seemed to blaze into my world. They were quick and exciting and dangerous.

They were so out of my control that I feared I’d be engulfed in their flames. Then they died out, leaving me to tend to my burns.

I missed the warmth and beauty of relationships but I also felt blessedly relieved to be alone again. Alone, I was in control.

My longest romantic relationship was with my now ex-husband. Everything since then has never made it past the four-month mark.

I led what I thought was a balanced life. I had oceans of time to work on myself. I grow more when I’m single, I convinced myself.

And I’m glad of the time and space I’ve had to heal and to flourish. I agree that one must love oneself and have a full and happy life before one is ready to enter into a healthy relationship.

The thing is, I kept waiting for one (i.e. little old me) to become perfect, conscious and enlightened. I forgot that this life is a journey. And on this arduous yet rewarding adventure, we’re constantly learning, evolving and recalibrating.

It’s nice to share some of that journey with our fellow travellers who can also feel lost and who are also searching for meaning. And there’s more laughter and intimacy to be had on a path walked with more than one set of feet.

feet

After living alone for four years, I now have two housemates. I’m also spending more time with my fabulous friends. And I love meeting new people. How different we are fascinates me. How similar we are humbles me.

I understand now that living involves other people. For what is a life without company, support, affection and passion?

Other people highlight the areas we need to work on so that we can peel off yet another bullet-proof layer. It’s so much lighter and freer to let go of these heavy burdens that weigh us down and close us off. But it’s scary to be so exposed, so vulnerable.

I know that I have difficulty letting people in. Asking for help and believing I deserve to have my needs met is a challenge. But it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.

Communication is also an area I’m working on. Recently, I detected a pattern of mine. When the going gets tough, my instinct is to bolt. To get out that door and never come back. But where’s the maturity in that? Where’s the learning, the growing, the compassion? Where is the love?

Other people have an amazingly frustrating knack of triggering the emotional reactions that I used to resist and get angry about. Now, when someone does or says something that provokes me to feel hurt, annoyed or defensive, I remember to breathe into it.

I feel grateful for this issue that I need to deal with. I look at my feelings about the incident, which leads to an understanding of why I’m feeling the way I do. Then, I let go and bring myself back to the present moment.

This is a very new practise for me, by the way, but it’s a revelation! I highly recommend it.

Today, I’m more open than ever before. This translates into a heightened enjoyment of life, a deeper appreciation of beauty, and more fun, peace and connection.

I am, thankfully and in Melody Beattie’s words, codependent no more. Nor am I locked in a distant land of me, myself and I.

I’m travelling on this awe-inspiring path called life. And it’s rich with billions of souls from whom I can learn so much, and with whom I can share a luminous journey.

hammock

Images: Favim.com

Practising Presence

I’m over a week into my challenge to be present. I could tell you that I’m completely zen, that I’ve attained enlightenment, and that I’m connected with and full of love for the entire universe. But I won’t do that.

I’ll be honest. I’m not there just yet. I’m definitely not present all the time. I’m probably not even present half the time. However, the knock-on effect from simply setting this challenge is that it’s making me much more aware. And once you’re aware, you begin to wake up.

I’m looking at my thoughts and feelings with interest. Rather than scolding myself for not being perfect, I’m observing my reactions with curiosity and humour. And when I notice my mind fleeing from the present, I’m now able to catch the tail of my projections and coax myself back to centre.

I recognise that I always have a choice as to how I feel in any given moment. I can decide which thoughts to believe. I can question my assumptions. And I can release stagnant patterns so that life flows with ease, joy and abundance.

For most of my life, the extravaganza of my ego hypnotised me. But now that I’m sampling pure pockets of peace, this mindfulness jazz tastes like more.

Today, I sit in the September sun. For fear of doing nothing, I walk outside armed with phone, book, journal and iPod. But I get a sense that I’m doing this out of habit. I ignore the paraphernalia, put my feet up, tilt my face skyward, and appreciate the wine-stained autumn leaves and the heat on my toes. The crumpled clouds remind me of a morning strand, slick from a recent tide.

This evening though, I huff and puff over the stories my mind barrages me with. Again, it dawns on me that I’m doing this out of habit. I take a breath, drop into my core, and let it go.

In bed tonight, my mind visits many foreign and oft-explored destinations. At first, I indulge these memories, fantasies and nightmares. Then, I shift out of the nonsense and into the present. Only in presence do I realise that my body is clenched and I’m not lying in a comfortable position. I give myself permission to relax.

zdravoslovnohranene.com

zdravoslovnohranene.com

If you want to become more present, remember that practice makes “perfect”. It may be helpful to figure out which places and techniques assist you with the process. Being in nature usually grounds me. So does concentrating on my breath.

And yes, it is easier to be present when faced with a special moment or a spectacular view. Being present comes effortlessly when you gaze at the enormous moon in a glittering sky. Or when you watch the holiday sun melt into the horizon. Or when you turn your attention to your other senses – sinking into a yoga pose after a long day; the sensation of a lover’s touch; the strangely comforting sound of the roaring rain and wailing wind at your window.

But what about all the other moments? How can you be present during the difficult, sad and angry episodes? Can you maintain your presence of mind, body and spirit throughout the mundane and the chaotic? When you’re stuck in traffic or shuffling at the back of a massive queue? When you’re exhausted after a trialling time or choked up with dread over an imminent event?

Don’t worry if your desire to be present doesn’t manifest immediately or if it vanishes at the first sign of struggle. Simply be aware of how you are. The key is to treat yourself with compassion. Whenever I have trouble with mindfulness, I  recall a friend’s suggestion:

“You must be gentle with yourself. Each time you attach to thought and abandon the present moment, bring yourself back with the lightest nudge. Like with the soft top of a paintbrush.”

With practice, presence will start to become automatic. Because it’s our natural state. We just got a little lost along the way. We got caught up in the adventure, we drank in too much drama, and our vision grew blurry.

But now that I’m sobering up, I can focus on the path home, and I finally understand that I don’t have to travel very far. I don’t have to go anywhere at all. I just have to be.

Thoughtclouds

It’s been a roller coaster of a week. I hurtled into shock, grief, disappointment and confusion. And I soared with laughter, love, joy and beauty.

For the month of September, I’ve decided to be present. And for the first few days, my commitment to this challenge has really been tested.

Instead of beating myself up over being less than perfectly present, I’m glad that I’m aware when I swing high above and far below the present moment.

When I experience a rush of happiness, I look at it with curiosity. I can see that this feeling was born by a thought. A fleeting image of an interesting man I’ve been chatting with. I detach from the reverie and come back to the present.

When I tell myself I’m in a bad mood, I question it. Am I this feeling? Does it belong to me? I examine it. I realise that I feel this way because I just read a message from a friend who’s depressed.

If she’s feeling unwell, should I feel lousy too? Is it my responsibility to make her better? I need to cut the cord that I have loving placed around both our necks before we strangle one another completely. I unravel the attachment and step back into the present.

When I believe a thought, I adhere importance to it. A feeling arises from this connection. This can occur so quickly that it’s difficult to spot the sequence. Now that I understand what’s happening, I ask myself: What am I choosing to believe? And is that true?

This evening, I flake out on the armchair and watch the thoughts that dance for my attention. What can I say to help her? Will I go to badminton tonight? Would it be better to drive to the airport next week or get the bus? Maybe she doesn’t like me any more. Will I grow old gracefully? I wonder if we’ll fancy one another… I need to make an appointment for a bikini wax. What’ll I wear tomorrow night? Where am I going to live? Is everything okay?

The thoughts shimmy before me and I am exhausted. I decide that I’m too tired to think. I just couldn’t be bothered.

I could simply be present. Isn’t that where I want to be anyway? Isn’t that where I am? Spiritual teacher Mooji said:

“You’re like the infinite sky. Can any clouds come and stay? Everything is passing, everything is passing. Will you fall in love with a cloud? How long will your relationship last?”

Thoughts come. Thoughts go. Feelings surface. Feelings change. Nothing is permanent. Nothing stays the same. Everything passes, like clouds.

Why then should I fear what won’t last? And why should I hold tight to things that cannot remain? I’d rather not waste time and energy when there really is no point in doing so.

So I sit here, close my eyes and breathe. And the thoughts pass. Like clouds.

Lost in Thought

It’s after midnight so it is now the first of September. My self-determined challenges for this month are to stop biting my lip and fingers (something I’ve been doing since I was a child) and to be present (and whenever I discover that I’m not being present, I’ll gently bring myself back).

Tonight, I lie in bed, wide awake. I cry for my friend Michelle, who died suddenly. Since receiving the shocking and upsetting news, my emotions have become heightened.

I went for a long walk today and photographed the sun in the trees. I gazed delightedly at the yellow crescent moon perched low in the dusky sky. Music pulses through my body like blood.

I feel for Michelle and her parents. I remember the times we had together. I wonder how I’ll be at her funeral.

My mind flits from Michelle to a guy I’m interested in to an upcoming holiday to work and back to Michelle. I bite my lip.

I glance at the time. It’s twenty-five minutes past midnight. It’s September, I realise with a jolt and snatch my hand away from my mouth. I’m supposed to be present now.

I groan as I recognise that sometimes I actually enjoy being entertained by the drama of my mind. I quite like fantasising and reminiscing and anticipating. Mindfulness can be boring, right? Twenty-five minutes in and I’m already resisting the challenge.

The clock creeps past one am. I know that my mind is keeping me awake, like an enthusiastic relative back from their travels, telling me stories and bombarding me with pictures.

It’s late and I’m still wired. Not so entertaining now, is it? Maybe being present would be a good idea, I decide.

My breath deepens. I sink into my body and snuggle into the bed. My mind escapes again. And again. I patiently allow it to shuffle back. My shoulders drop. I stop holding on so tight. And I fall asleep.

Perhaps living in the past and potential future is just another bad habit like biting my lip and fingers. Apparently it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Thirty days hath September. So let’s see if this month bestows me with boredom or liberation and peace…

How will you challenge yourself this month?

Safe journey, Michelle. Rest in peace xxx

Safe journey, Michelle. Rest in peace xxx

Image: Author’s Own.