Tag Archives: sleep

I’m Always Here

Mindfulness is a buzz word of the moment. And being present is a recurring theme in my blog posts.

Yesterday however, I realised that there’s an element of resistance in the way I’ve been practising mindfulness. I’ve been using my version of mindfulness to criticise myself and block self-expression.

Living in the now is being present to experience life as it happens. It’s not about dredging up the past or catapulting into the future. It also isn’t about trying to change how things are. Mindfulness means nonresistance.

Mindfulness has certainly enriched my experience of life. It has enabled peace of mind and improved my sleep. And it’s giving me a deeper appreciation of myself, other people and the world around me.

I’ve also become pretty adept at catching myself as I catastrophise a situation. When I worry about what could possibly go wrong, I can quickly bring myself back to the present moment and know that, right now, I’m okay. This potential future I’ve spun dangerously into doesn’t even exist. All that exists is this moment.

Recently however, I’ve been a little hard on myself when I find myself in my head. Get out of there Sharon, I shout. As if my head isn’t part of me.

When I feel excited about something, I immediately shut off that excitement. I tell myself that I’m silly for fantasising. I insist on being present. There’s no place for dreams Sharon, I scold. There is only now.

I convince myself that hope is a dirty word. Where there’s hope, disappointment will follow. 

It’s as if Eckhart Tolle has infiltrated my inner voice and I can hear his disapproval every time I slip into expectation or attachment. Of course, there’s massive wisdom in Eckhart Tolle’s teachings. And mindfulness is a wonderful practise. But what’s important is how we internalise these concepts.

Yesterday, I complained to my Life Coach that I’m not being present when I fancy a guy. I described being alone in my room thinking of a man I like.

The Life Coach asks me what that feels like. “It’s nice,” I answer. “I feel excited. But then, if things don’t work out the way I’d hoped, I feel so disappointed. I’m not being present.” I frown.

“Are you not being present?” he wonders.

Suddenly, I realise that I am being present. I’m actually always present. I’m always here.

I’m aware of myself as I fantasise. I’m aware as I attach hope to someone or something. I’m the witness, the consciousness, that’s observing everything, all of the time.

When I feel disappointed or excited, in love or anxious, it doesn’t mean I’ve taken a step back spiritually. It just means that I’m human. I’m experiencing and learning.

Being present doesn’t eradicate emotion. Mindfulness doesn’t obliterate thought.

I can be present in my hope and disappointment. I can think thoughts and I can watch myself as I think them. I can allow the inner child to play and get excited. And I can open up to love instead of closing myself off for fear of losing myself.

Mindfulness isn’t about being perfect and feeling zen all the time. It’s about being present to everything exactly as it is. It’s about observing and accepting.

With this new understanding, I feel relieved. I feel looser. I give myself permission to be a human being with wants, needs and desires. I allow myself to feel, to play and to love.

This frees me up to recognise myself as something bigger also. The witness who sees everything and doesn’t judge or criticise. And so I can allow all that is and be as I am.

meditationandmindfulnessforchildren.blogspot.ie

meditationandmindfulnessforchildren.blogspot.ie

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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.

Awake and Aware

In order to wind down for the evening, I stick on an episode of The Mentalist. After about five minutes, I switch it off. I sigh. There’s nothing happening on Facebook. Nobody’s texting me. I don’t feel like reading. I self-diagnose “boredom”.

I take out my iPod, turn off the light and lie there listening to a Sleepy Time playlist I compiled a few years ago. A recent conversation with a friend comes to mind. She spoke about feeling that she has to be doing all the time. When she’s doing nothing, she gets into a bad mood. “Why can’t I just be,” she asks rhetorically.

I become aware that, right now, there is a need in me for excitement. I’m not being present. I’m wishing and longing for action, for something more. With this realisation, comes a feeling of space and acceptance and gratitude for what I do have.

I notice the beauty of this moment. The darkness of the room. The feeling of the bed beneath me. The lamplight pooling underneath the curtains. The music with its keening harmonica and evocative expression of passion. And the energy that I feel coursing through my body.

I don’t have to wait for something big to happen so that I can relish the moment. Every single moment is an opportunity to be present to it, to welcome it, to expand into it, and to be all that I am.

Mindfulness for the Full Mind

In recent weeks, I’ve been battling against my own reaction to noise. I eventually decided to stop blaming the external and work on my inner peace instead.

Last week, I was so exhausted (from lack of sleep but mainly from my own internal chitchat) that I gave up. And that was when the magic happened. I let go. I surrendered the control that I had been fearfully clasping on to so damn tightly. I recognised that I can’t control my surroundings. But I can be okay with them.

I was too tired to use all the positive tools and techniques that I’d taught myself over the years. So I stopped trying so hard. I simply accepted what was – the noise and how I was feeling.

I also figured out that I often felt anxious before the noise started. I was nervously anticipating when it would begin. Then, I would project into the following day and I’d imagine how tired I’d be. I was so very far removed from the present moment.

healthshire.com

healthshire.com

One word kept entering my mind: Mindfulness. Then, I remembered that I’d seen a workshop advertised a while back. I rooted out the email and, as synchronicity would have it, it was on in a few days’ time. I immediately signed up for it.

The workshop consisted of four hours of meditation, silence and mindful walking. Halfway through the class, I suddenly felt impatient. It was all so slow. Nothing was happening. It was then that I had a deep knowing that this was exactly what I needed – I had to physically slow down and bring my awareness to the present moment (my bodily sensations, my breathing and the sounds around me) in order to slow down the sprinting chatter of my mind.

No wonder I felt restless during this workshop as I had been living such a fast-paced life. Rushing to work. Coaching sessions. Classes. Reading. Cramming weekends with class preparation and assignments, then trying to squeeze in family time, dates and catch-ups with friends.

And even when I did sit down to watch television, whenever the ads came on, I’d check my emails, pop onto Facebook or send a text. I even checked my phone while sitting on the loo (hands up if you’ve done this!)

When I received an energy treatment the other day, I realised just how busy my mind was. I lay there composing emails and imagining conversations I would have. If I could just be present, I wouldn’t have to drain myself with all the mental rehearsing and reliving.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Last night, I woke at 2.30am and could not go back to sleep. So I got up, trudged into the sitting room and switched on the light. The first thing my bleary eyes landed on was a book that had been recommended to me almost a year ago – Mindfulness for Life by Craig Hassed and Stephen McKenzie.

It was just the right time to start reading this book. Hassed and McKenzie describe mindfulness as “the practice of paying attention.” They say that many people get interested in mindfulness because they want to learn to relax or cope better with stress and anxiety. However, they suggest that this can pose a problem. If we become too preoccupied with the goal of relaxing and destressing, we may become frustrated if the practice doesn’t turn out the way we expect or if we don’t achieve the results as quickly as we want.

Another interesting point they write about is how we try to cling to the bits of life that we like and banish those we don’t. Of course, this is understandable. We are trying to protect ourselves from suffering but this is what exactly what causes suffering.

Hassed and McKenzie write: “To be peaceful and happy we have to accept things that we don’t like when they come, and we have to let go of things that we do like when they go.” 

The only guarantee in life is that nothing is permanent. Not the good stuff, nor the bad. As the old adage accurately predicts: “This too shall pass.”

At five am, I put the book away and became aware of my bed and the feeling of it beneath me. I snuggled into the duvet and breathed deeply. I was aware of my breath and the sound of the rain outside. I was aware of my thoughts and how frequently they whisked me away from the present moment.

It was easy to want to detach from the negative thoughts but what I found challenging was to bring myself into the present when I was lounging in happy memories.

Recently, I had a pleasant experience. Last night, I found myself remembering all the tiny details of that moment. How I felt, what was said, what it all meant. I smiled as I relished reliving the event. However, I was no longer aware of my body, my breathing, the bed or the sounds outside. But why did I need to be mindful when I was clearly enjoying dwelling on certain parts of the past?

I asked myself: Was I truly present when that event was actually occurring? Incredibly, I hadn’t been. A large part of me had been caught up in thoughts, fears and expectations. And now, I was making up for it by reliving every last detail.

From this, I have learned that I need to practice mindfulness now so that I can be fully present in every moment. Then, I will be able to really bask in the pleasure and beauty of life. Practicing mindfulness will also help me to act effectively, with a clear mind, during the challenging times.

Hassed and McKenzie suggest starting with a mindfulness practice of five or ten minutes twice daily – before breakfast and dinner. It is best to sit upright and bring your awareness to the present moment by focussing on your breath, on an image or on the sounds around you.

The idea is that mindfulness can become part of your life, not just in a formal capacity. When you get into your car after work, take a few mindful breaths before you start driving. Wash the dishes mindfully. Brush your teeth mindfully. Eat, walk, and listen to music mindfully. Give your conversation partner the gift of a mindful ear. Conduct your relationships mindfully.

Mindfulness isn’t easy but it is oh so simple. Be present. Because all that exists is now.

be all there

Time Out

Whenever I get sick, three things happen. First, I resist the situation. I resent having to slow down and take time off. I think I should be working (and working out). Next, I go with it. I recognise that my body needs to heal. I even enjoy the rest, the reading, sleeping and daytime television. And finally, I learn something huge and take a massive leap forwards.

This time, after the initial groaning and settling process, I learned something pretty major. I had been complaining about noisy neighbours, a lack of sleep, and tiredness. I had decided to approach said neighbours so that they would be made aware of my suffering and would hopefully change their noisy ways.

However, with a bit of time and space to meditate on the issue, I realised that I have a thing about noise. I have been living in my current flat for just over three years. And since I’ve moved in, I’ve had problems with noisy birds, followed by a noisy buzzer, and now, noisy neighbours.

Last weekend, I heard someone say: “Wherever you go, there you are.” I can’t stop thinking about this quote.

I had been hoping the noise would stop. I’d been wishing the neighbours would move out. I’d even been fantasising about living in a large, detached house in the middle of the countryside. But wherever I go, there I am. It’s not about the flat or the neighbours or even the noise. It’s all about me.

me

Spiritual guide Anthony de Mello said that no noise can rob you of your peace, unless of course it’s so loud that it damages your eardrums. De Mello opted to hold his meditation classes in a room on a busy street as he felt it was important to be able to centre yourself in any environment. His class used to meditate on the sounds they heard.

One mantra that’s helped me over the years is: “If one can, everyone can.” If Anthony de Mello’s class could connect with stillness in the midst of all the noise, then so can I. If people can get used to sleeping in a hectic city or a rowdy youth hostel or next to railway tracks, then I too can accustom myself to noise. If certain people can boast about being able to sleep through anything, then it’s possible for me to able to get to that state.

I once heard Soul Coach Denise Linn speaking on Hay House Radio about a shape shifting technique. She suggested imagining ourselves as being an abundant or successful person. Once we get into the feeling of being like that, she said, we actually transform into that person.

After listening to that show, I did a shape shifting meditation with my Positive Living group where we imagined being a beautiful bird. We were all able to feel what it was to be that powerful, majestic bird soaring in the sky.

A while later, I was struggling up a hill on my bicycle. I remembered the shapeshifting exercise so I decided to shape shift into a super fit person. The climb became effortless! So with regard to the neighbours, I could shape shift into someone who simply isn’t bothered by noise.

The other day, one of my Life Coaching classmates asked me how I feel after ten minutes’ meditation. I described feeling calm and grounded. I joked: “Wouldn’t it be great to be able to get into that feeling without having to do the meditation!” She sighed, “If only it was that easy.” But perhaps it can be that simple.

You want to be happy? What would it feel like to be perfectly content? Really get into the feeling… Can you do it? Yes? Well there you are, you’re in it. Want to feel relaxed, still and centred? Visualise feeling that way. Soon, you’re no longer visualising the calm. You are that calm.

Since having these realisations, I’ve still been woken by noise. But instead of labelling it in a negative way, as something that shouldn’t be happening (because the annoyance and anxiety that consumed me as a result of that thinking was what was keeping me awake), I’ve brought acceptance to the situation.

However, it can be quite a challenge to effortlessly move from rage to serenity in the middle of the night. So instead of beating myself up for getting so uptight, I’ve used a wonderful affirmation that I learned from the Emotional Freedom (Tapping) Technique: “Even though I’m [filled with anger], I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” 

That was the bridge I needed to go from desperately wishing things were different to acceptance of the situation and of myself. And every single time, I’ve drifted back into slumber.

If I hadn’t had the time off that my flu had forced me to take, I’d probably still be blaming the external forces for my suffering. It can be so enlightening and empowering when you give yourself permission to slow down.

Images: weheartit.com

Images: weheartit.com

Make Friends With Yourself

I’ve been pretty tired lately as I’ve been really busy and noisy neighbours have been robbing me of my precious sleep. I noticed that I’ve started feeling anxious, rushed, under pressure and annoyed.

Little things that wouldn’t usually bother me were playing on my mind. My thoughts were ceaseless and I found it difficult to wind down.

I longed for a holiday far away from it all, where I could enjoy a complete lack of work, deadlines, meetings and boisterous children next door. I would sleep and walk in nature and breathe…

However, right now, I can’t just take off. Well, I could if I really wanted to as I always have a choice. So right now, I’m saying yes to the assignments and visits, dates and appointments.

But I still need to take a moment in between. I need to create space for myself amongst all the busyness so that I can hear what’s going on for me.

But wasn’t that the last thing I wanted to do? I was fed up of hearing myself think. I slouched off into the dark bedroom and flung myself on the bed. I was full to the brim with my own thoughts.

Last night, I gave my Positive Living group the homework of recording their self-talk for one day. The purpose of this is to monitor how many negatives and positives you’re telling yourself and to see what negative issues are most common.

I decided to take on this task today and what a day it was to complete such an exercise. My self-talk was predominantly negative, full of doubt and criticism, perfectionism and irritation. And when I realised how negative I’d been, I felt even more negative. I really was sick of the sound of my inner critic.

So instead of trying to analyse or reason with myself, I wondered: What would a friend say if they overheard my self-talk?

Instantly, my inner voice became encouraging and supportive, gentle and complimentary. My inner-friend was understanding and compassionate and even offered some useful advice.

She told me to always listen to what I needed, to prioritise and to take enough time to rest and have fun. She insisted that my health and happiness were of utmost importance and whatever I needed to do to conserve both of those things was absolutely worth doing.

And you know what, she was right. I must listen to her more often.

What’s your inner friend telling you?

artsymphony.blogspot.gr

artsymphony.blogspot.gr

Just Breathe

I didn’t sleep much last night and, today, I mustered up the courage to bring up a difficult conversation with a loved one. My chest is heavy and I feel like I need more air. That or a good cry. A 12-hour uninterrupted snoozefest wouldn’t go astray either.

I have a Pilates class in 30 minutes. I crawl into bed and set the alarm. But I feel terrible and I can’t relax. Then it dawns on me. I have choices. I ask myself what I’d really like to do.

Yes, I’ve paid for this course and I may miss some new moves. But tonight, I’m allowing my own voice to rise above the roar of the shoulds and the musts and the expectations.

With my decision made, I snuggle deeper into my freshly made bed. I leave the curtains open and gaze out at a single shimmering star in the October sky. I listen to the sound of dogs barking at the ubiquitous pre-Hallowe’en bangers and I smile.

Soon, I shall ease myself into a steaming bubble bath, my favourite music on the stereo. And later, I’ll curl up behind the pages of an Ethan Hawke novel.

My body is grateful. I can breathe again.

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weheartit.com