A Good All-rounder 

One of the most important aspects of my self-renewal journey is learning to meditate and be more mindful.  This encompasses all four motivations that I am working on – Physical, Spiritual, Mental and Social/Emotional (through self-care).  This is the area that I have been working on the longest and I have currently been meditating for 36 days.

I felt quite strongly that this was the place I needed to start and that it would be the one activity which would help me in all other endeavours.  I have tried and failed many times previously to learn to meditate and be more mindful.  I would always do quite well to start but would then become increasingly frustrated with some of the initial issues such as not being able to focus, the mind keeping on wandering, not being comfortable or finding it a bit of a chore or a little boring.  I realise now that at those times I had not realised the importance of it.  It was only when I started writing down my lists that I realised this one thing could be the key to changing everything for me.

In my post today I want to write a little about how I started meditating and the initial struggles I faced and how I found ways to overcome them.  Hopefully by the end of the post anyone who has been thinking about giving it a go will have a few steps to work with.  I also recommend an app called Headspace which I have been using to help me.  I find it really helps motivate you and keeps you on track.

The first thing to do is to get comfortable.  You can sit in a chair or on the floor.  It is not necessary to sit in any particular position such as the lotus although your spine should be erect.  For some, sitting with your spine straight can be uncomfortable to start with but you will get used to it quickly.  Initially you can use the feeling to help you stay present.  I don’t recommend sitting on the sofa as if you are too comfortable you may fall asleep and it is harder to sit with your spine straight!  Okay, Are you comfortable?

You can start with your eyes open.  Don’t stare at anything particular, just keep a soft gaze and be aware of the space around you.  Now you can start to take a few deep breaths.  Breathe in through the nose.  Your focus should be on your chest expanding and your lungs filling with air.  You should breathe out through your mouth where your focus should be on your body softening and relaxing.  Initially breathe loud enough that if there was someone sitting next to you they could hear you inhale and exhale.  Do this for as long as you need to feel relaxed. When you feel relaxed, close your eyes gently on an exhale.

Firstly focus on the physical sensations.  Feel your body pressing down against the chair or floor.  Feel the soles of your feet pressing on the ground.  Feel your arms and hands resting on your legs or lap.  It can be quite difficult at first to tune into the body but it will get easier the more aware you become.  I found focusing on the feet helpful as you often get a tingling sensation here which is quite obvious.  Focus on the body sensations for a couple of minutes.

When you feel ready start to notice the sounds around you… a ticking clock, the hum of electricity, cars passing outside and the wind blowing.  It is important that you don’t search for sounds, just notice what comes to you.  As soon as it comes to your awareness, let it pass again.  It’s amazing what you notice when you think you’re in silence!  When you feel comfortable with this bring the attention back into the body.

Notice how your body is feeling.  Scan down your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.  Don’t allow yourself to get stuck on any one area, just keep moving steadily down.  Are there any areas of tightness, tension?  Are there areas which feel relaxed.  Don’t think about it, just notice and move on.  Build a picture of how your body feels.  Initially I found scanning the body difficult as I could not feel every part of my body.  When this happens you just need to notice you don’t feel anything and move on.  It can help to say the body parts in your head to keep you focused and moving on.  Head, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, neck…etc.  You will become more aware as you practise.

Next, when you feel ready start to focus on your breathing.  Notice the rise and fall in your body.  Where do you notice it?  In the stomach?  Diaphragm? Chest? Shoulders?  Notice the rhythm of the breath.  Are they long? Short? Shallow? Deep?  Don’t think about it, just notice.  After a short while you can count the breaths, I found this really helped me to focus.   Count one on the inhale and 2 on the exhale etc right up to ten.  When you reach ten, start back at one and continue in this way.  Allow thoughts to come and go.  If you get distracted, come back to the breath and pick up on the number you left off on.

Next, completely let go off any focus.  If your mind wants to think, let it think.  If your mind wants to be busy, let it be busy.  Don’t try to control anything.  After a few moments bring the attention back to the body.  

Notice the physical sensations, the contact your body has with the chair or floor.  The soles of your feet on the floor.  Your arms and hands resting on your legs or lap.  Notice the sounds.  Bring yourself back into your immediate environment. Gently open your eyes, have a stretch and relax.  Take a minute to appreciate how good it feels.

Remember at this stage it is still very common for you to be having a lot of thoughts.  This is normal, just remember the moment you realise that you are distracted, just to bring your awareness back to the body or breath.  It gets easier with practise. 

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Journal prompt #1

As part of my mental renewal I made the decision to start a regular writing process.  This blog is the start of that process.

I have wanted to keep a journal for a very long time and I have attempted to do so on numerous occasions in written form.  I always start off with much enthusiasm but I find that after a while when I feel comfortable enough to be writing down very personal things I then begin to worry.  What if someone finds my journal?  What if they read something about themselves?  What would people think if they knew my real thoughts?  In the end, panic consumes me, I start having irrational thoughts like “What if I die before I have the chance to dispose of this?”  I then dispose of said journal, feeling like a failure again.  A few months later I start looking around shops and seeing all the pretty note books and the process starts again!  (I have a vast collection of gorgeous notebooks with pages torn out.)

In the end, I think this is what led me to blogging.  I feel more confident with the total anonymity.  Yes, it’s possible for someone who knew me really well to perhaps recognise my stories in these pages but the odds make it unlikely and I feel happier with that.  At least with this blog.  In a previous blog I have written deeply personal stories and laid my soul bare, even that became unbearable for me so was deleted.  This blog is different because it’s about strength and positivity and working on ourselves.  It can only be a good thing.

In any case, I still love a good journal.  There are so many brilliant ones on the market these days.  I found this brilliant list on Buzz feed with some great ones to try out.

Awesome journals to try

I thought I would choose one of these journals, pick one of the journal prompts and transfer it to here.  Today’s journal prompt is:

List five things that always, and immediately, bring a smile to your face.

  1. Daddy’s Little Princess (my daughter) because she is so creative and already hugely humanitarian, kind and empathic. 
  2. Mummy’s Little Soldier (my son) because he gives the best smiles and hugs and has a lovely gentle nature.
  3. My partner when he is completely present and involved in family life.
  4. Friends who I just ‘click’ with and feel comfortable with immediately.  You can spend time apart but when you see each other again, it’s like you’ve never been away.
  5. Having a job where I make a huge difference to people’s lives every single day.

    What makes you smile?

    My Mental Realm

    I have been looking at my plans for mental renewal by looking at the mental checklist.  I have started working on a few of the areas but others I need to get going with.

    I do quite a bit of reading, mostly nonfiction and of the personal development variety.  I also read books related to areas of interest such as nutrition, natural beauty products, mindfulness and meditation and home keeping.  I do read occasional fiction which tends to be of the thriller genre.

    As for having a regular writing process, this blog is the start of that.  I have tried keeping various types of journals in the past but I always seem to start worrying about someone finding it and give up and throw it away.  I seem to have a bit of a complex in general about people knowing the real me and whether they will like and accept me or not.  I spent a long time being a people pleaser and now that I have stopped being that way, people have definitely noticed a difference – yet I’m still not quite comfortable with sharing all of me yet!

    I clear my mind on a daily basis by meditating.  I’m a beginner and I’m currently on Day 22 using the Headspace app(I have a 1 month free trial voucher code if anyone wants it).  I’m finding it easier each day but I still have days where my mind seems to wander consistently!  I also like the idea of relaxation through music.  I rarely seem to listen to music anymore and this is something I would really like to get back into.

    I used to really enjoy doing word puzzles, suduku puzzles and actually jigsaws in general so I would love to start doing this again.   DLP (Daddy’s Little Princess) loves to do jigsaws too so this would be a lovely activity to do together.  I found my old DS the other day and my brain training games so perhaps I’ll give these another go!

    My main hobby is crochet.  I taught myself a couple of years ago.  It’s very relaxing but very time consuming.  Whenever I start my crochet, everything else is put on the back burner.  The last blanket I made took six weeks of my free time.  So I love it, but whilst I’m trying to make important changes in my life any big projects are best avoided!  I guess I could make a blanket one granny square at a time.

    My six-week project!

    I need to explore other hobbies.  The best way to do this is to think about what you loved to do as a child, often we forget about the things which gave us joy back then.  For me, hobbies included drawing, painting, arts and crafts, caring for animals, writing stories, gardening, feng shui, I ching, and singing !  I do very few of these now, so maybe it’s time to incorporate some into my life.

    I would like to continue my education informally.  Some subjects which interest me are the arts, psychology and nutrition.  There are a lot of great free resources on line these days so i need to start having a look at what’s available.  I even found an old French Linguophone course I never got round to doing so perhaps I should start by learning a new language.

    I need to have more conversations with people.  I am about as introverted as you can get and feel very awkward in social situations and have a certain amount of social anxiety.  So practise, practise, practise to increase confidence.

    I have a diary to organise myself but I do not use it to full advantage.  With all the stuff I’m planning to get done I think it would be smart to start off with a decent planning system!

    On my list of goals so far I have the following items:

    1. Read books regularly.  Fiction and non fiction. 
    2. Start a regular writing process such as this blog or journaling. 
    3. Follow Headspace Daily Meditation (Day 22! Yay).
    4. Listen to inspirational music.
    5. Challenge my mind.  Puzzles and brain training. 
    6. Spend time doing activities I love.  Crochet, gardening, poetry, aromatherapy, creative pursuits, singing.  Plus the above mentioned.
    7. Study something I’m interested in.  Learn a language.
    8. Have more conversations with people.
    9. Start using a planner or diary more regularly and effectively. 

    This should keep me busy for a while!

    Beginnings

    In 2010 I returned to work after maternity leave following my first born.  I could not have been more happy to be returning to work and felt like I could get my life back on track.  My pregnancy and maternity leave had been a very difficult period of time and I felt very disappointed and guilty that I had not enjoyed the experience as i should of done or was expected to.  I had been in a very difficult relationship with a man who was struggling with alcohol dependancy, we were in a lot of debt and the stress got to me.  I suffered with post natel depression which if I’m honest with myself lasted roughly three and a half years in total.  I also had my second child during this period.  I was under a lot of pressure and had no idea how to help myself.  My pride stopped me from asking for help from others and the thought of admitting i couldn’t cope was too much to bare.

    So I returned to work and got stuck in to my responsibilities.  I performed very well and was placed on a programme for very talented employees who go above and beyond in their job.  On this programme I was introduced to the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.   This book changed my world and started my journey of personal development.  

    My life became much improved after I was able to deal with my own issues and let go of the things i couldn’t change in other people.  I got through my PND and I am now happy in my relationship and have been able to support my partner and we have come out the other side stronger than ever.  I’m not saying that everything is perfect, but we take things one day at a time.  There is always room for improvement in any relationship and as you can see I am not a quitter!

    I have two wonderful children.  Daddy’s Little Princess (DLP) is 6 and Mummy’s Little Soldier (MLP) is 5.  MLP was diagnosed with Autism this earlier this year, so this is another adventure we are experiencing as a family.

    I have found that I can keep my self flowing nicely along by making sure that four areas of my life are in balance.  These are my four motivations.

    My Physical Self

    My Spiritual Self

    My Mental Self

    My Social/Emotional Self 

    On each of these pages you will find a checklist where you can assess how you are doing and see where you can make improvements.  It is very helpful when you’re not sure where to start.

    Although I have been through some difficult times, this blog is not intended as a space to be negative and such stories will only be included briefly for context.  I want this blog to be positive and uplifting and proof that if we put in the effort we really can get through difficult times and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

    This blog will be about my journey, my life and how I am attempting to become a better, stronger person, partner, and mother.  I have decided to record this journey to help me stay on track and to have some accountability.  

    I would love to hear about other people’s journeys.  So please share your experiences with me or join me on mine.  I certainly could use all the help I can get.  I think we all can!