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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Honey and Coconut Oil Cleanser

As part of my social/emotional renewal I learnt that before I could start improving my relationships with other people, I first had to improve my relationship with myself.  So today’s post is about how I have been improving my ability to give myself a little self care.

This is something I have found really difficult in the past.  Once you have children your own needs often are put on the back burner for a while.  I remember when my daughter was born, there were days when I barely slept the night before and times when I could go an entire day without eating or even peeing!  Once my post natel depression set in things got really bad.  Now, when it comes to self-care, I often feel quite guilty or selfish for taking time out for myself.

I’ve tried to tie in the self care I’m doing with things that interest me.  For example, I’m really into natural eating and using coconut oil at the moment so I thought I could extend this to my beauty products.  I already use mostly vegan, chemical free products but I thought it would be fun to start making my own – which is also much cheaper!

It turns out that coconut oil is fantastic for beauty products and can be used for so many different things.  Coconut oil is made up of 48% lauric acid (and one of the only other places you can find it is in breast-milk).  Lauric acid is fantastically healthy for you and it has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.  It is also very high in vitamin E.

The first product I decided to make was a Honey and Coconut Oil Cleanser. Here is the recipe.

(Makes 1 x 80ml or 3 fl. oz. jar)

The beauty of this Cleanser is that it’s gentle but still packs a punch by only containing three of the best antibacterial ingredients from the natural world:  coconut oil, honey, and lavender.

  • 50g (2oz / 5tbsp) coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp raw honey
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil

Pour the coconut oil into a small mixing bowl.

Stir in the honey and lavender oil and combine thoroughly.

Leave to cool before using or transferring to a jar.

Use a dollop on dry skin morning and night.

Tip

Apply one layer of neat coconut oil (pea-size amount) to remove your make-up (really good for stubborn mascaras).  After wiping it away with a damp cotton pad, apply this cleanser in circular motions all over your face and neck, giving yourself a gentle massage as you go.  Use a warm, wet flannel to lift away the residue.

I have been using this Cleanser for about 3 weeks now and I have noticed a real difference in my skin.  It’s much smoother, softer and plumper.  I was initially worried about using oil on my skin as I already have oily skin but it has not been a problem as the product is so well absorbed.  It also smells good enough to eat!

My Social/ Emotional Realm

I have been looking at my plans for social/emotional renewal by looking at the social/emotional checklist.  This is the area I struggle with the most and the one which I will find most difficult to implement.  I am a very introverted, private person and have a certain amount of social anxiety unless I know people very well.  I haven’t been on a night out in around two years!

The first item on the checklist is about being reliable and dependable.  This is something I’m good at particularly at work.  I am very well thought of and I’m seen as ‘second in command’ next to my manager even though I do not have that official position.  I hate being late to anything whether it’s for my shift at work or for a appointment of some kind.  In fact I’m normally early!  I’m also reliable and dependable at home, I’m the person my children will go to if they need something.

The next item is having a hopeful outlook on life.  I’m getting much better at this and I’m learning to stop worrying about things which are out of my control and I’m getting better at living in the present moment.  Since starting this personal development journey I am much more positive about things in general.

The next item is being trusting and supportive of people in my circle of influence.  I think I’m pretty good at this.  My Social circle is quite small and contains people I’m very close to so it’s not so difficult.  I need to be more trusting and supportive of my partner.  We have been through some difficult times together which has caused some resentment and tension to build up.  We are in a better place than we have been for a long while though, so things are improving.

I’m more of a listener than a talker so my listening skills are pretty good.  Like most people I’m guilty of trying to think of what I’m going to say next rather than actually listening.  Still lots of room for improvement though as a lot of the time I listen well because I don’t know what to say and am just trying to keep quiet rather than putting my opinion across.

I find I can be very empathic when children and animals are concerned.  I also work with adults with profound, multiple, learning disabilities so no problems here either.  I am very humanitarian so spend a great deal of time worrying about many vulnerable people for many different reasons.  My empathy goes to those who are really in need who I see overcome obstacles every day without complaint, and I don’t seem to have the same empathy for people with day to day issues.  As a consequence of this I can often come across as quite cold (not helped by the fact of my introverted quietness!).  So, room for improvement here and I would do well to remember that some people are fighting battles that you can’t see – hence why they get so upset about their washing machine breaking down etc.

As for maintaining my most important relationships I am closest to my children in particular my son.  I had terrible postnatal depression after having my daughter and I feel that it has effected our relationship somewhat.  We missed out on some of those early attachment stages so I need to revisit these with her.  My son in a way helped pull me out of PND so we have a very close relationship and also with him having Autism and me having a lot of experience and understanding of it (through my work) this has helped a lot.  As previously mentioned there is lots of improvements to be made with the other half, but things are looking up.

I am very bad at apologising.  I have a lot of pride and hate to admit that I’m wrong and believe that I am right most of the time (I am!) 😂

I can most definitely persevere through the hard times and have done so and I’m still not giving up. (I would have to admit I was wrong, wouldn’t I?😂)

Self-care is something I was pretty bad at.  I remember when the kids were born I could go a whole day without washing, eating or even peeing when things were really bad.  Thankfully I got better at it!  I’m even making my own beauty products with coconut oil for mini pampering sessions!  Get me!  It’s taken a lot of time for me to get used go spending time on myself.  I still feel a bit guilty but I’m getting there.  I try to remember that you can’t take care of others until you can take care of yourself properly.

I have been working on acting rather than reacting to situations too.  The meditation is really helping here and staying mindful as much as I can. 

So, here is my list of goals for social/ emotional renewal:

  1. Plan and live my life according to my values.
  2. Have a positive attitude.
  3. Practise listening skills.
  4. Working on important relationships.
  5. Practise good self-care.  Coconut oil products, eating healthily, exercising, meditation, date night for me.
  6. Practise acting rather than reacting to people and situations.

    Some of these are very big goals which I will need to break down into smaller chunks.  

    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!