Sunday, 28 July 2013

Week 31: Inverting to see what's there.

I have a due date rapidly approaching. It feels as though it's zooming towards my face at an accelerated pace. It's mighty uncomfortable.

My assignment is one that's well outside my comfort zone: A film script sample. I'm no script writer, let me be clear. Yet, it's what I have to do to satisfy my current Masters subject. Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying the process. It's just that I'm feeling a lot of pressure. This little fishy is flapping on the bank.

Over the weekend, I worked on my assignment in a big way. I wanted to fix all the bits I thought were 'wrong' and make them 'right'. I tapped at the keys, then sat back rather satisfied. I actually thought I'd done a pretty good job. Then I got some feedback from my tutor, and my heart sank.

So, what did I do? Well, I catastrophised of course, at least briefly. I bemoaned the inevitable poor grade I would receive, hung my head in embarrassed shame.

Then I shook myself off. It is only one assignment after all. It's hardly the end of the world. Still ... I want to do well, I really do.

I have one week until the due date. I need to stay mindful to stay sane.

So this week I'm going to do something a little different. I'm going to invert every day. "What?" you ask! I'm going upside down every single day. It might be downward facing dog, lying with my legs up the wall, doing a shoulderstand or a headstand - anything that changes my perspective ... tips it on its head, if you will.

Why? Because going upside down offers an opportunity to look at things differently. It gives us fresh eyes to take in what's there. As we view the world every day, we become complacent. We see what we 'know' is there instead of taking it in and observing it like it's brand new.

As I take my head down lower than my heart, I'm going to soak in what's there. I will be mindful using all of my senses.

And, with any luck, this little mindfulness 'challenge' will keep my creativity flowing, my anxiety in check, and give my body a well-deserved break from typing and toddler-carrying duties.

Week 30 Update: The Calming Breath.

Alternate nostril breathing is absolutely my favourite pranayama. It calms me, centres me, and allows me to focus on just one thing  - the breath.

I needed it this week.

My son has been unwell. And unhappy. It's been a hard week.

At one point, I sat in the bathroom and did a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing. It really helped.

That's all I can say. It works, I'll keep doing it.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Week 30: In one side, out the other.

In one side, out the other. Nope, I'm not talking about baby brain here (for the uninitiated, baby brain comes on sometime during pregnancy and then I'm pretty sure hangs around until your children are having children of their own. It's characterised by forgetfulness and, uh, that other thing I can't think of right now...). I'm talking about the breath.

Back in Week 6 my challenge was noticing the breath ("I'm breathing in, I'm breathing out"). This week, I'm back to the breath, but in a slightly different way.

Alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhan, is one of my favourite pranayama, or breath control, practices. It has a beautifully simple way of drawing you into the present moment, with the added benefit of bringing balance to your energy.

It's easy to do. Here's how:

  • Using your right hand, rest your pointer and middle fingers to the middle of the brows. 
  • Rest your thumb on the outside of the right nostril and your ring finger on the outside of the left nostril.
  • Block off the right nostril with your thumb and breathe in through your left nostril.
  • Block off the left nostril with your ring finger and breathe out through your right nostril. 
  • Inhale through your right nostril.
  • Block of the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril.
  • Inhale through your left nostril.
  • Repeat for 5 - 10 cycles, eyes closed.
This week I'm going to spend a few minutes every day practising this breathing technique - focusing purely on the breath. All going well, I should be pretty balanced by the end of the week ... 

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Week 29 Update: An obsession that feeds itself.

This past week I set out to break (or at least put a dent in) my obsessive Facebook and email checking habit.

I am not exaggerating when I say that the urge to check in with social media is one that has infiltrated a substantial proportion of my waking moments. I would check whether I had time to read/reply/take in what was there; I would check whether it had been mere minutes since the last time I checked; I would check because I was procrastinating about folding the washing or doing some homework; I would check because ... well, because it was something to do.

It's not that I don't have enough to do - I'm a stay at home mum, a work from home mum, and a study from home mum. I love all of my roles, but excess time is not something I have in spades. So, then, why is this habit SO HARD TO BREAK?!

I think the answer to that question is this: because the habit feeds itself.

I check once. I like it. I check again. I still like it. I like to look at all that shiny goodness on this crazy piece of technology that is my smart phone. I like to know what my friends are up to. I like to know that I'm not going to miss anything (the irony of that last point is not lost on me...). The more I check, the more I want to check.

And that's the thing I've noticed this week. When I've successfully resisted that urge to check for an extended period of time, the urgency of my need dissipates. Suddenly, it doesn't nag at me in the same way. The voice inside my head saying, "Check me! Check me!" reduces in volume. Of course, resisting this urge - saying no to checking in for the umpteenth time today - is a constant challenge. Like any habit, it's ingrained, hard to shift, incessant. No reason to stop trying though, hey?!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Week 29: I check you once, I check you twice, I check you many, many times.

Ah, Facebook. How obsessed with you I have become. It never used to be this way, but lately I find myself drawn to you in what can only be described as an obsessive way. I hold my shiny black smart phone in my hands and you beckon me with your little blue and white logo. You call out: 'check me! check me!'. I oblige. Then you do it again and again and again.


Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear - I don't have anything against Facebook specifically or social media in general. Quite the opposite in fact. I think they're great. A brilliant way to share things with friends; a place to learn, laugh, challenge; a forum for community of a very modern kind. What's not to love? Well, I can think of one thing ... that nagging urge to check in with what's going on on Facebook. All. The. Time.

I used to check in once a day. Then it just grew and grew until it got to the point where I'd be embarrassed to count the number of times I check, and even more embarrassed to report that number here. It seems so innocent - just a quick press of the finger on a simple icon, a little scroll through new stories, a read of messages. Fine. Nothing wrong with that. Until, that is, the urge beckons you over and over again in a relatively short space of time.

I'm kind of the same with emails. A quick check to see if there's anything new. But even if there is, rarely do I have the time or space to reply to them then and there, so what's the point of checking?!

I have no desire to 'switch off' completely - absolutely not. Social media and email are a part of our world. I like them. A lot. What I am going to do is start ignoring that little voice every time it whispers (or shouts, actually): 'CHECK ME!!!' I'm going to cut back, use some self control. Because the fact of the matter is, I have plenty of things to attend to away from the screen. My son for one.

How do I know how much is too much (Facebook and email checking that is)? Well, I think I'll just focus for now on resisting the urge to check every single time it arises. And, I'm only going to check my emails when I have the intention of replying. That's a good start!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Week 28 Update: Grateful for Gratitude.

Gratitude is a seriously wonderful thing.

I must admit that even though I tend to be a fairly positive, optimistic person who tries to see the best in things, a gratitude practice has never been on my radar. But that's definitely going to change.

This past week, I've focused on the things I'm grateful for. The big things (like the house, car), little things (a hot cuppa, a home made cookie) and people things (my son, husband, family, friends) have all gotten a look-in. It's funny - even though I've always appreciated these things, in the process of practising gratitude, I've come to appreciate them even more.

During the week, when I've been faced with things that made me frustrated, upset, angry, or just plain grossed-out (like the time my son put dog poo in his mouth ...), I've taken the time to find something in the moment to be grateful for. There's always been something - and usually lots.

Practising gratitude has done far more than simply highlight the good things in my life. It has, without a doubt, helped me to be more mindful and present in the moment. To be able to stop, notice and appreciate what we're grateful for at any given moment, we have to be present, we have to be mindful. Win-win.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Week 28: Gratitude.

Put your hand up if you find it easy to be dragged down by all the yucky/mundane/boring/crap stuff in life? You know, the things that don't go 'right', the frustrations, gaps, stresses, inconsistencies, lack of time, housework, bills, the daily grind ... yadda, yadda, yadda. I'm betting there are a few hands up. You're not alone.

It's far too easy to lose sight of the things that matter in life, to get carried away by things that are outside of our control or, often, simply do not matter. Yet, in every situation, in every moment, there is something, no matter how small, to be grateful for.

The idea of creating a gratitude practice is one I keep coming across. It started when I began following this wonderful blog: The Spaces Between, where Natalie is halfway into a year of being grateful. Since then, I've bumped into this notion time and time again, most recently in the past week when it's been brought to my attention via the I {Heart} My Daily Practice Summit.

Despite my best efforts and my daily practice of mindfulness, I have to admit that I'm still getting dragged down - by fatigue, daily frustrations and a perceived inability to find enough hours in the day. I think now is a perfect time for some gratitude!

This week I'm going to spend a few minutes every morning and every evening reflecting on the things I'm grateful for. There are many of them, so that shouldn't be terribly challenging. Also, when I find myself upset, frustrated, angry or whatever, I'm going to look for any tiny thing I can be grateful for in that moment.

Research suggests that gratitude practice is a powerful tool - it can increase our happiness, help us to live more presently in the moment and even improve our health. You can read more about that here. In the meantime, I'm off to embrace the countless things I have to be grateful for.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Week 27 Update: I'm trying to let you eat cake, but gosh darn it it's hard.

Right. So at the start of this week I set out to catch myself whenever I was stepping on the mindfulness toes of others. In particular, I'd noticed lately the way I tend to shovel food into my son's mouth rather mindlessly, which doubtless impacts his ability to be present. Likewise, I'd find myself waving around various toys, singing and dancing like a crazed mummy in some weird attempt to quell my rising fears that I'm not a good enough mum. Then there are all those times I start speaking with my husband while he's watching telly, on the computer/smart phone/driving when I know I don't have his attention and then get frustrated because he doesn't immediately make me his sole focus.

I was actually a little surprised when I stepped back from this and noticed the way my own ability to be mindful was enhanced when I was more conscious of other people's space. Then, on the other hand, I have found it so, so hard to do it! My practice this week hasn't been perfect - I have inadvertently trod on some mindfulness toes - but it has been a fascinating exercise.

What are the biggest blocks I've faced?

For me, I noticed that this is far harder when I'm feeling stressed or rushed (hurry up, shoes, no time, let's go!), when I'm frustrated with the person I'm dealing with, or (and this is a big one) when I'm feeling uncomfortable in my own skin.

That last point needs some clarification perhaps. I realised this week that in those social moments when I'm uncertain of myself, I tend to deal with this by falling back on my old faithful companion - Mrs. Interruption. For whatever reason, if I feel any social anxiety, if I feel judged/un-liked/unsure/out of my depth, I interrupt (not in a negative way, more from a place of nerves and over-compensation), I babble, I become vague and kind of out of place. I watched myself do this at least a couple of times this week ...

I know that this week's challenge won't be dropped by the wayside just yet. Becoming more and more aware of how I impede or get out of the way of others' mindfulness stands to teach me a lot.