show up for self care

What is self care and how can you show up for it?
 
I’ve thought about these questions a lot.
 
This is where I’ve come to.
 
To me, self care is recognising that I have needs and limits.
 
If my needs aren’t met and my limits are exceeded, my whole experience of life changes.

I’m less resilient, present, well, creative and happy.
 
Of course I don’t manage to meet all my needs and successfully observed all my limits all the of the time.

It's a practise, a constant navigation, rather than steady incline towards achieving the heady status of self care queen.

What I am steadily getting better at though is staying engaged in the navigation.
 
Even in the depths of my self care troughs I have awareness of where I am, and most crucially how to make my way out.
 
The light bulb moment for me was recognising that only I can be at helm of my self care ship and how it's unfair for me to expect anyone else to take the wheel. 
 
Showing up for self care is showing up for myself.
 
It’s treating myself with compassion and actively seeking what I need.
 
It’s doing the things that I can’t really be bothered to do but that make me feel better after I’ve done them.
 
It’s the mundane task of keeping my flat clean and tidy because somehow that seems to bring about a feeling of serenity like nothing else – yep I’m one of those people.
 
It’s also making sure I do interesting things, that I enjoy and that are good for my creative health.
 
It’s moving my body intentionally everyday, so that I don’t feel like I’m just a head suspended in space for days on end.
 
It’s respecting and practising rest.
 
It’s writing three pages of free writing every morning (whatever comes out when you put your pen to paper) because doing so always shifts my perspective for the better.
 
It’s not feeling guilty about using the word ‘no’ as a response to things.
 
A good way to explore what self care means to you is to ask yourself these questions:

  • What nourishes you?

  • What clears your head?

  • What makes you feel lighter?

  • What strengthens your ability to face each day with a sense of ‘I can tackle whatever comes my way’? 

Your answers are bespoke to you because your self care is bespoke to you.

There is no one size fits all. Different strokes for different folks you know?
 
On Sunday 11th November I’m co-leading a day retreat in London with the creator of slow crafting initiative Head & Hands.

It's called Show Up for Self Care.

We’ve joined forces to host a day that includes an exploration of moving, making, writing, accessible meditation and intention setting as pathways to self care.
 
It’s an opportunity to take a day out for yourself and try a handful of different practices.

To discover things that give you a greater sense of calm, grounding, nourishment and a feeling of being less in your head and more in your body.
 
Think of it as a chance to add some new tools to your self care tool kit.
 
It’s from 10-3.30pm and includes a vegan lunch. You’ll leave with inspiration for new ways to nourish yourself and three handmade tassels (made by you) that will be embedded with your own self care intention.
 
You can find all the info about the day here.

what do you love?

Grab a pen or open the notes app in your phone, write ‘I love…’ and see if you can list 20 things underneath it. 
 
Think about what gives you a sense of pure joy, excitement, pleasure, happiness.
 
Your list could include activities, occasions, people, objects, places - there are no rules.
 
If you get stuck stay with it for a moment. Close your eyes feel the weight of your arms, your feet and pelvis, the pen or phone in your hand. Let your shoulder blades shrug a little down your back. Take a slow breath in through your nose and let is release out just as slowly.
 
Take a few more breaths like this, as though you’re stirring something up with them. 
 
Open your eyes and go back to your list.
 
Once you’ve got your 20 sit back and look at them.
 
See which ones appear regularly in your life, and those that you haven't enjoyed for some time. 
 
Is there something on your list that you can make room for this weekend?
 
It’s so easy for us to get swept up in the current of the day-to-day and drift away from the things that inject our lives with the most vibrant colours.

It's amazing how hard it can be to write 20 things that you love. The truth is we all love hundreds of things but they're often at the backs of our minds.

Bringing them to the fore serves as a reminder to move towards them, more often in order to add a bit of pigment back in. 

rest is best

On my busier days I always spend at least 10mins lying on the floor with a pillow under my head and a blanket over me - usually before I leave the house to teach my last class of the day.
 
It’s taken me a long time to realise that getting as much done in the gaps between teaching on those busy days isn’t actually the most productive thing for me to do.
 
The most productive thing for me to do is to conserve my energy. 
 
I think we can forget that we aren’t machines.
 
I also think that many of us hold a lot of guilt around rest.
 
It’s a funny one really.
 
What is so bad about acknowledging that there needs to be some non-doing alongside the doing?
 
Energy isn’t endless.
 
I used to almost feel embarrassed about admitting that teaching 3 classes a day would leave me feeling exhausted.
 
Then I took a step back and looked at the bigger picture. 
 
The one that showed how many miles I’d walk in between those classes and how I was holding space for 20 people at a time.
 
Rest doesn’t need to be justified to anyone else.
 
Only we know how we feel.
 
Only we know what we need.
 
Taking what you need can feel like an act of rebellion, but my goodness is the cause a worthy one.
 
How would it feel to see your energy as a precious resource?
 
Can you appoint yourself the official conservator of your tank of juice?

To get to know what different levels of it feel like, what or who causes it to haemorrhage and what gives it a little boost, besides another cup of coffee (guilty). 
 
Since I became the official conservator of myself I’ve taken a lot more pride in rest.
 
I see it’s role, it’s super power and the guilt I felt about taking it has evaporated.
 
Rest isn’t idle. It’s preservation of strength, energy…life.

taking stock

All through my teenage years and early twenties I worked in a number of different shops and restaurants.
 
One of the tasks that had to be done in all of them was a stock take.

This involved going into the storage room out the back somewhere and counting all the goods so that the business had an up to date record of what it had in stock.
 
The practise of gratitude is a bit like a stock take.
 
It’s a conscious setting aside of time to remind yourself of what you've got.
 
Some of our goods will be at eye level, obvious for us to see, but inevitably there will be items that have been shoved to the back, maybe even covered by something else.
 
There’s a bit of digging involved with gratitude, to bring to the fore what’s hidden from view.
 
If abundance was a fire, gratitude would be the wood that keeps it burning.
 
Knowing what you’ve got is an antidote to the default of striving for more, the sense that if we just had that thing we’d be happy, we’d have enough, we’d finally reach where we’re aiming for.
 
Gratitude is seeing the wealth in what has already been accumulated, accomplished and bestowed.
 
I’m a big believer in the seismic shift in perspective that a regular gratitude practise is capable of causing.
 
In the past I’ve definitely been caught in the trap of associating abundance with money and luxury, but a big life event showed me that my stock comes in many forms.
 
Health, peace of mind, sense of home, the health of family members, creativity, support, love, friendship, space, freedom and access to good coffee are all riches.
 
Of course at times some of these may be thin on the ground, but to let the ones that are over flowing go unnoticed is a missed opportunity for a deeper sense of abundance.
 
Our blessings are worth counting.
 
How to start a gratitude practise?
 
Every week, every day, every moment is an opportunity to take stock.
 
Try writing three things you’re grateful for each day – go with whatever comes to mind in that moment. They can be as seemingly obscure as you like.
 
If your list carries on, let it.
 
The more the merrier.
 
Sceptical? Treat it as an experiment and do it for a month; what have you got to lose?
 
Today I am grateful for:

  1. the granola bar and black coffee I just enjoyed in Gail’s while writing this

  2. the fact I’ll be by the sea this weekend

  3. that I have time to get to a yoga class today

You know the old saying ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’; gratitude is knowing what you’ve got before it’s gone, so that you can soak it up, appreciate it in all it’s glory and live a life in full knowledge of your riches.  
 
I’ll be sharing more potentially perspective shifting writing practises in my upcoming yoga and journaling workshop ‘move, sit, write’ on Sun 30 Sep.
 
Writing as a personal practise has so many benefits, from boosting your creativity and bringing a sense of mental release, to developing a deeper connection to your intuition.

See the events page for more info.


 

toning attention

I recently set myself the task of working on some bigger writing projects that require more of my focus.
 
One of these being a guide to developing a journaling practise.
 
I know I’ve got it in me, I know I have a lot to share but something keeps cropping up that’s blocking me from getting my head down.
 
I’m distracted, easily.
 
By emails, whatspp, instagram, even the BBC weather app seems to call my name when I sit down to write.
 
I'm buzzing with connectivity and it’s fragmenting my attention into tiny pieces that are highly susceptible to wearing thin.
 
It’s been quite eye opening.

I didn’t realise how much power all the things vying for my attention actually had.

The world is more distracting than ever before.

Thanks to smartphones we are constantly connected and therefore constantly contactable.
 
Many of us sleep with our phones by our beds and can go from week-to-week without straying more than a few meters away from our little portals to a world of content calling out to be consumed.
 
The lure factor of notifications and staying updated is huge and it’s our ability to offer our full attention to things that’s taking the hit.
 
Like how a muscle becomes weak when it isn’t used, our attention shrivels if we don't actively strengthen it. 
 
No wonder I was finding sitting down to write such a struggle, my attention muscle was fatiguing at the first hurdle.
 
Something had to change, starting with a rejig of who was wearing the trousers in my relationship with my phone. 
 
Cue operation ‘less distraction more attention’ which includes the following steps:

  • Move my email and social media apps to the last page on my phone so they aren't glaring at me when I unlock my home screen 
  • Use instagram more consciously; no scrolling on the bus, before bed, first thing in the morning, notice when i'm mindless scrolling
  • Use whatsapp more consciously; don’t get side tracked by new notifications and wait for a good moment to respond rather than feeling the need to reply instantly
  • Answer emails in one go at a designated time of the day rather than as they come in
  • Resist the temptation to check my phone when I have no real need to
  • Commit to doing one task at a time as much as possible rather than fritting in between several. 

These are relatively small steps but i'm already feeling a sense of spaciousness from being less plugged in to a constant stream of content. 

Sitting still has become easier. 

Doing nothing has become easier. 

Now I see that being mindful of what I gift my attention to will only become more urgent as the world becomes more distracting.
 
More than just being able to get my head down and create good work, toning my attention is about living consciously, being connected to the moment and to myself.  
 
I’m not sure what’s more crucial than that.

dismantling success

In 2014 I left my job at a marketing agency to work on reception at a yoga studio while I tried to build up my teaching.
 
When I left I gave up a steady monthly income, the regular recognition I was getting from my managers and the opportunity for further promotions and pay rises if I continued to progress as I was.
 
Even though in my heart I knew I was doing the right thing I did struggle with the feeling that I was taking a massive step down what I saw as the ladder of success.
 
I developed a success guilt.

I questioned whether I was doing my potential justice?

I wondered whether people thought i'd done the wrong thing.

It eventually dawned on me that I was measuring my success using someone else’s definition of it.
 
Taking a step back I could see that the notion I had of success was wrapped up in money, getting promoted and owning particular things.
 
I needed to do some dismantling to redefine success so that it made sense to me on a personal level.
 
Thinking about what success looked like on a day-to-day basis really helped with this.

I asked myself who did I want to see regularly, how did I want to feel when I woke up and looked ahead at my day and what did I want to have time for.
 
This more micro level approach showed me that success for me is in the smaller things. 

That success is quality over quantity.
 
Now I gauge my success on the quality of the relationships that I have with people, not feeling anxious on a Sunday about the week ahead, whether I’m inspired by the work that I’m doing and if I can support myself doing this kind of work, what percentage of the time I feel stressed. 
 
For me it includes things like enjoying a coffee every morning as I write my morning pages, going for a swim during off-peak hours and being able to make a healthy lunch at home in my kitchen every day.
 
Defining your own success is empowering, something that I think we all have the right to do.

Yes curve balls come our way that we have no control over but in so many ways we have the power to curate our lives based on what is important to us and thinking about personal success is a really good place to start.
 
So here’s to not feeling guilty about swimming with pensioners and catching up on 24 hours in A&E while I eat my lunch on a Tuesday. 

More than not feeling guilty, here’s to consciously celebrating these little things as great successes. 

a weapon and a gift

What do we all have that can be used as both a weapon and a gift?
 
Our word.
 
This weekend I read ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz, a book that outlines four agreements to follow in order to find personal freedom (stay with me). 
 
The first one is ‘Be impeccable with your word’.
 
When we speak we are making a contribution with our words. We can compliment, show interest, connect and we can gossip, humiliate and judge.

The thread that ties them all together is they all have consequences.
 
Being impeccable with our word is about understanding word not simply as a sound or symbol but as a force – a tool of magic that can be used for good and for bad.
 
We all bear the scars of words that have wounded us and left a mark – some that have yet to heal.
 
An off hand comment about being too much of this or not enough of that has the power to embed itself in our minds and set up camp as an absolute truth.
 
In the chapter Don Miguel Ruiz likens the human mind to fertile ground and words to seeds that are planted and then grow into something much bigger.
 
This comparison really framed things for me.

Being mindful of what we say isn’t about censoring ourselves or committing to being a Mr or Mrs positive all the time, it’s about being aware of our words as seeds and how fertile the soil of the mind is.
 
I’m going to make a concerted effort to be more impeccable with my words – the ones I offer up to others and also myself.

God knows I can be so much less compassionate to myself than others. 
 
I’m going to try to not hold onto the words that can bring healing, lightness, positive change - even if they are for a complete stranger, and to hold firing the trigger on the unnecessary ones that might stick like glue on others, disguised as truths but really just judgement from someone not qualified to judge.

30 lengths in his name

Yesterday would have been my big brothers 31st birthday.
 
I find his birthdays harder than the anniversaries of his death because they feels more laden with ‘what might have beens’.
 
It’s painful to think about what he might be doing on his birthday if things were different.
 
On past anniversaries I’ve felt a pressure to do something in particular.
 
I’ve wondered ‘should I be doing this or that', 'what will people expect me to be doing.'
 
But to be honest it’s all felt a bit much.
 
Now I can see that I honour him every day; in the way I live my life, the changes that i've made since his death. 
 
Every day of my life is a tribute to him. 
 
People grieve in different ways.
 
Visiting a grave may provide a comfort; it may feel like the right thing to do.
 
For others this wont be the case.
 
A weed-covered grave isn’t a sign of an unloved person.
 
Yesterday, I decided to honour my big brothers birthday by dedicating 30 laps of London Fields Lido to him. 
 
I think he’d have liked that.
 
There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
 
No wrong or right thing to do on an anniversary.
 
Everyone is different.
 
The way we honour the ones that we’ve loved and lost will be different.
 
All we can do is take each day as it comes, meet it with what we have and do what feels right. 

well filling

Self-nourishment is like well filling.
 
It’s a continual practise of keeping tabs on the water level to avoid a situation where the well runs dry.
 
Water is life.
 
Without it we dehydrate, shrivel, tire out.
 
This is why self-nourishment is so sacred.
 
But, life is distracting. We have lots of other things calling for our attention that claim to be more important than the care we give to ourselves.
 
It takes practise to honour self-nourishment – especially if you’ve not always been told / believed that you deserve it.
 
I see it more of a conversation that a destination.
 
It’s not about nailing it or failing it.
 
It’s about staying engaged in a dialogue with yourself – one where you’re a really good listener.

Something that has really helped me stay present in this conversation is knowing what fills my well (journaling, swimming, not always having plans in the evening, alone time, moving, meditating, being by the sea...).

What fills your well?

Try writing a list of all the things that you feel nourished by, that ground you, give you a sense of life being more manageable, more vibrant.
 
How often do these things appear in your week?

The more time we carve out for rituals that top us up, the more they become embedded in our lives as non-negotiable habits.
 
Make that yoga class non-negotiable, consider that free Tuesday evening as a date with yourself that is just far too important to double book, leave your desk during your lunch break so that you can sit outside and feel the breeze on your skin. 

You are so worthy of nourishment. 

holding space for anxiety

On Saturday I arrived at the airport an hour before my flight was supposed to take off.
 
Once upon a time this would have caused a heady mix of profuse sweating and intense panic.
 
I’d have convinced myself that I was going to miss my flight.
 
I’d be tense, full of regret and completely gripped by anxiety.
 

Since those days something has changed. 
 
Did the thought that I’d miss my flight run through my mind on Saturday? Yes it did.
 
Did I feel the wave of anxiety begin to rise? Yes I did.
 
Did it grip me? No it didn’t.
 
I wasn’t a hot, sweaty mess.
 
I didn’t erratically grab my bags out of the taxi and charge towards check in.

(this is pretty huge for me).
 
So what did I do to avoid anxiety taking over?
 
I did nothing. 
 
I didn’t resist.
 
I didn’t fight.
 
I didn’t hide.
 
I didn’t react, at all.
 
I allowed the sensation of it to flood through me.

I felt it.

In every cell. 

I pulled up a seat for it at my internal table. I sat with it and let it swell in my belly and in my chest.
 
Every uncomfortable ounce of it.

I allowed it to run it's course. 
 
Practising sitting with the discomfort of anxiety has shifted something for me.
 
Rather than flapping at the first signs of it beginning to rise, I let it be. 

Getting to know anxiety for what it is has been profound.  

Anxiety isn’t inherently bad.

In fact we owe it a lot. Without it we wouldn't have made it this far. 

It's a survival mechanism, there to encourage us to react in the face of danger. You know like when we're in the vicinity of a hungry woolly mammoth.
 
It's supposed to be uncomfortable, otherwise we'd take no notice of it. 

 
The thing is that for most of us our environment has changed since the days of being prey to a range of predators. 

Now we live in towns and cities and have different stresses upon us, like bills to pay, forms to fill, work expectations to meet, child-care arrangements to be make, fines to avoid, social guilt to navigate...

The same fight or flight response that got triggered by the looming predator is being triggered by modern day concerns. 

That's why we can rationalise in our head that a particular situation that is causing us anxiety isn't likely to happen or that it if did it wouldn't be the end of world but the felt experience of it is telling us something different. 
 
This understanding has been powerful for me. 

It has enabled me to see that in situations that aren't a matter of life or death I don't need to respond to the anxiety that I'm feeling. 

I'm unlearning a habit of reacting and honing a new one - one that holds space for the sensation of anxiety to rise and then fall. 

Rather than being filled with fear when the familiar sensations start to flood in, I let the cycle complete.

From feeling in danger to being safe. 
 
When you start to feel anxious, try experiencing it as a sensation, an uncomfortable one sure, but one that can be felt without reaction.
 
Allow it to be there, acknowledged what has triggered it, then with the same ease that you’ve greeted it with, let it leave without disturbance.
 
Rather than an enemy, I try and see anxiety as a friend that had gotten to be a little overprotective - one who I haven't had the best boundaries with.

I let it fuss over me but I don’t it too much attention, I don’t encourage it.
 
In doing this I feel like it has taken the hint, that I don’t need it half as much as it thinks I do.
 
It doesn’t visit as much and when it does it knows i’m not going to fuel it’s fire by making a big deal about it’s arrival.

I have become a less liveable terrain for anxiety to flourish. 
 
Will something shift the first time you try it? Maybe, maybe not.
 
If you’ve spent however many years fighting, running and / or blocking anxiety then it’s going to take some practise to cement this new approach, to learn a new more helpful habit. 
 
The key is to keep practising. 
 
To keep tunnelling a new route.

There is light at the end of it. 

one thing at a time

How often do you do one thing at a time?
 
I have an awful habit for multi-tasking.
 
Saving phone calls for when I’m on the move, answering emails whilst I’m watching TV, reading the paper when eating…I could go on.
 
I used to consider it to be a skill – always taking pride of place on my CV.

Now, I see it as an affliction.
 
It made me a brilliant waitress and a great account executive but it divides my attention. It chops it up into smaller, narrower chunks that can’t absorb as much detail.

Multi-tasking lifts my feet off the ground.
 
The art of doing one thing at a time really is an art.
 
There’s a beauty to dedicating your full attention to one thing. It’s an act of respect, like listening without the desire to talk. 
 
I’m trying to unlearn my default to multi-tasking by being more aware of when I’m doing it, and seeing how I can close the multiple tabs in my brain so that there is just one open and it’s the only thing I’m focusing on.
 
Having my phone in another room when I’m reading, writing, watching television is a big one. I feel as though not being able to see or hear it makes a big difference from it being within my peripheral vision, calling my name saying ‘clare, CLARE, look at me, I’ve got something really interesting to show you.’
 
The other practise that has really helped me when I find myself overdoing is to stop, feel my connection to the ground and to my breath. It reminds me that I am in a moment, in my body. It takes me out of my head into sensation. Out of doing, into being.
 
Try it now:

Close your eyes, notice any tingling in your finger tips, the temperature of the room on your skin, the texture of your clothes, take 5 breaths and then notice how your feel afterwards.
 
In any given moment we have the power to start again, to reset, to get into our bodies and offer our attention as a gift, to something or someone, entirely.
 
It’s a nourishing act.
 
Right, I’m off to gift my full attention to the sea, its swim o’clock.

life in the slow lane

I’ve recently discovered the joy of swimming.
 
I used to find it really boring, but somewhere along the line something has changed.
 
Being immersed in the water feels like therapy; it’s as though with every stroke I move further away from distractions and drop into a state of flow.
 
Generally, there are 3 lanes to choose from at the lidos i've been going to; slow, medium and fast.
 
Seeing as ‘somewhere in the middle’ is usually a good plan of action I initially went for the medium lane when it came to deciding where I belonged. 
 
During one of my swims in the medium lane I had other swimmers clipping at my heels. I felt rushed and distracted. I couldn’t drop into my rhythm because I was so aware of what was going on around me.  
 
I looked over at the slow lane populated by over 60’s and wondered whether it was a bit pathetic if I switched.
 
Shouldn’t I be attempting to keep up with the pace of the middle lane? I’m young and fit – I  know I could if I tried.
 
I decided to give the slow lane a go and instantly felt much more at home.
 
No one was expecting me to go fast, I didn’t feel rushed by other people’s busy, I was enjoying myself again.
 
Light bulb moment.
 
This situation was a perfect metaphor for my life.
 
The slow lane appeals to me in swimming and in life but I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a pressure to go faster.
 
One of my friends Adrianna wrote a piece about ‘shoulds’ recently and this reminded me of it.
 
There is a societal pressure to reach certain milestones by certain ages and I think there's also a pressure to keep up the pace and that slowing down should come with age.
 
I’ve been in the fast lane and for me, it’s not sustainable.
 
Living in the slow lane allows me to be creative, conscious and connected. It’s where my best work comes from and where I feel happiest, most present.
 
It may be that you thrive in the fast lane. 

We're all different. 
 
I say we shake off the ‘shoulds’ and pick our lanes based on the kind of experience we want to have and what’s important to us, regardless of what others are doing.  
 
So, i’ll be unapologetically swimming in the slow lane for the foreseeable.
 

grief talk

I’ve started talking about grief more on my instagram account.
 
My followers number has definitely dropped.
 
It is difficult to wriggle of 'saying things you think people will want to hear' mode. You know the things that get you the likes. 
 
I do feel the heaviness of an assumption that people will think ‘oh shut up and get on with it, everyone’s going through something.’
 
But my gut is telling me to keep talking. 
 
I’m not coming from a woe is me place.
 
I’m coming from a space of grief being a big part of my life and not feeling like I should tuck it away.
 
For 24 years someone was very physically present in my life then suddenly, out of the blue they weren’t.
 
It’s kind of a mammoth thing.
 
It doesn’t feel right that this should get brushed under the carpet in order to adhere to social norms.
 
I want to get across the day-to-dayness of grief.
 
That it isn’t all doom and gloom. 

It’s just part of the process of living and then not living.
 
Something we can all be sure of.
 
There’s no life without death or death without life.
 
It doesn’t feel right to talk about one and not the other.  
 
The less it gets talked about the less we know how to engage with our own and other peoples’ grief.
 
So, I’m encouraging myself to be more vocal, to add to the conversation.
 
Talking about grief may not be how you express yours. If it doesn’t help you then you should never feel pressured to do it.
 
You may not want to hear about it either, that’s totally valid too.
 
We all have our own ways.
 
We all have to find our own ways.
 
Grief looks different for everyone but it doesn’t need to get be banished to a dark place.
 
It can be in the light too.
 
Grief is remembering.
 
Grief is honouring.
 
Grief is love.
 

not waiting to feel ready

Yesterday I led my first workshop.
 
I hadn’t felt ‘ready’ up until that point.
 
Did I feel ready when 12 pairs of eyes were looking back at me as I was speaking, without having the crutch of leading movement? Not really.
 
But, that feeling of not being ready doesn’t mean I wasn’t capable, or should have waited longer.
 
Not feeling ready doesn’t always mean we aren’t.
 
Sometimes not feeling ready is self-doubt or perfectionism dressed up in a different outfit.
 
I’m setting myself an intention to not always wait until I feel ready for things, to let growth come from the doing rather than the waiting.
 
To create more, share more and realise when i'm standing in my own way.

"Take your broken heart and make it into art" - Carrie Fisher

I wanted to share this brilliant article by Sara Watson How grief and creativity work together. Grief can be a huge wakeup call and although a very painful experience, it does offer up a massive dose of perspective which can lead to a deeper sense of purpose. Creativity can surge in the aftermath of despair and harnessing this can be hugely healing. 

“When you open up mourning from the deep core of the self, not only is it extremely healing but also people can become more authentic and express themselves in a deeper way. They just become more compassionate human beings and can become more compassionate toward themselves—not just others,” she says. “People can be so persecutory toward themselves,” -  Dr. Susan Kavaler-Adler

 

Reclaiming Space

This month I’ve been pondering a lot on the concept of space and how with the constant inflow of content and stimulation that comes with modern life (especially city living), feeling overwhelmed and lacking in mental space is almost the norm.

The thing about space is that it’s ever-present. When you think about it in this way, the process of finding more of it isn’t so much one of searching but one of clearing out.

This realisation made me rethink how I approach carving out more space when things become crowded. Rather than thinking where can I go to escape I've started to wonder what can I get rid of. I wanted to share a few tips that help me reclaim room and a more abundant sense of spaciousness when mental clutter starts to accumulate. 

1.     Write a list - get a pen and paper and write a list of the things that take up room in your mind on a day-to-day basis. Look back over the list and make a plan of action for how you can decrease the space that each takes up. Do that task that you’ve been putting off for weeks or at least figure out why it keeps getting ignored, say no to that commitment that you know is going to exhaust you, relieve yourself of the burden of trying to fix someone who can only fix themselves.

2.     Rest – resting in stillness is an incredibly effective tool for finding space. When we come to rest we are allowing all the things whirling under the surface to settle. Resting is rebooting. Restorative Yoga is excellent for this.  

3.     Go for a walk – they don’t say a walk clears your head for no reason. If you’re feeling full to the brim get outside and walk the build up of clutter off. Chances are things will feel clearer and more spacious upon your return.

4.     Have a media detox – I’m the worst for slumping in front of the TV when I’m tired/putting something off, but I didn’t quite realise how much I was mindlessly consuming it until I decided to try and cut it out for a week. I'm 3 days in and although sort of ashamed at how difficult I've found the last couple of days i'm already feeling the benefits. By completely cutting off one source of content inflow I definitely feel like I have more space. I also found that I've actually got on with some stuff that I had been avoiding, spacious and productive!

Tips for Developing a Daily Habit

Whether it’s starting your day with a hot water and slice of lemon instead of a coffee, developing a meditation practise or nurturing a creative pursuit like drawing or writing, great things can come from committing to daily rituals. 

To establish a new daily practise a certain amount of groundwork has to be put in to make it stick. The best thing to do is to just start. Just imagine you have a 7-day goal to see your daily practise through, once you have 7 days under your belt you’ll be more motivated to carry on for the next 7. Then, soon enough you’ll start reaping the benefits of the practise and it’ll become engrained in your daily routine as a priority, rather than something you have to work hard to maintain. 

1. Establish a morning routine that will serve you

Get off to a good start with a morning routine – see 8 things each person should do before 8am. This really helped me see the impact that a structured morning routine can have on the rest of the day. Getting a good nights sleep prior to this is the most precious investment. 

2. Set time aside

Find an allotted time each day to complete your practise. As soon as you wake up, before you leave the house, during lunch... Figure out when you’re realistically going to stand a better chance of doing it and carve the time out like you would an important meeting in your diary. A varied schedule may mean that this needs to be at different times on different days – plan ahead and figure out when you’re able to do it in the week to come.  

3. Remind yourself of your intention

When it’s time to get down to it (usually when the resistance sneaks in) remind yourself of the benefits of doing it. Ask yourself where your intention comes from. Is it to improve your health? Imagine you’re gifting yourself something that money can’t buy and that no one else can give to you – quite an empowering thought.  

4. Track your progress

Keep a log. Because who doesn’t love the physical act of noting something down or crossing something off as having been completed. It could be a tick on the calendar or a note in your diary. By physically noting the completion of your task you’re likely to feel motivated to keep going. 

5. Cultivate Gratitude

Remind yourself that the ability you have to do this task is a privileged.  I know, sounds a little ‘I’m so blessed’ but this has been a really powerful thought for me. When I feel the resentment creeping in when it’s time to get down to my practise I try and remind myself that I’m lucky to be in a position where I am able to do it. Gratitude is something you can grow, if you say to yourself enough times that you’re grateful for a particular thing something quite amazing happens, you actually feel grateful for it. 

6. Write about it

Write about your feelings towards the process – the good, the bad, the things that help you succeed in continuing to nurture it. Writing about your experience can reveal some interesting aspects of the whole process that may not have come formed in the same way as a thought swirling around your mind. 

 
Success is a series of small wins

I’m no daily habit instiller extraordinaire, oh no. I’m currently trying to complete a set of physiotherapy exercises and I’m finding it so challenging because unlike chanting, meditation or my self-yoga practise which I’ve made a real effort to nurture, I don’t enjoy doing these exercises. I’m still at the point where I really don’t look forward to doing them but the above things are helping me approach it more positively and fit it more harmoniously into my daily routine and slowly but surely things are starting to shift. 

I’d love to hear your tried and tested tips for making a daily practise stick so do let me know.

 

 

 

Self-practise, an act of self-care

At about 10am last Tuesday I got real with myself, I’d spent the morning mat dodging and it wasn’t the first time. When I asked myself why I was deep cleaning the fridge rather than being on my mat an answer came. The day before I demonstrated something in class that I obviously wasn’t warm enough to do and I still had a niggle in my lower back. That morning I didn’t want to feel my body because I wasn’t up for hearing what it has to say. I knew that as soon as I tuned into sensation my anxiety would jump at the chance to deliver up all the worst case scenarios about what this niggle might turn into.  

By avoiding my mat I was putting my hand up to my body to say ‘no I don’t want to hear what you have to say today thanks, I’d prefer to continue being disconnected from you at this precise moment’. Another reminder that my self-practise isn’t about improving my alignment or skill it’s about listening to my body, and that my relationship to my self-practise is just that, a relationship. We have good days and bad days, there’s commitment involved and at times avoidance tactics are brought into play to swerve being forced to face up to something.  

In the end I did decided to show up, I moved very slowly and had my eyes closed most of the time and it felt good to listen in. As usual my perception of the situation was worse than the reality, upon looking a bit closer I saw that that what was going on wasn’t as bad as I’d thought.

This episode really brought home to me the fact that my self-practise is about holding space for myself, to feel and to listen, it’s a prayer of compassion and kindness to my whole, a process of peace keeping between my body and mind. I don’t however always experience this harmonious magic when I practise, sometimes the most beautiful feeling of coming home washes over me when I come into childs pose and from then it just flows and other times it’s kind of messy and feels like I’m moving through sludge. 

Like any relationship that I have hope for I must nurture my self-practise, that means not neglecting it even when I can’t be bothered to show up. It also means fighting against the urge to avoid it if I don’t want to face up to something. I’ve also realised that I shouldn’t feel disheartened when not every interaction flows because expecting a continuous flow of harmony for any relationship is completely unrealistic. Realising this has been a hugely liberating experience, my practise is not about making beautiful shapes on a mat, working my body or perfecting my bound ardha chandrasana, it’s an act of self-care, a process of healing. There are no expectations or rules, showing up is all I have to do.