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

I wanted to share this brilliant article by Sara Watson's 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.