If you meditate regularly or simply perform some form of relaxing exercise or ritual on a daily basis you will be aware of the positive impact this has within yourself and in your life. This daily practice does not have to be long, nor does it need specialist equipment but most of all perhaps it does not need to be dependant on something else happening first. Such as “when this project is finished I will…”, or when I feel a bit more settled I will start…”.
So this last post of the section on heart, body and emotions is just an encouragement to find a little time, or more time, to relax and check in with what’s going on inside. This can make the difference between health and ill-health, knowing you’re the master of your mind versus a breakdown or mental health issues, productivity versus chaos, calm versus catastrophe thinking.
Resolve to start now. Even if it is a minute here and there to regroup your thoughts. Or the classic mindful practice of a 2 second pause between activities, this is as simple as; “I am leaving this screen, now I go to prepare dinner”. Or a few minutes before bed, sit in silence, take long breaths, contemplate then let go of the day.
Listen to soothing meditations with positive language or positive affirmations as you go to sleep. Use travelling time to listen to anything you find uplifting or relaxing.
Use walking as a meditation or make an evening bath a sacred event with uplifting music.
Or begin that meditation practice, set a timer for five minutes only and then, if you have the time, see if you can extend the length of the meditation. Even doing this twice a week will make a difference. It can be a meditation or an emotional release exercise – whatever you feel drawn to or is needed.
So todays suggestion is to do something that makes you feel relaxed or nurtured. If you wish to listen to one of the meditations from this series so far I have included them below.
Few inner activities lift our spirits in the profound way that gratitude does. The practice of gratitude is one of grace; it will bring into your life, manifest, more of what you are grateful for. As it’s a heart based practice this activity of drawing towards us what we are grateful for becomes one that is more closely aligned with the true Self, more in line with higher spiritual intentions of being for the benefit of all.
Still on the subject of manifestation, if what we are desiring is not in our highest interests or part of our divine plan then obviously we will either not bring that to us or if we do it does not last or manifest in a way that is balanced or easy. This is not meant as a judgement – our natural divine state is one of absolute and opulent abundance, our higher self, guides etc want the very best for us. However we are here on Earth by our own choice and for specific reasons with a specific plan and experiences we need to experience and issues to deal with and would no doubt be a bit frustrated if we went far off track!
The lack of information on this aspect of manifestation in most New Age circles is something I occasionally find frustrating and explains why so many feel thwarted in their desires and with lives often the complete opposite of what it is they are trying to attract. I’m not exempt from this either. I became a lot more peaceful and life seemed to flow more easily when I simply gave up having material goals and intentions etc. However I know it’s time to make changes again so am focussing intention in this regard – in a different way this time, though I’m so used to not doing this now I forget a lot of the time!
So todays suggestion, in the same vein as Day 1, is to drop all striving and wishing for today and simply focus on gratitude. There are several ways to do this, there is of course the gratitude journal, taking a beautiful journal just for this purpose and writing down a few things you are grateful for every day. This may not appeal to you but I found when I did this, despite only doing it for a few months, it set in motion a subconscious habit of being a lot more grateful for my life, I just naturally found gratitude rising more and more. So if you are having difficulty finding enough things to be grateful for this formal process may help.
You may already find it easy to express gratitude as you go about your day and so could just ramp this up a little more and see where that takes you
For today’s exercise I suggest that the HeartMath Meditation is revisited with the energy/feeling of gratitude- on your own or guided, I have included the audio below if you prefer to be guided. To take this a little further than before, really feel that you are inside the heart, that there is a sacred space in here you can inhabit and fill with gratitude. Once here go through each area of your life and state what you are grateful for; as you make each statement and are feeling the gratitude, and whatever else arises, breathe this deeply into your heart then through and around your body. If a negative feeling comes up breathe through this with gratitude for the opportunity to release that feeling.
As intentions are useful perhaps you could begin this exercise with the intention of feeling peaceful and relaxed.
Yesterday was the end of Random Acts of Kindness Week 2021, this first started in 1995 as a Random Acts of Kindness Day in Denver and has now grown globally to become an entire week each February. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has a website with many wonderful ideas and suggestions for acts of kindness, please go here: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas
Being kind has extensive, varied and proven benefits; if you’ve been on the receiving end of kindness you will know the difference this makes to your day and perhaps to your life. That act of kindness can have an exponential effect, inspiring the receiver to be kind and so it could go on. Also of course there’s the difference in feeling and energy of both the recipient and the giver, for this to be potent the act of kindness needs to be felt, needs to be genuine. If you are not feeling kind towards the other person either perform this act for someone else or better still change your internal state towards a more loving one – you will feel better!
One rapid way to do this is to practice the Buddhist exercise of Loving Kindness, which is one of blessing another with good intentions. This not only brings about a rapid, internal state change but does register in some way with the recipient. The only way to prove this for yourself is to do it. And do it regularly. This can be performed as a meditation that need not take up more than five minutes or it can be performed as you are out walking or travelling – I have changed my state from one of irritation, judgement or dwelling unfavourably upon someone I felt wronged by many times whilst out walking by using this method. For me it’s become an easy and relaxing act of self discipline to bring lower consciousness ways of thinking into a higher or more coherent mindset.
If you find yourself struggling to know just what to bless the other person with then think about what you wish for yourself and send that to the other. For instance if you wish to feel happier then bless the other with endless joy. If you wish to be more prosperous bless the other with opulent abundance. If you wish to feel peaceful bless the other with deep peace and unwavering stillness. Do this especially if you have a problem with this person…
If you read Day 10’s post on the effect of stress upon the body I can assure you that this practice of Loving Kindness is one of the most rapid ways of using thought and intention to change the biochemical state of the body. HeartMath breathing is another rapid method but this one employing feelings and physiology – the two combined in a fifteen minute meditation are an extremely potent combination for health and heightened well-being – and you’re making a difference to the world.
So if you are struggling to forgive someone, let go of a past relationship you feel a victim of, feel irritated or judgemental or want to practice kindness but don’t feel disposed towards actually being kind, then practice the following. Included below is a Loving Kindness recording I made last year as a way of easing into this practice in a relaxing way.
I hope you enjoy the meditation and of course I wish you peace, health and happiness!
Today’s post is a guided journey through stress, overwhelm and difficult emotions that I recorded last year in response to the distress and fear many people were experiencing. The first part is how to release painful feelings and the second part is about accepting positives through visualisation and affirmations.
Most people are now aware of the fight or flight stress response and the fact that something or other happens in the body when this response is engaged! However I don’t think many people are really aware of the extent to which this response affects us and how much ill health, including mental health issues, could be prevented, with a little more care towards the self.
Stress is now recognised as the main contributor to disease and by stress I mean “a strain upon the system”. This strain could be personal events, emotional stress, overwhelm about deadlines, relentless home, personal or work pressures, physical discomfort caused by work or lifestyle or simply just a lack of movement and of course poor diet and deficient nutrition.
What Exactly is Fight Or Flight and its role in Stress?
The theory of “fight or flight” was established in 1932 (yes we’ve known about this for almost a century!) by Walter Cannon and refers to the cascade of biochemical/hormonal reactions that takes place when we react to what we perceive as a threat. I mentioned in an earlier post that fear is primarily a physiological reaction to a thought and not specifically an emotion. It can however be accompanied by many emotions so can often be difficult to isolate as fear alone.
When we perceive an immediate threat to our well-being we react in the same way that any mammal would, the difference with humans though is that the mind interferes. In the animal kingdom the animal, when frightened, will react by running, fighting or shaking until the hormones and chemicals have dissipated and been excreted. As any one of these reactions is deemed embarrassing or socially unacceptable we instead tend to bottle it up and that cascade of biochemical reactions, when stress is frequent or prolonged, will continue to wreak havoc in the body.
What Does Happen in the Body?
Various glands are activated to release hormones that prioritise the muscles, heart, lungs and brain – basically the organs we need in order to take immediate and massive action. The liver will then release glucose into the bloodstream for increased energy. More oxygen and an increased flow of blood for the muscles are needed so the breath becomes more rapid, the heart rate speeds up and blood pressure rises. The increase in anxiety is felt (and is necessary if action is needed) due to the release of adrenaline, which is needed to increase the heart rate. In a professional athlete or a performer on stage in front of thousands this reaction is useful!
It’s not useful if you are being undermined on a daily basis, reacting to a domestic situation without resolution or realising how low the bank account is getting…
The stress chemicals circulate in the body for 2 to 3 days before being excreted so if we are experiencing stress on a daily basis they build up with little release. As many people have an underlying level of fear, anxiety or stress and can end up on a hair trigger of reactivity the bio-chemicals build up and go no-where, gradually undermining the various systems and organs of the body. So that first adrenaline rush that cleared the head now becomes foggy thinking and mental fatigue, the geared up for action muscles turn into chronic tension, the overworked adrenals can turn into just feeling tired all the time. We can end with heart complications, high blood pressure and breathing issues, liver problems and increased blood sugar levels.
But what about the systems that get switched off during a fear spike? This can be just as lethal. The main ones are the digestive and immune system; as these systems are not needed for immediate physical action they either temporarily shut down or simply have less energy to work efficiently. The result of this breakdown in efficiency is poor immunity to infections and various digestive issues. As conditions such as IBS are on the rise it’s easy to see that stress is a major issue in the West. Another organ that works less efficiently is the skin, our circulation during a stress reaction is pulled towards the muscles and heart as skin function is not a priority, with the result that skin conditions can erupt or simply show up as an unhealthy or slightly deadined pallor.
The reason exercise is so highly recommended for stress is that it satisfies the need for action. It also uses up or burns through the biochemical reactions the body has undergone, allowing the body to return to homeostasis. One of the most healthy things to do for yourself after a stressful day is to walk. I believe driving everywhere contributes to stress levels as there’s so little time spent just walking. If you’ve had an awful day at work, leave the car and walk home if possible, or at least partially walk home. It might seem like it takes up too much time but not really when you factor in the cost of poor health.
The freeze response
I cannot write about fight or flight without mentioning the third component to this which is termed the ‘freeze’ response. It is of course what most of us tend to do and why all the the hormones and chemicals that have been released have no immediate outlet. There are three aspects to the freeze response and while most of us will visit all three, we will tend to dominate in one area.
The Three Aspects of the Freeze Response
Dissociation – This is where we bury what we feel, present a calm face to the world and fool ourselves into believing that we’re okay, we can cope. How do you know this is you? Tight, tense muscles, health issues that seem to come out of nowhere, even though you take care of yourself, exhaustion and feeling that life is just sort of okay, not really bad but certainly not great.
Flooding – This is where we tend to be very emotional and overreact to things others seem to take in their stride. Emotions and our “stories” about whatever bothers us tend to be on a repeating loop with no resolution. Some may think that excessive emoting is a form of release but in actuality the tendency to ‘flood’ will be on one or two repeating emotional themes, a repetitive negativity or over dramatisation, never going to a deeper layer below or getting to the core of the issue.
Distraction – This is probably what most of us have mastered in the modern world! Food, alcohol, smoking, TV, social media, shopping, OCD-like behaviour etc., etc… Similar to dissociation, but we are now stuffing the feelings down with less than healthy substances or behaviours.
Today’s post is just to digest the above information and ask yourself where you could be a little kinder to yourself and lessen the load on your body. Tomorrow I will post a guided and fairly relaxing meditation on releasing uncomfortable feelings.
Today’s post is simply a suggestion to continue the HeartMath Breathing – either as a formal meditation (I have included the downloadable meditation from yesterday) or through bringing the attention into the heart for a few breaths throughout your day.
Day 8 marks the next section of this series, I’m arranging this series in four sections and each has a new theme, the first 7 days was based on mindful awareness and the next 7 days will be about heart, body and emotions.
The information and meditation today comes from the Institute of HeartMath, a remarkable facility founded 30 years ago to study heart health. I’ve written about this a couple of times as have many well known people in the Mind, Body and Spirit industry – for good reason. The research solidly backs up what spiritual traditions and mystics have long known which is that a heart based approach to life is a healthy one. What the HeartMath Institute found was that the more they emphasised a certain way of focussed breathwork, amongst other health and lifestyle suggestions, the healthier their heart patients became and actual heart attacks decreased. The method has since been developed to include general health – mental and physical. However the benefits for this form of meditative breathwork go beyond the physical; there are spiritual side effects as well, unless one is in complete coherence spiritual progress will be slow. To quote Rollin McCraty, one of HeartMath’s founders, “Coherence is the state when the heart, mind and emotions are in energetic alignment and co-operation”. Coherence could also be seen as a state of deep and profound inner peace and the method of HeartMath breathing is one practice that can take us there a little more easily and rapidly.
The more we live from the heart, the more we use practices such as Loving Kindness or fostering compassion the more peaceful and content we become. One of the reasons for this is that we begin to reside in the heart. It has been found now that the heart is actually a second brain, that within the heart is a cluster of neurons similar to the brain. Up until recently scientists assumed communication here was one sided, from the brain to the heart. In fact it’s a two way process and we can entrain ourselves to think, feel and live from the heart. It is after all the seat of wisdom, unlike the brain! The heart also communicates with the body through hormones and the nervous system and through the electromagnetic field around the heart which is at least 500 times more powerful than that of the brain
Impact on Our Health – as we harmonise this heart field the stronger and more resilient the physical body becomes. As we practice any deeply relaxing technique, particularly one that targets the heart, the greater our heart rate variability, this is significant in terms of ensuring heart longevity. When this tool for harmonisation is utilised regularly there will be a noticeable effect on our nervous system, immunity to disease, the effects of aging, and digestive health to name but a few benefits, studies have also shown that many participants in the HeartMath trails were able to significantly reduce and in some cases eradicate, depression and anxiety. When this time out for the heart and nervous system is regular not only is disease preventable but chronic conditions have the space to heal and will respond more favourably to other health measures you put in place.
Impact on others – A beautiful side effect of HeartMath breathing is that as you entrain yourself into harmonious heart health you become very peaceful to be around; apart from the obvious benefit to others this is also beneficial to you as other people may treat you more calmly and with more respect.
It is a very simple technique to practice and just 15 minutes a day is enough to make a noticeable difference; if really pushed for time try it as you’re lying in bed – at night to ensure more restful sleep or first thing in the morning if you tend to wake up worrying about the day ahead.
Please find below a newly recorded (I decided to replace the one I recorded last year) downloadable audio guiding you through the HeartMath breathing technique.
Today’s topic and the last of the first week’s theme of mindful awareness, is to become aware of your immediate environment, your home.
With today’s suggestion we will revisit the exercise from Day 1 and combine it with today’s topic by viewing your home from a heart centered perspective.
When there are are areas of the home that are messy, cluttered, dirty, broken or are decorated in a way that does not reflect who we are now we can end up not really noticing, we get used to it on a surface level. However, we do notice subconsciously and this has an impact on our mood and energy levels. Our home is a direct inner reflection, it is indicative of the care we afford to self and of what we present to the world. Of course there is the opposite extreme to what I mention above and that is a home that is clutter free, clean and sterile, a bit lifeless.
This post is not a prescriptive one about possible meanings of what a homes interior may mean. While themes may overlap, each person is still unique after all so what I am proposing today is simply a reflective and aware look at what your home is like right now and how you feel as you look around you.
Wherever you are sitting close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, make the exhalation long, letting go of anything else that’s on your mind. Then slowly open your eyes, look around your room as if you are seeing it for the first time. What is your immediate impression? Notice the decor, the furniture, soft furnishings, objects and art etc. Is it ordered or cluttered. Is the placement/arrangement of furniture and objects pleasing to you? How does the room make you feel? Do you feel it reflects you, or who you are now?
Close your eyes again for a couple of breaths then open them and look around once more. Is there anything you would change? What could you do right now that would make a difference? Make you feel uplifted? Taking action always makes a difference to our mood, when we know action needs to be taken but we don’t then a tension will build, if that continues the tension becomes more chronic and can lead to a paralysed kind of inertia and eventually even poor health. The psychological effect the home has on us cannot be underestimated; just think about what it feels like getting into clean bed covers, or what new decor or a spring clean does for our mood?
You can continue this exercise for each room. But it doesn’t have to be done all at once in a formal way, perhaps intend that for the rest of the day as, you move about the house you could spend a few seconds or minutes looking at your surroundings as a stranger would and notice your first impressions.
Of course, if upon opening your eyes to your surroundings you view all that you see with love then simply bask in that appreciation!
Did anyone get chocolates today? If no chocolates were received from another perhaps lovingly treat yourself to your favourites! Today’s post is about mindful eating, about slowing down and noticing what you are eating, taste, texture, smell and sight; not in a this is another exercise to do manner but with the genuine desire to fully engage the senses and enjoy your food. I think it’s fair to say that most of us eat mindlessly much of the time, distracted either by what we are watching, reading or from being caught up in conversation. With this inattention we can end up eating too much, ignore signs of digestive discomfort and even find ourselves eating lifeless, highly processed food as we don’t notice the taste, texture or how it makes us feel.
So the main suggestion for today is not just to notice but most of all enjoy whatever you are eating, eat more slowly, take smaller mouthfuls and chew for longer. Even if this is just for the first few mouthfuls of each meal you may find this healthier, enjoyable way of eating takes over.
The key pointsfor mindful eating are:
Appetite – Start with a good appetite, but not ravenously hungry, people often eat out of habit or through emotional drivers when the body doesn’t actually want food so the first step is to begin actually noticing when you are or are not hungry. Also many people ignore signs of hunger leading to lowered mood and energy slumps.
Amount – Look at the amount of food you are putting on your plate? How do you feel afterwards? If overeating is a problem, then eating just a little bit less each meal is a painless way to make a life long change. Also, take smaller mouthfuls and put down utensils between bites.
Appreciate – Before eating that first mouthful pause for a few seconds and direct a few words of gratitude towards your food. All that it has taken to reach your plate; silently give thanks for the opportunity to enjoy this food, for any companions you’re enjoying it with and for the nutrition it is bringing to your body. The practice of this does has an impact on the food and on your body, it also induces a feeling of calm before you eat which in turn aids digestion.
Sensory awareness – Throughout the preparation, cooking and serving to the actual eating notice the colours, shapes, aromas, texture, sounds and tastes of all you eat and drink. Perhaps even see how many different flavours you can detect in the food. With the visuals perhaps also pay attention to how the food is served, get creative, dine on beautiful crockery and with pretty napkins, light a candle, how special can you make the serving of food and by doing so making yourself feel special.
Slow down – Chew each mouthful well and slow down when you eat, all of the above will slow down the time taken to eat and your body will thank you for this with better digestion and general health. Through the slowing down, practice of gratitude, adding beauty to the dining experience you are bringing in a sense of peaceful well-being that will linger long after you have eaten.
There is of course a wealth of information about mindful eating and I have tried to keep today’s post as brief as possible. So today’s suggestion is just to bring a little more awareness to your food, as mentioned even just the first two mouthfuls can make a difference. Enjoy your meal and I hope you sleep well and peacefully tonight.