Mindful in May: A summary

Last month I participated in Mindful in May to help raise much needed funds in order to bring clean water to people living in developing countries. Thanks to our united efforts – and of course, all of the lovely people who sponsored us – we were able to raise over $80, 000, enough to fund two water development projects in Rwanda!

As I wrote in my last blog, however, I also saw Mindful in May as a personal challenge, a way of introducing a consistent meditation practice into my daily life.

So, how’d I go?

I’ll admit, it wasn’t always easy. I feel as though I have the chattiest monkey mind in the world, and the first week in particular was very frustrating as I sought to quiet it. I did miss a couple of days, and others I was so exhausted that my meditation practice consisted of me lying supine in bed, focusing on my breath and trying not to fall asleep.

Knowing I was part of a community, acting for a common purpose, helped to keep me on track most of the time, and by the end of the month I looked forward to those ten minutes of silence, stillness, and space. My monkey mind was still, well, monkeying around, but I became more efficient at identifying and witnessing my thoughts, rather than identifying with my thoughts, and in doing so was able to create a little more space in which to just be.

I confess, as soon as May ended, I allowed life to get in the way again and my meditation practice has once again been left behind. But I remember that bewitching sensation of inner peace, and with two weeks of annual leave stretching out in front of me, I hope to once more settle upon my cushion and find that blissful inner knowing.

Mindful in May

Just a quick post to let my lovely readers know that I will be participating in Mindful In May this year! By meditating for ten  minutes every day for the month of May, we are aiming to raise $60, 000 in donations to help bring clean water to developing countries.

I’m treating this next month as a personal challenge, as I’ve struggled for many years to maintain a daily meditation practice. So I’m planning to keep track of my progress throughout the next 31 days, and will be posting on here at the end of it to share my  journey.

If you would like to join me, or would just like to know more about Mindful in May, you can find all the info you need here www.mindfulinmay.org.

Om shanti! xx

On gratitude and abundance

I always used to think that gratitude journals were a bit of a wank. What was the point, I wondered? It’s just a bit of self-indulgent nonsense that helps fill in the time.

But more recently, I’ve changed my tune. I’m not quite sure why my stance has shifted. I can only assume I’m being carried along by all of the other positive changes occurring in my life. Maybe it’s this blog, and through documenting things I’m able to realise how important they are, even if they seem insignificant.

Whatever it is, I’m starting to recognise the beauty and wonder of expressing gratitude. And the magic! That whole “like attracts like” – the more you begin to express gratitude, the more the Universe provides us with things to be grateful for. Or perhaps it’s just that we’re more able to realise and be thankful for what we do have, rather than what we believe we lack.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to awareness, and questioning the messages that are constantly thrown at us. We in the West, particularly, are caught in an endless cycle of consumerism, of “when I have X, I will be able to do or feel Y”. Having things will make us happy, or so advertisers would like us to believe. But how many of us have bought that bag/pair of shoes/plasma TV/car, believing that once we had them in our hot little hands, we would be happy? Life, sorted. Until the next model – bigger and better – comes out. Until we’re told that our new iPad is already out of date, and we need to upgrade, or else be left behind. To quote (albeit out of context) Kurt Vonnegut, author of the brilliant Slaughterhouse-Five, amongst others: “And so on, and so it goes…”

True abundance doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with physical possessions or our financial situation. In fact, I would argue that, for the most part, they are mutually exclusive. And just to pre-empt any criticisms – yes, I completely acknowledge that I am writing from the perspective of a Gen Y, white, middle-class Western woman. I understand that the concept of abundance is subjective, and that for many people, there is less choice or access to much of what we take for granted. But when you consider how much we seemingly have, and yet appear to be increasingly miserable, it’s obvious that something’s not right with the equation. That maybe having “stuff” isn’t the key to happiness after all.

The Yoga Sutras introduce us to such concepts as Aparigraha (non-grasping) and Santosha (contentment). We already have everything we need. The Universe makes sure of that. It’s got your back (even when it doesn’t feel like it!). So let’s just enjoy, – nay, be grateful for – each moment, just as it is, no need for wanting or craving for more.

I still don’t keep a gratitude journal. I just don’t feel, personally, that it needs to be recorded. But I do like to end each day, just before I go to sleep, by listing five things that I’m grateful for – access to fresh, healthy foods, or quality time with my boyfriend and family, or that I even have a bed to sleep in. If nothing else, it puts things in perspective.

 And how about you? What are the things that you are grateful for?

Sitting with my Self

Meditation has never really been a big part of my practice. I’ve always liked the concept of it – I even bought myself a meditation cushion a while back – but somehow it just hasn’t seemed to translate into action. Asana has always been my meditation. Dropping back into my body for 60-90 minutes has been the only way I’ve been able to temporarily switch off my mind. It’s what works for me.

Now, however, seems a good time to dust off my meditation cushion. As I wrote in my previous post, after my health went a little haywire, my practice changed. I slowed it down. I replaced many of my usual strong, heating postures with cooling, seated forward bends, gentle hip openers and plenty of Viparita Karani. I had to. I often found myself without enough energy to get through a long series of standing postures. My practice supported me. But I was still looking for more.

In a recent teacher training lecture, we talked about how an overtaxed nervous system can impact on the endocrine and immune systems, leading to all sorts of autoimmune diseases and other stress-related conditions…including skin issues. I already knew my skin flare ups were a stress reaction, but it wasn’t until this lecture that the light bulb finally clicked on. And meditation suddenly became terribly attractive. 

I’m starting gently – 10-15 minutes once a day. Sometimes I forget, or find myself needing to do something more “important” than meditating. I don’t beat myself up over it. I’m aiming to work up to 15 minutes, twice a day. And if it ends up being longer, then awesome!

I end up spending around 10 minutes watching and getting caught up in my thoughts, and only a few minutes in a semi-quiet space, but it’s in those few minutes that something starts to shift. I find it difficult to tell where my body ends and begins. There’s a sense of detachment and, at the same time, a connection that wasn’t there before. It feels like I’m sitting with my Self. A peaceful homecoming.