What is this mindfulness and why is it so hard to explain?

I’m in the process of writing a number of articles, books and workbooks about mindfulness and mindful living, and each time I seem to come back to a hurdle: what actually is mindful living? what is mindfulness? How do I explain these ideas to someone who’s maybe only heard them in passing, never heard of them, or heard of them a few times but has no idea what they actually are?

Continue reading “What is this mindfulness and why is it so hard to explain?”

How to have a mindful Christmas

So the tinsel is up, the turkey is thawing out and the sherry is being poured, but how do you manage not to throttle Aunty Bertha when she tells you that you’ve put on weight for the tenth Christmas in a row, or avoid the tense atmosphere between your divorced Mum and Dad who only come together once a year ‘for the kids’?

Christmas is a funny time of year, all the advertising and a lot of the social media content we see point to a great family Christmas, all around the table, laughing and joking and having a whale of a time but for a lot of people Christmas can be a minefield of interpreting social nuances and avoiding the family member who weeps uncontrollably when you ask them how they are (that has been me on occasion at Christmas I have to say…or how about the time I ate so many biscuits I got awful indigestion and had to lie down and miss Christmas dinner? I fully admit I am one of the relatives you need to plan for!)

On a serious note, if you are worrying about how to cope this Christmas, use some of these mindful tips to help you through the next few days

1. Get on YouTube and find a three minute breathing space meditation. If you search ‘three minute breathing space meditation’ lots will come up and that’s a real quick space to take some time out when you think you’ll explode if anyone asks you where your boyfriend (that you split up with three months ago) is

2. Get some fresh air- taking  a walk either on your own or with others who can bare a bit of silence will give you a chance to get mindful; feel the cold air on your skin, hear the birds singing, look round and see the sights in your neighbourhood, or the place you’re visiting, hear the noise of cars in the distance and just experience being in the moment.

3. Give yourself and others compassion – it can be hard when we’re with our nearest and dearest because often they’ve known us the longest of anyone and know our weak spots, and the things that can send us from 0-60 on the rage-ometer, but actually being kind to yourself,  nourishing yourself with something other than Yule log, or roast potatoes, taking time out to do something you love such as reading or knitting, will help bring a sense of calm of peace to the festivities. Add in some compassion for those around you and things will start to feel a whole lot better

4. Rather than being desperate to get home, or get through the boredom of the Queen’s speech that Dad loves to watch, revel in the moment, the glorious being together as a family, or with your partner, or even the delicious alone time with the cat, away from the pressures of work. Stop worrying about how you’re going to tidy everything up, or what’s waiting for you on your return to the office and find pleasure on the small things; the worst Christmas cracker joke  or that Fools and Horses episode you love the most that’s on EVERY year.

5. Break out of old habits and encourage others to do the same – if you’ve always had Christmas dinner on the dot of two, what about having it in the evening, or changing it up for a buffet? How about going to a different sisters for lunch this year? Instead 0f a tree, what about decorated branches in a  big vase. Changing it up helps to break habits which changes neural pathways and is good for getting you out of a rut. Things will feel newer and exciting and might change people’s old patterns of behaviours as well, and get them out of their comfort zones

if you give any of these a try, or have your own mindful tips to add let me know, and above all have a peaceful, and mindful festive season 💜💝

The gentle of art of balance

You might have noticed it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Whilst I would love to say it’s because I’ve been making my own cheese, decluttering, sipping coffee on a veranda whilst living a simple and minimal life, I sadly cannot claim any of these things.

I have spent the last few weeks hospital visiting, working two jobs, trying to be a good wife, good daughter, sister, auntie, friend, volunteer, part of the community etc. etc. The list goes on. You know how it goes. Goodness knows how Mums cope. I only have to deal with two over excited dogs, and two rather superior cats.  Each day blends into the next…wake…shower…eat..work…home…TV…sleep. This is not mindful living, simple living or minimalism. In fact I feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

So I need to re-set my seesaw and get some balance back. What does that even mean? I guess balance means different things to different people. To me it’s feeling calm, having enough time to achieve what I want to , feeling a sense of peace and a sense of achievement

I am thinking about this a lot…I think sometimes when we get to busy parts of our life e.g. working two jobs to pay extra bills, working hard, having a difficult time with health etc…the balance is tipped as you desperately tread the water trying to restore balance, and actually perhaps we’re working too hard to restore the balance to equal measures. As someone who practices mindfulness it is remarkably easy to forget all the tools I can use to help. So I am going to bring some of them in, and maybe they will help you too.

Mindful walking – I have to walk the dogs everyday, so I am going to aim for a bit of mindful walking. Mindful walking means different things to different people, but to me, its about taking in all the surroundings, bird song, the crisp smell of autumn, feeling the ground beneath my feet, taking some deep breaths, and it helps bring me some perspective on life. Even that half an hour a day makes life feel less rushed and gives me that peace that I find in balance.

Being compassionate to yourself – One of the things I’m really bad at, and pretty much many of us struggle with is being kind to ourselves and doing nice things for ourselves; a bath, a sneaky hours read, curled up with our pets, or our kids, a trip to the cinema, a face mask, a massage, a quiet coffee…anything that makes you feel good and feel that you’re being kind to yourself.

The final one I can recommend that I also need to use is acceptance. Acceptance is a wonderful thing, and should be easy but find it hard to accept things as they are sometimes. So what is there to accept in the case of balance? I need to accept life is tough this year. I have family and good friends who are seriously unwell and I want to be there for them.  I have to work two jobs to pay for two sets of house bills until we have sold one of them and moved into our new place. So I accept life it tough, but that it’s hopefully short term. Actually saying to you I accept it’s tough makes me feel better already. Like I am giving myself a bit of a permit to sit in my PJs and eat ice cream some days, or not to have to accept every invitation that’s offered me, or that it’s OK we can’t go on holidays or have big nights out right now. (Can you feel the deep sigh I’ve just exhaled – feeling calmer already)

So that’s it…three simple solutions, mindful walking, being kind to myself and accepting things as it is…Who’s going to try it with me? I’ll let you know how I get on

The #minimalistliving September Challenge Update

It’s been two weeks now of my September Challenge*; finding 11 hours a week of time to do more meaningful activity i.e. not just sitting on the internet or my phone, or watching repeats or someone’s lives being rehashed for the TV. This was to make  up for the fact I was going to be going from working 26 hours to a week to 37 hours a week.

So how have I got on so far? I am halfway through my month’s challenge. I have to confess I haven’t managed 11 hours a week, which I suppose was quite a big challenge in the first place, working on finding a way of recouping over 2 hours a day.

However I am pleased with what I have achieved and have found that I am making time for quality experiences that I wouldn’t have had before in my old job. I spent a lot of time driving, and so would be exhausted after work, and catching up on life at weekends.

So what have I found the time to do?

Well I now walk to work, and in the morning I spend that 20 minutes walking to work, walking mindfully. If you have no idea what this means check this out here; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/20/meditation-in-action-walking-meditation_n_3279958.html

In effect, for me it’s about taking notice of my surroundings, clearing my mind of all the virtual ‘stuff’ that collects in it’s corners and observing the world around me. It’s great for feeling ready and prepared to face the world ahead, as well as being really good for anxiety and depression, and calming stress. I will talk more about mindfulness in a later blog as it’s something I practice, and it’s a great partner for minimalist living. Total Time recouped = 1 hour 40 minutes each week

I have made time for lunch outside in the last couple of weeks which is something I have not had time to do for ages. In my first week I sat on a bench, facing the River Ouse, spending time communing with York’s very special geese (who apparently like banana!), the weather has been great for sitting outside, and I just spent time listening to the sounds of the city, and eating a very lovely packed lunch prepared for me by my very kind wife.  Time recouped = 1 hour 40 minutes each week

By not travelling in the week, it’s also meaning I can start looking at activities in the week to do again. I got to go to my Mindfulness group where we meditate, and catch up on our mindfulness practice. I have had to miss some of these when travelling. It’s great to feel I can just leave work and head off to do something before going home.  Time recouped = 60 mins

By also getting into a routine and getting up and home at the same time I am feeling more motivated. So I’ve been starting to find and cook up my 10 recipes for my minimalist cooking approach. I’m posting my recipes as I find them here too… Time recouped = about 1 hour and a half per week

I am also finding little slots of time here and there; a coffee sipped on the city walls, an hours book reading before the alarm goes off, a meal after work with my wife overlooking the river and a stroll home…which we probably would have put off if we had had to go home first and then go out again.

So although I haven’t reached the goal I had intended for this part of the challenge, I’ve adapted to my new hours, and found that actually for me, slotting in an hour here and there is more productive than having a whole day off.  I am feeling motivated, having more quality experiences (which is part of my overall goal and motivation for living a minimalist life), and getting more mindful.

*Have been recording all my spending which I think will be interesting to analyse at the end of my month, ahead of my October shopping month ban…