Simple meditation: no yoga mat required

 

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In my garden: Granadilla fruit and flower

Many people today are interested in meditation in a more ‘functional’ way, perhaps as a means to help us to manage stress or health issues and to help us to cope with our busy, demanding lives. Meditation therefore is something we might look to simply as a tool to help us to manage our daily demands.

In his book YOGA (6th Edition_ 1983), Swami Venkatesananda describes meditation as “..the art of realising the universal self, beyond the ego-sense” and as a state of being and awareness where “..the ‘I’ has disappeared and only consciousness remains”  

 

Swami Venkatesananda spent many years as a recluse and ascetic disciple. His yoga practice extended to serving humanity and he believed in teaching through his word and example the ideal of an enlightened life. He believed that there is a way for us all to benefit from a meditation practice and believed in a ‘common sense’ view of our seemingly complex problems.

So how CAN we use meditation in a ‘common sense’ way, in a way that helps us to feel calmer, happier, healthier and more in control of our lives?

I have used my own morning meditation routine as an example of a light meditation practice before starting the day. The practice can take as short a time or as long as you like, even five minutes if that is all you have. I sit for fifteen minutes on average. The important thing is to make it part of your daily routine so that it becomes a habit.

First, I make sure I have a hot cup of tea in my hands and I sit comfortably in bed with my back supported by pillows. The routine is more or less as follows:

Sit with your cup up close so that you can feel the warmth under your nose and between your hands. Breathe gently, noticing the scent and warmth of the steam in your nostrils (coffee will have a strong scent of course). Notice the colour and texture of the fluid and how it contrasts against the inner surface of the cup. Notice whether there are any reflections on the surface, maybe you can see your own eyes mirrored back at you from the surface of the contents. The idea here is just to notice, to observe without judgement or question. Simply notice the sights and sensations of what is in front of you, of what you are holding in your hands. Now bring the cup up closer and take a sip. Notice the feeling of  heat on your lips and tongue,  and the taste and texture of the fluid as it reaches your taste buds. Close your eyes and experience the sensations and the taste of your tea as you continue to gently sip. Pause as you wish and notice other things, such as the sound of the tea being sipped and swallowed, the weight and texture of the cup that you are holding, and the feeling of the breath in the nostrils. The idea is to remain gently focused on the experience of Drinking a Cup of Tea, without the intervention of thoughts about what the day ahead might bring, or about things that happened yesterday. If you find that your mind starts to wander, make sure that you are still sitting comfortably, and gently bring your mind back to the moment. If need be, keep a piece of paper and a pencil close at hand in case something comes to mind that you just can’t ignore and might want to attend to later. Continue with your meditation for as long as is comfortable for you, breathing slowly throughout to help you stay gently focused. Get out of bed slowly so as not to ‘jar’ yourself out of meditation. Take a few moments to yawn and stretch to encourage blood flow through the face and body, and then begin to prepare your day.

You will hopefully find that daily morning practice of light meditation assists to create a feeling of calm, focus and positivity ahead of your busy day, and that it soon becomes a habit!

If you find meditation difficult in the beginning, don’t worry, and be assured that even experienced meditators have their good and bad days. You will notice that I have included all the five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and hearing. You don’t need to follow my suggested sequence to the letter, as we are all different in how we relate to our five senses. For instance, there is no reason that you cant take a sip (taste) of your tea before looking (sight) into your cup. Over time, work towards keeping the eyes closed as much as possible with the focus on the other sensations as suggested. There is no wrong or right here in terms of sequence. The key issue is to find what keeps YOU in the moment, without your mind wandering off.

Please note that what I have suggested are guidelines based on my previous experience as a yoga practitioner and teacher (please see my About page).

If you are interested in learning more about meditation and in developing a more intensive practice, here are some suggestions Here and Here

 

 

Eco options: start with what you already know

 

In my garden: Apple Blossoms

Don’t get complicated.

I can safely assume (I hope) that most people reading my blog share some of my interests and concerns about the health of the planet, and individual personal health as well. Just as I care about my own health and well being, I care about the health and well being of the environment that nurtures and supports me. Enjoying life and remaining optimistic is a priority too, otherwise what’s the point of it all! We know that as consumers our choices have impact, and if we care about the environment, we will want our choices not to add to current problems.

 

Yet we can’t always have exactly what we want. In a perfect world I would have nutritious, wholesome foods and healthy non-toxic self care and household products, all responsibly produced and packaged, and locally made to reduce the problem of travel distances and the accompanying carbon footprint. Everything I use and eat would be from natural origin, from sustainable resources, incur no harm to animals, and be created in an environment where fair labour practice is upheld.

Even your bulk buy, unpackaged purchases might raise some questions for you, depending on your key issues: “What carbon footprint did it leave to get to the bulk bins? Is it a natural product? Is it cruelty free? What are the working conditions of the farmers/workers who helped bring it to the store? Is it locally sourced/ packaged?” And realistically, let’s not forget “What is the cost of this and can I even afford it?” The list can go on and it gets overwhelming (speaking from experience!) when you are looking for a seamless, perfect scenario and if you expect yourself to have all the answers.

I can recall occasions, even very recently, where I have stood in the shopping aisle staring at huge, catering sized jars of pickles thinking “yes, I know it’s less packaging in the long run, but how long is THAT going to sit opened and partially eaten in the fridge at home?” and “these retail priced boxes of Epsom Salts are packaged in cardboard, whereas my usual cheaper wholesaler sells hers in single use plastic, so which is the better choice?”

And that’s just at the supermarket!

At home you notice (again) that your kitchen cupboards are rife with tired looking plastic food containers, many with lids long lost at some birthday picnic or office canteen, and you wonder if you should just replace the whole lot. But you’re not sure because you don’t know if recycling an item in order to replace it is the Green thing to do. This link tells you about using plastic for food from a personal health point of view.

 

So to get back to the title of this post: what things do you already know and have at your disposal? What exists in your home, in your cupboards and closets and in your fridge, that is already working for you and/ or you could make better use of ? I have found that by starting with what you already have and know, you are more likely to want to continue. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you have plastic bags at home, take these along with you on each trip to the supermarket. Rather reuse your existing packaging than help feed the need for new plastic packaging.
  • Clothing items can be mended, donated, repurposed or even cut up for cleaning and wiping surfaces.
  • Save and reuse your cleaned out pickle jars instead of buying more plastic food containers.
  • I use this alternative to toothpaste: RECIPE: Blend 2 Tablespoons of baking soda (bicarb), 1 teaspoon of Xylitol and 3 drops of peppermint essential oil. Pour a half to one teaspoon into your hand, pop into your mouth, and brush.
  • You can also try some ideas from my Green Tips and Tricks posts

 

 

And here’s a helpful link by one of my favourite bloggers: Zero Waste Chef

And remember to include yourself in creating positive impact: your own health and well-being should be a priority. What are the things that nurture and sustain you, helping you feel healthy and happy? Remember to feed your internal environment: your body, your emotional health and general well-being. (You can still eat out at your favourite coffee shop/ restaurant: just remember to take along your own reusable packaging to take home any leftovers or doggie bags ;))

So where are YOUR ‘Go To’ areas when you consider your health, your environment and whatever matters to you most? What are you areas of concern, the things that make you want to Save the World, or at the very least, save your health :). What makes you feel optimistic, pessimistic, or somewhere in between? Feel free to share…..

Clearing out the clutter (and other undesirables): it’s all about choices.

 

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In my garden: Butterfly Bush and yellow daisies

 

Henry Thoreau evidently didn’t like clutter. Here is a quote from him written around the year 1845, which in itself is interesting for me. The quest for simplicity in the Western World was clearly an issue as far back as 170 years ago!

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million, count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.

 

My own reasons for changing to a more natural way is described in my About page. And further along to June 2017 since reading Bea Johnson‘s  book, Zero Waste Home, I have been inspired to read more on environmental issues and to explore different ways to simplify and to try harder…for my health, my home, the environment.

 

The book points to some critical issues:

Much of the world’s natural resources are under threat, yet as consumers we continue to buy and use petroleum based products, such as plastics, cleaning fluids and pesticides instead of looking for less harmful and preferably natural alternatives where possible. Research tells us that “the manufacture of plastic, as well as its destruction by incineration, pollutes air, land and water and exposes workers to toxic chemicals, including carcinogens.” (Quoted from). And looking around, we see that household incomes and world economies are in crisis, yet we continue to make poor choices regarding how we spend our money. All over the world people are struggling with health issues ranging from poor nutrition (in many countries there simply isn’t enough to eat, an issue which requires attention outside of this particular post), to cancers, auto-immune problems and other chronic and life threatening conditions, yet we continue to buy unwholesome, processed foods and also to bring toxic cleaning and personal products into our homes.

 

It seems clear to me that if our consumer habits directly affect our environment, our economy and our health, and that if we wish to see change for the better, then we need to ‘Be the Change’. One way to do this is to be aware that shopping is voting, and that we have the power to change our shopping habits and make better choices about what we bring in to our homes. Also, we can try to improve our efforts at home homes, such as looking beyond recycling if possible. Consider whether you might be wasting food being unnecessarily, or throwing out out items of clothing that could be repaired and reused, or go to a charity, instead of to landfill. Do we throw out used cooking or washing water that could rather go to our garden or indoor plants? Do we favour reusing glass pickle jars for food storage rather than buying more plastic? (See my post here on how to freeze in glass). And can we make better choices regarding our cleaning and personal products: either by purchasing eco-friendly products, or even making our own with simple, basic, affordable ingredients? (See my Recipes Page for ideas)

 

I have listed below some “key areas”, issues that are close to my head and my heart as I work at living with the intention of keeping things natural, simple, affordable and as “uncluttered” as possible: Continue reading