A Grounding Guided Meditation

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It’s the time of year when we could all use a little more rest and rejuvenation. Parties, shopping, social engagments and travel, coupled with the high tensions and expectations that this season brings, can leave us feeling overwhelmed and overstretched. One of my favourite practices to combat these feelings is Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a type of guided meditation that takes you out of your conscious mind and allows the opportunity for deep rest and restoration. It is said that 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra is the equivalent of 4 hours of deep sleep.

With that in mind, I have created a 15 minute grounding Yoga Nidra to help keep you steady and centered in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. Take a few moments over the next two weeks to come back to yourself, and I think you’ll be surprised at how nice it can feel.

Wishing you all a calm and peaceful holiday season! I’ll see you in the New Year 🙂

 

 

Yoga for Creativity

Sometimes we all need a bit of help to get inspired and to reconnect with ourselves. And of course yoga can help!

Below are a few videos to help connect in with our centre and lower bellies, the areas of the body linked to our creativity and sense of self. These are lovely movements at any time, but especially useful if you’re feeling creatively blocked, uninspired, unmotivated or not quite at ease with who you are. You can do just one video, or all four, and take as long or as short as you like with any of them – all together they are just under 10 minutes, but feel free to take more time if you have it. I like these movements most just after I wake up (to bring movement into the spine), or if I’ve been working all day and need a little boost in the afternoon.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and what impact the videos have for you! Leave me a comment or find me on instagram: @laurenewilkie

 

Giving and Receiving Abundance

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“It’s just like a magic penny. Hold it tight and you won’t have any. Lend it spend it and you’ll have so many, they’ll roll all over the floor!”

I’ve frequently been reminded of these lyrics in recent days.

At the beginning of this year, I was listening a lot to The Lively Show podcast, and it’s been delving deeper and deeper into the teachings of Abraham / Jerry and Esther Hicks, most notably, The Law of Attraction. I’d read about this concept before, but it always felt a bit silly to me – how can you think something into being? By focusing on your desire, you will be able to manifest and bring it to life?

But I had it all wrong. Jess Lively goes into much more detail on her podcast (which I would highly recommend checking out), but my summary is this: it’s not about wanting something so badly that you create it, it’s more about getting yourself into a state of alignment with that desire – finding that state or desire within yourself, which in turn attracts more of that state/desire to you.

This year I wanted to cultivate a sense of abundance in my life – not only financially, but also socially, culturally, and professionally. And I wanted to be able to share my abundance somehow in the world. I will admit, I have never been particularly involved with charitable or political organisations (unless posting about them on facebook counts as involved) – I have donated here and there to certain charities, but never with any kind of commitment. I try to spend my money consciously (with socially responsible organisations) as much as possible, and I go out of my way to help people when I see a need, but I don’t volunteer my time on a regular basis, and I very rarely give out money to homeless people on the street.

I still have a far way to go, but starting small and slow can eventually lead to an avalanche (I’m a big believer in the “one small change leading to a revolution” kind of thing). In an effort to both create more abundance and to share my abundance, I’ve been doing two things:

  • Telling myself that I am abundant (and listing the ways) most days. This is akin to a gratitude list, but just looking at it through the lens of abundance. I was really inspired by Che Dyer’s post about abundance affirmations.
  • Giving back and giving things out. I’m giving my change (and not just my pennies, but my pounds) to people asking, and making a concerted effort to donate time and money more regularly. In addition, I’ve been more willingly generous with friends and family (but ensuring I know my boundaries so I don’t end up resentful).

The result of these two small but regular actions is that I feel more abundant, more fulfilled and more at peace. Sometimes to have more, we need to give more, and to give more we need to feel like we have more. Taking time to notice what we have and taking time to give it away (which, for me, surprisingly, has had minimal impact on my time or standard of living), has made a huge difference in my mindset, which I’m sure has resulted in a more full and fulfilling life.

And although I’m not rolling on the floor in pennies (or pounds), I feel incredibly abundant. And that’s really what it’s all about.

I’d love to hear how you give back and what you do to bring abundance into your life. Let me know in the comments or find me on Instagram @laurenewilkie

Fear

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Fear is a tricky emotion. Unlike joy or anger, it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause and more often than not, we work to suppress our fear because it’s unsettling, uncomfortable and unpleasant.

Fear can be useful – it keeps us safe and helps us avoid injury and death. A little fear when stepping outside of our comfort zone can help us stay alert, present and in tune with our surroundings. But fear can overtake and limit our experiences – it can overshadow and inhibit our desires and keep us small. And we can even become fearful of feeling our fear, so we work to suppress the whole feeling, never really letting it in, and in doing so, it grows and looms behind us, fulling our peripheral vision until it surpasses everything that isn’t in our direct line of sight – a large dark cloud, following us everywhere and in everything.

The funny thing about fear, is that the more we confront it head on, the smaller it becomes. Getting to the root cause of a looming fear allows us to understand what it really is that is limiting us. And sitting with our fear and allowing it to fill us up, can demonstrate how, in reality, the fear isn’t as big as we thought. Seeing it only in the back of our minds allows it to grow and expand until it overwhelms and envelops our minds and our decisions. Inviting the fear in, and offering it an audience allows us to address the root cause (which allows us either to take action to change the situation or come to terms with it if it is unchangeable), and the root cause is usually much smaller than we imagine.

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about inviting fear along with her on journeys but relegating the fear to the back seat, and although it’s along for the ride, fear is never allowed to speak or choose the direction of the adventure. Inviting it rather than fighting it ensures that we are driving, rather than being driven by our fear.

A practice for addressing fear:

Sit quietly for a few minutes, letting the body settle.

Focus on a particular and relevant fear, and allow the emotion of fear to inhabit the body – which area of the body does it impact most? Where and how do you feel it? What is the physical reaction?

Sit in that place of discomfort for a few moments, getting comfortable with the unease.

When the unease settles, start visualising beyond the fear. For example, the fear of public speaking is profound for some. So visualise the start of a speech in front of a large crowd of people. Imagine the worst thing possible to happen in that situation. How would that feel? What would be the outcome. Feel it in the body and sit with that feeling until there is a sense of familiarity with that sensation.

Just like the muscles in our body, we can train ourselves to increase our emotional resilience. The practice of yoga and meditation allows us to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable, and in the continued practice of feeling uncomfortable, we increase our emotional, physical and mental capacity to be able to deal with discomfort, the pain and the fear.

I once went to a yoga workshop with yoga teacher Kathryn Budig, and something she said stuck with me and made a profound difference on how I viewed life, and also fear: “All choices and events can be broken down two ways – into love or fear. In knowing that, we can choose love. Always choose love.”

Sit with the fear, invite it in and get used to it. Use it as a way to differentiate your choices – and then always choose love.

How do you deal with fear? I’d love to hear about it – let me know in the comments or find me on instagram @laurenewilkie

 

Presence

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I wrote recently how a digital detox helped me to feel more spacious and present. It’s all well and good to remove distraction while on holiday – but implementing the same isolation when back at home, at work and in real life is much more difficult.

A few things I’m loving right now that have helped create that same feeling of peace back home:

The Minimalists Podcast

If you haven’t heard of these guys, please check them out. While minimalism begins with a conscious cull of material possessions, it’s also a way of life. I find there are a lot of similarities between minimalism and yoga- it’s all about stripping back the layers of noise and distraction to come back to your true self. I always feel inspired to continue living consciously, mindfully and presently after listening.

Moment App

This app tracks phone usage. I cannot recommend it highly enough. You can set a daily limit for phone usage, and also see which apps have held your attention most during the previous day. It tracks the number of times you pick up your phone and when you’ve reached your daily limit, it buzzes and wails until you turn it off. It’s made me much more mindful when using my phone, and I find myself more easily limiting mindless checking and scrolling in an effort to save my phone time for when I really need it (connecting with friends, using the map when out and about, etc)

Daily Meditation

This month I’ve been strictly meditating for the same amount of time every day. It’s been both difficult and wonderful. In my last post on discipline vs freedom, I wanted to cultivate more balance, and my daily meditation has helped achieve this. For some ideas on how to meditate, check out my Instagram page @laurenewilkie (I did a meditation challenge a few months back), and also my October 2016 blog archives (I featured meditation ideas all that month). Daily meditation gives my mind space and sets me up for the rest of the day. As one of my teachers put it, a daily meditation practice gives everything else a bit more space.

Essential Oils

I’ve been diffusing some essential oil blends for relaxation, peace, and uplift. My favourite blend at the moment is doTERRA Frankincense, Cheer and Citrus Bliss. Frankincense is the oil of truth which reminds me to stay true to my inner guidance and not get waylaid by other voices; Cheer is (obviously) the oil of cheer and keeps my outlook positive, and Citrus Bliss is the oil of creativity, which helps to bring motivation and drive when it is lacking. In combination, these oils keep me grounded and steady, but moving forward – living mindfully and present, as I desire.

What do you do to keep a sense of presence and peace in your life? I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments or find me on Instagram @laurenewilkie. If you’d like to learn more about incorporating essential oils into your daily life, click here.

Photo credit: @paula_sandersonphotos

Discipline vs Freedom

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I see discipline and freedom like two ends of a swinging pendulum. Trying to keep the pendulum centred and still is the challenge in a moving world.

With my yoga practice, I’ve spent time at both ends of the spectrum, and am now aiming for disciplined freedom – that sweet spot in the middle. Discipline fosters growth and learning, and freedom keeps things feeling light and fun, but too much of either good thing can be a problem. The best teachers I know have a healthy balance of both in their classes, and I am for that balance in my personal practice too.

Discipline

When I first started practicing yoga seriously, I had heard that in order to be a proper yogi, you needed to practice 6 days a week. Of course, I wanted to be a proper yogi (!), so rain or shine, aching joints or injured muscles, I got on my mat or went to class 6 days a week. My asanas “progressed” very quickly and I noticed a massive increase in both strength and flexibility. Along with the time spent practicing came a desire to achieve the physical aesthetic of various poses and to be able to tangibly see that I was getting “better at yoga” (I used quotes around all of these terms, because I don’t believe [now] that creating a certain shape is what being good at yoga is all about. See more about this at the bottom*). Because of this desire to achieve and progress – rather than enjoying practicing for the sake of practice – I suffered many injuries and mental anguish – beating myself up for not feeling motivated to get on the mat, and often struggling (mentally and physically) when I got there.

I felt so broken after a few months, that I had to reduce my physical practice, and (for a period of time) stop it completely in order to heal.  Continuing this level of discipline was not possible at that time, but it did provide incredible learning.

What I came to understand from this period of yoga practice, is that it was my ego pushing me forward. I was spending too much time in my mind and actually disconnecting from my body, not listening to what it needed. And I was comparing myself to others in classes, wanting to be at the same physical place/ability as them, rather than understanding and accepting where I was at that moment. The realisation that I could distance myself from my ego and connect back into my body, was a fantastic lesson that this period of discipline provided. The physical benefits of a disciplined practice – stronger muscles and the ability to move in new ways – were also noted, but understanding my ego, noticing my desire to achieve, and becoming aware of that unconscious comparison with others, had the biggest impact on how I live my life (and subsequently, my levels of contentment).

Freedom

After spending time feeling caged and feeling like I wasn’t a good yogi if I didn’t do a power vinyasa flow class 6 days a week, the pendulum swung. I discovered yin yoga and slow flow and started to rest, both in my life and in my practice (as someone who desires recognition through achievement, this was a radical discovery; resting was not only acceptable, it was also highly beneficial). I reconnected with what my body needed, continuing to notice when my ego reared it’s big head, and started doing my own thing within yoga classes. I modified poses, I used props when needed, I spent a lot of time in child’s pose. I even sometimes did a different pose than the teacher suggested (I did try to keep the intention of the pose within the new pose I chose). And in my personal practice, things got really soft and flowy, and I spent more time on my bum than on my feet (not a bad or good thing, just how it was). My yoga practice became all about moving in a way that felt good in my body, avoiding injury and not pushing or striving.

And again, I became friends with my ego. It still liked to flare up when other students “achieved” a difficult pose or when I needed to rest. But I learned to take the focus off of other students and focus only on what I was doing and how I was feeling. My practice became very joyful and I started to look forward to it rather than dread it.

I still took myself to a dynamic class now and then, and at times worked on a dynamic practice at home, but more often I kept things soft and easy.

After quite some time of practicing like this, I realised that I wasn’t learning anything new from staying with my soft practice. I had remained injury free and my body and mind felt good, but we can get to a point, whereby, in order to discover anything about ourselves, we have to step out of our comfort zone. That is the beauty of a little bit of discipline, doing something that we don’t really want to do. I realised that by always doing my own thing in class I was limiting my own learning and the possibility of finding a new way to grow – both in my body and mind.

The realisation came quite recently, so while on a yoga retreat with a teacher I wholly trust, I decided to see what would happen if I just did what she suggested, rather than changing the yoga to allow me to stay within my comfort zone. This teacher has an excellent balance of freedom and discipline and I felt safe to do this in her class, knowing that her sequences or instructions wouldn’t cause injury or harm.

I discovered a new sense of freedom and a better understanding of myself, once again getting to know my ego and this time making friends with my fear. So often we limit ourselves because of fear, but if we can get through to the other side of that fear, tremendous expansion and growth is waiting. I felt a newfound sense of contentment, and I was more able to understand and work at my edge – the place where I am both soft and striving, easy and hard. I found the middle of the pendulum.

Now back home, I’m working on finding that balance within my own practice. It’s not always easy, but having seen the two ends as well as the middle, I have an idea of what I’m looking for.

What’s on either end of your pendulum? What’s helped you find balance? I’d love to hear about it – send me a message or leave a comment below.

 

Photo by Ali Schilling

* Being good at yoga isn’t about being able to touch your toes or bring your foot behind your head. Yoga is about connecting with your body and learning to cultivate awareness of both body and mind. It’s about understanding patterns of reaction and learning how to use the mind consciously, rather than letting our thoughts and reactions control us.  I would argue that someone who is able to focus during practice, keep their attention in the moment, understand their own needs and limitations, and work at their personal edge (not pushing too hard, but neither being complacent) is actually “better” at yoga than a distracted yogi able to bend in all directions. Being flexible in body is a beautiful benefit of regular yoga practice, but that isn’t what’s it all about.