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 🙂

 

 

Why Pain is Good

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I’m not a masochist, but I want to challenge the idea that pain is something to be avoided.

In this world, we are told that feeling pain is bad and feeling happy is good. And when I’m teaching yoga, I often tell students to avoid pain in their bodies, as this is our body’s way of telling us that something is going wrong. And I do think, as much as possible, that physical pain should be avoided. Emotional pain, on the other hand, is something to dive into head first; avoiding emotional pain leads to all sorts of discontent and dishonesty (mostly with ourselves).

Emotional pain is an essential part of life. It allows us to see the light and shade of life, and cliched as it sounds, pain is where the growth happens. By avoiding it, we miss out on the realisation of our strength and the understanding of our power.

That’s not to say it’s easy – allowing ourselves to feel pain is one of the hardest things we can do. And we are bombarded by a plethora of ways to avoid it; advertisers have made an art of offering solutions to avoid pain, and technological advances have allowed us to have on-demand distractions which again, take us away from being in that difficult place.

Sometimes these distractions are useful, but not in the long term. When the pain is fresh it can be too much to handle, and sometimes the distraction allows us to keep going, to do the daily things we need to do to survive without breaking and shattering completely. But eventually we need to find some space away from the consumption (shopping, scrolling, over-scheduling) and find a way to feel our feelings.

Allowing ourselves to sit with our pain (much like allowing ourselves to sit with our fear), can have a deep and profound impact on how we go through life, how we show up for other people, how we feel about ourselves and how we approach certain situations (like risk). The first time is the hardest, but it gets easier each time. And while I don’t think any of us would voluntarily put ourselves in a position where life is painful, when these situations occur, here’s what I do:

 

Step 1 – distraction. I binge on Netflix, trashy books, social media, and eat food/drink that I might usually avoid, until I get to a place of acceptance with what’s going on.

Step 2 – stillness/quiet time/meditation. I try to allow the feelings to surface and allow space for tears, rage and/or whatever else comes up.

Step 3 – talking or writing. Both help me to get to the root of the issue, and to understand what’s happening. Sometimes having a sounding board (whether a friend or a blank page) can put things into perspective.

Step 4 – getting into my body. Exercise, massage, reiki, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, etc. I move my body and get outside help (via trusted practitioners). My body and heart know what I need, way more than my mind. Keeping in touch with the physical signals they send helps me to avoid spiralling into negative thought patterns.

Step 5 – reflection/more quiet time. Once again, I try to allow the feelings to be there. More tears/anger/etc.

Step 6 – action. I start to make changes based on what I’ve learned, whether that’s quitting a job, changing friendships, changing personal habits. This step is difficult, but important to me because it shifts me from feeling like a victim to giving me a sense of autonomy over my life. The changes may be small to start, but over time they can make a big impact.

 

This isn’t always a fast or easy process (in fact it’s usually quite slow), and sometimes the steps are not linear (one step forward, two steps back and then a sashay to the side). But this process of listening, feeling and action has been useful to help me feel empowered in my life, even when the pain comes from an external source (like loss or tragedy). It’s also helped me to understand that pain doesn’t need to be avoided; looking back, I always realise that it is times of pain that have made the biggest positive impacts on where I am today. Those times have taught me about my strength, my resilience, my ability to get to the other side unscathed (but not unchanged), and have really made me who I am today. I no longer fear pain. Although I can’t say that I enjoy it, I appreciate what it can do and where it can lead.

For more on dealing with pain in life, I recommend reading Pema Chodron’s book “When Things Fall Apart”. She explains these concepts clearly and eloquently and offers simplicity to some of life’s complicated stuff.

We don’t always choose what happens in life, but we can always choose how to react.

What are your strategies for dealing with pain? I’d love to hear more – leave me a message in the comments below.

Photo by Ali Schilling Photography.

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

 

Breaking the Bubble aka What I learned by Stepping Out of my Comfort Zone

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I recently went on a yoga course, and it was WAAAAAAAY outside my realm of comfort. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t comfortable, I didn’t like the experience while I was in it (it really challenged me), but looking back I wouldn’t change it one bit.

While it’s much easier to stay where we feel safe, we need to step outside these easy places in order to experience growth and a better understanding of self.

Let me first say that the course I took was amazing; it was taught by an incredible teacher and what I learned has really shaped my yoga teaching and my personal yoga practice. It was nothing short of transformative, both personally and professionally. The environment however, was, for me, extremely challenging. I knew it would be (as a partial introvert, communal living has never been my thing), but I didn’t realise to what extent.

It was set in nature at an eco-retreat in Portugal – a really beautiful spot, which, under different weather conditions might not have been so difficult. Like many eco-retreats, the showers were heated by the sun, so when it’s sunny you can have a hot shower, but no sun = cold water. You’ve probably guessed that when I was there, there was no sun (for most of the week, anyway), so I got to have quick cold showers, never feeling particularly clean as I was just trying to get through it fast.

Second, there was only one toilet for 40 people, which, in terms of timing wasn’t such an issue as the toilet was a compost toilet, meaning no pee (generally, this also meant no queues for the loo). When we needed to pee, we went wherever we wanted, connecting back in with nature. I don’t mind this once in a while, but I realised that when in communal living (we were 4 to a tee-pee) I really value those moments of being completely alone and private. Peeing outside did not afford me this solitude and I noticed the impact of that as the week wore on.

And the tee-pees! Beautiful and luxurious … as long as the sun was shining. In the rain and cold, much less so. It rained a few nights (and let me point out that tee-pees have a hole in the roof where the canvas and the frame meet- fine when dry, but ineffective in the rain), and we ended up with big puddles of water on the beds and floor, and damp bedding. On one night, there was so much rain dripping from the aged canvas that we had to seek alternative sleeping arrangements (luckily there was a relatively dry yurt near-by).

The week was cold, damp, communal and very out-doorsy. And while I really hated these things, I loved the overall experience because of what I learned:-

 

  • I (and we, as a society) take much for granted. Hot showers, shelter from rain and the elements, plumbing, the ability to feel clean, and have food whenever we want …. These are things not available to many, but we have come to expect them as basic. Removing them for a while makes us appreciate the value and luxury that some of us have. I like being in nature, but I like coming home to a warm bed, free of bugs (or toads, as one of my fellow tee-pee dwellers found), I like having hot showers and value the simple luxuries afforded in my life (these of course, are privilege for much of the world, but I appreciate and enjoy them).

 

  • Removing the “easy buttons” forces you to feel your emotions. We don’t realise how many quick fixes and distractions we have day-to-day that allow us to tune out from how we are feeling, especially if those feelings are uncomfortable. The eco-retreat had no wifi, no television, no (as far as I was concerned) basic comforts, which meant that I had no way to distract myself from feeling uncomfortable. How often do we start scrolling, reach for something delicious/comforting/intoxicating, or tune out on Netflix when things get a little tough? I had nothing that I could use to turn off or avoid the feelings that came up, so I had no choice but to acknowledge them. And although it’s not easy, learning to sit with sadness, discomfort and anger is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn. It teaches us resilience, and the understanding that nothing is permanent – happiness, sadness or anything else. We learn that chasing happiness is futile because happiness is fleeting, as is everything. Appreciating where we are now, and recognizing the impermanence of everything (and accepting that fact) creates contentment because we are focused on the only moment we have – the present.

 

  • Hard times breed deep connections – with self and others. Some of my best friends have come from the connection that happens during a shared difficult experience. Bonding over leaky tee-pees, lack of toilets and an understanding of being out of your realm can bring deep bonds of sisterhood, both with yourself and with others. You are forced to get real, real quick. And connection comes from being real. I met beautiful women, witnessed and felt true vulnerability, and saw incredible moments of honest bare souls. First by allowing ourselves to feel and then opening up about those feelings, we realise that we are not alone, the human experience is shared, and vulnerability and honesty breeds connection. Seeing this openness in ourselves and in others helps us connect to what we truly need, and allows us to better understand ourselves. Being honest, and also available to receive honesty, allows for more connection, more understanding, more love; that’s really what life’s all about – giving and sharing love, with ourselves and those around us.

 

Although it’s much easier to stay inside our bubbles of safety, stepping outside can be the best and most incredible experience. Although I won’t be signing up for another eco-retreat anytime soon, I wouldn’t change a thing – I have a deeper appreciation for the life I live, a greater awareness for the distractions I use to avoid discomfort, a deeper resilience for feelings of discomfort, and a renewed sense of connection with myself and others. So break the bubble, get dirty and see what happens … I daresay you won’t regret it.

Have you stepped outside of your comfort zone? What was the experience? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Photo Credit: Paula Sanderson @paula_sandersonphotos

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

Digital Detox

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I recently got back from an amazing holiday in Sri Lanka. Before we went, life had been full and hectic, and I knew that I wanted to take some time during the trip to really switch off and restore my body and mind, so that I came back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. We spent the first week on an incredible yoga retreat with Holly Warren, a remarkable teacher who is somehow able to find a place for the reverence of yoga, without making the atmosphere heavy. This is the second retreat I’ve been on with Holly and both have been transformative and magical.

The second week, we found an incredible AirBnB in a quiet part of southern Sri Lanka and I decided that to make the most of the breath-taking surroundings, I would stop looking at social media and checking my phone until we came back to reality. Ironically, often when I’m on holiday I find myself checking social media MORE, as I post photos of our adventures; not having anywhere to be also eliminates the natural deadline for a forced switch-off.

I’m not going to lie – I found it really hard. Not just at first – the whole time. What is it about those sites that is so addictive? I persevered and managed a full 5 days without looking at Instagram or Facebook. And it was only at the end, when I started checking again, that I realised what I had gained by switching off.

I had so much more space in my head! I wasn’t constantly feeling the need to consume words and images and to know what was going on everywhere that I wasn’t. My thoughts slowed down and I could actually figure out what I was thinking and feeling. My internal dialogue slowed. Everything inside me felt like it was moving at a manageable pace, instead of racing around on super-speed.

I realised that by the continuous filling up of my head, I hadn’t left any space for my self: for the guidance of my intuition and my heart. And that by limiting the amount of time on social media, (and therefore the number of messages that came into my brain) I was more able to relax, more able to concentrate and more able to feel and be.

I realised also that checking our phones is both a habit and a distraction. In a short amount of time, we have forgotten how to feel bored. Waiting in line, waiting for the train …. waiting for anything really, has become an opportunity to consume rather than reflect and observe. By not taking this time and allowing the space, we supress our natural instincts and especially our emotions (which of course, then come out in other ways when we least expect it). And we fail to notice what’s gong on around us – interesting things, opportunities, thoughts, emotions …. All of which could be extremely useful or just fun.

So for now, although I’m back on social media, I’m trying to limit the amount of time I spend there – allowing more space in my head, allowing emotions to present, and allowing more presence in my life … even if that means being bored for a few minutes each day.

I’d love to hear if you’ve tried a digital detox and what happened? What did you discover? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram or Facebook (after the detox, of course!).

Morning Routine

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One of the things I love most about being self-employed is not having to get up a certain time everyday to go to a workplace. While I enjoy structure, I love being able to create my own rather than fitting into someone else’s daily plan.

I’ve found that having a routine in the morning helps set my day up so that things flow smoothly, I feel more grounded and life is a little easier. On days when the routine feels heavy, I simply skip it and come back to it when it feels light again; I want my routine to feel joyful rather than burdensome. From time to time I change it up, depending on what resonates at that moment, but generally it involves a little meditation and maybe some writing.

At the moment, I start my day like this:

  1. Wake up
  2. Write in my 5 Minute Journal (sitting up, but still in bed). This little book has been an easy life-changer with very minimal effort.
  3. Essential Oil Meditation (still in bed, I add one or two drops of essential oil into my hands and breathe in deeply for about 5-10 mins, until I’ve had enough. At the moment, my favourites are the doTERRA respiratory blend and doTERRA Frankincense mixed together)
  4. A bit of yoga, Pilates or cardio – I either do self practice yoga or Pilates, or a video on the PopSugar Fitness app – most are only 15-20 minutes but they really get you moving.
  5. A good playlist or podcast while I shower and make a healthy breakfast (my favourites are smoothies and porridge).

And then I’m ready to go!

Once I’ve done those 5 things, I feel set for the day. I even do this on days when I have to get up early to teach, as I can adapt most of the activities (maybe I skip the podcast on these days) to a shorter period of time.

 

I’d love to hear how you start your day, and if you have any routines that really set you up for what lies ahead. Let me know in the comments, or on Instagram (@laurenewilkie) or Facebook (Lauren Wilkie Yoga and Pilates).

Photo by Paula Sanderson Photography