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That time when I reflected on my inner space

We find ourselves in the middle of a moment that none of us thought would ever land in. There’s something so incredible and awe inspiring in the way that the whole world has suddenly become joined together, joined together in the fight against something very real indeed.

I am blessed to be able to work from home, to have loved ones checking in on me and to have ways of living that keep me grounded. For my circumstances and my blessings at this moment, I am truly thankful.

Current events are turning our attention to our inner space, that of our homes, that of our bodies and that of our minds. All of those elements will be important over the coming weeks and months, but our mind and the relationship we have with ourselves will be most important of all.

Over the past few years I have done a lot of work on my inner environment, my mental wellbeing. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about that very thing, and in remembering it this week, I decided to re-write it with a 2020 lens.

Many of us spent a large portion of our lives focusing on building physical homes for the people around us, when in actual fact, we needed to first focus our energies on a different kind of ‘home’ making; that of the home that we build inside ourselves, now more than ever.

Our internal environment has to come first because our sense of belonging, our sense of safety, our ability to love deeply and our truest sense of self has to start there. 

So to real home making; what does it take to really create the time, space and energy to maximise your hours in the day and live your best life, even in isolation? To create a life that’s fulfilling and truly joyFULL; one that celebrates and allows space for all spectrum of emotion, whilst holding steady and feeling well in the midst of it.

Here are some of the things that have worked for me.

1. Clear the way so you can hear the messages from your inner most; spiritually and physically.

We live in a world of distraction and disconnection. Before we can move forward in any kind of positive direction, we need to give ourselves the chance to truly listen to what is at play in any given situation. My emotions used to jump up and down and all over the place, with all kinds of different situations triggering my fight or flight defences.

The thing that’s allowed me the space to really stabilise and walk in line with myself, is the work I have done (and continue to do) on stillness. That is, the art of just being. The art of connecting to yourself in such a way that you can determine what is for you, and what you need to let pass you by.

For me that has meant learning to meditate as the backbone, but that isn’t something that’s static and disconnecting me from the rest of the world. True meditation can happen every moment of your waking life if you let it, by simply living in a connected way. Start small, just a few minutes here and there, and see if you start to feel inspired to do a little more.

2. Honour your body and give it the space to rest.

Once you have cleared some space within yourself, you should start to tap into how you are feeling underneath everything. Even though life right now has become more sedentary, are you simply finding new ways to do too much?

Learn to make choices that support you being at your best, and support that by choosing to say yes to the things that are truly enriching, but no to the things that aren’t. At the moment, our cycles will be hugely important, especially for those of us working from home.

With the information overload that is available to you now, anxiety could start to impact your sleep. Having done a lot of work sleeping in general (quality, duration) I overcome that by holding my bedtimes and wakeup times sacred, and by allowing myself time to switch off from the world as I make a path towards bed. As much as possible, try to sleep and work in separate spaces.

3. You aren’t just what you eat, you are how you eat it too.

The focus on health today is a beautiful thing, but much of that is tied up with an overwhelming drive to achieve something that isn’t what we truly are. The truth is; much of our actual life-enriching health comes from the inside out.

Our mental wellbeing is huge, but also what we are consuming in terms of produce. How much, when and in what energy. Many of the things that we feel are ‘healthy choices’ are still being made in the wrong energy. That energy is one of disconnection.

Many of us will now have an open fridge in arm’s reach all day long, so it’s important to be honest and accountable about your relationship with food. In the moments where you feel inclined to overeat and eat something you know doesn’t serve you, stop for a moment and consider what is underneath it, and see whether you might like to choose a different way.

What you consume isn’t just about food, it’s also about energy. It would be very easy to look upon the next bit of time bleakly, and dive into every last scrap of news. Consider what you choose to take into your body super carefully, now more than ever.

4. Finding a structure that works for you is everything.

People are at their best at different times of day. I truly believe that. For me; that time is at the beginning of the day. I wake early, and have a morning routine that supports my connection, my health and my growth. That means a mixture of meditation, movement and learning. To support that, that means I need those early bedtimes.

It doesn’t matter how you are built or what works for you; the key is to find a way of being that works for you. Just you. Not me or anyone else. Craft a way of being that supports both your evolution and the brilliant human being that you are right now.

Given the lines may be blurring between home and work more than normal, consider having something that you do just before work, or just after, that draws a line in the sand. Perhaps it is singing to your favourite song at the top of your lungs, perhaps it’s star jumps on your balcony, perhaps it is just a cup of your favourite kind of tea.

My evenings are generally about rest, as I mentioned before, as someone who has a predisposition towards anxiety and overthinking, I have to work hard on my sleep. I aim to disconnect from the internet in good time and set myself up for the next day by doing my ‘love me later’ chores – the tiny little bits of effort that make my home feel like someone loves me in it. As someone who lives alone, loving me later has long become my operating model.

5. Flip the script; changing your inner dialogue. 

Flipping back to mental wellbeing here; in most cases we are the master of our own internal destruction. That is to say; we are our own worst critics and therefore usually the most negative person we have in our world.

If this sounds familiar, I’m afraid I don’t have a quick fix here, but what I can say is that with time, patience and love, you can at least become aware of how you address yourself internally, and catch yourself in time to change the conversation. I literally say ‘no!’ to myself when I catch myself doing it, and force myself to change my attitude. Zero tolerance. We can choose better thoughts.

In time, I have become better overall and show myself much more forgiveness than I might have done before. I also tell myself ‘I love you’. Sounds crazy but it honestly works. Right now I have stepped that up a little; ‘you are safe, you are well, you are doing great, I love you and I’ve got you’.

6. Embrace your inner child.

With true joy comes playfulness, you can’t even help it. Allowing yourself some time to play is key. Create a couple of hours in your week where you do something you really love. Doesn’t matter what it is. Right now, that might mean cooking your favourite dinner or listening to your favourite album. Where possible, try to inject those things into your world.

Once you allow your natural curiosity to unfurl, its very easy to start to follow the trail of breadcrumbs (perhaps just online for now) to figure out what truly lights you up (if this is something you are still working on). Another good compass is to observe where you can feel yourself feeling jealous of something. Jealousy; whilst not our favourite emotion, is a sign of frustration with ourselves. So what is your jealousy telling you that deep down you feel like you might like to do?

Ultimately what I am trying to say here, is that it’s wonderful to have desires to live your best life and to work towards that, but that I promise you, it will all start to fall into line once you keep a firm check on the spiritual house you live within day to day.

I accept this moment with complete gratitude. Gratitude for my safety and gratitude for the love of those near and far. I also take this moment of time as a chance to learn and perhaps do a little remodelling, and work on the next build phase of my inner space.

That time when I learnt about the importance of hearing

If I consider some of the most important things I’ve learnt along the way, many of those things have come in the form of people; of friends who pop up and teach me something special that enables the growth needed to level up to wherever I am going next. 

Cynics will say it is just coincidence, haters will say I’m drunk off the joy of life (I am), but for me, I know there’s magic to be found in those moments. 

One of those moments happened to me recently. 

Through my deepening connection to myself via meditation, I found myself becoming part of a project a couple of years ago called Just Breathe – an organisation that creates mass meditation experiences that bring meditation to a wider audience. 

Through this group, I met with Jerusha and Adam Shulberg, who are are the owners of an awesome Audiology practice in Marylebone called Cubex

At that time, I’d paid very little mind to cognitive health. My interest and commitment to meditation was an abundantly personal one; one that was borne out of the need to create calm in my world, to find a way to be peaceful with myself and to stop my emotional pendulum swinging quite so broad and wide.

Jerusha and Adam had become part of the project partly due to their own experiences with meditation but largely due to their extensive knowledge and research into the link between meditation and cognitive health. Put simply; meditation elicits a relaxation response, which reverses the effects of stress in our brains. This allows the space for new neural network connections to unfurl and our brains to become healthier. 

In the world we live in, our brains are continuously exhausted and depleted by trying to make sense of the noise around us. It is up to us to become aware of the impact that our neural network killing way of living has on our cognitive health and what our current health report looks like, so that we can make the changes needed to make it better. 

Cubex were incredibly generous and hosted many of the project’s volunteers for cognitive health checks, and through that experience, I became more aware of the importance of preserving cognitive wellbeing, and how hearing loss can drastically impact the lives of those suffering from it. 

Whilst interesting, this new data merely reaffirmed the path I had chosen to walk along, and I merrily continued with my daily meditation and stillness work. 

A few months later I became aware that one of my parents was starting to behave in just the way that I had learnt might be possible: the quiet withdrawal of oneself from social situations and conversations. 

You see; our brains can only handle a certain amount of cognitive load, and with hearing loss what happens is that our brains have to work extra hard to make sense of the sounds around us.

Hearing is actually a brain process (thank you Cubex), without the brain we only have a series of unfathomable sounds. Those suffering from hearing loss therefore start to become exhausted by trying to make sense of the world around them and for the most part may not even be aware of what is happening until it is too late. The less we interact, the faster our brains deteriorate and the more likely we are to experience things like dementia. 

Even if a person is aware of what is happening this can be something that is incredibly hard to face. It takes real bravery to seek help, and even when you do, it’s hard to find access to the right kind of advice. My parent was aware of what had been happening and had sought medical help, but the solution offered was something that made the sound quality worse rather than better; so hearing became an even more painful experience. 

Happily the Universe had our backs. I could see the signs I’d been learning about, and could see the current solution was having a negative impact, so reached out to Jerusha and Adam and they were delighted to arrange to spend some time assessing both my parents to see what kind of support they might need. 

Because of their open hearts and informal style, the Cubex team were able to provide exactly the right kind of thoughtful but comprehensive hearing support and advice that was needed. 

Today my parent is the proud owner of a state of the art hearing aid. They also laugh more, they tell more bad jokes, they interject into more conversations and we couldn’t be more delighted. The change is quite simply life changing. 

If you recognise any of the signs I describe here, either for yourself or for anyone in your world, please reach out and I’d be delighted to connect you to Jerusha, Adam and their brilliant team. 

Cubex: I am forever in your debt and am eternally grateful for the work you do with both individuals and businesses to bring awareness to cognitive wellbeing. 

That time when I was reminded that three is the magic number

Recently I have been reminded of three important lessons to live by;

  1. It is worth the effort.
  2. Breathing is everything.
  3. Say yes to things that challenge you.

I love to walk along the canal as often as I am able. It’s one of my favourite things to do, and when I do it, I smile with every cell in my body. When I am heading into town, I try to allow a little longer, so that I can at least skip along the canal and at least jump on the tube a couple of  stops further along the line.

When I walk I feel like I radiate sunshine sometimes, it’s as if my soul is drinking from the elixir of life. When I pass people, I often smile and say; ‘hello’. On one particular occasion recently, I was doing this very thing, at first not really conscious of what I was doing. Suddenly I became aware that the more people I passed, and the more eyes and souls I came into contact with, the more I saw a common theme in the eyes that met mine. After the initial surprise of being spoken to (it doesn’t always happen in big cities), what was left with a look of thankfulness, gratitude for having been seen, and gratitude for having been met with love.

I spent the first seven years of my life in the North of England, and this sort of practice is just what we do there. But it struck me in that moment that this was abundantly rare for these people.

Continuing my theme of connection at the moment, I saw just how much my connection could bring to others, in an incredibly small but real life way.

In the wonderful way that the Universe unfolds, I found myself at a charity yoga event hosted by Lululemon one evening the very same week, to celebrate the work of the Africa Yoga Project.

There we heard from the founder, Paige Elenson, who told us her ridiculously inspiring story that led her to founding this amazing organisation that teaches people to teach yoga across Africa; 250 teachers and rising. Paige is the person who reminded me of the three important lessons to live by.

The event started with a short film and as it opened the presenter made a comment that someone had asked him why they were bothering, and that ‘Africa needs a lot of things more than it needs yoga’. But you know what; it might need a ton of other things, but it definitely needs yoga too, and absolutely needs all the elements that come along with it.

Yoga as a platform for people to work themselves out of poverty through teaching, but even more so, yoga to provide a means of connection to our higher being, and to ultimately heal whatever it is you might need to heal to move forward in positive momentum.

I can’t even begin to imagine the lives the people in the video have led and what they have experienced, but I can feel how I’ve healed my own through the many different ways that I’ve been learning to connect to myself and in turn, to others.

After the film we all practiced together, a heart expanding connective practice, where we hugged, tickled one another, held hands to balance and generally supported one another in practice. We finished with back to back seated meditation, largely with people we’d never met before. It was stunning.

I recently realised that I’ve actually been becoming a yogi for a long time before actually stepping onto a yoga mat. In how I live, in how I eat, in how I treat others and most importantly; how I treat and regard myself. I had no idea all of it was ‘yoga’. I just did what felt right for me, which has meant that I’ve lived and practiced various forms of yoga over the past few years, just not physically and spiritually up until the past two, when I fell in love with yoga practice in its entirety.

The movement based asanas have given me a sense of personal freedom, of joy, of physical expression. They’ve awoken the playful goon in me that loves nothing more than spending the day trying to balance on my hands. Play through various forms of movement. And it’s so worth the effort. All of it.

The spiritual practice has happened on and off the mat, but largely through my deepening connection to myself, supported by the hands on healing work, coaching and incredible meditation practice I have learnt with Sara Williams at Spherical Living. Meditation has become a daily practice for me and my journey to stillness continues. At the heart of everything I truly am is my breath.

I have begun studying yoga as an art form, with the hope of sharing so much of the wonderfulness I have learnt, both on and off the mat, with others. People have been saying to me for a while that I would make a great teacher, but it took me a little while to talk myself into saying yes, and to take on the challenge of learning something new.

I have only been able to heal, because I have learnt the tools to heal myself. We can’t heal others, we can only support with love, and give them the space to learn and grow. No one could have walked this path for me or made it any easier. Only me. So my step on this path is one that will afford me the opportunity to offer others some new tools for their own toolboxes. I said yes. To all of it.

So you see this post is about so much more than yoga. It’s a reminder to all of us that everything we do is worth the best of us, it’s ALL worth the effort. And that by connecting to ourselves, our breath and our truth, that is the glue connects us to everything.

From that place of connection we have so much more space within us to support and love the people we interact with, the same space that will, in turn, also enable us to allow them the space they need to be who they truly are and where they truly need to be on their own journeys.

So make the effort. Breathe. And say yes.

To find out more about supporting the brilliant work of the Africa Yoga Project please take a moment to read a little more about them here.