Posts

I hear this ALL the time!

“I just don’t know how to meditate.”

“I find it really hard to think of nothing…”

“I don’t like sitting still…I get bored and distracted.”

“I haven’t got time to meditate!”

STOP!!!!

Stop overthinking it people!

Meditation doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult. And it definitely doesn’t always need to involve sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed.

There are so many different ways to meditate and not one of them is “right” or “wrong”. As long as you are feeling the benefits from it, then it has to be worthwhile right?

My first introduction to meditation was when I started going to Yoga classes when I was at University.

At the end of the class the teacher would have us lie down on our mats (what I now know to be Shavasana)…

…and she simply guided us through some lovely slow breaths before leaving us to simply listen to some gentle, relaxing music for a few minutes.

It was heavenly!

That was a few (a lot!) of years ago now, but it really sparked something within me. I instantly fell in love with the calmness that those few moments on the mat brought me.

So there is one myth already debunked – you don’t have to sit cross-legged to meditate!

It can be very difficult to find a comfortable seated position, especially in your early stages of mediation practice. Your legs might get sore or uncomfortable, or your back might feel awkward… All these little niggles will distract you from your mediation and distraction prevents you from getting the full relaxation and de-stressing benefits.

So, if you find it really difficult to sit down, try lying down. Just don’t get too cosy as you will probably fall asleep!

The next myth is that meditating is all about thinking of NOTHING. No wonder so many people are put off meditating if this is what they believe it to be!

It is exactly at the moment that you are told to think of “nothing” that suddenly “EVERYTHING” comes into your head! Am I right? If I was to say to you now “Think of anything in the world, except for a tree”, I bet that all you can see in your mind is a tree!

It is very very difficult to tell your mind NOT to think of something!

So, instead of trying so hard to clear the mind, an easier way to meditate can be to focus all your attention on just one thing. Even this can be challenging, but it is definitely more accessible than thinking of nothing!

My favourite thing to think of and focus on is my breath. I use this a lot when leading groups in meditation and in my Serenity program and workshops.

The breath is perfect because we always have it with us. This means we can literally meditate anywhere and at any time!

When you are just starting out, I suggest that you simply close your eyes and concentrate on your breath for as long as you can manage.

You can try to elongate the inhale for the count of 4, hold it for 2 and then exhale for the count of 4. Or whatever number you like! By keeping the inhale and the exhale the same length, you are actually helping to bring the nervous systems of your body into sync and equilibrium. In doing this, you will enjoy a lovely feeling of calm start to sweep over you. This is a great technique to use during particularly stressful moments in your day and it is the first step we focus on in the Serenity program: http://emilyclifford.com/portfolio-item/serenity/

As you get more into meditation, there is so much more that you can do with your breath, but I will save that for another post.

I read (or watched) a lovely blog from one of my own meditation teachers recently where he talks about the importance of celebrating small successes rather than dwelling on failures.

It really spoke to me so I thought I would share it with you too – https://www.skillfulmind.com.au/blog/returning-to-the-breath.html

The basic premise is that, when you are meditating on the breath, you should celebrate and congratulate yourself every time you recognise that you mind has wandered. It is in these moments that you are returning to your meditation and that you are actually mastering and developing your technique!

So don’t feel bad or annoyed with yourself for losing focus, instead celebrate that you are in-tune enough to realise that you have drifted away and gently bring your focus back to your breath.

Sometimes people tell me that they just can’t sit still long enough to mediate, or that they simply don’t have the time.

I challenge both these statements!

If you don’t enjoy sitting still, you can try walking meditation! This is when you simply concentrate intently on each step that you take. Notice how your foot lands on the ground and how your body moves as you walk… take a moment to notice everything around you using all your senses. I recorded a video on this for my Serenity program where I go into a lot more detail about how to do this. You can find it here: https://youtu.be/uW-bVxzvdO0

And for those who believe they don’t have time to meditate, I suggest that you start out with the goal of simply slowing down and breathing for just ONE minute. Don’t stress yourself trying to allocate time to do it, or scheduling it into your already packed diary. Just use your breath, and grab a minute whenever you can.

It really is that simple!

There is no need to overthink how to mediate. All you have to do is breathe!

I hope this encourages you to give mediation a go! Please feel free to get in touch if you have questions or comments… I love to hear from you!

It’s CHRIIIIIIIISTMAAAAAS!!!!!

A time of peace and love and joy, right?

Or, maybe you feel it is more a time of excess and busyness and stress, stress, STRESS!?!

I know so many of us end up getting swept up into a stressful whirlwind of shopping and wrapping and cooking…..

Our diaries get booked up with parties and meet-ups and we end up eating and drinking much more than we usually do. This coupled with less sleep & less time for exercise means we can start to feel sluggish and weary and not really so sparkly or merry or bright…

Well, I don’t think it needs to be just so stressful. I believe it really CAN be a time of peace, love and joy!

Here are my TOP TIPS to help you stay sane and keep your sparkle through the festive season!

S SLOW DOWN! Stop rushing around in a crazy frenzy! Take a moment. Stop. I know we all have a lot to do and we feel that time is running out… but rushing around does not actually help us get things done any quicker. All it does is raise our cortisol levels and add to the feelings of stress within our system! When we feel stressed it can be harder to think straight and more difficult to make decisions which ultimately makes us less efficient and means that things will take longer than they should or could! So let’s give ourselves a helping hand and simply slow down!

P PAUSE! I encourage you to take a break from it all! This could be stopping for a cup of tea or coffee while you are out shopping and just taking a moment to enjoy the festive atmosphere. Or it could be deciding to take a day (or maybe just an hour or so!) off from thinking about all the things you have to get or do! Distract yourself with a good movie or a catch up with a friend and call it a Christmas free zone! Or take some time out to meditate. Even if it’s only for 5 minutes, your brain and your body will still feel the benefits and you will go back to your tasks and to-do lists with renewed energy and gusto.

A ALLOW YOURSELF TO SAY NO! This is so much harder than it sounds but so so important! Allow yourself to say “no” to what doesn’t serve you, especially at this time of year when you are already so stretched! Make sure that you will really enjoy any festive socials or gatherings you commit to. Don’t feel pressured into going to your work do if you really don’t enjoy them. Don’t feel that you have to visit Santa’s grotto if you really can’t face the queues or you simply can’t afford it. Don’t feel that you have to buy EVERYTHING your children ask for! Allow yourself to say “no” to the alcohol if you simply can’t face another hangover… Lose the guilt! It’s ok not to do it all at Christmas… it doesn’t make you scrooge, it just means you are looking after yourself.

R REST! Get to bed early when you can. Never underestimate how important sleep is. Research has shown that our bodies require long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue and balance hormones. We can become forgetful and irritable and even become more susceptible to colds and viruses as our immune system can be impacted by insufficient sleep. So, if you find you have a few more late nights this month, try getting to bed earlier on the nights that you don’t have plans to make up for it. You will function more efficiently as a result!

K KEEP IT SIMPLE! Let’s not overcomplicate Christmas. Lots of us have this desire to make everything PERFECT! This yearning is of course magnified by the endless images we see around us of the perfect Christmas scene with tastefully decorated trees, amazing feasts and families smiling together in their beautiful, warm, Christmassy houses! How about we give ourselves a break?! It’s ok if we aren’t quite able to produce a spread like Nigella or Jamie! It’s ok if our tree looks like it was decorated by a five year old (even if it wasn’t!)! Let’s keep things simple. Focus on what is really important to you and don’t let yourself get caught up in the hype of elaborate cuisine and ridiculous gifts!

L LISTS! I love a good list! That feeling when you tick off the last item….there’s nothing quite like it! I am a firm believer in writing things down. Once you get it down onto paper, your poor, overloaded head no longer needs to remember it! You can relax knowing that you can simply check back to your list to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. So don’t delay, get it all out of your head and write those lists!!

E EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY! My last top tip is to let loose and ENJOY this time! Maybe not the usual advice from a Pilates and Mindfulness advocate, but hey ho! I believe that there are times to be strict, controlled and focussed on your health and then there are times when you need to just let go and relax. Often I find that if people officially allow themselves to enjoy Christmas without worrying about counting calories or hitting their step count, they actually manage to keep a greater level of control over themselves than they expect! So ditch the diet for a bit, throw on your sparkliest outfit, put on some makeup and enjoy this magical time! It’s ok to party! It doesn’t mean you are “off the wagon” or “being bad”… you are simply embracing this time! Lose the guilt and savour every moment 🙂

And so with that I wish you all a wonderfully MERRY CHRISTMAS!

May your mood be light and your sparkle be bright!

Peace, love and joy to all!

Emily xx