How To End Your Bad Habits In 4 Easy Steps.

What would it look like to stop analysing what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong?

How would it feel to not have a list at the end of each day assessing our successes and failures?

To close our eyes each night with the joy of moments in our lives instead of regret and think with disgust that once again we didn’t do what we were going to do and not have that second helping, second glass, fourth cup……

I stumbled across a paragraph in a book on yogic wisdom (The Wisdome of Yoga by Stephen Cope) and it said this,

(I am paraphrasing to keep it short)

“A chain of events described by the Yogis: Appraisal. Impulse. Action. An object came into contact with my senses – a smell of a muffin. I recognise the smell. A pleasurable sensation enters my consciousness and on the heels of sensation I have a reaction to it – I like it! The appraisal turns into impulse I want the muffin and then action – I am eating the muffin.

It’s almost unconscious. The yogis found that we make poor choices when caught up in the action of it all, or rather we make no choices at all.

The yogis then studied the chain and wondered if it were de-linked, could we end our suffering? They found that impulse is highly influenced by our habits and patterns and conditioned by our experience so therefore can be de-conditioned.

If we become aware of the link, through observation of self and being in the present moment, then we can break the chain and overcome our bad habits, therefore ending suffering.”

Because you would have noticed that eating that chocolate, drinking that third glass of wine or having that fourth cup of coffee has not satisfied you. It has not ended the suffering which is why we inevitably want it the first place. To end the suffering of wanting. After we have experienced the item/thing we then experience a loss of the item/thing. More suffering. Then the guilt of actually actioning the want. More suffering.

But even more than a want, its a habitual patterning. We do not want to yell at our kids and yet, when triggered, we yell, we scream, we say things that we did not know was inside us.

We cannot be with the pain of everyday life, we cannot be with the pain of the constant whining, we cannot be with the pain of boredom, with endless options, with craving and not receiving, so we impulsively act and the actions cause us suffering.

You can have pain without suffering, if you do not act. 

  1. Use your awareness to observe your patterns, triggers, suffering – the internal chain of events
  2. Let your awareness penetrate – be here now.
  3. You will find that in light of your awareness the experience that you are feeling a loss of control over is not a foregone conclusion. Its feelings are fleeting, impermanent. The cravings go, the impulse leaves you.
  4. Finally, exposed to the light of your awareness, the craving and aversion evaporate.

Can you imagine this to be true? If you are about to yell at your child, but hold yourself back, take a few deep breaths, become aware of what you are doing – do you continue to yell?

I bet you don’t. I know I don’t. The anger subsides right? The feelings that well up in you dissipate and you are free to have a normal, much more productive conversation. The pain is there for seconds. The disappointment, the disbelief, the disapproval and then the love floods in.

Sometimes I pour myself a glass of wine in the afternoon. Because a thought has been following me around saying wine, wine, wine.  I finally pour it, the voice subsides but I am doing something else and that wine can sit there, un-sipped, for an hour.

These unconscious patterns are running our lives and we are not even aware that we have the power to stop them.

We assume that we need willpower right? But have you ever noticed that the more you think about not doing something…the more you want to do it?

So how do we take actions steps? How do stop this unconscious patterning? In real terms, not in yogi jargon like awareness and conditioning?

I think the number one point is – do not judge yourself. Just by having the intent to be better, you are on the path to something more. Do not judge yourself for something that is essentially so deeply ingrained you barely know you are doing it.

Can you forgive yourself?

Can you go to bed every night, knowing that you did your best? Knowing that what you have done today is all you could have done? And knowing that the moment has passed. That we leave the past behind, no matter how much we try to make it real, it’s gone.

  1.   Watch yourself and learn your triggers. Can you side step the pattern? Can you get the kids moving half an hour before you usually do so they are ready on time and your not late? Can you skip the TV show or the instagram feed that shows EVERYBODY drinking wine? Can you swap a coffee for a tea and see how that feels?
  2. Your going to have to learn that the present moment is all we have. The best way to enter the present is to follow your breath. You’re triggered, now just breathe. Think conscious thoughts. Breathe.
  3. Can you change anything? Do something differently. Hug your child instead of yelling, even if you still feel like it. Busy yourself with the laundry instead of social media. Make dinner, even if it is early, just so you don’t eat the whole pack of chips?
  4. Celebrate the little changes and forgive yourself for staying enslaved to the patterns that linger. Just know that you have power over your life and that willpower does not have staying power. You need to shine light into your darkness not hold it under water, it will just resurface when you have run out of energy.

 

Do you have any tips for breaking habits? Have you had any experiences that you could share and help others? I’d love to hear them. Leave a note in the comments or on social media.

What Are You Going To Be When You Grow Up?

My five year old asked me that just the other day. Without prompting of any kind.

I looked at him, quite seriously, and said, “A Writer.”

I said, “What about you?”

He said, “A Pokemon collector.”

Now you might not see this as a great career option, but let’s face it, there are people who do this kind of stuff professionally. As parents, we don’t think this way. We try to steer them logically to a more security – driven profession, or even worse we might tell our five year old that his dreams are not realistic.

But you don’t see what I see.

I see this kid in the playground, the centre of attention as he splays his cards for the crowd to check out. He is in top form as he laughs, calls out the names of the cards and declares whether they are good or bad. He enjoys the spotlight and ensures, in someway that it is on him.

He also climbs like a monkey, is street wise in a way I can’t put into examples and shakes off getting into trouble like water off a ducks back. He does his own thing. He can’t sit still and he is sweet and funny and mischievous.

My older son, also loves Pokemon but he loves the methodical nature of collecting the cards, storing the information, and doing this utterly fascinating (and sometimes tedious) thing where he can recite all of that information back to me by rote. Even before he learned to read he had all the (thousands) of skylander names and their powers stored in that amazing brain of his.

Julian is social, kind and dreamy but he likes order and doesn’t like getting into trouble. He conforms which is a good thing and a bad thing.

These are gifts shining with in them. They are not obvious like that of natural athletes of mathematical genius’s but they are just as important to recognise.

These gifts, these pursuits, interests, passions can become the joy of our lives and who are we, as parents, to tell them that they are not warranted, not important, not something to spend time on?

Now I am not saying that I haven’t banned them numerous times or that they should be allowed to just ignore everything else and do just what they enjoy, but I think we need to be more aware of their joys.

We, as a society, as a culture, as a human race, are naturally inclined to compare what we have to what others have.

What we need to teach them, what we need them to know and understand as they grow up is that comparison is futile.

There will always be someone prettier, funnier, more intelligent, more together. BUT they don’t have what they have. The ultimate uniqueness of being themselves.

Sometimes its hard to put into words why you admire others but as I get older, as I learn more, I’ve realised that the people I admire most are being the most authentically themselves. Because they embrace themselves and are at home in their own body – the Universe conspires to give them it’s abundance.

You want to be around them. They are attractive. They live a life they love. They are doing what they are doing for the pleasure and passion of it, and in turn, giving service of some kind to others through this awareness of their gift.

That is the kind of children we should be raising.

But at present, we seem to be more concerned with the fact that we might miss our children being next Tiger Woods, than encouraging them to be the best Harry, Johnny, Isabel they can be.

Our children do so many multiple sports, music, swimming, extra school lessons that they don’t often get time to work out what they like and who they are. They barely get play dates because there literally is no unscheduled time for some kids.

We might be covering up their gift of writing poetry because they are at basketball practice and have no time to be dreamy.

The ancient Indian text, The Bhagavad Gita states, “The Gift is indestructable. It is a seed. We are not required to be God. We are not required to create the seed. Only to plant it wisely and well.”

As parents, what we don’t want to do, is help our kids cover that seed with so much dirt that it may never see the light.

And we don’t want to do that to our own gifts, our own passions and dreams either.

Don’t you find it amazing that there is such an incredible range of interest, talent and diversity in people’s career choices? Some are naturally inclined to science, some medicine, some administration and some the arts…and so the world turns.

There is a reason for this and the Bhagavad Gita calls it Dharma. Your purpose. It is like you have been programmed with the gift that the world needs and your life’s journey is to figure out what it is and give it to the world.

Dharma is born mysteriously out of the intersection between The Gift and The Times. Dharma is a response to the urgent, though often hidden need of the moment.

An example is that maybe activism and woman’s rights have always held an interest for you. Maybe you work in politics or for a charity and then Trump gets elected and you find yourself, with your gifts, in the perfect space for connecting woman together to rise up and challenge inequality and injustice. This is the intersection between your Gift and The Times and your purpose unfolds.

I love this quote from Dolly Parton, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose”

Do it on purpose. Be more you. Be more authentic. Stop doing what you ought to do, what you have been told you should be doing, what your friends are doing and do what you want.

This quote from Robert Frost describes how I felt after I uncovered my seed. The seed that was so buried it took the tragedy of death to dig it out.

“They would not find me changed from him they knew – Only more sure of all I thought was true.”

We must stop encouraging our children to look elsewhere for happiness. We must stop the busyness and start listening to their thoughts and dreams and only provide encouragement. They will find out in life if they need security, a steady job, to have a year off, to live extravagantly or simply. They will make their own mistakes regardless of how much cotton wool we wrap them in.

The biggest mistake of all however, is ours if we bury that seed before it even gets a chance to bloom.

The tree of life has many branches, many different ways to climb but you must choose the one that resonates most with you and often, its the road less travelled, the one that is scary, lonely and risky and that’s why the path is so hard to take.

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Image credit: www.saintpour.com.au

 

 

Feeling The Love

I woke up last night in fear of death. That death would take this man from me.

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I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t get peace.

A voice said to me, “ You will not lose him, for he is not lost. He is going home.” and so I cried.

I understood what it meant but when I think of my childhood, his home was my home. We went everyday after school and played at their place, on the roads and in the vacant block next door. We had a street gang, we rode our bikes, started a babysitting club and played road cricket. I remember him dancing and being so loud and betting on the horses. I remember him winning at cards at Christmas. I remember feeling special as he twirled me around, knowing that I was his granddaughter and he was proud of me.

Just recently he told me about his time fighting a war in Korea. How he hates war. How he spent three months in Japan because he was taken as a soldier but was too young too fight. How it was the best time of his life.

I didn’t receive a phone call last night. I got up after a couple of hours of sleep and walked on the beach with my best friend. I waited for the call but it didn’t come.

I went to see him as soon as I dropped the kids at school. He was small and shrunken and unhappy. He was awake and not in pain but weak and sick and tired of it all. I held back tears as I held his hand. I didn’t ask him the questions that I had thought I needed to ask him. The questions that kept me up during the night.

Like –  What is the meaning of life? and  Do you think Australia was a good decision? How do you think your life would have played out if you stayed in Scotland? Did you get enough joy from your life? Did you get enough love? Did we show you how much you mean to us? Did you feel valued?

Instead, what I did was I held onto him.

And he held on to me.

When I left, I said, “See you tomorrow!”, he said, “I’ll be in another place.”

And so I cried.

I hope he meant that he was moving hospital wards, which he was, but I didn’t know. I just felt his emptiness. The life being drained from him.

I went to yoga and when I checked my phone afterwards I feared the worst.

But it was good news. The Doctors have found a bug in his blood and are giving him treatment. The chemo is working and is shrinking his tumour. He lives to fight another day.

My husband took this shot tonight and I cried again. With relief. With happiness. With joy.

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It’s so often we do things that are meaningless. We tick off our to do lists and clean our houses and get angry about silly things but life shows up when you least expect it, to show you that what you actually need to do is give out more love.

You can even throw the list of questions and things you think you should ask out the window. You will never know all there is to know. But you can feel all there is to feel.

And make sure others know you are there.

You showing up is what matters.

Holding the hand.

Being there.

For the moment.

For the breath.

Feeling the love.

Five Ways To Stay Zen Instead of Yelling

If you lose it occasionally, find yourself yelling at a loved one, the kids or strangers who have cut you off in traffic – that’s pretty normal.

But if you find yourself yelling daily, feeling totally exasperated and worked up on numerous occasions throughout the day, then there is a lot you can do about that.

That pent up, anxious, angry feeling – that stressed, can’t quite catch your breathe state is caused by many things, from a refusal to slow down, to grief, to feeling stuck in your own life.

There are many times that life can get on top of you but you don’t have to let it turn you into a person that you don’t recognize. You don’t have to be that person that everyone steps on eggshells around and you don’t have to be that Mama that is always yelling and achieving nothing.

Here are just some of the things that you can do:

Time-Out

Yep, you send your kids there, but you totally need it too if you are going to lose it. Sometimes I just have to excuse myself and head to my room. I meditate, I put on a guided meditation that I have as an app on my phone, and I just listen and sit. It lowers my heart rate and improves my mood. I lock the door and make sure I’ve told my husband to keep the kids away. You may not want to meditate but if you are feeling on edge then take the time-out and do whatever you like to do that is quiet, alone time. Whether its surfing the net on your phone, reading the paper, a good book or chilling out listening to music – you need to do it.

Regularly Do Some Form Of Movement

Emotions don’t go anywhere if you don’t exercise. You need to literally shake them off. Get moving – go to the beach for a swim, play tennis, run, do handstands on the grass – make them move through you. In yoga we believe that there are energy systems in the body,72,000 little lines that can get blocked at anytime and if most of them are not loose and free then you get that feeling that you are absolutely going to burst. Yoga is designed to free that energy and let it run through your body. Yoga practices like Yin are specifically designed to remove those emotions that are stuck in your body, in your hips, the backs of your shoulders, your neck, your abdomen. When you have a tight body you are always wound up. So move. You know it makes you feel better.

Believe That You Too Deserve Free Time

Whether that is a class on the weekend, a night out with friends, a trip away with the girls – you actually do deserve it. You actually owe it to your family make that extra effort. Sometimes my husband actually says to me when I am in a bad mood, “Do you need to go to yoga or something?”. Everyone likes to be around someone who is happy, who has good energy, who is not going to go nuts over the slightest little thing. Free time, for just you, will help you get there.

Do A Clear Out

A cluttered house, a messy kitchen, bad vibes, bad moods can all be sorted out. This may actually be the source of all that pent up frustration. If you can’t look around your home space and be happy then you need to change it. Throw things out so you don’t have to clean them up all the time. Reduce your possessions. Change your artwork. Change your furniture around. Do a sage smudge (clears out bad vibes in the house). Stick on some upbeat music to dance around to. Change your state by changing the state of your dwelling. Sometimes on the weekend I literally clean to feel better – I know that I won’t feel relaxed until the clutter is gone, the benches are wiped down and the house is filled with music,  and happy hearts.

I will walk around the house with a sage stick, candles burning, Fleetwood Mac on in the background and a fresh coffee brewed. Then I will go from room to room making sure it’s the way I want it to look. It does absolute wonders for my perception of life and I feel much more loving towards my family – especially if they pitch in and help.

Treat Yourself Better

Without a good night’s sleep I am not someone you want to be around. If I have had too much nutrient deficient food, I can feel it. If I haven’t had enough playtime with my friends then  you will know it. If I haven’t meditated or been to yoga in a while then the baseline of my mood changes from permanently chilled to slightly hysterical.

There is an immense need to look after yourself until they become non-negotiables. You should be able to notice when you are not doing the right things for your body. If you don’t notice then you are in a permanent state of abuse of your body. You need to start treating yourself better simply because you are a beautiful human being and your body is a vehicle in which you will need for the rest of your life. You know what to do – eat more greens, drink more water, exercise daily, get in nature, go to sleep earlier, go out and catch a movie.

You treat your body right and it makes it so much easier to change your attitude and love your life. img_5697

It Is Not Motherhood That Exhausts Us

Yesterday I ducked into the chemist (and when I say ducked I mean like a slow, snail-paced crawl with toddler in tow) for some iron tablets.

I’d been feeling depleted. Just this week. Energy low. It happens.

It happens when you have a rotation of two children in your bed most nights. It happens when they get up earlier than you’d like and stay up later. It happens when there are early school meetings, swim training  and after school activities. It happens when you fit in four classes of yoga, an early morning beach walk and a round of cardio tennis. It happens when you race out the door to relax for a couples massage on Valentines Day.

If Motherhood is the cause then we are the victim right?

We live in a society that tends to prefer blaming than taking responsibility for our own actions.

It’s always someone else’s fault that this has happened to us.

But….

I let the children in our bed.

I never enforced rules where they had to stay in bed in the morning.

I chose (in fact booked and paid for) to enrol them in the activities that they said they liked.

I went to the school meeting and voluntary drove the car to swim training.

I choose to go to my own activities because they light me up.

And the massage, well it was worth all the racing and the late night dinner the kids got, to squeeze in some me and the hubby time.

We are only a victim of the creation of our own lives.

After a little complaining yesterday and some serious sleep – this morning I see with clear eyes.

The gift of life is that we get to create in it whatever we like.

There is no one forcing us to do anything. There are alternatives to every choice we ever get to make and it’s a beautiful thing.

We paint our lives from blank canvases everyday.

Tomorrow you could choose to get up, take the kids out of school to home school them, put your mortgaged house up for rent and  take off in a caravan or take a sea change. You could pull the kids out of their activities and take them to the park or local pool for fun after school and you could quit your job.

Life is our masterpiece.

Owning your choices can make you feel empowered, more joyful and immensely grateful for what you have in your life.

A victim mentality can make you resentful and you don’t want to spend Motherhood resenting your little people instead of celebrating them.

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Too Much To Do? Read This

I know you’re busy. I know you probably don’t have time to read this. But indulge me. Indulge yourself.

What if you didn’t have to be busy?

What if the most exhausted person you know, wasn’t you?

What if you slowed down.

Stopped?

What would happen? Would your world fall apart or would the fun, the love, the happiness creep back in?

Why do we try to squeeze it all in when it is pushing out the joy?

For years I have loved yoga without really knowing why.

Why do I feel so good after yoga when other exercise, although endorphin-inducing, doesn’t give me that same buzz?

Yesterday, when looking for a quote in a book that I could relay in my yoga teaching class, I found this,

“After practicing poses for several minutes, it is a good idea to relax and feel the rebound – calmly focus on the sensations of chi (prana).” Paul Grilley

Prana is life-force and it is seen as a universal energy which flows in currents in and around the body.

Regardless of the exercise you choose you to do, it will allow the prana to flow,but yoga specifically focuses on opening the channels in the body for the prana to flow more easily and freely.

My quoted paragraph pointed to feeling the rebound and that is where yoga differs again. In yoga, we are told specifically to stop and focus inwards. How are you feeling now? What are you feeling? Focus on your breath. Just be. This is our chance to feel the rebound. We might be in child’s pose, tadasana (mountain) or savasana to do this.

Usually in the down time in-between exercises, whether it is tennis, cycling, pilates etc you are encouraged to get a drink. you might also find yourself chatting to others or picking up your phone to see messages you have missed.

What you are actually missing out on here is the rebound. The opportunity to focus inward and feel the sensations of that prana flow throughout the body. Without it, that quiet opportunity to stop and reflect, you are skipping the most important part. The part where your mind chatter stops and sensations in the body take over.

That’s when you understand the true meaning of yoga. That calm, that inner-peace that takes over and you take that feeling with you when you leave. That feeling improves relationships, improves tolerance, empathy and compassion and instills a greater joy within.

I think it is a practice however that should go beyond our asana practice, the physical practice.

In life, between juggling to-do lists, children, work commitments, social life, family, we are missing out on feeling the rebound.

Today I got up, flew around the house getting the kids and myself ready to leave the house for school and preparing for my day. I squeeze in meditation, a hot breakfast, coffee, showers and lunches and then it’s in the car. Drop first kid off, then second, then third – now to yoga. Then to the shops. I looked at my watch, oops have to race to doc’s appointment. I had an x-ray on my foot and then I picked up a parcel from the post.

I was starving so I thought I’d pit stop at home for a coffee and something to eat. I was going to head straight out again – to do errands that could be done at anytime, instead I decided to stop and feel the rebound.

Enjoy my coffee. Come down from the whirlwind of my morning and regroup for the afternoon’s activities.

It’s so important to realise that life is about enjoyment. It’s not about getting stuff done or winning because you are the most busy or exhausted.

If you think about it logically being busy and exhausted is actually the opposite to how we want to feel and yet we persist and over-schedule until we squeeze all of the enjoyment out. I know that if i schedule back to back outings on the weekend or go out too many nights in a row – fun things become drudgery.

So slow down and feel the rebound during your day.

Being busy and always moving forward will not fulfill your dreams of a joyful and content life.

Standing still is where you can enjoy all the prana, the life force, you have created in you beautiful life xx

I will leave you with a piece from the Radiance Sutras, Lorin Roche.

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