Day 70: Mindfulness Summit

Being grateful for, and mindful during, the Mindfulness Summit:

For this whole month of October, I’ve felt hugely privileged to have joined over 250,000 people taking part in the Mindfulness Summit, designed to help us “learn how to live life with more peace, purpose and wisdom.”

There’s been a new online interview between the host, the very lovely Melli O’Brien, and a leading mindfulness expert every single day.

Those who have shared their insight and wisdom with use include Mark Williams, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Tami Simon, Dr Rick Hanson, Ruby Wax, Arianna Huffington, Vidyamala Burch and many many more.

There’s also been presentations and practice sessions, plus a bunch of free meditations to download and keep.

All for free.

I’m delighted that I’ve managed to watch most days, I think I’ve only missed three. And I’ve loved each and every one.

The Summit has given incredible insight into the science behind mindfulness and its clinically proven benefits, and a plethora of different mindfulness techniques on how to integrate mindfulness into everyday life and how to apply it to specific situations.

I’m looking forward to having a play with some of these techniques to see what works for me.

Here are some of my favourite learnings:

1. Mindfulness is a practice, it takes discipline and perseverance. Every day we begin again. ~ Joseph Goldstein
2. There are two wings of presence: seeing, recognising what’s happening, and allowing, asking yourself if you can be with this. ~ Tara Brach

3. Let your mind be your best friend ~ Shamash Alidima
4. ‘Surf the Urge’. When you have a craving, for example if you’re checking your phone every two minutes, tune into the physical sensation and ‘surf’ on it like a wave. Bring kindness to it and it will subside, the urge will go away. ~ Shamash Alidima
5. Catch thoughts before they take hold. Thoughts arise naturally and we don’t have to attach to them or feel bad for having them. ~ Lori Deschene
6. The Diffusion Technique: 1. Think of negative self-talk, such as “I’m not _______ enough.” 2. Concentrate on that thought for 10 seconds. 3. Put in front of that thought, “I”m having the thought that I’m not _______ enough.”. 4. Add to it “I notice that I am having the thought that I’m not _______ enough.” ~ Russ Harris
7. If you’re not focused on what you’re doing, you’ll do it poorly. ~ Dan Goleman
8. When meditating, there’s a difference between thinking about your breath, and feeling your breath. Aim for the latter. ~ Dr Judson Brewer
9. When you are experiencing discomfort, note if you are blocking it, by pulling away and distracting your mind, or if you are drowning in it, by leaning into it and feeling overwhelmed. Be a warrior with a soft and open heart. ~ Vidyamala Burch
10. You can’t change stress, but you can change your relationship to stress. ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

As I’ve mentioned many times before, mindfulness has become a huge part of my healing journey. And this series of interviews and presentations has highlighted how beneficial and enriching mindfulness is to my wellbeing. I can say with hand-on-heart, that practicing mindfulness will continue to be a part of my everyday life, ongoing.

And tonight, to close this incredible month, was a live guided meditation with Jon Kabatt-Zinn. It felt incredibly powerful to be meditating with thousands of others around the world at the same time.

I shall sleep very soundly tonight!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for, and mindful during, the Mindfulness Summit.

 

PS While the Mindfulness Summit has now finished, it’s available to purchase and 100% of profits generated from the project will be donated to mindfulness charities. Please click here for more info.

Day 69: Seaside Bliss

Being grateful, mindful and kind, while enjoying a day at the seaside:

Today was the ultimate Artist’s Date: I went to the seaside.

Since moving back in with my folks in the middle of England while I recover from CFS, the nearest coastline is sadly about 80 miles away.

And I desperately miss living by the sea, which I find so powerfully healing.

So on a good-health day not so long back, I booked myself onto a day trip to the seaside with a local coach firm.

However, due to my recent cold and CFS blip, I wasn’t really sure if I was up to going. But as the seaside towns are winding down for the winter, today was the last seaside trip the coach company was making until the spring, so I was really keen to go.

As I woke up this morning, my body craved more rest and begged me to stay in bed, but my heart skipped with joy at the thought of a day at the seaside.

Reluctant to cancel, I felt confident the healing power of being by the sea would lift my spirits and soothe my soul, and would offset the inevitable consequences of complete bed rest for the next few days.

So off I went.

As the full, chattering coach weaved its way through the countryside, I put down my book to gaze out the window. And my, how I was rewarded: blanketed in mist, my heart sang with joy at the splashes of glorious golds, flaming ambers and dazzling rubies of the stunning autumn scenery.

Arriving at the seaside just before noon, I headed straight for the beach so I could say hello to the sea. Then it was time for a spot of lunch, and of course there’s only one option when you’re at the seaside: fish, chips and mushy peas of course! My ‘regular’ sized portion beat me; convinced it was big enough for two, I was curious to see how big the ‘jumbo’ portion would be!

fish, chips and mushy peas

I wandered down the pier and spent a lovely half hour gazing out to the sea, soaking up her powerful healing energy.

beach and pier

Then it was time to whip my socks and shoes off and hit the beach. Walking barefoot in the sand is one of my all time favourite things to do, and it felt blissful getting sand and sea in-between my tootsies once again.

barefoot walking

This award-winning beach is incredibly wide and it took a while to reach the shore. I went for a quick paddle which was deliciously refreshing, with the sea temperature around 15 celsius/59 fahrenheit. I didn’t stay in long due to the sea foam: with a chocolate mousse texture  I got a little paranoid it was pollution I shouldn’t really be standing in. Urgh! (I’ve since discovered through a little research that it’s algal blooms and organic matter churned up by the surf, which isn’t usually harmful to humans, but I was taking no risks!)

I continued to walk along the beach and it was blissful having this long stretch of beach almost to myself, only passing by the occasional dog walker.

I decided to get creative and have some fun creating some artwork in the sand using my tootsies:

beach art
I was feeling quite tired and as I came upon some rocks, I decided to buy a herbal tea and come back and watch the waves for a little bit longer. Oh boy, finding a herbal tea in the many beachside huts was almost impossible. Ten stalls and 30 mins later, I rejoiced at finding a place offering lemon and ginger tea, and went back to sit on the rocks.

I tuned into my senses and fully appreciated the delights surrounding me: the sound of the crashing waves and squawking of the gulls; the sight of the muted watercolour tones, as the sand merged with the sea, and the sea with the sky; the smell and taste of the salty sea air; and the kiss of the gentle breeze on my skin. Pure bliss.

I was delighted to see two kite surfers glide into view. I was utterly mesmerised. I used to love watching the surfers when I lived in Australia, I find it so soothing and meditative. I was also transfixed by the icy blue eyes in the sky, gazing out of the clouds.

kite surfers and eyes in the sky

Then it was time to make my way back to the coach station for my return journey home. As we arrived back, I gave the coach driver one of my kindness cards with the message: “Thank you for being a good, considerate driver” to show him how much he is appreciated.

Kindness Cards

After my long but blissful day at the seaside, my spirits are lifted, my soul is soothed, and my body and energy levels are kaput!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful, mindful and kind, while enjoying a day at the seaside.

 

 

 

Day 68: Natural cold remedies

Being grateful to have suppressed my cold symptoms using natural remedies:

One of the symptoms I’ve noticed since having CFS is that my immune system is so much weaker than it used to be. I seem to get everything that’s going around, and often have more severe or longer infections.

I only have to look at someone with a cold, and I catch it.

And not only do I suffer with all the usual cold symptoms, it also completely wipes me out energy wise. Sometimes for weeks.

So as you can imagine, I’m pretty paranoid when I share space with someone with the sniffles, and I have a tendency to freak out if they don’t cover their nose and mouth when sneezing. Urgh!

Sadly, it’s one of the trickier things of being around my nephews so much. They often have the sniffles, a runny nose or a cough, as colds tend to spread through schools like wildfire.

And the recent sudden temperature drop as autumn arrives good and proper, hailing the start of cold and flu season.

I believe that prevention is easier than cure, and have a myriad of daily natural remedies to help build up my immune system. I drink warm lemon and ginger every morning, I take 2000 mg vitamin C, a good quality multi-vitamin, and I eat plenty of vegetables including a daily green juice.

So when I felt the onset of a sore throat and ear ache earlier this week, I went on the natural remedy rampage.

I immediately started taking Echinacea, gargling with a warm salt water with a few drops of Marjoram Essential Oil, and dropping a little warm olive oil with Tea Tree Essential Oil into my ears.

I also got out my treasured Neti Pot. Originally developed as an Ayurvedic yoga tradition in ancient India, it’s traditionally used to give relief from nasal congestion, allergies, and head colds.

It looks like a genie’s lamp and it usually makes my wish to ward off oncoming cold symptoms come true.

Basically it’s a salt water solution to irrigate your nasal passage. The solution is poured into the pot and the end of the long spout is placed into one nostril, and as you tilt your head, the solution flows into one nostril and out the other, flushing out unwanted mucus and matter. It sounds yucky and it took me a while to feel comfortable doing it, but it works for me so it’s a keeper.

So these are my own tried and tested methods for strengthening my immune system and keeping cold symptoms at bay. And I’m delighted that my cold symptoms this week haven’t developed into the full-blown cold I was expecting, even though I still have a mild sore throat and ear ache a few days on.

And of course, my best natural remedy for feeling wiped out is complete rest, so I’ve been getting lots of that this week and am slowly building up my energy levels.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful to have suppressed my cold symptoms with natural remedies.

 

Day 67: Callum’s 7th birthday

Being mindful of being a good Auntie to Callum on his birthday, and beyond:

My mum always spoils us on our birthdays. My sister and I grew up feeling extra special on our birthdays as mum showered us with her love and kindness, and she still does.

And I still love being a birthday princess a few decades on 🙂

I also like to spoil my loved ones on their birthdays too.

Today is my nephew Callum’s 7th birthday and even though I’m unable to shower him with extravagant gifts, I can shower him with my love and attention, and try to be the best Auntie I can be.

We FaceTimed him this morning before school to sing Happy Birthday, and it was lovely to see him looking so happy and excited.

Later, after Mum had picked the birthday boy up from school, he excitedly tore open our pressies. I’d also made him a special birthday card, creating a number 7 filled with lots of photos of him. I was over the moon at his reaction when he first saw the card: “WOW” he exclaimed wide-eyed and open-mouthed. And I got another WOW when he turned over to see more photos of him I’d printed on the back. Bless.

Callum 7th birthday card

As the rest of the family arrived, we played a variety of games, being mindful to let the birthday boy choose which ones, and I even attempted a game of ping-pong with his new table tennis kit. He proudly showed us his main pressie, an amazing robot. The remote-controlled Robosapien dances, burps, does karate, kicks and speaks fluent caveman among other things. It was especially funny to see his younger brother Thomas dancing along.

Callum's robot

We ordered a Chinese meal as Callum adores Chicken Chow Mein and Prawn Toast. As we all went to sit at the table, I asked Callum where he wanted to sit: “Next to you” came his reply. Heart-melt moment. Then, as Thomas arrived, he had a tantrum as he wanted to sit next to me. So after a bit of shuffling, I was the proud Auntie sandwiched between my two munchkin nephews.

After dinner it was time to blow out the candles on his birthday cake: a fabulous Ninja Turtle cake with candles shaped in the number ‘7’.

Ninja Turle cake

Soon after, it was time for Auntie Helen to go home and rest up, as I was feeling exhausted and also still suffering with my cold symptoms.  I feel really happy that Callum has enjoyed his birthday celebrations and is looking forward to going bowling with some friends on Sunday.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful of being a good Auntie to Callum on his birthday, and beyond.

Day 66: Sunday Assembly

Being grateful I finally made it to a Sunday Assembly:

Today I took a giant step forward on my healing journey from CFS.

I went along to my first Sunday Assembly, a “secular congregation that celebrates life”.

The Public Charter of this global movement puts it perfectly:

“We are here for everyone who wants to:

  • Live Better. We aim to provide inspiring, thought-provoking and practical ideas that help people to live the lives they want to lead and be the people they want to be
  • Help Often. Assemblies are communities of action building lives of purpose, encouraging us all to help anyone who needs it to support each other
  • Wonder More. Hearing talks, singing as one, listening to readings and even playing games helps us to connect with each other and the awesome world we live in.”

I first heard about Sunday Assembly over 18 months ago from a friend who’d been to one in her home town, and I’ve been wanting to go ever since.

It sounded like a great place to meet like-minded people, to be inspired by interesting talks and discussions, and I was particularly looking forward to having a good ole sing song.

But as each monthly assembly came and went, I didn’t feel well enough to go. But today, it felt like the right time to give it a try.

Accompanied by a few fluttering butterflies in my tummy, I headed into town to see for myself what it was all about.

And I’m so happy I did.

I was greeted warmly at the door, and was made to feel very welcome by the organisers, which instantly put me at ease. I chatted to a few of the friendly regulars, and then it was time to begin.

The theme for today’s assembly was ‘death’. Not a theme I’d have chosen for my initiation into this community, but it was covered tastefully, with compassion and a big dose of humour.

We listened to a few readings, sang a couple of songs – Bridge Over Troubled Water and These Are Days of Our Lives – and took part in a couple of small group discussions about what we’d like our epitaph to be and another to remember our loved ones that are no longer with us and what we loved about them. We then wrote their names on post-its and stuck them on the wall to create a ‘tree of remembrance’.

And then my first Sunday Assembly was over.

And I am hooked.

I realise that feeling part of a community is essential to my wellbeing.  And while I have a wonderful online community which I love and cherish (big shout out to Happier!), it feels good to get out of the house and connect with like-minded people face-to-face.

I felt absolutely wiped out when I got home and have a feeling this may take a few days to recover from. But I climbed into bed feeling very happy and pretty proud of myself for going; it was another ‘stepping out of my comfort zone’ moment and another step forward in my recovery journey.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful I finally made it to a Sunday Assembly.

 

ps With currently over 68 local assemblies around the world, check here to find one near you.

Day 65: Baby moles

Being grateful for seeing two baby moles playing in the grass:

Oh my, my heart is bursting with joy.

Today, I stopped for a soul stroll in the beautiful Bramcote Hills Park to enjoy the autumn colours in full bloom.

I wandered over to an enclosed area which houses a fallen down tree and is a designated wildlife area.

As I was reading the plaque, I heard an excitable squealing noise.

I glanced down and saw the most precious sight: two baby moles playfully rolling around together in the long grass.

I know!

They were having so much fun.

Thankfully I already had my camera ready in my hand and managed to snap the little cuties in full play before they disappeared as fast as they’d arrived.

I feel so privileged as I realise how rare it is to see these nocturnal creatures. I can’t stop smiling and thinking about it: what a treat and precious moment to treasure.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for seeing two baby moles playing in the grass.

Day 64: Kindness message: found!

Being grateful for getting a response from my kindness cards:

WooHoooo… I’m so excited.

Today I received this message from someone who’s found one of my kindness cards:

“Hi. Did you put the second card in a book called Little Lies? I found it in a book from West Bridgford Library. Thought I might go looking through your website. I’m battling mental health issues so it was nice to get a kindness card. x”

How wonderful is that!

I’m beyond grateful Rebecca took the time to have a look through my blog, find the Kindness Bookmarks post, and write me a comment.

Thank you Rebecca, you’ve really made my day 🙂

Day 63: Bounce! Bounce! Bounce!

Being grateful for a short but fun bounce on my mini trampoline:

Having been pretty much sedentary with CFS for a couple of years now, I’m conscious about the negative impact the lack of physical exercise is having on my body.

To be honest, I’ve never been an exercise-loving kind of girl. I wasn’t sporty at school and to think how much money I’ve wasted on gym memberships in my lifetime… I’d go hell for leather until either I got an injury, or my routine was interrupted and I’d find it hard to get started again.

When I lived in Australia, I enjoyed a couple of brisk daily walks along the beautiful coastal tracks, and riding my bike. I found being active in the great outdoors is much more suited to me than slogging it out in a gym. But it’s not always easy with the Great British weather!

Over the last few months, I’ve been managing to enjoy short walking meditations and some gentle yoga. While these feel amazingly beneficial, I know I need to do something to raise my heart rate.

So I’ve dragged my rebounder out of the garage, dusted it off, and am really enjoying the experience.

IMG_1241

NASA says rebounding is: “The most efficient and effective exercise yet devised by man.”  And the list of benefits include stimulating the lymph flow, strengthening the heart muscle, and is gentle on the bones and joints.

Keen rebounder Jason Vale, aka The Juicemaster, says: “The aim isn’t to bounce high or perform gymnastic tricks, it is to perform a series of small, controlled movements.” He has a Rebounding Workout DVD, which is way too energetic for me at the moment, but I’ll get there in time. There’s no rush.

On my good days, healthwise, I try to have a little jump up and down for a few minutes. I’m thankful I can choose the effort I want to put into it, from low-impact side-to-side bouncing, to gentle jogging, to full-on jumping up and down, star jump style ☆.

And WooHoooooo….. it is sooooooo much fun. I actually giggle my way through it. There’s something so playful and childlike about this form of exercise. It doesn’t really feel like exercise at all, bonus!

I’ve created a playlist called ‘Bounce’ which is full of happy, uplifting songs to both sing and bounce along to. I try to stay on the rebounder for two songs, which works out  between 6-8 mins. I’m hoping to slowly increase, but am mindful of my limitations and being gentle with myself.

There are obviously days and weeks, when I don’t feel well enough to go on my rebounder, but on the days that I do feel up to it, I make sure I enjoy every precious bouncy moment.

I also have to be careful as sometimes after a few minutes it aggravates a whiplash injury I sustained a couple years ago, so have to stop. But little by little is better than none at all!

And at the moment, I’m finding it the best way to not only raise my heart rate but to raise a big springy smile 🙂

So with this in mind, my happy today is to be grateful to have had a short but fun bounce on my rebounder.

Day 62: Everyday kindness

Being kind by bringing home a library book for my mum:

My mum recently borrowed a book from our local library, but a few pages in she realised she’d already read it. Mum decided to continue with it until she could go back to the library and choose a new book.

This was on my mind as I popped into our library today.  I looked for and checked out a book I thought she would enjoy.

When I gave mum the book, she was really touched and said it could be my kindness act for the day.

I was quite surprised because it didn’t feel like an act of kindness; I haven’t really considered thoughtfulness as an act of kindness before.

But when I think about it, they do go hand-in-hand.

I’ve been focussing on the bigger acts of kindness, especially those that take me out of my comfort zone. But it’s also about the thoughtful everyday little gestures. Especially to those who are part of our day-to-day lives.

Today has been a lovely reminder that all acts of kindness, big or small, showy or low key, deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated.

Hooray 🙂

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being kind by bringing home a library book for my mum.

Day 61: A 270mph selfie

Being grateful for saying YES to a high-speed selfie:

Today I was excited for my first Artist’s Date in the city in a while: brunch and the flicks.

After brunch and a little bit of shopping, I was already feeling a bit fatigued. Thankfully I had some time before my film started, so I decided to sit in the Market Square and enjoy the sunshine.

I choose a place as far away as possible from the big white tent set up at one end of the Square. It was ablaze with Virgin Media banners, and teeming with marketing folk.

As I was quietly basking in the midday sun, a couple of said Virgin Media folk approached me and asked if I wanted a ‘high-speed selfie’.

I automatically shook my head. Partly due to my introverted shyness and partly due to cynicism; surely it was just a marketing ploy to get my details and bombard me with marketing material for years to come.

They got chatting to two tram drivers behind me who were on a break, and described how they could go into a booth and have a high-speed wind blown at their faces while having their photos taken. The bus drivers were game and were led over to the tent.

Hmmmmmmm… I was intrigued.

My adventurous side awakened, my sense of fun sparked.

Why not? I thought to myself.

How often would I get this opportunity? Would I get to the end of the day and regret not doing it? Why not just go and see what it’s all about?

So I wandered over to the tent and after a quick chat with one of the Virgin folk, I decided to go for it.

And I’m so glad I did, it was so much fun.

I took a seat and the wind machine began, starting gently and then quickly reaching its full power of 270mph.

What a blast!

It literally took my breath away.

It reminded me of my skydiving experiences, without the gorgeous view or sexy instructor strapped to my back, of course 😉

After 30 seconds it was all over, and I waited for my photos to be emailed to me and printed off. I know they’re not the most flattering of pics to be revealing to the world, but I think they’re just hilarious and wanted to share them for that reason alone.

I knew today was going to be a tiring day, and it was made even more so by this little unexpected adventure. But I’m really proud of myself for venturing out of my comfort zone, and I’m very, very happy I said YES!!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for saying YES to a high-speed selfie.