Day 18: Monkey mind

Being mindful of my meditation practice:

I don’t know about you, but I have a monkey mind and it drives me crazy.

Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, it chatters to me non-stop.  Like a restless monkey jumping from branch to branch, my thoughts constantly swing from this to that, refusing to give me a moment’s peace.

I’ve been trying to tame this wayward creature for many, many years, and I’ve finally found something that is really helping.

Meditation.

The idea of meditation has always appealed to me, encouraged by countless stories of how this wonderful (and free!) tool has changed lives, and how it can help ease stress and anxiety.

I’ve tried it so many times, and have given up as my monkey mind triumphed every single time.

Until I spent a couple of months in a yoga ashram in India.

Meditation was an integral part of our daily routine. Initially I struggled and my monkey mind fought for all it’s worth. But I persisted and practiced every single day.

Then I had a lightbulb moment.

I realised it doesn’t matter if my monkey mind makes an appearance. In fact, I think you’d have to be a Buddhist Monk living in a cave for decades, NOT to have any thoughts enter your mind while meditating!

I discovered that the key is be aware of when it starts to chatter. To not get angry or frustrated or give up in defeat. To gently, kindly, and lovingly bring attention back to the breath.

Even if my monkey mind is quiet for just 30 seconds of a 10 minute meditation, I still feel the benefit.

It all counts, honest.

I wholeheartedly believe my daily practice is doing me the world of good. In general, I feel a lot calmer, more centred and grounded, and because of this, feel I am able to cope with the ups and downs of my condition a lot better.

Now that meditation has finally become part of my daily ritual, I find that if I skip my practice for a day or two I really miss it. I notice the difference in how I handle stress: i.e. not very well!

I try to vary my practice using guided meditation CDs, walking meditation, or by simply focusing on my breath.

Every Monday, I join a few Happier friends from around the world for a virtual group meditation session. There’s something really special about connecting with others through meditation, and it always feels more powerful in some way. I have a deep sense of gratitude for this experience and treasure our Monday Meditations.

With this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful of my meditation practice.

Day 17: My mum

Being grateful for my lovely mum:

My mum is such a superstar.

She is one of the most caring, thoughtful and all round loveliest people I know.

And she’s my mum. I know, what a lucky girl I am.

She’s always been there for me and we’ve always been close.

And I’ve come to appreciate her even more since I’ve been living back in the family home due to the ME/CFS.

I’ve found it incredibly hard giving up my independence and having to rely on mum to look after me. But she has made this transition much easier thanks to her kind, graceful nature.

And I appreciate that it can’t always be easy for her.

On bedrest days like today, she pops in to check on me, brings me cups of tea, and kindly prepares my meals. She has never once complained or made me feel like it’s too much.

I’m so grateful that she takes the time to understand my symptoms and triggers, and how she steps in to look after me when I’m not feeling well enough to look after myself.

She listens to me when I tell her how I’m feeling. She hugs me when I’m feeling down. She shields me from visitors when I’m too exhausted to be social.

She even helps me when I have to do something requiring some thought and my brain is too foggy.

She supports me no matter what, without judgement.

I tell her as often as possible how much I love her, how amazing she is and how grateful I am. And I do my best to help out whenever I am feeling well enough.

I hope she knows that I think she is simply the best. Because she is.

She’s my mum, my confidant, my best friend.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for my lovely mum.

Day 16: Bedrest and movies

Being grateful for my Netflix and LoveFilm subscriptions:

After overdoing it recently, my energy bucket is completely empty.

So today is a bedrest day.

I’m a big film fan and love going to the cinema as often as I can. As I’m not able to make it so much at the moment, I say a big thank goodness for Netflix and LoveFilm.

Subscriptions to these two beauties are my little treat to myself.  Well, actually, they are a big part of my recovery tool box.

On days when I need bedrest, like today, watching films offers me complete rest. It helps give my monkey mind a break, as well as giving my body time to recover.

With LoveFilm, I can enjoy the more latest and greatest DVD releases and the discs are delivered directly to my door. Netflix offers online streaming and at the push of a button, or rather a click of a mouse, I can watch as many films as my heart desires.

And believe me, that’s a LOT of films when I’m needing a bedrest day or two or three.

I receive two DVDs at a time with LoveFilm and post them back once they’ve been watched. It’s always a surprise to see what they’ve selected from my eclectic rental list of over 100 titles: today it’s ‘Girls’ Season 1, and Tom Hardy in ‘The Drop’.

I find Netflix doesn’t have as many recent releases, but still has thousands of titles to choose from including some quality TV series ripe for binge-watching (I’ve just started on series one of five of the renowned Breaking Bad!).

Thankfully my watch list makes it so much easier to choose what to watch on days when my brain is too foggy to make a decision. As Netflix is streamed online, my sister has kindly lent me their Apple TV gadget, which means I can watch it on my big bedroom telly. Result!

I am so grateful for this form of pure escapism: it’s gets me through a lot of dark days like today. And after some good quality rest with some (usually) entertaining viewing, I am slowly ready to ease myself back into the wonderful world of real life once again.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for my Netflix and LoveFilm subscriptions.

Day 15: Bliss Balls

Being mindful in the kitchen making my raw chocolate treats:

It’s been a long time since I’ve made any raw treats. My last batch ran out a few weeks ago, and I’ve been dipping into the biscuit tin and chocolate box way too much.

Not good.

I need to replenish my treat stash quickly in order to have them on hand for when I have a sweet craving.

It’s time to say Bye Bye biscuit tin and beloved Galaxy Minstrels, and Hello Helen’s Raw Chocolate Bliss Balls.

Bliss Balls were actually my first step into the wonderful world of home-made raw treats. After realising that sugar was not my friend, I’ve been making variations of these for a few years now to satisfy my sweet tooth. And it works. And they’re delicious. And nutritious.

How fabulous is that!

My fave recipe combines mixed nuts and seeds, raw cacao, vanilla powder, cinnamon, chia seeds, super-greens powder, dates, and rice syrup, with coconut oil for binding, and desiccated coconut for rolling in.

Did I mention they are absolutely yummy?

I enjoy spreading the no-sugar love too by making them for dinner parties, and giving as gifts for friends and family. I’m often asked for the recipe which is brilliant; changing the world one bliss ball at a time!

Variety is always welcome so today I wanted to make two flavours. I decided to try out a new recipe I’ve found for Sesame Power Balls. With tahini, ground almonds, almond butter, coconut, seeds, vanilla powder and rice syrup, it sounded like a recipe made in raw food heaven. And it was.

Heavenly yummy indeed.

I wanted to practice mindfulness as I made my treats. So I focused on being present, mindful and aware, as opposed to stressed, distracted and overwhelmed.

I stayed alert to my senses: the texture and smell of my yummy ingredients; watching how they bind together in my food processor; taste testing for sweetness; and the feel of rolling the mixture into balls in the palm of my hand.

I was also mindful of my breath, keeping it slow and steady throughout. And if my mind wandered off, I gently invited it back to the task at hand.

Now I have 20 little balls of deliciousness packed away in the freezer to enjoy over the next few weeks. I usually find that one is enough to satisfy my sweet tooth, although I have been known to sneak another one or two. But they’re actually quite filling and one is usually enough. Honest.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful in the kitchen when making my raw chocolate treats.

Day 14: Nana milkshake song+dance

Being grateful for funtime playtime with my nephew Thomas:

Two days a week, my three-year-old nephew Thomas is with us while my sister goes to work.

He’s our little ray of sunshine.

And as much as I would LOVE to be his full-on full-time playmate, sadly CFS has other ideas: I’m usually wiped out after only half an hour and have to head upstairs for some bedrest.

Recently, I’ve started making him healthy banana milkshakes, with two ingredients: frozen banana and whole milk. Nothing else.

And I’ve found that getting him involved in the making of it usually increases the odds of him drinking it.

Today, he very carefullly held the blender jug while I put the frozen banana in and then added the milk: great team work.

Thomas is quite a sensitive soul around noise and usually runs away and hides when I switch the blender on. But today, he wanted to press the button. And so he did. A few times in fact.

As the blender roared into action, I started singing ‘Banana Milkshake’ to distract him from the noise. He joined in the singing and started dancing around; I joined in the dancing.

And thus, our Banana Milkshake, or rather our ‘Nana Milkshake’ song and dance was born. (Lyrics by Auntie Helen, choreography by nephew Thomas)

We had so much fun singing and dancing our way around the house. A joy-filled precious moment to treasure, that’s for sure.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for fun playtime with my nephew Thomas.

Day 13: Happier and friends

Being grateful for the Happier app and Happier friendships:

I joined the wonderful Happier community almost a year ago, and it’s had a hugely positive impact on my day-to-day life and wellbeing.

The iTunes blurb says, it’s like a smile in your pocket, and I couldn’t agree more.

Happier is a social media mobile app for sharing the good stuff. It’s mission: to help you find more joy in your everyday life. Happiers can share a ‘happy moment’ and also smile and comment on others’ moments, and vice versa.

It wasn’t long before I noticed how I was actively looking for more and more things to be happy about and be grateful for in my day. And that can’t be a bad thing at all! In fact, my experiences on Happier have been a huge inspiration for this blog and ‘100 days of happy’ project.

Happier has opened the door to meeting so many beautiful like-minded souls and kindred spirits. I believe finding and connecting with a community online that focuses on positivity and support has become instrumental in my recovery journey.

I feel like I’ve found my tribe.

Spending just a few minutes scrolling through Happier always makes me smile and lifts my spirits, especially when I’m feeling low.

What’s also special about Happier is seeing new friendships develop all around the globe; as fellow Happiers swap email addresses, send cards and thoughtful gifts to each other, talk on the phone, and even meet up in person for Happier get togethers.

How cool is that!

I’ve been chuffed to bits to receive my own Happier mail, including beautiful cards and thoughtful, inspirational bracelets, which I love and wear all the time.

 

Happier bracelets

And I’ve enjoyed getting creative and sending homemade cards and little gifts to a couple of Happier friends. Something I’d like to do more of.

Today, I even got the chance to have a real life chat with a lovely Happier, who’s become a good friend. We chatted excitedly and both felt cheered by our connection; it’s made me smile from ear to ear all day long.

Who knew that signing up to an app would produce such beautiful gifts of friendship, support and all round loveliness.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for the Happier app and new Happier friendships.

 

Day 12: Back on the mat

Being grateful for my first yoga class in two years:

I am so excited. I’ve just attended my first yoga class in two years. Yay!

And it felt sooooooo good.

Sadly, I haven’t felt well enough since chronic fatigue set in. My beloved practice has been one of the biggest activities I’ve missed. I used to practice yoga most days either at home or at the fantastic yoga studio I was a member of in Sydney. It had the most incredible teachers and I used to go to three 90 minute yoga classes a week.

Over the last few months I’ve been slowly easing myself back into yoga by following a couple of gentle 20 minute DVD sessions at home.

While I enjoy home practice, I do like combining it with classes.  It’s not a surprise that I find that teachers challenge me more than I’m prepared to challenge myself at home. I also appreciate the variety of asanas – poses – even those I’m not particularly fond of and tend to avoid at home. Teachers have told me it’s the ones we resist are the ones we need to focus on!! Hmmmm…

Recently I’ve been feeling ready to step up my practice by trying out a yoga class. After some searching, I’m grateful to have found one one really close to home. Like 5 mins away close. The only downside is that it’s in the evening, when my energy is usually waning, but I was keen to give it a try.

As the time for me to leave grew nearer, my trepidation increased: Would I find the venue ok? Would I manage the whole class? What if it was all too much? What if I felt unwell? What would teacher Hannah be like? What would the other yogini’s be like?

Ok, Helen, breathe deeply with me now….

Finally it was time to go.

Of course, I found the venue ok, the other yogini’s were lovely, and teacher Hannah was friendly and kind.

Happily I rolled out my mat and I felt I’d come home.

Starting in savasana  – corpse pose – Hannah gently led us into mindful breathing and introduced this week’s theme, Satya, the commitment to Truthfulness.

Gently guiding us through an hour long class, she threw in a couple of the more challenging poses for good measure and to a few giggles. Just as I felt myself starting to flag and was preparing to rest in balasana – child’s pose – the class began to wind down and we were back in savasana. Sigh.

I left feeling stretched, calm, and happy in my mind, body and soul.

I am really also proud of myself for going as it was a big step in my recovery journey.

Roll on next Tuesday.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for my first yoga class in two years.

Day 11: Flower power

Being kind by giving flowers to a stranger:

Today I took a big scary step into the wonderful world of being kind to a stranger: face-to-face.

As I’d taken myself into the city for a yummy brunch, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to face this fear.

I bought a pretty little bunch of orange gerbera’s and asked the flower seller to attach my kindness card to it, with the words: Enjoy the flowers… you deserve them.

Ok, that’s the easy part done.

Now to find someone to give them to…

Gulp!

Call me crazy, but I thought an older lady – in her sixties or seventies – would be a good choice for my first attempt. I felt a younger person might be suspicious of my intentions and a man may take my gesture the wrong way: especially as I was so nervous. As I grow more confident, my intention is to do face-to-face acts of kindness to all, regardless of age or gender.

With butterflies flitting and fluttering around my tummy, I walked up and down a couple of busy shopping streets. I focused my search to those sitting on benches or waiting at bus stops, as I thought it’d be easier to approach someone who wasn’t rushing off somewhere.

I then scanned the seating areas on the city’s Market Square and finally found a couple looking happy and relaxed. The man was doing a crossword, and the lady was watching people go by.

She smiled at me as I walked by, and I knew she was the one.

My heart pounding, I approached her and told her I’d like to give her the flowers. I explained that I’m doing acts of kindness and asked if she’d accept the gerbera’s from me.

She graceful accepted them without question.

Phew, I was so grateful. I’d expected a little suspicion as to why I wanted to give a stranger flowers, and was relieved to find an open and willing recipient.

The lovely lady explained how they’re just visiting the city, and so sadly didn’t have anywhere to put them. But as she was meeting her sister-in-law later, she would pass them on: spreading the kindness, she told me with a knowing smile. WooHooooo it works!

I walked away my heart feeling happy and proud of myself for putting myself out of my comfort zone.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being kind by giving flowers to a stranger.

 

Day 10: Tapping my way to health

Being mindful in my daily tapping meditations:

A very kind friend has gifted me a 7 week online tapping course and I am so grateful.

The course has been going for a week now, and I absolutely love it already.

I first became aware of tapping, also known as EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique – about 3-4 years ago, but thought it a little woo-woo even for me!

For the uninitiated, EFT is gently tapping on the body’s energy meridian points using your fingertips, to help release physical and emotional pain.

I’ve been tapping sporadically for a couple of years now, but started using it regularly just over a year ago. I had a number of sessions last year at CFS holistic recovery specialists, The Optimum Health Clinic, and EFT is recommended as a key recovery tool.

However, it’s only since this course started that I’ve been tapping every single day. There’s morning, daytime and evening tapping meditations, each being around 15 minutes long. Plus lots of other material to get stuck into: webinar’s, Q+A sessions, and bonus classes and meditations.

I find daily tapping incredibly powerful and am already starting to feel the benefits.

I’m having some real emotional releases and shifts, and it’s not unusual for me to cry during a session. But that’s ok. Sometimes I laugh, or shout, and I’m even yawn a LOT… apparently these are all signs of energy shifting.

It’s fascinating stuff, and I intend to continue for the 7 weeks and beyond. Tapping has already become a regular daily practice and a key element in my recovery tool kit.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful in my daily tapping meditations.

 

Day 9: On a shopping high

Being grateful for my local-ish health food shop:

I am on a shopping high.

I’ve just got back from visiting my favourite local-ish health food shop called ‘Out of this World’ (OOTW), and it really is!

I only discovered this little gem a few months ago: it was a joyous moment indeed. Up until then, I’d been ordering everything online from various places which, let’s face it, was a bit of pain.

OOTW is a 30 minute drive away, but it stocks everything I need. Now I visit every couple of months to stock up on my favourite goodies, all from under one roof:

Bread:  It’s the only place I’ve found that sells a Spelt Sourdough loaf that actually resembles bread. Now, sliced and in the freezer.

Coconut heaven: They offer great value, quality Coconut Oil which I use a LOT of, and tinned Coconut Milk without all the crap. It’s also where I discovered CoYo yoghurt, heavenly creamy and dairy/sugar-free.

Choccies: Having ploughed through many raw chocolate bars since my return home, my firm favourite is  ‘Dark Vanoffee’  by The Raw Chocolate Company. I find it doesn’t have the weird aftertaste I usually find with some of the ‘alternative’ sweeteners.

TREAT: OOTW has just earned itself a big hooray and gold star for selling my latest obsession, Booja Booja Alternative Ice Cream.

Plus, they have the most loveliest staff, so it makes the drive all worth it. And when I’m not feeling well enough to make the drive, they’ll deliver it all for a fiver.

How fabulous.

Today I took my sis along, who has become the Queen of Juicing since joining the juicing revolution a couple of months ago, and a convert to the wonders of Coconut Oil.

I love taking my time to peruse the shelves and feel like a kid in a sweetshop. I could spend a fortune in there, that’s for sure. I really have to hold myself back and stick to my list and tight budget.

I always leave feeling happy for my loot, excited to try new finds, and content that I have my healthy supplies for another few weeks. And I can’t wait to get stuck into my Booja Booja…

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for my local-ish health food shop.