Saturday, 31 December 2016

A year of daily meditation

Photo by Chris Ensey
I first started dabbling with meditation after an overwhelming bout of anxiety over college exams. However, I admit that I gave up on it pretty soon as I found it just such hard work. Fast forward to 1998 and I decided to give it another proper try after reading a book from the library. For quite some time, my meditation practise consisted of the following:
  • Get myself settled down on the floor on cushions in our spare room
  • Be interrupted by our cat meowing outside the door to be let in
  • Try to ignore the scratching and licking noises now coming from cat
  • Try not to follow the many thoughts that are already chasing around my head, “Did I get anything out for dinner?” "Oh, I forgot to call my Dad"etc., etc.  
  • Be disturbed at the slightest noise from downstairs or cars going by outside
  • Feel grateful for the tiny amount of meditation I may have actually done, but come away feeling generally unsatisfied.  
Over time, it did get better but the turning point was when I managed to find a local introductory course some years later. We were introduced to different types of meditation, but for me the most useful aspect was having an experienced teacher leading a guided meditation each week. It was helpful having someone there that would say things like, "If you've got an itch, don't worry, just scratch it and settle back in" or "You don't need to follow that thought, just imagine it carrying on past you into the distance". She answered all our questions and reassured us that any difficulties were quite normal and basically to keep at it.

Whilst my practise has definitely improved over the years, I still find it difficult to make it one of my regular habits. I have done Oprah and Deepak Chopra's 21-day meditation experience multiple times, and each time I promise that this will be the one where I continue meditating once it's finished. And somehow it never sticks! Therefore, I've decided that I need to make a more serious commitment and as from 28th November, I will be meditating each day for a whole year. I've scribbled down some dates and tick boxes in my Filofax to help keep track, and I'm considering giving myself some kind of treat when I reach certain points as encouragement. The only rules are 1) I'm not allowed to miss a day and 2) I will meditate for 5 minutes at least.

Month 1
I've just checked and today is day 34, so I thought I'd include a quick update on how my first month has gone. I'm very glad that I haven't been too prescriptive with the rules as I'm finding that my practise can vary greatly day by day. For example, on one day I can mediate for 30 minutes, but on the next one, I feel quite agitated when I sit down and barely manage my minimum. On the tougher days, I set a timer on my iPod and those 5 minutes feel much longer... The good news is that I'm finding it easier to settle in and I'm delighted that I've managed to complete the month.

Wishing you a happy New Year :)  

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Sunday, 27 November 2016

Recovering from illness/injury with yoga

I've been struggling to write recently.
Numerous times I have sat down and the words just don't seem to come. I think the best analogy that I can come up with is that normally when I write a post, it's like I tip a bag full of scrabbles tiles out and start to arrange the words. There are too many to begin with, and I always reduce the amount written in an attempt to make it clearer and more succinct. However, recently there's been a hole in the bag and I end up searching around right into the corners , don't feel happy with the little that does come and just give up.

2016 hasn't been the best year for me due to some annoyingly persistent illness and injury (nothing serious, thankfully). Due to post viral fatigue, it's felt like someone's reached into me and stolen much of my normal stamina. I cannot imagine what it must be like for someone like my husband that has ME/CFS. I feel lucky that my fatigue is just like when you're recovering from the flu and end up doing a bit too much too soon. Whilst I still feel very grateful when comparing myself with many others, it has been challenging and it hasn't been good for my general well-being to not be exercising.


Therefore 2016 had been the year that yoga returned to my life in a big way! I am hugely grateful to Adriene for all her free videos by Yoga With Adriene and it's been such a life-saver in relation to my sanity whilst still recovering. I find that it can often become a vicious circle of not exercising due to feeling not 100%, but being too sedentary just isn't very good for my head. I started off completing Adriene's Yoga Camp back in January, and it's become a regular part of my weekly morning routine. I set my alarm half an hour earlier than normal,  and I love starting the day like that, especially as the mornings get darker and colder.

The words aren't still particularly coming along that easily, but it's a start...

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

#Millions Missing global day of action for ME

'#MillionsMissing is dedicated to the millions of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) patients missing from their careers, schools, social lives and families due to the debilitating symptoms of the disease. At the same time, millions of dollars are missing from research and clinical education funding that ME should be receiving. And millions of doctors are missing out on proper training to diagnose and help patients manage this illness.

On May 25th 2016, #MEAction is a global day of action for equality for ME. ME patients, advocates, caregivers, and allies will join together to protest of the lack of government funding for research, clinical trials and medical/public education, leaving ME patients without relief'.

Demonstrations have taken/will be taking place in Washington DC, London, Belfast, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, Raleigh, San Francisco, Seattle, Melbourne and Ottawa.

We travelled up to London to support the demonstration outside of the Department of Health:
http://www.meaction.net/2016/05/29/speeches-from-the-front-lines-of-millionsmissing-l-a-cooper/ (opening speech given by the organiser of the London event).

Unfortunately many people were too unwell to attend, so instead were able to send a pair of their shoes in their place. My intention had been to read the tag on all the shoes (explaining what the owners were missing from), but I admit that after only reading three I didn't carry on as I found it just too upsetting, especially as there were over 350 pairs laid out on the pavement.



My husband's shoes to represent how much the disease affects his practise of the martial art aikido that he has been studying for over 20 years.



I spent the time handing out leaflets and talking to any of the public that showed further interest. It was quite an emotional day for me, hearing about other people's experience of the disease and how it affects them and their loved ones. I felt that it was an important event to attend, as it was a way for me to show my support and actually feel like I am able to help and take action. I think that family and friends without the disease are needed there to help on the day, and I was quite touched by the kind comments that I received at the end by other attendees.



This was the first time that events such as these have been organised for this debilitating disease and I really hope that they have helped raised more awareness.

Interview with Dr. Ron Davis at San Francisco:
(Professor of biochemistry and genetics at Stanford school of medicine, and director of the Stanford Genome Technology Centre)



http://www.openmedicinefoundation.org/the-end-mecfs-project/

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Embracing a get better mindset

'In this talk, researcher Heidi Grant Halvorson explores the mindsets needed to ensure personal growth. Mainly, we should avoid a “Be Good” mindset — one where we are constantly attempting to prove our superiority to the world. Instead, we should embrace a “Get Better” mindset — where we always perceive ourselves as having more to learn. When we embrace a Get Better mindset, we welcome risk and are less afraid of failure, both key to personal development'.



Heidi Grant Halvorson is the Associate Director of Columbia University’s Motivation Science Center, and a popular blogger for HBR, Fast Company, Huffington Post, Forbes, WSJ, and 99U. As a researcher, she studies goal pursuit, the obstacles that derail us, and the strategies we can use to overcome them.
http://www.heidigranthalvorson.com/

As a recovering perfectionist, I have found this a very helpful video.
In the past, I have very much identified my self-worth with my productivity or ability in a given task. Unsurprisingly this has led to much frustration! Instead of comparing myself with others, it's more helpful to instead think about where I am now compared with a year ago.    

Saturday, 9 April 2016