Not everything is a task

This week I was using an app called Let’s Meditate to practice meditation every day. At first I started with just 5 minutes and through the week build it up to 15 minutes. I didn’t know what to make of it, so I kept an open mind, but I did really enjoy it.

Meditation brings a lot of benefit and adds a focus to your day. I found I liked to do mine before work in the morning but at weekends, I preferred to do it in the afternoon. It can be hard to take those 5, 10 minutes to just breathe and focus, particularly if you share the house with someone and you’re conscious they may disturb your peace, but I quickly learnt to relax. So much so, that even 15 minutes seemed too short by the time Sunday rolled around.

It also taught me something more about myself. That everything I do tends to end up on my to-do list, regardless of whether it’s something I enjoy or not. So cleaning the bathroom goes alongside reading my book, and writing my blog can be found on the same list as sorting out my business budget.

During this week – finding time to meditate – it occurred to me that this too was a form of task in my head, and I tried to schedule it in. There are arguments for and against this way of doing things. On the one hand, adding the nice things to your to-do list add variety and can be a good reminder. On the other hand, it can end up adding to your overall sense of overwhelm, or you start to resent certain things.

I am a great believer in balance and everything in moderation but I have also realised that parts of my life which were once spontaneous or heart-driven, have become task-orientated. It means I have left myself hardly any time to be bored, to explore and to adventure. There are some days where I wake up and just feel my way through the day, deciding what to do next based on what my heart tells me, and other days where I am so focused on knocking 10 tasks off my list that I forget everything else.

So this week, I am giving myself permission to wipe clean my to-do list. Things will get done because either they need to be, I remember them or I want to do them. No lists. I want to explore how my mind works when it is free of tasks, what it prioritises and what it doesn’t. It is an exercise in self-exploration and freedom. It is about being present, being right here, right now doing what you’re doing.

Live in the moment

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Your body will thank you for rest

Last week I was focusing on rest. On trying to honour what my body needed at this time. It was another gorgeous, sunny week and so I was determined to be out in it, enjoying the summer weather.

I had a growing to do list that included things like finishing reading books, weeding the garden and cleaning the house. The sort of jobs that you don’t always prioritise during the week.

As most of my rest time came at the weekend, I made a promise to myself to do nothing, plan nothing and commit to nothing for Saturday and Sunday. This meant I woke up on Saturday with a full, clear day ahead. At first, I felt a little uneasy with it and started searching for things to do nearby, not used to this sudden freedom. Then I decided to run with it, tune in to what I needed to do for me.

Which is how I ended up taking a picnic to a nearby woodland, doing yoga in a clearing, then sitting and reading my book in the sun. It’s how I ended up weeding my garden and watering my plants. And, it’s how I ended up cleaning the whole house before relaxing on the sofa with a bunch of magazines.

Picnic at Evenley Wood Garden

Picnic in the woods

It’s also the way I led myself into Sunday. Waking up and listening to the birds, taking a stroll in the morning sunshine, completing a craft project and clearing my desk of odd jobs ready for the week ahead.

Instead of feeling exhausted or drained from doing so much, I felt alive and energised. I’d done what my body needed and wanted. I’d fed my mind, body and soul with rich, meaningful activities that give so much back.

I love having plans, and there’s nothing wrong with having them, but this week has taught me that just being with yourself holds so much value and that you don’t always need to be doing things to feel at peace.

It sometimes takes time to relax into just being. But the more you practice, the easier it becomes and I have now earmarked days in my calendar with a note saying ‘Enjoy nothingness’, as a reminder to myself to not plan anything in and just go with the flow.

On the theme of energy, and having recently read a lot about meditation, I want to focus this week on strengthening myself through meditation. It has been shown through studies how beneficial it can be for memory, anxiety and general wellbeing, and there are many apps out there to guide you through it (I’m using a free one called Let’s Meditate, but there are so many to choose from). I’m going to start with 10 minutes of meditation and see if I feel able to build it up throughout the week and the months ahead.

Whilst the sun continues to shine, it’s also a good excuse to sit outside for a while and meditate amongst nature, to feel a part of something bigger and to absorb the sounds, smells and feel of that which surrounds you.

To the mind that is still

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Listen carefully to learn more

Belonging is defined in the dictionary as “an affinity for a place or situation”. An affinity is defined as “a natural liking for and understanding of someone or something”. Belonging, then, is a natural liking and understanding of some place or some person. That’s why we use phrases like ‘feeling at home’ and ‘being amongst friends’.

We have a gut feeling about a place or person that determines our natural liking towards them, perhaps also influenced by things we have heard about them prior to our experience, but mostly just an instant reaction. It’s why we ‘click’ with certain people and not with others and it is also why some places feel just right, whilst others leave us feeling unsettled.

I have found that in this past week, whilst trying to understand my shadows, that I also unearthed this understanding of gut feeling and how it relates to our sense of belonging. It has been a busy week for me, so I haven’t had as much time to stop and stare as I would have liked, but in those quiet moments I have been aware of this stirring sensation. It’s like something grinding away inside me that I don’t notice until I am still. To me, it is a sign that I am doing too much.

Our bodies have ways of telling us to slow down, to stop and relax, but we have become so good at ignoring them. However, I have decided that to move forward and explore my potential and grow my business, I must first step back. I heard a nice analogy for this the other day about a bow and arrow. To shoot the arrow, you must first draw it back on the bow.

This week is going to be about prioritising plans and not being afraid to cancel things if I don’t feel they serve me. It’s going to be about spending my evening in the garden, rather than in front of a screen, or reading my book instead of going out to a show. It’s about saying to yourself, “I am important. I am worthy. I am my own priority.”

You have to put yourself first because if you don’t slow down, your body will find a way to do it for you.

Here’s to a restful week ahead, full of things that bring joy and fill the heart with happiness.

Calm water sunset

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Our shadows are a part of us

I am another week into my Belonging challenge and have just had 7 days of trying to stay true to my own opinions and beliefs. Choosing a week being around my parents was probably the biggest challenge! But I did it, and I learnt a lot.

I found out that sometimes when you challenge other people’s opinions with your own, they learn something new as well. We often think that they must be right because they’re older and wiser but often it presents a new way of looking at things, and many others are open to new opinions.

One thing it did highlight to me was the perception that I am somehow young and vulnerable still. That I am still developing and refining my opinions. And that both scared and delighted me. It scared me because I look around at my life and think, ‘in 20 years will I want extremely different things?’, but it delighted me because there is so much more to discover and create.

Part of that discovery process is learning to rid ourselves of those niggling feelings that churn away in our stomach when we are doing something different. That gentle reminder that deep down we crave our stability and same-ness. I am learning to accept this feeling but also know when to kick back and say ‘No I need to do this’. And that feeling does dissipate, eventually.

Those darker feelings or shadows that we carry around can protect us, but they can also hold us back, so it’s about coming into a relationship with these shadows that serves us.

This week, I am going to be focusing on my own shadows and learning to listen to them whilst also recognising what my heart says. It’s about saying I want to take a leap when the shadow says no, whilst also saying I choose safety when the shadow says there is danger ahead.

Belonging to both your good and bad sides, the dark bits as well as the happier bits, is all about loving yourself as a whole and therefore being at one with yourself.

What does it even mean to love your bad side too? It’s not about casting it off, or getting rid of them like you would a mouldy piece of bread, it’s about learning from them but also understanding how our own sense of belonging works, and where our values lie.

So dust off the wardrobe, welcome in the shadows and listen to them. Just listen.

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The first stage of belonging is to belong to yourself

This week, I set myself the challenge to set an intention for each day. What I found was that a lot of my intentions were set around others. I would intend to call family, check in on friends, make sure I completed things at work, instead of focusing on myself.

Then, I was browsing the Internet and came across the website Should I Leave Him, a site dedicated to information about making good decisions. One of their articles talked about how you can’t be a good partner unless you are feeling good yourself and, in order for your relationship to grow, you have to nurture yourself first.

It dawned on me that my focus has to be on myself first to allow me to reach my goals. To focus on what you really want, you have to get down to values:

  • What lifestyle am I striving for?
  • Where do I want to be in 10 years?
  • How do I like to spend my free time?
  • What brings me the most joy?
  • What will I absolutely not stand for?

This process is hard because often our values can get overridden or forgotten, especially with a relationship or a job, but it was something that I found helpful.

I weeded out any answers which weren’t coming from me, so anything I had learned from family or colleagues which didn’t reflect my own opinion, and I was left with a surprising simple list.

I want to strive for the simple things in life, getting pleasure from gardening, long walks and volunteering. I want to live comfortably, but not excessively, and I want to be running my own business full-time in 10 years. I get joy from nature, reading and deep conversations with friends and I will not condone negativity or violence.

When you strip back all those inherited opinions and challenge everything before you write it down, by asking yourself “Is that really my voice?”, you may be surprised by what you find.

It helps me to own my own values and to be able to stand up to others and recognise that their thoughts are not always the same as mine, and I can choose not to take them on board.

This process told me a lot about myself and made me feel stronger about ploughing my own furrow, in spite of whatever else is going on. It is also helping me on this journey of belonging because, ultimately, you can’t belong to any community until you first belong to yourself.

So this week is going to be about standing up for my own values. To challenge the opinions of others and weed out anything that doesn’t serve me. Easier said than done but to help me, I have written my values down in my purse to remind me.

We all have times of weakness when we take on others’ opinions until we believe they are our own, but how often do we stop to challenge it before it even enters our head? For me, rarely. Until now!

Challenge your thoughts before they go and play havoc in your head.

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Learning to make room for uncomfortable feelings

In my last post, I touched on how we need to embrace all of our feelings to fully belong anywhere. To know fear is to know safety and to know sadness, we must know happiness. Having a range of feelings that we recognise and welcome in, allows us to learn.

This week I tried very hard to take 10 minutes a day to tune in and find out what was going on inside me. For the most part, I did manage this. Whether to go out in the garden, take a short walk, or simply look out of the window.

I experienced sensations of doubt, fear, instability, insufficiency and also joy, gladness and hopefulness. I learnt that I have more work to do inside to get a good balance on the outside. For instance, spending time with my partner and also growing my business has been a bit of a tug of war, but my feelings highlighted that my inner turmoil is a signal of what is going on outside.

Balance and thinking

Awareness is a positive growth tool and it is amazing how the more you tune in to your inner dialogue, the more you realise how little you listen to yourself. In situations where I felt fearful and out of my comfort zone, I questioned myself and tried to work out why I felt this way. This feeling took me away from trying to belong and separated me from my desire to become more at one with my community.

Some situations were due to my own feelings of trying to compete with others, comparing lifestyles. I stopped that short as soon as I clocked it, and focused on being grateful for what I have and where I am in life. I remembered they had more experience, more years ahead of me. I gained perspective. I converted that insecurity into confidence.

Exactly where you need to be

I want to learn to convert those insecurities into confidence more often and to remain focused on that throughout my day. So this week my mission is to set an intention for each day.

Similar to how in yoga, you often set an intention before your practice and return to it at the end. Maybe to relax, to open our hearts, to stretch. I want to set a focus for my day, maybe to remain open-minded, to stay calm, to reach out to friends. Then return to it before going to bed, to review and find out how closely I stuck to my intention and whether anything stood in my way, whether in my mind or in the real world.

By focusing our thoughts, we bring our awareness to something deliberately. We start to own and belong to our thoughts, and bring ourselves closer to being at one with ourselves.

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Your true value comes when you know what you’re worth

This week has been all about recognising my own worth, both in terms of business and personal relationships.

When you start to pay a thought your attention, you notice it much more. For instance, this week I was having a business conversation with someone about rates and they said, “Oh I’d pay you more than that, you’re worth more.” Coming from someone who had only just met me was a huge compliment and also a boost for me to realise I could charge more.

Similarly, in my friendships I have been investing in friends who are worth my attention and who repay me with theirs. You can have many friends who you get along with, but true friends recognise your worth. They are your champions and they say things you should be saying to yourself; “Don’t be so hard on yourself”, “You’re doing a great job”, “You’re worth more than that.” True friends allow you to realise your own value.

And so with my new-found confidence in my own value and worth, I am looking ahead to the next week focusing on not wrestling with your inner demons.

I’m talking about those fears, doubts and vulnerabilities that we all like to hide away; things we stuff into the far depths of our being. This week I want to make friends with those unwelcome feelings and welcome them in, learn from them.

Just as you can be fearful, you can also be confident. Our opposing feelings teach us about our inner imbalances and help us push towards a better balance. By greeting these feelings and paying attention to them, we are asking them to help us look deeper within ourselves to correct our inner turmoil, and reset the balance. Only then will we feel at peace again.

It’s linked to the idea of chakras and I drew inspiration from this as I attended a class about them this week. I learnt about the 7 main chakras and what it means for them to be balanced, over-stimulated and blocked.

7 main chakras and outputs

By being aware of what is going on inside, we are in a better position to address it.

So much of our lives is going from one thing to another, often ignoring our inner voices telling us to rest or nourish ourselves. We take a pill to cure a headache, instead of tuning in and realising we need to take time to relax. We blame others for our relationship problems, instead of spending time affirming our worth. All this pain we inflict on ourselves, for what? Because we’re scared to stop?

Well I’d rather stop to rest and revive than carry on in a haze of stress and poor health.

Be kind to yourself. No-one else can help you with that. You must be kind and tune in, because our bodies and minds have ways of telling us what to do and, if you don’t listen, they will take action. It’s like getting a cold when you’re run down, your body is saying loud and clear, REST!

We have got so out of sync with our own selves, preferring to be preached to or told what to do by magazines or the news. No! All you need is already with you.

Listen to your own voice

This week I’m going to aim to switch off from the outside world for at least 10 minutes a day. To walk in silence, stare out the window, weed the garden, and connect, really connect with everything that’s going on inside.

I’m ready to learn more about myself and where I can clear out the paths for my energy to move freely.

Energy flows where attention goes

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