So my first Quest for 2017 is around Personal Freedom – specifically mindfulness.
What the heck is mindfulness you may ask? Well I asked myself and the answer I came up with was it’s all about being present, and making conscious and enlightened choices.
Don’t get me wrong I’m no zen buddhist, I’m in no way enlightened and I’m still struggling to even remember to meditate each day using my HeadSpace app, let alone doing it.
But I just really want to dive deep into this and learn so much more about it, as I feel it’s the missing piece to achieving mindset freedom.
I do believe freedom is an attitude and a mindset.
So I want to discover how to tap into that no matter what my environment or set of circumstances. Because if I can do that, then I can help others to do the same and my quest for freedom will have more meaning.
This is probably a good time to bring back the Oracle I promised you from Episode 1.
I’ve never consulted an Oracle before, and the lovely Tracey, from Suburban Psychic, actually approached me after being in my community for years, reading my blog and watching my videos, and offered me a complimentary session.
The thing is, she did this by way of a comment on my YouTube video which I only found a few weeks ago when re-engaging with my channel.
Luckily she responded straight away and we set up a time to make it happen.
So what does an Oracle session look like? Well Tracey was super warm and friendly and the right level of woo-woo to practicality. She essentially pulls from things that speak to her during our session – such as books, and takes meaning from those.
What you’re about to hear is around 7 minutes in after she’d pulled a book called Glad No Matter What: Transforming Loss and Change into Gift and Opportunity
She opened the book at page 95…..
And she says, “a great deepening can occur in the dark like from the midst of falling to pieces because the pieces reassemble, new pieces materialize and old bits can be discarded or reshaped and I think that’s the process that you are going through. You let the walls down, the guards go home, the makeup falls off and your like your softest little self.”
So I guess that’s what this year is all about for me. In some ways the loss could be attributed to letting go of my business, as I go on my business sabbatical, to make way for more of Natalie to come out, and to explore my inner world as much as my outer.
Which is what has led me to this first quest on personal freedom, and the focus of today’s episode on mindfulness.
I first turned to this great blog post, that came into my inbox just at the right time, from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits who’s been, in his own words, ‘sporadically practicing mindfulness for 10 years’.
In 2016 he changed it up and really committed to it with amazing results.
Caveat, this has been on my mind (no pun intended) for two or more years now but 2017 is the year I’m going to cultivate mindfulness.
Here are a few good, no great reasons according to Leo:
- You learn to be awake to the present moment more, and lost in the daydream of your thoughts less.
- You begin to see your mental patterns that affect everything you do, and thus begin to free yourself of those patterns.
- You learn to be frustrated less, and let go more. And smile more.
- You learn to be better at compassion, equanimity, love, contentment.
- You learn to be better at not procrastinating, and better at building better habits.
He goes on to say:
“I could go on about better mental and physical health, better relationships, less fear … but the reasons I’ve given are strong enough. It’s important stuff.
I’ll read out my fave from his blog post:
Commit to sitting daily for a month.
Leo suggests sitting everyday for a month. Tell people about it, set reminders on your phone and calendar, put a note somewhere you won’t miss it, and keep the meditation short — just 2-5 minutes to start with, until you become more regular. This is the foundational practice for being more mindful, so make a big commitment to sitting.
Find a group.
If you can find a meditation group in your area to sit with once a week, that’s ideal. It doesn’t matter much what kind of group it is (Zen, Tibetan, Vipassana, etc.), just meet with them and meditate however you like when you’re on the cushion. If you can’t find a group in your area, find a group that meets online. This commitment to a group deepens the practice. I’m certainly looking out for that here in Wellington and there are plenty going on. Now to commit. Meetup.com is probably a great place too.
Actually before I go on. I want to pause here at meditation. And go deeper into it…you with me?
What are the benefits of meditation?
Research shows that meditation and other relaxation techniques can help reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors and have been shown to help with anxiety and depression. Plus, they help us to stay centered and calm, shift our mental perception and change our reactions to varying situations, as well as allow us to connect with our inner wisdom.
Infact Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley, and the awesome book The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms, has this to say about the benefits of meditation, that might surprise you
“As of 2015, some 1500 studies have been done that show that meditation improves just about every dimension of your being from your longevity to the way you feel and look to your creative potential, to how you function as a CEO, the ability to make an impact in the world, to even how you connect with your spouse, your kids, how you do in bed and how you age. All of us should be doing it but yet we don’t and for good reason; it’s tough, it’s complex, it gets boring. And with so many varieties and types, how do you even know where to begin? Plus it’s challenging, I mean staying focus, not falling asleep, clearing your mind, not getting bored out of your mind. Meditation can be tough but still remember, a 1500 studies and when you get it, it changes you. It makes you a whole new you. I believe every men, women and child should be meditating every single day. “
And I agree. I just haven’t figured out the art of how to do that yet, so that it fits with me and my lifestyle.
And that’s probably because I’ve been focusing more on an older style type of meditation, not the modern day type. Vishen explains further:
“Monastic meditation is what originated in the east thousands of years ago. It’s about clearing your mind, focusing on mantra, that’s a beautiful spiritual practice but if you are trying this out in the modern world, it’s not going to be easy nor maybe the best form of meditation for you. Monks many years ago could afford to disappear from society and meditate for hours. They had no family, no kids, no whats app messages or game of thrones reruns but in the modern world we need a different type of meditation. Not one about clearing your mind off, finding places of absolute silence, but a type that actually can help you elevate yourself not just spiritually but in your ability to function in the real world. To be better at your career, to improve your health, to improve your love and sex life, to boost your creativity if you are in a artistic profession, to boost your ability to connect with others. This style exists.”
So looks like I’m going on a quest to learn this second style and share with you how that goes.
What is my Hero name?
In episode 1 I talked about what a quest is because it’s the podcast name Natalie Sisson’s Quest for Freedom, your freedom.
I asked people to give me names that they thought were appropriate that I could use in this season, Season 1, as my hero’s name.
And I don’t really feel like a hero right now, but the point is I am the person going on this quest for you and I am going to be undertaking all these silly experiments and all the things that kind of make this special, so I figured how about having a name, and there were so many awesome comments in Episode 1.
First off, thank you for listening in and coming across to that episode. I haven’t seen so many comments in ages.
There some really cool answers in the comments, like Martin Hughes who suggested Libertas.
According to Wikipedia : “Liber’s associations with wine, inebriation, uninhibited freedom and the subversion of the powerful made him a close equivalent to the Greek god Dionysus, who was Romanised as Bacchus”
You know what they say “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom”.
Now I am not a beer drinker myself so I am going to rule that one out but great though.
However Samantha Thomas also said that Libertas is the Goddess of Freedom.. or maybe I shouldn’t rule it out so quickly.
Athena from Dan Flower cause he suggested that she is wise, courageous and inspirational. Thank you Dan! I am not quite Athena yet.
Jake Woehlke said Vipassana. In the Buddhist tradition that means to look into something with clarity. More specifically, it means to have a clear insight into the true nature of things. Which is pretty much what I am doing he says.
But the one that I ended up choosing was this one from Oddgeir Engdal who lives in Trondheim, Norway. He said Verdandi is one of the three “norns” of fate in Norse mythology. Her sisters are Urda and Skuld.
Verdandi is the keeper of what is, meaning which is occurring in this moment. She teaches us to accept the present, to live in the moment, to design and live a life free from the constraints of both what has been (Urda) and what will be (Skuld). Verdandi is a real freedom fighter.
So there were so many great suggestions but I am going with Verdandi.
So back to meditation.
Meditation for busy people
Yet if you’re like me you probably think you should be clearing your mind and thinking about nothing all the time.
I like that Emily Fletcher (an expert that Mindvalley turns to for meditation) tells us that’s not the case at all. Here’s a small snippet from her Awesomeness Fest Talk.
“We don’t talk too much about meditation and sex in the same sentence of the same conversation because I think that secretly we think, “Well I shouldn’t be thinking about sex while meditating”.
First off we think we shouldn’t be having thoughts at ALL when we are meditating. Now the number one misconception about meditation is that we think that we should be able to give our minds a command to stop which is totally impossible.
The mind thinks involuntarily, just like the heart beats involuntarily ,and so judging ourselves at how good we are at meditation based on how good we are at stopping our minds from thinking is always going to make us feel like we are failing, and then we are going to stop.
So if we think secretly, certainly we shouldn’t be thinking about sex right? And in our meditation, even about sex or even getting aroused like, “Oh oh, I am going to get in trouble.” Right?
Because we sort of have deified this meditation practice, we think that it should be like holy and if I am meditating I’m just thinking about monks or enlightenment, or robes or caves or something. And I don’t really know how you think about enlightenment.
I think enlightenment happens as a byproduct of you getting rid of stress in your body and coming back to your true authentic full potential. In India there are two sort of branches of meditation. There is a style of meditation that is made for monks and there was a style of meditation that was made for people like us, people with busy minds and busy lives.
Obviously there are thousands of different styles but they sort of come from either style that was made for monks or a style that was made for what we call householders. And this was news to me when I first started learning about meditation because I thought, whatever monks are practicing it must be like super powerful, they must be like vibrating or levitating or something because they are monks.
But actually it’s the other way around. If you have a job and kids and stuff to do, you have less time in your day with which to meditate so you actually need to get in a really clean house so that when you come out of that meditation you have more bliss, fulfillment and joy to give to the people, places and things around you.”
And to complete my round up of research and learning to date, here’s a little segway into a conversation with Karen, whose 30 Day Clean Living Challenge I’ve been doing for almost 4 weeks and it’s hands down amazing.
Want to learn more about that go to nataliesisson.com/clean for a free upcoming workshop.
I’ll just give you a moment while you go ahead click that link and get signed up….
I jumped on a call with her to I ask her more about meditation given it’s part of the challenge, and any tips she had for just getting started, given it’s the only part of the challenge that I have well and truly failed miserably on.
Me: “But the thing that I am sucking at is meditation and it’s not that I suck at it, I am physically not making time. What do you do because I know you have a hundreds of clients do this, what is some of your fun tips for just like know you can make this work and the benefits of it. I always read about the benefits and I’m like I should be doing this every single day.”
Karen: “Yup for sure. Well one of the things that really helps is to change how you think about it. Other times people think that they have to stand half an hour meditating or they’ve got to have the right space or environment. They kind of overthink what they need to do and you really need to just start small, especially if you are a first time meditator, it can be difficult to start including it into your routine.
So start small, literally start with 3 minutes. There are 3 minute recorded meditations you can use. Because what you want to do is try and build the habit first rather than try and go too hard too quickly. Even if you start with three minutes, three times a week and that feels doable for you, then you can build it from there. “
Here are some I googled and did in a row (9 mins total!):
Ok so hopefully that’s given you some impetus to make no more excuses and just give it a shot.
Now back to Leo, on other ways you can practice mindfulness.
Practice mindful eating.
Leo admits that he doesn’t practice this as much as he should. I’m going to admit I rarely do this.
As he says “ it’s a good example of how you can take something you already do every day, and use it as a meditation. Simply commit to doing nothing but eating — single-task instead of multitasking. As you eat each bite, pay attention to the food, the textures and flavors and colors. Notice when your mind wanders. Savor the food. Showering, brushing your teeth, washing your dishes, walking and sweeping are other good activities to use as meditation.”
That last part I can totally relate to.
In the last 2 weeks, since starting a 30 Day Clean Living Challenge (register for thee upcoming workshop), I’ve been brushing my teeth with intention, taking time to cleanse my face using this cool tool that massages your face for 2 mins and is kind of relaxing….and being super conscious about what foods I’m consuming, how my body feels, how my energy levels are…ok I’ve gone a bit off track from mindful eating, but it’s all related.
This next one is a biggy for me
Watch your frustration.
As an Aries my ruling part of my body is my head. I go head first into everything. If you’re into astrology my symbol is the ram – think headbutting everything, and impatience is our least virtuous value (I assure we do have many great qualities), but that ain’t one of them – aside for when you use it to get a shit load done.
Leo states: “When you get irritated, frustrated or angry … let it be a mindfulness bell! It is a great opportunity to drop out of your story, and notice how your body is feeling. What got you hooked? What story are you telling yourself? What is your mental pattern when you get hooked? What is the physical feeling in your body at this moment? Practice as much as you can!”
Practice yoga or mindful movement.
Yoga is moving meditation, and I highly recommend it. I often say I feel like a million dollars after doing yoga. So why the heck I don’t do it every day still stumps me.
I’ve been doing it a lot more recently and I feel strong, supple, powerful and stretched. I feel calmer, I breathe more deeply and I walk around in a much more peaceful state.
And while I discovered a yoga centre 60m from my apartment in Wellington, I use YogaGlo.com to practice through online classes anywhere ..anytime.
Leo suggests if you aren’t drawn to yoga, try walking or running or doing other exercise while trying to pay mindful attention to your body and breath. Either way, see it as an opportunity to meditate as you move.
Journal & review regularly.
As a teenager from like age 14-19 I wrote in my diary every freaking day. Or if I missed an entry I could up the next day.
And I wrote screeds of rather useless babble about my day and my friends and school and relationships and things that don’t really seem of consequence now …but were important to me then.
And it used to calm me. Especially if a friend at school had decided that day to ignore me (I tell you Scorpio friends are so temperamental and mysterious)!
Back to Leo’s tip: “The best learning is deepened by reflecting what you’ve been learning about, reflecting on your obstacles and challenges, reflecting on what works and what doesn’t. You evolve your learning through reflecting. Journaling is a great tool for that — it helps you reflect in a mindful way.
Journal daily, weekly, or monthly, reviewing what you did the previous day (or week or month) and what you learned from it, and what your intentions are in the coming day, week or month.”
Thanks Leo. I personally love Penzu.com which is an online journal, as well as the Five Minute Journal – the real physical book, not the app. Here is a fun video I did about it and how to use it.
The point here is to pick a few of these and play. Practice and see what happens. Which is pretty much my motto for the entire Quest for Freedom!
I’d like you to take a moment and ask yourself:
What does mindfulness mean to you?
Where could you add in more mindfulness… work, eating, communicating with a partner?
How do you talk to yourself? Is your mind running you ragged or does it keep you focused and driven?
Just like everything in life, mastering our inner dialog takes practice.
So let’s do it right now, together shall we? Just a 30 second meditation that’s all I ask.
This one is from my dear friend Natalie MacNeil, who started SoulSeconds .com to provide meditation and mindfulness for busy people.
Here’s one from her site that’s a 10 Second Stillness Practice – if we can’t even find 10 seconds a day for ourselves then seriously, what hope do we have? Ok let’s go
If you’d like, you can enter in your email to get fun, insightful and entertaining emails from me, where I’ll share snippets of wisdom I’m finding on my quest and the occasional enlightening or amusing VLOG (that’s a video blog).
I’ll surprise you by popping into your inbox from time to time. How often? Well I don’t know as for once I’m not sticking to a schedule.
Since when did a hero on a quest schedule their shit out? Come on….gimme a business sabbatical people!
Tracey is available at www.suburbanpsychic.com for Oracle Sessions – for those evolving souls who really want to be exposed to their blind spots!
People are more than welcome to head on over to makegroundforit.com – a 4-week online course (with an additional 12 months of group coaching) to provide the understanding and the tools they need to shift their mindset and register for the next intake.
Tune in to the next episode where I reveal the next part of personal freedom which is all around getting in the best shape of my life.