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8 Tips To Improve Your Meditation Practice

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Mindfulness is a present centered, non-judging awareness. With practice, you’ll find you are increasingly at home in your life – openhearted, peaceful and clear. This allows a natural connectedness and intimacy with others.

1. Practice daily

The poet Rumi asks: Do you make regular visits to yourself? Whether it’s 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 45 minutes, what matters most is the regularity of a daily practice. It is helpful to have a set time, rather than waiting until ‘you’re in the mood’, and to practice in a quiet, protected environment that is conducive to presence.

2. Attitude is Key

The biggest reason people quit meditating is because they judge themselves for how they’re practising. Please don’t turn meditation into a ‘should’, another domain of self-criticism! Instead, choose to cultivate mindfulness because you care about living true to your heart. At the start of every practise, remind yourself of what draws you to meditate and then set your intention.

3. Pay attention to your posture

When many people think of mediating, they imagine a yogi sitting cross legged on the floor with a poker straight back! In reality you can meditate in any position that feels comfortable to you – including standing and walking. As long as it promotes a sense of alertness, openness and ease. For sitting you might choose to use a chair, kneeling bench or a cushion. Sit up right, in a way that you feel relaxed and alert. Let your hands rest comfortably on your knees or lap. Let your eyes gently close, or if you prefer to leave the eyes open, keep the gaze soft and receptive.

4. Arrive in your body

Scanning your body with your awareness will help you shift out of thinking and connect with vitality, openness and relaxation.  You might begin by bringing a smile to your lips, as this sends a message of ease to your nervous system. Then starting at the top of your head, move your attention slowly downward, relaxing and softening different parts of the body. As you relax, become aware of any sensations or energy flowing through your body.

5. Select an anchor for presence

Your anchor is a ‘home – base’ that you can come back to when you notice that you have become distracted or lost in thought. This will help you fully open to the present and quiet your mind.

Useful Anchors:

·         The Breath – You may choose to pay attention to the sensations of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils, or the rising and falling of your chest as you in inhale and exhale.

·         The Body – You might pay attention to sensations in a particular part of your body – perhaps your hands, feet or belly. Choose an area that feels neutral, not pleasant or unpleasant. You can also combine physical sensations with the  breath.

·         Sounds – Listening to sounds around you as the arise and then fall away.

6. Keeping coming back

While quieting the mind supports meditation, there is a misconception that the goal of meditation is to empty your mind of thoughts. Please don’t be at war with thoughts, instead of judging when you find you you’ve been distracted, bring an interest and friendliness to the shift from thoughts to presence.

When you recognize that you have become lost in thought, gently relax back by returning your attention to your anchor. Allow your anchor to be in the foreground and become aware of your changing moment-to-moment experience.

7. Deepen mindful presence with two key questions:

·         What is happening inside me right now? This will help direct your attention to your inner experience. You might with noting and naming strong waves of experience – fear, sorrow, tingling, tightness.

·         Can I be with this? This will help you relate to what arises with acceptance. After naming an experience (such as tension) you might explore whispering to yourself that it’s OK.

8. Remember kindness

If you encounter difficult emotions such as fear, confusion or hurt offer yourself kindness. You might put a gentle hand on your heart and send a message of care to the vulnerable place inside you. Mindfulness and heartfulness are inseparable: the more you bring these qualities to your inner life, the more they will enrich your relationships and your life.

Rachel x

How To Detox For Better Brain Health

Detoxification is an essential cellular function. When the body detoxifies, it packages debris in the form of foods and toxins so that it can be easily excreted from the body. We eliminate this debris through various mechanisms such as our gastrointestinal tract, genitourinary tract, respiratory tract, and our sweat glands, and it requires the function of multiple organs such as the liver, lungs, gallbladder, skin, kidneys, and yes, the brain!

Why organs like your brain suffer most from toxins.

Our body’s detox pathways also require a variety of nutrients that act as cofactors for the enzymes involved in this multi step process. These include activation, oxidation, reduction, hydrolysis, conjugation, methylation, and recirculation. Because it’s so complex, detox requires significant amounts of the body’s energy supply.

When our body is assaulted by the exposure to pro-inflammatory foods, alcohol, tobacco, medications, and foreign substances such as drugs, heavy metals, chemicals, persistent pollutants, and microorganisms, our natural detoxification systems can be overwhelmed and unhealthy metabolites can accumulate and ultimately trigger mitochondrial dysfunction, metabolic deficiencies, immunotoxicity, and resultant neuroinflammation (also known as inflammation in the brain). As a result, the body’s energy is diverted and metabolically active organs such as the brain, the heart, and the muscles start to suffer. It is then we start to feel unwell and experience not only chronic fatigue and weakness but slow processing and cognitive difficulties.

How to detox for better brain health.

So what can you do to start detoxing your brain from the effects of contaminants, toxins, and inflammation?

Here are some suggestions:

1.   Eat a diverse variety of fruits and vegetables.

Colors represent different vitamins and nutrients, so include ginger, turmeric, garlic, beets, broccoli seed sprouts, and herbs such as thyme and rosemary in your diet each day. Consume dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables regularly. Other important food groups include nuts, seeds, legumes, and fatty fruits such as avocados and bananas – .

2.   Include complex forms of carbohydrates.

While it’s best to stay away from simple and processed carbs, complex carbohydrates are an important energy source for the brain, as the glucose molecule—broken down from whole grain and starch sources by the intricate mechanisms with our body’s catabolic pathways—is the preferred energy source of the brain and its cells.

3.   Incorporate interval eating patterns into your meal plans.

Allowing the body to take a break from digestive duties will help divert energy from the gastrointestinal tract to the organs recruited for detoxification pathways. This can take the form of a simple intermittent fasting plan.

4.   Try to minimize exposure to toxins and contaminants as much as possible.

Eat organic when you can to minimize exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and farm chemical residues. Use eco-friendly cosmetics, personal care products, and cleaning agents.

5. Target your supplementation for additional detox capability.

You can do this with supplements like milk thistle for liver support, Coleus forskhii for respiratory support, ubiquinol and NAD+ for mitochondrial support, L-glutamine for gastrointestinal support, and N-acetylcysteine for additional antioxidant support since detoxification results in reactive oxygen species, which are damaging to our cells. For increased brain support, consider the use of plants such as Lion’s mane, Boswellia, and Macuna pruriens. For more information on how exactly to use these supplements and in what dosage, speak to an integrative physician, naturopathic doctor, or other supplement-savvy health care practitioner.

6.   Daily movement and exercise.

Run, walk, hike, go to a yoga class, dance, and cycle. However you can manage, sweat each and every day and it will support your detox pathways and your brain.

7.   Deep breathing exercises with episodic rapid breathing.

Did you know that breathing exhales waste by-products? It’s true. Rapid breathing (like in this video) also results in alkaline urine, which can help you better excrete other toxin metabolites as well.

8.   Maintain good hydration.

Fill up that reusable water bottle at least a few times a day. Proper fluid balance keeps blood and lymph moving through the kidneys and leads to better elimination of toxins through urination.

9. Aim for 20 minutes in nature each day.

Research is clear that immersion in nature improves mental clarity, decreases stress and anxiety, and has beneficial physiological effects such as lowered heart rate and respiratory rate and decreased blood pressure. These improved physiological parameters can only help the body during detoxification. So, go for a hike, walk through the park, or sit in your garden for a few minutes each day.

10. Sleep at least seven to eight hours each night.

During restorative sleep, the brain is able to repair cellular damage from toxins and other exposures. Make sure you’re giving your brain a chance to slow down and repair itself every night by getting enough sleep.

 

Rachel x

5 Minute Meditations To Change Your Life

Boost your happiness, recharge your confidence and get poised for success with these quick and easy meditations.

Yoga lotus. Young woman doing yoga by the lake, sitting in lotus.

FOR CALMNESS

This meditation for calmness strengthens the heart and lungs, leaving you feeling peaceful and better able to take conscious, heart-centred action.

Close your eyes and sit with a tall spine, shoulders back and chin level. Place the left hand on the chest, parallel to the ground with fingers together pointing to the right. Bring your right hand up to your side with palm facing forward. Bring the pinky and ring finger into the palm and hold down with your thumb, the other two fingers point up. Concentrate on the flow of the breath. Inhale deeply and fully and suspend the breath in for as long as possible. Then exhale smoothly and gradually and suspend out for as long as possible. Keep going for five minutes. To end, inhale and exhale strongly three times and relax. The suspension of breath should feel comfortable, do not strain. Focus on welcoming greater peace and tranquility into your life.

FOR SUCCESS

Staying focused requires attention and concentration. The key to improving this is not just trying harder to attend. The strategy of doing more of the same can sometimes have the opposite effect, leading to exhaustion from the strain. Instead, engage lightly with inattention. Get to know those moments of distraction and lack of focus intimately. Knowing inattention allows you to respond more quickly when you are distracted and bring the focus back to the task. The mindful route to success is one that knows both the attention and inattention and flexes the executive attentional muscle, switching between the two.

1) Choose your focus, set your intention.

2) Know that the mind will wander and distractions will arise.

3) When you see the mind move, that inattention of any sort has arisen, give a cheery wave to the distraction and refocus.

4) Repeat as many times as necessary!

FOR CREATIVITY

Sit somewhere quiet and peaceful and read the below words.

Within you there is a stillness, and in that stillness is the magic of limitless creativity – a sanctuary to which you can retreat and be yourself. Allow yourself to go to this place where there is stillness of mind so the wonder of life’s energy can work through you, allowing you to express yourself through creativity.

Alignment with yourself, others, the earth and the universe is eternally yours. Return to the stillness in your deep, gentle breaths and witness life breathing through you. As you read these words, allow the life force energy to enter your body with a calm acceptance.

Know that you are as one with the sun, the stars and the planet on which you live. Always return to the stillness in your breath. Float in the still waters of your greatness. Feel the ebb and flow of the world around you. Relax into the gentle rhythm of the dips and swells as the current carries you. Remain in the stillness of your deep, gentle breaths.

Take a deep breath in and create a sense of wonder that you once had when you were a child. Use this on your journey through life and enjoy the unfolding. Live now.

FOR CONFIDENCE

Authentic confidence comes when you believe something is worth doing, you know spirit is helping you and you know that spirit will enable you to handle events no matter what the outcome is.

1) Relax, close your eyes and take a couple of easy, deep breaths. Give your inner wisdom and spirit permission to be in charge.

2) Imagine a glowing ball of light out in front of you and let it represent your authentic confidence.

3) See a waterfall of beautiful golden energy washing the symbol and removing other people’s beliefs and opinions.

4) Let your spirit fill the symbol with wisdom, information and energies that will manifest and sustain authentic confidence for you.

5) Bring the symbol into the heart and let the energy spread to every cell of your body, your DNA, your chakras and into your entire energy field.

6) Let the energy fill your present and pour into your future. Now relax.

FOR HAPPINESS

Sitting comfortably on a chair with your feet flat on the ground, allow yourself to receive the support of the earth holding you. Breathing in to all corners of your belly, allow yourself to fully receive the life supporting you with your breath. In the centre of your heart imagine a beautiful flower effortlessly opening, revealing a vibrant light within. This is your inner light, your divine spark, the part of you that is connected to the flow of life.

When this light is turned on, it has magnetic qualities, drawing in everything that is meant for you. Imagine this happening. As you breathe and receive, your light gets brighter and brighter and those creations and experiences are effortlessly being drawn in by your magnificent light. Simply breathe and receive as your inner light effortlessly attracts what your heart most yearns for to you. And with every exhale, let go of what no longer is.

Rachel x

 

Sitting For Too Long Could Be Hurting Your Brain

By now, it’s common knowledge that getting your body moving regularly throughout the day is about more than just staying fit. Sitting for too long can lead to a slew of adverse health effects over time: Past research has shown that sedentary behavior can increase your risk for cardiovascular damage, obesitycertain types of cancer, and even early death. Yikes. And now, a study conducted at Liverpool John Moores University in explains how your brain could also be feeling the effects of extended physical inactivity. Fortunately, the researchers were also able to identify a strategy to offset the effects.

The scientists used ultrasound probes to study the brains of 15 healthy adults as they worked through three seated four-hour sessions. In the first session, the participants sat for the entire four hours uninterrupted. In the second session, they stopped two hours in to take a leisurely eight-minute walk on a treadmill before returning to their desks for another two hours. In the third session, they stood up every 30 minutes to walk on the treadmill for a quick two minutes.

The results came in squarely against long, consecutive work sessions: Those who didn’t get up at all in the four hours saw a dip in blood flow to their brains. The people who got up once midway through their sitting time did have increased blood flow while they were up and moving, but after they returned to their seats and kept working for two more hours, they ended up with even lower blood flow than when they’d started. But those with the frequent walking breaks in between? Their brains actually had more blood flowing by the end of the session than when they’d begun.

As common wisdom about “getting the blood flowing” suggests, the human brain needs a constant supply of blood to function properly. Blood is packed with oxygen and other healthy nutrients; even short-term dips in cerebral blood flow can slow a person’s thinking and memory. That means sitting at your desk for long stretches of time is not only bad for your health—it’s also eating into your productivity.

Moving your legs periodically (aka fidgeting) may help counteract a sedentary lifestyle. You can, of course, also make a point to stand up from your desk regularly or get a standing desk. If there’s no standing desk in your future, there are plenty of other ways to get the blood moving throughout the day: Try changing your sitting position often, give your eyes a break – every 30 minutes of screen time try to take a few minutes to look away from your computer, go outside and try to take the stairs whenever possible.

At the very least, have a bowl of brain-boosting blueberries handy—or within a two-minute walking distance.

Rachel x

2 Night Relax & Replenish Retreat Friday 25th January – Sunday 27th January 2019

Champneys-Forest-Mere-Spa-Interior-Design-relax

2 Night Relax & Replenish Retreat Friday 25th January – Sunday 27th January 2019 costs from £460.00pp.

Meditation, Mindfulness, Ayurveda and Crystal Healing

This interactive and fun retreat will help you to replenish your energy levels through rituals and wellness. It promises to be a restorative weekend that is perfect for anyone feeling frazzled and will offer all attendees a chance to deeply relax and re-balance their energy levels, whilst giving practical tips and strategies to enrich your day to day life and avoid that burnt out feeling.

This weekend covers a variety of topics and practices that can aid relaxation and increase overall wellbeing. Topics include Meditation, Mindfulness, Ayurveda and Crystal Healing. It is aimed at those with little or no prior knowledge or experience and also includes a goodie bag for all attendees.

Includes

2 Nights’ Accommodation

Arrival from 2pm

Programme starts 5pm

Introduction and Welcome

4 Workshops: Meditation, Introduction to Crystals, Ayurvedic Principles, Mindfulness practice

2 healthy buffet lunches, two three course dinners and a two healthy buffet breakfasts

Unlimited use of spa facilities

Up to 20 different classes per day

To book please email CER@champneys.com and include the title and date of the retreat. Alternatively please call Champneys on 0843 5611 943.

**** Please note ****
There is a minimum number of people required for the break to run. Breaks will be cancelled if numbers are insufficient 2 weeks before the start of the break.

Why You Should Try Loving-Kindness Meditation

Image result for loving kindness meditation

Loving-kindness meditation, also known as metta bhavana, is a method of developing compassion, disciplining negative thinking and balancing and harmonising wandering minds. Buddhists and Taoists have used it for centuries and believe that it enables them to achieve a powerful alignment with the universal flow of energy and love known as ‘qi’’. It can be adapted and practiced by anyone, however, regardless of religious beliefs.

The aim is to feel and emanate a pure, unconditional and inclusive love, one of wisdom with no terms or restrictions. It doesn’t depend on whether someone deserves it or not, nor is it confined to family and friends, and there are no expectations of gaining something in return. It is a meditation of care, concern and tenderness – a feeling of warmth for ourselves and others. The practice softens the mind and heart, opening us up to a deeper level of kindness, and breaks down our internal and external barriers.

We have to begin by loving ourselves, because without having experienced this unconditional love and acceptance on a personal level it will be difficult to extend it to others. From this point, we can then include those who are special to us and eventually all living things. Over time, the visualisation and meditation blend into the actual experience – the feeling of loving-kindness.

Take a comfortable and relaxed posture and bring your focus to the solar plexus (your chest area). Breathe in and out from the heart centre and anchor your mindfulness on the sensations coming from there. Recognise any areas of mental blockage, numbness, self-judgement or self-hatred and try to generate a kind feeling toward yourself. As you keep breathing in and out, repeat affirming phrases, such as ‘may I be happy’ and ‘may I be healthy and strong’, either in your head or out loud. Choose five that resonate most strongly with you, and after saying each one several times, move on to someone in your life who invites the feeling of pure unconditional loving-kindness (usually a partner or close relative). Repeat the phrases you used for yourself for this person (e.g. ‘may she be safe and protected’) while continuing to breathe from your heart centre.

Next, do this exercise for someone neutral whom you neither strongly like or dislike followed by a person you have difficulties with and who generates hostile feelings and resentment within you. This will no doubt be the hardest part of the meditation, but you will be surprised how much better you feel once you start directing positivity toward them. If negativity starts to arise, return to your first person of choice and let the loving-kindness flood back then try again. Practising this on a daily basis will bring you great benefits, both on a personal level and in your relationships, and should help you to cultivate a compassionate and loving mindset in work, rest and play.

Rachel x

How to Do a Body Scan Meditation

Image result for body scan meditation

One of the best ways you can become more aware of your body is by doing a body scan meditation. The whole goal of this meditation is to focus on one part of the body at a time and tune into how it feels without trying to change it.

Completing a body scan can help you identify any physical pain or sensations you may be feeling and any links between those physical feelings and your emotions. It can serve as a valuable regular practice that can help you discover ways to work through any stress, anxiety, tension or other physical pain in the body.

Step-By-Step Process

Like all forms of meditation, a body scan is meant to be simple. Here are 11 steps to help you successfully complete a full body scan meditation.

1: Lie down or sit comfortably in a place where you won’t be interrupted.

2: Start by bringing your awareness to your breathing. Take three deep breaths as you mindfully tune into your thoughts and emotions, observing them as they flow freely.

3: Choose to start your body scan either at the top of your head or the tip of your toes. You’ll work down or up from there.

4: As you place your awareness on that body part, tune into what you feel there. You may feel pain, aching, itchiness, tingling, firmness, lightness, heaviness, warmth, coldness, or possibly even nothing.

5: Once you’re aware of what you physically feel in that area, expand your awareness to see if it also triggers your emotional state (a positive feeling, a negative feeling, or a neutral feeling).

6: Now bring your awareness back your breath and feel it reach down through your entire body as you breathe in, then exhale as you let go of any tension in the body part you just focused on.

7: Remember not to try and control anything — just let those physical and emotional feelings be as they are.

8: Move up or down to the next body part. If you started from your toes, you’d move to the soles of your feet. If you started from the top of your head, you’d move to your ears or your forehead.

9: Repeat steps 4 to 7 as you move through each individual body part.

10: Take as little as five minutes or as long as 45 minutes to go through each part of your body.

11: When finished, take a minute or so to just be aware and feel your entire body as whole, relaxed, and loved — even if you still feel any discomfort in some areas.

This is the perfect meditation practice when you’re just waking up in the morning or lying down at night to go to bed. A morning body scan will help you feel more present and in tune with your body throughout the day while a night time body scan will help you relax more effectively so you can drift off to sleep.

Try it for yourself. You’ll be surprised just how healing such a simple practice can be!

Rachel x

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