How to practise mindfulness

The practice of mindfulness has the capacity to enrich and transform your life. But how do you actually do it?

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What is mindfulness? How can it be useful to me? 

Long practised by Buddhists, and the bedrock of Eastern psychology, mindfulness is now growing in the West. Perhaps you’ve seen books on the theme, or read about it in the papers. It’s both challenging and exciting those who desire psychological or spiritual change in their lives; or seek to promote it in the lives of others.

Advocates believe this practice can help alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety.

But it is not just a medicine for hard times. More profoundly, it’s a way of living for all, enriching every moment of our lives, whether at work, on holiday or in the shower.

It was Hafiz, the Sufi poet who said: “If you would help me, do not shine a torch on my life – but place in my hands a candle.” So let us see if we can find a candle for ourselves.

Stop thinking

Surprisingly, mindfulness encourages us to stop taking our thoughts seriously. It invites us to stop wandering off into the past or the future.

Instead, we stop thinking and focus on our breathing. We’re quiet, present and watch our thoughts as they arise. Soon, we become aware of the mad restlessness and capricious nature of our minds; and, in time, we begin to take our thoughts less seriously.

This is liberating, as we have been their unquestioning slave for too long. Our thoughts do not always offer us the ‘reality’ we imagine.

Become an explorer

Mindfulness makes explorers of us, and like all explorers we will have to be brave if we wish to discover new lands.

Mindfulness asks a hard question of us: are you willing to experience openly what makes you unhappy?

We tend to shy away from this because the thought of it scares us. And, of course, this is why we became unhappy in the first place, because we were scared. But if we are willing to face things, we will discover a fresh knowing; virgin territory, which restores happiness. If we are not willing to face things, then, sadly, we continue to walk the same mental circles we have always walked. There is a great courage in mindfulness.

Seize the moment

Mindfulness is concerned with the present; with keeping your consciousness alive to the present moment.

This may appear a simple task, but is harder than it sounds. Most of the time, our minds are either taking us back into the past or into the imaginary future. To help us to engage with the present moment, breath work is a great help; this is so because unlike our mind, our breathing is always in the present. So becoming aware of your breathing is a wonderful start to becoming present.

Notice what is now

We are also helped into the present by noticing things. If we’re turning a key in a lock, we notice we are turning a key in a lock; if we’re walking down the street, we notice the shifting cloud formations or the negative feelings arising in us towards a car driver.

It’s about noticing what’s happening now. When we make a cup of tea or do the washing-up without thinking of what we are going to do next, then we are mindful. We are happier when we notice the present and let the future take care of itself.

Protect the space

Add a tablespoon of salt to a glass of water and it makes a significant difference. Add the same spoon of salt to a jug of water and it makes some difference to the taste. Add it to a lake, however, and it hardly affects anything.

Mindfulness makes us larger containers. This happens as we remove from ourselves all the clutter of past and future concerns.

In the present, we have endless inner space, which is a great step towards happiness.

Difficult emotions, like salt, may remain, but their power to affect us is diffused. Previously they could ruin our day, but now they can barely ruin five minutes.

Judge by results

Our judgments of others arise in direct proportion to our self-judgment. But as we allow ourselves to notice self-judgment, we also allow ourselves to be free of it.

People at peace are those who both see and accept the truth of who they are, rather than avoiding it and blaming someone else. Such people are less likely to find fault with others, which diminishes us and them and is always a waste of our time.

Question the negative

We are shaped by what we do with our negative experiences. Depression, for instance, is a turning away from experience in order to avoid emotional pain. Mindfulness doesn’t stop negative thoughts or feelings, but does help us to question their believability. Are these negative feelings quite as solid as they appear? Life is all in the perception; how we perceive events.

Mindfulness practice creates in us a sense of water flowing, things passing through, rather than hard blocks of ice inside us, solid and immovable.

It’s your work

No one can eat lunch for you, and no one can be mindful for you. It’s your work, and your wonder.

Give up your opinions

You cannot be mindful while holding on to your opinions. That’s like trying to keep dry by jumping into the sea.

Don’t censor yourself — accept yourself

As you get in touch with your breathing, thoughts will arise in you, unbidden. Don’t censor them, whatever their nature, but rather allow them all.

In accepting them, you accept yourself. If you censor emotions as they appear, they will bury themselves even deeper within you and you’ll never discover anything you didn’t know already.

If you allow everything, it may well be that you meet what is making you unhappy, but this is good.

How can you say ‘goodbye’ to it until you’ve said ‘hello’?

Rachel x

Vegan Lemon Cake

My absolute favourite vegan lemon cake recipe, it’s so quick and simple but tastes amazing!

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Ingredients

100ml Vegetable oil, plus extra for the tin

257g Self-Raising Flour

200g Golden Caster Sugar

1 tsp Baking Powder

1 lemon Zested, 1/2 juice

For the Icing

15g Icing Sugar

1/2 Lemon juiced

Method

  1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Oil a 1lb loaf tin and line it with baking parchment. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest in a bowl. Add the oil, lemon juice and 170ml cold water, then mix until smooth.Pour the mixture into the tin. Bake for 30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.
  2. Cool in the tin for 10 mins, then remove and transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool fully.
  3. For the icing, sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Mix in just enough lemon juice to make an icing thick enough to pour over the loaf (if you make the icing too thin, it will just run off the cake).

 

Rachel x

 

Recipe from Good Food magazine January 2018, no copyright infringement intended.

 

Fatigue Fighting Foods

Do you often find yourself crashing out halfway through the day and struggling to keep your eyes open? A lot of the time those feelings of extreme tiredness and fatigue are down to diet so I’ve found 8 foods you should try to boost your energy levels.

Crimini mushrooms

 

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These are a source of vitamin B6 which is a must for energy production. It protects the mitochondria from damage and in times of stress, supports adrenal glands and niacin which help to convert foods into usable energy.

 Pumpkin seeds

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A handful of these can help give you an energy surge in the middle of the day. A source of protein, healthy fats, fibre and essential minerals, they can be eaten plain or sprinkled over salads and cereal.

Water

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If you aren’t getting eight glasses a day, you really need to start! Dehydration is one of the main causes of tiredness, slowing down your metabolism and making your brain run slower.

Sweet potatoes

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Keep your carbohydrate cravings at bay by bringing more of this under-rated vegetable into your diet. The slowly digested starch can help you feel full and the vitamin C will help fight colds and illnesses which naturally make you feel more tired.

 

Eggs

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If these aren’t part of your morning routine, they should be. They’re an excellent way to enjoy sustained levels of energy without the insulin spikes or sugar crashes that eating a lot of sweet breakfasts like cereal and pastries can result in.

Oats

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Seriously filling and packed with protein and fibre, oats are great for people who experience blood sugar spikes and drops. Choosing plain versions is best as they have less sugar and you can then get creative and add fruit, honey and milk as you wish.

Spinach

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Popeye had the right idea getting his muscle power from my favourite green. Rich in iron, which improves mitochondrial efficiency, these greens make it easier for cells to convert the food you’re eating into usable energy.

Nuts

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Great for replenishing and boosting energy post workout, these are perfect for putting electrolytes back into your body that are lost during exercise. They’re filled with protein, fibre and magnesium which keeps your energy levels high and stable too.

Rachel x

What is a Dosha?

A dosha is one of three substances that are present in our bodies. Ayurveda describes how the quantity and quality of these three substances fluctuates in the body, according to the seasons, time of day and diet.

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The central concept of Ayurvedic medicine is the theory that health exists when there is balance between the three doshas, which are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

  • Vāta or Vata (airy element). Is characterised by properties of dry, cold, light and movement. All movement in the body is due to the property of vata.
  • Pitta is the fiery element or bile that’s secreted between the stomach and bowels and flowing through the liver and permeating spleen, heart, eyes, and skin; It is characterised by hotness, moist, liquid, sharp and sour, its chief quality is heat. It is the energy principle which uses bile to direct digestion and enhance metabolism. It is primarily characterised by body heat or burning sensation and redness
  • Kapha is the watery element, it is characterised by heaviness, cold, tenderness, softness, slowness and the carrier of nutrients. It is the nourishing element of the body. All the soft organs are made by kapha, it plays an important role in taste perception and joint health.

Doshas are the forces that create the physical body, they determine our conditions of growth and aging, health and disease. Typically, one of the three doshas predominates and determines your constitution or mind-body type. By understanding our individual habits, emotional responses, and body type, we can adapt our yoga practice accordingly. The same goes for Ayurveda treatments focused on alleviating any doshic excesses (illness) via powerful herbs and/or via the improvement of general lifestyle practices such as pranayama, meditation and yoga postures.

Something will indicate when you have an excess of a dosha, as it throws your system off-balance. For example, with excess vata, there can be anxiety and digestive disorders, including low energy and weakening of body tissues. With excess pitta, there is toxic blood that gives rise to inflammation and infection. With excess kapha, there is an increase in mucus and a tendency to be overweight. The key to managing all doshas is taking care of vata, as it is the origin of the other two.

Prana, Tejas and Ojas

Yoga is an alchemical process of balancing and transforming energies of the psyche. At the root of vata, pitta and kapha are its subtle counterparts called prana, tejas and ojas. Unlike the doshas, which in excess create diseases, these promote health, creativity and well-being.

Prana is our life force and is the healing energy of vata (air)

Tejas is our inner radiance and is the healing energy of pitta (fire)

Ojas is the ultimate energy reserve of the body derived from kapha (water)

Ayurveda seeks to reduce disease, in particular those that are chronic and to increase positive health in body and mind via these three vital essences that aid in renewal and transformation. Increased Prana gives us more enthusiasm, adaptability and creativity, all necessary when pursuing our spiritual path, in yoga this force is necessary to enable us to perform. Tejas provide us with courage, fearlessness and insight, important when taking decisions. Lastly, ojas gives us peace, confidence and patience to keep our development consistent and avoid giving up. Eventually, the most important element we want to develop is Ojas as it gives us physical and psychological endurance. This can be achieved via the right diet, tonic herbs, control of the senses, and devotion.

Rachel x

Meditations for Vatas: 4 Healing Techniques for the Wandering Mind

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Some people naturally have trouble concentrating, but Vatas especially tend to have a difficult time , I know this for a fact as it’s my primary Dosha!

Vatas have a predominance of air and space, they usually have more trouble grounding themselves than other doshas. Vatas are known to be creative, communicative, changeable, quick, and spontaneous, none of which is particularly helpful when it comes to centering.

In truth, meditation is beneficial even when you don’t think it is. The effort itself is a worthy pursuit, and eventually it does get easier. By witnessing your inner world and bringing your awareness to your thoughts, no matter how random or continuous, you are expanding your consciousness.

Even though you don’t feel completely at one with the universe from a 10-minute meditation session, doesn’t mean it’s not working. A lot of the time what you must deal with most when developing a regular practice are your own personal levels of mental overload. For those with a predominance of Vata, this can be even harder to overcome.

Here are some meditation tools that can help the busy-brained Vata.

Meditative Music or Sounds

There is an array of meditative music and nature sounds that can be found on the web these days. Often used as a sleep aid, these sounds can help calm the Vata mind. Specifically nature sounds are effective in helping you find your centre. If you’re someone who has a hard time sitting still, try filling the silence with beautiful relaxing sounds. Several different sounds can be used to aid in meditation such as chimes, chants, instrumentals, and nature. Explore these options and find one that works best for you. Any sound that puts you in a relaxed mood is good.

Colouring

Yes, you read that right, colouring! Just as this activity may have calmed you as a child, it can still help you as an adult. Colouring is especially helpful when you pair it with some of my other suggestions. For example, you could colour whilst listening to a nature soundtrack. You can colour any pictures that you want, but I recommend choosing images that incit calm and peace. Also the more detailed the picture the better. This allows your mind to get lost in what you’re doing.

Spend Silent Time in Nature

In general, you should spend as much time in nature as possible. So many benefits come from making a regular practice of being out in the natural world. When it comes to meditation, there’s really no better place. Even if you struggle with closing your eyes and stilling your thoughts with a mantra, you can use some quiet time in nature to help bring yourself to a place of peace.

Find a favorite spot, maybe near water or in an open field, or even in dense forest. If you sit still and observe, you may not need to close your eyes at all. Just be silent and experience your surroundings. This has a very calming therapeutic effect on the mind and spirit. Appreciating the beauty of creation is in effect its own form of meditation. For those whose minds typically run wild, being IN the wild as a silent observer can counteract this tendency.

Chanting

Chanting has been used since ancient times as a means of tuning into our higher selves. For some, the overactive Vata mind that keeps one from reaching their inner stillness can be quieted with sound. Similar to how you use a mantra in silence, you can chant a mantra out loud. By repeating the chant numerous times, you will eventually zone out. The repetition, much like routine within your lifestyle, can be very effective in balancing Vata. Once you become aware that you’re zoning out, that’s a good time to stop and sit in silence, allowing your mind to be in the calm.

Explore a variety of chants to find the best ones for you. Some people choose Sanskrit terms, while others use affirmations, or simply words that they wish to encourage in their consciousness. Whatever your choice, keep it light; there’s no need to place too much thought into it. Remember the chant is not the focus, so much as the place of stillness that you’re trying to reach.

With enough practice and experimentation, you too can become a powerful meditator and bring balance to your life. Don’t fight your Vata tendencies, instead use them to your advantage. Meditation is an act of letting go. Try these techniques to keep yourself from engaging with those wandering thoughts and you might just be amazed at the ease you will begin to find your centre and inner stillness.

Rachel x

Jennifer Young: Beauty Despite Cancer

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I recently had product training with Jennifer Young Skincare and wanted to share with you all about the products and the brand.

Before the training I had never heard of Jennifer Young Skincare but was blown away by their products, treatments and empathy. All their products are made using organic and natural ingredients which have been carefully selected and formulated for women being treated for cancer or who have recently gone through treatment.

I choose to share with you about these products and treatments as it is a subject that hits close to home.

As some of you may be aware I have multiple Autoimmune conditions, including Psoriatic Arthritis. The treatment of which is similar in it’s affects as chemotherapy, in fact one drug I have previously been on is Methotrexate which is a chemotherapy agent and immune system suppressant. At high doses Methotrexate is used to treat cancers that include Breast Cancer, Leukaemia and Lung Cancer. At lower doses it is used for medical abortions and to treat types of autoimmune diseases such as Arthritis. Other drugs used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as steroids and anti TNF biological therapies, all have the same affect to hair, skin and nails as chemotherapy. Being a woman and having to deal with changes caused by medication you can see why it hit close to home and why I wanted to share about these products!

One of the things I have found is that at a time when you become even more concerned with your appearance and want help managing changes you are often denied beauty or spa treatments. I have even had to sign a waiver at a spa once just to be able to use the facilities! Rest assured the treatments and products that I am sharing about are specifically targeted at anyone with cancer or like myself living with a chronic condition and will soon be available at Uniquely Organic EcoSpa.

There will be five treatments available:

  • Glowing Facial
  • Indulgent Massage
  • Top to Toe
  • Specialist Manicure
  • Specialist Pedicure

The subtle but key differences with the Jennifer Young treatments are that the therapists touch is lighter, there is an increased standard of hygiene with immunosuppressed clients in mind, suitable for those diagnosed with cancer and in active treatment, fuller consultations to better understand any adaptations needed for client comfort, deeply relaxing and using specially formulated products to target specific skin needs such as dryness or itching.

The products used are suitable for men and women and there are two ranges, Defiant Beauty for use during cancer treatment and Beyond Beauty for use after medical treatment has finished. Both ranges use naturally nourishing ingredients such as shea butter, mango butter, coconut oil, calendula oil, vitamin e and apricot kernel oil.

All products used during treatment will be available to buy and use at home, they will be fairly priced and a little goes a long way so the products last – I can’t wait to experiment and try out even more of the products!

Keep your eyes peeled for the launch date of these very special treatments and products!

Rachel X

 

 

Living Nature Bee Venom Mask.

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I am currently obsessed with Living Nature’s organic Bee Venom Mask! It combines bee venom with natural botanicals of organic Manuka Honey and certified organic coconut oil to create a mask that plumps, tightens, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, giving skin a healthy glow.

It uses a certified organic cotton fibre mask to deliver nourishment and active bee venom, providing a pleasant warming sensation once applied.

It’s formulated for all skin types and has been made from the highest quality ingredients. It is also the perfect anti-ageing treatment, made in New Zealand from 100% natural and organic ingredients.

Living Nature’s Bee Venom Mask is available as a box of six or an individual sachet.

Warning: Not suitable for anyone with bee-related allergies.

Rachel x

 

Please note I was not paid for any endorsement of this product.