For peace of mind, focus on the small spaces in-between

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The simple things bring lasting pleasure

Notice the small things. The rewards are inversely proportional.
Liz Vassey

Pausing the monkey mind was once a major priority for me. The constant chatter was deafening and debilitating. A wise woman shared with me a strategy; focus on the silence between the Oms in meditation.  It worked.  Those tiny spaces, for a breath, between the rhythmic chanting allowed my mind to rest and I eventually turned down and tuned out the monkey mind.

Today I see a great need to soothe nervous tension and anxiety, whether caused by work related stress or the result of too many responsibilities and expectations.  A great many people are being pulled into the eddy of chronic psychological dis-ease. Without discounting the support of professionals there may be a way we can help ourselves to resurface and recreate a more joyful life, using a similar strategy as described above. Instead, the attention would be on the small moments of joy between the larger grey periods.  Leader in the field of positive-psychology Marty Seligman, found that by consciously focusing our attention on what we want more of in life we increase our chance of getting it.  So turn your attention away from what you don’t want and see the things you do.  This is tough when you feel overwhelmed, on edge, lacking energy or can’t leave the house. So start small.

A posy of home-grown flowers from a friend, watching birds and animals in the wild (substitute garden), the soft ache of used muscles at the end of a long walk. These things bring me joy. As do following the path of a balloon as it rises into the sky until it is no longer visible or spotting a brightly coloured bush flower in a sea of green undergrowth as well as taking a moment to appreciate the magic of a giant tree soaring overhead while feeling the texture of its bark.  Filling the house with warm and soothing aromas on a cold, wet afternoon while baking cookies and brewing chai tea, the sound of a child’s laughter,  a smile from a stranger. These are the pauses in between.

Peace can be ours. We can rebuild joyful lives and it need cost nothing. Harmony can be restored. These things can be ours if we appreciate the many small moments in life. The first step is to notice. Notice where you focus most of your attention and refocus it if necessary.

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Winter Dreaming

The dreaming or the dreamtime indicates a psychic state in which or during which contact is made with ancestral spirits or the Law, or that special period of the beginning.
Mudrooroo

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While on a short break at the beach this week a friend commented that I seemed to be in my element. She was right. I was. There are two places in Australia I feel most at home; the beach and the bush. I feel a strong connection to spirit, to nature and to my own inner being when in these places.

While it’s winter here in Australia it is my favourite time to be at the beach. Okay, it’s not so great for swimming but it is a joy to walk the stretch of sandy shore without the crowds that summer brings. There is a calmness associated with watching the few keen surfers, zipped into their wetsuits, paddle out into the vast blue depths to catch frothy white waves into the shallows. I enjoy peering into the buckets of wadder-clad fisherfolk who line the shore morning and evening, lines held aloft, in eager anticipation of the catch of the day.  I love seeing families, rugged up against the cold, come down to play a ball game or to build sand castles as reminders of their time in the warm winter sun.

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Images of bronzed bodies on gorgeous Australian beaches abound in summertime though Winter, for me, is the best time to visit.  I love the way the sun warms and thaws my cold core. I love the sound of the squeaky white sand beneath my feet.  The cacophony of crashing waves and the daring and courage it takes to wade into their icy maws are all part of the winter beach experience. What really makes my heart sing is the seasonal beauty and atmosphere of the seaside. The light is different, it’s gentler, milder somehow. It’s hard to explain, it’s just different in so many ways.

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There is magic and healing energy in this landscape. The boundless sea takes my breath away yet also brings balance and renewal while the wildlife are messengers of great wisdom.

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Relaxing on the deck of our beach shack I was visited by a plethora of birds, among which was a gorgeous, curious Willie Wagtail that lifted my spirits and reminded me to seek things that brighten my mood and bring cheer into my life. Twice, a flock of Black Cockatoos screeched overhead heralding a time of liberation and freedom to come. Black Cockatoo is also, for me, a strong symbol of inner strength and spirit.

Image by Alfred Schultie

Image by Alfred Schultie

An Osprey, circling overhead, was a powerful reminder of trusting my own wisdom and freeing my spirit to enjoy life more.

Of course the boundless ocean brought gifts as well. Of not only gorgeous tokens to treasure and patterns in the sand but also whale and dolphin.

imageimage Every day I was witness to the majesty of dolphins at play and whales migrating for the winter. At times the whales were breaching, at others simply rolling around or squirting water through their blowholes. One windy afternoon I watched in awe as a whale made a great show of slapping its flukes. These encounters were at times at a distance and at others, quite close to shore. It is a great honour and privilege to witness whales and for me there is great emotional healing involved. Whales encourage me to seek a deeper awareness and consciousness, they remind me to keep evolving and not to stagnate.

Source if image unknown

Source of  image unknown

Our dolphin friends with their playful ways always lead me to focus on my breath and remind me that, while introspection and self development are good, bonding with others is also a meaningful part of life.

I don’t know about you but the beach is my place to recharge and to get back into balance by listening to the whispers of nature. It’s my dreaming.

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Reconnect by disconnecting: are you a stakeholder in your own health in our information, data driven world?

Frayed and frazzled by data overload

Frayed and frazzled by data overload

Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Linked in, Flickr, Skype, You Tube, Pinterest, My space, Google Plus, Instagram, Mylife.  Are you feeling a little frazzled due to the increase in social media options, notifications, updates, requests and the need to stay informed and up to date with what’s new, what’s on offer and the advantages of joining in?

Do you recognise the signs and symptoms of social media and sensory overload? Have you noticed a slight irritability, frustration, tiredness and just a little crankiness clouding your days? Have you noticed an increase in muscle tension, headaches, clenched jaws, fogginess and brain drain? It could all be associated with keeping up with and managing your email accounts, news feeds and blogs. Not to mention tapping into your social media sites and dealing with requests to join others. The TV, radio and newspapers also contribute to the maelstrom churning in your head.

The problem is you’re too connected. Yet at the same time, many of you feel isolated and on the fringe. So what’s the solution? You need to take action to reconnect and return to your centred, grounded place; your place of peace, of confidence, of joy.

If you’re done, for a while, with the constant barrage of smoise (social media noise) the obvious thing to do is log off and tune out for a while. Sever the link and exit the social media vortex and really connect with life. But let’s be real about this; many of us simply can’t live without social media, smart phones and the like for extended periods. In the interests of self-care, self-preservation and sanity commit, instead, to reducing the number of times and the length of time you check in. Turn off your notifications and check in once a day to catch up on all the ‘news’. Set yourself a target of say a day, or a week of reduced input and, in that time, rebalance yourself.

Rebalance, refresh and rejuvenate by creating a list of things that make you feel good and commit to doing one or more of them, each day, for at least a week (without phones, iPods, iPads, laptops etc). My list includes things like heading off into the forest to enjoy the wildlife, taking a walk on the beach and burying my feet in the sand, meeting a friend for coffee at one of my favourite cafes. Meditating in the garden, tending to my new herb garden, buying a beautiful book and reading it on the deck, with a pot of tea, are also high on my feel good, reconnection list. Get the idea?

Might I suggest that you include a sojourn into the natural world somewhere on your list. Go hiking, surfing, bike riding, pack a picnic – anything to get outside into the fresh air. Greater benefits will be felt if you connect with the skin of the earth. Take your shoes off, stand, sit or lie down on the earth and breath deeply.

Find some quiet time, in a space that makes you feel calm and relaxed, to just sit. If you are not a regular meditator don’t worry. You don’t need to sit in silence for hours. Some days five minutes is all I have but those five minutes make all the difference. A teacher once told me to simply sit and concentrate on the breath. Feel it being drawn into the nostrils on the inhale and feel its warmth on the upper lip on the exhale. He suggested, instead of trying to clear my mind completely, I should start by trying to empty my mind for one complete breath. Sounds so insignificant doesn’t it? Let me reassure you, one whole breath without a thought is pure bliss.  Give it a go. You can work your way up to 10 or 20 breaths. Eventually, you won’t need to count your breaths, you’ll be able to sit in peace for the time you have.

What about your diet? How aware are you of the impact your food choices  are having on your brain and your body? When we are stressed and overloaded we often make poor food choices for a whole range of reasons. As part of your rebalancing regime limit processed and refined food. Nourish your body and brain by eating fresh, real food. Drink more water and less coffee. Start by planning a healthy eating menu for one day, it will be a good start to taking the toxic load off your body.

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Do you value yourself enough to step out of the information vortex to reclaim your equilibrium?

Are you ready to short-circuit the overload, to rebalance and reconnect with yourself?

Are you ready take action?

“Yes?” Then go ahead, make your list. Commit to a time frame and “just do it”. You are so worth the effort. You never know, what begins as a day of self nurturing may become a habit. Now, wouldn’t that be something?

We can’t escape our modern world but we can live in harmony with it when we make taking care of ourselves a priority.

What will you do to rebalance, reconnect and re-establish your equilibrium when you find yourself overloaded by the torrent of data and information that bombards you each day?