You are enough

Self-reflection does not require any material resources, apart from that which is so valuable to us; time. With the pace of our lives seemingly increasing constantly and the sometimes overwhelming set of responsibilities we have, it feels impossible to carve out time just for ourselves. Often it feels as if we are in survival mode, and when we have time to relax, we choose to do what is easy and accessible and provides relief. Self-reflection is usually not something we look forward to, perhaps because we are afraid that we’re not good enough. Maybe this is because we are not achieving our goals, despite how strongly we want to achieve them. And so it is painful to look at ourselves when, amidst the chaos of life, we do not feel good enough.

We procrastinate on self-improvement, rather focusing on giving advice to others, focusing on our work and other things that we can control, and of course with a healthy dose of distraction. Ironically, social media, a powerful distraction, inflates our fear of self-reflection as we develop feelings of inadequacy when when comparing ourselves to the supposed flawless beauty and success of others. So not only do we avoid being alone with our thoughts and feelings as a function of how busy and tired we are, but we also increase the gap between where we are now and our own true authenticity through consumption of social and other forms of media.

Unfortunately, when we interact with friends or colleagues, many of us defend our insecurities by attacking others, directing attention away from ourselves. Of course for more confident and self-aggrandizing personalities, insults may come even more naturally, adding to the hostility and further suppression of the authenticity of others. This breads and reinforces a culture of defensiveness, as we cling on to a tiny thread of self identity, however obscure and fragmented. Our ability to express ourselves becomes greatly diminished as we now replace authentic self expression with various manifestations of ego, distracted scrolling and channel surfing and other forms of consumption.

When we spend time with people who we know love us, we are able to let our guard down and relax, but often lash out at one another as we project and displace our anger and frustration, and of course damage our important relationships as a result. Often if we are not angry or frustrated, but rather feel sad, lonely or depressed, we feel hesitant to express ourselves for fear of being judged as being weak. Luckily, if you do love one another you are able to recover, but often with a trail of pain and resentment. 

Now, there is always room for us to work hard, compete, conflict, acquire, grow and succeed, in order to preserve our households and our dreams of a better life. However, I feel that we do not hear the following phrase often enough and are suffering as a result:

You are enough.

Your authentic self is enough. Every day and every interaction, you have the opportunity to be honest with yourself, to listen with your ears, your eyes and your gut. You have the chance to feel when something is not right and move in the direction that you know you know is right for you. Only you know your happy place. This is not defined by others, only you know when you feel that you are in a state of flow. We should not be intimidated into feeling a false sense of positivity, nor a false sense of inadequacy. Only you can define your state of Zen.

I really believe, through my own experiences, that the missing link is stillness, and the self awareness that arises from that stillness. Letting go of the heaviness and pain of conflict and stress and breathing in some lightness. Having some faith in yourself, a sense of knowing and patience in the process. I’d like to encourage you to take some time to get to know your deep authentic self – and if you don’t remember who or what that is, I’d recommend the following:

  1. Take a break from social media and comparison with others
  2. Take a break from Netflix if this is distracting you from doing what is important 
  3. Read a book to focus your mind
  4. Spend time in nature to reconnect with your own natural rhythm 
  5. Take a break from excessive sugar and salt – other forms of distraction
  6. Try just listening; to your surroundings, to your breath, to music, to someone
  7. Get a pen and paper and express your thoughts
  8. Get creative: Paint, sing, dance

I feel that we need to dedicate some time every day to feel and to know ourselves without distractions, to come into the centre of your body and mind and trust that this deeper centre is your guide. This self-knowing will lead you to authentic self-expression which feels good and might help you move on from feeling stuck, alone and afraid. You are enough. 

Overcoming reactivity

In western cultures and increasingly in many other cultures in the world, individualism is the norm, where independence is celebrated. What we gain from this approach is a sense of autonomy and confidence which serves one well in a capitalist world where wealth is an important foundation for a prosperous standard of living. But our commitment to ourselves often goes too far, resulting in excessively high opinions of oneself and an indifference towards others, even those we supposedly love. We lose what psychologists call social capital in pursuit of personal success. 

If we look more closely at how an imbalanced relationship between self and others might manifest, we see high levels of depression and anxiety, which have been exacerbated by social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. I feel that in our personal and work lives we also experience oversensitivity, reactivity, judgement and ultimately arrogant and destructive attitudes and behaviour, and I will aim to address a basic understanding of how this happens and what we can do to avoid the pain and destruction that goes along with these attitudes. 

Anxiety, reactivity, judgement and arrogance are not necessarily a new part of culture, but I would argue that globally, an obsession with one’s self image seems to be more pervasive than in the recent past and also seems to be accelerated by certain social media platforms. Through excessive thinking about ourselves, our ideas and our justifications, we build a rigid and narrow point of view that decreases our ability to understand, feel and connect with others as we aggressively defend our personal world from any perceived attacks. I have experienced all of this on a personal level, taking comments personally where it does not serve me to do so, reacting defensively, speaking my mind too quickly, putting myself in a weak position and feeling a sense of guilt and shame later on. By spending a significant amount of time and energy building this personal world and viewpoint, we develop a tendency to quickly judge others when they don’t meet our standards, which limits our ability to consider alternative ideas and incorporate them into our own perspective. We become so entrenched in and identified with our own reasoning that it feels too risky to let it go and consider the perspective of others. I believe that this creates an inner world dominated by anxiety and an outer culture of ignorance, arrogance, entitlement and hostility.

If any of this resonates with you, I have found that the following tools are very effective in dealing with these tendencies of anxiety, oversensitivity leasing to reactivity and judgement;

By simply sitting in silence and stillness, using your breath to help you relax and to embrace relaxation, you can infuse your life with a sense of nonreactivity. By sitting in a state of stillness, you slowly become aware of a deeper dimension of yourself. These are neurobiological changes that take place without the need to understand, analyse or ‘be right’. In this state, overstimulation from technology, work, stressful conversations and events, as well as thoughts about past and future begin to slow down. Your body feels a sense of relief as you are able to let go of some of the intensity and heaviness of your thoughts, and as a result, things and people become less threatening because your internal world is not so elaborate, defined, delicate and temperamental. Arising from this tranquility is the realisation that there’s no need to take insults to heart, to rush to defend yourself, to quickly and preemptively respond to criticism, because it is OK to let things be and to allow yourself to relax. It is here where you remember who you truly are, what feels good to you and what you are aiming to achieve.

It is here where you can grow a true sense of self worth and humility, and where you feel confident in yourself and clear on your ambitions. You are also able to see the value in discussion and collaborative problem solving, instead of dismissing someone else’s reasoning because you refuse to accept an alternate possibility. Your acceptance opens up new possibilities. You become grounded in what is real – your body, your breath, your humanity. If you spend enough time melting away the distractions and the abstractions, you may become more aware of and grateful for the value of your experiences, people and comforts around you and for life itself. Over time, if you commit to a practice of calmness, you will feel more at ease with yourself, and as you come to know yourself through honesty and integrity, other people will sense this, as you present a more true and complete version of yourself.

Another tool you can use is a slightly more active form of self reflection, involving thinking. Here, your self awareness translates into a practical plan of how to move forward with certain aspects of your life. This should reduce anxiety and reduce the chance that you will be oversensitive and overreact to negative comments or attitudes, because you have a clearer understanding of what you want and how you might achieve this. Comments and opinions which do not validate your carefully considered sense of self and your plan become irrelevant. They are not aligned with who you know you are and so do not have power to hurt you. One theory of how anxiety operates states that it is closely related to tension arising from excessive worrying without the necessary action to alleviate the worry. Having a plan should serve to greatly reduce your anxiety, no matter how small or incremental your objective is.

You can also use your own insights to help others, leading to a third very powerful tool; compassion. By putting yourself in the shoes of others, you can understand why someone would behave in certain ways. You have now understood how you made a mistake, and thus you can feel for others when they make similar mistakes and even develop the desire to help others avoid such outcomes.

The ultimate result of practicing meditation, self-reflection and compassion puts you in a position to know yourself more accurately and make decisions that are aligned to your wellbeing, and the wellbeing of others. It may well provide you with the rest, clarity or inspiration needed to overcome your obstacles. 

Many of my articles tend to converge in similar themes which promote physical and mental health, with the goal of increasing harmony and peace in your life, the life of your friends and family and in society. This is what I promote in my yoga classes through conscious movement, release of tension, deep breathing and self expression. The goal is for this to lead to a sense of purpose in everyday life, giving you more energy and clarity to achieve your goals and feel alive. I hope that this article has been useful and has meaning for you. 

Namaste.

Go with the flow

Hello friends,

Wishing you a fantastic day, week and month ahead.

We’ve made it to April and I hope that it has been a great start to the year for you! If you are feeling tired or distracted, there is always an opportunity to get to bed a little earlier than yesterday, to meditate, to go for that walk/run or to choose a fresher meal option. But I have another suggestion which requires a little introspection, which might give you the energy you need.

The concept I’ve been thinking about lately has been one of an intriguing duality which has really put a smile on my face when I’ve thought about it and experienced it. Let me explain this simple concept and hopefully you find it somewhat interesting or useful.

Much of the world of self-improvement is around goal-setting, vision creation, affirmation and in some cases, bringing about an increased productivity in our lives in order to achieve our objectives. Whether or not you employ these approaches, it is undeniable that time goes by, the world keeps moving and we need to work, build and grow to keep up and to progress! It feels like we’re always moving, always busy and mostly focused on getting things done.

I have always been a very busy and active person, which I enjoy, but often I find myself exhausted, which is partly what lead me to yoga. Recently I realised, or rather remembered, that there is a subtle but significant difference between constantly trying, pushing and manipulating the world to get things done, and being aware and in alignment with how things are moving. I believe that by gently taking a side step from high exertion and effort, into alignment with this inevitable unfolding of thoughts, emotions, events, our natural surrounding and interactions with people, we might be able to harness this flow of energy, instead of constantly struggling and fighting to make it work for us.

This is actually an ancient spiritual concept, and the duality, or maybe an illusion of duality comes in, is that by becoming still, quiet and alert, we are not actually stopping, we are not in opposition with productivity and progress, but rather we are choosing to be part of the flow and not in resistance to it. By becoming aware, we can feel and understand how to harness the flow of life intuitively, and let it work for us, as opposed to forcing it to meet our requirements. When we struggle and force things to meet our needs, we experience significant anxiety, anger and frustration in the process or an inflated sense of self when we are able to successfully manipulate people or things. However, I would argue, in the words of Jordan Peterson, that this is a suboptimal solution, and that when we take a moment to become more self aware, that we also become more aware of the way things are moving and happening, and that this might allow us to better achieve our goals, and enjoy doing so more than when we push and struggle.

The benefits of a shift in perspective is in supported by psychological literature, which states that the way you attribute good or bad labels to what happens in your life, makes you more or less susceptible to mood and anxiety disorders. So we could suggest that by seeing the world as a place which supports you and gives the tools you need to be successful, and by sensing this on a deeper level, that you can actually enjoy a healthier, happier and more successful life. Perhaps we can achieve this by embracing this illusion of duality, where we become observant of surroundings and ourselves, whilst at the same time using that heightened sense of awareness to move and progress in harmony with the flow of energy which we call life. This is ultimately the true meaning of Yoga – union with all life. You can test this yourself, becoming still with a breath and allowing your intuition to guide you.

I wish you a calm, balanced outlook, and through acceptance of the way things are, that you may be able to see the correct choices to make and feel the energy which is available to be harnessed. I hope this will ease your fear, sadness or frustration and replace it with a sense of true empowerment and fulfillment.

A Shift in Perspective for 2022

Dear friends,

Seasons greetings and the happiest of new years to you and your family.

There seems to be a definite shift in the way we are feeling and thinking in this new year. There is fresh new energy, but still a sense of trepidation as we grapple with how exactly we should go back to normal, if and when, COVID-19 starts to fade away as a major concern. I personally feel unsure of how to integrate myself into the world, partly due to the long period of lockdown and uncertainty, but also because of the way I have changed over the past two years. Many of us have woken up to our deeper desires that may have been impossible or impractical to implement before, and we have come to terms with new ways of working, living and socializing.  

I’d like to share a few thoughts on how you might be able to shift your perspective in order to feel excited about transitioning back to normal in a more intentional, balanced, sustainable and joyful way of living. 

We have been forced to become more introspective which has allowed us to see ourselves more clearly, as painful as this may have been at times. We’ve become aware of our deeper desires, but also have become perhaps somewhat obsessed with ourselves, with our fears, our problems and the overwhelming sensation of uncertainty about the future. However, I believe that it is possible to feel a much greater sense of connection with the world outside of ourselves, bringing an infinitely expansive sense of freedom and joy. By connecting with the world around us through curiosity and empathy, by putting our fear aside for a moment, we are able to share our thoughts and passions with those around us and in turn feel the experiences of others. This can be profoundly humbling and healing, as we realise that many of what we thought was only affecting us, is also affecting others, and we can connect through those shared experiences. We can begin to feel a more total experience of life with a wider network of people, as well as the natural world around us. In making this conscious shift, we may feel much less alienated, alone and fragmented, and instead, part of a community, connected and whole.

There are many ways to achieve this: Picking up your phone and calling someone, inviting a friend or family member to go for a walk or to share a meal or even smiling at or talking to a stranger in an open and kind way. We can also spend time alone to reflect on what we are grateful for in our immediate surroundings. If you simply sit down, take a deep breath and rest in stillness, without expectation, you might start to realise how much beauty is around and within you, and start to feel connected and peaceful. I read a fantastic book recently, Atomic Habits by James Clear, where throughout most of the book the author advises how to automate and streamline your life to become more productive. But at a certain point in the book, there is a profound line which ultimately transcends all of his advice regarding productivity, which is: “peace occurs when you don’t turn your observations into problems”. What this means to me is, you can focus on improving your life and the life of those around you, through consistency and productivity, but with a deeper foundation of acceptance and gratitude, you will know what is truly important to you and you will pursue it intentionally, instead of simply always wanting more.

With a deep interest in the human body and mind, and the ways that we can actively and easily bring health and peace into our own lives, I advocate for a regular practice of yoga, breathing and meditation – which ultimately can all be practiced simultaneously. Dedicating just 2 minutes of accepting and being one with your breath and the life within and around you, can have a profound effect on your mental and physical health. Once you have created a simple practice like this in your life, you can effectively integrate into the world through work, socialising, and carrying out the activities which allow you to realize your dreams. With such a foundation, life becomes more of a puzzle than a maze, more of a challenge than a hostile experience. I am aware of the privileges I have which allow me the space to think and live like this and I hope that the more we are able to live in a grounded, peaceful and empathetic way, the more we can improve the lives of those around us. 

For now I am offering online yoga classes on a Monday, Wednesday and Saturday morning, and I hope to have more news on in-person yoga classes and events soon. I am looking for a venue in the Rosebank area in Johannesburg with a large wooden or concrete floor which can host 10-20 people – let me know if you have any leads for me! 🙂

All the best for the year, and I wish you a sense of peace and clarity for realising your dreams.

P.S. A few tips from Atomic Habits by James Clear (which I highly recommend) on how to be the person you want to be through making tiny changes in your behaviour:

  1. Fall in love with the process of becoming who you want to be, instead of being hyper-focused on a set of goals.
  2. You become your habits – which are “micro-evolutions of the self”.
  3. Whenever you aim to instil a new behaviour, make the behaviour “obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying”.
  4. Change your environment to encourage the habit e.g. Clear out a space in your home, freshen it up and place your books or your yoga mat in the space to improve the chances of the new behaviour you would like to build into your life.
  5. Remember – action is better than intensive planning and consistency is better than perfection.
  6. Try doing a new habit for just 2 minutes consistently, in the same place and time, thereafter it will grow.
  7. When time fades away while you are doing something and you feel a sense of flow, do more of that.

The Expansiveness of Possibility

As we find ourselves in the middle of the year, it is an appropriate juncture to reflect on how we feel, what is going on around us and how to move forward. Given the strangeness of the past 18 months, if you’re anything like me, you might be questioning some of the chaos both within and outside of yourself.

Over this period during which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives so significantly in material terms such as how we interact, work and move, we have also experienced severe mental strain. We have had to reconstruct ourselves so that we can maintain some form of achievement and satisfaction, amidst sometimes drastic changes in our income, our living situations and our relationships.

All of this change and instability pushes us to work harder to maintain this standard of normality and as a result we are subject to very high levels of stress, which can feel overwhelming, suffocating and can at times dominate our state of being. We end up worrying all the time, working all the time to combat these fears and struggling to relax and even to sleep as we are in such a heightened state. We seek relief in various ways, some healthy and some, unfortunately compounding our stress, such as further overstimulation through social media, alcohol or substance abuse, excessive eating, TV or even sleep.

What I experienced recently and what I hope you can try is letting go of all of that bundled up stress and overstimulation by letting the bubble burst. This is not logical, because logically, if you just deal with everything you need to deal with, get everything on your to-do list done, tick all of the boxes, you should feel satisfied, relaxed and feel a sense of complete accomplishment. I would argue that what tends to happen, is that we accumulate tasks and goals to the point where we lose sight of the relativity of our actions. We focus on building and growing without realising that without a vision, tools to feel grounded throughout the journey and a set of rules, we won’t ever stop, we won’t ever feel satisfied and we will treat those around us, everything we have and even ourselves, as a means to an end – when in fact, there is no end.

If, instead, you acknowledge that the experience of life, of sensations, of the body, and even of our thoughts is more real and satisfying than any amount of accumulation or achievement, what might arise is a sense of possibility. The possibility that you can feel alive, in control, grounded and truly yourself, despite what might be happening around you. There truly are forces which change our environment and which we cannot control, but if you allow the bubble of pressure and stress to burst, and instead allow an expansive, light energy to emanate from within you, you might be able to see things more clearly and feel that sense of satisfaction that you’ve been unable to feel due to the overwhelming and endless sense of stress.

This might be sudden or it might be gradual, but some of the practical and more subtle methods you could try are:

  1. Pull away from over stimulation – social media I find is such a powerful source of stimulation and when you just stop mindlessly scrolling through, you immediately gain mental peace and clarity.
  2. Get a pen and write down the 5-10 things that are really stressing you out. This will already help. Once you have identified those issues, see if you cannot just let go of relentlessly worrying about those things, and realise how much mental and emotional energy you are dedicating to them. You could visualise the build up of energy in the form of a dark cloud. You might also be able to feel this energy as a heavy, hot and uncomfortable bundle. Taking a deep breath and then sighing it out, let that cloud disperse and mentally/physically watch/feel as a light energy effortlessly occupies that space where the dark cloud of stress was, and which is far more expansive and liberating than the heaviness of stress. This will bring relief mentally and will lead to less tension in your body.
  3. As part of the above exercise, you could bring some humour into the vision, and imagine something that you find hilarious or outrageous happening which helps the stress evaporate.
  4. Hopefully, once you have decreased your physical and emotional reactivity to those items, you might be able to relook at them more practically, and prioritise them. You might even be able to remove a few completely, and decide that right now you don’t necessarily need to focus on them. Then, with a sense of optimism and joy, perhaps you could look at that handful of to-do items and start addressing them with more patience and compassion.

Stress tends to make everything seem so difficult. It gives weight and energy to things which we might not even truly care about. I think social media is a very powerful tool in this sense, as it is designed to hold your attention, even when it is not adding value or has little relevance to your goals and your sense of satisfaction with life. As with all other forms of overstimulation, and arguably, addiction, we need to pull away, we need to have time every day to rest, to be still, to let go of the urge of engaging in those activities. When we have let go of some of the overstimulation activities, and perhaps some of the activities we have decided to look at later, we should have more time and space to relax. This new space might now be filled with clarity and possibility – the possibility that you can simultaneously feel grounded, focus on achieving your goals and feel grateful and compassionate for those around you, the beauty of your life and for yourself. Stress will always keep arising, but if we allow the expansiveness of possibility to counter this build up of energy, we can remain calm, optimistic and productive in a healthy way.

Lessons of acceptance and the beauty of nature

Whether you are vaguely interested in yoga or cannot go a day without some breathing, strength and stretching or meditation, I hope that the year is treating you well and I am grateful for your readership!

2021 has been a very interesting year for many of us, and it has been so hectic for me that I really could not find the space to send out a newsletter in April. The purpose of this article is to tell you a bit more about what I have been up to and to share my insights with you on how I have dealt with stress in the face of uncertainty or feeling disconnected.

At the end of February I was accepted to study Psychology part time at WITS. The decision to apply is part of a long term vision of equipping myself to more deeply understand how we experience life subjectively and the ways in which we can move toward a harmonious internal and external world.

By the middle of March I had also signed a contract to join a new company in an industry in which I am very new! Despite the increase in intensity in the face of uncertainty, I was very busy traveling around our beautiful country, and some of you were able to practice yoga with me virtually from these locations. I would like to share with you the lessons I have learned over the past two months.

  • Having a vision which depicts the way in which you would like to see your day and life play out has been very useful for me. It has given me the determination to focus on what is important in order to have as much influence as I can in bringing these goals to life, and to avoid situations or activities that would detract from this. It also sends a clear signal to those closest to you of what you are trying to achieve which in turn, gives them the information needed to support you.
Contemplating the simple joy of being
  • I have been reminded clearly of the importance of mental health. Despite my passion and understanding of holistic health, I too am subject to overthinking, destructive thinking and behaviour, food cravings, neglecting social relationships and ultimately neglecting my own path of health and spirituality. I wish that you take the time needed as we approach the middle of the year, to give back to yourself with more quality time alone and with loved ones, a healthy dose of fun and laughter, cleaner nutrition, more rest and a more balanced approach to day to day living, especially if you too have goals that may be stretching you to a new limit.

  • Sometimes we must relinquish control. When we have high expectations, the margin for error increases and we need to have a degree of acceptance of this. Ironically, the more we push towards goals and achievements, the more challenging it becomes to recognise the need to slow down, to rest, to balance our drive with relaxation and fun. I know for me, laughing is the way in which I release my stress constantly throughout the day. We must each decide on what we are willing to sacrifice to achieve our goals, but I believe that no goal is worth long term damage to health and important relationships. Again, being clear on your intention and communicating this to others may give us the space we need to breathe and become more observant, which, when highly focused, may provide necessary foresight.

  • We are completely connected to nature and our lifestyles should incorporate as much of this as possible to absorb the nourishment that nature constantly provides. With most of our lives focused primarily on human issues like work, technology and relationships, we have lost touch with the incredible complexity and power of nature around us. After spending 3 days hiking in Grootwinterhoek in the Cederburg, sleeping under the stars, feeling the fynbos on my skin and smelling the multitude of plant life around us, I was reminded of the healing and raw beauty of nature. I strongly recommend getting out into nature as often as you can, especially to connect to the deep rhythm within us.I am deeply grateful for my brother Paul, who organised this magical experience for us.
Hiking with friends, enjoying the incredibly beautiful Grootwinterhoek Wilderness Area

Going into May, I will be offering online and physical yoga classes and truly hope that I can make a positive contribution to the physical, emotional and spiritual health of as many of you as possible. I will offer online classes in the morning only for now. Let’s see how it goes!

Feel free to share any of the information in this newsletter with someone you know that might need motivation, guidance or would like to be part of a micro-community of individuals pursuing balance, strength and alignment between body, mind and soul. Feel free to pop me a message if you feel that I may be able to assist with your journey of deeper discovery.

Stabilise your energy

As we approach the final week of February, many of us seem to find ourselves caught in the same current we usually do as we move deeper into the year, with the pace of life carrying us along and the momentum picking up week by week. This is intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and how many of us feel that we did not get the rest we needed over the festive season, and the constant stress and pressure we feel from financial strain, lack of social activity or increased work hours. Sometimes I feel that the pace and weight of it all is a bit overwhelming and other times I feel completely lost in the complexity and chaos. We may also feel anxious or afraid that if we slow down, we might lose out on opportunities. So where does that leave us? Do we give in and lose out on the progress we have worked hard to achieve until this point? Or keep pushing and hope that we don’t hurt ourselves? I propose a healthy middle ground, a set of habits that we can cultivate to give us the strength and sense of calm that we need to continue. Quite simply, I propose that we breathe a little deeper. Right now.

Sometimes it feels as though the only solution is to get away from whatever intensity we find ourselves surrounded by or that which is inside our own body and mind. However, if we can balance the pace and intensity of each thought, emotion, family or work culture or activity we are engaged in with a feeling of grounding, of being in touch with nature and simultaneously our true deeper selves, this can offer us a tremendous sense of true stability and power. I think the physical health benefits of exercise and yoga are often seen as the most significant, and while your general health and physical strength and suppleness will increase significantly if a yoga or exercise routine is adopted, I would argue that it is the effect of feeling grounded in the moment and in tune with your surroundings that brings true power into your life.

Photo by Oluremi Adebayo on Pexels.com

So how do we go about this, right now? How do we find more control and stability without making it another item on our to-do list, adding to our feeling of being overwhelmed and exhausted? I suggest trying one or more of the following practices whenever you have 2-3 minutes, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or have a sense a of lack of control. If you feel a stronger sense of stress, anger or irritation – I would recommend the fourth activity followed by the first. You can also watch the video at the bottom of the page on Youtube for guidance.

  1. Focused breathing might not be for everyone, but it is very effective and the easiest way to meditate. Simply take 5-10 deep breaths, focusing on the sensation of air in your nose, mouth or throat. Focus on the temperature of the air, focus on the expansion of your chest, ribcage and belly, allowing the sound of the inhale and exhale comfort you. You might even close your eyes and visualise a calm, beautiful scene of nature such as a waterfall or forest. Before you know it, within 1-2 minutes, you will feel more centered, relaxed and energised, all at the same time. And that might be enough.
  2. Becoming aware of grounding and your posture is another powerful practice. If you are seated, wiggle around and really feel the chair beneath your pelvis. Sit up tall but relax your shoulders. Whether you are standing up or seated, spread the toes wide and really press your feet into the ground. Let your arms hang by your sides or into your lap and release tension in your forearms and hands. Becoming conscious of the points of contact and the weight of your body on the earth can give you a sense of energy and stability. It also makes a tremendous difference to practice this in nature – whether that means simply standing or sitting outside, or actually in a natural environment such as near a stream, the beach, or a forest. Stay here with eyes closed for 30 seconds feeling into that stability and after a while, open your eyes, lift your chin and feel a sense of confidence, lifting into the crown of your head. Engaging a wakeful posture plays a significant role in uplifting our mood and energy. Try to maintain this posture throughout the day.
  3. Gentle and coordinated movement is another effective method of shifting your energy. Simply lift your arms and hands from your sides upwards in a big semi-circular motion, with hands meeting way up above your head, and then release them outwards and down, the same way we lifted them up. Ideally, breathing in as you lift the arms up, and breathing out as you lower them. You could do this as many times as you like, but try go for at least 5 to get the blood flowing, deepening into your breath and feeling the earth beneath you.
  4. With increased stress comes the need to engage in more intense movement. Walk around, talk to someone, practice 10-20 squats or push ups. We need to let go of intense energy rather than keeping it inside. Maybe even grab a cushion and scream into it without straining your voice. Do what feels natural in letting go of some steam whilst avoiding hurting yourself or others emotionally or physically with that build up of energy. Once you are done, go back to activity 1; and re-focus on the breath.

It is that time of the year when we must take control of our energy, whether it is low energy such as laziness, anxiety, fear or sadness or a high type of energy like stress manifested as anger or irritation. Trust that you do have the strength to manage your energy and that you can take simple, proactive steps in stabilising and regaining that control. If none of these practices work, go back to what you know deep down works for you, as long as it is going to help you, not hurt you. You might also decide to talk to someone, ask them to be there for you. Having someone truly listen can be incredibly healing and if it is someone you are in close contact with regularly, ask for a hug. Give yourself the self respect and time you deserve and you might be surprised as to just how much control and power you have available to you at any time.

Set your intention

Intentionality

The quality of mental states (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, desires, hopes) which consists in their being directed towards some object or state of affairs.

We have all heard of the buzzword ‘mindfulness’ but not many of us talk about intention and intentionality. Both mindfulness and intention refer to focusing our energy on something. We all know that when we are distracted we tend to procrastinate. Our minds feel fuzzy, our emotions are unstable and ultimately we arrive at a point of frustration and anxiety from not being able to get done what we truly need to. Living mindfully and intentionally are antidotes to such states and outcomes.

When we direct our energy to what we are doing precisely in this moment, we become aware of what we need to do or not do. For example, if we are truly mindful when watching videos on social media, we may realise that we are thirsty, we are frowning, we are breathing shallowly, etc. At this moment we should probably take a break from the activity and re-focus. Moreover, if we are able to focus on precisely what we are doing in each moment, whether it be driving, writing an email, reading something interesting or listening to what a family member or colleague has to say, not only do we we optimise the efficiency with which we are able to perform that task, but this will lead to a calmer state of mind and body.

In addition to performing tasks and living in a more mindful state, if we are able to go a bit deeper and live intentionally, we can further reduce the anxiety generating affect of distraction and not applying ourselves. One method I have been using for the past year or two is by zooming out of my every day existence, so to speak, looking into the future and asking what I see as the vision of my life. I ask myself questions like ‘what kind of contribution do I want to make in the world?’ and ‘what would I like to attract into my life?’. I believe that if we then break down this vision into manageable goals to achieve on an annual, monthly, weekly and even daily basis, we can then structure lives in such as a way that we slowly but effectively achieve our long term vision, day by day.

From my perspective and experience, the reason this seems to work is that if you are able to understand on a granular level why you do what you do, each moment is enriched with a sense of excitement and passion because you now have the motivation needed to perform each task during the day. And this leads to the realisation that you have the opportunity to live each moment with intention. Everything you do, say and even think can be slowly customised to the vision you have set out to create. Of course this will change over time due to changes in your personality and changes in the world at large, but at least you have a clear picture for now of why you do what you do, to slowly build and create the vision for your life that makes you feel most yourself.

No two visions will be the same, and we may be able to let go of some of our unauthentic desires which may have been suggested or prescribed to us by our school, family, work or social culture. Many of these ideas will be relevant and important in the short to medium term, but once you have assimilated the value that you can, it is acceptable to move on and express yourself more fully, from the deep .

So, as I suggested in last months newsletter, find some time to feel a sense of calm, get a pen and paper and start to paint your vision so that you have the clarity to live each day intentionally. The joy of living in such a way manifests in feeling focused and energised, without the obstacles of uncertainty, doubt and frustration slowing you down. I wish you all the best on your journey of deepening self discovery.

Thought shapes the environment which shapes thought

There’s an idea. It then gets developed into a concept. The concept will then often be developed into a physical product or into a system or program. In both cases an idea is developed into reality. What I wondered about recently is the affect that a physical product or system has on ones’ mind. The fact that we have four way intersections, rectangular TV sets or circular dinner plates almost everywhere around the globe – points to how incredibly uniform and standardized so many products used in modern society are. The design, the shape, the functionality of most products worldwide are essentially the same. This may be due to globalization, but what interests me is not the standardized nature of these products, but the impact that these shapes or designs have on our thinking. For example, the roads we drive on, the way that traffic lights work, the way that all appliances work – do we realize that these things which make up our artificial world determine the way we interact with one another and the way in which we think? Do we ever stop to consider whether these things have a positive or negative impact on the way we live?  What if we subconsciously reject some of these designs or systems, but have no way of expressing our discontent? When we use so many products on a daily basis, do we consider that it was a small group of people who may have designed or developed what we use every day. I’m not going for a conspiracy theory here. I don’t think many products or systems are designed to control people, although some certainly are, i just think that many products or systems are designed with budgets, deadlines and profit in mind, with inadequate energy focused on the actual purpose or function of that product or system in the long-term. What if the design is nowhere near as useful or environmentally friendly as it can be, or even as it should be? I think this is the way that fossil fuel powered vehicles will be viewed in the coming decades.

If we compare our man-made world to nature –  it is constantly changing –  the seasons, the colours, the smells, the climate. And seeing as though humans are part of nature, I believe we belong to this dynamic and transient aspect of nature. Perhaps we need to be more proactive in expressing our frustrations with certain systems or products which we use on a daily basis and which influence our quality of life.

So I think it’s fascinating to realize what aspects of our man-made world affect the way we move, interact with one another and carry out our daily lives. At least if we are conscious of these affects, we can possibly make decisions to improve our experiences – for example taking different routes when driving places, driving at different times to avoid traffic, buying things that we really are attracted to and which suit us, instead of things which are trendy or to which we are addicted, exploring the options. I think it is this awareness which leads to creativity in the form of new and exciting products, important social movements, greater environmental protection or more holistic health care. Recognizing the affect that the artificial environment has on us and what we can do to improve it is key if we are to create a sustainable, high-tech world with less inequality and suffering.

Plastic – what are our responsibilities?

Walk into any public building such as a mall, grocery store or movie theater and you will see thousands of products all very beautifully wrapped in shiny multi-coloured plastic packaging. Soft-drink bottles, chocolate bars, yogurt, cereal and even fruit and vegetables wrapped up in plastic. Hard plastic, soft plastic, clear plastic, colourful plastic.

Now, there is no doubt that plastic is one of, if not the most abundant and useful material in the world. I actually don’t know how much of what we see around us would even be possible without plastic – especially in terms of technology such as electronics and transportation. However, most people don’t recycle at home and most businesses don’t recycle. So, there is this massive amount of plastic being generated and most of it is just ending up in a landfill – you know the place where a huge pile of waste is put into the ground? I really don’t know much about the various kinds of plastic but from what i have read it is an extremely long lasting material which brings me to my main point – why do we use an incredibly long lasting material for items that only last a days or a week or two at most? Ice cream, soft drinks, chocolate, cigarettes – all fast moving consumer goods, are all heavily packaged in plastic, yet only last a few days or weeks on the shelves and then a matter of minutes or hours after being consumed. The packaging is then thrown into the trash.

My responsibility ends here
My responsibility ends here

Many of these product companies show a little man throwing his trash so responsibly into a bin on the packaging of their products- where do they think this is actually going? Do they care at all if the packaging that they create in such enormous quantities ends up in a landfill, a river or on the streets? Once the sale is done do they care? Should they care?

I believe that any company which creates something which is going to be around for decades or centuries has the responsibility to care about what happens to it after the sale is over. I suppose it’s just part of our short-sighted money driven culture  – to not know or care what happens once the money is in the bank. But when the landfills are over-flowing (already happening in Johannesburg – seen it with my own eyes), what are we going to do about it? Some companies are now adding information about what the packaging is made from and encouraging consumers to recycle, which is good. Some retailers even have recycling bins outside their stores. Personally, I try to stay away from items packaged in plastic (not always possible). If unavoidable, I separate and recycle everything that I can. If I’m traveling or I can’t keep my empty plastic bottle or wrappers on me until I find a recycling spot, only then will I reluctantly put it into the bin. Even then – making sure the empty container is clean (if possible) ensures that it is recyclable. If the waste company servicing that particular bin happens to separate and recycle then at least that container is averted from ending up in a landfill and the methane which may be generated from rotting food left inside the container is also avoided.

Crazy idea, but I think where possible, the packaging material of products should be inline with the lifespan of the product. So projects like infrastructure, telecommunications, transport – things that will be important for a very long time to come should harness the longevity of plastic, while things like junk food and FMCG products should be forced to use short-term materials or at least biodegradable materials due to the massive quantities they are produced in and their very short life spans.

I think we will see far more biodegradable packaging in the near future and I hope companies which produce large volumes of plastic begin to think about the unnecessary impact they are having on the environment. Hopefully there will also be tighter regulations on the production of these materials. Thanks for reading!