Breathing for real happiness – The importance of breathing correctly.

Simply breathing properly can help you during an anxiety attack or depressive episode

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Everything is temporary – everything.

I spent a fair bit of time writing a blog a few weeks ago, which I was quite proud of, it had interesting links and was generally witty. It is gone now. I’m not sure how it happened (most likely because I am an absolute wizz with technology). I felt frustrated for a day and then remembered that nothing is worth holding an attachment to, because everything is temporary. The moment I saw it as a lesson in non-attachment I instantly felt better.

Everything is temporary, which is why I feel perplexed at humanity’s constant battle to hold onto everything. We try to build structures that can’t be destroyed, which is pure craziness because everything is temporary. Obviously, it is an attempt to avoid our own mortality, like all of the the other costly endeavours undertaken by humans. 

Whenever I take my car out onto the road (daily) I find myself considering how preposterous it is that we have built roads out of asphalt in an attempt to defy nature with smooth surfaces on which to travel to our various appointments. Having grown up with this being the norm, possibly it is strange that I think about this every time I drive out of my driveway. The thought is often followed by a sense of entrapment, as I can’t seem to find a viable alternative considering where I live and the fact that I have two small children that I must transport. I could easily digress into a conversation about how I yearn for a time where we were content to be surrounded by our loved ones in family communities and didn’t feel the need to travel around the world on jet planes to be fulfilled… but I won’t.

I look at the buildings on every curb now and wonder how long they are expected to remain. Are they someone’s legacy? Is that what it’s all about? Somebody seeking immortality through their creation of a thing? Gaining control over the population is easier with globalisation, however at the bottom of it all is people’s desire to not die – to be immortal through legacy. Well, even the strongest material will eventually degrade into something unrecognisable; another piece of garbage to clog up the waterways.

Everything in this world must eventually end so there is no point trying to hold onto anything. Nothing. You could seriously list any item that is special to me and I would understand that if it were to be taken away from me that I would have to accept it. I have annoyed people close to me throughout my life because of my lack of attachment to things. I lose a lot of stuff, or accidentally break it, or just give it away – because things don’t mean anything to me. I have some items that represent something I care deeply about but I am not attached to those things, because… they are simply things. It makes no sense to me that a person would put value on a material item that can be broken, lost or stolen. Whatever that item represents is what is important to them, not the lump of seemingly solid particles of mass. 

By trying to build structures and other items that are supposed to be in existence for eternity, we are somehow fulfilling this notion that we can become immortal; which is obviously total nonsense, but it seems to be the way humans are choosing to deal with their mortal coil. Other species don’t contemplate their own death, which is why there was no plastic until modern humans developed. People’s narcissism created the perfect environment for the invention of a material that will never be totally distinguished from the Earth; their legacy, although ultimately negative, lives on and they are known forever. 

I wonder if it’s possible to de-globalise a little, to teach ourselves to be content within our local communities again, and to band together to help one another with raising our families. We must consider the way the Okinawan people live because they are the longest living people on Earth. They hold a deep respect for their elders and include them as an integral part of the community, which is much more conducive to longevity than drugs and botox. Communities like this understand that death is a part of life, which only contributes positively to the people appreciating their lives! 

Understanding that everything is temporary is the underlying value of any truly happy person. They practice non-attachment in every aspect of their lives, which allows them to move with fluidity both physically and emotionally; making them available to experience all that life has without ever getting caught up in drama.

Most people cling to their past in some way, which only hinders their ability to enjoy the present. This is expressed nicely in a book called, The Journeys of Socrates by Dan Millman“Your past does not have to determine your future – yet you carry your history like a bag of stones slung over your shoulders.” And it’s true, most of us do. We become slouched over with the weight of our perceived failures and a desire to have our youth back. If we could only grasp the reality that everything is temporary, then we would have the capacity to give our full attention to the moment that is happening right now! So, this explains why humankind has spent so much time, effort and money on trying to construct structures that will last for eternity (whatever that means); it is an attempt to avoid their own human transience.

During my meditation training, my teacher repeated the word anicca many times in a lesson because it is the underlying force that allows a person to remain seated in silence for long enough to gain an understanding of the benefits of presence. My favourite saying and one that has helped me through all my challenges is, “this too shall pass”, and there is cute story about a king’s search for happiness that is told by many Buddhist teachers to help highlight its importance. All matter, in its essence, is impermanent so there is no point in striving to defy that law at the expense of your peace now.

 

We need to practice mindfulness so that we may acquire a deep understanding of why non-attachment is necessary in every situation in our lives. As we sit without reacting to any sensation that arises, we begin to see that even the pleasant sensations do not last, leaving us open to experience the next sensation and so on. This principle is valid in every aspect of our lives; the bad times end and so do the good times, so there is no point in being attached to either.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we don’t feel emotions during those times. In fact, it is important to allow all emotions to arise, but we feel them without identifying with them, which is difficult. It is especially challenging to allow awareness during a time of strong emotional sensation.  However with regular practice, being able to recognise the state your mind during a situation such as this, your body can learn habits so that it can take over when your mind is freaking out.

It really can happen, with practice!

 

For more information about discovering the techniques that have helped us overcome mental health related suffering, please contact Jasmine on 0481 149 104 or thekindmindgroup@gmail.com.

Mental illness ins’t a phase

If you are like me and live with mental illness, you will know that it never disappears completely, that it’s something that needs to be managed. I actually edited the last sentence to say ‘live with’ instead of ‘suffer from’ because identifying one’s self with being a victim is just another way of perpetuating the positive loop mechanism for a negative feeling. We are entering an age where mental illness is becoming more understood and treatments options are broadening; the way in which you choose to manage it is the most important decision you will make on your journey to living a functioning life.

Yesterday and today have been difficult days for me with respect to my mind state, a lot of which is due to my undulating hormones levels. I have been experiencing both anxiety and depression simultaneously – it’s been a riot. The reason people living with mental illness might seem ‘crazy’ is because there is a genuine struggle to connect the logical mind to the reality of the moment, which is never as catastrophic as we might feel it is in the moment. The ability to process this is impaired and no amount of telling us to calm down will change how we feel during an attack, which is why it is IMPERATIVE that we do the work when we are able to so that we allow our body to step in while our brain is is having it’s melt-down.

During these episodes it is not uncommon to say things or behave in ways that don’t align with our values. I have learned from many years of making these same mistakes that it is necessary to follow this up with an apology. We need to let people know that we are trying our best and need forgiveness and compassion. By no means is this a green light for making excuses, nor is it okay to continue the same behaviours every time we find ourselves in the midst of an episode. We need to let people know that we are doing what we can to keep ourselves on the middle road, yet this needs to backed up with actual work; popping a pill each day and not doing anything else to access the root cause isn’t doing the work. Personally I have chosen not to take medication for several years now because that’s what is best for me. If you are taking medication, you still need to practice self-care to manage your symptoms sufficiently – no excuses!

Asking people to choose compassion and empathy when trying to help us during an attack is important, as it can be incredibly difficult for a person to understand what’s going on if they do not have experiential knowledge. For those of you reading this with a loved one that experiences mental illness, please understand that trying to explain that the way they are acting is ridiculous will only make the situation worse. It is not the time for that kind of intervention. Simply let them know you are there, you are not judging them, and you love them just as they are. If they are open to physical contact then a hug or a back rub can be the most helpful thing you can do; however, never force it upon someone that says no. Personally I love a tight hug when I have a freak out, but many do not!

I mentioned earlier that we can train our bodies to step in when our brains stop functioning properly and I have developed a method that works well for me, but it takes a little while practicing it regularly before it becomes an automatic reflex. When ever I am practicing yoga or seated meditation I always take a deep inhalation when I become aware that my focus has wandered (many times in a session!), which encourages my mind to associate an inhalation with present moment awareness. I have noticed over the last year that when I am off in lala land, my body will autonomously take a deep inhale, my mind then returns, and I realise that I wasn’t paying attention to the moment at hand. This even happens when I am in a state where I need to cry as a release; my inhalation becomes deeper and I am aware of what I am doing. This is a huge deal for me because it allows me then listen to someone if they are trying to help me and also to calm myself down rather than hyperventilating. It even occurs when I am not in a panic but have allowed my focus to be somewhere other than on what I am doing – like driving a car – so, you can see how important it can be.

I highly recommend taking as little as five minutes twice a day to practice this method, longer if you can; before you get out of bed and before you fall asleep is perfect. I guarantee you will see improvements in your life with this simply practice.

 

As I sit here listening to Laura Marling…

I have been feeling a little irritable this week, which is normal as a woman with the cyclical changes and I have gotten used to it. I reach a point each month where I begin to cry and need to lay in my bed for a couple of hours with some cathartic music (tonight it’s the ever talented Laura Marling). I don’t need to be fixed, I just need to know that it’s okay.  I used to try to escape this build up of tension and emotional release because it makes life difficult for those around me, it’s confusing for someone that doesn’t experience it. I had planned on doing the primary series of Ashtanga, but knew I needed rest. I would have avoided this opportunity to sit in discomfort and loss of control if I had practiced, simply because with this mind frame I would have pushed myself into a state of no-feeling, instead of honouring the practice; my intuition told me not to practice and for once I listened. I am pleased with myself for that.

It’s so strange what this change in hormones can do to me. Once upon a time I simply morphed into a fire-breathing dragon and let loose on anyone that got in my way, now I am aware that I am starting to grow scales and try to ride the wave with compassion for myself. It’s okay to be weak for a moment or two, to cry for seemingly no reason and to need to lie down in the foetus position with your son’s teddy.

I must say I attribute some of my growing awareness to the treatments I have received from some very gifted practitioners. They have helped open myself up to trusting my own gut feeling and internal visions so that I can now choose ahimsa every time. Shout out to Kylie and David for your wonderful work.

I am not entirely sure where this blog post is heading but it feels good to write.

I noticed during my asana practice yesterday that I could feel a ball of fear in my solar plexus, yet I couldn’t figure out what it’s cause was. I find it difficult to breathe into my middle lung, which is exactly where the solar plexus resides; my centre of power. My breath naturally goes straight from my lower belly into my upper lung, as if a tight band were secured around my lower ribs and as much as I try to surrender to it’s journey, my mind can’t help but to try and analyse it. Why is the fear here? What am I afraid of? I find myself adding a new tab to the screen and typing the words, ‘restriction in….’ but I stop myself because I know in my heart that Google can’t see inside me. Only I can peer that deep inside to find out the answers to my questions. So there is really only one thing left to do; put the key pad away and sink down into the sensation and let it speak to me, and somehow I already know what the answer is going to be – more love.

All too often we are trying to fix the world’s injustices and find kindness for others that we forget to be kind ourselves, but the truth is: We can’t be genuinely kind to others until we fill up the kindness in ourselves. There will be cracks in the kindness because we can’t give out something we don’t have. I need to fill up my kindness cup so I can be a better person tomorrow; without the fear holding me back from giving non-judgementally and unconditionally.

Have a beautiful weekend ❤

A plea to those considering suicide – My own story of wanting to die and choosing to breathe.

Mental health is never black and white and even when you hit your lowest of lows, know that there is a way out. You CAN find happy again ❤

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How physical pain and failure made me nicer person

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I planned to have a pain free child labour with my first baby and breast feed him until he was at least a couple of years old. I can already hear some of you laughing at the idea… BUT, I had done the reading and watched the beautiful hypno-birthing videos, in which the mothers said they felt no pain, only some pressure. I was convinced that I could achieve this. I also held onto the notion that if I could breast feed then my baby would somehow be the perfect mother, and I wasn’t about to settle for anything less.

It is probably obvious by now that none of my expectations came into fruition.

My birth (both of them, actually) was horrendously painful, in fact, I had no idea that much pain was possible in a person without them dying as a result. Here was my first lesson in humility, and humility is where the niceness is at. When someone is humble, they can’t help but be nice; it is the inevitable result. My next lesson came with the catastrophe that was breast feeding. I won’t go into detail (you can exhale now), suffice it to say however, I failed to have the experience I had been expecting. I simply couldn’t believe that it was all so hard! All of it.

I suddenly stopped judging the mother I saw feeding her baby formula. I no longer believed that women shouldn’t choose to have c-sections or epidurals. I now understood what women everywhere went through; my mother with me and her mother with her. Empathy is a powerful transformational tool. Also, all of this started the process of breaking down the walls that prevented me from loving myself and it’s only when you truly value yourself that you are able to treat people with loving kindness. Actually, as I write this, it becomes blatantly obvious that having self worth and loving yourself is the key to experiencing empathy and so effectively IT is the reason I am a nicer person.

We are only able to see others worth if we first see it in ourselves, isn’t it? (I love how Indian yogi masters say this!) If we cannot recognise that, we ourselves are masterpiece of universal law, then how can we see it in others? We can’t. It is for this reason that people can be cruel to one another, even if they have shared the same experience; the empathy won’t be there unless there is a solid sense of self worth. When I look at my students in class I see such beauty and feel a strong connection to each of them, even if it’s their first time with me. I understand that every person is trying their best no matter what they are able to do during that hour. I began to realise that mat practice (yoga) is the perfect metaphor for life and if I can give these students this level of understanding then why shouldn’t I give this to every person in my life? It became clear to me that I needed to live like I teach, because just like the yoga class students, everyone else in my life (including myself) were doing the best they could, even if it didn’t seem like it at the time.

I still get into heated discussions or become disappointed by a person’s actions, including my own, but these days I deal with it differently. I learn from my mistakes instead of making the same one again and again… and again. I have also learned not to take everything personally, because not everything is about me (which was a real shock to me). I definitely don’t live for drama anymore and I am the happiest I have ever been.

So, how does one know when they love themselves? I knew that I actually finally felt love for myself when I looked inside and I could feel an unwavering sensation of safety, connectedness and joy. This is why my hardest times helped me to build self worth, and have subsequently made me, a nicer person.

 

 

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