Monday, 26 October 2015

My Top Mindfulness Tip to Help You on a Monday

Okay so it is Monday morning, the alarm has gone off and the week is beginning.  How many of us wake with a sense of feeling overwhelmed, overburdened and on the repetitive walking 'travelator' of life?  

As a mindfulness teacher I am often asked for easy tips people can use to help them feel calmer, more in control and less stressed. Monday mornings are a good place to start, setting your week with a good intention, even to practice a little mindfulness is a positive!

So quite simply I use a great practice called Belly Breathing which is a natural way of breathing... and it really is that simple .... have a read through, try it out in the car, before a meeting, on the train, at your desk, before seeing your Ex, whilst the kettle is boiling, in a supermarket queue, on your lunch break ... belly breath with your kids or at work... This little baby is great at anchoring ourselves into a more present moment state of awareness and can help give us respite from repetitive ruminating thoughts and worries.  

Try to practice this as often as possible, write the magic numbers down on post it notes around your home, office or in the car to remind you to practice .... 

Belly Breathing

If you can find a quiet place to sit. Once you’re comfortable, place one palm gently around the area of your navel and the other palm on your chest.  Continue to breathe normally and notice the movements of your hands. Does the hand on your belly move as you breathe in and out? And what about the hand on your chest? Which one moves the most – the hand
on your belly or your chest? If the hand on your chest is moving but not your belly, you are breathing in a shallow way.

By learning belly breathing, you’re likely to feel more relaxed and have more energy, as your body will be fed with more oxygen.  If it helps, think of a baby or a young child breathing, you’ll see that their belly, seems to expand and contract slowly and smoothly as they breathe in and out.

Begin by imagining there is a balloon in your belly….When you breathe in you’re inflating that balloon…. And when you breathe out, that balloon deflates ….. Now breathe in so that you fill the imaginary balloon in your belly as much as possible….Hold your breath for about two seconds and then breathe out as slowly and smoothly as you can using your mouth, as if you are blowing through a straw….. now let your breath be normal and natural again. 

Notice how you feel.  That was one belly breath. It was more exaggerated than a natural belly breath, but this technique helps to engage your relaxation response helping you counteract any feelings of stress.  Just taking one breath in this way can help you to find some relaxation when you are feeling tense.

Now you can try counting as you do a belly breath.  On your next in breath, breathe deeply and smoothly, expanding your belly as you slowly count to four ..1..2..3..4 hold for a count of two .. 1..2.. and now slowly exhale to a count of six 1..2..3..4..5..6 and now breathe as you normally do….just notice how you feel this time….by extending the amount of time you breathe out compared to breathing in, you encourage your body to relax and your mind to calm….Your breath has a direct link to the systems in your body that make you feel relaxed

Belly breaths, send signals to your body that it is safe for you to feel relaxed and at ease. Your blood pressure goes down, your muscles relax and you think in a more positive and creative way.

So the magic numbers to remember are .... 4, 2 and 6 .... easy ....

Notice how you feel now.  Consider how relaxed you feel. Are you more or less relaxed than when you started? If you’re less relaxed, try not to worry or judge yourself as to whether you breathed correctly, if this is the first time you have tried this technique, like everything it comes with a little practice.

Try to use a few belly breaths any time you feel excessively stressed or overwhelmed, to help you feel more calm, relaxed and in control. 

Give yourself permission to belly breathe for 5-10 mins a day for two weeks or so and see what effect it has.

A little mindfulness is better than no mindfulness ... 

Natasha x

**I am very excited that my blog is being updated very shortly with a whole new look and I am currently recording webinars for a course designed to empower, guide and help you through your divorce .... 

Friday, 16 October 2015

Is there shame in crying for 4 hours in the bathroom?

I was told the other day about a well known blogger state side who never presses the Publish button until he is really scared of what he has written. If not scared enough, he goes back in, has a rewrite, then presses the ta dah button. 

So often we get into a comfortable life modus operandi and we pop our 'stuff' on a shelf, kind of out of the way, nevertheless still visible and sometimes uncomfortably THERE. And it kind of got me thinking, have I scared myself recently with what I have written....? Would it still be too painful to share the even darker parts of life, divorce and my mental health? I thought about courage and vulnerability ....

One afternoon, 18 months into my divorce, I hit a mental and emotional wall. It was the middle of the week, the children were at school, life was seemingly OK and there were no obvious signs of distress.  I was in the kitchen making a cup of tea and I just stopped and I began to cry. The really big, full tears, the tears that drop onto your cheeks and splatter their heaviness onto your lips, chin and chest.  They kept on falling and I didn’t know why. My body began to feel very much smaller, I sunk into my frame, shrinking, my shoulders so low, curved protectively inwards and hands felt limp and physically lifeless. 

I looked about me and realised this room was far too big for me to be in, I needed to go somewhere, somewhere small, embryonic, dark.  My bedroom was not the place either and I stumbled around my home as if I had entered a shrinking Wonderland where nothing seemed as it should be.... feeling more and more nothingness. I found a small space, the downstairs loo, the smallest space.  I closed the door on my big eyed, concerned dogs, sank to the floor, knees up to my chest and I really began to cry. I felt the most helpless ever, feeling like I had no strength to do anything, but surrender to the waves of sadness, despair and utter numbness, feelings so unexpectedly engulfing me. I cried for the loss and the sadness, the shame and the anger of divorce. I sobbed out loud, cradling my knees, rocking myself as I would a baby. I                                                                                              

felt the most raw, open and surrendered human I have ever been, like a carcass on an arid desert plateau with a few responsive vultures picking over what was left. I envisaged the sun beating down on me, forcing me to cry, to release and to just be with my emotions and feelings… There was no trigger, I had no clear reasons, no obvious real drama that week or month. I knew divorce weighed heavily, but out of nowhere came this rising of a big black emotional flag and the present moment awareness of 'me' in this ‘state’.   

And then I began to think of the possibility of a nervous breakdown? Could it be that my mental health was not as robust as I had thought it was? What were the triggers for this - exhaustion, balance, stress? Any number of these could be queuing up for the fallout fest going on in my being.  My stomach wanted to wretch, to clear out the emotional detritus, I was eager for escape from the confines of my emotional control freakery, or ‘the holding it together’.  I wanted to sick out, expunge everything, to be clear and vulture cleansed of
whatever I was desperate to release.... So 3 hours later, I still was not ready and I cried some more. I cried for the world, for families torn apart by war, hatred and religious fervour.  I cried for the children who every day who, no matter what, have smiles that reach out and touch us from their beautiful innocent souls and hearts.... I cried until I began to feel a lightness entering into my mind, body and spirit, relinquishing divorce shame, grief and failure tears, all capitulating completely and with abandon that afternoon.

I came to and took the biggest breath of air, I needed space, to go and stand in the garden, to let the rain wash the salty trails off my cheeks, to feel my dog’s noses

nuzzling my palms and breathe new air into myself.  

What I learnt that afternoon was that what ever I was going through was real, human and although I had not understood the last few hours, I knew I was not done yet... I was not done with believing and trusting my inner extraordinary strength. I understood my vulnerability that afternoon, that I was not weak, I was resilient... I had shown my softest underbelly to myself in my surrender and I was still strong enough, whole and alive.

Holding on so tightly to stuff that exists in all of us inside and NOT crying can be exhausting. What I acknowledged and experienced that afternoon was a release that gave me the space. A space to be filled instead with positive change in my well-being, kindness to myself, less judgement and comparison, enabling me to take responsibility for my mental health. So do I have shame writing this blog?  No I don't, it has been liberating... has it taken courage to write it .... yes, very much so.  Am I scared to press the Publish button ...yes, I am human....

With love Natasha

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Divorce Goddess - blog, advice and mentoring: The Art of Mindfully Communicating with your Ex

Divorce Goddess - blog, advice and mentoring: The Art of Mindfully Communicating with your Ex: How  do you go about continuing the relationship with your Ex? Especially if a breakdown in communication itself was a cause of your divo...

The Art of Mindfully Communicating with your Ex

How do you go about continuing the relationship with your Ex? Especially if a breakdown in communication itself was a cause of your divorce. What do you do if you have children together?  Does the end of a relationship with someone who you may no longer love, connect with or even like any more give you the right to behave without a sense of dignity, pride or compassion?  Not one of us can truly take ownership of the mantle of behavioural perfection in a relationship.  

So are you are a good, kind and generous hearted human being or are you some crazy, hate infused, gun wielding (I could go on) pixelated screen monster that ought to be left to the plastic electrical games consoles (Ex-box :))... Visualise yourself as this on screen character – do you really want your Ex seeing you as the visceral chief gamer of more emotional, physical and mental destruction?   Do you want to see yourself as this character? Do you want the beginning of the rest of your life to be shored up under the guise of this confused, scared and frightened person?  How good would it feel to know that you could be strong enough to be respectful, kind and decent not only to yourself but to your Ex too? To leave your bruised, hurting and embarrassed ego at the door of the future relationship in whatever form it becomes thus lending itself to the greater good of all those involved.

So here are a few of my tips to help you mindfully communicate with your Ex:

1.  Your Amazing Grace 
Firstly grace doesn’t hold fair hands with a war mongering, shoot 'em up verbaliser. If you can, try to see yourself serene, calm and in your own protective cool power. If you are up against an angry Ex -  let them have their space to be the fighty one and just see if their attitude changes. It is a strange energy dynamic that happens when you change the energy of your own attitude and outlook, invariably those around you begin to also change. A breathing practise of breathing in for 4, holding for 2 then out slowly for 6, five times worked for me. Feeling and seeing yourself with a sense of calm can help your voice sound and you feel more relaxed, allowing you to pick up the phone, to go meet your Ex or have that necessary Skype conversation.  Trust yourself that you can be the calm person you know you can be.

2.   Preparation and Planning   Have a clear objective about what you both are going to talk about, email each other about subject matter, dates and times. Planning as with all difficult situations gives everyone due time to prepare, to think about what is to be discussed. Point scoring by landing a scenario on your Ex that could have been planned, although at times tempting, is very likely to upset you both and is unhelpful. Although life’s sneaky curve balls happen invariably when we least need them, be mindful that we can’t always keep our meetings or be on time.  As you would with your family, friends or workplace, text, email, even try an apology, rearrange and keep your cool kindly.
3.   Check in with yourself   Get into the habit of embracing the natural mindfulness inherent within you.  Every time, before communicating, get good at checking how you are feeling.  If you are minded to be vitriolic and get on the email then do - write down your thoughts, feelings and frustrations then take that critical step back, even for an hour, the rest of the day or overnight and PARK the written stuff in the Draft Box. Return when you've slept, eaten, not drunk wine and read it again – if it is bad stuff then better you wrote it down, to help clear it, do not feel guilty, just don’t press SEND.  Write your emails to your Ex as if you were writing to yourself, be gentle - you are both going through the ‘stuff’ no matter who is at fault. Our brains can filter differently, but the hurt, shame and sadness still exists on some level. Awareness is the key to mindfully communicating with our Ex, appreciating we are all so different, so read, reread and check again.

4.   Leave the expectations and control freakery alone Realistically controlling your Ex, is going to be about as easy as stopping a brilliant viral video clip.  Just let the talk, the meet and the seeing of your Ex happen, allowing it to be as it is, without negative or positive expectations of any interaction. You know the plan of the meeting, you arrived all prepared, calm and good and if your Ex doesn’t, don’t let the emotional mashup happen, let the "shoulds" just be.  Our automatic pilot of negativity can then send us down the angry mind monkey 101 disappointment dungeon …  There were times at this juncture where I would try so very hard not to swear a lot and I would ask the Universe why is it, with all our good intentions do we end up suddenly in this place? Because, dear beautiful people, this is life.  Acceptance is that we cannot control everything, sometimes letting go is the big one and none more so than when feeling vulnerable, fearful and unsure.

5.  Hearing The Rants. Your Ex doesn’t need to hear your drama. Okay, so leave the cross, ranty married or partner person alone – give yourself permission to not be that person any more! Do you in your most honest heart of hearts think your Ex wants to hear any more complaints or personal 'flea in the ear' grumblings? It’s dull, boring and now needs to not be an option for either of you, it leads to arguments or a closing down and then no talking which is worse ....Your Ex no longer needs to be your emotional crutch, so go shout at the clouds or sun at the top of a big hill, verbally pound a pillow or phone a friend. Not having that shoulder around no matter how much you’ve been hurt is hard – FACT, learning to deal with your drama yourself – now that is empowering. 

6.   Your Well-being  How 'angsty' can we all become, so very easily when we haven’t eaten, are tired and may be with a little alcohol under our belts?  How easy is it to give more thought to negativity that can so naturally flow when we least expect it?  Perhaps the meeting went badly at work, you are stressed about a project, the kids are ill, money is tight and the hot date cancelled....  this is just the stuff mind monkeys prod us with to send our well-intentioned conversations with our Ex ‘red’ side. Picking up the phone in this state feels defiant, the powerhouse ego expands and 5 minutes later your phone call/email has depleted the GOOD WILL pile you are trying so hard to build. Looking after your well-being is so important to our bodies and brains supporting us through these stressed times.  Get your sleep in, nourish yourself with good fresh healthy food, think seriously about the unhelpfuls such as alcohol or smoking. Go exercise, dance in the kitchen, burn off some of that mental energy and find laughter...anywhere.

7.   The drama triangle   Have a look, understand where you are in this, what aspect do you choose to adopt depending on the conversations you are having with your Ex. For me it was a helpful reminder of the roles we can all choose to play depending on how we are feeling at any given time.  So it shows us specific, co-dependent, destructive inter-action patterns, which in the end can have a negative impact our lives and future relationship with our Ex. So depending on how I felt; whether feeling so sorry for myself; being supportive and kind; or just plain cross, I became the Victim, the Rescuer or Persecutor. We can so easily slot into these roles and becoming aware and mindful of this when we are scared, lonely or angry helps identify and break the pattern. This gives us the opportunity to create a healthier relationship with our Ex and with importantly with ourselves.
8.   Remembering your manners   Your Ex, no matter how your mind has fashioned this person since your troubles began, is still and will continue to be part of the fabric of your life, whether you have children or not.  They have been in your life, they ain't going away, the memories may fade but really, will they disappear? Be kind and if not kind be polite... you can do this..... It is OK to say sorry if you are late, if you get upset, to be gracious if they mess up.  Divorce doesn’t have to be about winners and losers any more, but rather working together towards a common good, it is about keeping your cool and with it your balanced lovely head.

8.   Keep it Simple - Literally, the more we add drama and emotional baggage to the divorce pyre the more we keep it burning and the more management it needs, the longer it is going to hang around and the more money it is going to cost.  No matter how scary our futures feel with in most cases the lack of money, housing, savings, fancy handbags if you want and the like, keeping your eye on what matters, what is important and needs to be dealt with is your focus. Learning to be in a different relationship with your Ex is weird, tricky and hard, but what is harder is not trying ….

With love Natasha 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Divorce and Splitting Your Vinyl

'Stuff' in the dictionary amongst other definitions is the material used to pad out a taxidermist's delight... it fills out the skin of a dead animal or bird to restore the original shape and appearance... 

And with this comes the aspect of the 'dead' bit in relationships and the stuff that is bought and collected to keep the marital shell looking as it should. So when we as couples part ways, are we as readily able, with our exciting new lives ahead to allow the shedding of a layer of stuff. A layer which allows us much needed space to grow, breathe and rejuvenate.

Inevitably during separation and divorce there comes that time where you both take a big breath in and decide to take a realistic look at the splitting of your material assets. 

Now generally at this point, the wise choice would be to send any emotional and angry 'Mine' monkeys back as far as, well possibly another galaxy. Splitting the home contents can be tricky territory or it may not ... it kind of depends on how you both choose to draw that material line.  

Whether this line is a firm pen mark drawn definitively and ruleresque down the middle, or a casual pencil wiggle ...or no line and a 'strong with no regrets' walk away from the whole chattel minefield. 

However cool you both are, it can bring up a whole load of buried memories, good times and laughter that can unexpectedly knock you a little sideways. And it is like these 'Mine' monkeys have just crept back in to stir up the proprietorial emotional pot with shared smiles and laughter, still intimate moments that can add to the toughness of the task ahead. 

So when choosing to divvy up your worldly goods, you need to remember this is pretty much a life long decision. You really need to be sure you are not going to live to regret the day you walked or left stuff begrudgingly, because at that certain time you were "going to be fine without it" ... It can just be this little crazy laissez-faire that keeps those resentment monkeys living unhealthily inside your head and heart for years to come. Do we not all know someone who has anguished forever over a rash decision to leave granny's heavy writing bureau? The advice is I guess... when you walk you walk.  

Does padding our lives with "stuff" bear out the basic fundamental human desire to surround and protect yourself with possessions?  In our society we have allowed "stuff" to increasingly define us, our social positioning and something to shop for at the weekend. Stuff sneakily courts and entices enviable recognition, it can place us within the neurotic pecking order of a socio economic group and with it the easy come, easy go material reassurance of life worth.

So these lines we draw whilst sitting in anger, hurt and love? Which do we choose?  Do we choose to punish our Ex through material gain? Do we choose to be guilt free and act with grace?  So what to do? Here is a thought about letting go of all the material stuff you thought ever mattered? Do you trust enough in the Universal Law of Attraction that in letting go, it all comes back as it is supposed to, delivering with it a more altruistic joy?

For sure, especially with children in your lives is it not better to have a little of everything known and familiar to them in each house? But do any of us need the attachment of anger, bitterness and resentment to reside energetically in our future new homes ingrained in pieces of wood, metal or plastic?

That is until the possibility of stuff being taken from you becomes an ever so slightly heavier mantel to bear and you start to grip a little tighter.  Thought processes surrounding 'the stuff' kind of begins with the fears of being able to let go.  The irrational brain throws a garage sale party where everything costs emotionally double and the head monkeys are the security chiefs They aren't letting in any of those free thinking, mindful types and they are just not going to open the door to anyone who wants to play nicely.  

Resistance to handing materialism away is futile, the future of love and happiness versus the big houses, the expensive furniture, cars etc. Stuff hides away happiness, love and freedom and really THIS is the important stuff in life. So is this the time to decide the measure perhaps, of how much we want something? Why does it ultimately matter who keeps what? Where does the line of pride fall?

Nowadays everything linked to technical brilliance can be backed up onto a lofty cloud... the technological age has metered out its positives alone by diminishing the who has what CD or vinyl argument with a little downloading (well OK maybe not the vinyl). A smaller bit of kit to move into your maybe smaller house....  are the days of arguing over vinyl almost gone or maybe that is another blog in itself...  

How many of us would like to think we could be good at managing without the shackles of 'stuff'. That we could all live freely of so much that surrounds us, to live minimally, simply and cathartically cleansing our lives regularly. Sorting through your life accoutrements is a real life lesson in learning to let go of what does not necessarily serve you in your new, exciting and unknown future. 

Natasha x

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