How meditation can benefit you

Stones ocean

Meditation is an amazing technique that anyone can do. If you struggle with stress and anxiety, feel disconnected from yourself, or find that life moves too fast, meditation can help you to slow down and reconnect to yourself. There are as many ways to meditate as there are variations in our weather, and so if you haven’t yet tried it, it’s just a matter of finding a method that works for you.

The very basics of meditation involve bringing your attention to your breath. Focusing on your breath is such a calming activity, that within just a few minutes you can shift from tense and stressed to calm and centred. Ahhhh.  So deceptively simple and game changing.

When you meditate you switch off from the noise and busyness of the outside world and go within, entering a space that has been with you your entire life, but is often not given much credit or attention. This is your inner life: the world of thoughts, emotions and sensations, of your conscious and subconscious mind; and it’s also the place when you can deepen and expand your consciousness and experience deep states of peace.

Bringing your attention inward will gradually reconnect you to the wisdom of your body, which is always giving you somatic clues of sensations, feelings, symptoms and urges that tell you if you are in harmony or disharmony with your environment, your relationships, your job or your identity. When you are living out of alignment with your true nature (your soul), your body lets you know. This skill alone is priceless, because your body always has your back!  It just takes a bit of practice to understand how your body speaks to you, and to differentiate this from the biggest block to listening to yourself: fear of change. So meditation is not only exceptional for reducing stress, it also reconnects you to your body’s intuition and knowing in a way that nothing else will.

A particularly enjoyable and easy way to meditate is within a group.  There is something special about group meditation: the community, the shared energy, the buzz of sitting in deep stillness together. With group meditation, all you have to do is be open to your experience, and you absorb useful techniques and skills that can you can bring to enrich your own practice at home.

If you have ever wondered about how meditation might help you, I will be giving a free talk and guided meditation experience about the benefits of meditation and how it connects you to your body’s wisdom at the Lotus Centre, on Wednesday, 6 May, 7.30 – 8.45 pm. I also run group meditation classes on Monday nights, 7.30 – 9 pm at the Lotus Centre.  If you would like to find out more about this class, or register for the talk on 6 May, please call Laurelle on 0416 172 709 or email laurelle@transformcounselling.com.au

7 compelling reasons to meditate!

7 compelling reasons to meditate!

Would you like to find an effective way to stay calm and centred in stressful situations instead of being hijacked by your emotions? Would you like to understand yourself better? Meditation is excellent for reducing stress levels and enhancing your mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Here are 7 compelling reasons for bringing meditation into your life.

pebbles and stones and water

  1. Meditation helps you to relax and realign

Slowing down, breathing deeply and being still, even for just 5 minutes a day, deeply relaxes and realigns your entire body. The more frequently you practice meditation, the easier you will be able to access a relaxed state just by bringing your awareness to your breath and your body for a couple of minutes a few times throughout your day. This ability is very useful during stressful situations.

  1. Meditation reduces stress

Meditation is a very powerful antidote to stress, because you give your body a chance to take a break from the inner stress response (which for many of us is constantly on) and come back into balance. Given the strong correlation between stress and illness, it’s never been more important to find effective ways to counteract stress for your overall health and well-being.

  1. Meditation brings you into the present moment

Practising being “present” is an excellent skill to learn, as when you bring your awareness into your body and what you are feeling and sensing right now, you realise that most of the time you are anywhere but present: your mind is either imagining future scenarios or replaying past situations. If you are stuck in the future or the past you miss what’s happening right now! So the skill of presence is training yourself to bring your attention to what’s happening right now in your body through your senses, and then you can appreciate and do more with the life that you have.

  1. Meditation helps you to manage your emotions

If you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed or there’s some funky energy in your body, meditation gives you the space and opportunity to process your emotions. Emotions are not meant to stay stuck in your body. When you feel your emotions fully, you can gain insight into what’s really going on for you and the emotions tend to recede.

  1. Meditation connects you to your heart and intuition

Your body has the most extraordinary technology – your emotions are signposts towards how you feel about your life and relationships, your heart knows what’s true for you where it really counts and your intuition is an incredible in-built radar system that mysteriously but masterfully pulls you in the direction of your highest good. These intangible and less understood intelligences are not yet valued in our rational society. But they are amazing and worth tapping into and, best of all, you don’t need to believe in any philosophy or woo woo to use them to your advantage. Meditation is the best way to connect to your heart knowing and intuition, because you have to be very quiet and open to hear what it has to say.

  1. Meditation increases self-awareness and self-knowledge

Spend time with yourself in meditation and you’ll get to know yourself better. With practice in slowing down and focusing your awareness, you’ll start to get occasional glimpses of your habitual responses in your relationships, dysfunctional patterns of behaviour that keep you stuck or in chaos and the limiting beliefs that have been driving you for a lifetime. This is the aim of inner work, as when your previously unconscious patterns become conscious, you can then work on changing them for the better.

  1. Meditation opens you to the sacred in life

Meditation can help you access a state of deep peace, spaciousness and bliss that is as humbling as it is mysterious. There is undoubtedly much more to our consciousness than most people know. When you connect to the deeper parts of yourself in meditation, you realise that you are uniquely independent and interconnected to every person on this planet. Meditation is the ultimate practice for connecting to the sacred, mystical and transcendent elements of life.

The great thing about meditation is there are many different ways to do it and you don’t have to believe in any religious or spiritual philosophy. If you are starting out it’s worth trying a few different methods to find what works best for you. I offer transformative group meditation classes at various times in the Northern Beaches, Sydney. To find out more, please contact laurelle@transformcounselling.com.au.

Announcing new weekly meditation group in Northern Beaches Sydney!

Stones ocean

Forest Meditators is a new weekly meditation group in Oxford Falls (in the Forest and Northern Beaches area of Sydney) open to anyone interested in meditation, self-development and connecting with like-minded people.

Meditation is an increasingly popular life skill that helps you to slow down, relax and become more present to yourself and your life.  It also helps to reduce stress and anxiety, strengthen concentration, intuition and enhance well-being.

Many people find it easier to meditate in a group than alone, and these meditations are guided to help you to relax and not have to worry about the “how”.  Meditation is a life skill that’s about connecting to yourself and becoming more present to your life.  It’s a wonderful practice of self-care.

Suitable for beginners or regular meditators of all ages and stages of life.  You don’t need any special skill to do it!

Please spread the word and share this with anyone who might be interested.

First group starts tomorrow, Wednesday, 5 November at 10 am – 11 am!  They will be held weekly until mid-December.

To RSVP and for more details, please register at http://www.meetup.com/Forest-Meditators/  or email laurelle@transformcounselling.com.au

Hope to see you there!

What to do when you’re facing change

alpha

There is one absolute given in life:

You are continually changing and evolving.  Every. Single. Day.

Yet change isn’t always noticeable from the outside and is even less hard to spot when you’re living a busy 24/7 routine. The inner stirrings of change are subtle, so subtle in fact that months and years can pass before you realise you’re being nudged in a new direction.

It may be that you dislike your job, but you put up with it because it pays well and, at the very least, it’s stable. Or perhaps your children’s emerging independence has freed up your time, but after years of perceiving and meeting everyone else’s needs and desires, you draw a complete blank when it comes to your own. Maybe you no longer feel good about yourself when you’re with certain friends. Or those activities you used to love doing no longer interest you.

If you were heart-stoppingly honest with yourself, you might admit that you simply don’t feel the way you used to. There’s no longer a snug fit between who you are right now and the situation you’re in. Either you’ve changed, or the situation has changed. And that’s OK. Of course it can feel much safer to stay where you are and hope that things will work themselves out. But digging your head in the sand and ignoring your real feelings about situations that aren’t working is, in effect, asking for life to happen to you. It’s a powerless stance, akin to taking a back seat in your own life.

Being in your own power is about sitting in the driver’s seat of your life.

In situations that have stagnated well past their use-by date, it’s likely that a part of you has already jumped ship… or given up, both of which can feel like a kind of deadness inside. There can be a real sense of missing the boat too, fearing that it’s too late for you to change anything.

It’s never too late to change.

Change Painful

Nothing in the natural world stays stagnant. There’s a constant cycle of birth, growth, peak, decline, death and rebirth. And it’s the same with us. We go through cycles in our lives where new aspects of us are born, develop, peak, decline and die. Over and over again.

If you find yourself going through the motions day after day, somewhere deep down you’ll know if this situation isn’t serving or nourishing you. You may feel a great unease in your system whenever you think about it. It’s a sign the wheel of life is turning … something is ending. And there’s something in you aching for new life, for the vibrant you that went into hiding the moment you outgrew the old situation. You just didn’t notice. Until now.

There’s something incredibly empowering about reading your own signals of change and making fresh choices from that place.

If this is where you’re at, you may be feeling some discomfort reading these words. There’s no question that change can be painful and scary. Yet it’s far more painful to allow yourself to wilt on the inside than it is to face the truth of your situation. The possibility for the next part of your life lies ahead of you, in the “yet to happen” space. To open up to what could be, you’ll need to loosen your grip on keeping things the same.

The truth is things are not the same if you no longer feel nourished or connected to them. 

Ultimately your soul loves pleasure. If your life is considerably out of sync with your deeper values and desires, you’re likely to be feeling anything and everything but pleasure. It’s one of the most reliable signs you have at your disposal.

Once you acknowledge and accept the situation for what it is, you’ll be able to make positive changes or let go of what’s no longer serving you and steer your life towards the vibrant aliveness and expanded possibilities that are always available to you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on change below or as always feel free to share x

Why you should pay more attention to your emotions Part 2

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In Part 1 of this post: http://wp.me/p3ckDt-3C, we explored how your emotions hold important information about your current state of wellbeing. So how do you access that inner information when you have spent years avoiding your uncomfortable feelings? Here are some quick tips to start you off: 

Slow down

When you’re all worked up inside, see if you can take 5-10 minutes for yourself where you’re not doing anything. Find somewhere you can be alone so that you can feel into what’s going on for you.

Be in your body

To feel your emotions you have to be in your body. The quickest way to drop into your body is to pay attention to your body’s sensations. A useful starting place is noticing your breath – one minute of paying attention to your breath will bring you into your body pronto!

Don’t think, just feel

Most of us think we are feeling our emotions, but what we’re actually doing is analysing and rationalising them so we can solve the problem with our minds. If you’re trying to work out why you’re feeling the way you do, then you’re actually thinking about your emotions. Having said that, it can be useful to ask yourself why you’re feeling this way, then wait and feel the response in your body rather than with your mind. To extract the guidance from your emotions, you need to feel your feelings, which is a sensory experience, rather than a mental process.

Forget what others said or did; for now the focus is on what’s been triggered in you

Your feelings are about you, no matter how badly someone else has behaved. Even if another person has been the trigger for your distress, ultimately how you feel is your domain and it’s up to you to take responsibility for your feelings.

One way to do this is to get curious about what the other person has triggered in you. Is it fear of rejection, or of not being liked? Is it a lack of respect for you? Were you misunderstood? Or rudely interrupted? Did you feel invisible? Whatever’s coming up for you, once you realise what’s been triggered in you, then you can go a step deeper and sense into what, for example, being rejected or being misunderstood means to you. 

Bring empathy to your inner judge and critic

That persistent inner judge and critic can create havoc in our system, bringing up feelings of shame and unworthiness in situations where we feel vulnerable. Shame is when we feel inherently bad or unworthy of love and belonging. It’s a toxic emotion that’s strongly connected to addiction, depression, anxiety and even suicide. Brené Brown’s work has shown that empathy is the best antidote to shame. If shame is coming up in your emotions, see if you can have some empathy for that part of you that’s feeling unworthy or bad, as it will go a long way to dissipating those nasty shame gremlins. 

Have patience

Above all, be patient with yourself as it can take some time to adjust to this kind of inner attention if you’re not used to it. Yet the rewards are many, including building trust in yourself, inner resilience, strengthening emotional intelligence and learning to sort through what issues are yours and what belongs to others in your relationships. Not to mention the information your system gives you when you pay attention to it!

How do you work with your emotions? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Why you should pay more attention to your emotions Part 1

ImageWhen life isn’t going so well, often our first response is to go into distraction overdrive to avoid feeling our feelings. If, like most people, you dislike the sensation of being angry, frustrated, uncertain, anxious, confused or overwhelmed, in an attempt to get rid of these feelings you might emotionally eat, have a few too many 5 pm wines, or spend all your spare time online or watching TV. Basically, any addictive behaviour that stops you from feeling your inner turmoil can be, let’s be honest, a relief. It’s an habitual way of dealing with uncomfortable emotions that may have served you well in childhood, but now just keep you stuck.

If you try to bury or avoid feeling your feelings, it’s important to know that whatever’s causing you emotional distress doesn’t actually go away. If only! The issue and the intensity of your feelings might dim for a while but rest assured at some point they come back. Always. So to avoid a bigger personal crisis down the track from years of stored emotions, what could you do now to restore some balance in your system and, more importantly, why would you bother going to the effort?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that when you’re in turmoil, and your emotions are intense and uncomfortable, there’s a reason for it. Your body’s trying to tell you something and it’s worth listening. For example, if you’re angry, perhaps you didn’t speak up for yourself with someone, or maybe you were undermined at work. Anger often represents a boundary issue. If you’re feeling sad, perhaps you’re having to let go of something that was important to you. Until you feel into that sadness, you may not even realise just how important it was to you.

Let’s imagine you’ve been in the same job for 5 years and you’ve been happy there. Then one day you wake up and feel differently about your job. You’re frustrated, bored, dissatisfied and restless. If you paid attention to these feelings, it would start to become clear that something needs to change: perhaps it’s time to move on as you’ve outgrown your job, or maybe you need to have a conversation with your boss about making the role more challenging.

If, on the other hand, you ignored these feelings, because your emotions are energy, and they haven’t been felt or expressed, they build up in your system over time and then come out in more disruptive and dysfunctional ways, often when you’re least expecting it. For example, someone says something minor and you lose your temper; or you project all your “stuff” onto someone else making them the problem in your life; or you constantly feel lethargic from all the years of ignoring your body and it’s wearing you out.

As you can see, when you feel your feelings and accept them as being a valid part of your experience, even if you don’t like how they make you feel, they will always give you information about your current reality. They can be a phenomenal source of personal guidance. Sometimes it’s hard to hear that guidance because the truth can be painful. It can take time to come to terms with what it is we need to change in our lives. However change doesn’t always mean ending something; but it does mean that you have genuine needs that deserve to be met.

When you choose to include your emotions in your life, you’ll get to know them for the remarkable guidance system that they are and you’ll start trusting yourself a whole lot more.

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll be giving you some quick tips on how to feel your emotions.

How does your soul speak to you?

There are certain points in your life when your soul begins to make itself known to you.  It’s quite possible to ignore your soul through the first 30 or 40 years of your life, however for many people there comes a time when you discover that your lifestyle or life choices are out of alignment with your soul.

Lighthouse-Prayer

Often this kind of soul awakening comes when you’re at a crossroads in your life. Perhaps for the first time the logical decision doesn’t feel right because your heart isn’t in it.  Or it comes via a crisis that turned your life upside down, changing your reality for good. Sometimes your soul speaks through an underlying sense of disillusionment with life. For many of us, particularly women, it’s the realisation that you don’t know who you are, beneath your smile. You’ve been so caught up looking after everybody else that somewhere along the way you lost sight of yourself.

Soul hints and signs come through in subtle ways not typically understood in our culture.  That’s the confusing part for many of us.  In a culture that values rational intelligence over heart wisdom, it’s no wonder that most of us are (symbolically) cut off at our heads.  The good news is you can learn how to tune into your soul.  You just have to start paying attention in a completely different way to what you expect. It starts with bringing your awareness out of your head and into your body, and suspending all judgment during the process.

At the centre of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want   (Lao Tzu)

Metaphorically, the body is the lighthouse for the soul.  The body constantly gives you subtle hints and tips; it’s their subtle nature that makes them so easy to overlook.  Here are some ways the soul speaks to you:

Through your heart and your emotions: Your emotions are a strong guide of whether you’re aligned with your soul or working against it.  For example, when it comes to decision-making, check how you feel about the choice: If you feel open, excited and expansive, then you’re in alignment.  If you feel closed, anxious, contracted or flat, then you’re off track.

In your body’s overall “sense” of things, eg having a sense of discomfort or uneasiness when you are in a particular situation or with someone.  Listen to that sense – it’s giving you information.

Via your intuition: whether it be an inner prompting, gut feel or flash of insight – all of these provide information on your situation.  Acting on your intuitive hits develops and strengthens the intuitive capacity within you.

Through your dreams:  It’s long been understood that dreams hold the messages of the soul. Over time, the practice of writing down your dreams will expose the patterns and subtle messages held within them.

Through physical symptoms and illness: Here, the body is practically shouting: “Pay Attention!”  The messages don’t get much louder than this.

The best way to hear any of these signs is when you’re silent and away from distractions. But it can also come through in the shower, or whilst exercising or cooking the dinner.  Ultimately, once you start paying attention to your inner senses via the body, you’ll see that you are being drawn out of situations that are no longer serving you and pulled towards situations that will serve who you are now becoming.  And that is the magic of the soul.

 How does your soul speak to you?

I’d love to hear from you.