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Anxiety and Meditation

island

Photo by Sébastien Jermer on Unsplash

A few years ago I started regular daily meditation when I was dealing with a stressful situation. As my stressful situation involved another person I will need be a little creative in the telling of the story…

This is a true story but the names (and circumstances and my ownership of an island…) have been changed to protect the innocent.

I own an island in the Pacific Ocean. Yes, I do and it’s called Tapioca. Yes, it’s a beautiful island and yes the weather there is always sunny. Except when it’s raining, torrentially. I have always loved going there for little holidays and I have always loved coming home at the end of my little holidays. My island has taught me that you can have too much of a good thing. Anyways, this story is about the time my island’s volcano started to rumble. As I own the island I also own the volcano so I am responsible for any damage my volcano does. As soon as I could I flew to Tapioca to see how I might be able to minimise the damage.

caitlin-wynne-462953Photo by Caitlin Wynne on Unsplash

Having a plan always makes me feel less stressed so I was very calm on my arrival. And I continued to be calm for about ten minutes. My anxiety was due to my proximity to a stress producing situation combined with an inability to control said stress producing situation.

The volcano seemed itself to be stressed, otherwise why would it be rumbling? When my volcano seemed stressed I lapsed into an old pattern from childhood of become stressed. It’s a very unproductive stress as there isn’t anything you can do to change the situation. The only thing that helps is to move away from the stress… but that wasn’t possible. You see I would have to spend a lot of time on Tapioca, until the rumbling stopped. I knew I couldn’t do this without help. So I bought some wine. Not my best idea. It turned out meditation was much better than wine and it had the added advantage – no hangover.

Four months later the volcano had stopped rumbling and I could leave the island. Moving away from Tapioca decreased my stress immediately and I let the daily meditation habit slip to every other day. Within a week I had stopped completely. There was a period of grace where the meditation I had already done over the previous months keep me going then slowly but surely the good effects faded.

mandy-beerley-154518Photo by Mandy Beerley on Unsplash

Then last September the volcano on Tapioca started rumbling again. This time not only was the main volcano rumbling but two other, previously dormant, volcanos started to spit lava. The news had hardly reached my ears when I started to get anxious. My mind told me such fearful and strange stories that I was constantly on hight alert. The anxiety was kinda undirected because in the intervening years I had set up a management committee and a technologically futuristic warning system. These measures ensured that no damage would be done by the volcano. There was nothing for me to be anxious about and yet I was filled with dread. I started drinking the wine but the hangover told me this wasn’t the solution. So I returned to meditation.

Today, I’m up to 70 consecutive days and feeling very happy with myself. I’m happy because I am experiencing very little anxiety. I’m even happier because I am doing something every day that is good for me. The volcano continues to rumble and the two newly active volcanos continue to spit lava… but I am fine. I decided I didn’t need to visit Tapioca quite so regularly and when I do visit and the rumblings ignite my anxiety, I remind myself that this will pass and it does.

Anyone interested in a Pacific island? At a bargain price?

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I don't fit in, mindfulness, Stories we Live

“I’m not creative enough” is a lie

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It takes an unbiased observer to see the lie of an old story.

I’m not creative enough” is a lie. “I’m not smart enough” is a lie. “I’m not good enough” is a lie. We have lots of lying old stories…

Let me tell you a new story… Once upon a time there were two brothers Bobby and Gerry. Bobby had blue eyes and Gerry had green. The brothers grew up in Ballygorm, a land where blue eyes were favoured. In school the blue-eyed boys were loved. In business the blue eyed boys were promoted. In church the blue eyed boys were made bishops! All his life Gerry felt hurt by this situation and when he was 16 he decided enough was enough and he would have to do something about it.

marek-szturc-389785Photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash

He went off to find a better place, where green eyes received the recognition they deserved. He travelled far and eventually came to a land called Greenland where green eyes were king.  He felt like he was home, now he could be accepted at school for who he was and he could look forward to a future where he could be successful in business and maybe even become a bishop!

Three weeks passed and life was good until one day at school, in Greenland, Gerry witnessed the teacher treating a blue-eyed boy in the way Gerry had been treated at his old school, in Ballygorm. This had a big effect on Gerry. Although he didn’t understand yet why. The following day Gerry went out of his way to talk with the blue eyed boy, who was called Benny. It was unusual for green-eyed boys to fraternize with blue eyed boys in Greenland but something made Gerry want to get to know Benny. At first Benny was suspicious but he soon relaxed and told Gerry about his life and the things he loved and the things he hated. And Gerry began to notice that the two boys had more in common than they had differences. That’s when Gerry started to feel homesick. He missed his brother Bobby and he even missed school. Maybe it was time to go home.

jordan-whitfield-107094Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

That very night Gerry had a dream. He was watching TV in his dream and the Ellen DeGeneres show was on. She was talking about a new kind of contact lenses that could change the colour of your eyes while you were wearing them and in the dream Ellen came out of the TV and gave Gerry some blue contact lenses. When Gerry got up in the morning there beside his pillow were Ellen’s contact lenses!

Something of a plan started to bubble up in Gerry’s brain. A business plan! A shop that sold green contact lenses in Greenland. And a shop in Ballygorm that sold blue contact lenses. Gerry became a huge success in both lands and even gave up on his dream of becoming a bishop!

 

What’s your lying old story? Are you not creative enough? Or smart enough? Are your eyes not blue enough? What is the correct eye colour? Or the correct amount of creative? Or the correct amount of intelligence? Or the correct career? Or the correct opinion? Or the correct lifestyle? Or the correct…? Don’t bother… there isn’t one. But there is a way you want to live. A way that is correct for YOU.

What is the way YOU want to be living? And are you willing to let go of your lying old stories?

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Stress Free Christmas Gift Shopping…

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(Christmas tree decorations… work in progress)

Is it too soon to be talking about Christmas? This isn’t really about Christmas. It’s about making time for making stuff… and it’s never too soon to talk about making stuff, right? It’s also about reducing stress.

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(Love buttons)

A few years ago Linda and I learned something important about making stuff: Motivation plus deadline makes it easier. At the time our motivation was a Christmas Craft Fair. We had booked a stall and we needed to fill it! And fill it we did. Along with another friend, Liezel, we filled our stall with ceramics, hand printed tea towels and framed quilling (paper pictures). It was a great experience, lots of fun, lots of learning and lots of exhaustion!

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(Paper sunshine)

If you have a really good reason to make something, ceramics, tea towels, paper products, whatever, you’ll be compelled to begin making. And, if you have a deadline, you’ll be compelled to keep going. That’s what happened. We kinda got pulled along by the process and we made a shedload of stuff.

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(Piggybank tails…)

In the absence of a booked table at a craft fair there is something else, just as motivational… At the moment we are in the process of making our Christmas gifts! We have a really good motivational reason… It’s Christmas, we need gifts and we have one enormous deadline… 25th December!

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(…and tweety bowls)

This is the first day of December, if you could choose how to spend these twenty-something days before Christmas, what would you choose?

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Creativity For Stress Reduction

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

There I was stressing out over this post about stress and creativity… In spite of knowing that crafting or journaling or knitting or painting or drawing or doodling (or any creating) makes me feel calm I still have a habit of digging my heels in and pushing through the stress. Until the point where I am overwhelmed and I have a little tea and biscuit break. Then last week Linda charged me with searching for proof from science that being creative, even for short periods, can reduce stress. If I could also find proof that it didn’t matter how perfect the resulting creation was that would be a bonus.

Of course we know it’s true, right? Every time we sit at the table to create… we feel calm – but maybe we’re biased or maybe we’re odd? Turns out we’re right and there’s a scientific study…

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… by Girija Kaimal, Kendra Ray and Juan Muinz of Drexel University. “Results indicate that art making resulted in statistically significant lowering of cortisol levels”, they say. The Huffington Post read the same study and picks out this quote, “45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress in the body, regardless of artistic experience or talent.”

Lets get this straight… Making stuff, no matter what it is, no matter what it looks like, no matter how good you are at making it… lowers your cortisol. Stress raises cortisol levels in your body and too much cortisol is bad for you. Art making (any kind of art, any kind of making) lowers cortisol levels. Therefore Creativity is a kind of antidote to stress. Therefore Creativity is good for you! And here’s the bonus: it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re any good!

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(My stress relief kit)

So…If you want to reduce your stress, start including creativity and art making into your life. Come along to our workshop Creativity for Stress Reduction on the 3rd of February 2018 in Glendalough Co. Wicklow and we’ll show you how. We’ll be crafting for the joy of it and reducing stress along the way. We’ll share ways to keep you creating long after the workshop, so that when you feel your cortisol levels rising you’ll know how to reach for the art supplies!

Call me (Mairead) on 086 827 2332 or Linda on 087 269 4954 or email us.

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I wonder why…

 

Sometimes in the days coming up to a workshop I (Mairead) wonder why I do this. This scary thing of standing out in front of people and being real, being vulnerable. Why do I put myself through the torture… Not real torture, not physical torture, but a mind-constructed torture. My mind continuously telling me, it’s not going to go well… what if you forget something? …what if they hate it? …what if.. what if…

But what if I remember to be mindful? To be still, to be quiet? Then I would find a space, where I could sit for a moment and do nothing but allow the thoughts to come and go. I would feel my feet on the ground. I would feel my chest rising and falling. I would listen to the birds singing in the trees and I would start to smile at my thoughts. They are not me, they are my old thoughts trying to protect me, to keep me safe.

And I smile because now it’s my turn to keep me safe, keep me safe from these old thoughts! I find a space… for a moment I feel the ground under my feet, I feel my chest rising and falling, I hear the birds singing in the trees and I no longer wonder why I do this scary thing.

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What is it like to be still?

 

Do I know what it’s like be agitated? Yes. Do I know what it’s like to be anxious? Yes. Do I know what it’s like to be angry? Definitely.

But do I know what it’s like to be still? Do you?

Your body and mind know how to be still but often they don’t get a chance to practice stillness or quietness. Take a moment, now…. Feel your feet flat on the ground and listen for a sound, any sound, outside of yourself, then take a breath in.

There is no wrong way to do it… but depending on our beliefs we may believe we got it wrong or other people do it better or this is way, way too complicated. Maybe you could try it again…Feel your feet flat on the ground and listen for a sound, any sound, outside of yourself, then take a breath in. There is no judgement of stillness. You did it and it was fine. That’s mindfulness.

If you would like to spend a day practicing mindfulness and doing some crafting (no you don’t need any creative skills) contact Linda (087 269 4954) or Mairead (086 827 2332).