Monday, 29 November 2010

Every day, Nirvana

My 3G connection failed - as it regularly does - on my walk to work this morning, interrupting my joy at listening to a Tubular Bells/Christina Aguilera mash-up on YouTube. Unenthused with most of the music on my iPhone at the moment, I put on a meditation recording.

Instantly I was whisked away from the cold, the traffic and my fellow commuters, and the soothing voice took me up and away to a higher place where I started to feel untouchable. I felt surprisingly relaxed very quickly and was beginning to feel connected when suddenly the voice was cut off and my phone started ringing into my earphones. Urgh. It was the estate office where I live so I figured it could be important - was my flat flooded or on fire? Reluctantly I answered it. When am I going to pick up the parcel that was delivered last week? So, not even slightly important. How irritating to have been grabbed from my path to Nirvana and thrust onto the concrete plaza in front of Canary Wharf station.

Not that the estate office shouldn't have made the call, they're just trying to clear some space for the inevitable rush of Christmas deliveries. But the point of the today's rambling is that this just made me realise how much I need to be away from what is increasingly appearing to me to be pointless, banal crap.

It's not that my life is stressful, oh no, far from it. I've got it pretty easy at the moment, things are going well for me, I have nothing whatsoever to complain about. It's just that I feel the urge, the need, to be in a higher place. I'm starting to see a lot of stuff that goes on around me as truly worthless. Not that I'm coming from a negative place; I'm certainly not seeing things from a depressive perspective, and I don't feel at all jaded. Just a lot of things I once took as red and never questioned seem so superficial to me now.

Seven years ago before I moved to London I stared at the ceiling above my bed and said out loud to myself, "There has got to be more to life than this." And I found that there was. I removed myself from the Northern town I lived in and discovered the exciting metropolis that is London. I've travelled and partied, met some incredible people and done and seen things I'd never imagined I would or could. And I'm still discovering and learning and it's still exciting and I do still love it, I really do. But in parallel to that I find half of me in a similar headspace to seven years ago, only a step up, if you like.

I need to connect with our life force and I need to be around people who understand this. I don't mean I want a weekend at Centerparcs, I mean I need to get right back to basics, to the very root of what we're made of. I want to be creative and feel I must listen to the voice inside but, I'm struggling to hear what it's saying. But I do know it's speaking.

I'm going to a meditation workshop next week presented by one of the practitioners who introduced me to reiki. I'll use this to help me decide whether I will take the opportunity early next year to cut myself off from the outside world and spend ten days at a meditation centre. I want a piece of Nirvana and I want to be able to access it every day. Only then, I feel, will I be able to hear what my inner voice is telling me.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Can't get no sleep?*

Got a hamster wheel in your head?

Tossing and turning and fidgeting?

Try my strategy for a quick trip to dreamland...

Get up.
Open a window and pull back your bed sheets to cool down your bed.
Fluff your pillow and turn it over.
Have a drink of water.
Go to the loo.
Wash your hands and feet and apply moisturiser.
Shut the window and go back to bed.
Tense up all the muscles in your body one by one and release them.
Envisage drawing a chalk outline on the floor around your body starting and finishing with your head.

I hope it works for you.

*Please don't point out the double-negative in the title; you should know me well enough to realise I'm painfully aware of it. ;o)

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Eternal sunshine

Well, that's it; it's over. Summer has well and truly delivered us her Dear John letter. (Don't worry, she'll be back in a few months' time, she's fickle like that.) Clocks have gone back and we go everywhere in the dark. No more festivals, barbecues or going to the pub without your big coat on: boohoo: rubbish.

It's no wonder so many suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I don't know about you but the thought of going out in the dark and miserable weather is more than enough to make me want to hibernate in the duvet and eat mashed potato sandwiches. But although slowing the pace a bit for the winter months is inevitable, unless we have the luxury of b*ggering off to warmer climates for a few months (I don't) we have to grin and bear the sh*tty weather and the dark nights and just get on with it.

So it got me to wondering: what tangible things can we do to ease the transition from Summer into Autumn and Winter?

My friend Susan has a great suggestion: fake tan! You may laugh but when you're feeling a bit fat and miserable from too many evenings tucked up in your duvet scoffing comfort food, seeing what you were born with, in mahogany, is quite a pick-me-up. You'll look slimmer and healthier - yay to that! They do special ones for men now as well, probably the same stuff with less perfume and a really hard name, and sold in penis-shaped bottles.

Make some wardrobe space by packing away your Summer clothes (I put mine in a case under the bed), and dig out your winter clothes. Sort them into outfits with bags, scarves and other accessories, and getting ready to go out into the cold will seem a bit less of a chore - exciting even! Or maybe that's just me. Well, you can try it. I'm not making any promises here.

There's not as much opportunity to get sunshine which, as you know makes us happy, so do your absolute best to go outside at lunchtime, for at least 10 minutes. It will not work through your balaclava so you'll have to take it off.

Keep your pecker up by watching comedy TV or reading funny books. Stay away from anything depressing. Like the news. If anything big happens someone will tell you, I guarantee it.

Over the Summer I always find myself either eating out, or chucking a few salad ingredient together for dinner, and so by the time Autumn comes around I've forgotten how to cook and am horrified at the thought of spending more than 10 minutes in the kitchen. Very tempting to order in junk food or chuck a pizza in the oven, but this cr*ppy food will make us feel worse so pull out your recipe books and re-discover some comforting but healthy winter recipes. Do not be tempted to replace the Summer salads with white carbs - you will be sorry! The free Asda magazine always has some ace recipes that are proper easy and don't contain ingredients you can never find like figs, lemongrass and rocking horse sh*t.

While we're on the subject of cooking, as you'll be spending less time in the beer garden, invite your friends over and cook for them. A great excuse to drink red wine. Someone told me recently they did their own version of "Come dine with me" with a bunch of friends. You'll probably get very p*ssed. You may even win a prize. Or get food poisoning. Bl**dy brilliant!

Alright, there'll be times when you REALLY can't be bothered having people over because it's way too much effort to push the vacuum cleaner round and wear something other than day four pyjamas. On days like this it's more important than ever to connect to stop you getting down, so ring your friends and family. It'll cheer you up a bit, and them. And over the phone they can't smell you or see the piles of washing up.

Relaxing and getting enough sleep in winter is EASY. Bath, book, bed. Simples.

Now this is one I use myself a lot. When I step outside and the wind is blowing and it's drizzling and I realise half way to the bus stop I should have worn different shoes there's a whiny little voice in my head which starts. "I'm freeeeezing!" or "Sh*t my hair, why did I bother?" or "F*ck these f*cking shoes." But then I stop the voice before it continues and turn the message around to something a bit more positive like, "Ah, the boss will probably not realise I'm late." or "Hmm, which flavour coffee shall I have this morning?" or "I actually look really hot in these shoes." It helps to stop a negative downward spiral of thoughts, changes your perspective and plants positive messages which affect mood. It's all good.

EXERCISE (You hoped I'd forgotten, didn't you?)
Oh, I caaaaaan't, I'm tiiiiiired, it's coooooold, I just want to go hooooome. I know. I do, I know. But we still have to do it. I can't tell you what exercise to do, as it's personal to you but you must continue to do it for your well-being. That boost of happy-chemicals makes everything else seem so... pleasant. Force yourself, you'll be glad of it. I schedule my exercise into my paper diary in Sharpie marker so I can't scrub it out. Or if I do you can still sort of see it. Especially if I draw a box around it and block it in. It's really obvious.

So those are my tips for getting us over the Winter months. If you can think of any more feel free to post them up and we can share them with everyone. And we can all skip to work in the sunshine in our heads!!!