Insight Timer for meditation

Getting into a routine for meditation can be tricky and then there is being able to sit without looking at the clock every 2 min to see if you are done yet. I found myself wondering when 10 minutes was up and it would get in the way of me trying to clear my head. One of my meditation teachers suggested using Insight Timer. It’s an app for meditation. At first I didn’t like the idea since to me meditation should be tech free right? But this was actually ok – just enough tech to be helpful and not distracting.

Reasons I like Insight Timer:

  • You can set the time for as short or long as you’d like
  • Pick which kind of bowl or bell sound you want to ring you in and out
  • They also have great guided meditations available incase you are in the mood for some guidance instead of just silence
  • It keeps track of how often you meditate so you can get an idea of your habits, timing etc.
  • It shows how many other people are meditating at the same time as you which is cool – like a virtual sangha ( community)

The app is free but if you want the version that has all the features you can upgrade for a few bucks. I think it’s worth it. Incase you are wondering no I don’t have any connection to them – I just really like the app! And I like sharing good things that help people. So enjoy!

Check it out here    or in your app store

 

xo Jasmin

 

 

Mindfulness can help manage your stress and anxiety

I wrote a guest post for Rethink Breast Cancer’s blog this week. The post offers some tips and info about mindfulness and how it can help with stress and anxiety. Rethink Breast Cancer is a charity that offers support to young women living with breast cancer.

Click here to read the post.

I am a big fan of mindfulness because it is such a powerful self care tool for living with a chronic illness of any kind, stress, fatigue, anxiety and the list goes on. It’s something that you can do for yourself to help your own healing journey.

xo

Exploring the present moment

In May I was lucky enough to attend a weekend retreat at Omega with Pema Chodron. She is an American Buddhist nun and meditation master. She has written many books about dealing with fear, pain and uncertainty in everyday life. She teaches on how to cultivate acceptance and compassion for yourself, others and the world around you.

I was so excited leading up to it. I didn’t really know what to expect. Of course she was amazing, even in a room of 500 people her energy totally set the tone and could be felt throughout the entire space. 

We dove in to the idea of touching the present moment. That in fact was the title and theme of the entire weekend.  She covered a lot of material and this blog post would be way too long if I did them all. So for this month I picked the concept of labelling and being present. The concept of ‘labelling’ is universal. We all do it.  I feel that it applies to so many things in my life.

The teaching explores the fact that we all label things as soon as they are happening to us, sometimes before they even start to happen. We label people, events and experiences and then we fixate on them as a way to keep control of our lives and resist change – even though change is inevitable.

A quick example: We meet someone new and based on the way they look, a few things that they say or what we may have heard about them, our mind creates a label of who we think that person is  or what their intentions are. We stick that label on the person and then it becomes very hard to take it off. We do this with new people and we do it with people who have been in our lives for a long time. Sometimes we do it to those we love even more. We also do it to ourselves when we say things like “ I could never do that” or “I’m not good enough for that”. Or we label situations too like “today is going to be awful, I hate going to that place”. In a way we have already set the stage by giving a label to something that hasn’t even happened yet.

Once we have labelled something we tend to put it in a box and not allow it any room to change. For example “ She always does that” or “ I won’t even bother because he doesn’t care”. Then instead of seeing that person, place or event as fresh and new each time, we see it through the lens of our label. That is ok, that is human, we all do it. However our labels keep us rigid, the more we want control of our lives the more we use our labels, the more tight and wound up and fixed we become.

Over the weekend Pema was asking us to look at this process and think of how our labels can make us like hard like ice. She challenged us to try and find the water in the ice. Try and become aware of when we start to label and then instead of letting ourselves become rigid and wrapped up in how we think things should be, explore becoming fluid instead.  Notice when it is happening, become aware, then allow yourself to be in the moment to see what is truly in front of you instead of the concept you have set in your mind about it from previous experience.

“ You need to be present with yourself and not give yourself a fixed label. Our stress comes from having a fixed idea of ourselves and how we want things to go.”  – Pema Chodron

So what do we do with this?

Being mindful and returning to the present moment as often as you can is a really good place to start the process of becoming more fluid, more open to what is truly happening around you. Once you become more open and caring towards yourself it becomes easier to start doing the same for others.

“Feel tenderness for your human-ness and everyone else’s human-ness” – Pema Chodron

Try experimenting with the idea of letting yourself and others exist in open space. Space that is full of possibility and empty of judgement and pre conceived notions. It’s not easy to do. It really is a practice that we can work on every day, several times a day. The more you pause to be aware of the present moment the more you get out of the story in your head and into the reality of life around you. Meditation is one of the best ways to find space within you.

 In addition to sitting down and meditating here are 3 quick, simple ways to get into the present moment:

  1. When you feel yourself getting worked up – stop whatever you are doing and go look at the sky.  Enjoy that sense of spaciousness all around you.
  2. Use your breath – stop what you are doing and just take 3 slow, deep breaths. Repeat as often as needed.
  3. Look around the room you are in and try to see 2 things that you have never noticed before. Using a beginners mind. 

I have been playing with this concept ever since the retreat weekend. Some days are easier than others but the more I do it the more I love it.  When I feel myself getting worked up or starting to label so I can keep things in a box and under control, I just pause and breathe, even for a moment, in awareness. I give myself some space.  I try to be a little more fluid, a little less rigid and see the world without my agenda overlapping it. It is a work in progress and it gets pretty interesting once you start to notice your emotional habits.

Life will always be full of wonderful experiences and incredibly difficult ones. That is just how life works. Change really is inevitable. Having a few tools in my back pocket to ride those waves instead of resisting them seems to be making a difference in my life. It feels like a good start. Thanks Pema.

 

Radiation and Meditation

When I had my first spinal radiation treatment I realized I might be a tiny bit claustrophobic. Having a  plastic mask molded to your face and chest and then clipped on  tight so that you don’t move a millimetre  can feel incredibly restrictive.They do it because they need to you stay perfectly still and be able to mark exactly where the beam goes. I get it. The mask is important, but it still took some getting used to.

The first time they clamped me in I started getting anxious and could feel my heart racing. It was uncomfortable and felt like the longest 20 min in my life. Afterwards I had a headache and was tired and just felt awful – mostly I think from the stress surrounding it. I had 9 more days of it so I needed to find a better way to get through .

The next session I started to panic again and then I  decided to start deep breathing. Things started to calm down. Then I  added a mantra ‘Sat Nam’. I started repeating it on each inhale and exhale. It was a mantra I knew but didn’t  fully know what it meant. Wow did it work. My entire body felt at calm and peaceful within minutes. My heart stopped racing and my jaw relaxed. The 20 min session seemed to pass in what felt like 2 min. It was amazing. Meditation was my salvation during this incredibly uncomfortable and stressful situation. It worked on the spot, right away, just like that.

That night I went home and looked up the meaning of Sat Nam. There were many interpretations and  they all shared the theme of  ‘truth’

Truth within – I am the truth – My true self – Universal truth – Bowing to the truth – Be your authentic self – We are all one

It reminded me of who I really am at my core. It gave me strength  to look straight at the truth of the moment and accept it. It made me feel connected to my life and to the universe.

Two years ago I had radiation for breast cancer and afterwards my skin was pretty tender but overall recovery was not too bad. So I walked into this round thinking it would be the same. I was wrong. They told me I might  have fatigue, get a sore throat and some back soreness. In my case that was an understatement.

A more true description would be:

‘Your throat will swell up so much and feel so burnt, kinda like swallowing shards of glass, knives and fire all at once. You will be unable to eat any solid foods for 16 days, and barely squeeze down liquids. You will lose 10 pounds, be unable to sleep from discomfort and basically lose your mind temporarily from hunger and exhaustion. Oh and you will do that while on medication that is putting you into menopause, with a sore neck from surgery  all while being a mother to two little girls.’

It was not fun.

I got a little desperate by about day nine as the pain, hunger and lack of sleep took over.  There were many tears, and then I thought of my mantra ‘Sat Nam’ . I tried my best to sneak in meditation whenever I could. It didn’t  make the pain go away but it relaxed the rest of me and reminded me that I could do this.

I can now eat solid foods again and have started sleeping again too! Food has never tasted so good and my body is getting stronger again. Things are looking up. It just took a little longer than I expected.

In addition to meditation here are a few other quick tips for getting through radiation:

  •  rest when you need too
  • take good care of your skin
  •  eat well when you have an appetite and whatever you can get down when you don’t
  •  tell your rads team if you have any pain or weird symptoms so they can try and help you – keep asking until you get some kind of help 
  •  if you can’t swallow solid foods try smoothies, green juices, protein shakes and yogurt
  • once you are done radiation both calendula cream and pure aloe vera are soothing and help the skin heal
  • protect that delicate skin from the sun at all times – cover up
  •  find someone you can talk to, either a friend or a counsellor. Someone you can talk to  about how you are feeling both – being heard is very healing.
  • be patient ( this was a tough one for me) your skin will heal up and your energy will come back
If you ( or someone you know)  is having a hard time with any part of treatment you might want to try meditation. If you already know how to do it just jump right in. If you don’t there are several wonderful courses offered at Wellspring and also at most yoga studios and even online. Find the type of mediation that works for you and give it a try. You will be pleasantly surprised at how it can help.
Sat Nam
Jasmin
xo

 

 

Restoring your third eye and crown chakras

This week we are completing our chakra series with the final two chakras at the top of our energy channel , the third eye and  crown chakras. Both of these chakras are associated with our spiritual side, our connection to our true self and to the universe.

The third eye is all about truly seeing what is around you and using your intuition to guide you. Growing up most of us are not taught how to use our intuition or to think along the lines of what exists beyond what we can physically see with our eyes. The Third Eye chakra also known in Sanskrit as “AJNA” which means to perceive, is about intuition, clairvoyance, dream images and visualization. Different schools of thought place it at slightly different places on the head but the general area is the forehead between  the eyes. The crown chakra is sometimes called the thousand petaled lotus and is said to be your connection point to universal energy and divine intelligence. The lotus that blossoms right at the crown of your head still needs to keep it’s roots connected to the earth and that is why each chakra point is intertwined from your root all the way up to your crown. Together they form a full and complex energetic system that is said to exist in all of us.

Lotus

Some signs that you might  have a blocked energy in your third eye or crown chakras:  nightmares, difficulty concentrating, headaches, vision problems, trouble finding focus in terms of your path in life, poor memory,confusion, depression

When you have good energy flow in the third eye chakra and crown chakras: keen sense of intuition, easily recall your dreams and have clarity around their meanings, imaginative, perceptive, open minded, spiritually connected

Take a moment and try this quick exercise to refresh tired eyes:

Five tips to help revitalize the energy in your brilliantly powerful third eye and crown chakras:
  1.  Keep  a dream journal – keep a notebook by your bedside and when you wake up in the morning take a moment to jot down your dreams, even if you only remember fragments of them. Later in the day review what you wrote looking for themes or symbols that might make sense to you. Over the week you may find that certain recurring themes appear.
  2. Create art to stimulate your visual and thinking process and tap into your intuition. It can be anything that resonates with you, drawing, painting, crafting
  3. Yoga poses to stimulate the Third Eye and Crown: Forward Bend to soothe your mind and Savasana to help you connect to the earth and open all the chakras at the same time
  4. Essential Oils that create balance and promote connection to your higher chakras: Jasmin, Patchouli, Vetiver
  5. Meditation is a very powerful healing tool, it’s like a shower for your mind – you can start with even a few minutes a day and increase from there
The chakra system is a wonderful tool for boosting energy, smoothing out our emotional landscape and bringing healing into areas of your life that need a little TLC.

Over the past few months we have just touched the surface of what each chakra is about. If you are interested in learning more check out some of my favourite  books about the Chakras. If there are any other books on the Chakras that you really like please let us know in the comment section below.

Some of my faves:

Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing

Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System As a Path to the Self

Wheels of Light: Chakras, Auras, and the Healing Energy of the Body

Take Care,

Jasmin

Balancing Your Root Chakra

I am so excited to be taking this trip through the chakras with you. It is a healing system that has made such a huge difference for me in understanding the connection between my body, my emotions, and my spirit. It is a system that makes sense to me and is simple, yet powerful.

This week we are talking about the ROOT CHAKRA also known in Sanskrit as MULADHARA CHAKRA. You can find your root chakra at the very base of your spine  at the coccyx and perineum area.

Roots from Yogananda's Gardens

The root chakra is about the feeling of belonging,  being grounded and safe. It connects you to your tribe, your ancestry, your family and even to the earth itself. It is the starting point and the place from where your personality starts to evolve.  It is on this plane that ideas become reality. The root chakra is the first one in the energetic line and it needs to be balanced in order for the other chakras to function properly.

How does it play out in your body and mind?

  •  When balanced it supports:  stability, good health, ability to relax, sense of trust, prosperity and sense of security.
  • When deficient or malfunctioning it can manifest as: fear of change, physical issues of the bowel, feet or legs, eating disorders, frequent illness, anxiety and restlessness, overeating, poor focus and feeling sluggish

It can be knocked out of balance from any number of traumas, big or small. Surgery,  major illness, physical violence, abandonment, neglect or abuse at any point in your life can affect the energy in your root chakra. I went for a reiki session this week and my therapist sensed that the surgery I had has affected my root chakra and my ability to really get grounded. So I am working on that. I am finding it hard to take deep breaths and that can  make it hard to really draw energy all the way down my spine where I need it to go.

So how can we balance the root chakra?

Here are a few healing tips to try:

  • Start with this mini breathing meditation:

 

  • Breathe: find a comfortable sitting position, close your eyes and focus on your breath. With each inhalation allow your breath to travel all the way down your spine to your tailbone. Envision breathing some red energy down the spine to the tailbone filling the area with red healing light. Repeat the spinal breath for 2- 5 minutes.
  • Ground yourself to the earth. There are many ways to do this. One simple way is to  place your feet firmly on the ground ( outside is best if you can) and feel the connection from your legs and feet to the earth, even jump up and down a few times to direct the prana down to your feet. Go for a walk being aware of every step you take and feel the support of the earth beneath you.
  • Do Yoga. Try a hatha class and really focus on breathing down your spine into your tailbone, perineum area. If you don’t have time for a full class just try a few poses at home during your day. Warrior 2 and Bridge pose are two of many poses that help restore energy in your root chakra.
  • Play with the colour red. Wear red clothing, meditate on bringing red energy down the spine into your tailbone area, eat red foods. Red energizes the root chakra.
  • Try some daily affirmations for grounding:   I am here and I am real.  I belong.  I trust in myself and those around me.  The earth supports me.  I trust in my own body and it’s ability to heal and support me. 
  • Essential Oils to help ground your energy: vetiver, patchouli and  benzoin are all base note oils that you can inhale to help you feel grounded and centered.
  • Find a good reiki  or energy healing practitioner who can do an assessment and balancing session with you.  This is great way to get a sense of  all your chakras and  an idea of where you are in or out of balance. They can help get the energy moving for you and then you can continue on your own through yoga, mediation and breath work. 
If you have found any other ways to balance your chakras I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.
Next week we will take a look at the Sacral Chakra, the centre of feelings and creation.

If you are inspired to learn more check out another one of my favourite books about the chakra system –  Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System As a Path to the Self