The Power of Breath

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Tension arises every day – in my yoga asana practice, in my meditation and in my daily life. There are times in yoga that I feel as if I don’t exit this pose right now, my muscles are going to rip apart.  Or in meditation, my mind can take the thread of a thought and in a minute it’s a tangled mess.  In daily life, I can have an unpleasant encounter that causes my stomach to knot and my pulse to race.  But in each of these different areas – physical, mental, emotional – the means to relieve the tension is the same, my breath.  No matter where I am – on my mat, in my car, at my desk – I bring my attention to my breath.  If I really, really focus on my breath, feeling – even seeing – the flow, in and out of my whole body, the relief is immediate. By focusing on my breath, rather than on the point of tension, the muscles soften, the mind disentangles, the pulse slows.  Then once again I remember that I do not have to be governed by my body, my mind or my emotions, but rather than I can be in control through the simple focus on my breath.

I just want to be ..… content

Everyone wants to be happy.  For some, happiness is a state of euphoria or ecstasy, for me, happiness is more a state of contentment or satisfaction.  So, what does the life guidebook (the bible) say about contentment?
1. Contentment is really, really valuable. Paul the apostle writes: “godliness with contentment is great gain”.  Big promo for contentment here; Paul’s aim in life is to teach the importance of God and here he is adding contentment to the mix.
2. Contentment doesn’t come easily to us.  Paul again writes: “I have learned the secret of being content”.  So, contentment is a secret that must be learned.  And, if contentment is really valuable then it must be worthwhile for us to try to learn this secret. So, where do we start?
3. Ditch our love of money.  The writer of Hebrews says : “keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have”. This suggests that loving money is in conflict with being content.  So, instead of loving money (and stuff), love God, love people and be content (happy).

Buying a suit is a nightmare

I’ve decided to buy a suit.  Why?  Well after renting a suit for a wedding earlier this year and now needing a suit for another wedding, I’ve concluded that it makes financial sense to buy a suit, as long as it’s casual enough to be used more than twice a year.

So, easy financial decision, just go buy a casual suit, right?  Well, maybe financial sense doesn’t equate to emotional sense, because, in my whole life, I don’t remember buying anything being this difficult.  Maybe it’s because deep down I don’t really want to own a suit, but I just can’t seem to find anything that makes me want to part with my money.  If it was outdoor clothing or a travel item, one hour on the internet and whatever I needed would be on its way to me.  But after visits to numerous shops and hours online, my head is spinning and I’m no closer to finding the suit I need.  Every suit seems to be either for heavy tweed for old men, bland grey for office workers or designer skinny for teenage boys.

This kind of shopping stress just reminds me why I love a simple, minimalist lifestyle.  So in the end, I might ignore financial sense, rent another boring suit, and save the space in my rucksack for a something much more useful.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first year

21st Aug. One year ago I completed the sale of my house, car and furniture and disposed of everything else that didn’t fit into my rucksack.  Since then, I have traveled, worked and lived with little more than the contents of that rucksack.   I set off that day to walk the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile pilgrimage across Spain, which I hoped would be the first stage of a new way of walking through life for me.  The previous years had been spent living to the dictates of others, not being true to myself and my values, and destroying my spirit in the process.  For a season, I wanted to simplify my life to concentrate on “finding myself” and figuring out what’s “essential”.  Here’s what I’ve found so far:
  1. Life truly is a precious gift; I want to be thankful every day and I don’t want to waste a minute of my life being angry.
  2. If I walk one mile at a time, climb one step at a time and take one day at a time, I can walk across countries, climb mountains and survive life’s challenges.
  3. I haven’t figured out how to make loads of money in my sleep but I have figured out that I don’t need loads of money (or stuff) to be happy.
  4. Mental, spiritual and physical health is important; good food, meditation, prayer and exercise keeps me healthy.
  5. There are many other people like me pursuing an alternative to the consumption addicted, obese, medicated, destructive lifestyle that is commonplace.
One year in, I know my journey has only just begun. I don’t know how long my season will last, but I am increasingly contented with my simple, minimalist lifestyle and I’m excited about continuing my journey.  There is so much adventure, beauty and love in this world to discover, I’m determined to experience as much as I can before I kick the bucket.

Hold Your Cheeks and Get Away

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. – Matthew 5:38-40

 

Sometimes you find that you have a person in your life who causes you anguish. A person who seems to feed on your pain. Just seeing their name in an email, or their phone number come up on your phone, causes your stomach to knot up.  You fleetingly think “maybe this conversation will be different”, but it isn’t, every encounter leaves you worse off.

So you’ve turned the other cheek and now you’ve been repeatedly slapped on both cheeks.  You can’t tolerate them. You can’t change them. You can’t bargain with them. Jesus says don’t resist them.  What to do?  Get away from them! As fast as possible! Run, don’t walk!

 

Homeless Sweet Home

I have spent roughly a third of my life in each of three vastly different geographic regions and cultures, changing houses frequently.  This has shaped the way I view the world and people.  Though my country of origin still has the deepest emotional hold on me, nowhere ‘feels’ totally like home.  This causes me to reflect on what is ‘home’.  Eight months ago I sold my house and disposed of all my possessions other than my essentials which fit in a rucksack, giving me the freedom to travel (and change home) at will. At times, this freedom can feel homeless, no roots, no anchor.  But I am exploring redefining ‘home’ for myself.  After walking the Camino de Santiago and sleeping in a different bed every night, the second night in the same room suddenly felt like home.  After seven months away, returning to England, to a different apartment, but seeing friends felt like home.  The modern world of virtual meeting spaces of friends and family may mean that ‘home’ does not even have to be defined geographically.  I think home is where I rest my spirit, where I am welcomed, where I am nourished – for a season – two days, two months, two years.  For me, embracing the transient nature of our physical life on earth demands embracing change and acceptance that every thing is temporary. Not having to carry my home with me but being able to make my home wherever I am is very liberating. For those wandering spirits out there searching for a home, be still, breathe deeply, for in this moment and for this moment, you are home.

My month of no meat

On New Year’s Eve as the clock struck midnight after I’d tucked into a fantastic meal of beef wellington and roast duck, I made a resolution – I would not eat meat for the month of January.  My waistline had increased a bit after a month of celebration with friends, family and food, so this was all part of my ‘get back to health’ plan for January.  As a meat lover, I thought that giving up meat for a month would be very challenging, so instead of simply eliminating meat from my normal diet, I looked for wholesome plant substitutions to expand my normal diet.  I discovered a love of sweet potatoes, quinoa, falafel and lentils.  I rediscovered my childhood love of avocados and beans.  As I eliminated dairy, I discovered that I love almond milk and as I radically cut back on added sugar, apples and bananas taste sweeter every day.  Well, one month has turned into three and I can’t see myself ever going back to eating meat.  My waistline is back to normal, my energy levels are higher than ever and I’m exercising more.  I feel lighter and healthier in body, mind and sprit.  So try going meatless for a month, you may just love the results.

The Merits of One Bag on Your Shoulder

I encountered a sad situation today. A couple were on the telephone to the police trying to find a lost bag containing all their money, credit cards, phones, tickets and passports. They had just been dropped off by taxi on the street of their resort. After walking up to the resort with their baggage, they realised that they had left this bag on the pavement, but it was gone when they returned to where they had left it. Hopefully a Good Samaritan found it and has turned it in at a resort office in the area. In life generally, but especially when travelling, keep it simple.