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I am evolving, changing, growing, learning to listen to my body and my mind, learning to ask, learning to say "no", learning to let go, learning to ask for space, learning to forgive, learning to be happy, even when the proverbial 's%$t' hits the fan, I am steeling my strength, I am saying it is okay to be emotional, it is also okay to speak the truth, I am learning to love myself unconditionally and through that love I hope to learn to love all others unconditionally.
How are YOU changing?
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In dealing with the stress that bombarded my system a few weeks ago, I have been actively looking inwards, taking a step back to journey through my self and discover my own calm, my sense of self, and my own strength. Part of this journey has involved beginning my yoga practice again, picking up the strands that I started many years ago and working with the stepping stones it provides into the psyche and the body.
When I first spoke to one of the yoga teachers at Yoga Kula in Chapel Allerton (my studio of choice, and they have been amazing, but where ever you are please try and find a teacher or teachers that are understanding, supportive, and most of all encouraging - it makes all the difference), I spoke about my desire to become physically and mentally strong again. I had been buffeted by so many external expectations and opinions that I had lost my self in the mire of negativity that was swirling around me - I needed out, and to get out meant working on the physical and mental. Marie, the teacher I spoke too, understood where I was coming from and when I told her that I wanted to feel like I used to feel when I was swimming, her face lit up and we both had an uh-huh moment.
Sport is meditation.
It is!! In it's simplest form sport is all about conditioning the body and focusing on the breath - just like yoga - which is a meditative practice in itself.
What I had in swimming was repetition, pattern, focus, physical and mental strength, but most importantly - breath. To swim is to create a high awareness of the way that one breathes. You do exercises where you breathe on the one side, or you alternate sides, you hold your breathe for ten strokes and then breathe every ten strokes, you breathe by taking air in through your mouth and pushing it out of your nose, you are aware aware aware of each and every breathe, you have to be . . . otherwise your timing is off, you get exhausted quicker, and most importantly, you lose focus.
Meditation is about the breath. Meditation is about gliding along on tranquil waters, observing the body as it strengthens, stretches, and lengthens.
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This epiphany has woken up a desire in me to observe the breath everyday, in whatever it is that I am doing. I also think it is something that should be considered as a valuable tool for everyone - especially those in sport.
Meditation can be used to strengthen the athletes focus
Meditation can be used to help deal with the physical and mental stress of competitive sports
Meditation boosts the immune system . . . um, that's a no-brainer really!! Show me an athlete that likes being sick and I will show you a flying pig!
Meditation boosts your circulation, making sure that your muscles (and brain) are getting the oxygen enriched blood that they need
Meditation eases muscle tension - a HUGE concern for athletes . . .
Meditation gives you perspective - was that swim really that bad? What were the good points?
Meditation reduces anxiety, enabling you to focus on the job at hand, to be in the moment
Essentially, swimming was like a yoga practice for me, the twice daily training sessions, the pushing of the body and mind to achieve my goals, the all consuming work - every single day - towards the Paralympics! Yoga is about getting on the mat everyday, focusing on gently finding the spaces within which you can take the body and mind, the work - every single day - that takes you towards strength and calm!
the main tenant of this sport and this yoga is the meditation, the focus on the breath, the breathing in and the breathing out, that gets you from here to there, in the moment, and with grace and calmness.
So, do you play sport? Do you utilise meditation as a working tool for your sport? If so, please let us know in the comments below . . .
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You probably won't believe me, but I loved going to school!! I really did! I tried to make my love of school sound cool though - "Oh I love going to school cause I get to see my friends every day" or "I hate some classes, but art and craft is fun to do, that's why I like to go to school . . . sometimes."
But the truth of it . . .
is this . . .
I LOVED TO LEARN.
It's true! I loved learning, I loved learning new facts, thinking of new ideas, reading new books, and hearing about historical events. I loved doing art, I also liked cooking, and tech drawing, and sports, and learning french. I loved to learn.
Now, I know that we are coming up to a new school year, and I know that many of you are probably freaking out right about now? Am I right? You have had an awesome school holidays, you've been enjoying the hot summer, going to the beach, eating ice creams, learning knew tricks on your skateboard, or just hanging around the park with your friends. BUT
its is back to school time, and the fact that your time will now be structured, filled with teachers, and books, and chalk boards, and desks, and pens, terrifies you. It shouldn't though . . . nope . . .
this is a chance to grab life by the lapels (or hoodie zipper) and get as much out of the fantastic opportunity that you can.
So don't approach school with apprehension, but with a view of unknown anticipation - something great could happen this academic year, it's entirely up to you!!
But I want to help you out a bit, and I have flipped back through my memory to come up with some applicable tips to get your school year off to the best start ever! A start that will set you up for the rest of the year - whether your academic or not! So no more excuses peeps, just run full ball at the chance to learn and see what you get out of it by the end . . . could end up being more cool then you could ever imagine.
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So here are my tips to help make the new academic year go a little smoother for you . . . and this isn't just for you students, this is great stuff for you teachers out there as well!
1. LOOK FORWARD TO THE YEAR - I know your probably thinking WHAT!!!! How can I look forward to school??? Well, it's all about attitude really, if you start the school year from the position of "this sux,' 'I hate this,' I would rather be somewhere else,' then that's how your whole year is going to be, it will suck, you will hate it, and you probably will end up being somewhere else . . . somewhere like detention, or bad grades, or no respect from the teachers. So start the year with an attitude check, are you feeling positive about the year? Are you looking forward to the process of learning? Are you looking forward to the actual act of learning? If you enter the school year in a positive frame of mind, then even when the disagreeable stuff happens, then you can deal generally deal with it.
2. ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING - It's hard when your a teenager (or a tweenster) and you feel that you know what is cool and not cool, what is good and not so good. I hate to break it to your though, you actually don't know everything . . . but to let you in on a little secret . . . neither do I, or your teachers, or your parents, or your friends. In fact what we don't know is a greater amount then what we do!! BUT, if you cultivate a desire for knowledge, expand your curiosity towards the world, then you will grow, your will learn, and you will collaborate. School is a collaboration, so listen to others - your teachers as well as your peers - and give back with your own unique knowledge. By the end of the year you'll know double then what you started with!
3. TRY AND BE ORGANISED - Organisation is one of the toughest things that anyone has to do . . . unless your one of THOSE peeps, you know who you are, you always have ten back up pens for an exam, and your never late handing in an assignment!! But for those of us who are not blessed with your skills (including me) organising your life can be hard work. However, what I have learnt over the years, if you can be organised at the start of a learning experience (whether school, technical college, or university) then the rest of the year is a hell of a lot easier. SO, how to be organised?? Firstly what is it that you want to achieve this new academic year? Write it down, and then plan out from that. Secondly, keep a diary and make sure you do write everything into it, important assignment dates, exam dates, school holidays, days out with friends, EVERYTHING!! AND check it at least once a week so your know what is coming up. Thirdly, make yourself accountable for your actions, tell your friends, family, teachers what you want to achieve . . . you've told them, so now you will really let yourself down if you don't follow through.
4. LIFE BALANCE - You know what life balance is right? Right?? Nooooo, it's not going to school then spending the afternoon goofing off with your mates down at the park, it's not partying all weekend and then turning up to school on monday bleary eyed and tired, and it's not playing football everyday whilst your homework sits on your desk days late!! It is about all of these things . . . in moderation. So, look at your goals, decide what is important and what is not as important, and balance your life out accordingly. So you love to shop? Well, go to school, do your homework, go to your part time job, spend meal times with your family, and shop every saturday!! You like to play basketball every afternoon after school (AND you want to be a basketball player when you grow up!), so, go to school, go to basketball practice, eat dinner at home, then do your homework . . . and on the weekends hang our with your friends! Do what suits you, BUT make sure nothing is being neglected and that there are many things that make you happy happening in your life.
5. MAINTAIN GREAT HEALTH - Always, ALWAYS find time in your organising/lifebalance for health - both physical and mental. For those who already exercise well done you! For those who don't, even if it's not really your thing, find at least one exercise that does speak to you on the simplest level. SO, if your not into football and basketball, try walking or yoga, just find something that you can do a few times a week that gets your blood pumping and your thoughts de-stressed. Also think about your diet, what foods do you or do not eat? Just as you need life balance, you also need food balance . . . so no more KFC every afternoon after school, why don't you try baking something for yourself? Or eating some of that fruit your parents buy week in and week out that never seems to be eaten? It's okay to have a treat once or twice a week, but try to make fresh fruit and veg the staple of your diet . . . trust me when I say your energy levels will peak through the roof and your sport/exercise will seem easy-peasy with the right fuel.
6. DON''T BE AFRAID - . . . to ask for help of course! I know, I know, we apparently should always hold onto our bravado, our mask, and pretend that we know it all and that we don't need help cause we're THAT AWESOME already!! But, even though we are all awesome already, we can become even more awesome if we pluck up the courage to ask for the help that we need. When I was at university, my first year was scattered with passes and credits, by the time I reached my third year I was averaging distinctions, with quite a few high distinctions as well. There was no magic or trick to getting my grades up! It was purely down to the fact that I asked my lecturers how I could improve . . . I asked the right questions, I got BRAVE!
7. SUPPORT EACH OTHER - This one is about recognising that we are all in the same boat, that we all are having to deal with exams, and mean teachers (AND nice teachers too!!), bad days, bullies, etc. Once we recognise that we are all in the same boat, don't rebel and push against each other, don't feel you still have to go through all the c#@p alone - be there for each other, be a shoulder to lean on, a listening ear, a hug (or a bro-hug . . . you know, a hug of the manly kind). Support each other, hold each other up, inspire and motivate each other, say nice things to each other, congratulate each other on your achievements, help others achieve, just, basically be NICE to each other!! I believe in Karma folks, what goes around comes around, so be nice, be supportive, and you will get it back ten-fold!
Soooooooo, that is all I could really fit into this blog post (don't want to overwhelm you with tips!! Sometimes too many tips can be as bad as no tips at all!). However my studenty friends, if you would like anymore tips please feel free to leave a comment about what you would like tips about and I'll get right back to you!
. . . and changing that which can.
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There is a HUGE thing in my life that cannot be changed, and it is a thing that many people, if they had it, would want to change - but I don't. Want to change it that is. My disability is with me for life, and the quicker that I accepted that the better, and I accepted it at a pretty young age. SO I can't change my missing limbs, I can't change growing old, and I can't change change my sex (well I can, if I wanted too, with surgery and all that, but I feel very much like a woman, so no enchilada - literally!) but I can change other things. I can change my mind, I can change my health, I can change my career, I can change my response, I can change my heart, I can change my strength, I can change my breathe, I can change how I see things, I can change, just purely and simply change. AND the magic of this change is that it can do something marvelous to the unchangeable . . . read on.
In the process of change comes the process of acceptance, acceptance of the unchangeable.
What do you find unchangeable in your own life? Or, what can you change?
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Change, essentially, is an evolutionary process, we are in constant shifts, at no point are we ever exactly the same as we ever have been. But to have a certain level of openness to change means that you can direct it towards passion, towards peace, towards life party time!!
Tara Gentile, entrepreneur extraordinary, say, "We are always rejecting and reclaiming, in what is often both a beautiful and ugly cycle. We resist change and then embrace it. We are open to possibility and then make up our minds."
Change becomes the unchangeable, to only change again, it is only through static positions that we fail to see the beautiful possibilities.
I see possibilities, even with my disability. Through caring for my body, strengthening it, I can achieve what would have been physical impossibilities - I shift what is essentially unchangeable. I say I shift the unchangeable, because my limbs aren't going to grow back, but I can shift my energy and strength to open up more physical possibilities.
But, to shift the body, is to change the mind, to let go so that you can be open. In the process of letting go of drama, angst, and confrontation, you are embracing the present and you are embracing your future, imperfect, self . . . you know, your 'warts and all!!' Cause guess what, acceptance and letting go are actually the same thing.
Accepting that my limbs won't grow back is not being defeatist . . . cause honestly, they ain't coming back!! Accepting my missing limbs as missing is strength and knowledge of myself . . . and your own inherently unchangeable factor can also make you strong and knowledgeable, cause that strength is already there, deep deep down, it can just take a little digging to find it.
The best changes come about without criticism, without condemnation, without regret. Our lives are our lives are our lives, and they have made us who we are, and each changeable step forward takes us even further into ourselves. Hence, change is not scary, it is an intrinsic part of you, and that which cannot be changed can be shifted, shifted to empower you even more.
Change while you can, whilst you are aware, embrace it, love it, see life as the journey that it is, cause quite frankly it can be wonderful if you want it to be . . .
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Ahhh Danielle . . . this is a lesson toughly learnt, but one that I believe that we all have to learn. "Expect to Offend People" is such a blunt truth, a truth that made me feel uncomfortable, does it make you feel uncomfortable?
I have discovered that in learning to accept people for who they are there comes a certain expectation that you cannot disagree with anything that they believe or do or say; that you must dampen your own self to accommodate this other. I believe that many of you will agree when I say (and see) that this is not healthy. Cause when you stomp down on your own self, squish it to fit in the tiniest part of your soul you are doing a disservice, not only to yourself but to the world in general.
Okay, here's a scenario for you -
Everyday, every single day, you wake up determined to not rock the boat. You eat breakfast, have a shower, get dressed, grab your bag, and head out into the wide, wild, world. Out in that wide, wild, world, you encounter many, many people. Each person is a miracle, an endless soul, a person on their own life journey . . . but quite often, on this journey, they are stuck in places that hold them back and cause them to form beliefs and opinions that you like and some you don't. You are the same as them, you are on your journey and you have places where you are jammed up and stickety-stuck, but perhaps you are trying to grow and change, to become more YOU! Yet, in this wordly interaction you feel that part of trying to be peaceful is being afraid - afraid to voice your self, afraid to stand up and be heard amongst the never-ending background noise. AND because you are afraid of standing up, you are pushed down by others who are standing up and whilst this keeps the peace for others, it doesn't keep the peace in you. Your thoughts stew, they twist and sometimes become ugly, but they also can become beautiful and/or truthful; and yet you suppress them, hide them, for fear of causing offence.
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Now of course we do not desire to cause offence, that is never anyones intention (unless it is - but boo on you folk!), but when to stand up and be you, be strong, and be an opinion, causes some people to cough and splutter, to be up in arms, to take offence, there is something not so ugly about it. In fact it can be a chance for something beautiful, something within which all can learn and grow.
to be Offended.
To the point where you are not smothered, you are not suppressed, you are not being chipped away at or ripped in two; but to where, ultimately, you are being truth, and light, and growth, and spirit, and heart, and strength, and you.
It is a-okay to be non-judgmental, to be at peace, to be accepting of others . . . but it is equally a-okay to be non-judgmental, to be at peace, to be accepting of you. So, as Danielle (life-change guru extraordinaire) states, "Expect to Offend People," cause we are all different, we are all on different points of our journey, we are all reactionaries, learners, and teachers - don't be afraid.
"Face Fear and Thereby Master it; Repress Fear and be Mastered by it" - Martin Luther King
"Your Determination is Limitless"
- Elizabeth Wright