Out of the Comfort Zone – Spine Challenger

11/01/2017

Within anything there can come a time when you wonder “what next”. That can apply to your job, your home, your relationships… we get comfortable where we are, we feel safe… the parameters are pretty much “known”. It can be good to stay here to absorb everything we’ve learnt in life, to enjoy, to rest… but what about if you want “more”… if you want to challenge what you’ve become accustomed to, want to grow… well beyond that “known”… that’s when you go out of your comfort zone.

Change … It’s scary

Out of the comfort zone is not supposed to feel warm and snuggly and known. It’s most likely going to feel uncomfortable, hard… awkward… it’s going to trigger a whole heap of negativity as well. It can trigger self-doubt, anxiety, fear (whether that be emotional, mental, physical)… it makes you question what you’re doing, why you’re doing it… and all of this can mean we can set ourselves up to “fail”… it’s too hard, too scary… the goal might not be achievable… it’s easier to stay where we are… it’s where we feel strong and not weak, safe and not vulnerable…

And so it was that I decided to sign up for another race which would be a challenge. After all, if that’s what clients can do as I sit alongside them as their counsellor on their personal journeys… how can I not challenge myself from time to time, albeit in my own way? Walk my talk as it were… and in this case, it’s going to be quite literally! I’ve run in a bit of heat, and I’ve run (ok there was a lot of walking 😀 ) some long distances over the past few years. It’s been quite a journey. To go out of my “known” zone now, I need to do something I’ve not done before, and aim for something that may not be possible. After all, you can’t know what you don’t know (thank you Tom Jones for that little gem!).

I now find myself facing the very daunting task of setting foot on the start line of The Spine Challenger this weekend – have a look at http://thespinerace.com/msc/.

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For those that haven’t heard of this, it’s the first 108 miles of the Pennine Way, in the UK. In winter. It’s the “smaller” aka baby version of the main “Spine Race” which is the full Pennine Way of 268 miles. Now that’s a crazy race!! This should be sane by comparison right? I don’t do cold. I don’t like being cold. I’m one of the first to get the scarf and gloves out and layer up for the commute to work and one of the last to let them go. To willingly go into a cold race where risks include hypothermia (very common), ice burns on skin and frozen corneas (yep one guy was medically removed from the race for this I believe), where the temperatures are going to drop below freezing, where you could be wading or falling waist deep in snow… and do all that over 108 miles… it sounds pretty terrifying. An attritional hike is how one friend described it. And that’s without the sleep deprivation! You get 60 hours to complete the race, and that sounds way more than enough. It’s not. People DNF on the cut-offs due to the terrain, and the risks already mentioned. I’ve heard for the main Spine Race, one winner didn’t sleep for 2-3 days. How is that even possible?

The stats for Spine Challenger are:

Distance: 172km
Ascent: 5637m
Descent: 5636m
Max elevation: 695m (Pen y Ghent)

There is one checkpoint at 73.9km in. You have to run with a pack with a lot of mandatory equipment, which is due to the safety requirements (I’m dreaming of around 6kg at the moment) – haven’t dared weigh my pack properly because I know it’s likely to be much heavier, and am just praying I can get everything in. I may have to sit on it as I did with my suitcase for the dropbag stuff. I’m not even sure if there are a couple of points for water… the streams are going to come in handy, as is the water filter I rapidly bought – there’s a lot of sheep out on those hills.

Did I mention the route marking? There is none. This is a national trail and you have to navigate, map and compass. Handheld GPS is also required, and often needed due to the fact you could be on a whiteout on some of the “hills” and can’t see the occasional flagstones or “trail path”… or pretty much anything to be honest!

Kinder Scout – Peak District South 2 North, Ranger Ultras
Photo credit: Peter Owen

A lot of runners who enter this race have either years of running experience or a background of being outdoors, hiking, mountaineering, love the cold etc… so how does a townie with only a few years of running prepare for something they know nothing about? I take you back to the post about accessing your tool box or “kit list” (which can be found here). So in this case it’s:

Physical:
Training – sessions with my coach and following my training schedule that he writes for me
Testing kit – there’s a lot of kit, and then there’s even more. You need to test what you’re going to be using in as similar conditions as possible
Recce – checking the route you will be running, although it could look a lot different depending on the weather conditions

Pyschological:
Goal – you have to know what you’re aiming for and set a realistic goal
Expectations – modifying these as you learn
Self-awareness – know your weaknesses and strengths and how to minimise/utilise to your best advantage

Knowledge:
Past experience – use what you already have as a foundation
Learn – get help where you feel you have weaknesses

Emotional:
Support – ensure you have the right support around you, from those you learn from to those in your inner circle as it were
Positivity – if you’re around people who bring you down, how will that help you? Be around those who encourage, want the best for you
Drive – call it what you will… the human spirit… a yearning… a chest-thumping feeling in the very heart of your self… that call to adventure… it’s what can carry you through some of the dark parts…

My coach has been fantastic with numerous pep talks and encouragement, and he (alongside others) have also reminded me about the positive skills I have from the past (basic navigation and first aid (should the worst happen) from the Army, albeit a few decades ago), just over 3.5 years of running, 3 stage races… numerous other ultras/challenges… I’ve also finished two Centurion Running 100 milers now so it’s only (ha!) another 6ish miles longer than my longest race. I’m also hoping to run this alongside one of my tentmates from the Marathon des Sables (he couldn’t get time off to do the full one, crazy man!). I have the experience of few severe “hills” from a recent race which I didn’t finish: the CCC (more on that in another post).

The Spine Race also hosts a training weekend so I trotted along to the Peak District for that, where I met some really great people for the first time and got the chance to catch up with another MdS tentmate who’s doing the full race. They had various speakers (Richard Lendon in particular stuck in my head – “it’s not a race” complete with pictures of several full Spine Race starts where he’s flying over the start line!) over the weekend, plus the chance to get out on a nearby training loop, and where they test you on a variety of skills (such as bivvying out, distance & timing, the use of your stove – I think I nearly blew mine up – first time I’d used it *oops*). The coordinator for the Spine safety team (Stu Westfield) also hosts races, training, and guides expeditions, see here for his website. His courses includes Spine specific ones. Due to my nervousness and lack of experience especially around navigation, I wanted to attend these, but unfortunately time and travel didn’t allow. However there’s usually a second option, and in this case I booked Stu for a 1-2-1 over two days up in the Peak District. This was very good and I can’t recommend highly enough for anyone considering doing the same. Usually you’d go away after a day of full on navigation and absorb before going back and putting into practice, but I didn’t have that option. So the second day out, the aim was to move and navigate a lot faster. Which it was. Although compared to most, I’m probably still extremely snail-like 😀 But that, combined with Stu’s everlasting patience, meant that I got the train home feeling more confident, and meant some of the more “negative voices” were being drowned out. Every little helps!

Fast forward two weeks, and there was a race to be used as a “training run” – the Peak District South 2 North, which is a 100k self-navigational race over two days. A local running friend who has also signed up for Challenger had highlighted this to me a while back, so I agreed to run the second day (Dark Peak Challenge) with him as it was on most of the route for Challenger. However two days before the race, he had to pull out due to injury, so I trotted off on my own. Daunting was an understatement. It was an utter and complete wake-up call, plus the weather was so bad that they had to abandon the wilderness sections and we followed just the Pennine Way. Over 13 hours to get through less than 29 miles, lack of visibility, waist deep snow in parts, icy rocks, windy, not much to run on and no lovely flagstones in sight. See the picture above for the beginning up on Kinder! There was also lots of falling over, breaking new trail, sliding down parts on my backside for safety and at one point in the dark we got lost and ended up on the edge of what appeared an abyss… looking down into a sheer drop of blackness. I refused to go down for fear of injury and never getting back up! Thanks to the navigation skills of the guys I was with, we ended up contouring round and got to where we needed to be. When I say huge wake-up call, what I really mean is had I done this before signing up to Challenger… I wouldn’t be hitting the start line on Saturday because I would never have signed up for it! So for anyone who wants a “taster” be sure to try Stu’s race first!

Another tool that was due to be added into my “toolbox” was a recce on course, however the person I was meant to be going with, and who would be driving, dropped out. Extortionate train fares (everyone in the UK would probably nod their heads in agreement at that description)… meant I then had to forgo this, so instead I figured some more nav awareness would be key. Luckily the director of a race I did only a month earlier, and who coincidentally is also on the Spine safety team, lives not too far a distance from me. If you’re in the Essex area you have probably already come across, or heard of, Lindley Chambers of Challenge Running. Lindley came down and helped me to work out how to use my handheld GPS, how to load up the gpx files, and how to plot some of my own basic courses. Highly recommend his tuition, which can be booked via his website. Unfortunately I’ve not had much time to practice with it, but again… every little helps and you have to start somewhere!

And then there’s support: well as I mentioned earlier, I’m planning on doing this challenge with my tentmate from MdS, James (front of picture)… and there will also be two others doing the full Spine (Lee (behind me) and Gwynn (number 501)) so hopefully we will get the chance to catch up pre-race…

329Half of Tent 117, Start Line
Charity stage – 30th Marathon Des Sables 2015
Photo copyright: Michelle Payne

… and The Spine is up North… not too far from where a certain incorrigible person lives, who helped to start me on this whole ultra running lark. Had I not had Helen’s support in Sierra Leone (and encouragement to switch races), who knows whether I’d have moved up to ultras at all! She and her other half are coming down to see us off the start line, and (hopefully) over the finish line. Then there’s all the others who have helped and encouraged along the way, fellow competitors who have emailed and offered advice and help… this race creates a family where everyone wants everyone else to do their best, and do not hesitate to look after each other (and rescue them *eek*) when things get bad!

So now race day approaches rapidly. Reality is kicking in especially when it comes to expectations. Doing the PS2N means I am being very realistic about chasing cut-offs yet again, the wake-up call regarding terrain was much needed however as we are now only days away, there isn’t much more that can be added into the toolbox. The weather is predicted to be snowy, wet, gale force winds, black ice, gnarly, boggy and with plummeting temperatures… aka a nasty start. Winter on the Pennines… why would you expect anything else 😉

For anyone that wants to track some sane (Challenger) and crazy (Full Spine) racers, check out http://spine.opentracking.co.uk/race/ – it starts with the Challenger on Saturday at 0800 hours, and the full Spine on Sunday! I’ve already started carb-loading… or as one friend literally said to me this afternoon when she read my draft post… “Have you ever stopped!”… how rude 😀

When it comes to goals… to challenges…

Dare to dream it, plan it… learn, grow… you never know where one decision may take you… just who you might inspire… who might think that “because she or he can “do it”, so could I”.

Challenger start line… here I come! Please don’t be too cold…

Wishing you a great week ahead 🙂
Michelle

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Kit lists and getting prepared

19/08/2016

 

Fueling on the Go – South Downs Way 100 – 2016 © Stuart March Photography

At first glance, mental health counselling and running ultramarathons don’t too have much in common. The first is a service that clients can seek out because they are in pain, have wounds they want to heal or need support amongst other reasons. The second is a painfest (especially on the feet) that is willingly signed up to, is usually over within a matter of days (depending on distance, speed and location) and is (mostly) actively looked forward to. You’d expect them to be at opposite ends of most spectrums.

However… there are many similarities too. Goal setting is one… support is another… and then there is the preparation.

People often think of reaching a destination as a huge jump… sometimes akin to a leap of faith. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone who’s ever achieved this in one step in either their counselling journey or an ultramarathon. Both require many steps, which eventually add up to the “finish line”… however such finish line may look to each individual. If you think you can shortcut by taking a jump off a cliff and expect to land on the other side which is a long way away, it stands to reason you’re most likely going to fall. And then you have to trudge through many steps on the bottom before hauling yourself up a hill. Instead, be S.M.A.R.T. about getting to the other side (a.k.a Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic and Timed).

When you look at what you want to achieve, you look to see what you already have that will suit the task in hand, what you will need that you don’t have… and then look to find out how to get the bits you need. Basically you’re putting together your “kit”.

Within counselling and coaching, this is as varied as each individual… and the goal that they have in mind. It’s also very important to remember that there’s no “one size fits all” approach. Some questions I often use with clients to help them focus are:

What do you believe you currently have to help you?
What do you believe you need to achieve your goal?
Have you tried this before?
What would you like to try differently next time?
What result would you like to see?
Where do you believe you can obtain the [missing item] from?
Who will support you on / with this?
How do you think you can support yourself?
What do you enjoy doing?
When looking at your “list”, which do you smile at?
How do you feel when thinking of this “item”?

If the goal is quite a “blanket” one, such as… say… “I want to be happy”… this can be much harder to quantify. In such cases, I usually break down this down into much smaller “bites” by looking at how a person would expect to feel or look, dress or eat… when they felt “….goal choice…” and then what change this could potentially result in.

For those that are reading this from a counselling and/or coaching perspective, I hope the above is of use as a starting point… or at least a little bit thought-provoking, and with this in mind, shortly to follow are some posts about kit that I have tested and used on my own running challenges. Hopefully they may prove to be of some help or food for thought for anyone looking for equipment information to use on specific races 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend ahead.
Michelle


SL Marathon 2013 – Update – Running and the Race itself!

07/07/2013

So we’d had the project visits, been in Sierra Leone a few days, met new people and made new friends… and the other thing we all had in common was we’d flown over to run!

Now… my original plan had been to train up for and do the half-marathon… given I had done nothing really before but one treadmill run a week, pretty much died after 20 minutes max on said treadmill and had pushed myself to get out of the house and run on my own over several months (also thanks to Niron from ActivatePlus PT, because his personal training also gave me a kick up the ass!)… and I’d managed 12 miles non-stop by this point. Admittedly I had died with the legs refusing to move after that particular run… but I’d trained for it and had a positive mental attitude…

and then I met the mad marathoners on a bus in a Sierra Leone… most specifically the first bad influence… a certain Mr Downey… all 6 foot 3 or 4 of him who I think has been running for decades and has a “can do” attitude (helpful that when you work in the City)… and who it turns out, only lives about 10 minutes away from me… small world!

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Now Kev, remember at this point, I’m using a good photo of you… I do have another I could have used hahaha… anyway… it was at this point, that the words were uttered “well you could change your mind and do the full marathon”… several times… which I then considered. Apparently I then got a bit of a glint in my eye! But he was right. Nothing like a bit of logic. Run the half distance… and walk the rest if necessary. It was “DO-ABLE”. And so the seed was planted… which wasn’t helped by the fact that we all then kept discussing the possibility over the next couple of days!

Now, you’d think you’d need to rest your legs and acclimatise… given this is Sierra Leone, it’s bloody hot… and humid as hell. So the second evening (which must have been after the Bumbuna visit) I ended up going out for a little 2 mile run to see how it felt running in the heat… not on my own… this was with a total marathon nutter who’s been running decades (there were a few in attendance, obviously) who should reach his 30th marathon by the end of …. actually next week if you count Race to the Stones ultra… anyway, our rooms were right opposite each other and Jon was very helpful with advice… oh yes, here he is with said earlier bad influence!

Sierra Leone 2013 094

So that little run went well, nice and slow and able to breathe, but it was early evening… so… we ended up on the Saturday… yes, the day before the Marathon itself, going out at lunchtime in 88 degree heat, high humidity and running a 10km. We took it slow and careful and it was on the road. Very hot. And bearing in mind I had had an injury kick in around week 8 of my training, I felt it.

So that was that. I decided to stick with what I’d trained for, do the half marathon and be a happy bunny if I could complete it. Realistic goals. Even Kev looked a little relieved that night at the pre-race party when I went to get my t-shirt and race number… I definitely heard him mutter the words heat, death and conscience! I also double-checked with the Race Director who also advised against such a plan.

BUT… when you’re surrounded by high achieving types, who love nothing more than a challenge… when a certain Army major who shall remain nameless (ok, recently demobbed but still… yes Chez I mean you… oops) turns round and tells you not to be a pussy even if you were only military admin many decades ago… and THEN you meet another nutter and bad influence… yes Helen, I’m naming and shaming you… who says that they will stay with you, and walk the whole way if necessary, that it would be safe and therefore do-able… what can you do but just go for it!!! 🙂

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Trust me, she may look innocent but she’s not… especially where sambuca, dancing in London and almost missing my train home is concerned… but that’s another story! So anyway, what could I do but check to see if I could change my choice. And I could. So I did. Plan adopted. Run the half, walk the rest if necessary. Stay in group, do not go on own. And try to get an early night.

After a couple of hours sleep (4 actually, that was better than some got) and with full marathon race number pinned on… it was time to get on the coaches, get to the start line and see just how my legs would cope. There was an absolutely fantastic atmosphere there… loads of local people also turned up to participate, especially in the 5K race… likely helped by the fact that the President of Sierra Leone was also running it… and before you knew it, we had assembled, the President had opened the race and it was time to start! Here’s a few of the crazy participants before we lined up at the start…

Sierra Leone 2013 082

I was good. I stuck with the mad Geordie (aka Helen) and her group… until Paul decided (very wisely due to injuries) to stick with his half marathon plan and took the turning (I think around mile 6) and then Helen (yes, see earlier photo above) wanted to stop to take some photos of the kids who had high-5’d us… she said she’d catch me up so off I trotted alone (and trust me, trotting was the pace I adopted)… yes yes, I know I was supposed to stay with the Group, but I didn’t want to stop…

and from then on in it was a case of maintain pace and chat to people as either I reached them, or they passed me… but mainly I was running on my own… stop shaking your head Helen… you know you’ve forgiven me ;)… we were lucky that it was a bit cooler due to the early start and it wasn’t too hilly at that point… there were also lots of local people encouraging us in the early stages… and then we hit the quieter village back roads… or hills… the word “undulating” has taken on a whole new meaning… and by mile 11 I had to adopt a walk/trot tactic… power walk up those undulations and jog down… trust me, the energy expended trying to run up them would have killed me quicker than the heat!… and so I plodded on, finally reaching the turn back point and then the half marathon point just under my hoped for time of 2 hours 30.

Now that felt amazing, and when my runkeeper app kicked in and I knew I’d achieved it, it was quite an emotional moment! Anything hereafter would be a bonus… just needed to keep going… especially as it got hotter and the trail became narrower and more uneven… there was only one point I realised quite how serious everyone’s concerns were, and that’s when I saw one guy go down with heatstroke. They got him out and he’s ok, but I guess I hadn’t really been aware of just how dangerous high temps and humidity can be… so if anyone considers doing what I did, get some expert advice first and follow it *ahem*!

Now I’m not sure what everyone means by “hitting the wall” but I do know my quads kicked in around mile 20… not surprising given the problems I’d had since week 8 of training, but I was actually pleased… that’s not as crazy as it sounds. You see I’d also been running in custom orthotics, which had helped create the leg problems, and then the moldable orthotics I got, got fried so I was actually running in trainers that were only two weeks old with minimum mileage used, and brand new orthotics I bought and moulded the day before I flew out to Africa. Not exactly the best marathon plan in the world huh! So, the quad pain meant the orthotics were working properly and my legs/hips were actually balanced as I ran (trotted)… anyway, I pushed on and was still trotting & walking at the end and even managed a little sprint for the last 50 metres… well it felt like a sprint, thankfully I have seen no photo or video evidence to prove it was more like a slow motion pace! And looking at my timing splits afterwards… my overall average pace per mile had only dropped by 1 minute (for a newbie, I thought that was great) which included the extra walking!

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All in all, I finished the marathon with a time of 5 hours 10 minutes and 55 seconds … certainly didn’t feel like eating afterwards (but didn’t throw up)… and the legs were walking very woodenly until I got back to the hotel and had a shower. The next day, yep like a few people I had a couple of nasty-ish blisters, black toenails and one which came off… I ached a bit… but to be honest I’d had worse from a hard karate session… which showed that I’d listened to my body properly, adopted the right tactics for me and had taken it carefully and not pushed too much, especially given my lack of running experience. I did find it hard to rein back at the beginning when a lot of people raced off, but to me safety is key.

I loved it… and since I trained for the half… there just happened to be a half marathon two weeks later in the town I live… what could I do but go for it! So in the space of two weeks, I’d done a full marathon in Africa, a half marathon in Essex and a 5k in Essex… all personal bests obviously… with more to come… but you’ll have to venture back to read about those… especially a new challenge I’m creating with one of the mad marathoners I’ve mentioned previously.

If something is do-able then why not go ahead and challenge yourself, because life is just too short to do anything other than live it to the full… appreciate what you have, enjoy what you have… and if you are not in that situation, then it is down to you to change it, no-one else. The responsibility for your life, is yours alone. What can you do with yours and just what can you inspire others to achieve through your actions?

Links:

Street Child

Sierra Leone Marathon 2013

© 2013 Michelle Payne


SL Marathon 2013 – Update – We’re here!

27/05/2013

The first post coming to you from Sierra Leone! Yes, I actually made it out here… not that I didn’t expect to… it’s just it suddenly seemed to have come round really quick!

First up, a shout out and much gratitude to Niron Noel of activatepluspt… he’s been the one who has been there every week for the past 3 months, not just helping me get fitter and build my core strength to cope with the endurance running, but also kept me encouraged me when my mental and emotional states have been battered… I cannot recommend him enough, so look him (or his colleagues) up of you’re in London and need some personal training/coaching! I will be doing a separate blog post on their company at a later date.

So yes, we’re finally here and the run a reality! The British Airways flight was good from London, only 7 hours to Freetown and ours was probably over half full with runners alone, a very friendly bunch indeed. Getting from Freetown to Makeni did take a few hours… and while there is the sweet Salone time you quickly get used to, this was also due to distance and the state of the roads… not all of the main road there has been built! Remember, this isn’t just the poorest country in the world… but its’ civil war ended in 2002… and is still recovering from… the infrastructure building is slow… but it is coming…

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It was hot and humid. Just reading and knowing that doesn’t quite prepare you for the blanket of heat and sweat that envelops you as soon as you get off the plane… Thursday night was 82 degrees to sleep in (no air con here, but fans do cool the room for a few minutes if there’s electricity and you’re not charging your phone or camera). The humidity… it was high, probably higher Friday due to a fantastic thunderstorm and downpour we had very late last night. As for running in it, at the time of drafting this, I didn’t have a clue.

… best get this published as it’s been sitting in the draft box while I’ve been trying to get enough battery power to continue drafting!

More to come…


Victim Support – Finding the Strength

19/01/2013

I’ve previously mentioned about listing (and blogging) about charitable organisations.  Today’s is the second such organisation, and one that’s based in the United Kingdom.

Victim Support is an independent charity that has been set up to help victims of crime, and that those witness crime in England and Wales, and according to their website, are the oldest and largest victim’s organisation in the world.  They are a charity and work with the Police as well as running the Witness Service (which is apparently in every court – I have no experience of this having thankfully never had to visit Court so far in my life!) and Victim Supportline (0845 30 30 900) which is a national telephone helpline.

They can provide emotional support (not counselling – the difference is explained on their website, and they can refer victims on to other relevant organisations which do offer counselling help), information and practical help

Taking this straight from their website, they believe that all victims of crime have five basic rights:

*** to receive respect, recognition and support

*** to get information and an explanation about the progress of their case. Victims should also have the chance to explain the financial, physical and emotional effects of the crime and this information should be considered whenever decisions are made about their case

*** to be protected in any way necessary

*** to receive compensation

*** to be free of the burden of decisions relating to the offender. In other words, we believe that the state is responsible for dealing with the offender. It should not be the victim’s responsibility.

They also have Facebook, Twitter and Youtube accounts should you wish to interact with the organisation on social media sites.  I do follow them on Twitter and retweet posts because a lot of people, even in this social media “savvy” age, seem to be unaware of the work that they do and that may be available to them as a victim of crime.

As with any charitable organisation, funding is hard to come by so help in that arena is always appreciated and they also offer volunteer opportunities, should anyone be looking to either help others on this basis, with specific training given to those who are selected. 

Please visit their website here for much more indepth information that may either be of help to you, or someone you know!  And if you are already a member, please do share with us your thoughts on the organisation, and if you choose to join, let us know why 🙂

The Scottish website can be found here, the Northern Ireland website here, and the Crime Victim Helpline for those in Ireland (telephone: 116 006) can be found here.

All website links have been added to the Resource section of this website.

Namaste

© 2013 Michelle Payne


Affirmation of the Week

10/12/2012

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“I MEDITATE”

For years now, I have received the message to meditate regularly… whether that be from dream messages/analysis, from articles that appear in my daily in-box, from what I see dropping into newsfeeds on my various social media accounts… and even down to bits I read in books… which isn’t necessarily a “self-help” book, it could be fiction book in which someone is meditating. Messages everywhere. Which I duly note and have the intention of sitting down and doing religiously. And I do… I start… and then something gets in the way and I end up stopping. Usually at the first hurdle. I put anything and everything ahead of the need to meditate, to find that quiet space.

Yet what is 10 or 20 minutes out of one day? There are many reasons behind my evasiveness and non-commital to meditate. Many of which I am aware of, and probably some I’m not. Yet what I want, crave and need to manifest… well that aint gonna happen without taking time to sit and be still. It’s like, you want the qualification without doing the learning behind it! Lazy and naughty *grin*.

The majority of us have routine in our lives, and while some of it can appear to be monotonous and boring… routine in fact helps us to streamline necessities in our life to make better use of our time. We work out the quickest way to get to work and back home at the end of the day. If you go to the gym, you probably go to the same exercise classes on certain days of the week. If you have a gym routine (ie weights etc) you probably have certain repetitions to achieve a desired result. Some people even shop on certain days of the week, eat certain foods on a regular basis… some even do their cleaning on certain days of the week so as to leave most of the weekend free (that used to be a pre-requisite necessity when I would be partying most weekends *grin*)… but what of our spiritual needs? What benefit can meditation bring to our live ? Google brought forth:

Reducing anxiety attacks
Building self confidence
Increasing serotonin levels – did you know that low levels of this have apparently been linked to depression, headaches and insomnia?
Can lead to an increase in energy
Can lead to an increase in strength
Can help to balance blood pressure
Reduces stress
Reduces tension
Can lead to a state of deep relaxation
Can improve feelings of well-being
Can assist with losing weight

There are loads of sites out there with so much information on the benefits of meditation for those who care to surf around for a few minutes.

Now these benefits I would take as physical benefits, that affect day to day life. Then of course there are the emotional benefits, and psychological benefits… and that’s before we’ve even touched on the spiritual benefits.

I know that when I get busy, the first thing I drop is the “spiritual” stuff… because *real life gets in the way*. But surely spiritual needs are part of life. So in effect, dropping that aspect, means ignoring a part of life itself. As I read in part of a DailyOm email:

“The truth is that nurturing ourselves spiritually is what gives us the energy and grounding that we need to make sure that our lives stay on track.”

For me, meditation (when I can actually be bothered to do it) gives me a present. That’s right, a gift. I get a gift of 10-20 minutes where I don’t have to think, I don’t have to be *doing* (and *doing* is something that takes up the majority of my day – it can get very tiring being so busy so much of each day!), and where I don’t have to worry about what jobs need doing, what I haven’t done, what really needs to get done or even worse, when I chuck one of the thoughts in with the word *should*. The majority of which are really just self-imposed burdens. So also the gift of relaxation, of peace and quiet, of space, of healing, of solitude, reflection… to mention just a few. Which also brings to mind a quote I read from thoughtfortheday (whose quotes I share regularly on my Facebook page):

Meditation
Though the mind often asks for what is visible or material, its needs are deeper and cannot be met by anything superficial or short term. Meditation leads to a meeting point with all that is true and eternal.

All this and more, for 10 to 20 minutes a day. Isn’t it worth it?

So… my questions this week are:

What does meditation mean to you?
What does meditation bring into your life?
How do you feel after meditating?
Why are you avoiding meditation (if you do)?
How do you feel when you think of meditation?
How can you improve your meditation practice?
What benefits would meditation bring to your life?

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead ♥

Image origin: Unknown

© 2012 Michelle Payne


Affirmation of the Week

03/09/2012

“I ALLOW MYSELF MOMENTS OF ESCAPISM”

I’m very much all for the being in the moment (or rather, constantly working on or attempting to or hoping to be in the NOW) yet sometimes, in this heavy sense-driven physical world that we inhabit, I think we need moments of escapism… moments where we can let our minds open to all possibilities, however fantastic… let our fantasies take over, daydream (admittedly so long as they don’t take over our entire life of course).

Sometimes real life can be excruciatingly painful… when we undergo spiritual, emotional and mental challenges, lessons… and losses… in my opinion, they can then bring in the psychosomatic effects in the physical world.

Just to make sure I was understanding the word correctly I googled it… this is the context of my understanding of it and in which I am applying it to this post…

“It is well known that the mind can cause physical symptoms. For example, when we are afraid or anxious we may develop: a fast heart rate, palpitations, feeling sick, shaking (tremor), sweating, dry mouth, chest pain, headaches, a ‘knot in the stomach’, and fast breathing. These physical symptoms are due to an ‘overdrive’ of nervous impulses sent from the brain to various parts of the body, and to the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream when we are anxious”.

So in times of such stress, such pain… how do we keep a balance? How do we cope, especially if there is physical pain that accompanies the problems we encounter?

A few years ago (almost to the week actually) I read all of the Harry Potter books, yep all 7, one after the other… loved the first four films but had never read the books until that point. As it happens my mate’s eldest was clearing some books out, Harry Potter included, so I had already brought them home, very synchronistic!! I love the books even more than the films… how I wish Hogwarts was real (yeah yeah I know, it’s not ;))… wouldn’t you just love to have gone to a school like that? Not to battle demons or anything, but to be able to practice magic like that? To ride on broomsticks & dragons… to make potions, to have wands… etc. etc… pure fantasy (well I haven’t yet seen a broomstick flying across the sky, the “Dog in Sky” episode… well that’s another matter ;)).

Reading this kind of fiction at that time helped me to escape from the physical, emotional, mental & spiritual pain of the *real world* that surrounded me then… from worrying and stressing, from hurting… it gave a few hours respite just when I have needed it the most… not because I wanted to hide away permanently, not because I wanted to construct a fantasy life and try to live that, because I didn’t (well there are certain things I wish I could wave a wand at, hey… can’t blame a girl for wishing ;))… but to help me cope, to grieve, help me start on the new path that I then had to walk… and which would ultimately help me to eventually heal.

Escapism and daydreams can also help us forge our way through to the future, they can help to bring about realities that we wish for… by visualising the best for ourselves, our families and our friends… we can then see something that may be possible, that we can strive for, can turn into reality.

Reading then was the escapism that I not only needed, but a gift that I gave to myself. So my question to you this week is how can you best use some escapism to help yourself, and what beneficial effects will it bring to you?

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead ♥

© 2012 Michelle Payne


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