Elisabeth Grover
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Tag: mindfulness

The Power of Silence

I’m delighted to introduce you to our special guest and Mindfulness teacher Ruth Farenga who has written about a subject that is close to my heart, the power of silence. I have really enjoyed reading her reflective piece and I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.  

Ruth is Mindfulness teacher and Founder of Mindful Pathway – providing Mindfulness courses for the public in St Albans at the Albany Centre and onsite courses for businesses in the UK.

As I peer into my teacup, I contemplate what silence is. Is it rich or nothingness? Is it the absence of words or total sound around us? Thich Nhat Hahn describes real silence as the cessation of talking of both the mouth and the mind. It is an opportunity to truly stop without the clutter or noise of society.

As an only child, I disliked silence. I experienced the loneliness of long summers with few people to play with – the absence of company to entertain. It was dull and I was bored. Indeed, in my twenties, I always felt the need for company. If I had nothing to do for an evening, I would go through a list of 5-10 people to call or fill the time with a series of records, not enjoying the potential quiet time.

I needed to fill the void.

So how do we experience silence? In the 19th Century, Thoreau retreated from society for two years into the woods of New England – to discover the depths of solitude, inform deep states of consciousness and his subsequent writing.

But such extreme measures may not be possible, or even needed.

First steps

My first experience was a silent Mindfulness day in Oxford in 2012. I had taken the 8 week Mindfulness course and the silent day was an opportunity to ‘deepen our practice’, whatever that meant, but I was both curious and apprehensive. There were 30 of us in the room and we had signed up for jobs to assist with the flow of the day and sat down.

I was not fully prepared for the rollercoaster of emotions that day. The teaching was tender and gentle. We explored sitting meditations, mindful walking and movement. It was a day of paradoxical feelings – as it progressed, I felt more and more lonely but yet rested at the same time. I felt a relief to not having to talk to anyone, but at the same time, I felt shunned at not being acknowledged by my fellow participants. The lunchtime brought a new wave of isolation as mealtime conjured up expectations for me as a social experience. Meanwhile, I studied the variety on my plate with a new mindful affection.

At the end of the day, we were asked to reflect on our day. For many, including me, it was a rush of emotions and we spoke through tears to explain how we felt. Loneliness, peace, agitation, being sidelined, awareness, sadness, pain, happiness – the lot. I was relieved that the others felt the depth of emotion as I thought I was the only one.

It was the start of a fruitful relationship with silence.

On Retreat

I’ve now experienced and taught many Mindfulness days and retreats but perhaps the most memorable so far was a 5 night silent retreat at the secular Buddhist retreat centre, Gaia House in Devon. It felt like a challenge I was ready for.

Again, waves of emotion came, not as extreme as in the past but still notable. The first 2 days were the most difficult. What hit me most was, despite all that I’ve learnt, I was playing a narrative – ‘by now I should be able to maintain a still mind’. Our teacher talked in depth about how expectation and striving for something can limit us. We can’t go on retreat to expect a still mind because ‘it knows’! The hidden agenda of the ego will trip us up and, therefore, we need to be without agenda, to allow and welcome whatever may come.

By the second half of the retreat, I had, to a large extent, allowed the experience to be what it is. The edges of ‘suffering’ had softened. Despite our lack of words, I developed warmth for my fellow ‘retreatants’ and respected how many don’t make eye contact. They no longer needed to fill my void. It is true that being in silence with other people can create an intimacy. There was often a dance of movement and communication in the corridors, we didn’t need to speak, we could show compassion without speaking or even looking at each other.

Taking silence into everyday life

Last Christmas (2016), the Pope advised us amid the rush of daily life to make time for silence. His example is to use a nativity scene but for the non-religious, other ways can be found to take a pause from the hustle and bustle. It could be a tree that you visit, a view or a simple meditation that allows you some silence.

Silence is very personal. It can cause us to stare inwardly, introspectively, and ‘suffer’ as if obsessed about how silence affects us personally. However, silence and stillness is something you can always access, yet you need to allow it in, to become its friend. To start listening to yourself and to appreciate its depth and richness by spending time in dedicated silence with others. This is a journey that is worth embarking on.

It turns out that this only child learned to appreciate (and need) silence, the space, the depth and the openness it brings.

Peace, Solitude and Silence – My Life Companions.

Hi Everyone,

I had an inspiring meeting with a group of wonderful like-minded women this week which helped me to think about the important things in my life.  I am going to be combining  the insights that I received from that meeting, with an exciting  vision-board workshop today in order to reflect upon my life’s values.

Creating space for the important things is a must but it can be difficult to commit to giving them the space that they require. I often find that I am reacting to things rather than taking a few steps back and looking at the bigger picture.

I’m sure that some of you feel the same as me.

Writing the series about living your values has really helped me to ‘practice what I preach’ and focus on what is important to me. I thought I would share three of my top values with you.

Peace

I couldn’t write a piece about my values without including peace but what does this actually mean to me?

“Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.”

~ Unknown

Such a lovely quote and one that resonates a great deal. It can be difficult to implement but it’s really healing to your spirit when you get to a point when other people don’t affect you so much.

Another one I love is:

“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart”

~ Unknown

This one clarifies the issue a little more. Life is messy and noisy and it’s great to feel that inner peace is achievable in the maelstrom.

I find this quote motivating as it means that inner peace is more achievable. Not everyone has a cave to hide in with blankets and candles!

Solitude

As an only child growing up in middle-of-nowhere Cumbria, I have always found value in solitude. The world can be such a busy, noisy place, much suited to the extrovert but it’s a long way from my comfort zone.

As I’ve grown older, I find that solitude has become more and more important to me.  The joy of being alone and in a quiet space is wonderful.

The quieter you become, the more you can hear”

~ Ram Dass

I can appreciate that it’s difficult to find alone-time when you have a baby or a young family, looking for your full attention.

My advice is that you set an intention at the beginning of the day and then plan your day around that intention. Sometimes, those times appear but you are so busy that you miss them.

By being more present in your life, you may find those wonderful gems of silence and solitude.

You may want retreat to the bathroom when your partner gets home at night. Perhaps you can burn some aromatherapy candles (I stock the beautiful Heartwood Candles in The Sanctuary) and put a few dops of oils in your bath. See my post on aromatherapy oils for some favourites.

Dim the lights and float in the warm, healing water while you let the thoughts run through your head. Don’t judge your thoughts, just label them and let them flow. Bliss…..

Silence

The three values go hand in hand and I love the feelings that these three words invoke.

I find so many answers in those wonderful silent moments. I get up at 5am so that I can find a space in my house where there is no noise except the ticking clock and the creaking sounds in the house.

Although I have described peace as something that can be found in the busyness of daily life, a great quote for those with young people in the house, I prefer the peace and calm that I find in silence and solitude.

“Time and silence are the most luxurious things today”

~Tom Ford

I hope you have enjoyed this post and it has given you something to reflect upon this Sunday morning. I thought it may be valuable for me to offer you an insight into the books that I read, ones that I find really valuable in my life’s journey.

This week’s book is:

Quiet by Susan Cain

I love her website too so check out the other pages. Her TED talk is a must!

I’d love to hear about your top three values so come and join me on Facebook to continue the conversation. I’ll put a post up there about the My Three Lovely Life Companions so check it out and I’ll see you next Sunday

Liz x

 

 

A Little Space

IMG_2542 As a holistic practitioner, I felt that my first blog post ought to be about living my values. You’ll hear me talking about values in my posts as I find that the words that represent values, and what those words mean, really inspire me and make me who I am.

This morning, I wrote about making time for yourself for a feature in my forthcoming newsletter and it prompted me to start here.  It’s hard to give to others when you are tired and feeling over burdened with no space to think. So I thought I would start my blog by taking a picture of me having time to myself in The Garden Sanctuary before my children get up. You can see ‘Bumble’ my therapy space in the background.

A little about my morning ritual. Although my four children are older now, I have been prioritising this space for a long time, even when they were little. The only thing that changes is the venue. Inside V Out. I’m not keen enough to sit outside in the winter even though I would like to! I am a morning person so this is the ideal time for me to mentally create my day. Evening’s may work better for you, or during the day, and that’s great too. As long as you are building that time in and prioritising it daily as you would any other diary event, it doesn’t really matter when it is.

I get up out of bed as soon as I wake and I make myself a large cup of herbal tea. On a lovely day like this, I’ll take it out into the garden to sit and reflect on the day ahead.  I have a lovely little water feature which gently flows in the background so it helps to clear my head before the day begins. I use a journal idea which I have adapted from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way  called The Morning Pages. She advises hand writing three pages of A4 a day which I haven’t been able to achieve ( I am human after all!) so I adapted the idea and cut it down to one page of extra large moleskine journal. That way it’s achievable and I do it daily. I’ll be writing more about this in subsequent blog posts as I think it’s been a real help in getting all my ‘stuff’ out before I start my day.

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I have a separate Moleskine book for a list of 20 affirmations that I’m currently working on. When I’m writing, I think about how great I will feel when I am achieving them. One of my affirmations is to be a certain weight again. As I’m writing the affirmation down on paper, I think about what it’s like to wear size 10 jeans and I embrace that wonderful feeling. I do the same with the other 19  affirmations so this does take some time. I don’t do it daily, maybe three times a week but in between those times, I am thinking about the feelings I will get when the affirmations come true.

In the following blog posts, I will talk about journal writing, affirmations and making time for yourself in a busy life as well as posts about alternative health, aromatherapy, mindfulness, creating calm in your day, meditation and visualisation.

Before I go, I will leave you with an image of my mindfulness trainer, Coco the Dog. As soon as I sat down to create this post, she decided to dig up the garden in search of buried treasure (those lovely ants). Yes, it was a good lesson for me as I felt the stress levels rise whilst chasing her unsuccessfully around the garden.

Note to self: In order to do one thing really well, I  can only do one thing at a time.

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