I'm going to let you in to a little secret... I'm crap at mornings!
As a meditation teacher, people assume I'm always zen. But one of my biggest sources of stress is mornings. I'm always rushing, always late and always forget something! I've known for ages that this is an area I need to address but I've just pushed it to the back of my mind (i used to blame my Caribbean heritage.. I'm on island time! Doesn't quite work in 5 degrees and rain.)
I recently taught on the Lululemon Meditation Bus and came across this simple set of words on the side of the bus
Breath, Self-Discipline, Devotion
It struck a chord with me and for the past 2 weeks I've been using this mantra to bring some balance and peace to my mornings.
I start every day with a meditation. It doesn't have to be long - sometimes it can be as short as 5 minutes (but it's normally around 20).
I'll ask myself "how am I feeling this morning?" and based on the answer, I know which meditation to do.
Self critical? Self comapssion. Sad? Gratitude. Busy mind? A Body Scan.
Being able to tap into this takes some practise - so to start with, just focus on your breath for 5 minutes - that's really all you need. If you're not ready to roll solo - i've got you babes - use one of mine.
I am the ultimate snoozer! I just looooove sleep. But when I set the intention of waking up at 6, but then end up snoozing til 8 beause... just one more snooze (it never is!) one of the first emotions I experience in the morning is guilt. That sinking feeling of.. it's already 8am and I've already let myself down.
Banning snooze is one of the best life decisions I've ever made.
I used to think that self compassion and self discipline were opposites - viewing discipline as harsh or punitive. But actually being disciplined about doing the things that make you feel good is one of the most compassionate things you can do.
As someone who has had a difficult relationship with my body over the years - as a teenager starving it because I thought I had to be thinner, and throughout my early 20s poisoning it with alcohol and drugs in an attempt to drown out the negative soundtrack in my mind - learning to honour my body has been one of the most deeply emotional and transformational shifts meditation has brought me.
So I start every day with devotion to my body through movement. But not moving it to achieve anything or for it to look a certain way, but instead to nourish it and allow it to do what it naturally wants to do - move.
At the moment I'm loving yoga, so I stick on a Youtube video and get my Vinyasa Flow on. But it can be anything - even just dancing around to Chaka Khan in my room!
Want help with your morning routine? Email me! I'm always happy to talk <3
The most common thing I hear when people tell me they can't meditate is - "i just can't find the time". I used to think "but it's just 5 minutes.. surely everyone can find 5 minutes for their emotional and mental wellbeing!". Well the truth is, they can't. They forget, they find it too difficult, they're up at 6am on a Monday getting their ohm on but by Friday morning it's like "i'd go to a Nickelback concert ON MY OWN for an extra 5 minutes in bed".
If you're reading this like "girl, that's me!" - then I've got you. Here are 5 things you can start doing now, without changing your daily routine, that will give you all the same benefits of a daily meditation practise.
1. PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN
Whilst I realise that Instagram wont check itself - and there ain't no shame in a daily scroll - challenge yourself to take your first walk of the day phone-less and just.. walk. Even if it's 2 minutes to the tube station, give yourself that time to look inwards before you get swept up with everything else going on in the world.
2. LISTEN TO A SONG... BUT REALLY LISTEN
If it's the thought of sitting in silence with your thoughts that makes you want to go Lemonade and take a baseball bat to everything in sight - then find peace by giving yourself the length of a song to break from your daily routine. Instead of listening to music as background while you busy yourself with all the stuff you "have to do", take 3 minutes to just listen and let everything else wait.
3. SHOWER YOURSELF WITH AFFIRMATIONS
Meditation can help change the relationship we have with ourselves by shifting negative thought patterns. Affirmations do the same. During your morning shower, pick one affirmation and repeat it 10 times. Pick a simple phrase that gives you what you need in that moment - my personal favourite "I am enough".
4. TEN DEEP BREATHS
Remember in the 90s when people used to tell you to "take a chill pill" and you'd instantly want to face palm them? Well deep breathing is the new chill pill - but hopefully less soul crushingly annoying. The next time you find yourself getting stressed, angry or one 90s phrase away from face palming someone - take 10 deep breaths. Count them slowly and don't stop until you get to 10. Not only will you give yourself some time to decide how you want to react, you will also physically be sending signals to your brain that it's time to slow down and relax.
4. MEDITATE FOR 1 MINUTE
Don't hate me for this one! The truth is, habits take commitment to form and a daily meditation practise is an amazing thing to have. But if you're struggling with 5 minutes then start with 1 minute. As soon as you wake up every morning, set the timer on your phone for 60 seconds and focus on your breath. Starting your day with even just 60 seconds of stillness can change the outcome of your entire day. Maybe one day, you'll want to do 5 - but until that day 1 is just perfect.
Let's face it, meditating in a big, noisy, polluted city like London isn’t easy. A couple of years ago, when I first started practicing, I was living in an apartment above a Bashment club in Hackney that backed onto one of the noisiest roads in the borough. It was, to put it mildly, one of the most un-zen environments you could have imagined.
Over time I tried my best to make it zen: I’d dim the lights, light some incense and surround myself in just the right amount of cushions. But it didn’t work. Every time I’d close my eyes and start to drift away, I’d be jarred back to reality by the roar of the 55 bus or a collective cry of “back it up”.
Far from reaching a state of inner peace, meditation was leaving me more irritated than before I started - the total opposite of what was meant to happen. But I persisted, and over time I made a discovery that turned out to be the biggest gift I could have asked for in my meditation journey.
Here’s the thing. Often when we think about “finding peace” we focus way too much on our external environment. We wait until the next holiday to finally relax, for example, or we buy into the idea that without an expensive retreat in the Himalayas, zen-ing out isn’t possible.
There are two problems with this. Firstly, the perfect environment just doesn’t exist. And secondly, even if you can create the perfect environment, what are you actually accomplishing? It’s a lot easier to forget about your worries when you’re sitting on a beach with a Pina Colada and no emails than it is in the middle of a packed tube when you’ve just had a dressing down from your boss.
In other words, by searching for the “perfect environment” we tend to remove ourselves from the contexts where meditation is actually needed in the first place. And that means, as soon as we get back to our normal lives, we have no idea how to cope.
In my view, real meditation is about learning to control our internal environment to find inner peace regardless of what is going on around us. The outside world can be hard to control but through meditation we can learn to react to anything it throws at us with understanding calmness and love.
Whether it’s you desperately searching for that perfect retreat or me obsessing over cushions above the bashment club in Hackney, the solution is learning to find peace inside no matter how noisy things are outside. Instead of seeing our loud, busy city as an obstacle to meditation we need to see it as a gift. We need to embrace the noise, dive head first into the chaos and let this crazy city be our meditation mat.
Five tips for meditating in the city
1. Focus on one sound - Pick one sound to tune in: the rumble of cars; the murmur of voices; the sound of the wind. It’s really hard to focus on more than one thing at once, so focussing your mind on a sound will bring the focus away from your thoughts and calm your mind.
2. Load a five minute guided meditation onto your phone - Next time you are waiting to meet a friend, pop your headphones in and steal a moment of calm. Get one here.
3. Take the escalator - A standard escalator gives you time for 10 deep breaths - tune in to your breathing and watch your thoughts float away.
4. Don’t be afraid to shut your eyes - No one on the tube is looking at you and second of all they don’t care.
5. Put away your phone - Next time you have a short walk, resist the urge to whip out your phone and instead walk in silence focussing on the feeling of your feet on the ground. Focussing on your body takes the focus away from your thoughts, bringing more peace to your mind.
I meditate because I want to be calm.
I meditate because I want to be happy.
I meditate because the thoughts in my head get so loud, and it’s the only way I know to turn the volume down.
I meditate so I can breathe.
I meditate because people have hurt me, and I want to forgive them.
I meditate because I’ve hurt people, and I need to forgive myself.
I meditate to take time for myself in this busy world.
I meditate because taking proper care of yourself is the most selfless thing you can do.
I meditate because the mind is a fragile thing, and I want to take care of mine.
I meditate because I remember lying on the bathroom floor, crying, wishing I could be anywhere but in my head.
I meditate because I’ve felt darkness and I prefer light.
I meditate to be kind.
I meditate to let go of the feeling that I am not enough.
I meditate to know that I am. Always have been and always will.
I meditate because I love myself.
I meditate because I love others.
I meditate because I love you.