what I've learned from meditating for 250 days in a row by Philippa Moore

"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." - Fredrich Buechner
IMG_7148.JPG

Apart from brushing my teeth, drinking coffee and telling Tom I love him, I don't think I've ever done anything every day for such a sustained period of time.

But on Saturday, Insight Timer* told me I had just meditated for 250 days in a row.

How does that feel, you might ask?

It's hard to explain, but I guess a rambling blog post is a good place to try. I don't know if I feel calmer - and calm was definitely something I wanted to feel more of this time last year, when my old friend anxiety had moved back in. After 250 consecutive days of meditation, if anything I think I feel my emotions more.

But perhaps the difference is knowing I *can* sit with them, and they will pass. I no longer feel afraid of anger, sadness or loneliness. All things I used to avoid feeling if I possibly could.

I don't feel at one with the Universe. There have been no giant revelations or moments of enlightenment. But there has been a clearing, of sorts. I do feel like I know my mind better. 

I have become more conscious of things in my life - and within myself - that I'd like (and need) to change. 

When you force yourself to get still at least once a day, you slowly learn how to switch your mind off, even if it's only for a few seconds at a time.

Those moments - those fleeting, precious seconds when I am actually not thinking and am just there, all breath, in my body and all I can hear are cars on the street, or the rattle and creak of the floorboards, or the wind or birds outside, or the oven warming up, or my neighbour leaving for the day, and my mind is empty and quiet, and I can feel the quietness of it - are bliss.

I meditate for an average of 10 minutes at a time. Occasionally I do 20 minutes, like I did this morning. I'd like to build up to more. That feeling - where everything drops away and I witness my mind emptying and getting still - has only ever lasted for a few seconds, so far. I've never been able to maintain it for very long but those few seconds are always worth it. They make me think "ah, this is the point of it all."

Meditation has helped me find ways to relax, to check in, to be in the present throughout the day, not just when I've got the app timer running. When you force yourself to stop and just be where you are right now, you start to realise how much of our mind's energy is spent fretting over the past and the future. 

Stress has not vanished from my life because I've been meditating every day. If anything, I'm more aware of how stress feels in my body. But when that happens, I employ a breathing technique which clears the mind and helps me relax. 

Meditation has helped me to be (slightly) more patient with and forgiving of myself, which I hope will translate into my interactions with others. 

It's become a wonderful way to start the day. I meditate before I do anything - no checking my phone first, and ideally immediately afterward I write in my journal or do Morning Pages (but that doesn't always happen). Once I've meditated, I go into the kitchen and find Tom has made a coffee for me (and unloaded the dishwasher!) and sit there, taking in the taste of the coffee, feeling reset for the day, my senses heightened.

Meditation has helped me feel more peaceful and content in my heart. Every time I hear the closing bell, I feel reassured that I'm a good person doing my best, trying to be kind, improve and move forward.

And that's worth making time for each day.

So what if instead of fearing the power of dark thoughts, we used our minds’ power to create safe havens within ourselves to explore them. Maybe literally envisioning cocoons inside our hearts where we can sit before cozy fires, hot drinks in hand, and ask of our fear and laziness and depression and shame and lust and rage and whatever other thing we might otherwise try to ignore: What is it you’d like to say to me? What indispensable nourishment do you have for the Life of trust I want to live? – Kristen Noelle (via Leonie Wise)

 

* Insight Timer is a free app and is the one I use based on recommendations from friends and well-wishers. I absolutely love it and am not being paid to mention it in any way! I just wanted to share because it has genuinely improved my life. 

 

things i like to do [video] by Philippa Moore

Following on from last week, I've now finished this week's MAKE FILMS assignment. Here is a little video about one of my favourite things to do....gardening. Specifically, growing vegetables and fruit - and then cooking and eating what I grow! 

I'm really lucky to have a garden (a rarity in London) so I don't take it for granted and am grateful for every bean, potato, tomato and stalk of rhubarb my little patch has produced so far.

Learning to garden has been very much a trial and error thing for me - sometimes I have successes, but more often than not things don't go according to plan! 

The greatest lesson gardening has taught me - which I try to apply to life in general - is that you have to let go of the things you can't control. You might take every precaution necessary to protect your plants from squirrels, slugs and birds, but then there might be a drought, or a storm, or you'll pick something or dig something up too early, and all your work is down the drain. You can't take these things personally, but merely chalk it up to experience, process the lessons for next time, and move on. 

It's also one of the most absorbing, calming, lose-yourself-in-the-moment tasks I can think of. Time stops for a while and you find yourself talking to your basil plants or watching in fascination as bees, pollen drunk, float from flower to flower. 

I'm always learning, trying to go with the flow of nature and the seasons, and every now and then there's a delicious triumph. 

Happiness comes with a bit of dirt under the nails, I think. 

PS: Turn the sound on for music - and spray bottle sound effects! Music is 'Take Me Higher' by Jahzzar - http://betterwithmusic.com/

scenes from the weekend [video] by Philippa Moore

I made a film! 

I'm taking Xanthe Berkeley's marvellous MAKE FILMS course, which I highly recommend, and this was our first assignment - "Scenes from the weekend" (make sure you put the sound on to hear the music!).

Tom and I went to a favourite (and lively) part of London where we took in Broadway Market, Columbia Road, Shoreditch and Brick Lane, so I had masses of footage by the end of Saturday afternoon.

There's something for everyone in this video - street art! Hot and jellied eels! Goats! Beer! Drums! Frida Kahlo!

Film-making is a very new medium for me. I'm completely out of my comfort zone, but I can see why people find it addictive. This was so much fun to film and edit together, so I hope you like it.

adventures in meditation, part one by Philippa Moore

learning-to-meditate.jpg

Every year, I've made a resolution to learn to meditate and start a meditation practice.

I've been making that resolution for about nine years, maybe longer.

The reason I kept trying? Because every interview with or profile of anyone I admire - whether they're a writer, a public figure, an entrepreneur, or just a generally enlightened and content person - usually mentions meditation in some way. That it is key to their creative practice, to balance, to keeping calm, to staying sane. That it opens the door between the person they are, or have to be in the world, and the person they want to be.

At the start of this year, a friend gifted me Danielle LaPorte's The Desire Map, a much-spoken of phenomena in the online world that gets a lot of traction around New Year, and with good reason - it's a pretty effective system for driving down into what you really want for your life.  One of the activities is 'Core Desired Feelings' and after much excavation and brainstorming, two of my four were 'calm' and 'wise'.

Much of the work in programmes like this centres very much around action and sovereignty when it comes to what you want to happen in your life. In other words, what do you have to do to feel the way you want to feel? What is something you can do, that is within your control, right now to get you closer to where you want to be?

The answer for those two particular desires I had identified in myself was.....meditate.

So, around the same time I did the Desire Map work, I began experimenting with meditation with the help of a wonderful (and free!) app I highly recommend called Insight Timer. This is the moment to tell you this is not a sponsored post, in any way, I just love this app! I think Laura might have recommended it to me too.

The app was great. But instantly I was reminded of why I had abandoned all previous attempts - because my mind was so manic, it wouldn't focus. I could barely get through 60 seconds.

"Just focus on your breath" - sounds easy, am I right? Wrong.  

After many months now, the trick that has helped me the most in learning to meditate has been thinking of my mind as a puppy in training. What do you say to a puppy when you're trying to teach it? 

"Stay."

So every time I notice my mind wandering in meditation, as it always does, I call it to heel like I would an adorable puppy. Hearing the word "stay" does jolt my mind back to the task at hand. A few breaths and it will stay, like a good mind. Then it wanders off again, and I gently grab it by the collar and lead it back. 

It's a nice metaphor, when it works! But my mind isn't always a cute puppy that comes back obediently when it's called. Sometimes meditation for me is like finding the puppy has destroyed the couch, chewed your favourite books and done its business everywhere. Moments like those, I set the timer for 2 minutes and that has to be enough. Miraculously, those 2 minutes do the trick. 

The benefits of meditation are seeping into other aspects of my life too. I find I'm calmer in general, able to let things go a lot faster than I used to. I get pissed off, of course but I allow myself to feel it, for five or ten minutes and then, frankly, I get bored and move on! I've also found I'm sleeping better thanks to meditation, even when I'm anxious. Even when I wake up for no reason and can't get back to sleep - the anger and panic at only being 5 hours away from the alarm going off, and then 4, and so on, has dissipated dramatically. I find that I can rest in those moments, even if I don't go back to sleep straight away. 

I meditated for 53 days straight over March and April, usually in the evenings, after work, before bed. It seemed to be working. I had gone from barely being able to do 5 minutes to doing guided meditations for half an hour or more. I was on a roll!

But then I lost my winning streak thanks to just one stressful and busy day at the end of April, where making time to meditate merely slipped my mind. Hardly a major crime. But over the next few days, I had one day on, one day off, and it just didn't work. Perhaps the practice hadn't been so carefully carved out as I thought. I found myself feeling really out of sorts and realised that meditation had come to be an essential part of my routine, like perfume, caffeine and morning pages. I didn't feel myself without it. Much like running

It didn't matter that I'd fallen off the wagon. In fact, there was no wagon. It's a practice. I just had to start again. 

Meditation has become part of my daily routine. My rule is "meditation before social media", which means I meditate as soon as I wake up, happily filling the space between being conscious and the coffee being ready.

I didn't expect it to change my life, but it really has. 

"Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end." – Jiddu Krishnamurti

More on this subject to come, as I feel it will be quite an adventure, as the post title hints! 

Do you meditate regularly? How do you find it?

the writer's garden by Philippa Moore

"The soil is warming. We gardeners grow ever more watchful, sniffing the air as excitedly as beagles, peering into the vegetation to detect those first thrilling signs of life. Is that a distance haze of green? Wait: did you hear birdsong? At long long last, after months of enforced dormancy, we tell ourselves it might be time to begin." - Charlotte Mendelson, "Rhapsody in Green"


The last weekend in March, I planted early potatoes. A week later, the rhubarb we'd given up for dead did a Jesus and came back to life, the blueberry bush began sprouting green leaves and the cherry tree exploded in pink blossoms.

Tom and I went out for a run and came back to a generous bag of horse manure on the front step, gift of our mechanic, also a keen gardener who told me rhubarb loves horse manure and he had a reliable local source.

My packets of seeds have been out on the bench for the last few weekends, waiting for the right, ripe moment to sow as April marches into May.

As Charlotte Mendelson writes in her lovely book of essays, this is such a nice time of year to be a gardener - a time where hope triumphs over experience, where we sow and are thrilled by the potential, like applying for a job we really want - you send your CV off, put the seed in the ground, and for a while, anything can happen. It's a lovely feeling.

Today I planted french beans and courgettes (zucchini), and there is a tomato plant on my kitchen windowsill. The cherry blossoms are falling and fading, to make way for the green leaves and fruit. The potatoes are thriving. The rhubarb is Trump-like in its determination to beat all the odds and completely take over. 

I love my garden. I hope it will be an abundant year, in every sense.