Modern life is difficult – we all know this! Sometimes it’s hard to find exactly why it appears to be such a struggle – are we doing it wrong? Are other people finding it much more easy to navigate the challenges of modern life than we are?
The answer to both of these questions is largely no. Life is an art not a science – we aren’t doing it wrong and others aren’t having more success at it than we are (although social media and the art of ‘appearing happy’ would have us believe otherwise).
But…we do know that there are a lot of things we could do to help ourselves. Exercise, meditation, relaxation, therapy…all these things can help us sort through the difficulties of life and find more ease. Shamanism can help us find balance and ease with life too.
What is Shamanism?
Shamanism is one of the oldest systems of finding balance, harmony and wholeness that humans across the globe have relied upon for healing and wellbeing. Shamanism seeks connection to nature, to all of life, in order to find our balance and wellness.
Humans are animals, but with the development of modern society and cultural progression, we have lost touch with our foundations as creatures of the earth and have become largely separate. Living separate lives, looking after ourselves, losing the sense of community and balance with nature that is so fundamental to wellbeing.
There is a reason why so many wellbeing techniques rely on balance: re-aligning energy flows, using essential oils to correct imbalance, seeking inner stability of mind through finding balance between calmness and productivity. Modern life has thrown us out of balance. We live inside manufactured environments, surrounded by electronic devices, eating processed food and trying to protect our egos. This is not the natural life of an animal. It’s no wonder we desperately need help with our wellbeing.
Why is Shamanism Relevant and Useful Now?
Shamanism is concerned with reigniting our nature connection. Re-discovering our place within the landscape of the earth and all of the life-forms within it. This is so relevant in today’s world where we desperately want to find that balance for ourselves, but with equal vigour, want to protect our precious environment so the earth can heal too.
Shamanism teaches us to live respectfully but to view ourselves as a part of something bigger. Part of the collective consciousness that all living beings can connect to. Shamanism is also a form of self-development. Practices give us a chance to live at peace, offering kindness and patience for the benefit of ourselves and others.
The Shamanic Journey and How it Can Help
The Shamanic Journey allows you to quiet the logical, thinking mind and access the subconscious; where our memories of living more harmoniously reside. The ego doesn’t run the show in the subconscious mind. We can access a place where we are able to work with intention and seek guidance on how to find the harmony and wholeness that is often missing from our modern life.
On a Journey, we can speak to other beings that appear to us and receive help on finding a new way to travel through life with more ease. Perhaps we are seeking answers to questions in life, perhaps we are looking for a new direction, or perhaps we are just curious. Nature is a great place to seek guidance; from the ancient wisdom of the earth that we have lost touch with as our society has developed into separateness.
Find out more and take a Journey…
Sometimes, it feels as though life doesn’t quite flow as smoothly as it could, or patterns of behaviour and experience often repeat themselves. The Shamanic Journey offers a way to gain insight into your path, your future plans and how to find balance.
The Journey is a meditation to the beat of the shamanic drum; the sound waves taking the mind to a place of relaxation and vision not usually accessible to the logical, conscious mind. Allow your logical, thinking mind to rest as your brainwaves adjust to the drumbeat and a new realm of the subconscious mind reveals itself to you.
Understand how to live with nature and all beings with more ease; flowing through life rather than resisting it. Appreciate the fullness of life and all that it has to offer when we understand our place in the universe.
Next Shamanic Journey Meditation Workshop is Friday 1st November 6 pm – 8 pm at TopLine Studio.
The importance of men’s wellbeing can’t be stressed enough in a time when we hear frightening statistics about mental health, and about how men in particular tend to suffer with the stresses and strains of modern life. Men are much less likely to seek help for mental health issues, workplace stress or anxiety from life in general.
The Men’s Wellbeing Series aims to provide men with an opportunity to try wellbeing activities designed specifically for men, in a community space which aims to promote sharing and openness. This is an opportunity to invest in your health and wellbeing and learn techniques to calm the mind and release stress and tension from the body. Whether you suffer with the pressures of life already, or want to get a handle on your wellbeing before your health is affected, these workshops will provide valuable tools to help you take back control of your mental and physical wellbeing.
There are two options for men to try in this series, and no experience is necessary for either workshop. Each workshop can be booked individually (no need to do both) so you can choose both, or the one that appeals the most. To kickstart the Men’s Wellbeing Series, each workshop is offered at £5 off the usual investment.
Yoga for Mind and Body
Wednesday 26th June 2019, 6 pm – 7.30 pm, £15
A truly beneficial workshop for mind and body to help you unwind, de-stress, stretch and relax.
This workshop is a great place to start your yoga practice. The session will include dynamic movements for flexibility and strength and restorative, longer holds to encourage joint mobility and mindful movement. There will be guided relaxation and meditation included.
To find out more, or book your place – visit the Events page.
Introduction to Mindfulness
Tuesday 9th July 2019, 6 pm – 7.30 pm, £20
A fantastic introduction to mindfulness that will give you the opportunity to try practices and learn how mindfulness can help to calm the busyness of the mind.
The workshop will cover: what mindfulness is, how to connect with the present moment through awareness, using mindfulness to calm the busyness of the mind, using mindfulness in daily life and in stressful situations. Participants will try different mindfulness meditations which can be practiced during and after the session.
To find out more, or book your place – visit the Events page.
The Workshops will be held at a great new community space above Candid Beer in Stafford town centre.
Candid is a craft beer bottleshop/taproom/coffeeshop/co-working space and events hub rolled into one. Community and conversation are central at Candid.
See you there!
Tuesday 21st May 2019 is World Meditation Day! I wrote recently about the benefits of a Mindfulness or Meditation practice and the difficulties of getting started.
When we are presented with an opportunity like World Meditation Day, there really is no better time to get started on the meditation journey.
Meditation is for everybody
So what can you expect as a beginner? The good news is, absolutely everybody and anybody can meditate. It seems difficult because we hear phrases like ’empty your mind of thoughts’ and immediately we have fear that we won’t be able to do it. Luckily that’s not what meditation and mindfulness are about. If we could empty our minds, we wouldn’t need to meditate! Don’t be put off by popular phrases and preconceptions; come with no expectations and you’ll find your meditation experience all the better for it.
So what will you find at group meditation with the Well Nest? A warm and friendly welcome, a calm atmosphere in relaxing surroundings, full instructions from start to finish, knowledgeable insights and teachings and guidance through your meditation experience. At the Well Nest, we love beginners – because we remember how it feels to attend that very first group meditation session and feel like a fish out of water. But don’t worry, meditation really is for everybody. We will sit in chairs (no special clothing required) and enjoy teachings, progressive relaxation and meditation.
Come and join us on World Meditation Day as we hold a Lunchtime Escape in Stafford town centre. At 12.30 pm at TopLine Studio, I will help you find 45 minutes of calm in the middle of your day. This is a great opportunity to try something that could really make a difference to your life and those close to you.
If sitting doesn’t appeal to you, why not try walking meditation. Learn to tune into the body and your surroundings in a whole new way: mindful walking classes are available at The Wolseley Centre. Spend your Saturday mornings wisely and invest in you.
You can read more about my Mindfulness and Meditation journey here. Isn’t it about time you gave meditation a try?
We hear about Mindfulness and Meditation all the time; on social media, in the news, at the doctors surgery and in the workplace…but where do you start if you haven’t tried it before?
Meditation and Mindfulness are founded on some of the simplest practices that have been relied upon for centuries by cultures that truly understood the real benefits of a meditation practice.
Although some of the practices are very simple, they can be very difficult. It’s understandable that most people read articles and think “I should learn to meditate” or “I know I’d benefit from mindfulness” but many don’t actually take the plunge. Part of that is availability, part of it is knowing where to start (what to try?) and what the experience might be in a class or group meditation.
Why not start with The Well Nest?
At the Well Nest we run Mindfulness & Meditation sessions through the week , evening sessions, courses and workshops in relaxed and welcoming environments. No experience is necessary; just come with an open mind and a willingness to learn a practice that could change your life. At the Well Nest we focus on delivering simple and effective teachings and practical meditations that you can take away and practice in daily life, right from the first session.
You are welcome to start your journey with us this month as we launch new Lunchtime Escapes in Stafford – 45 minutes of Mindfulness and Meditation on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the new TopLine Studio on Stafford Street. An opportunity to try something new that could last life time and make a real difference to your quality of life. Or, why not join us to learn the art of Mindful Walking in the beautiful surrounds of the Wolseley Centre on 25th May.
The benefits of a Mindfulness & Meditation practice
The benefits of a regular meditation or Mindfulness practice are well documented: here are just a few…
- lower stress levels
- reduced anxiety
- better sleep quality
- improved mental resilience and overall mood
- better overall wellbeing
- less instances of heart disease
- less instances of respiratory illness
- Improved blood pressure
- Improved relationships….
It’s time to make this May, your meditation month. Join us and learn a practice that could truly benefit your life and free your mind.
Exciting developments are on the way at The Well Nest bringing wellbeing and peace of mind to new areas in Stafford and surrounds.
A host of new classes, courses and workshops are on the way. There is something for everyone from lunchtime escapes into yoga and meditation to energetic vinyasa flow and in-depth mindfulness practitioner courses to change your mind and your life.
Wellbeing shouldn’t be the last thing we look after: if we prioritise our own inner peace, we can improve our mindset, physical and mental health, relationships and work. Don’t put it off any longer…join us and find something new.
Starting in May, we have a new partnership with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust to bring yoga and mindfulness practice to the beautiful location of the Wolseley Centre. 50% of all session costs go to support the work of the Trust. The following classes and courses will be on offer:
Yin Yoga – every Friday 10 am -11.15 am in the Conference Centre. Practice this restorative form of yoga to increase joint mobility and move mindfully. classes will include relaxation and meditation. No need to book, just bring your mat to practice: £7 per session.
Mindful Walking – learn the practice of mindfulness meditation in the Gatehouse and take that outside to practice mindful walking through the wooded areas, boardwalk and lakeside at the Wolseley Centre. Sessions run one Saturday per month at £15 per person per session. Booking required.
Mindfulness Practitioner Course – 8 sessions to provide a full practice of mindfulness for everyday life. Learn how to use mindfulness to work with emotional and physical difficulties, pain, mental busyness, anxiety and stress. A full programme to change your mind and your life. The course is £160 and booking is required.
Also starting in May, the Well Nest will have regular classes and workshops at the brand new TopLine Studio in Stafford town centre. Ideally located and beautifully renovated and transformed, this space has a lot to offer for yoga and mindfulness practice.
Lunchtime Escapes – taking place 4 days per week, these 45 minute sessions will offer the opportunity to either stretch and invigorate or relax and unwind in the middle of the day. Each session costs £5 and there is no need to book; drop in and leave with a different outlook.
Mondays – Yin Yang Yoga
Tuesdays & Thursdays – Meditation & Mindfulness
Fridays – Yin Yoga
Evening Yoga sessions – Finish the working day by stretching out, flowing through poses or moving mindfully with the breath. Two sessions are on offer to help you finish the day on a high. Sessions are 60 minutes long and cost £6 each.
Tuesdays 5 pm – Vinyasa Yoga
Fridays 5.30 pm – Yin Yoga
Hope to see you at one of our new classes soon! Watch this space for upcoming workshops and events.
Mindful movement provides a combination of physical and mental benefits that can connect the individual with the present moment and help develop a greater appreciation of how the body feels and moves.
Yin Yoga is the practice of holding yoga postures (asana) for extended periods of time providing stretching of the connective tissues and release of the energy flows within the body. Through long holds and conscious relaxation of certain muscle groups, participants are brought into deep focus in the present moment. Using mindfulness techniques participants learn to feel the true experience of the body in the moment. This combination of physical and mental practice makes Yin Yoga a deeply relaxing and balancing practice.
The practice of Yin Yoga is not the dynamic flowing yoga often seen on social media, but is instead a gentle series of asana combined with breathing and focus on the direct sensations in the body. Over time, joints become more fluid as the connective tissues (fascia) in the body begin to loosen. The muscles, tendons and supporting tissues of the joints gradually become more supple allowing greater movement and flexibility.
Yin Yoga is based on the principles of Taoist Yoga and the flow of Chi (energy) through channels in the body. By spending several minutes in each asana, individuals may start to feel the release and flow of energy in the body. Focusing on the momentary experience of these sensations in the body is a mindfulness practice that allows individuals to connect more deeply with the moment and with themselves. Combined with breathing practices and meditative relaxation, Yin Yoga is a holistic approach to mind/body wellness.
Yin yoga is a great lesson in surrendering to the present moment and the sensations of the body. The practice of holding asana leads to a breakdown of mental barriers that naturally steer us away from discomfort. Feeling into poses is a great release for the mind as the bodily sensations take over. This is beneficial for reducing stress, anxiety and low mood and can allow a deeper sense of relaxation which helps with sleep and improvement in general wellbeing.
Sign up via the events pages for upcoming Yin Yoga workshops to experience the effects of the practice for yourself.
Yin Yoga and Mindful Movement Workshop – By Candlelight Friday 5th April 2019, 6.30 pm – 8 pm
Regular Yin Yoga classes with The Well Nest are coming soon!
New year’s resolutions don’t tend to last too long, even with the best of intentions. This year try taking a mindfulness course that can give you the skills to make a change that can last for life.
Learning how to practice mindfulness can have many benefits:
- calm the busyness of the mind and find peace within
- reduce anxiety and stress
- improve relationships with others
- develop patience and compassion for others
8 session Mindfulness Practitioner Courses are now available with The Well Nest. Courses start on 23rd January at Colwich & Little Haywood Village Hall.
The Christmas period is often a time of increased tension, stress or anxiety for many and can result in unpleasant experiences for individuals or families. Spending an extended period of time with friends and family doesn’t happen very often, so it would be beneficial for all if we were able to approach the festive season with a peaceful mind.
What causes stress at Christmas?
Mindfulness shows us that the struggles we go through in life often aren’t external to us (as we believe them to be) but are instead based in our perception and thoughts/beliefs about a situation. Most of us feel the pressure to get the right gifts for the right people, spend enough money but not too much money, make sure everyone has enough food and drink, wear the right outfit, attend the right events or parties, not drink too much,…and inevitably find time to demonstrate the right amount of merriment on social media…
A lot of the pressure we experience during the festive season can be found in our thought patterns or learned responses. Thoughts of how things should be and comparison to ideals or others can be harmful. If we tune into the present moment (no pun intended) and observe our true experience in the moment, we may find that we are able to enjoy the season more than previously. If something does go wrong – the turkey is dry, you couldn’t get that last minute gift because it had sold out – you can use mindfulness techniques to bring yourself back to the moment instead of getting caught in unhelpful negative thought patterns.
Tips to move mindfully through the festive season
A mindful queueing experience: You can’t avoid them, there are queues in shops, in supermarkets and on the roads this time of year. Every year we know it will happen the closer we get the Christmas, but every year we find ourselves frustrated, tense, irritated and sometimes infuriated with the constant waiting. Battling against the flow of life is a great source of stress for us. If we catch ourselves as frustration arises and instead of letting it take hold, we bring ourselves to our immediate experience of the moment. No judgment, no likes or dislikes, just observation. What does impatience feel like? Where is it held in the body? Try to feel it rather than think about it with the usual ‘why is this taking so long?’ ‘I should have joined the other queue’. You will notice almost straight away that tension eases out of your body and impatience gives way to patience naturally.
3 minute breathing space: When things get really testing (either during the build-up to Christmas day or during a family gathering for example) we often say things we regret or experience anger with ourselves or others. When we feel that a situation is getting too difficult, we can take 3 very effective steps to transform the moment mindfully.
- If you feel anger, impatience or frustration arising, catch it as soon as you are able and stop yourself from speaking or acting negatively. If you need to remove yourself from a situation, you can do so.
- Ground yourself in the moment by tuning into your breath. If you are agitated, try taking long slow breaths for a few minutes to give yourself space.
- Pay attention to what you are experiencing. Try to feel it in the body instead of listening to your thoughts about a situation or person. Bring your awareness back to the moment and your direct experience of it. Try to bring awareness to how a situation affects everybody, rather than just you.
Reclaim time: We always run out of time at Christmas. Not enough time to finish the shopping, wrap the gifts, visit friends and family, finish things off at work before the break. The constant rushing and pressure to ‘people please’ often leaves us more tired after the Christmas holiday than before it. This year, make a little time for yourself. The pressure we feel is often self-applied, so take a load off. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but a little mindful self-care can go a long way. Take a walk outside and take in all that nature has to offer this season. Take a long bath with some essential oils. Read a new book. Find opportunities to bring yourself and your experience back into the present moment as often as possible instead of living in an imagined future or re-living a past event.
Christmas is the perfect time to practice gratitude; not just for the gifts given and received, but for all the fortunate things we experience in life that often get swamped by thoughts of how life should be or what we should have achieved ‘by now’. Take a few moments each day to list the things you are grateful for…I bet that list is much longer than your Christmas wish list.
The changing of the seasons from summer to autumn is a favourite time of year for many. The turning leaves and the activity of wildlife can be a feast for the eyes if we get the opportunity to go outside. It may also signal the onset of SAD for many, from the darker mornings and evenings and less time to appreciate the daylight.
One way to improve mood and cultivate mindfulness, which can help through the darker months, is to practice mindful walking. Taking the time to tune into our bodies and our environment can bring a new appreciation for the colder months and can lift the mood enormously.
Mindful walking doesn’t mean taking a hike through the countryside however. It can be practised anywhere; in nature, during the commute or even indoors.
So what is it?
Mindful walking can take many forms but largely falls into one of two categories (or a mixture of both): body awareness and environment awareness. To practice body awareness, we can move with the breath, observing the natural breathing pattern or tuning the breath into each step taken. With environmental awareness, we move steadily but turn our attention to our sensory experience of the environment. What we can see, hear, smell, feel etc. The important thing to remember, mindful walking is not about travelling from A to B, it’s not about getting somewhere. It’s about fully experiencing the present moment through the action of walking.
How to do it
- Start walking at a slow and steady pace. Try to match your steps to your breathing but keep the breathing pattern natural rather than extending the breaths.
- You can hold your hands and arms where they are comfortable – at your sides, behind your back, wherever you like
- Get used to this pace as you walk around your garden, around your house or along the street – wherever you choose
- Start to bring your awareness to the feeling of your feet touching the ground. The contact points at various moments of each step. Notice how your arms move. Notice the sway of your hips and your balance as your step from one foot to another. Notice how you hold your head and shift your gaze as you walk.
- If you get distracted, gently bring your attention back to the awareness of your body in motion
- Try mindful walking for 10 minutes and as you finish, pause for a few moments and set an intention to take mindfulness into the other activities of your day.
- Start off following the first three steps as for body awareness above
- When you are walking with the breath at a comfortable pace, start to shift your awareness to what you can see. Raise your eye level to take in your surroundings fully. Notice the shapes, colours and textures of the things in your environment. Really take in the details.
- Next move to what you can hear; the breeze, trees rustling, birdsong, vehicles, people talking, machinery – whatever it is, really pay attention to the sounds in the moment
- Move on to what you can smell and feel. Use your senses fully to anchor yourself in the present moment.
- If you get distracted or carried away by thought, just bring yourself back to the sensations of the moment as you steadily continue to walk.
- As you finish, set yourself a mindful intention for the day.
As you become more experienced at mindful walking, you can try increasing the pace (if you want to) so that you can move mindfully wherever you are going. Otherwise, you can keep mindful walking as a formal practice that you make time for each day.
Every day should be a mental health day, but while we have the chance for global recognition of the importance of mental health, we should take it. The World Health Organisation recognises the importance of mental health each year with a day dedicated to spreading recognition and education.
Wellbeing is an active, participant led experience. We can’t passively wait for wellbeing to improve (although time may help), instead, when we have the opportunity, we can make small changes and take small steps to improve mental health and all-round wellbeing.
What should you be doing on World Mental Health Day? You will see lots of campaigns all with different mental health themes highlighting action, education and impact studies on mental health. Here, I’d like to highlight some small things that you can do for yourself or with someone who may be experiencing mental health struggles to make a difference today.
If you don’t feel ready for practical action, remember to show yourself kindness and compassion. We are good at looking after ourselves when we have the flu or a broken bone, but often berate ourselves internally when our thoughts or negative states of mind get the better of us. Mental health needs as much care and compassion as physical health. Try to reconnect with the moment through breathing meditation and allow yourself to ‘be’ rather than constantly trying to ‘do’. It’s ok to not be ok…
Try going outside
We have been lucky that the weather this WMHD is sunny and warm. Try sitting outside and taking a few moments in mindfulness. Tune into what you can hear (whether you are in the city or countryside) in the moment. Are the sounds near or far? Loud or soft? Natural or man-made? Next try noticing what you can feel – the sun on your face; breeze in your hair. Just being outside for a few moments can bring an appreciation for the beauty of life that is often lost when your mental health is affected.
Read a good book
It’s often hard to focus the mind or hold down thoughts when our mental health is suffering. Starting a simple task like reading a book can help relax the entire body and direct your thoughts into the present instead of the negative or ruminative thoughts that can occupy our minds. If you don’t enjoy reading, try mindful sketching or colouring, listening to music or playing an instrument. Even activities like baking can really bring you back to now, where your mind and body can rest.
Talk it over or write it down
Easier said than done I know, but when you are experiencing mental ill health, it’s important to maintain contact with family and friends. If you are experiencing difficulties, it’s important that you don’t try to struggle through on your own. It’s easy to stay at home alone under the duvet, but as I said at the start, wellbeing is an active process. Even a few words spoken in the gym or the shops can help you feel better. If you’re not ready to speak in person, try journalling your thoughts. Writing down your thoughts helps to rationalise them and gives context. What you may have spent all day worrying about could take on a new perspective when it’s before you in black and white. Writing or talking about how you feel helps you to let go of the grasp that we sometimes have when rumination kicks in. Turning thoughts into words can be a great release.
I’ve done a lot of ‘gratitude diaries’ over the years and I admit to being skeptical almost every time. However, they are a very useful activity for changing negative or unhelpful thought patterns. We can tend to get lost in our struggles or feel like we have a mountain to climb every day. If you spend a few moments throughout each day to list everything that you are grateful for, you will start to see that there are many things that can lift your mood each day: the sunlight coming through the curtains, the sound of birdsong, a good night’s sleep, an excellent cup of coffee on the way to work, the laughter of colleagues, a small kindness from a stranger, a good news story in the press, a good movie on TV, a long soak in the bath.
When your mood is low or life feels like a struggle, it often seems that when you wake up in the morning, the day seems to loom over you like an insurmountable obstacle. Try to break your day up into smaller sections so you can tackle each one with more energy and a lighter mood. Try to stay focused on the immediate activities that you are doing instead of casting your mind ahead with what-ifs and rumination. Stay present and let go of the weight of the future and the past.