Me Meditate?! I'd Never Be Able To Concentrate!

When I started my MBSR Programme with Donna Curtin in January 2016 I never thought I would be able to sit longer than 5 minutes without doing something. I was always doing something! And even when I was sitting still my mind was always someplace else. If I wasn't thinking about a concept for a new logo or an ad campaign I was thinking about what needed to be done at home, or where the kids needed to be next or what I'd pick up for my friend for her birthday...there was always something on my mind besides just sitting still and allowing myself to breathe.

So I honestly thought that meditation was something I would never be able to do. I thought meditation involved sitting for hours in a dark room or something you only did on a retreat. I, like most people had so many preconceived ideas about it that I just thought it was something that wasn't for me. I never just sat there...that was completely alien to me so I remember the first time that Donna asked us to try it on our own at home I struggled. I can remember hearing the ringing in my ear from my Tinnitus louder than normal and getting very irritated with the whole experience. I couldn't wait for the bell to ring to tell me it was over to say "Yea, I did it and it did , I tried it, box ticked".

Acceptance is Key

While Donna constantly reminded us that this wasn't a test, it wasn't something we HAD to do, like homework. It was something she asked us to try in a non-judgmental way, I still struggled with feeling I had to do it as I wanted to prove to myself I could do which is the very reason why I wasn't enjoying it. I was forcing myself to like it instead of just letting go and seeing what happened. I can remember Donna asking us how we got on the following week and when I told her my experience she asked "what if you welcomed the tinnitus? What if you allowed the ringing in your ear to just be there" and I remember thinking "seriously? The very noise that drives me crazy?!!?...Welcome it?" I honestly couldn't imagine doing such a thing. But after a few weeks of taking what Donna had said on board I slowly started to realise that what she said made complete sense. What if I just accepted the tinnitus? Allowed it to just be there, become part of me like my rods were part of my back? That's when it all started to change.

What if I just accepted the tinnitus? Allowed it to just be there, become part of me like my rods were part of my back? That’s when it all started to change.

From that moment on meditation became easier, it became something that I even was starting to enjoy. It felt good to just sit or lie there and listen to Donna's voice guiding me through my breath. Actually feeling myself breathe and realising that it was perfectly okay to just sit and be without my mind running away with the next thing I had to do or pondering over the last thing I did. I found for me that doing a 10 minute meditation was something that I was more likely to stick as it was something that I thought i could fit into my life no matter how busy I was. 

After a few months I really started to notice a change in myself. Meditation combined with all the things I was taught over the 8 weeks on the MBSR Programme made me see things more clearly. It helped me make decisions easier and not react to situations like I would have done in the past. I felt calmer. And what's even more amazing is my family noticed a difference.

Finding My Headspace

Like anything in life we try and want to keep up, routine is key so I decided to set my meditation space at my desk at the same time every morning as I knew that this is a place that I could sit uninterrupted (once switched my phone on aeroplane mode). This place worked for me and sets me up for the day ahead. I also decided to download the HEADSPACE App a few months ago as it gives me a daily reminder on my phone at the same time every day to let me know when it's time to meditate. I have also set a place up at home - just a chair in my bedroom - it doesn't have to be a place that has Buddah statues, incense and candles lighting everwhere (alothough I have to say that would be lovely!) but just a space that you feel comfortable in that you know where you won't be disturbed. When you think about it you wouldn't go to the gym without your runners so to meditate the surroundings have to be right.

Just 10 Minutes A Day

Now, do I meditate every single day? I wish! Bust like any working mum will understand some days finding 10 minutes feels impossible but when you think about it 10 minutes is such a short time to allocate for yourself in 24 hours but there still those days when I don't manage to find those 10 minutes. But that's okay. Once again, it's like anything in life, there are going to be days for one reason or another you can't find the time - but what I have discovered is that the days that I don't I feel different. I don't have the clarity or calmness in my mind that I have on the days that I do.

I have found the HEADSPACE App really works for me as it is very easy to use and Andy Whitcombe's voice is extremely relaxing and pleasant and I have now found myself saying "Thanks Andy!" at the end of each session. Like I got to know so many people on my journey so far, really lovely people who all have different stories but are on the one journey to better their own minds through mindful living and meditation, I feel Donna and Andy are just two more people who are helping me along the way. 

My Headspace App on my desktop at my desk

My Headspace App on my desktop at my desk

A Mindful Cycle

I have mentioned before how starting to cycle again has really helped me get relief from my tinnitus. My doctor mentioned that it's the wind blowing past my ear that diffuses the sound so I can escape the constant whistling sound. While I have since discovered other means of distraction - much as meditation and being mindful - I have now started to discover other benefits of cycling apart from the obvious fitness side. Cycling has definitely made me feel more present. I notice my surroundings more and really embrace the freedom of the feeling of being on the bike. As an added bonus, my husband - who introduced me to cycling - and both my children also love it so it has become a great way to spend an hour on a saturday or a sunday.

We are also very fortunate to have the majestic River Shannon on our doorstep with a cycle path that goes from our house directly out to the stunning grounds of the University of Limerick. On a clear winters day it is one of the best feelings in the world to cycle along the banks of the shannon and stop along the way to see the swans and the ducks. My children absolutely love it and since I became open to Mindfulness I have learned how wonderful it is to appreciate these things even more. In a world where we are obsessed with perfection and appearance we all need to stand back and really see the beauty in everything. I mean really notice things. Before I started on my Mindful journey I would have frequently visited the ducks with the lads but I would still have probably had 101 other things going on in my head at the same time so while I saw the ducks I probably didn't really see them. Now I can sit there and watch them with my family and really notice and enjoy those moments in a different way. It's those moments on our cycles that I really enjoy. It's looking at the architecture while cycling around UL's campus along with seeing the shadows of my children on their bikes as we're cycling along. It's knowing that they enjoy it too as there will be plenty of days when they'll say I don't want to go and that's fine to but for the moment I will enjoy the ones when they do.

New...Mini MoMe Cards

The idea for Mini MoMe cards came about after my 11 year old daughter Fay, placed her favourite MoMe cards in her bedroom - on her locker, on her mirror and at her desk - and they really seemed to have a positive impact on her. When she packed them in her suitcase to bring with her on holidays I knew that I needed to create a set of Mini MoMe cards especially for her and other girls and boys of a similar age. I have had many conversations with my daughter about friendships, school and growing up so I wanted the messages on these cards to reflect that while also giving encouragement and praise.  Each card is double-sided with “you” and “I” because sometimes it’s more powerful to be told something positive and sometimes it even more powerful if we tell ourselves.

I have also created a set of the original MoMe cards is this smaller size also as they can fit neatly in individually in your wallet or you could fit the full pack in your handbag. Each is presented in a lightweight easy-to-open plastic holder and will be ready and up live on the site to purchase by the end of this week - just in time for Christmas!

IMG_6882.jpg

Learning To Cycle Again - how cycling has helped my tinnitus

Until recently, I hadn't cycled a bike since I was a child. Like most people my days of scooting around on my Raleigh Burner were well and truly over since I became a mum. Even the thoughts of cycling again scared me! My husband has always been into cycling and really enjoyed taking the kids out on their bikes so I decided to give it a go! I was a bit shaky at first - and to the amusement of my 2 children it took me a while to get my confidence back. Now just to clarify - by no means am I going to be competing in the Tour de France or anything - I just mean going for a cycle along the banks of the River Shannon with my family. But I was still cycling - something I hadn't done in years. 

What I didn't realise at the time though that getting back on my bike would become a form of therapy for me. After I was struck with my tinnitus in September 2014 I soon realised that the only time the ringing in my ear would leave me was when I was on my bike. It is as if the sound of the wind passing my ear drowns out the sound of the ringing. It's such a sense of freedom - not just from the obvious feeling of cycling but for me freedom from the ringing in my ear. It has also become something that I can enjoy with my family and a great way to spend time with my children. 

A view on the Shannon River on one of my cycles

A view on the Shannon River on one of my cycles