All about Mantras.

I recently received a message from a Chill Mama who had been practicing pregnancy yoga with me, telling me about the birth of her baby.  Her message went like this:

“…My baby came out just 4 hours after my water broke!  In the last hour I requested an epidural and was told that I was 8cm (dilated) and that it wouldn’t be possible.  I was pretty devastated but continued to use one of the mantras you gave us in class: “just this”.  I think it was about 4 or 5 “Just this’s” later that she made her way into the world.”

In pregnancy yoga, we explore lots of different techniques to enable the mind and body to cope with the sensation of labour.  Ajapa Mantra (non-spoken, just repeated in your mind) is just one of them.  It is completely normal for the mind to have an incessant stream of chatter.  Mantra is an ancient method that has been used across many cultures as a way to bring the mind to a single point of focus.  A way to “tie the puppy mind to the post” so to speak as a precursor to arriving at complete stillness of the mind, even just for brief moments.

There are thousands of different mantras you can choose.  It’s important to choose a mantra that resonates with you, that is easy to remember and repeat, that is positive and uplifting.  From there, it is the repetition of the mantra that becomes the most important part rather than the mantra itself.  Your mantra might be a single word or a phrase.  It might be in your native language or it might be in Sanskrit.  Here are some examples you might choose:

Single word examples:

  • OM/AUM (sacred sound in Hinduism that signifies the essence of consciousness)
  • Nirvana (means ‘place of perfect peace/happiness’)
  • Ananda (means ‘divine joy’)
  • Ham-Sa or So-Ham (means ‘I am that’ – identifying oneself as being of divine consciousness)
  • Love
  • Peace

Phrase examples:

  • Om Shanti (Shanti means ‘peace’)
  • Aham Prema (means ‘I am divine love’)
  • I love you
  • Just this
  • Just now
  • Just be
  • Be still

Choose your mantra and keep it for a while, get comfy with it so that you can recall it easily when your mind drifts away from it (which it will!).  If you feel like it isn’t working for you, choose another one and repeat the process, stick with it for a while and notice how it affects your ability to hold your mind’s attention during meditation and at other times when you need to slow your racing thoughts.

Personally, I like a mantra that can be split in half – one sound for the inhale, one sound for the exhale.  ‘So-ham’ or ‘Ham-Sa’ is a great example of this.  It’s easy to remember because it sounds like the sound of your breath.  ‘So’ on the inhale, ‘ham’ on the exhale and on it goes, inhaling and exhaling, so-hum, so-hum.  Or you might prefer ‘Ham’ on the inhale, ‘Sah’ on the exhale.  For me, my mind gets easily distracted on the ‘Ham-Sah’ sound and I end up repeating and thinking about ‘ham sandwiches’! So-Ham is much less distracting for me 🙂 Less distracting for you still might be choosing English words that have inherent meaning for you.  There is no real right or wrong here, just find the right leash for you to tie your puppy mind to the post and enjoy those moments of mind stillness a mantra can help you arrive to.

person meditating
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© Written by Amy Vaccaro for Chill Mama Wellness, 29th September, 2018.

 

But I’m not a Thief!

Were the words my ego muttered as my Yoga Teacher Bronnie introduced us to the concept of “Asteya – Non-stealing”.  Asteya is one of the five Yamas, or restraints that were outlined in the 8-fold Path in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali written about 400 CE.  “Thou shall not steal” also happens to be the eighth commandment in the Christian faith. Just like the 10 Commandments, the Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (observances) of yoga were written as guidelines to help us to live a happy and joyful life.

To me, “thou shall not steal” always meant that I should never take anything that didn’t belong to me, but growing up, I had only ever thought about material goods.  As I came to learn more fully, the concept of Asteya (and also the eighth commandment) goes deeper than this.  Of course, it’s important not to take material things that don’t belong to you, but have you ever thought of all the other things that you take from others without thinking?

The first thing to consider is other peoples’ time.  Are you a time thief?  Do you always arrive late to appointments or meetings?  Do you book an appointment or meeting and then cancel at the last minute, or worse yet, don’t show up and not let the person know, regardless of the reason?  Time is our most precious resource.  Once time has passed, we cannot get it back regardless of how wealthy we are.  Stealing other people’s time is a serious deal.  When you disrespect somebody’s time it indicates to that person that you valued something else over their precious and finite time.

Secondly, do you steal from the Earth?  Do you steal from the future of your children and grandchildren by not being mindful about the resources you are exponentially consuming and the rubbish you are leaving behind?

Thirdly, do you steal from yourself?  Do you over commit, become exhausted and leave yourself depleted so that you are never giving anyone your best self?  Do you self-sabotage by not believing in yourself, constantly talk yourself out of things because you believe you’re not good enough, and hence rob the world of your unique human essence and the gifts you should be sharing with the world?  Consider the following really awesome quote:

“The world needs the fully alive, well rested you, not the exhausted you.  Imagine a world where women make rest and rhythm a priority and operate more from their full power.” – Karen Brody, Daring to Rest.

The next thing to consider is where you give people permission to steal from you, especially in regards to your energy and your time.  You wouldn’t leave your house or your car unlocked or leave your wallet unattended in plain sight, so consider ways you can ensure your valuable energy and time are safe.  Have a read of my blog post about managing energy vampires if you haven’t already.  In regards to keeping your time safe, place a high value on your time and be strict about it, just like a you place a high value on the money you work hard to earn.  When you place a high value on your time, others will learn to value it also.  An example of this might be placing a do not disturb sign on your office door at certain times of the day so that you can work without distraction, or it might mean saying no to somebody you usually say yes to regardless of how put-out it makes you (Devil Wears Prada style).

The moral of the story is, after considering all these things about Asteya that I was introduced to by my yoga teacher, I became very aware that I was a MASSIVE THIEF, even if I’d never stolen any material good in my life!  Fortunately, only awareness can bring the winds of change, so with that awareness I am committed to being mindful of all these things.  I started with acknowledging the value of other people’s time.  I do my very best to ensure I am on time for appointments and meetings and if I know I’m going to be late due to things I cannot control, I do my best to alert the person and apologise, acknowledging that I value their time.  I’m working on avoiding stealing from myself and from the Earth, but both of those elements are proving to be a work in progress.  Small steps, day by day.

Where can you commit to stealing less?

flight landscape nature sky
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© Written by Amy Vaccaro for Chill Mama Wellness, 24th September, 2018.

Energy Vampires and how to Manage Them (and it’s not necessarily your toddler!)

Check out this video (3:38mins) by Dandapani called How to Spot and Energy Vampire and then lets chat energy…

As I’ve become older, especially after my children were born, I have become very aware of energy, probably because after I had my babies, my energy levels were always SUPER low.  When they were small I ran on very little sleep for a long period of time owing to  Dom’s Autism.  I was completely depleted and life was HARD.  I also had a lot of trouble saying “no” to things.  That’s where defining my values in life became important (check out my last blog post for more info on values).

Now they’re older and I have my sleep back (hooray!), my energy levels have returned.  But they’re different, more fragile somehow.  Owing to the fact that I had to learn to be so conservative with my energy when the children were small, I now have a vast appreciation of where it is going most of the time (I still get caught out from time to time though and given it’s getting to the end of the NSW school term, those reserve levels are getting lower and lower…).

So where does our energy come from?  In the yogic sense, we use the term prana to describe energy coming in to the body.  Prana comes from the oxygen we breath and the food we eat.  Therefore, the better quality our breathing is, the more nutrient dense and sun kissed our food is, and the healthier the body is to enable the absorption of oxygen and nutrients, the more prana we take in.  Daily meditation and yoga help us to become more aware of our individual levels of prana on a daily basis so we can know just how much we have to “spend” so to speak.

And so we come back to the words Dandapani speaks in the video about Inherent Energy Vampires – those who have been like this their whole life.  I really don’t like the term “vampire”, although it is an apt description.  There’s little compassion in that term based on our cultural notion of vampires as being blood thirsty killing machines.  I prefer the term “energy vortex” instead.  The problem with inherent energy vortexes is that they are usually completely unaware of their action and are so desperate for love and positivity in their life that they steal it from others like a small, hungry child stealing a loaf of bread to feed themselves.  So knowing that “where attention goes, energy flows”, and that energy doesn’t discriminate, just like water in the garden, it will grow both a weed and a flower, using our core values we need to choose where we “spend” our finite amount of energy each day.

 

vampire
I vant to suck your energy!! Inherent energy vortexes can be deceiving, at first they might look all cute and friendly, but then out comes the fangs..

Actively choose to practice your energy spend, just like choosing what to spend your money on.  Become aware of those inherent energy vortexes and their suffering.  Give them whatever amount of energy you choose to based on what you can afford and then move on in peace.  Now this might be painful at first.  You might notice sensations of guilt or overwhelm or the inherent energy vortex might use words and actions just like a toddler having a “Mr Stampy” (fists screwed up and legs stomping up and down) moment to try and manipulate you into giving them what they want – your delicious positive energy.  But just like not giving in to your toddler wanting a chocolate at the supermarket checkout because you VALUE their good health and behaviour, do your best to not give in to the inherent energy vortex because you VALUE your own energy and want to spend it in other more productive ways.  Just like a toddler will eventually calm down and move onto something else, so will the inherent energy vortex.

Happy energy spending Chill Mamas and remember: “Pursue a lifestyle where the by-product is happiness” – Dandapani.

© Written by Amy Vaccaro for Chill Mama Wellness, 17th September, 2018.

6 Ways to Ditch “Living on the Edge” due to Stress and Anxiety.

I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald recently with incredibly alarming statistics.  It stated that almost half of Australian women were anxious or depressed and that 67 per cent (yes that’s two thirds) of women report feeling nervous, anxious or on edge EVERY SINGLE DAY!

The study found that contributing factors for this are women not getting time to themselves whilst struggling to keep all the balls up in the air – family, work, parents, and other stuff that inevitably throws a spanner in the works.

So what on Earth are we going to do about this conundrum?  It’s completely unsustainable for women to continue living on the edge like this and for half of Australia’s population to keep the smoke in and not spontaneously combust!

Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve incorporated into my life in response to the same crippling “living on the edge” womanly life sensations that have helped me (with time and practice):

1) Make a list of the top values in your life and make decisions based on these values.  Not sure what your values are?  Never thought about your values before?  Neither had I til my psychologist suggested I work that shit out.  I made a list, stuck it up on the fridge and every time I was confronted with a difficult choice, instead of immediately saying yes like I always had, I checked my values list to see if there was a conflict.  If there was, I said no to that choice if I could.  If I couldn’t, I acknowledged the values conflict, acknowledged my feelings about it and worked out whether there was a way to avoid that conflict of values in the future.  Here’s a website that can get you started on the path to values creation.  It might be interesting (but you might need wine) to check your partners’ list of values too…

2) Be Ok with saying NO.  It’s like a muscle, the more you practice saying it, the easier it will be.  Use your values as a reference point. Be like Amy in Bad Moms.

3) Triage your life.  People who are triaged in the Emergency Department by the nurse are given a category from one through to five based on the severity of their presentation.  Category one means that the person is virtually dead and needs immediate attention.  The immediacy of attention decreases right down to a category five which is a non-life threatening condition (like tonsillitis or an ear ache) that is uncomfortable but can wait a few hours or potentially be sent to another care provider like a GP.  So consider events in your day or week in this way based on what you value most.  For example, if (like me) you place a high value your mental health, it’s a category one.  If my mental health starts to slide, everything else goes with it.  So I make time for meditation, physical activity and good food I enjoy.  It means I get up 20 minutes earlier while the house is still quiet to meditate, and that I also decided to become a yoga teacher (kind of a big commitment, lol!), but you need to do anything to keep a Category One alive and breathing.

4) Consider whether you can live with less so you can decrease the amount of paid work you do.  This will depend on what you value.  If you place a high value money and material goods or you really value the work you do and it needs to be full-time, it is unlikely this will be something you want to do.  However, if you are happy to live in an average to minimal way, and/or your work role allows it, you may be able to work less hours so you have more time to spend on other things you value more highly.  If you want to know more about minimalism, check out The Minimalists.

5) Get help.  We all know we need to exercise, eat healthily and sleep well, but sometimes we wonder how the bloody hell we’re going to do that as well as everything else.  Consider areas of your life you can outsource (maybe it’s getting groceries online so you waste less time in the supermarket).  Consider professionals who can help as well, your GP can be a great place to start when it comes to your mental health and can guide you to other professional support like counseling as you require it.  Take time out for a massage or a yoga class or anything you know is going to be calming and relaxing for you.  Remember (or discover) how it feels to slip into the parasympathetic “rest and digest” side of your nervous system and give your body and mind a break.

6) Plan more fun.  Have a girls night out.  Go on a date with your partner.  Squirt the hose at the kids (if it’s summer time that is, not in general, cos, you know, loving mother and stuff).  Plan a getaway and then actually go on it.  Dream about what you would do if you won the lottery.  Send funny GIFs to your friends on messenger and laugh your head off. Go to free outdoor exercise or yoga class, Live Life Get Active offer them across Australia.  Eat a food you love every day.  Enjoy the sensation of your breath filling your lungs.  Find small moments of joy wherever you can as these small moments add up to large feelings of contentment over time.  If you want to know where joy hides out, watch this amazing TED talk.

At Chill Mama Wellness, I am on a mission to change this disastrous phenomenon by offering services to help women to find oasis of calm in their life through yoga, massage and education.  If I can help you in any way, please reach out, I want you to step into your fabulous femininity and thrive.

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© Written by Amy Vaccaro for Chill Mama Wellness, 10th September, 2018.