Tag Archives: Meditation

Three ways to stay stress-free this Christmas

Today, I am delighted to share with you a guest post from a special friend of mine, Jemima. She’s a yoga teacher and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner, who specialises in stress reduction. Like me, Jemima is also passionate about nutrition and meditation, recognising the positive effects they undoubtedly have on our physical and mental well-being.

In this post, Jemima is going to share some tips on how we can maintain a sense of calm in the busy weeks leading up to Christmas. You’ll also get to meet Jemima as she’s kindly made a short video tutorial for us on how to do a simple breathing meditation. It may be simple, but it’s extremely effective. If you haven’t tried meditating before, I hope you’re encouraged to give it a try!

With no further ado, let me pass you over to Jemima…

Boxing Day Shoppers

 

So, here we are…Christmas lights have been officially switched on in town, adverts are bombarding us at every opportunity and the great race to consume as much as possible before the 25th December has begun.  Many people would rather not be drawn into these manic and soul-less preparations but how do we resist?  How do we avoid the prickling panic sensation of not having bought enough for our families?  How do we banish the temptation to over-eat, over-drink and over-spend when that is the norm at this time of year for so many?

 

Whenever I face a tough question or emotion, I have found it useful to ask – what do you want instead?

 

What do you want instead?

It’s really easy to list all the things that we DON’T want and to become caught in a negative cycle of constantly trying to push things out of our way, creating more problems for ourselves as our brains don’t have the capacity to process a negative.  (Try this – don’t think of a red box, you can’t help it can you?)  So instead of thinking – “I don’t want to overspend this Christmas” or “I don’t want to put on weight this Christmas” – try stating what you DO want.

 

As if by magic your brain will then look for all the ways you can make those things possible, because the brain wants to find evidence to support what it believes to be true… So you could have “I’d like to give heartfelt gifts this year and stay within my planned budget” or “I’d like to eat food that nourishes and energizes me”.  You’ll be amazed at how many solutions seem to appear out of thin air.

 

Stay in the moment

There is a saying that goes “Anxiety is born of living in the future and depression is born of living in the past”.  While I think this is oversimplifying to some extent, I do believe very much in the benefits of tuning into the present moment.  An easy way to do this is to focus on the breath.  Take a quick look at the video below and I’ll show you exactly how to start right now…

 

 

Gratitude

This is one of my favourite ways to feel good when I am in need of a boost.  Take a pen and pad and find a comfy spot.  Make a list of everything in your life that you are grateful for.  No thing is to big or too small, get it all down.  From your house, food in the fridge to the smile your daughter gave you this morning, from indoor plumbing to the love you share with a special person.  Run with it, keep writing even if you get stuck.  This exercise can be very profound and may cause leakage from the eyeballs which is absolutely 100% OK.  After 5 minutes stop and read your list back to yourself.  Relish the feelings that come up, all the sensations, let the gratitude fill you up until it starts to overflow.  Tomorrow, make another list.

 

These 3 specific tips have helped me stay grounded and calm and you may find that they help you to tune into your true nature again and fill up on all the good stuff whenever you want (– not only at Christmas!) the stuff that we can never over-consume and that is truly nourishing, namely love, gratitude and peacefulness.

 

Wishing you all an amazing Christmas and with special thanks to Sharon for asking me to guest blog here.

Love

Jemima x

Jemima jpg

And thank you Jemima!

If you’d like to connect with Jemima, you’ll find her here: Sunshine Yoga Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube.

 

Do you find that your stress levels rise over the festive period? I know it’s the most testing time of the year for me. There always seems so much to do and the days fly past quicker than ever!

Do you have your own methods for avoiding stress at Christmas time? If so, please do share below.

Also, I’d love to hear whether you’ve tried meditation.

 

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Filed under Guest Post

Spring Break

Today was my last kids’ Buddhist workshop of the Spring term.  I feel so privileged to have been able to spend Wednesday afternoons with such an awesome bunch of children.  Aged between 5 and 10, these children are already so skillful at meditating.  And some of the discussions this term have been so profound that they’ve left me wondering who’s actually teaching who?  I’m sure I’ve learnt as much from them (if not more!) than they have from me.  With children like this around, the future could indeed be very bright

The children also produced some beautiful artwork this term.  Here’s a small selection…

WW Spring Art 2013

Since we’re about to embark on Spring Break, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to do a little work on myself 😉  For the next two weeks, I’m going to unplug (no mobile, iPad, laptop, pc, internet, email, tv) and focus on studying my Buddhist texts, meditating and spending quality time with my boys.

I look forward to catching up with you in a couple of weeks when hopefully I’ll be fully refreshed and revived 🙂

I bid you all a wonderful Spring Break xx

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Filed under Buddhism & Meditation, Holidays

Dharma 4 Kids Festival 2012 & A Chocolate Giveaway!

Hi everyone!

Here’s a few pics that I wanted to share from this year’s Dharma for Kids Festival. We went to this festival for the first time last year and enjoyed it so much that we decided to go again. Lil’ L had been looking forward to it all year!

The festival took place at the beautiful Nagarjuna Centre in Kelmarsh, near Northampton (about a 3-hour drive from Bath).

This place has such a relaxed atmosphere. It’s got a fantastic cafe with an outdoor seating area, where M and I love to sit, chat, and drink cappuccinos while Lil’ L’s busy having fun with his friends 🙂

The theme of the festival was ‘You Before Me‘ and, over the course of the weekend, there were workshop sessions, meditations and activities arranged for the children and teenagers based on the theme of ‘kindness’.

There was a dedicated art marquee where the children could make objects that they would like to see in a ‘Kind World’.

They made marzipan tormas and mandala sets out of paper and coloured rice. Here’s the results of Lil’ L’s torma making…

There was table football, table tennis, a karaoke marquee, bouncy castles, and gladiators.

And lots of opportunities for general larking about.

On the Saturday morning, I got a surprise call from my friend Nicky to tell me that her family were ditching their original plans for the day, and were going to join us instead 🙂 They got in their car and drove for 2+ hours simply to spend the afternoon with us (what total stars they are!) Seeing them at the festival made the weekend even more special for me. I wish I’d taken a few pics but I was way too engrossed in the chat. At that point, photography was the last thing on my mind!

We paid for day passes to the festival (M, Lil’ L and I stayed overnight at the nearby Travel Plaza) and I was happy to find that the passes included all meals. The food was fantastic! All veggie of course, which saved us having to sift through the buffet 😉

On the Sunday afternoon, the children had the option of taking part in a drama session, where they enacted ‘The Giving Tree’. I’m sure my American readers will be familiar with this story, but I’d never heard it before.

Lil’ L’s only encounter with the book till that point had been through reading one of the Wimpy Kid books. Apparently the Wimpy Kid is terrified of the author on the back cover. I have to say, I know what he means! You should have seen Lil’ L’s face when he realised that it was that book!

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‘The Giving Tree is one of those special stories that has very few words, yet leaves a great impression on the reader. I’m sure everyone that reads the story will have their own take on what it’s all about. Seeing that I tend to read everything from a Buddhist perspective, for me, the story is first and foremost a lesson in where happiness truly comes from. I’m sure there’s also some environmental messages in there. Anyway, I’d be interested to know whether you’ve read this story yourself and what you think of it.

The children at the Buddhist festival acted out the story beautifully. Last week I thought that I’d try it with my Wednesday Workshop kids too. We first read the story using a powerpoint version I found on the Internet, then we watched an animated version from YouTube (there’s many version of the story on YouTube but I thought that this one was well suited to the kids in my groups).

We then acted it out. It was a bit manic but the kids were so enthusiastic and had a whale of a time. We decided that a more suitable title for our version would be ‘The Crazy Tree and Mad Boy’!

Since then, we’ve followed on the ‘giving’ theme in our Wednesday Workshops and, this week, after a beautiful meditation, the children made bookmarks to give to a friend or relative, and I gave each of them a cookie 🙂

It’s Giveaway Time!

Continuing with the ‘giving’ theme, I think it’s about time that I gave something away to you, my lovely blog readers. It’s been a while hasn’t it? Does anyone fancy some of my home-made raw chocolate hearts? You do? Well, I would be very happy to share some with you!

There are four ways that you can enter, and each way counts as a separate entry. So, if you enter all four ways, you’ve quadrupled your chances of winning. Happy days!

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave me a comment below
  2. Follow me on Twitter (@Goodstuffsharon) and leave a comment below to let me know
  3. Tweet the Giveaway and leave a comment below to let me know
  4. Follow me on Facebook and leave a comment below to let me know

The giveaway is open to everyone, regardless of where you live.

I’ll select a winner at random on Friday, 5th October.

Good luck everyone!

And have a great weekend xx

 

 

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Filed under Buddhism & Meditation

School’s Out! Planning Summer Activities on a Shoe-String Budget

The school summer holidays officially start for us today. I can’t believe that another school year has finished already. These years are flying by!

I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with Lil’ L over the next six weeks. However, as I’m not working at the moment, I need to make sure that we keep spending to a minimum. 

We did lots of great free/ low cost activities last summer that we’re hoping to repeat or improve on this year. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far…

– Bike Rides
Inspired by the Tour de France, we’re going to devise our own ‘Tour de Bath’ where we explore different areas of the city by bike and record our ‘stages’ on a map, noting the distance and time.

– Hiking
There’s so much local countryside that we’ve yet to explore.  We’re going to pack some sandwiches, binoculars, a map, and waterproofs, and hike along footpaths and bridleways in the hills around Bath. Luckily my ‘smartphone’ has got GPS, just in case we get lost 😉

– Photography
Lil’ L loved the challenge I set him over the Jubilee weekend of photographing red, white and blue images. This summer I’m going to set him some more photographic challenges and show him how to edit photos and make online albums.

– Creating in the kitchen
Lil’ L has already devised a list of 15 new smoothies and milkshakes that he’d like to try making. During the holidays, we’ll work our way through his list, photograph the successes and blog about them.
I’m also really looking forward to teaching him how to make other treats, such as granola bars, chocolates, ice cream sundaes and so forth.

 

– Summer Reading Challenge
Last weekend, the children’s summer reading challenge was launched in Bath by Olympic Gold Medallist Amy Williams. It was such a pleasure to meet her! I didn’t get to hold the Olympic torch (like my mum did!) but I have now held an Olympic Gold Medal. It was beautiful… and way bigger and heavier than I imagined it would be!

The library reading challenge has really fired up Lil’ L. The first thing he wanted to do when he broke up from school today was to go to the library and borrow some more books!

– Maths Challenge
To keep our ‘maths brains’ ticking over, we’re going to take part in Carol Vorderman’s Online Maths Factor Summer School (I need this as much as Lil’ L 😉 ). The school costs £15 but is so worth it. Carol Vorderman has got to be the ultimate Maths teacher. Not only is she fantastic at explaining maths, but she actually makes maths fun. Her online schools are perfect for kids like Lil’ L who are yet to develop a passion for numbers.

– Summer Diary Writing
Lil’ L has recently started to get interested in writing and his stories are way more creative than anything I’ve ever written! I’d love to encourage him to keep writing over the holidays, maybe in the form of a summer diary or scrap book. As well as writing, he could add photos, ticket stubs, drawings and so forth.

– Family Activities at Local Museums and Galleries
There are lots of drop-in activities on offer at the museums and galleries in Bath which are free for residents, and I’m planning to make the most of them!  Does anyone fancy investigating Roman gods and goddesses and making Minerva’s wise owl? Or how about learning some Roman language and make a Roman book mark? I know I do! 🙂 
If you’re planning to be in the Bath area over the school holidays, you must check out the family activity programme. Here’s the link.     

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– Play Dates
It’s really important that I arrange some play dates for Lil’ L so he gets to spend time with his friends during the summer. I need to do this ASAP as I know diaries get filled really quick.

– Quality time with grandparents
Lil’ L rarely gets to have one-to-one time with his grandparents and this is something that he mentioned he would really like this summer. Next week, he’s going to spend a couple of nights with his nan and her two dogs in Dorset and he’s really excited about it! Hopefully, at some point during the summer, he’ll be able to have some one-to-one time with his other grandparents too.

– Family quality time
The three of us (me, M and Lil’ L) are really looking forward to spending a couple of weeks’ of quality time together during the school hols, which means switching all the gadgets off (phones, computers, etc) and giving each other our full attention. We really value our quality family time. For me, it’s priceless 🙂

– Buddhist Festivals and Daily Meditation
There’s lots of Buddhist festivals in the UK this summer, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to attend at least a couple. As well as inspiring teachings and meditation sessions, there’s always lots of fun activities arranged for the kids. Lil’ L made some great friends at the festivals last year and hopefully they’ll meet up again this summer.


I’m also hoping that we’ll get into the habit of daily meditation, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. With Lil’ L’s help, I’ll set up a dedicated ‘meditation space’ upstairs. We’ll make it cosy with cushions and blankets, and light incense and candles. It’ll be great 🙂

 So that’s just a few ideas of what we’ll be able to do this summer on my shoe-string budget.  I can’t wait to get started!

I wish you all a wonderful summer. 🙂 xx

p.s. If anyone’s got a bit of sunshine to spare, we would really appreciate it if you could send it over here. Thank you 🙂

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Filed under Biking, Buddhism & Meditation, General wittering, Living Rich on Less, Vacations, Walking & Hiking

Magical Meditation & WIAW!

Hello everyone!  Hope you’ve had a great day!

I’ve just come back from another magical afternoon with my workshop children.   I led three meditation groups this afternoon (2 workshops and 1 playtime session).  Today ,we did ‘Wishfulfilling Jewel’ meditations.  It was beautiful to see the children in such peaceful meditative states, followed by enthusiastic, animated discussions about their experience of the meditation 🙂

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While I keep the meditation session short (5-10 minutes), one boy carried on meditating for another 35 minutes whilst the rest of the children watched a film. He was totally absorbed in the meditation and completely still.  It was incredible to watch!

At playtime, I’m teaching a Year 6 (10 year old) girl how to meditate. Today, she joined in with Lil’ L and his friend who had already come into the classroom to meditate.  Lil’ L led the introductory breathing meditation, then I continued with the wishfulfilling jewel.  For some reason, this meditation seemed to have physical effects on the children.  Two of them said that their hands were tingling and the tips of the girl’s fingers had turned red and hot.  Lil’ L actually heated up during the meditation and was sweating.   However, soon after meditation finished, he cooled down.  I’ve never witnessed anything like this before, so I’m not sure what it means.  I’ll have to consult the experts 😉

In the workshops today, we started watching ‘The Legend of Buddha’ (an English-speaking Indian animation film).  I must have seen this film at least six times already (and saw the first half twice today!) but it still moves me every time I watch it.  The kids love it too!

Next Wednesday is the last workshop sessions of the term.  The children have worked so hard and, to show my appreciation, I’ve got a little present to give to each of them.  I’m really looking forward to seeing their faces when they open it.  I can’t say what it is yet, as I don’t want Lil’ L to find out, but I’ll reveal all next Wednesday 😉

I also had some pretty cool eats today, and as it’s time for the lovely Jenn’s ‘What I Ate Wednesday’ party, I’ll share them with you.  Here goes…

Breakfast
Hot lemon & water
3 vegan blueberry buckwheat and oat pancakes (left over from last night’s dessert).

This is one of those flukey shots where I took one photo and it actually turned out okay.  Normally I take a gazillion photos to get one that I’m happy with, so this was a very rare occurrence!

Lunch
At the weekend I trialled a festive version of my classic lentil and nut loaf.  This basically meant that I added nuts that I consider to be ‘festive’ (hazelnuts and chestnuts) and glazed the top of the loaf with lots of delicious cranberry sauce.

 

I only got round to tasting the loaf today.  As I needed a quick lunch, I simply ate it cold with a side serving of raw kale coated in Good Hemp oil and sprayed with B Shot raspberry balsamic vinegar.

Check out how sunny it was when I attempted to take a photo!  We’re still having some crazy weather for November!

The cranberry sauce glaze was lush! 

Snacks & Drinks
Nettle tea
Peppermint tea
A little water (not enough)
Black coffee & 1 Amaretti biscuit (to test that they were edible 😉 )

Today I made a batch of Amaretti biscuits, which I’m planning to give as presents to friends, family and Lil’ L’s school teachers.  I got great feedback when I made these biscuits last year, so I’ve been looking forward to making them again.  They are really easy and quick to make! (recipe below)

There was no light by the time the biscuits were ready to be photographed, so I've had to resort to an old, bad photo from last year 🙁

Here’s the recipe:

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes approximately 40 biscuits.

Ingredients
325 g / 11.5 oz / 3 1/4 cups ground almonds
300 g / 10.5 oz / 1 1/4 cups unrefined caster sugar
3 organic, free-range egg whites
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 170C / 325F / Gas 3.  Line baking sheets with parchment.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until firm.  
3. Gently fold the sugar, almonds and extracts into the egg white, until you have a smooth paste.
4. Roll the mixture into small balls (approx. 1 tbsp mixture per ball).  Flatten slightly and place on the baking tray approx. 2cm / 3/4 inch apart.
5. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until lightly golden (the biscuits will remain soft until they cool down).
6. Leave to cool completely before gently peeling off the baking paper.

These biscuits last for weeks.  They start off crunchy and eventually become soft and chewy (but still as delicious) 🙂

This is one of the rare occasions that I use eggs in my baking.  I bought them from a local guy who keeps a few hens.  I grilled him to find out how he looks after and cares for the hens … I even asked him if he loves them! (cue amusing response to the ‘mad’ lady 😉 )  Anyway, I’m satisfied that these hens are well cared for, so I’m happy to purchase their eggs.

Dinner
Tonight, we had chestnut and green lentil soup.  This soup is so tasty and Lil’ L absolutely loves it!  He’s had it for dinner twice this week already.  Today, we served it with a sprinkling of shelled hempseeds on top, and warm seeded ciabatta on the side.

Click here for the recipe.

Lil’ L and M also had a serving of the festive nut loaf (to test it) along with some crispy kale.  They both loved the loaf, so it looks like it’s definitely going to feature on the Christmas dinner plate.

Dessert
Tonight, M made one of his ‘speciality’ smoothies for dessert… chocolate, banana and blueberry smoothie made with Alpro soya milk.  A great (sneaky) way to get some blueberries into Lil’ L’ 😉

It’s been a fantastic day all round for me!  I hope this Wednesday has been a good one for you too! 

What has been the highlight of your day?  For me, it was definitely the kids’ workshops. 

What was your favourite eats? Hard for me to choose today, but I’m going to go for the Amaretti biscuit, closely followed by the chestnut soup.

I’d love to hear from you!  In the meantime, I’ll pop over to Jenn’s party and get some inspiration for some more great eats 🙂

Happy WIAW everyone!

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Filed under Baking & Desserts, Buddhism & Meditation, Dinners