Thursday, 23 June 2011

Say Ommmmm

Over the years I have developed, experimented with and refined an array of strategies to support myself in my relationship with food and my body. This is mostly what keeps me sane. Some come naturally, like writing and talking about it with other like-minded women, while others can be a bit of a stretch. This is especially true of meditation. And yet one of the most effective ways I know to support myself is to regularly take 20 minutes to stretch my body, focus on my breath and do some visualisations. When I do this, I have less back pain and am a happier person all-round. And when I am pain free and feeling happy, I don't use food as a reward or as a pick-me-up or as an excuse to take a break. I am more in tune with myself, more in tune with my needs. And that's always a good thing.

So why is it such a challenge to do it? 

Why is it so hard to ring-fence 20 minutes, to believe not only that it's OK to use those 20 minutes to stretch and breath and visualise, but really very advantageous to do so. Why do I so often let my nasty little Gremlin completely take over and collude with all those stale arguments it puts forward to dissuade me from doing it:

  • You should be working
  • It's not even 'proper' meditation. You made it up. It doesn't work
  • Your back isn't hurting that much
  • You're so selfish, you've got masses to do
  • After breakfast. After lunch. After dinner. Tomorrow
  • If you're not going to do it every single day, don't bother

So instead of rolling out my pink futon and giving myself 20 minutes, I move on to the next thing. I am in perpetual motion treading the intricate and laborious steps of the busyness dance. Doing, doing, doing. Never stopping, never breathing, never noticing. Day after day my pink futon stays rolled up behind the sofa.

This morning, I unrolled the futon, pulled down the blinds and set a 20 minute timer on my phone, all while keeping the Gremlin at bay by humming loudly so I wouldn't hear it.

The next 20 minutes fly by. I do some basic stretches. The same ones the osteopath showed me years ago when my back was so bad I couldn't walk. I breath, I send white, lava-like breath into my muscles. I see them lengthen and soften and repair. I thank my body: my feet for getting me places, my legs for holding me up, my backbone for keeping it all together. I relax every body part in turn, letting it melt into the futon and then covering it with a warm blanket of dazzling gold dust. I focus on my breath, pushing it into my lungs, my belly. Occasionally my mind strays and goes off to do the shopping list or my Gremlin tries to say something. For this I have a particularly effective visualization: I imagine a big broom sweeping the thoughts out of my head so that there is nothing left inside. This works surprisingly well. For just a few minutes at the end I am suspended in breath, I feel weightless and at peace.

The phone beeps and suddenly it's all over. I open my eyes feeling alive and refreshed.

This post is a note to myself, a reminder that these 20 minutes are one of the best ways I know to support myself, to stay grounded in my relationship with food and in owning my body. The next time my gremlin starts to act up and try to convince me to skip my 20 minutes I will come back to this post - and read it mantra style - until it gets the message.

How often you give yourself 5, 10 or 20 minutes to stop and just be? To do nothing, to think nothing, to feel...everything. What's your way of 'meditating'? Does it make a difference to the way you eat and feel about your body? 


  1. So funny you should post about this..I also do everything I can to stop from, well, stopping! My partner has turned his life around by meditating; he is now the opposite from the stressed and tense person he used to be. I can see that, so why do I never let myself 'stop'?! I think I've almost developed an anxiety against meditation, and get quite panicky just at the thought of it! Instead I keep myself busy by vacuuming, washing up, doing the laundry..never taking time out for myself :( Tips would be appreciated! Xx

  2. Hi
    This was a very effective post for me. I am exactly the same, know it is good for me, did Sahaj Marj meditation for years and noted the benefits, but now cannot 'ring-fence' even 20 minutes in my now 'un-busy' days (I am retired and find I am eating much more because I am BORED!). The Gremlin keeps reminding me how weak I am - have now bought the Gremlin book to read. Maybe that will get me back into meditating.

    My method of getting rid of the intrusive thoughts when I am meditating is to imagine them going up in smoke and out the back of my body, or the top of my head, similar to the broom sweeping clean. It really does work. And, an important point, I think for all would be meditators, is that it doesn't have to be an 'official, or recognised' mediation practice, nor does it have to be done lying on a futon, or yoga mat. It is important to be still and that can be sitting up in bed (lying down is not recommended, you will probably fall asleep!) or sitting in a chair. It is all about just being still for 20-30 minutes and it CAN be done. Thank you for reminding me of all of these points . Next step ...... sweeping my mind, ditching the Gremlin and going up in smoke!

  3. "If you're not going to do it every single day, don't bother" This made me laugh out loud, because I recognise it as an excuse I use myself (for exercise too) yet you don't realise how daft it sounds until you see it written down! It's also interesting timing for me to read this post as I've recently started attending a chiropractor who prescribed four 15 minute sessions per day in bed with an ice pack under my lower back to ease inflammation there. I was horrified at the thought of trying to squeeze in all that time in an already busy day. But since I started I find I'm warming to it. I use the time to relax deeply, and now look forward to the time out. Maybe my back became inflamed to teach me to slow down.
    In response to Tali's request for tips, I'd like to suggest this: Start small. When I did a Practical Philosophy Course we used to always begin with a 2 minute meditation that involved simply focusing on each of the senses in turn (including the play of air on the face and hands, the weight of the clothes on the skin...)and being completely in the moment. After just two minutes we would open our eyes and feel completely refreshed. When I practise it occasionally now (mostly I think to do it when I'm in my car and have some time to spare, or "found time", as my mother calls it!) I find I enjoy it so much I go way over the two minutes. Any time spend in mindfulness is better than none :-)
    Thanks for the beautiful post!

  4. printed this out...Very much need to get back into meditation !
    thank you,


  5. I like this thread! Have been doing a course in MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) which is as it sounds, a combination of Mindfulness meditation (teacher says 80%) and CBT ideas. I can HIGHLY recommend it. It fits in so well with BC principles and really extends that approach to the whole of one's life. In our area the same course is also run by NHS for anxiety and depression and seems to be becoming a widely available approach to stress, anxiety and just generally coping better with life. Here's a link to a website for anyone interested - there's a search facility to see what is around locally.

    A tip I've found very useful is the 3-Minute Breathing Space which is as follows:

    Find a quiet place to be for just a few mins - I often use the car - could go into an empty office at work, in the bathroom...anywhere to be undisturbed for just a few mins. Sit down and settle yourself comfortably. Close eyes. It's a "mini-meditation" with three stages and anyone can do it, anywhere, any time!

    1. Awareness - stopping and noticing how you are - in body, mood, and thoughts - for about a minute
    2.Focussing in on the breath - follow each breath in and each breath out.If attention wanders (it will!) don't worry, just notice and say to yourself, "ah, my attention is wandering" and then go back to the breath. No ned to push the thoughts away, just be kind and notice it, then bring yourself back gently but firmly. Do this for about a min - longer if you have it but even this much will help

    3. Expanding out your attention gradually to the whole body - bring awareness to all areas one at a time - shoulders, arms, belly, legs, neck, jaw, face. Again - don't try and change anything or try to relax - just notice how you are. Then start to notice where you are, the room, sounds etc and open eyes. About another minute

    It really really works! It brings me back to myself and allows my racing mind to settle just enough to stop me being in frantic "doing" mode, or rushing for biscuits or making a bad decision or getting into a downward spiral of anxiety and worry. Obviously it works best as part of a regular practice of some kind which the course would teach you and there's even an on-line one with downloads. But just doing this one small thing could make a big difference. It has helped me so much with some very stressful times. I am not yet fully applying it to my eating but I am aware that it is there for me to do so when I am ready - but has certainly helped with staying calm and making better decisions for myself and others around me whose needs are great at the moment. Am glad to have an opportunity to share this with other BCers as it is so much along the same lines - we even did the Raisin exercise which people who've ben on workshops will recognise!

    Would love to hear if anyone finds this useful or is doing anything similar

    Charlotte x

  6. Yep, absolutely, I would love to do this but, like you, find all the excuses in the world not to, including the ridiculous, 'I haven't got a timer and won't know if it's been 30 seconds or 30 minutes'! Also I find being still really really hard and yet I feel sooo much better when I can be still, even for a short time.


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