As you may know, I have been running my Embrace Relaxation and Meditation classes for a few months now, and I previously blogged about how I got started here. Today I want to tell you about the journey I have been on myself, and why and how I first became interested in relaxation.
Hippies, Fairies and Mung Beans
If you had asked me my thoughts on relaxation or meditation 20 years ago, I would have been quite closed-minded to the idea, and would have had a particular 'type' of person in my mind. Although in my teenage years I wore an abundance of tie-dye, fragranced my bedroom with incense and listened to Jimi Hendrix, I wouldn't have had a clue about meditation or relaxation! But as I got into my 20's I started to feel aches and pains in my body, the likes of which I hadn't experienced before. As I started my career in teaching, it became evident that something was wrong. After what seemed like months of tests, we had a name for what I was going through - an auto-immune type of arthritis. 'Arthritis? But I am only 23!' I remember thinking. The next few years were hard; trying out different medications and beginning to realise what the future might hold.
The pains which had started in my right heel, had spread to my left knee, and on any given day could be in my fingers, wrists, shoulders, upper spine, ribs, sternum, ankles, toes, neck and lower back. Coupled with actual pain was the continual sensation of feeling feverish. It was horrendous. The more pain I was in, the more depressed I felt and the less I thought I could do. Most weeks I had to have at least one day in bed, which was not great for my career, my self-esteem or my mental health.
The Turning Point
During this time I had started to see a counsellor for a seemingly unrelated issue, and we were talking about the idea of self-efficacy. It was then that I had my light-bulb moment. It dawned on me that if my illness was auto-immune, and my body was making it, then it could also work out how to fix it. As the words came out of my mouth I realised that something in me had changed forever. Such is the power of words and therapy my friends!
The Journey Back to Health
That strike of inspiration happened about 7 years ago, but it was still another year before I was willing and able to do anything about it. I kept thinking about ways to look after my body; eat better, sleep better, take more (gentle) exercise, and just learn to listen to the many signs and signals my body was trying to give me. It was a fine balancing act between doing enough, but not too much (which could end in a flare-up). The key issue was deciding to take charge, and ultimately responsibility for the body and mind in which I was living, and not to blame an illness, but to encourage and nurture my own wellness. It sounds easy, but it wasn't. It was a journey of many steps, and it's one I am still on today.
How Did Relaxation Help?
This was actually one of the last stages of my journey. Since I started studying NLP a few years ago, I have made a conscious effort to engage more with my body and my kinesthetic side by taking up more physical pursuits, including Tai Chi, Yoga, walking, massage, swimming, Zumba and so on. I also started to listen to guided meditation Cds, which were an easy way in for someone with little experience. As with anything, it took time to get used to and I had to try at first. I found it hard to switch off my internal chatter and found that I would focus on the person's voice or accent - anything to detract from the business of relaxing! I then tried listening to meditative music, (without words) and this helped quieten my mind.
Last year I read a book on holiday called 'Teach Us to Sit Still' by Tim Parks and I had another light bulb moment! I realised that a lot of the time I was making things worse for myself, by holding tension in my body, or ignoring a physical need, or tensing muscles somewhere deep within me. I started to work on breaking these habits and began to understand how to 'let go', and how to 'breathe into the pain'. These things have changed the way I live my life.
My Relaxation Classes
In my class I attempt to create a safe environment where women of all ages can learn to relax. I have benefited from learning to relax so much myself and enjoy sharing these gifts with others. You can find out more about my classes here and you can even download Relax Kids meditations from my website here. I also have a shop where you can find cds which I have used myself. As always leave me a comment below if you have anything to share, or contact me privately if you would prefer.
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