Mother Nature's Barn

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Here you will find the articles written by Mother Nature`s Barn for
 The Chappel & Wales Colne Village Reporter.

 

September & October 2017

The miracle of the present moment

My mind is so busy. I can’t seem to keep up. The days are flying past. I really feel like my life is whizzing by. What can I do?


You can start to cultivate present moment awareness.


The present moment is when your mind is not in the past or future but resting in the moment you are experiencing.

More often than not when our minds drift off into the past or future this can cause us to feel stressed. When you recall a past experience this may carry strong emotions like hurt and anger. Or maybe you are worrying about something in the future? Fearful thoughts can hold us back from truly living in the here and now.


If left to their own device, our mind can be our own worst enemy. The great news is you can start practicing right now, on how to bring yourself back to the present moment.

It only takes a few simple steps.

  • Stop. Stop what you are doing in this moment.
  • Breathe. Gently redirect your full attention to your breathing. You do not have to alter your breath in any way. Just focus on the breath.

Do this for at least a minute.

  • Continue with your day.


Our thoughts are controlling the way we feel which then makes us behave in a certain way. These few simple steps will help you to not get attached to unwanted, wasteful thoughts, which are causing you to suffer. Once this happens you start to re connect your body and mind. This will bring you much joy and happiness in the present moment and in the future.


So to be more happy and joyful I just have to breath?


Yes. Use your breath as an anchor. You are ultimately waking yourself up from the automatic pilot you find yourself in. Practice this during your day and you will begin to notice your stress levels decrease.


Another way to bring yourself to the present moment is to become engrossed in a task. When this happens there is no room for negative thoughts to creep in, your mind is too occupied in what you are doing. You can apply this to anything you do; washing the dishes, painting a picture, mowing the lawn. When you allow your mind to drift off you are not truly there. Your body may be mowing the lawn but your mind is caught up in an argument you had 3 weeks ago. This is when we feel like our lives are whizzing by.


The miracle is that the present moment is available to us anytime, anywhere.


“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” Albert Einstein

 

November & December 2017

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Take a moment to ask yourself the following question.

Can I remember the last time I said or thought “wow that’s beautiful.”


If you cannot remember, it may come as a surprise to you that we are constantly surrounded by beauty and incredible moments.

The problem is that we are often too busy and self-absorbed to notice what is going on right in front of us.

If you allow your mind to always be occupied with deadlines, tick lists, friends and family wrangling, social networking etc, then where is the time to stop and smell the roses?


For the September/October Village Reporter we discussed becoming aware of the present moment, by stopping to bring us back to the here and now. This newfound awareness is a very important and an essential first step to becoming “Truly Present”.


Now we need to learn how to start seeing and feeling the beauty around us. It is a gift that is always there for us to enjoy. We need to drop all judgement, self-criticism and learn to accept what is, rather than automatically feel the need to resist.


One of the most wonderful and creative ways of bringing you to this state of mind, is through photography.

Taking a picture requires us to focus our attention on what is going on around us, right here, right now. Then we capture it. You can take a picture of anything you like and if you remain present you will start to see and feel its beauty.


“So you’re suggesting that if I take a picture of my dining room chair, I will feel its beauty? All I’m thinking right now is that it’s just a wooden chair”.


Absolutely. I am probably right in assuming you have never given the chair your 100% focus since you brought it. If you allow your eyes to gaze over the chair, looking at its curves, groves and unique markings you will begin to see its beauty. Don’t forget beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am sure that when a carpenter looks at chair’s design and construction, they are drawn to many aspects which may initially be invisible to the lay person.


“Ok, I now understand the concept. However, I can’t simply go around taking pictures, staring at things all day. I’m a very busy person and you have just given me something else to do!”


We will always have a list of things to do, but I urge you every now and then to stop, take an imaginary picture or an actual picture and bring yourself back to the beauty of the present moment. All these Snap shots, when collected, create your day, your week, your month, your year, your life. If you are moving too fast, how can you truly experience them? Are you experiencing them at all?


Once you allow yourself to experience these still moments, you will gradually start to feel calmer, less stressed and more able to cope with your busy day ahead. A still moment is just as valid as a busy moment. Leading a busy life is not a problem. However, leading a busy stressful life is likely to effect you both physically and mentally.


So pick up your camera and capture a moment. Nature is a great place to start as it is very easy to see the beauty that is on all of our doorsteps. Don’t just snap and share with your friends. Take your time, give it your full attention and then keep it for yourself. It’s all about the process not the outcome.


For inspiration and to witness moments of beauty in the Colne Valley see The Colne Valley, Secret Treasure of Essex on Facebook.

Mark has a gift of capturing the beauty that Mother Nature has to offer. Thank you Mark for the photograph provided.


January & February 2018

Healthy mind, healthy body


As the New Year begins people tend to think about their health and what they can do to lead a healthier lifestyle. Lose weight, quit smoking, be more active, drink less alcohol, eat more fruit and veg. All these can have immediate and long-term health benefits and most importantly they can improve your quality of life. Excellent!


Here`s are question to ask yourself;


Have you ever thought about the connection between your body and your mind?


For example drinking large amounts of alcohol is directly linked to memory loss, however eating foods that contain antioxidants can help improve focus, problem solving and memory. Being active in whatever way you choose; to walk, run, swim, bike, yoga, dance, increases blood flow and oxygenates the brain, which is essential to a healthy brain. Smoking however robs your body of oxygen. Studies show that Alzheimers is twice as likely to occur in smokers as non-smokers. It’s clear to say the connection between the body and mind is a strong one.

As a nation the biggest drain on our society relates to matters of mental health issues generally caused by stress.

Stress compromises our physical bodily health and our physical and emotional mental health. Stress is the modern day plague.


“I can see the connection between body and mind in my life. When I eat healthy, nutritious food I feel energised and light in my body and mind. However fast food and processed foods have the opposite effect.

So I’m the kind of person who regularly exercises, I don’t smoke, I occasionally drink alcohol and try to maintain a healthy diet. However, despite my efforts I still feel stressed. Why is that? I’m actively doing things recommended to lead a “healthy lifestyle”. When I come home from the gym my mind is clearer and my body that bit fitter, but it only seems to last a short while. How can I maintain a clearer mind?”


Ok, that’s great. You lead a healthy lifestyle. You have chosen healthy choices that can help reduce your stress levels. However, there is more that can be done to target daily stress levels.


I’m going to tell you how you can reduce your stress levels even lower and maintain a clearer and more peaceful mind. It has everything to do with the body and mind connection.


Have you considered how much time a week you spend at the gym? Lets say on average you go three times a week, totalling three hours a week. I wonder what benefits could be experienced by dedicating three hours per week to develop and strengthen your mental health?

Research has confirmed that mindfulness meditation increases grey and white matter in the brain, reduces pain, improves the immune system, improves mood and slows down the aging process. Mediation is a means to transform the mind. Through meditation we are able to take responsibility for our own states of mind and change these for the better.


Stress is usually formed by our personal relationship with the immediate world around us. Actions that can provoke stress will always occur in our daily lives. This is called “LIFE”.


Through Mindfulness and meditation, we can learn to change our outlook on modern life.

In the same way that you can focus on specific areas of your body whilst at the gym, you can also target key important areas essential to boosting your mental health.

We can learn to become more flexible as we approach emotional or theoretical obstacles.

We can improve our inner strength through self-compassion.

We can improve our stamina through acceptance of others and ourselves.


The beauty of taking the time to learn the above; is that after the “initial basic training”, there is no further kit required, no expensive memberships. All that is needed is the intention to live a happy stress-free life, where love and compassion takes priority over competition and gain.

Meditation becomes a way of life, therefore it feels natural and allows us to live a stable and happy life.


We wish every one a Happy New Year and wish all of you well in whatever changes you intend to carryout, to improve your quality of life.

May & June 2018

Making a difference

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”


Adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)


It helps to remember this story when you are faced with limited thoughts such as “I’m not able to change this situation” or “this problem is way too big to sort out, instead I will just ignore it.”


We all have the opportunity to help create positive change. So if you are keen to make a change instead of thinking about what you can’t do, consider what you can do.


Look at a problem in your life and think, “what’s one action I can do right now?”

It may seem tiny in comparison to the whole problem. However let’s focus right now on what you can do.

One tiny action right now.

It might even be just to think about the problem differently. This can normally make a much bigger difference than you think.


Do you feel something is stopping you maybe?

Underlying fear is the cause for a lot of our suffering. This is why we recommend people to read Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. This book has a magical way of changing your relationship with fear.


Once you can start living a life not restricted by fear you can make a much more positive difference to you, your life and to the world.

We are all here to enjoy life, however sometimes a few tinyadjustments are needed to be able to do this.

Have a splendid May and June.

Love Jenny and Mat

July & August 2018

Happiness

Happy summer everyone!

A few people told us that they enjoyed reading the story in the last issue about the star fish, so we wanted to share another story that is one of our favourites.


An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while. 

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish. The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. 

The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.” 

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”


This story inspires people to slow down, reassess, and get real about how they want to live their life.

It may seem life is passing you by while you try to work harder to make more, buy more and have more.

Ask yourself this- could you live with less?

If you desired less “stuff” would you be less stressed worrying about how to pay, fix or sell this stuff? Would you create more time and space for yourself, family, friends, and happiness?


True lasting happiness comes from being content and having inner peace. Adyashanti explains why new possessions provide only a temporal feeling of happiness.

When we make a purchase and/or get what we want, we are temporarily happy and fulfilled. But the reason for happiness is not because we got what we wanted, but because for a brief period of time, we stopped wanting, and thus we experience peace and happiness.”


So would you like temporary or lasting happiness?


If you desire lasting happiness it would be recommended to redirect you desires to love, contribution, faith and compassion. These will bring you feelings of joy and fulfilment, just like the Mexican in the story.

You can have, be and do more with a lot less than you already have. This may be a new concept to some but it is worth giving it some thought. After all we are all here to experience life to the full! Don’t cut yourself short.

Love Jenny and Matt

September & October 2018

Meditation

In this article we are going to (hopefully) clarify what meditation is. We can all conger up different mental images when we hear the word meditation.


“Ok, so when I think of meditation, I think of someone sitting with their eyes closed, crossed legged in a meadow or by a stream, sitting on a rock.”


You will see many photos portraying this image if you google meditation and view related images. The truth is you do not need to practice meditation in this way. Of course you can if this posture is right for you, but unless you find it comfortable sitting unsupported with your legs crossed, we advise you to simply sit in a chair. Making sure you are upright in a chair and not slouched on your sofa is a great way to start your practise, rather than trying to sit on the floor getting your inflexible legs to cross, (we can’t all be yoga masters!)


“Ok, that’s great that I can just sit normally on a chair. However, I now have the problem of falling asleep when I close my eyes. I have tried to meditate before. I put on some relaxing music, closed my eyes and woke up 20 minutes later. I’m thinking I might as well just go to bed!”


Falling asleep during meditation can and does happen, especially if you are meditating in the evening after a busy day. There are many techniques we can teach you to help reduce the chances of falling asleep. Did you know that you can meditate with your eyes open? Focussing your eyes on a fixed point (such as a lit candle) can reduce the likelihood of falling asleep.


“I find it very hard to switch my thoughts off. I often get carried away planning the future or re living what happened earlier today.”


You are experiencing this as you are new to meditation. Your mind is used to running the show. It obsesses and repeats thoughts rapidly often without contexts. I can reassure you that the more you practice mediation, the more you will be able to let these thoughts drift past. We are not trying to stop the thoughts. Letting the thought drift past without getting caught up in the thought is the practice of mediation.

People give up too easily because they think they have to stop all thoughts. You are setting yourself up to fail if you believe this. We teach you methods to be able to let your thoughts pass freely. This is how you clear your mind. This is how you become free from your worries and concerns. It is simply a skill that needs to be learnt and then practiced.


“Ok, well that’s good to know. I have previously believed that this is impossible. I feel that I have been a slave to my over-thinking mind. The idea of not being caught up in my head sounds really appealing.”


Excellent. I’m glad that you can see that now.

After 2 weeks of practising a daily 15 minute meditation, you will start to feel the benefits. We understand it can be hard for busy people to take time out to sit and be still. It can feel like you are wasting your time and that you need to get on with your usual routine.


However when your mind starts to become clearer, you will in turn become more; focussed, more productive, have more energy, need less sleep and be happier within yourself. The list is endless of what a clearer mind can do for you. This is why the company Google introduced meditation to their staff back in 2000. Google found that productivity increased as a direct response to taking time out from their standard hours to meditate.

On the first week of our 8 week meditation course, we talk about how to prepare for meditation. Optimum time, place, posture, duration and method of meditation. This way you can find which options work best for you. At our free fortnightly meditation group everyone is mediating in their own way. Some lay on the floor, some on chairs and some on pillows.


We welcome anyone and everyone to our meditation group and we love meeting people who are new to meditation. So don’t be shy and we hope to chat soon.