Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Liquid sunshine and wanting to do the splits

February can sometimes be one of those months when a little extra help is needed to maintain a positive outlook. I have discovered a drink that helps me with this. It is my cup of tea but may not be yours! I was looking for a way to inject some brightness into my morning when I stumbled across the recipe for Turmeric Tea and as I had all the ingredients I needed thought I’d give it a go. The process of making it is mindful in itself, all that pounding in a pestle and mortar can be therapeutic; it’s oddly soothing watching ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and coconut oil come together to form a deep orange paste. And as you mash it all up it releases such a warming comforting smell which then fills the whole kitchen as you heat the mix with coconut milk. The bright paste begins to meld with the milk as the heat increases until you witness a bubbly golden froth breaking the surface. I like to leave mine to simmer away for a good ten minutes to really increase the intensity. The colour mesmerises me, it is golden and joyous. I find it restores a childish fascination with mixtures, I want to find that exact hue and sink into it. I want to become golden and glowing and yellow. To breathe in the precise shade. To swim in milky turmeric tinged lakes. This liquid sunshine restores my faith that spring is on the way. The taste is sweet and earnest. As I drink I imagine the wholesome yellowness healing every cell in my body. A bit over the top I know but it has that effect on me! A big glass of this can change my attitude for the day. It is more than a sum of its parts; yes the healthy ingredients are good for me but it has the ability to be more than nutrition, it feels as if it soothes my emotions. Perhaps you can imagine that sense of the sun coming out after a dismal few days and you turn your face up to the rays and smile the biggest smile, it’s all going to be OK. That’s what this does for me. Perhaps the yellowness resonates with the Solar Plexus Chakra providing me with a hefty dose of self-esteem, energy, confidence and inner power.  Perhaps even strengthen my sense of autonomy. Whatever it is I am going to set myself a very simple goal of drinking liquid sunshine daily for the next 5 days.

Goals don’t need to be complex or far reaching; attaining this little daily objective will make me feel on track. It’s purely for me, it won’t change the world. But it will increase my happiness and I find it fun, which seems like a perfectly legitimate intent. I have been thinking about simple aspirations and how we often denigrate the importance of setting a desire that isn't necessarily worthy or life changing but merely frivolous and pleasurable. At the end of a Yoga class last week I was chatting to a fellow attendee and she happened to say that she’d love to do the splits but had never achieved the flexibility required.  I offered to spend some time with her after class each week to work on her goal. She laughed and thought she was probably ‘too old, it was indulgent to spend time on something that wasn't important and what would she do with the skill if she did manage to achieve it?” But I feel that being able to do the splits is a perfectly admirable thing to aim for. Why shouldn't we strive for fun, learning to extend flexibility may well be the start of a whole new way to relate to one’s body. At the very least my friend gets to spend extra time at the gym and away from the biscuit tin.
I have ancient goals that I have long forgotten about. I never mastered cartwheels as a child, would have loved to have learnt to play the piano and at one time aspired to perfect climbing trees. What makes me think they are not worthy of my time or dedication now? I imagine my delight as I clamber down from the highest branch, launching in to a perfect cartwheel and rushing in to play chop- sticks. I would certainly feel very pleased with myself…. perhaps if I keep up with the Turmeric Tea my youthful exuberance will return to reignite those childhood goals !  

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Will + Power : The conscious mind has the Will but its the Power of your subconscious that brings about change)

We form habits by linking behaviour to a certain time, place, person; we associate that way of being, to an activity, that may originate in the conscious part of our mind but over time sinks into our subconscious mind and becomes an automatic response that is deeply embedded and requires no thought to activate.
We associate being in the bathroom in the morning with reaching for the toothbrush and paste and cleaning our teeth. As a daily habit it is an action that is done on auto- pilot, our subconscious is saving us the brain energy, it is helping us to conserve valuable thinking time. If we are swimmers at some point in the past our conscious minds took the steps needed to learn to swim, as we progressed the knowledge became habitual and we can relax and enjoy the fact that the physical requirements of swimming come back to us whenever we are in the pool.  
Perhaps as a child you were given sweets as a reward for getting through the school day, the pleasure of sugar became associated with relaxing and being loved, your subconscious will have linked the feeling to the sweet food and a conditioned habit will have formed. Or maybe someone offered you food to comfort you when you were upset and now whenever you are sad your subconscious switches on that habit and you eat to calm your emotions.
Link any activity to an event and we form a habit. Our subconscious isn't aware of whether the habit is good or bad for us, it takes over to save us the trouble from having to think so we can just get on with other things.  Our subconscious mind is always working for our own good; it’s just that sometimes we give it the wrong idea of what is good for us. The subconscious is the auto pilot for the body operating all the functions such as breathing, making our heart beat, blood circulation so we don’t have to consciously keep ourselves alive. It can do lots of things at once whereas consciously we can only manage one or two. And whilst running all the bodily functions the subconscious is also taking in millions of pieces of information, then passing on what it thinks is relevant to the conscious mind.
And if the subconscious has been programmed to think that when we are upset we need a biscuit that is what it will tell us to do. That is why making a conscious decision to not eat that biscuit feels so hard; we are using the wrong part of the mind to change our habits. Habits reside in the subconscious and habits need to be erased from there. If we attempt to break free from a habitual behaviour that no longer serves us using our conscious thought there will be a conflict between the two parts of our brains. And the subconscious will win because it has the power of imagination, no amount of willing will override that.
Let’s say you have made a conscious decision to change an unhealthy habit (overeating, smoking, drinking too much). You have tried many logical and rational ways to do so. You may have had some success but then slipped back into the old habit. You have had to remind yourself not to eat too much, not to buy cigarettes or to say no to wine. All conscious thoughts that require effort, when what you want is for the new you to be slim effortlessly or a non- smoker just because that’s who you are. You are making the resolutions with regards to your habits on a day-to-day basis but it is the imagination (The subconscious) that determines whether or not you carry out those conscious decisions. You may consciously want to change that annoying habit but you are playing a different film in your imagination, a film which at some point in your life your life was taken on as a habit by your subconscious to do you a favour. Your subconscious doesn’t differentiate between good habits and bad habits; it just knows that if it doesn’t protect them you could be in trouble. How dangerous would it be to suddenly lose the habit of being able to swim in the middle of a large expanse of water?
That is why when you aim to say ‘No’ to that biscuit with your tea your subconscious comes along and reminds you that tea = biscuits. It’s what you always do. And if you ignore the signal it ignites a more emotional response to get you to conform to the habit because it thinks that what you want, its job is to remind you of the habit so it activates cravings to get you to listen and react.
The human mind works by association, and over time many links between habits and emotions have been formed. To change these habits you have to return to where they began, though the imagination a new positive link can be formed to replace the old unhelpful association. Perhaps you can recall having a dream in which you were scared and you woke up with your heart pounding, well that is how we know that the subconscious reacts to the imagination as if it were actually happening. The physical body responds to the dream as if we were running away when in fact we were safe in bed. We can harness that power to easily imagine being free of an unwanted habit, our physical self, our conscious mind, will accept it as fact and respond accordingly. 
Hypnotherapy enables habit change successfully as it accesses the subconscious via relaxation and creates new images (imaginings) to replace the old scripts. Your subconscious disconnects the events or emotions (triggers) that cause the habit so your conscious mind isn't aware of the habit ever having  existed.  The old memory of the habit is replaced with a new response to the situation; because you have already imagined that you do without that glass of wine at the end of the day your subconscious won’t remind of that habit, it just won’t enter your head. The link is broken and replaced with good feelings of being fit, healthy and in control.  To reinforce the new positive habit the subconscious is reminded of its job to protect the new pattern and so it becomes second nature for the new link to be a permanent change. It is a simple state of mind.