In today’s society we are all constantly bombarded with images, messages and communication from every angle. It becomes normality to the point where we feel as though we can’t function without it when in actuality generations of people survived just fine. With work pressures, families, friends, relationships and social pressure it can be difficult to just remember to take ten or fifteen minutes to stop. Stop working, stop thinking, stop worrying. Eventhough we should naturally be able to switch off these days of course we may need the help of an app! And the one that I love is called Headspace.
I have downloaded and deleted Headspace about three or four times in the last few years but this time I made a pact with myself that I would keep it. I have a tendency to get caught up in thought. They start as a fleeting image and once you engage with that thought it very quickly becomes real in your head and that is difficult to reign back in whereas if you never let it get that far it’s much easier to manage. The concept of headspace is simple. There are a series of meditations that are aimed to help you become more aware and mindful and the range of topics covered is vast. They vary from stress, depression, anxiety, sleep, relationships, balance, motivation and focus to body scans, restoration, pain management, sports, everyday tasks like commuting, cooking, the list is endless. Each package varies in length but is usually for 30 days on the basis that you listen to one a day. Each session is ten minutes long with an option to reduce to five minutes or extend to 30. I try to do it three times a day, first thing in the morning before getting up, after work and before sleeping. This time round what made me do it was trying to manage migraine. I found myself more anxious after getting one which loops back into triggering it from time to time so I am making a conscious effort to try and be aware of my mind and body and how they are interacting with each other.
The app itself is very user friendly. It’s not overly serious as the topic of well being, particularly mental well being, can be daunting for some people so it’s a very approachable app (if an app had personal traits!). The concepts and imagery are simple but incredibly effective and slowly build a series of tips that you can incorporate into your daily life and over time helps you to build a greater sense of self confidence and assurance to help you manage whatever difficulty you find yourself having. As well as the meditations themselves there are also a collection of animations which help to visualise the tips that are being taught. As well as the packages within the app there are also daily minis which change everyday and discuss a new area or look at mindfulness through another scope.
The biggest lesson I have taken from both counselling and apps like Headspace is to always observe thoughts and don’t engage with them. That’s not to say that you ignore anything which needs to be addressed but is a massively useful tip for those who manange anxiety on a daily basis. Be warned though it takes practice and maintenance. I tend to dip in and out of these routines when I feel better only to find 6 months later that I have fallen off the wagon for lack of a better phrase. Our natural instinct is to engage with thoughts and either argue them off or feed into them but this app has definitely had a positive impact on me and I can only encourage others to use it too. The app has a free section which gives you a taster of what it’s like and costs about 12 euro a month if you pay monthly but is cheaper if you purchase the annual subscription. For me it is an investment and so far it is the nudge for me to just take ten minutes to sit down, stop thinking about what needs to get done next, stop focusing on what could happen, stop rushing and racing and just be… just for a few minutes a day. You never know you might love it! For more info see https://www.headspace.com/
Image – Bing images and Headspace
She traced her steps back to where it had all started. That night when she met him for the first time. She had no idea that the man she would meet that evening would have such an impact on her and for the better. They had sat in a wine bar drinking a bottle of red laughing at anecdotes, sharing stories and learning about each others’ lives. She was so cross with Lily for setting her up on a blind date and it was only after two days of not speaking to her that she gave in and reluctantly went. She felt silly now at how annoyed she had been.
Six years later and she sat in that same wine bar except this time she was by herself. She ordered a glass of red and contemplated if he would take her back. She would have given anything to hit a restart button and make different choices. All she could do now was wait and every second was agonising…
Soft, gentle, beautiful,
Flakes gracefully float.
Laying a quilt as fresh as white linen,
She whispers a caution and utters a quote.
Tucking us in she warns us,
Be fooled not by my beauty.
I may seem all sweetness and light,
Underestimation is my ally.
Hush now child and wait for tonight.
Purple punches on the skin like berries perched upon a branch.
A sample so sweet, a flavour so bitter, an aftertaste like a broken heart.
Brownish blue scratches turn to stitches sown in patterns to the quilt.
The mirror has no time for excuses nor for the regret or the guilt.
Then there are the layers beneath, the shield before the heart and soul.
They will heal you from within like a guiding hand on a broken throne.
Although the pain will still be felt the bruises they will fade.
You’ll pick the berries from the branch and savour the strength in each taste.
You only see the surface, not the roots that grow inside.
The mask that covers the cracks and the secrets we like to hide.
But roots are the reckoning force to which we all cling.
We cannot become who we want to be without first looking within.
They ground us in so many ways both physical and not,
but roots too can weep, deteriorate and rot.
Ripped up by some trauma, they dangle amid the air.
Unfamiliar territory, unscathed, unprepared.
But watch ever so carefully and watch them over time.
They won’t do it boastfully, they’ll trick even the sharpest eye.
Gradually those roots of yours will morph back to the ground.
A little different to before but with new strength once unfound.
Some day you’ll show the surface and the roots alike.
They’ll become the driving force, your ambition and your pride.
I was in town earlier today doing a few bits and pieces. The usual errands that can only get done on the weekends. I came out of an internet café after printing some work to find it raining pretty heavily. I threw my scarf over my head and made a dash for my next stop. About 5 seconds into that dash I abandoned the idea and found the nearest porch I could stand under until it calmed. I stood there for about five minutes lost in my own world and my own worries. I faced the opposite direction that I had been looking and spotted a homeless man sitting in a doorway. The rain was beating down on top of him and he sat their motionless. In that moment my heart went out to him. Sometimes a look, expression or glance can describe a pain that no amount or arrangement of words will ever do justice to. The pain was visible all over his face. For a few moments I just stood in my shelter still waiting for the rain to ease. I quickly grew impatient but could not bring myself to pass this man. I gave him the few euros I had in my purse and offered to get him some tea or coffee. He was almost afraid to look me in the eye. As I stood there for a moment the rain began to spill out over the gutter and landed straight onto the side of his face. It was awful and perhaps I am just more aware of the homeless issue now seeing as it is in the media so much more and because I work in the sector but it puts things in perspective.
Glistens in the morning sun against a smoky, dewy mist.
Double take at the beauty, an apparent, soft and gentle kiss.
Hidden on the leaves and branches it shines upon the darkest browns,
But don’t be fooled by her attraction, she’ll seduce and smile with silver charms.
Glimmers that wink to entice you, drawing you to that one touch
and that is when her edges trick you with just one look, one glance, one cut.
Butter wouldn’t melt they say, oh how butter wouldn’t melt.
An illusion to the senses but one that all insist is felt.
Image – Bing Images
This past weekend saw me return to the lovely city of Amsterdam. Known for many things from arts and culture it also has shall we say colourful social life. Whenever I visit a city personally I’m drawn to the architecture of the buildings, the colours and the similarities and differences that exist between home and the location. Amsterdam is no different and I very much enjoyed the trip. It had a few highlights including a fantastic fireworks display on New Years Eve but one particular thing we did while there was dine in the dark. It was definitely an experience to remember.
I had heard of this concept before. The idea is it is like any other restaurant that you go to except for one major difference. You dine completely in the dark. As we arrived we all knew in theory what we would be doing but in the moments before we went into the dining room there was certainly an air of unease of what this would be like. A member of staff sat us in a waiting area and explained that shortly our table would be ready so we waited nervously. We were given a locker for our bags and phones and left our coats in a cloak room by the entrance. Soon after a member of the waiting staff (who are all visually impaired) instructed us to follow him, imagine a conga line through a curtain into complete darkness and I mean complete darkness. I don’t think any of us were quite prepared for just how dark it would be. I was second in the line to be seated and as I was guided by the waiter I was a bit overwhelmed. Eventually all six of us were seated and tried to get our bearings. Other diners were chatting but again you could not see your hand in front of you let alone the other guests.
At first I was quite panicked and unsettled. If I’m ever in a situation where I can’t see because of darkness I tend to close my eyes. I feel more comfortable that way but having your eyes wide open and having no idea what is in front, behind, next to or across from you is quite daunting and it certainly took some adjusting to. The waiter had asked us if we had any allergies or are vegetarian etc. as the second difference with this restaurant is that you have no choice on the menu. You only find out afterwards what you have eaten. There were five courses in total including an appetiser, a starter, a main course, and two desserts, one small and one large. As your sight is now just a sea of black you have to rely on your other senses to get by so touching the table to find your cutlery and glasses and also pouring the jug of water. Your smell and taste to figure out what you are eating and sound to gauge who at the table was speaking. Even though I couldn’t see any of the others at our table it was interesting that once you did figure out where everyone was sitting if they spoke you do turn towards them and nod along as if you can see them.
The food itself was delicious although eighty percent of the time I didn’t know exactly what I was eating and cutting the meat was definitely a tricky challenge. As we finished each course we tried to identify the different flavours and textures on the plate and while we did get some ingredients correct we were far off from guessing the whole menu.
The entire meal lasted about two hours so it’s a significant amount of time from start to finish. When the meal ended the waiter again guided us out of the room and instructed us to look down at the floor for a few moments when we returned to the lit room. It was a strange sensation coming back out and it did take a minute or two to readjust and get my balance. I certainly left with a renewed appreciation for my eyesight and it certainly was an eye opening experience (no pun intended). For me personally it gave a stark reality check into what it must feel like to be visually impaired. I would recommend people to try it if the opportunity presents itself. At the moment I don’t think there is a restaurant in Ireland that does it but there are many internationally so if abroad and you come across it give it a try. You’ll appreciate your senses a lot more afterwards!
Learn to be still, to watch, to observe,
Seamlessly lay beneath the surface,
Breath, always breath, but do so in a way that no one will notice.
Learn to be quiet but never unheard,
Motionless movements until the last moment.
Master your skill of pretence and patience,
Then strike when you’re ready with subtle confidence.
Learn to be gracious in success and defeat,
your prey will challenge you even if they feel meek.
Learn to accept, to evolve, to transcend,
to move with purpose, poise and strength.
The once murky water will soon become clear,
and you’ll be still, observe and watch without fear.
Photo – Bing Images
A look in the wrong direction,
A glance that would mark the start.
A stare that is still remembered,
In a blink that could break the heart.
A bond that could never be broken,
A connection to be felt.
A twist of fate that fooled you,
A rapport that once made you melt.
A whisper of words of comfort,
An utter of pain as well.
A declaration of I love you,
but for how long is left unsaid.
A bank of memories to reflect on,
A dozen good and a matching dozen bad.
A vault that is seldom opened,
A safe with no known combination,
Until someone else breaks the code.
Picture – Bing Images