Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Yoga Retreat Closest to Home

I've been feeling like I needed to get away for awhile, and longed so much to go to a yoga retreat. I went once to the Ghost Hill Road Retreat on one of the yoga detox packages and it was ah-may-zing. Beautiful scenes, delicious catered vegetarian food every day, fresh breakfast using home grown vegies and herbs...

After wallowing in self-pity for a bit, I had the lightbulb moment:

The home yoga retreat! 

In fact, it's not hard to create a yoga retreat at home, particularly if you are someone who lives alone. It will cost about 10% of the cost of going to an actual retreat, and you can do it all year long!

Suggested home retreat ideas: 
  • DIY pamper session once a week. Light some candles, dim the lights, and have a warm, relaxing bath. Follow it with indulgent body butters like the Natio Meditate range.
  • Do a yoga session a day, even for 30 minutes. If you're familiar with yoga and can work your own routine, then do this. Otherwise, check out inspiration on The Yoga Journal or yoga videos. My current favourite is Kundalini Yoga with Maya Fiennes: A Journey Through the Seven Chakras.
  • Squeeze in 30 minutes of meditation daily. It's really not a lot, and there are many kinds to be explored. I'm currently in the process of checking out the Transcendental Meditation method.
  • Go for a walk 2-3 times a week. Take a new route to the supermarket, or drive to your nearest regional park. I'm lucky enough to live by the beach... once on my walks, I saw this and it made my day.
    Envious much? 
  • No take out food, no junk food. Prepare all meals yourself and enjoy the process!
Hope you find some benefit to establishing your own yoga retreat. Any more ideas to add?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Music and the Savage Beast

I'm a Classically trained violinist and pianist. I teach Classical piano and violin for a living. Normally, people I meet assume that my favourite genre of music is Classical (which is sort of true... I enjoy Contemporary Classical). The truth is, I listen to whatever my mood takes me toward. Currently, I listen to a lot of alternative, alt metal, indie, and metalcore.

Classical doesn't really fit into the picture right now, so it made me wonder... is that why my life is topsy turvy? I've always been concerned that listening to metalcore has been slowly damaging my brain cells, or has been raising my blood pressure, or (insert any damage you can think of). 

So I did some research and the results proved to be .... surprisingly quite in my favour! 

This wonderful 2007 article in the Telegraph actually describes it as being a "comfort for the bright child". The angst and themes of alienation actually help highly intelligent children who have been fringed by their peers to deal with pressure. It reminds me of the release I feel every time I listen to blessthefall or Alesana. Instead of stressing me out more, my metalcore is actually helping me to destress! 

More research by a couple of folks from New Orleans did some study on the effects of hard rock, Classical and no music on people and discovered nothing conclusive. Ok, so it's not quite in my favour, but it's not against! And think of all those times you've been told that loud, angry music is bad for you. mean to say... all the authority figures in my life have been wrong and metal HASN'T been ruining my life? 

One of my earliest memories of rock and society came down to the Columbine High shooting of 1999. I was a teenager then, a hardcore fan of Linkin Park (don't judge!), and I felt really strongly when experts tried to pin the cause of the massacre onto metal bands like Rammstein. I felt so strongly that I wrote a short story of a parallel fictional incident, which highlighted all the socioeconomic disadvantages the students had, and isolation and social problems they faced. Their only salvation was their music, and it kept them alive for those 18 years. (And I knew this all at the age of... 13... shame on those experts!) 

So I'm going to keep listening to my metalcore and alt metal. I once meditated to the sweet sounds of Chevelle, and it was amazing. It was so moving that I was in tears by the end of the session. And I would do it again too. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The 21 Day Complaint Free Challenge

I first found out about this challenge through Cleo, and thought "Sure, why not?"

Anything to improve my life. I do complain too much. All my catchups with friends involve at the very least some elements of bitching. I complain about work to my partner sometimes. I complain about life to everyone. How hard could it be to stop complaining?

As it turns out, this has probably been the most difficult challenge I've taken up in my entire life. While I haven't exactly challenged myself very much, I have done other challenges like doing yoga every day for 30 days, going on shopping bans for a year, and have never failed a challenge.

When you sign up to do the challenge, you have to install a widget on your computer that keeps track of how many days you have been complaint free. I had mine sitting on Day 1 for ... weeks. The worst was getting past Day 1 and then having to reset it back because I had forgotten and had complained. I suppose I could have been less severe on myself, but I never cheat in a challenge.

After about three months, I finally achieved this.

Three whole months to complete a 21-day challenge.

Now that I'm a 21-day champion, I'm going to give my two cents worth on this program.

Is it worth doing? Well, yes... in a way. It's always great to challenge yourself and to do something you think may sound impossible. When you achieve it, it's a great feeling that doesn't fade fast. It'll make you feel like a better person, or at the very least, have the knowledge that you are trying to be a better person.

Does it really change you? I still complain a lot. I worked out something extremely valuable while doing this challenge. I complain to vent. I don't complain because I'm a mean person or a whinger, I complain to get things off my chest, be it in my private journals or to a close friend. Doing the challenge suppressed a lot of this for me. The ideal behind it is that it's meant to encourage positive thoughts in its place, but all it did was somehow make me slightly miserable.

Where do you draw the line between saying something negative and a complaint? It actually says somewhere on the website in the FAQs (I think) that a complaint is saying something negative and not being able to do anything about it. I still think that a lot of grey areas exist... sometimes I made observations about negative things that couldn't be changed, but I didn't feel like I was complaining. Or maybe I was? Who's to judge? In the end, I decided that if I didn't feel that I was complaining, I probably wasn't. After all, complaining had a certain element of venting involved, and I would experience some release. So, I should know when I was complaining.

TLDR Life isn't rainbows and jellybeans. Complaining is healthy so long as it is not excessive. So long as you do not make the friends around you sponges for your problems. Not a challenge I'd do again, but certainly something that added to my self-awareness.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Meditation Quickie

I've been trying to meditate.

I have to say it's definitely a lot harder than it looks. I can barely do it for 10 minutes. Most times I find that my mind wanders off and I start thinking about things in the future, or in the past. And then I worry that I'm not concentrating. The little voice inside my head just refuses to be silenced. Even when I redirect my focus to the music or my breath, my mind wanders after 30 seconds.

And that's a huge part of me though. That's almost exactly how I am with everything in life. Even while killing Diablo in Diablo III. My mind just could not focus for the 5 minute boss battle. I like everything fast, and I do everything fast. Meditation hopefully will slow me down, and help me to simply just be.

Much easier said than done though. I've purchased the Rushing Woman's Syndrome by Dr Libby Weaver. Haven't gotten to reading it yet, there are too many books on my to-read shelf, but seeing as how personal development is currently on the agenda, I may look to reading it after I'm done with Diablo III.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Totally Natural Sleep More

I'm half way through my pack of Totally Natural's Sleep More tablets, so I think I'm ready to write up what I think of it. I've been taking it religiously every night. I bought the 30-tablets box, on the advice of the nutrition supplement shop owner, thinking that it would last me a month. It says on the instructions though that you're meant to take two before bed, so it turned out to only be a half-month supply, and I've taken it for slightly over a week.

The first time I took those pills, the effects hit me like a train. I felt groggy and my muscles felt so dead and I slept pretty well. Subsequent times though, it didn't work as effectively... instead, it seemed to be doing the opposite! It claims to make you sleep longer, and more sound. I ended up waking up earlier than normal (sometimes up to an hour earlier). I'm not sure if this is because I'm sleeping so soundly that my body needs less sleep. I'm not any more tired during the day than I normally am, so it really could be that my sleep is of better quality.

It's no longer as easy to drop into a slumber as it was the first time I took the pills. It isn't a huge struggle either, so perhaps that's where the difference is. One of the biggest benefits for me is that I really believe it helps with my teeth bruxism, it is after all a muscle relaxant.

I probably won't be going back on these. There are these other pills called Kalms that you take throughout the day that work as relaxants, so I might try those. The Sleep More pills are just really expensive, and they don't do much for me during the day.

Pros a strong relaxant, may produce better quality sleep
Cons expensive, decreases sleep time

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Today is Day One of my brand new life. I decided to give my life a rehaul when a few nights ago, I discovered that I had been teeth grinding so hard in my sleep that I had cracked all the teeth in my lower jaw.

This calling is probably long time overdue. While I have not been unhappy in my life, I think a huge part of how I have dealt with past unhappiness has been to suppress and deny it. I really believed that if you didn't talk about the elephant in the room, no one would notice it is there, especially since it's the elephant in my private quarters, barred from the prying eyes of the public, where no one but me is allowed to tread.

And that's where the problem lay. I could see my own elephant, and while I refused to acknowledge it, subconsciously it was gnawing away at my inner peace, disrupting my health.

Recently, I've been feeling a heightened sense of isolation and loneliness. Perhaps this was what made my anxiety levels sky rocket, perhaps it was something else completely. I still do not know what it is that has made me so stressed that it is affecting my sleep at night.

I've always wanted to reform my life though, so tonight, I started my new program of eating healthily, yoga, meditation, exercise and taking time to appreciate everything I have in my life.

Today's meditation session lasted for 10 minutes. I'm still exploring the best meditation method to suit me. I've found meditating to music so far to be most preferred, although even with music, my mind was constantly scattered. I found thoughts of the past and future battling to dominate, and every now and again, I'd remember to be in the now. I felt calm when I finished though, and it left a positive vibe around the room.

So, these are my thoughts on my journey. I'd like to say something philosophically astounding, like it's not the destination that matters, but the journey... however, the destination does matter to me. I know where I would like to head and hopefully, I will find my path there.