What is Mindfulness?

Have you ever wondered why you have inspirational moments in the shower? Why you can sometimes have some fantastic ideas when you least expect to? This is because you are inadvertently practising mindfulness.  During a shower, we tend to focus on the how the water feels against the skin; the temperature of the water; and the relaxation associated with that present moment – that’s basically mindfulness!

Mindfulness is a term coined by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn and is a mental process by which one is able to practice awareness of the present moment in a non-judgemental fashion.  Like most Western philosophies, Mindfulness also has its roots in Eastern traditions and beliefs.  The Eightfold Path, which Buddhists believe leads to enlightenment, incorporates mindfulness: to be aware of the body, thoughts and feelings and has been practised for thousands of years.  Jon Kabat-Zinn revamped this Buddhist philosophy and presented a modern, de-religionised version  to the Western world and quite rightly so.  I think this was very much needed with the pressures we face in this digital, fast-paced age.

Cultivating Mindfulness allows one to focus fully on what is happening in the present moment.  A greater awareness of thoughts, feelings and behaviours is developed.  It’s about being the observer of your mind in a non-judgemental fashion – just observing as thoughts float by in the mind…

During states of stress and anxiousness, the focus tends to be on unreal future scenarios created by the mind relating to fear, what ifs and worry.  And then there’s focusing on the past, where the mind can be entangled in thoughts of regret, anger, guilt and resentment.  Whether those are towards oneself or others, these established mindsets cause much harm mentally, emotionally and transcend to the physical body too.  Being aware of these thoughts, feelings and behaviours through observing them, leads to acceptance – which is extremely important and then change can occur where more healthy patterns of thought can be adopted.

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Practising mindfulness is like retraining the brain to become more aware of the present moment rather than the negativity of the past or future. Within the present moment, everything is ok and when you reflect upon this, you realise that the present moment is all there is.  What is important is for this to be performed in non-judgemental manner. It’s about being compassionate towards yourself.

Establishing a mindful meditation is one of the ways to develop a mindful mindset. Through a mindful meditation, you are able to direct your thoughts to the present moment by focusing on the breath and all the sensations related to this.  This can be extended further by doing a body scan meditation, where the focus is on the sensations of each part of the body – allowing the mind to be fully present.  There is so much science that supports the notion of mindfulness and how the application of this for as little as ten minute a day can yield numerous cognitive benefits – the brain literally rewires itself.

As well as meditation, attaining a state of mindfulness can also be achieved through practising gratitude and kindness, a mindful walk, mindful eating or something as simple as sipping a cup of tea mindfully.   I began my journey into mindfulness many years ago and the benefits for me were vast in a very short space of time.  I was able to calm my overthinking mind; feel mentally relaxed; more productive and had become emotionally resilient. I was even able to remain to remain in state of remission with Crohn’s for much longer than previously.

This very simplistic practice can be extremely beneficial if practised regularly. Take this step for your wellbeing and begin to live life mindfully.

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Ramadan Reflections – Meditation

Whilst praying my early morning (fajr) prayers, I felt the need to remain connected so I sat there in meditation for a while longer.  In my heart, I asked my Lord for his closeness and allowed my mind to be free.  As I began to recite la ilaha ilallah (there is no god but Allah) repeatedly in my mind, I felt myself becoming deeply connected.  

Golden Light Meditation

What I envisioned was beautiful and heart-warming. Before me, the word Allah appeared huge and gleaming golden white in colour.  As I sat there, I witnessed  a mesmerising golden, white light emerging from ‘Allah’ flowing directly into my heart, filling my body with this wondrous white light which I can only describe as a pure form of love.  This light of love then cascaded to all in my home, street, town, country and then gradually the whole earth was encompassed with this healing light of love.  This then flowed further to the entire universe, creating a feeling of connectedness to everyone and everything.   Without any awareness of time and space, I felt entranced and fully immersed in the ‘beingness’ of the moment.

This was a very powerful yet simple meditation to perform. No matter what your beliefs, this can be adapted as necessary to feel the benefits this brings.

I cannot stress how valuable mediation is – for me this has been life changing.  I consider the daily practice of meditation to be as essential for mental wellbeing as exercise is for physical wellbeing.  Whichever type of meditation you practice, the plethora of benefits are undeniable and have been scientifically proven in so many studies: meditation slows down the overthinking mind; reduces stress and anxiety; increases productivity and creativity; improves memory and concentration; develops emotional strength and so much more, the list is endless… For me, the most valuable benefit has been the resilience that has developed as a result of daily practice – I feel I am better able to cope with whatever life throws at me.

If there are so many benefits, then why do so many of us shy away from this? We tend to procrastinate or tell ourselves that that we don’t have the time, or it isn’t for me – without even having a go.   Perhaps this is because we are subconsciously in a habit of conditioning ourselves towards the negative – ‘I can’t do it, I don’t have the time’, yet we can and we do…

Meditation in practice

When meditating, it doesn’t matter if your mind wanders, that’s actually quite normal, you just gently bring it back. And sometimes, setting the mind free actually yields wonderful results like it did for me.   Meditate, even if it’s initially just for 5- 10 minutes – mindful breathing is a good start as it allows the mind to focus on the present moment and creates a feeling of calmness and tranquility amid the chaos of the mind.  When you are calm and tranquil, you radiate this feeling to all around you and life just becomes a little easier…

Set yourself a mini wellbeing goal to develop a daily meditation practise.  Set aside a time each day to ensure you do actually do it and start with a simple mindful breathing meditation.  Remember, this is a meditation ‘practise’.  In order to really achieve positive results, you need to practice mediation every day. Give it a go. Don’t procrastinate, start today!

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Changes start with ‘the man in the mirror’

We are in such rush to get back to normal but it was our ‘normal’ way of life that led to our current situation – a global pandemic.  It’s taken a microorganism to bring the world to its feet – the notorious Covid-19.  But why did this happen?   Why has this affected humankind globally? It’s time to reflect and amend our ways.  It’s time to make changes; it’s time to look within…

Do we reflect enough? Personal reflection is vital, starting with oneself.  We firstly need to reflect on our own path, our own thought pattern before we go about wanting to change how we are towards others.  Have we developed bad habits where we are always negative without even realising this and therefore on a path to mental self-destruction? Is the mind encompassed with an array of negative thoughts? Thoughts of: anger, worry, fear, guilt, complaint, not being able to let or forgive.  All these lead to inner unhappiness and anxiety and depressive modes. What we focus on expands so if your focus is negative thoughts, those are what will expand.

Daily Habits of Gratitude That Will Attract Joy into Your Life | Jack ...
Practicing gratitude creates contentment.

Don’t allow your thoughts control you – calm the chaos in your mind by adopting simple practices of meditation, acceptance, gratitude and kindness – it’s that simple. It really is! This just needs to be adopted and practiced on a daily basis- self-discipline is the key! It is as essential for the mind as eating is for the body. It all begins with acceptance, which slowly, step by step, leads to a more positive state of mind. Happiness is not linked to events or people but the state of our minds.  Meditation, acceptance, gratitude and kindness lead to happiness and contentment.

I am quite content in my own mind at the moment.  I do not worry or fear – what will be, will be.   I used to be the worst over thinker and worrier but I have learned acceptance; learned to be grateful; and learned the art of meditation.  Adopting these practices has provided me with a positive mental structure that is now strengthened with faith in my Creator: faith in whatever is happening, to seek the lesson and learn; faith that everything will be ok; and gratitude that my needs are being looked after.

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Changes start form within…

I do not get bored with being in the confines of my home.  I do not get bored with the quiet and not always having something to do: for as the planet heals – as do I.  With adversity, comes healing and an opportunity to grow and become a better a person. To reflect, to let go and make necessary changes so the mind can reboot and heal. Changes start with the ‘man in the mirror’.  ‘If you want to make the world a better place, take look at yourself, and then make a change’ – M J 1988.  

Don’t go back to your ‘normal’ self.  Go back to a renewed version of the ‘beautiful self’ you are and have the potential to develop.  Make one positive change; make this a habit and observe the subtle positive results.  Allow your inner light to shine brightly through these testing times and become a beacon of love radiating this light to others.

Simple Kitchen Remedies

As a child, I remember my grandmother being well and healthy with no medical conditions whatsoever.  I recall her utilising common natural ingredients to help with all ailments – from almonds to nutmeg.  I think, sometimes we can over-look the effectiveness of the array of aromatic herbs and spices that live in an Eastern kitchen as we use them on an everyday basis.   For me, raiding the kitchen cupboards when unwell was quite normal whilst growing up as they were always effective in improving the symptoms of many ailments.

ginger root and powder

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to boost the immune system.   There are so many natural ingredients that live in our kitchen that can effectively strengthen the immune system and fight viral infections.    One of the most effective being a fresh ginger and cinnamon tea. 

Scientific research echoes the effectiveness of both ginger and cinnamon’s anti-viral properties.  Fresh ginger has a strong, spicy, aromatic flavour and is particularly helpful for respiratory conditions.  Being a natural expectorant, ginger helps to break down mucus and thus help to  aid recover y  from a cough.     I have personally found this helpful in improving a chesty cough.  The spiciness of ginger can be quite strong so the addition of some honey to help sweeten this makes this concoction easier to drink.   If the honey is Manuka honey then it’s even better as its anti-bacterial, anti-viral and ant-inflammatory properties cannot be argued with.

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anti-bacterial effects of cinnamon

Cinnamon has been traditionally been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years and more commonly for its distinct, fragrant flavour in Eastern cooking.  Cinnamon, like ginger, has a plethora or beneficial properties which have been evidenced through scientific research.  The improvement of respiratory conditions and the boosting of the immune system cannot be ignored.  The complex chemical structure of cinnamon results in an array of powerful effects and studies have demonstrated how powerful this is against toxic strains of bacteria.  In addition to improving respiratory conditions, research has validated cinnamon’s ability to lower the body’s temperature by up to 2 degrees when it’s included.  Thus, making it valuable when you have a temperature.

If you’re not much a tea drinker, you can quite easily release the juice of ginger and a small amount to some honey.  This, with the addition of some turmeric and a pinch of black pepper makes a potent anti-viral remedy.  

Turmeric is traditionally used in Eastern cooking on a daily basis.  I remember consuming this in my younger days with milk, ground almonds and cardamom for internal healing and to fight off infections.  I adore the taste of cardamoms so sometimes I would just consume this ‘golden milk’ because it tantalised my taste buds.  The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin and this magical ingredient’s benefits are magnified with the addition of a pinch of black pepper. 

These are just some of the many aromatic herbs and spices that reside in an Eastern kitchen.  All of which have powerful healing properties. Ginger, turmeric, honey, cinnamon and cardamom are all very beneficial in improving health and immunity against disease. Not only are they fragrant and flavoursome – they have the ability to fight infections and make you feel better!

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The Magnificence of Prayer

I have always been of the mind-set that prayer should not form mere words that are recited as an obligatory duty but should be a form of meditation, where a connection is established from the heart. For this reason, I used to pray but not very often – just now and again when my heartfelt the desire to establish contact.  I couldn’t pray in front of anyone as I saw this as a public display of what I considered to be a very personal affair between a person and his Creator.  Maybe, in the depths of my distorted thinking, I thought I would be judged and shied away from this. 

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Expressed through my words, my gratitude and my connection with Him. This is the magnificence of prayer.  

I would witness people praying quickly before a specific programme was to begin. I would witness people praying in front of others, yet this routine was not established when in solitude.  I witnessed prayer as a bargaining tool in return for something.  I would witness a state of worry even after prayer.  How could this be?

How could there be worry where there was faith? Was prayer performed to please others? Was it a tick box exercise?  Was this appointment with the Creator squeezed in but not prioritised.  I found this odd, almost insulting and although I had no right to judge, I couldn’t allow myself to fall into any of those categories. 

As my meditation practice became more established, something within me began to change.  There was more of an inner urge to connect with my Lord.  Like a magnet, I felt pulled to prayer and so a more regular routine for prayer started to develop. I aim to ‘connect’ every day, at least a few times – not because I have to but because I now have the desire to, because I want to feel closer to Him – like a mere drop wanting to be part of the Mighty Ocean.

I consider prayer to be my personal appointment with my Creator.  This is my time to connect and feel at one, feel at peace with the Deity who provides me with all I need and so much more. To feel like I am surrounded with His love and in His divine presence.  A time, when I am able to shut out the world and focus on the love I feel in my heart – expressed through my words, my gratitude and my connection with Him. This is the magnificence of prayer.  

Prayer has helped me not only in my darkest hour to feel the strength I need to carry on, but also in my brightest hour to show gratitude and appreciation for all I have.  The strength of prayer has created within me a healing light that brings inner peace to my thoughts and energy of love that heals and radiates through my body. It is the magnificence of prayer through which I sometimes feel fully immersed in the presence of my Creator. I feel this time cannot be spent whining like a child who always wants, but just stilling myself in His presence as I know he knows my needs better than me…

My faith in my Lord beckons me to absorb the magnificence of prayer…   

Pray…  from with heart…. Pray to connect…

What we think, We become

Positive thinking- what we think and repeat we become

Have you ever stopped and thought about the language you use? The words and phrases that become a habitual part of everyday life?  

There are so many phrases that become routine in their usage. Words we say all the time without thinking of their impact:  ‘that’s stressful!, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ , ‘ I’m fed up!’ ‘Why does this always happen to me?’  ‘I’m having a bad day!’ ‘I’ll never be any good at this!’ and then there’s the endless ‘What ifs’ – creating a whirl of negativity, which ends up manifesting into mental and physical ill-health.

Do words really have power? I pondered upon this and came to the conclusion that yes, words have power but ONLY because of the FORCE that powers them; our FEELINGS.

The feelings with which we use words gives power to them and those words manifest into actions and behaviours; what we think of and tell ourselves is what we become and this is what we radiate, so make sure your thoughts are kind and loving.

Most of the time, I think people are unaware of what they say and how their chosen words affect their state of heart and mind and ultimately level of happiness.  What we tend not to realise is that we fuel negative phrases with great belief and determination, yet that same level of determination is not always applied to positive phrases. 

I remember a time when the language I used was extremely negative and I was oblivious of the impact this had on me.  The endless negative language engulfed me into a state of chronic stress, where nothing was positive or good and resulted in me feeling despondent. 

When I look back at that time, I can now see the power with which I used those negative phrases – I fully believed in what I said.  Words like ‘I can’t cope’ ‘I’m stressed’ were uttered with such depth of negative feeling that those states manifested.  I had convinced myself that I was stressed and couldn’t cope and that’s exactly what happened.    

The irony is that now I do more than double what I used to do but I don’t utter words that are fuelled with negativity – I just get on with it. I fuel my positive phrases with the power of determination and fill them with positive feelings and beliefs; this creates a wonderfully positive attitude to do all I put my mind to.

Words have power because of the feeling or determination with which we use them.  Observe your thoughts and become aware of the words you use, reflect and make changes.  We get into bad habits of regurgitating the same words and phrases without really thinking about what we are saying and how these words impact us.  

If they are negative, because you have habitually developed a problem-based mindset; be aware of this and begin to examine solutions so you are able to slowly develop a solution based mindset.  Through thinking in this way, you will begin to notice the positive determination that you use to power your chosen positive words.

Your words have power, use them wisely and observe the wonderful magic that happens when you just change the language yo use.

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In pursuit of happiness

Happiness, the one emotion we strive to achieve.   What will it take to make you truly happy? To feel content, to feel bliss?

What is happiness?  This state of mind, this feeling tends to be synonymous with success – success with health, with relationships with work and finances. We associate happiness with situations and people.  But why? Why do we give away the power to feel happy when this is a state of mind? A state of mind that is fully in our control.

The general consensus is that when everything is ok, I will be happy, at peace.  But in reality that seldom happens.  When we are at peace, when we are happy, then everything falls into place.  To feel inner happiness, without this being attached to people or situations is the key.  For me, this has been an area of great importance and development.

For me, the pursuit of inner happiness is the epitome of success.  I am happy and content with my life and all the challenges I have faced.  I have all I need and more. This state of mind has been achieved through adopting three specific practices: acceptance, awareness and gratitude.   When we don’t accept a specific situation whether that is related to relationships, career, finances or health, we become stuck and stagnate in a swamp of negativity and helplessness.  This lack of acceptance results in the creation of a negative narrative and it all begins with one negative thought which leads to another and another and before you know it you are tangled in a dark web of negativity.  This conditioned behaviour of overthinking leads to a number of negative emotions from stress and worry to frustration and anger.

However, when you begin to accept a situation, there is no struggle as the brain succumbs to the notion of what is, allowing the healing process to accelerate.  This then results in moving forward with a renewed mind set – where an alternative thinking pattern provides a more positive perspective.

As well as acceptance, be aware of your thoughts – observe them. When you are aware that your thoughts are taking on a negative form, shift this thought pattern.  The most effective method to do this, is through practising gratitude. Focusing on and appreciating what you are grateful for in life begins to create harmony and bliss in your life.  Think, say and most importantly, feel gratitude from your heart. It is when gratitude from the heart is achieved that you feel happiness emanating from within.

The practice of gratitude is very powerful – don’t underestimate the power of being thankful and appreciative.  For me, this practice has created within me a glow of happiness like a warm, glowing fire on a cold night that provides warmth and light.  The first words I utter as I awaken, are always those of gratitude: I am grateful for a good night’s sleep; I am grateful for a comfortable bed; I am grateful for my job which allows me to have these comforts.  Like this, through the day, be thankful constantly for everything and see the glow of happiness expand in your life.

Forgiveness

The notion of forgiveness can sometimes be unfathomable.  We tend to associate forgiveness with the degree of an unacceptable act.  But is that what forgiveness really is….?

To forgive is probably one of the most challenging things we do. Not being able to forgive carries with it a torrent of emotions from regret, resentment and hatred to guilt and anguish, with which we torment ourselves on a regular basis.

To some degree, I think the concept of forgiveness is not entirely understood, which is why we tend to associate forgiveness with the degree of the ‘unforgiveable act’.  This misconception about forgiveness results in agonising reminders about the past which are repeatedly replayed in the mind.  We tend to tell ourselves that we cannot forgive someone because of what they did – it becomes an issue of the ego…. And what we don’t realise is that we create our own inner hell…

And who does this affect? Only, the individual who is unable to forgive.  In doing so, we haul around an array of negative emotions, burdening the heart and the soul; living in the past; not allowing ourselves to move on fully with life.  The inability to forgive not only perturbs the heart and mind but, with time, this begins to manifest into physical ill-health.

Forgiveness does not mean you condone one’s actions; it merely allows you to release the pain you feel.  It does not mean what somebody did is acceptable – forgiveness is about inner peace.  I do not believe in the notion of forgiving and forgetting.  Forgive and let go but do not forget as that would be an act of stupidity.  Remember who caused you harm (just faintly, at the back of your mind somewhere) so you able to better protect yourself from any possible future hurt –   The act of forgiveness allows the mass of negative feelings to transpire into the abyss, resulting in a sensation of lightness of the heart and mind, like soft, billowy clouds drifting gently in the sky.  This restores equilibrium in the mind allowing the oppressive heart to heal, illuminating the darkest corners with the purest light of love.

It is vital to firstly exonerate yourself for anything you may hold yourself responsible for in a negative manner.   This can be accomplished through self-talk or a forgiveness mediation, where you verbally repeat the words ‘I forgive you’ and visualise the point of pain being released.  This, I found was a lot easier than to forgive others.  The arduous task of forgiving others demands a lot more inner strength but the liberation you feel after exonerating others in one that cannot be compared.

When forgiving others, we sometimes need to revisit this process repeatedly, in order to fully forgive and release.  It’s a layered affect – a little like an onion – the process can make you cry as you release a layer at a time until you a ready to fully release the hurt, ultimately resulting the lifting of a heavy burden allowing deep healing to take place.

Why torture yourself? Why revisit pain when you can release the anguish and live a happier, more fulfilled life?   Move into the present, leave the past where it is and focus on NOW – that is what will result in inner peace, contentment and bliss.  Stop existing and start living; forgive and let go. Forgive.

 

Let there be love

It’s taken me over 40 years to come to the realisation that LOVE is all there is.  I don’t mean to fall in love with someone or to love material things like your car, house and possessions. Although this love has its place. I mean a love that is deeper, a love that stems from the depths of the soul.  The love I am talking about is pure, inner love – the love for Divine, for the Creator.

With love in my heart, I feel contentment.  It is this love emanating from my heart that is resulting in the negation of negative feelings and thoughts. I now feel I am able to fully let go of previous anger, resentment and blame.  This feeling of love in my heart is allowing me not only to forgive people, who in my past, I feel have wronged me but more than that; I now feel positively towards these people – something I thought was never possible.  When I think of these people, I see them doing well in life, I feel my heart smiling for them.

Oddly enough, there seems to be an internal expansion of the realms of the heart. There has to be as the love I feel sometimes seems as if it is not containable within the heart in which it resides.   For me, the month of Ramadan acted as a catalyst in magnifying this closeness I feel for my Lord.  The practise of constant gratitude and meditation has created within me a realm through which my form is beginning to evolve, as has my practice of meditation. This now takes the form of focusing internally on the heart, which follows an inherent urge to allow the heart  to recite His names – ‘yaheyyo yakayyum’ (The Ever Living, The Self Subsisting).  These words resonate with my soul and create a connection with my Creator that is magnificently blissful!  This allows the heart and mind to connect as one and generates a feeling of oneness that radiates from within and creates a feeling of connectedness to everything.  I feel the warmth of love surrounding my being, holding me, reassuring me.

Let there be love.  Allow the heart to feel love.  Allow this love to negate all ill feelings towards other people and situations and heal wounds of the past.   With love filling the heart, it possible to let go and to have greater faith in the Divine Creator – in his plan.   Allow this beautiful emotion to dictate the course that life takes.  Let the heart take over and submit to the will of love, the will of the Creator.   Love is God and God is Love – with love, you feel the presence of the Divine encompassing you.  Begin this wondrous journey through adopting the practise of gratitude, kindness and meditation and feel connected to the Almighty.

This journey of self -discovery, I feel is only the beginning.  There is much to experience, to feel and discover, learn, love and evolve.

The Power of Gratitude

Is it a situation that is challenging and stressful or is that just our perspective?  When a situation arises in life that we deem ‘difficult or challenging,’ is it possible to modify that perspective to one that is more positive?

As I sit here gaze at the beauty in the skies, the greenery of the trees and the blossoming flowers that parade their beauty, I ponder upon the challenges that life presents us with and cannot help but be grateful.  I am grateful for the beauty that surrounds me, the ambience that it creates and for the challenges that provide an opportunity to grow and evolve as an individual.

Gratitude is the one mind-set that for me has had a humongous impact on my perspectives in life.   This has helped me though some of the most challenging situations that life has presented.  I always start the day with gratitude – my first thought is that of gratitude; for a perfect night’s sleep, a comfortable bed and roof over my head.  I adopted this practise many years ago and have continued it since.

Starting the day with gratitude led me to feel positive and happy.  I then began to feel grateful more often in the day – for other aspects of my life; from my job and the income it brought in to the love my cat Stormy would show. With time, this practise of gratitude would almost feel like a ray of contentment radiating from the heart – the effect of gratitude is profound; it is life changing.

Scientific research reinforces the fact that our brain changes according to our thought pattern – neurons fire to form connections that become strengthened with repetition. This is how a behaviour or thought pattern becomes automated.  We remain in a state of unhappiness, stress and worry because these thought patterns become ‘hard wired’ and thus, automatic.  Break this negative thought pattern and shift this thinking by focusing on gratitude – and make it a daily habit! By doing so, the brain learns to remain in a state of happiness through strengthening those neural pathways in the brain that are reinforced through repetition.

To remain in a constant state of gratitude creates a barrier of positive protection from the forces of the overthinking negative mind.  Through this attitude, I feel the chaos of the mind beginning to rewire itself to peace.  For me, these thoughts have developed a feeling of ‘love’ in my heart.  The attitude of gratitude allows me to feel connected to my Lord – I feel the light within me connecting to the light of my Creator.

The words ‘Thank you’ – although the initial step, just don’t seem to be enough.  Gratitude has to be thought by the mind, uttered by the tongue, demonstrated in every action and felt from the heart; like a beam of light radiating from within. Take a step back and allow gratitude to create a sense of contentment, which will transform your mind, body and soul, filling it with love for the Divine. Through this meditative state, I feel my Lord in my heart – love filled to the brim, overflowing as tears through my eyes– giving me the inner strength to accept what is and face any challenges in a more positive way.

When you feel your mind is ‘overthinking’ or you seem to be focusing more so on negative situations, then take a moment and shift your thinking to something that is good in your life.  Appreciate and be grateful for this, for when you do, you will realise, that there isn’t enough time in the day to be grateful for everything you have.