When I tell people that I am a yoga and meditation teacher, the most common question I get asked is ‘I really struggle to quiet my mind - how do you start meditating?' Therefore I thought that I would give my 5 tips to start meditating. I work in the corporate environment and I see people everyday that would benefit from meditation.
Meditation to me is quieting the mind or slowly letting your thoughts drift away so that you can actively rest your mind. For many meditation is really difficult, we live in a face paced and energetic world where we need to be ‘on’ all the time. I often find myself telling people that it is okay to take a break, it is okay to put yourself first and you will be much more productive once you give yourself some mental space. I have put together five practical ways to help you start meditating, these are simple techniques for beginners or anyone wanting to explore different ways of meditation.
Five different ways to start meditating:
1. Use a guided meditation, this is really good for beginners and there are heaps of meditations available on Youtube, just search for guided meditation and thousands will come up. Youtube is a great resource and easily available and it has a lot of different types of meditations available, I guarantee you will find one you like. There are also heaps of meditation apps available.
2. Tuning into music is a favourite way to meditate. I use Om music, bells or soft music to create a relaxed environment, where I can sit or lie down and take my attention inwards.
3. A Yoga Nidra is a an excellent relaxation technique and again is readily available on Youtube or apps. I find Yoga Nidra one of the best ways to meditate especially for people that are tired and time poor as a Yoga Nidra is a great way to re-energise yourself. A Yoga Nidra will keep you focused and is a great at meditation to do during the day (early afternoon) as a pick me up.
4. Breath awareness. Just focusing on your breath is really powerful, as humans our breath is our pathway to life and I know that I often forget this. Therefore we need to focus on deep breathing into our diaphragm and belly. When we are stressed we breath only into the upper chest therefore we need to deepen our breath to increase the flow of energy through our bodies. Deep breathing is relaxing and helps with stress and anxiety. Try the 4,7,8 breathing method for deep relaxation (inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts and exhale for 8 counts - repeat 10 times).
5. Attend a meditation or yoga class. As obvious as this sounds, there are classes everywhere (including online) that offer different types of yoga and meditation. Look for a beginners class and please don’t be put off because everyone looks really flexible. Yoga is an inside job so just do it to the best of your own ability. This is one of the main reasons why I became a teacher as it is your own individual practice that matters. Many teachers also offer private yoga or meditation classes if you want to get your own teacher.
Remember that meditation is a personal experience and many people find it extremely difficult as there their minds are very active. I have found that meditation is a process and you do get better at it over time. Even if you just sit down, close your eyes and observe your thoughts you are making huge headway. Please don't get frustrated just try it for 5 or 10 minutes to begin with and you can progress in your own time and in your own style.
'One of the biggest lessons I have learnt in my life is to focus on myself and worry less about what others think. It's what I think of myself that matters the most!' Kate Zourkas
Our lives can be overwhelming and it is easy to lose focus. I have found that yoga and meditation have helped in re-focusing and re-energising my life and I feel that the change in mindset has helped me to stay grounded, stayed focused and be better placed to manage stress and anxiety. Below are 6 ways in which you can change your own focus and as a result change your life.
These are simple techniques that you can do every day. It is through being aware and taking accountability for your focus, where you will see the most benefit. In life, we all have choices and it is incredibly empowering when you make the decision to take ownership of your choices and decisions, it is easier to abdicate responsibility and blame others but when you take charge of your life, you will change your life.
Focus on the positive.
This is an ‘oldie but a goodie’ and will change your life. There is so much going on in our lives now and in the world that you do need to make an effort to be positive. You do have a choice as the moment you choose to focus on the positive rather than the negative your life will change. What goes on in your head matters, what you choose to think about you attract, so with this law in mind I know I choose to think positively. I have found that positive affirmations and setting intentions really help with creating a positive mindset.
Focus on yourself, not others.
Growing up, I always looked outside myself and compared myself to others. I wanted a new car because someone else had one or I wanted a promotion because my friend just got one, however this never seemed to make me happy. I made the decision to focus on myself and what I want out of life and my life changed to reflect my focus areas. In fact, I became the leader of my life, rather than the follower.
Do not focus on others as a benchmark to your life, they have their own lessons to learn. Set your own goals, know your strengths and trust that you are where you are meant to be in life. Don't compare to others, use yourself as your own benchmark. Life will get a lot simpler when you focus on yourself as there are fewer distractions. When you stop focusing on everyone else, you create space to focus on you and your needs. It doesn't matter what anyone else think. Work out what you want out of life and go for it!
Be mindful and aware of your own life.
Be more present in your own life. Stress and worry is common in society, so knowing how to manage it so that you don’t engage in stress will have a positive impact on your life. Stress takes up too much space in your life and practicing mindfulness through meditation, quiet time or journaling will be positive changes into your life. Being more mindful will help you manage your mind better, you will be able to flow through situations better without getting caught up in the stress of it.
Invest in yourself.
I started to look at myself as an investment. This can be done so many ways, look at anything you do for yourself and your development as an investment. It can be a financial investment, time investment, a reward, a celebration, a break. When you start seeing yourself as an investment, you see yourself differently. How you treat yourself matters the most, treat yourself like YOU are the biggest investment in your life. What will you start doing differently?
Make your health and wellbeing is priority.
Your health and wellbeing is paramount in life. Everyone is different, so understand yourself and what you need to ensure you are managing your own wellness. Nourish yourself and fuel your body and mind with nourishing food and thoughts. Look at your diet, water intake, nutrients and see if you need to make changes. Change your focus to your own health and wellbeing and change your life.
Feed your soul!
Meditate and listen to your inner guidance. Are you doing what your love? What do you want to be known for? Get to know your inner world and connect with your true identity. Focus on what you want to create in life, meditate on it. Write it down and network with likeminded people. It will change your life. When you neglect what you want in life it will cause friction either inner friction when you know you are just not being true to yourself or friction with others because you are frustrated. Feed your soul, make the changes you need to make and see how your life will change.
It is up to you to make a change if you want improvements in any area of your life; you have the power within you to create the life you want. What will your changes be?
Written by Kate Zourkas
I attribute yoga and meditation to improving my overall physical, emotional and mental well-being which includes building inner strength and resilience. When I started my yoga teaching journey in 2012 I didn’t quite know what I was in for and to this day I still say that it is the best leadership and self-awareness training I have ever done. As my own yogic journey has evolved I have started to find more joy and passion in writing and sharing my stories and helping other who curious about improving their mental health, managing stress and anxiety, improving productivity and focus. For the most part though the biggest benefits have been around being authentic and true to myself, more grounded, centred, and agile when it comes to facing change and adversity. All personal capabilities that are important in our personal and professional busy lives.
So I have created a short list (although there are many!) of the ways that yoga has helped me find my inner resilience and thrive from life’s challenges.
Written by Kate Zourkas
The book Finding Your Inner Resilience talks about the importance of being resilient, why it matters and what you can do to help yourself through life’s challenges. Resilience keeps you moving forward and yet at the same time it acts like an anchor during a storm so that you don’t get tossed around at will. Being resilient will keep you steady and grounded so that you are in the best position to manage life’s challenges. Sounds easy, right?
So why is it then that sometimes we don’t feel resilient? Why is it that even when we feel like we are the most resilient we get caught off guard and seem to lose our anchor?
In my learning, experience and teaching on resilience, I have found that it is in these moments where we truly display resilience. It is in the moments where we question ourselves and our experiences, where we are learning and growing as we are increasing our awareness and consciousness. Resilience starts with taking responsibility and being true to who you are. It is not an easy task as you will get pushed to your limits, you will have set backs and you will have repeat experiences all trying to teach you how to grow and heal.
Resilience means it’s okay to fall sometimes, it’s okay to take steps backwards, its okay to be vulnerable, its okay to be emotional, it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to feel embarrassed and it’s okay to feel alone. If we didn’t experience any of these we wouldn’t be human and the point is that we are human and we will have victim days as we go through challenges, this doesn’t mean that we are not resilient, it means that we need to take some time for self-care, self-kindness or ask for support from our tribe – this is true inner strength.
Life is a marathon and not a sprint. Self-growth and building inner strength takes work - These are all stepping stones to responding from the heart and while it is hard the more you learn the more you grow. At the end of the day it is about persevering through your challenge and finding your anchor points to steady you through. And remember it is okay to lose your sh*t for a moment, sometimes you need to release to let go and keep moving – it is all part of the process.
Challenges open us up so that we are raw and exposed, they damage our egos and our egos like to keep us in a state of fear to maintain control. However, I have found personally that it is these raw moments that create the greatest opportunity for growth, it is the authenticity inside ourselves that is pushing our ego out of the way so that we can develop inner strength and awareness. It is in these moments that we are responding from the heart and showing our authentic selves. I am a big fan on Brene Brown and love the comment that she makes about how we want everyone else to show vulnerability but then we don’t want to be vulnerable ourselves. Being resilient is accepting vulnerability and showing others your authentic self, it is about increasing your level of self awareness and self acceptance which is all part of the growth and healing process.
Authenticity and vulnerability will drive you to be great. Trust in the process and continue to show up as I personally think it is those moments when we do not think we are resilient, when we truly are resilient the most.
Written by Theodora Zourkas
Generally we don’t think about hope until we are faced with some sort of fear, and right now there is a lot of that being stirred up in our world, so now, more than ever we need hope.
So what do we mean by hope?
For me – each time we hope we ignite a spark of our inner light. Things may seem dark and lost but the spark of hope keeps you moving and taking action. When I’m going through a tough time one of my favourite quotes is “If you’re going through hell, keep going. Anonymous” In other words when things seem dark, it is not the time to stop. You need to take action, no matter how small, and hope is what helps us to take steps towards action.
Consider for one moment what it would be like if you didn’t have hope. What would happen when you went through a tough time? Would you just give up? Believe that the worst will happen because you thought it was futile to hope? It saddens me that some of us do just that because we are scared to leave our comfort zone, even when our comfort zone is not so comfortable. Sometimes the fear of the unknown can be so great, that we would rather stay with what we know even if it means being unhappy.
Last week Michelle Obama (another one of my heroes) made a very powerful speech at the US National Democratic Convention and her underpinning message was about hope and not giving up. She talked about the striving of the previous generations, their persistence and most of all, their hope for the future. Where would we be if people like Martin Luther King (civil rights 1950s-60s), and Emmeline Pankhurst (women’s rights early 1900’s) gave up hope because things were hard, imagine if they gave into their fears – we would all have lost the many benefits that these people and many others, have given humanity.
Each and every one of us is part of humanity and we each have light inside us, but only we can turn on that light. Hope is what helps us turn on our inner light.
I wonder how many times Hilary Clinton was told that a woman could never be considered a US Presidential candidate, now look at what she has achieved – the first woman to be nominated as the US presidential candidate. Imagine if Nelson Mandela did not have hope. He was in prison for 27 years but never lost hope in his vision of equality for all people. He was released in 1990 and four years later became the first black South African President ending Apartheid.
So how do you hope when all around you may seem bleak? Or when you are told that it is futile to hope as nothing can change? Having read both Clinton’s and Mandela’s biographies and through my own trial and error here are three core actions to try (they do work):
1. Believe in yourself, listen to your heart and push the boundaries of your comfort zone
2. Every action you take has a ripple effect, it doesn’t matter how big or small it is, it all enables
you to take your power back. Feeling hopeless or giving up means that you disempower
yourself and put yourself at the mercy of other people’s actions
3. Remember to be grateful because that helps to spread more light
Following the light always takes you to a better outcome even if it’s not the one you imagined, following the shadow just gives you false hope and unhappiness.
In today’s world it is more important than ever to not give up hope, by facing our fears and igniting hope we dissolve the shadow.
In the words of Stephen King “Fear can hold you prisoner, but hope can set you free”
love and light
Awareness, presence, balance and stillness are all words we associate with mindfulness. However, life is full of challenges and stressful situations, so how does mindfulness stack up when you need it the most?
Written by Kate Zourkas
I have used mindfulness to get me through some pretty challenging and stressful situations and I can talk from my experience when I say that it has helped me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually get through some of the toughest times in my life. Being mindful has helped me be resilient and as the world is increasingly uncertain and divided, it is even more important to go inside ourselves and build our own inner resilience.
Mindfulness is a tool that I use to help me build resilience, it helps me handle stress and change and helps me to flow through challenging situations rather than getting caught up in them. I have trained myself through mindfulness to focus on myself, my inner world and to channel my energy towards what I want to achieve through challenges.
Stress and change form part of modern lives, they are not going away, and if anything they are intensifying and taking a toll on our overall wellbeing. As individuals how we manage this stress is becoming increasingly more important and we need to find ways to be more resilient to challenges and daily stressors. I have found that this is where mindfulness steps in. Like happiness resilience is an inside job, we need to seek resilience from within ourselves. The truth is that no one else can be resilient for us, we need to build it ourselves and sometimes it can be really hard to persevere through adversity. But there are support tools like mindfulness available, personally, mindfulness has helped me shine through darkness.
Mindfulness can support you by:
- Helping you focus on the present moment
- Increases your level of awareness and consciousness
- Provides focus and clarity through adversity
- Supports mental perseverance
- Helps you to balance and calm the mind
- Supports the healing process. Challenges and stress take a toll on us and can emotionally and mentally knock us down. Going through a healing process can help you deal with the damage from the stress you have gone through and heal the situation so that you can move on.
- Mindfulness supports in managing your emotions. When you go through stress it is likely you will experience a range of emotions. Mindfulness will help keep things in perspective and bring you back into a balanced state. You will still get emotional but you will be more in control.
Here are 3 ways you can be mindful during challenges and build your resilience:
1. Focus on the present and what is in front of you. Don't get too caught up in the whole situation. Ask yourself what do I need to do today and just focus on what is in front of you. You can become easily overwhelmed and stressed if you focus on the whole situation, break it down and just focus on what you need to achieve in the present moment.
2. Be grateful. Keep a positive mindset and focus on what you are grateful for. This will help keep things in perspective and help you persevere. Coming from a place of gratitude also removes your ego from the situation as you are responding from your authentic self. Our ego's can sometimes make situations harder than they need to be and hinder us from progressing through adversity.
3. Start your own daily mindful activity to increase your own awareness. Those who have been through stress will agree that stress is exhausting, so start a daily mindful routine to help restore your energy. Invest in your own mental wellbeing through mindful activities, examples include; yoga, meditation, nature walks, art/drawing, listening to music or journaling. Mindfulness never takes time, it gives time. If there is one tip I can leave you with it is learning how to use your breath. Take 5 minutes a day to focus on deep breathing or when you are in a stressful situation take a few moments to just breathe, it will calm you down.
It is a fact that stress is harmful to our health and our lives are full of stress. Therefore building resilience will help you manage stress and challenging situations better. But it does take some investment from you, resilience is an inside job.
We can all practice mindfulness and for some of us (like me), it might take a lot of practice but it is a great support tool to use when you are going through challenging times. And after a while, it will become part of your natural response to stress and you will be more resilient to life's challenges.
Written by Theodora Zourkas
On any given day the news is full of examples of ego doing its thing. The US elections have seen the rise of Donald Trump who continues to spread fear, and the appalling behaviour of the US Republican Party who keep rejecting the gun laws. While our own elections are perhaps not as colourful, we have now entered the last few weeks where fear is being ‘shovelled out’ as an election strategy. This weekend we are also seeing the immediate aftermath of the Brexit results, a perfect example of ego doing what it does best – more fear.
What is the ego? The easiest way I understand the ego is that it’s like Iago from Shakespeare’s play Othello. Iago is Othello’s ‘trusted’ advisor who keeps whispering in Othello’s ear that his wife is unfaithful to him, until finally Othello kills his innocent wife. Like Iago, our ego is whispering in our ear all the time.
All of us are composed of light and shadow and the ego is our shadow side. Our ego always points out the negative. It’s the little voice that whispers, “they are trying to rip you off”, “you are not good enough to do that,” “you’re better than them”, “why should they have a nice car you’re entitled to that,” “immigrants are taking all the jobs”. The ego lives and breathes fear.
Our ego can paralyse us from doing what we know is right. When you are in the clutches of your ego you come up with lots of justifications why you don’t do what is right. We mistakenly call this pride. You know the “I can never forgive them for what they did to me!” scenario. Well the only person who suffers in this scenario is YOU. Your ego is happy because it keeps stoking the fires of resentment and anger and all you gain is bitterness, unhappiness, it can detrimentally impact your health and you become boring to your friends as you keep talking about the same thing over and over.
That’s why they say that when you forgive someone, it releases you from holding onto the negative energy that came out of that particular situation. You don’t have to forget what happened, you just accept the lesson and forget the rest. This however is the opposite of what your ego wants, because this approach empowers you and disempowers your ego.
The ego makes the situation all about you and you have to ‘win’. Continuing down this path however ultimately backs you into a corner with nowhere to move. And when you are backed into a corner the ego tells you “you didn’t get enough support”, “they lied”, “they’re jealous of you.”
It’s always someone else’s fault.
We have so much opportunity to be the best version of ourselves and grow. Yes the world is a scary place at the moment but this is the time for all of us to step up and show compassion, forgiveness and acceptance. You see, being ‘me focussed’ is living life from ego. Living a life from ego does not enable you to be the best version of yourself. Wouldn’t it serve you better to be aware when it’s your ego whispering?
We can’t get rid of our ego as it is part of us. But, we do have free will and always the choice to act in the light or shadow. There are two things we can do that give us power over our ego:
1. Take responsibility for our behaviour
2. Consider the situation from the other person’s perspective
I have been practicing these two things to help me to focus my energy on being the best version of me, and I have to say I’m feeling more empowered.
The only way we can fight fear and change the world is to start with ourselves.
Love and light
Written by Kate Zourkas
I am a yoga teacher and to become a yoga teacher you are asked to meditate and work on your own practice so that you can then teach and guide others. Therefore, mindfulness and meditation forms a large part of my personal practice as well as yoga classes I teach, and personally I have seen some really good results.
I have been researching lately on the return of investment of mindfulness and meditation and how it is being used in the corporate environment. Many organisations in the USA have regular meditation classes or quiet rooms available for their employees and they have only positive things to say about the programs that they have introduced. Companies like Google have really embraced the mindfulness movement and I think other organisations will follow quite quickly as it is becoming more mainstream and there are clear benefits linked to return on investment.
This has made me really think about what is the return on investment for mindfulness and meditation? And I have come to the conclusion that I can only really talk about it from my own personal experience and the actions that I have taken to improve my mindfulness and the benefits that I have seen firsthand. To me, people generally don’t start on their mindfulness journey to become better leaders or employees, they do it for themselves and to improve their own personal awareness and create their own versions of inner peace.
The three mindfulness actions that I have taken are:
What is my own personal return on investment?
· Increased time because I stopped filling my life with noise (mental chatter takes up a lot of time and energy and is very stressful)
· Increased productivity
· Increased focus, clarity and decision making
· Feeling centred and balanced through most situations. I view stress differently and I feel more like an observer rather than a participant of stress
· Increased presence; when I am home I am present, when I am working I am present. I Focus on what is in front of me
· I have learnt to let go of things quickly, if I do get angry or stressed I get over it faster and move on
· Increased self-esteem and self-empowerment. I feel good about myself and to me this is priceless and where I have had the most benefit. Feeling good about yourself will open doors and opportunities beyond your wildest imagination. We are all awesome in our own way and we just need to open ourselves up beyond the noise and see it for ourselves.
Ten Tips to Bounce Back from Life's Challenges
“Being resilient means that you are able to weather the storm you are going through and remain intact once it is over.”
Theodora Zourkas & Kate Zourkas authors of Finding Your Inner Resilience.
Are you currently facing a challenging situation? Do you want to be better placed to manage challenges and change? Or do you want a holistic approach to improve your mental wellbeing, self-leadership, inner-strength, ability to manage stress and increase your adaptability?
If the answer is yes; then check out the Top 10 Tips below for how you can build resilience and be better placed to bounce back from life’s challenges by using the head and the heart.
Stress is a reality for most of us; we are working harder than ever, and we seem to be in a constant state of change and uncertainty. Individually we all have different coping thresholds and way of handling challenges and stress. This makes building resilience a personal journey because we all ‘bounce back’ differently. Just like being mindful or finding happiness; resilience is an inside job.
Like most people, we also have had our own challenges. It was on reflection of these challenges that we were able to step back and truly understand the power of resilience and the impact it has had on our own ability to thrive when the going gets tough.
We all face challenges everyday, so here are our Top 10 Tips to help you build resilience and kick challenges to the curb:
1. Take Accountability
Once you take accountability, you can start to take control. It starts with you. “Never underestimate the power of taking personal accountability. As you face challenges and change in your own life, take ownership of your situation, your choices and your actions and see how fast you can find your own inner resilience.”
2. Prepare yourself
A lot of challenges can really push you back or knock you down. Try to prepare yourself as best you can by doing your research, getting the resources you need and surrounding yourself with the people you need to help you. “Like climbing a mountain we needed our fitness, our team, equipment and a destination point.”
3. Know your destination
You really need to know what you want to achieve. This is important as you will have days when you may feel like you are taking one step forward and two steps back. Having an end goal will help you move towards your destination and remain focused. “Have an end goal in mind”.
4. Gather your support network
Build your team and support network early on so that they can be there to encourage and support you throughout your challenge. They will become critical to your success especially on days when you may feel like giving up. “Teamwork divides the task and multiples success”.
5. Break down your situation
Sometimes your challenges can seem like a huge mountain in front of you. This can be overwhelming, therefore a helpful strategy, is to break down your situation into more manageable portions. “Just focus on the next step that you need to achieve and break it down into tasks.”
6. Keep moving forward
Keep going, it’s a simple as that. “There will be times when you will feel like you have stalled going up the mountain or your pace might be going a lot slower than what you would like. The important thing to remember is that you need to keep moving regardless of pace as every step forward is a win.”
7. It’s ok to express emotion
Note to self: I am a human being; it is ok to be emotional. “Losing your cool can also be quite therapeutic. It is like your body is releasing all that stored up negative or harsh energy, once it’s over - move onwards and upwards.”
8. Use Humour
Laughing heals everything. “Do not underestimate the power of humour through adversity. It will help keep everything in perspective.”
9. Be positive
Being positive and grateful for what you have will always give you more things to be positive and grateful about. “Remember your thoughts can create how you view your world which in turn creates how you experience your world. Wouldn’t you want this experience to be positive?”
10. Let go and move on
Keep things in perspective. At the end of the day sh*t happens, some of it we cause ourselves and other times we are faced with something unexpected. Remember, be thankful for the learning, take time to heal yourself and move on. Don’t keep carrying the sh*t around – it’s just weighing you down. “Make peace with your past”.
At the end of the day stay true to who you are - Standing in your truth can be really difficult however, it will always come back to reward you. Remember to conquer your challenges use both your head and your heart.
These 10 tips are based on the book ‘Finding Your Inner Resilience’ by Theodora Zourkas and Kate Zourkas. A practical and heart-based guide to helping you survive, grow, and glow from life’s challenges.
Theodora and Kate are the directors of Zourkas Group, a company they created to inspire, educate and empower people to live and work from the heart. They achieve this by delivering impactful and meaningful personal development solutions to people through publications, workshops, consulting and coaching. For more information follow www.zourkasgroup.com.au or Zourkas Group on Facebook and Instagram.
Theodora Zourkas and Kate Zourkas are Coaches, Change Leaders, Facilitators and authors of 'Finding Your Inner Resilience'. Theodora and Kate have a passion for creating greatness in others and living from the heart. They are experts in change management, organisation development and strategy, capability development, resilience and personal development.