Mindfulness Liberates Loneliness

Natalie Snooke - Monday, March 30, 2015

Mindfulness Loneliness"I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it wasn't. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone."
~ Robin Williams

One of the greatest instincts we humans have is the instinct to connect. To be in the company of another. To feel validated. To share something in common, whether that's an interest, a project, a house, the same values or even a life. Yet to be able to connect sincerely with others, firstly means to be able to connect with ourselves. And that often means overcoming loneliness.

Around ten years ago when I started to practice yoga and was becoming less interested in socialising just-for-the sake-of-it, I remember going through an intense period of loneliness, where I just longed to 'connect with' someone. It usually happened on a Friday night. Not having planned anything and thinking I would be fine, I would find myself with pangs of loneliness like I'd never had before. I'd make these desperate last-minute phone-calls to a series of friends, in the hope that someone would be free for some company! Unconsciously, I was trying to escape myself. As life would have it, I often ended up alone and was forced to come to terms with my loneliness.

As Robin Williams describes, the other form of loneliness comes from feeling lonely, in spite of being around others. Whatever form of loneliness we experience, it's a state that can be very debilitating and ultimately lead to depression and suicide.

However, if we come from the perspective that 'life happens for us' and not 'to us' then, then no matter how it shows up and no matter how uncomfortable it feels, loneliness can be a gift. Something that teaches and leads to healing and transformation. 

If we become skilled at being with loneliness, then we don't need to suffer it's bleakness. We can learn to experience the inner freedom that is possible, even in our darkest lonely moments.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool in overcoming loneliness. Taking this approach works well:

1.  Acceptance. Loneliness starts with gentle acceptance, like you would a friend. Recognising and accepting that right now 'here is loneliness.' Not need to fix it or change it. This is the honest truth in the moment.

2. Body and mind awareness. What does the energy of loneliness sound and feel like? Be curious. What are its thoughts? What does it feel like in the body? Does it feel stuck, perhaps heavy, like a big lump of mud in the belly or fluttery like butterflies in the chest? Give it your bare attention.

3. Letting it Be. Allow the energetic feelings and mental story to just be there. Even though it may feel yukky. Watch mindfully, without getting caught in the story. Watch how any sensations and thoughts shift and change.

4. Breathe. Be mindful of the breath and try to breathe more evenly and more fully. Even though it will probably be hard to do, do your best to take some gentle, deeper inhales and exhales. Notice any effect the breath has on the thoughts and sensations, even if they disappear. 

5. Find your inner peace. Notice that even though thoughts and sensations may be there, there is also a part of you that is untouched by the loneliness. That conscious 'awareness' or that part of you that just 'watches'. Be in touch with this peaceful observer. Connect with the sense that this peacefulness is beyond the loneliness. Free of any suffering.

When a mindfulness approach to loneliness is practiced and mastered over a period of time, then loneliness states subside and can be completely overcome. However, if symptoms persist despite your individual efforts, it is recommended to seek professional counselling, therapy or coaching support.

At Momentum, our mission is to inspire and empower others to be self-aware and to make a conscious difference! We provide ways for people to meaningfully connect with themselves and others through our classes, events and coaching

May you be well and happy.

Why Yoga is Number One at Beating Stress!

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Managing Stress with YogaWhen was the last time you heard yourself or someone say 'I'm stressed'? Or perhaps you just witnessed someone in the throes of stress and they didn't realise it. It was probably fairly recently. As people try and cram more and more into already over-flowing lives, sadly, it seems to have become the modern-day catch-cry.

Stress will mean different things to different people, depending on our personality tendencies and our upbringing. And you how identify and manage your stress can make a huge difference in how you feel day-to-day and the quality of life you lead.

Stress is a mental, emotional and/or physical response to stimulus that is not wanted. It can be situational (based on a scenario that maybe outside of our control) or behavioural (being in contact with someone who's behaviour we find offensive or fearful).

At it's most basic form, even if it sounds harsh, stress is simply us reacting to and not accepting things just the way they are. Often it is the resistance to 'what is' (or 'who is') that creates the stress. Rather than trusting in our capacity to manage things step-by-step, our resistance reaction often becomes more of an issue that the stressor itself! 

Chronic stress, where the body goes into regular or constant states of 'fight or fright' (which is the body's automatic stress response) has a very taxing , and potentially deathly impact. Eventually, because they do not get adequate time to replenish when rested, chronic stress places all of our bodily systems including cardiovascular, respiratory, mental-emotional and digestive systems under unnecessary pressure. And if left unchecked, eventually we will burn out.

Heeding to our body and mind's signals that things are 'not quite right' is always the first step in effectively managing stress. But what it you are so out of touch that you miss this? Well, that's why yoga is so effective.

Firstly, yoga develops our overall self-awareness, we learn to hear the messages our body is needing to tell us. This places us is a good position to do something about it.

Secondly, yoga also helps us to more quickly recognise when we are 'resisting' something. We learn to feel the difference between resistance and freedom in the body/mind - and we become able to relax ourselves, and to positively influence our body's automatic stress response, at will.

And finally, yoga eases the actual physical, mental and emotional symptoms of stress. Put very briefly, yoga postures and movements release tension from tight muscles, breath techniques have a direct influence on emotional reactions and these techniques combined over time, enable the student to also see through mental chatter to a natural stillness and clarity.

Yoga has a three-pronged approach to stress by teaching us to identify stress quickly, to manage ourselves when under stress and to deal with the symptoms of stress. There's nothing else quite like it!

If you haven't experienced yoga before, we encourage you to try it for yourself and see. Our Beginners Yoga Courses are a safe and fun place to start.

Wishing you a stress-less journey.

Being Kind to Yourself

Natalie Snooke - Friday, January 30, 2015

Being Kinder to Yourself'We tend to think that being hard on ourselves will make us strong. But it is cherishing ourselves that gives us strength." ~ Julia Cameron

One of the most common things I witness as a spiritual teacher and a coach is people treating themselves harshly.

We don't realise how easily a harsh self-attitude can creep in and take-over. Unless the people close to us have the care and honesty to give us a gentle nudge, it's very easy to be way tougher on ourselves than anyone else as a habit.  

Here's some of the symptoms to look out for:

* critical or damning self-talk - lots of 'shoulds'
* continually saying 'yes' to others when you really want to say 'no'
* setting unrealistic goals or high standards that just make you a slave to your own devices
* not giving yourself adequate play, rest or time-alone
* comparing yourself to others as a way of having self-worth.

I recommend reclaiming yourself as a human, with a body, heart and mind that deserves to be cherished. Use this as your new mantra! Start today. Set the clear intention that from now onwards I will show kindness and total acceptance towards myself. 

By this, I don't mean quick-fix cover-up actions that have little substance or long-term benefit. Sure, having a facial or your favourite slice of cake can be nice, but we need to be prepared to commit ourselves to looking deeper and working gently and persistently over time, if we're sincere about experiencing the natural strength that comes from being kind. 

Cherishing ourselves means that we:

* tell the truth about ourself, accepting our short-comings - without blaming or needing to fix - we're just human!
* show gratitude for the blessings, gifts and talents we have
* give ourselves regular play, rest and self-time
* set goals that stretch our growth and inspire us
* let go of competition - it's a spiritual drag.

In the long run, choosing to be tender over being harsh dissolves our sense of disconnection and separateness. By deeply connecting with ourselves, we come to know first-hand that we share an infinite connection with all others. We feel a natural strength that is authentic and powerful.

If this message resonates with you, and you'd like some further support, I offer effective Life Coaching programs that help people to become kinder towards themselves. 

Enjoy the journey.

Getting Focused for the Year Ahead

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Getting Focused for the Year AheadHappy New Year! 

You might have noticed that along with the delicious days (or weeks if you're lucky!) for chilling-out in January comes an instinctive urge to start planning. 

There's a flurry of visions, goals and uncanny urges to 'make' things happen in 2015. How many times have you said THIS is going to be MY YEAR - starting NOW!  Remember that past new year's resolution that you were completely gung-ho about and were convinced it was the answer but that sadly died-in-the-arse (sorry for any language offence) by March?!  

Don't get me wrong, New Year's is a great time for setting goals and intentions. There's definitely that vibe in the air. And awesome. You've claimed your right to want something better for yourself. But to get there, to accomplish your desires as well as to feel a deeper sense of happiness, the F word cannot be forgotten...FOCUS.

What do we mean by focus?

Focus means the state of maximum clarity or concentration after refraction or reflection. First and foremost, focus needs reflection. Time for carefully considering perspectives, for bringing pieces together - before true clarity is reached. Many goals or intentions don't ever come to fruition because we rush in with hopeful ideas without having given ourselves enough time for them to digest.

During reflection time, different things can happen. Some people have hundreds of ideas that create confusion about which ones are best to go for. Others find that there's an initial 'stalemate' and slowly the bigger things bubble to the surface. Whilst others are more methodical, making lists and evaluating alternatives. Or maybe you're a combination of all three. Whatever your tendency, allow yourself enough time (the whole of January if you need it, but not so long that you never shift beyond it) and space to be in reflection mode.  

Consider pondering and/or making notes to these questions:

  • What have I learned about myself in 2014?
  • What are my reasons for wanting to change?
  • What matters most to me?
  • What is my life purpose?
  • What am I willing to do and not to do?
Another name for concentration is meditation. If you're already into yoga or meditation, or another form of somatic movement, one of the best ways to help yourself reflect and peel away layers of doubt is through regular practice. At Momentum all our daily classes offer inspiration to support you - maybe its time for you to get back to your regular class or to explore a new one?  And if you're feeling stuck, our Intend and Create Workshops with Amber Spear next weekend are a great way to kick-start the process.

If reading this blog gives you a mild anxiety attack and you've tried everything yourself, but feel like it hasn't really worked, then more personalised support could serve you well. After all, I want you to focus, enjoy as well as accomplish in 2015! Check out my spiritual or life coaching.  It's a great journey where I'll keep you (gently) true to yourself and get to cheer you on. Yay!

Know that whatever energy and space you allow for reflection will create better focus - the focus that's just right for you, for now.  

Five Ways to Stay Calm and Confident this Christmas

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Christmas Stress Momentum Coaching and YogaEnd of school concerts, work Christmas parties, pressures to buy stuff for people who don't need it, even a swag of yoga events happening. With so much going on, it can be enough to over-shadow all of the effort and quality time you've put into nurturing yourself on the yoga mat this year. 

But fear not. It doesn't have to be like that.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, it's now time to engage all of the self-care and awareness tools you've been dosed with. You can survive this Christmas.  More than that. You can prepare well, relish the break and celebrate all of its goodness.

Here's our five hottest tips for not becoming another victim of the Christmas crisis.

1. Shift your attitude.  
Catch yourself when you're starting to say things like "I'm so stressed out" or "There's too much to do". Yes, you do have things to do but the approach (stress or calm) is up to you. What you tell yourself you become, so choose your self-talk. Instead say "I'm taking things step-by-step" or "I just do what I need to do". 

2.  Remember to say 'No'.
Yes means nothing if you can't say no. If you say yes to everything and everyone, you'll probably burn out. Choose carefully and be prepared to say a firm, but gentle 'no'.  

3. Take Each Day as it Comes
Be present to each day and keep it simple. Ask yourself in the morning, 'what are the three most important things I need to accomplish today?' Put your energy and focus into getting those done and be happy with that.

4.  Remember to Breathe
When we're anxious or stressed, the breath gets lost which inhibits us from accessing our creativity and joy. Make a point of keeping up your regular breath practice (if you already have one) or build some breathing moments into your day, like when you're driving and waiting at the traffic lights, in-between work meetings or sanding in queue at Woolies. Take long, slow in-breaths, breathing into your belly, chest then upper shoulders and long slow out-breaths, feeling the breath wave back down your body. Do 5-10 rounds. You'll feel all the better for it.

5. In the End, Its Being that Counts
You can spend your life in busy-ness and having an endless to-do list, trying to be every-thing to every-one, or you can practice just being - each and every day. When you become skilled at being - and remembering yourself as a human being - it naturally overcomes the needy trap of 'doing'. When being is our fore-most way of showing-up in the world, then staying calm is much easier. Things take on a natural order and we get done what we need to, as we need to, without the layers of stress and strain.  Even in the lead-up to Christmas.

Choose how you'll approach this Christmas and enjoy the journey!

Take some time-out with us at Momentum this Christmas. We're open with daily classes right up to and beyond Christmas. And a swag of great events to keep you smiling. 

Bali Retreat Reflections

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bali Retreat Momentum Coaching and YogaBlogging (to be interesting, helpful or provocative - or all three) is challenging at the best of times, but after our Bali Retreat it hits another level of challenge. After so much fun, friendship, relaxation and deeply enriching experiences, finding the words to describe what happened is a bit like standing in front of your favourite ice-cream parlour's window on a hot day, not knowing where to start or what flavour to choose!

Our group was a delightful mix of women, most from Perth and others travelling from as far as the Philippines and the Netherlands. Friendship and laughs came with ease. As each day unfolded, the individual stories did too, giving each person time to air their challenges and insights - and to finish-off conversations completely - without the need to rush back to family or work commitments. 

Mealtimes were a favourite time to share, as we explored the awesome western and Balinese vegetarian food created by Ketut and served with love. From tofu and bean stir-fry, to pumpkin soup and gado gado, to pisang goreng (fried bananas) and klepon (sweet coconut rice balls) our tastebuds were treated at every meal. As yogis, there was always plenty on offer to tempt us and thankfully the mindfulness we generated during our yogic practices helped us to not over-indulge!

Bali Retreat 2014 MeditationOur retreat theme, the Joy of Being seemed to unfold naturally, right from the moment we entered the village of Seseh along the quiet, coconut palm and rice field-fringed road. The serenity oozed from the lush green surrounds, beckoning us to surrender to its peacefulness. This road would become a pathway our retreat goers would often tread, in quiet contemplation at sunset - except for the cheery rice field farmers, quick to raise a smile and wave hello. 

Speaking of sunsets, the beach was the other magnificent venue for nature's nightly display of colour and contrast. Our venue at Kura Kura was just a stone's throw from the ocean and our group enjoyed many splendid vistas, across the waves and over the horizon. Falling asleep to the soothing sounds of the waves was magical.

Bali Retreat 2014 SwimmingAside from the peaceful surrounds, fabulous food and friendly care by the Kura Kura staff, the 'juice' on our retreat came from diving into yoga, meditation and breath work at the start of every day. The opportunity to loosen physical and mental boundaries, and dedicate time to going more deeply 'inward' was embraced by everyone. Each day we explored different themes in our yoga asana (postures) and movements, such as Grounding Down, Letting it Flow and Finding Your Edge. Sometimes quiet and passive and at other times strong and dynamic, our bodies responded in ways that surprised and delighted us. Being given careful instructions on the finer points of breath work (pranayama) and meditative practices was the icing-on-the-cake, showing us the way beyond self-doubts and giving us a deeper taste of our loving hearts. Our yogic practices culminated in spending a day in silence - whilst still in the company of others - it was an unforgettable experience that was appreciated and relished by all, including Lucky the resident dog who joined-in by being bark-free for the day!Bali Retreat 2014 Relaxation

We spent part of most afternoons in self-discovery workshops, where we could explore how to integrate the benefits of our yoga practices into daily life. We learned about the role of samskaras (our learned patterns of thinking and behaving), the eight limbs of yoga philosophy and the anatomy of the koshas (or energy layers) and doshas (energy types). Great fun was had in our mandala-making workshop, where we loved playing with colour and creativity to express ourselves.  

A visit to a sacred Balinese water temple, accompanied by a healer, was the perfect way to experience the spiritual essence of Bali. Being immersed in temple spring water that rises from the centre of the earth, cleanses the mind, helps to heal the heart and soothes the soul - and the shiny looks on our faces afterwards said it all. 

Bali Retreat 2014 Water TempleThe true sanctuary of a retreat comes from the attitude and generosity of all those who partake. And this one was a beauty. Thanks to our retreat participants and to everyone at Kura Kura for an unforgettable Bali Retreat 2014.  

Being Savvy

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I recently came across the phrase 'Global Savvy' in an international coaching article by Geoffrey Abbott and it struck a chord with me. I hadn't heard the phrase before but it described being 'globally savvy' as the capacity to create positive value from the interplay of feeling, acting and thinking, where the context is diverse and messy.

I really liked that last bit. Messy. And what does being savvy have to do with messy? I wanted to know more. 

The author talked about being savvy - in this case globally savvy in a cross-cultural coaching context - as "injecting subtle energy" into the way we feel, act and think.  That someone is savvy if they habitually:

              • Feel positive about difference and are curious to explore;
              • Act to create connections and remove barriers;
              • Think in ways that can handle uncertainties, ambiguities and paradoxes.

We can ask ourselves: how do feelings, actions and thoughts interplay for me? What shifts in my energy and attention could I make in order to be more savvy?

Depending on your personality, and whether you're a head, heart or more gut-centred person, my guess is that you'll find some elements of the three more challenging to consider than others.  For example, if you're a gut-centred person, you'll have strong instincts and tend to move into action quickly to make things happen.  Instead, a more savvy approach might be to spend more time on the interplay between your feelings and thoughts - to think about how your behaviours might have the best possible impact for others and to be more curious about exploring your own feelings. 

If you're more of a heart-centred or feeling person, then it's the interplay between thinking and acting that you could focus on.  Thinking about how you'll handle difficulties and what actions you'll take to create genuine connections with others.

If you're more of a head-centred or thinking person, then the interplay between feeling and acting could yield you positive outcomes. How do you feel about different scenarios and how would you behave in order to remove any barriers between yourself and others?

In the hum-drum of everyday life, the context is often messy, yet this messiness is needed if we're wanting to grow and be savvy.

Regardless of being 'globally savvy' or 'self savvy' (as I'll call it), it takes time and ongoing effort to develop new habits. And as we inquire more truthfully, yet playfully into the motives behind our feelings, actions and thoughts, especially in challenging situations, we're able to see more clearly where we might be stuck. 

As the author says, "the challenge is to explore and leverage the connections across the three elements and to look for growth and development that is integrative.  It is a framework for you to open up fresh conversations and engage in the paradoxical state of 'serious play.'

Whilst it isn't always easy, if we're really interested in doing our part to become a happier individual and to make the world a better place, then our work starts with us. Despite not necessarily understanding, or agreeing with, another. And despite things being messy.

The Love that Emerges Through Fear

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Life's painful events can have an uncanny way of revealing so much about ourselves, our relationships with others and what matters most in life.

Over the past fortnight, I have witnessed my beloved Dad go through an unplanned yet significant medical procedure.  It was heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time.  Even writing these words today brings tears to my eyes.  

At first there was shock and disbelief at having to quickly come to terms with a life-threatening condition.  Then understanding the options, the reality of the surgery, the risks, the potential complications and the dreaded stories of those who don't 'make it'.   If there could ever be the perfect recipe for fear, then this had all of the essential ingredients!

Despite his fears, the greatest being for his own life, Dad showed tremendous faith and courage to go ahead.  With full family-support from my Mum, brother, sister and I, the day of the surgery was one I'll never forget.  In the hospital ward, in between all of the medical checking and double-checking just waiting, it was hard to speak words.  Dad was feeling it all, like going to hell and back I guess.  But still there was nothing left unsaid.  The strong loving presence that emanated between us said more than words could in any case.

Then in a matter of hours it was over, and Dad was 'there' again.  Such joy and relief!  Although his face was pale and his body raw, we knew that he would be okay.  Day by day, recovering his charm, regaining strength, taking steps and breathing deeper, Dad's had a rebirth.  And we have too.  

Dad's willingness to be scared, to be completely overwhelmed with emotion and to be held by those who love him, has been an incredible teaching.  When you can walk through fear, on the other side is profound love - they are two sides of the same coin - and this applies to us all.  

When we open to love, fear gets healed and soon loses its place.

"Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within." ~ James Arthur Baldwin



Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Today I grateful.  

I am grateful for this precious human life, for this breath, for this vehicle called the body and for THIS moment.  

I am grateful for my mind, for its creativity and reasoning, that's sharp at times and meandering at others.  

I am grateful for the chance to learn, to explore, to discover and to rediscover the beauty in simple things, like the opening of a flower.  

I am grateful for the many others who walk this path of curiosity and for their inspiration, for their sharing and their humility.  

I am grateful for having the strength to feel deeply, to cry unashamedly and to express honestly, even when it gets scary.

I am grateful for the untold blessings from Masters and teachers near and far, passed and present, male and female, for their unwavering commitment to truth and to love.

I am grateful for the gifts of delight that children bring, for their innocence, for their excitement and their joy, and for the wise and valuable lessons that they teach us adults everyday.

And I am grateful for Mother Earth, for all the oceans and the forests, for the deserts and the beaches, for the seasons and the rains that support and nurture our souls, day in and day out.

When I am grateful, there is a fullness in my heart and an ease in my mind that allows me to rest and know that life is taking care of itself and all I have to do is to surrender to its flow...and to be grateful again and again.

What are you grateful for today?

Making New Year Commitments Fun

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

With the advent of another new calendar year comes the temptation to make half-hearted 'resolutions' that might sound good and idealistic in a fleeting moment, yet don't serve us or inspire us in the long-term.  Resolutions made without any real sense of commitment usually lead to us feeling de-motivated and less confident about ourselves.  Commitment, now there's a word that many of us shy away from!

So, how can we set goals, with commitment, that are both worthwhile and enjoyable?  It has to do with our attitude.

A quick check of the dictionary describes commitment as 'the act of committing, engaging or pledging oneself'.  Whether we're aware of it or not, we all have things that we have 'committed' to.  Noticing where you spend most of your energy and time each week, will reveal to what and to whom you're actually 'committed' to.  And if we aren't mindful and act like 'it doesn't matter' or we tell ourselves 'I couldn't do that' then in effect, we're pledging ourselves to negative attitudes that will stop us from really enjoying our life and becoming more of the person we want to be. 

What New Year's brings is a refreshing opportunity to mindfully reassess and make a more CONSCIOUS commitment to what matters most to you and also an opportunity to have FUN in the process.

Try these steps:

1.  First, make a commitment to FUN, that no matter what your goal or intention is, that you'll do the work that it takes, but that you'll be light-hearted with yourself and enjoy the process!

2.  Second, that YOU are worth your time and energy.  No one else can do it for you.  Make your priority #1 commitment to yourself.  Self-growth and self-happiness can only come from you and your efforts.

3.  Third, write down your goals and intentions.  Use clear, simple, positive and inspirational language.  Read them with a trusted partner or friend.  And stick them on your fridge, mirror or wall where you can read them everyday.

May 2014 be your year to shine brighter and to enjoy your journey in every way possible!


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