A Beginner's Guide to Meditation

10 Steps To Start Your Meditation Journey

By Steph Wall

It's no secret the benefits of meditation. We have endless studies and anecdotal evidence that meditation can greatly reduce anxiety, stress, difficult emotions and increase awareness, focus and clarity. There are countless apps, courses and dedicated teachers sharing tips and tricks on how to meditate and yet, many of us aren't interested in doing it. Or, for many people, the thought of sitting in silence for more than a few minutes is daunting, boring or scary.

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I have been meditating daily for about seven years now, and I can say with confidence that has a massive impact on my mental health. Meditating gives me time to just sit with what is, whether that's clear, positive thoughts, or heavy, uncomfortable ones. It allows me to witness the inner workings of my mind and slow things down. My life, like everyone else's, is busy, fast, and a bit chaotic. However, with meditation, I'm given the space to engage with life differently; slow, steady, focused and quiet. I've noticed that when I start my day meditating, I am able to carry traces of these qualities with me, like the tendrils of the stillness get weaved into the rest of my day. When I don't get the opportunity to meditate, I am quicker to get frustrated and agitated, and generally, don't feel the same sense of peace throughout my day.

 
meditation

Having a dedicated meditation practice did not come easy for me. I had to sit through and achy body and very distracted mind. I did not enjoy it, and yet I persevered because I could recognise the need for something to soften my anxiety. I still have days that are not easy, where my mind is continuously thinking; however, I can forgive myself and let it be a time for me to process what's going on in my mind while staying still and in the quiet. And even though life doesn't get less busy, the ability to create a routine for my meditation and my ability to sit with whatever is present gets easier and easier.

My biggest recommendation is to understand building a meditation practice takes time. Meditating sporadically isn't going to be that helpful, and it won't be easy to see the long term benefits if it's not consistent.

 

Here are my 10 tips to make meditation a regular practice in your life.

1. Start small. Put aside 5 minutes a day to meditate. When this becomes easy, starting adding more time but keep it realistic. I started at 10 and was stuck on 15 minutes for about 3 years before moving up to 20 and now 30.

2. Do it first thing in the morning. Your brain is hopefully not too busy first thing in the morning, opposed to later in the day when you have a million thoughts running through your mind and a list of things to do. I do it the moment I wake up. I sit up, lean against my headboard and go.

3. Find a comfortable position. You do not need to sit up stick straight like the perfect yogi. Get into a position where you feel the most comfortable and won't need to fidget or feel pain. Sit with your hips higher than your knees and make sure you have support underneath you. Use a chair, pillows, cushions, or even lay down if you won't fall asleep. It could also be useful to do a few stretches first. I suggest having your back leaning against something as your body gets used to sitting upright without moving.

4. Chose a focus. Meditation is not necessarily about having a perfectly still mind; it's more about having a focus to keep the mind occupied so you can sink into the quiet space in the background of the chatter. Whether it's focusing on your breath, sensations in your body, listening to a guided meditation or repeating an affirmation, give your mind something to focus on.

5. Try not to create a war. If you catch your mind wandering, try not to get frustrated or create even more dialogue in your brain. Celebrate the fact that you were able to see your mind wander then go back to your chosen focus.

6. Do it every day. Repeat your meditation at the same time every day, so it becomes a habit, just like brushing your teeth.

7. Communicate what you are doing. If you live with other people or are doing it in a space where others might be around, let them know to give you some undisturbed time. Hopefully, they can also support you and keep you accountable, or better yet, maybe they will want to join you!

8. Be forgiving. It's ok to feel bored or frustrated. If meditation were easy, everyone would do it. It's not easy to be in silence but stay committed. Let yourself sit in the discomfort and remain patient and curious.

9. Begin with guided meditations. I find it's easiest to have a voice to follow during my meditation. There are many great apps like Insight Timer, Waking Up by Sam Harris or Headspace that provide short, free meditations.

10. Set an intention for why you want to meditate. For me, it's to help with anxiety and give myself quiet time. If you can find your reason why, you will have an anchor to come back to when you find yourself not making time or thinking you can't do it.

I have linked below several guided meditation for your use, just click on the image. Enjoy, share and get curious about what is waiting for you in the stillness!

Steph x

The Most Loving, The Most Fierce Mother

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Kali is easily one of the most misunderstood figures in ancient mythology. To simply look at her image without seeing her symbolically or with complexity, one might just see a violent image of an enraged black woman. Many people shy away or dismiss this figure due to staying on the surface and taking powerful symbols literally, however Kali is not an energy to dismiss. For those who know the basic qualities of Kali, we know that she epitomises the dark, mysterious, vast, infinite unknown. She works via death and destruction and is not for the faint of heart. However there is a side to her that often gets missed and that is her as the all loving Mother.

When we think of the role of Mother we might immediately turn to qualities such as warmth, kindness and softness. And although these are indeed qualities of Mother, they are not the only ones nor should they be placed at a higher value. Another face of Mother is the face of Kali; fierce, relentless and direct. What all faces of Mother have in common though, is Love. For anyone who truly wants to grow and experience self transformation, preferring one expression of Love over the other may be a mistake. Sometimes the love, the lessons, the nourishment we want is not what we actually need. Sometimes we really do need a strong, tough, fierce love that might be painful and knock you off your feet as a way to transcend lifelong limitations we’ve placed on ourselves.

Kali is not a Mother to dismiss because she doesn’t show up the way that is preferred. She is a Mother that will love, tirelessly and endlessly, to hold you as you transform. Sometimes that Love just might need to be a bit tough and scary.

KALI THE MOTHER

By Swami Vivekananda

The stars are blotted out,

The clouds are covering clouds,

It is darkness vibrant, sonant.

In the roaring, whirling wind

Are the souls of a million lunatics

Just loose from the prison-house,

Wrenching trees by the roots,

Sweeping all from the path.

The sea has joined the fray,

And swirls up mountain-waves,

To reach the pitchy sky.

The flash of lurid light

Reveals on every side

A thousand, thousand shades

Of Death begrimed and black —

Scattering plagues and sorrows,

Dancing mad with joy,

Come, Mother, come!

For Terror is Thy name,

Death is in Thy breath,

And every shaking step

Destroys a world for e'er.

Thou "Time", the All-Destroyer!

Come, O Mother, come!

Who dares misery love,

And hug the form of Death,

Dance in Destruction's dance,

To him the

Mother comes

5 Ways to Invoke the Energy of the Goddess Kali

Written by Steph Wall

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I will confess when my friend and I decided to name our studio The Kali Collective, we didn’t fully understand the depth of this goddess or exactly we would call on her for, other than the obvious which is self empowerment and transformation. I didn’t even understand the potency or power that would be brought forth by invoking the energy current of this archetype into my life. But my goodness did I ever find out hard and quick shortly after creating a community space in honor of Her. She wasted no time with me. Here is a brief description of her, but do not be fooled, a few lines of description only scratches the surface of her depth, complexity, and power. 

Kali is the Goddess of time, change, and destruction. She is the energy current inside of you that is wild, empowered and all loving.  This energy is deeply involved in the life/death / life cycle to keep you growing and transforming, as does the rich practice of yoga.
The Dark Mother in all her love and ferocity will guide you through transformation by dissolving all forms and time. She will tear things up to help you see what is needing to die inside of you, such as self limiting beliefs or attachments to the past that prevent you from moving forward. These deaths then create a fertile field for growth and creation of the new.
She’s the darkness most of us fear. She is fierce. She is loving. She will transform you.

Kali is not an energy to invoke lightly but from personal experience, I can say she will make changes in your life where they are needed. Examples of how she transformed me were the following:

  • Destroying lifelong beliefs that my voice is not worthy or valuable 
  • Dissolving intense bondages guarding me against vulnerability and authenticity 
  • Opened me up to find a deep, meaningful love for myself 
  • Transformed my habit of living in fantasy and instead helped me find a true love rooted in truth and reality
  • The courage to follow my dreams and run a yoga studio and yoga school in a far away, magical land 

Not bad! My life has been completely transformed but don’t think for a second it was easy. Who I was even 1 year ago is completely different to who I am now and the person I was for so many years was hard to let go of. My life as I knew it completely changed and the pain that came with it was intense. So make no mistake, it’s not as if I named my studio after her, meditated on her a few times and that’s it. It took much more work than that!

Here are some reasons why you would invoke her:

  • Dissolving limiting beliefs
  • Self empowerment 
  • Facing fears
  • Releasing egoic constructs/beliefs
  • Changing perspective on life and death 
  • Liberating yourself from old attachments 
  • Invite the wild, divine feminine into your life 

Ways to invoke Kali:

  1. Meditation - visualise her image and see what arises
  2. Self reflection - ask yourself questions like, where are you suppressing your wild, feminine self? Or, is there somewhere in your life you are playing “nice” instead of expressing a more truthful, angry, enraged self? 
  3. Asana - Take goddess squat and let out several primal roars from the belly 
  4. Offer your negative beliefs to Kali. Visualise bowing down to her and offering her your limiting beliefs for her to destroy. 
  5. Journal with Kali - ask her the following questions: What do you have to teach me? How do you express yourself in my life? How are you suppressed? What do you think needs destroying in my life?

Remember, Kali is not an energy to take lightly but she is loving. If you are ready to come alive, wake up and live your life fully, She is a necessary force to guide you there. 

Who is Kali?

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Kali is the Goddess of time, change and destruction. She is the energy current inside of you that is wild, empowered and all loving.  This energy is deeply involved in the life / death / life cycle to keep you growing and transforming, as does the rich practice of yoga. 

The Dark Mother in all her love and ferocity will guide you through transformation by dissolving all forms and time. She will tear things up to help you see what is needing die inside of you, such as self limiting beliefs or attachments to the past that prevent you from moving forward. These deaths then create a fertile field for growth and creation of the new. 

She’s the darkness most of us fear. She is fierce. She is loving. She will transform you.

Body Scan Meditation with Steph

Want to meditate?

Meditation is a process to be more still in the mind. It can create a sense of stillness and calm, away from the stresses of life. There are no expectations with meditation, you do not need to sit completely still or have an absolutely still mind. Life is much more complex than that and meditation understands this. All we are trying to achieve in meditation is a slowing of the mind. A great way to begin meditating is with a guided meditation. Here are two videos by Kali's owner Steph to help you on your way!

If you are interested in learning more about meditation, why not try a slower yoga practice such as Yin, Restorative or Nidra to introduce you into a quite space? 

Steph's SUPER DUPER BALLS

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These are the most amazing balls. I am no calorie counter and I am no vegan however I can assure you that these balls are so healthy and delightful you will end up making them weekly, like I do! They are quick, easy and filling.

I do not like being told what to do, so I do not follow recipes. However I have attached the two recipes I kinda, sorta, very loosely follow to make sure I don't end up with bad balls. Something that is not on the recipe that I always add is Neat Nutrition Protein powder. 

Enjoy your yummy balls! 

FROM DELICIOUSLY ELLA

COCONUT CHOCOLATE BALLS

– 1 cup of desiccated coconut

– 1 cup of almonds

– 1/2 a dozen medjool dates

– 4 tablespoons of cashew butter

– 2 tablespoons of raw cacao

– 1 tablespoon of coconut oil

Start by putting the almonds and coconut in a food processor and blend for a minute or two, until a flour starts to form. Then add the cashew butter, coconut oil and cacao blending for a few seconds before slowly adding in the dates.

Continue to blend until everything has been combined together to form a sticky mixture. This mixture can then be rolled into balls and covered in more coconut and left in the fridge to firm up for an hour or alternately you can enjoy it with a spoon straight from a cup, or be like me and eat it straight from the blender! Either way you’ll love it! If you can resist not eating the whole mixture then keep the remaining bites in the fridge in a container.

 

ULTIMATE ENERGY BALLS 

They also only take 3 minutes to make and require almost no washing up, which is always fantastic!

Makes 15 – 20 balls, depending on size

– 1 cup of medjool dates

– 3/4 of a cup of almonds

– 3/4 of a cup of walnuts or any other nut

– 2 tablespoons of chia seeds

– 1 tablespoon of coconut oil

– 1 tablespoon of hemp protein powder

– 1 tablespoon of raw cacao powder

Start by placing the almonds, walnuts and chia seeds in your food processor. Blend for 1 minute, until the a flour forms and the nuts have crumbled.

Then add the remaining ingredients, pitting the dates before adding those. Blend for another minute until a stick dough forms.

Use your hands to roll the mixture into little balls, place in a bowl and store in the fridge.

Bite and enjoy! Just try not to eat them all at once!

What is the Core?

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What do we mean when we say "core"?

Everything stems from your centre. Who you are, what you do, all that makes you unique starts from the very core of who you are. Our movements should be the same! Therefore, we define the core as the centre of our body, that which encompasses the area around the spine. 

When we take a deeper look at the anatomy of the core we will see that it’s much more complex than thinking it’s just our 6 pack muscle, or rectus abdominus. When we peel back that layer we also see that the transverse abdominus, pelvic floor, diaphragm, multifidus and obliques all play a big role as well, along with a few others. 

Why should we care about moving from the core?

Because this allows us to move with efficiency and in a way that keeps the spine safe. By having an awareness and access to these muscles we can properly stabilise the spine to take us safely into backbends, arm balances and to flow with grace through our postures. Also, functionally speaking it’s important to have stable core so we can move, run, play and engage in life without worrying about putting our back out. For those of us with back pain, understanding the core and strengthening our stabiliser muscles can really help ease any discomfort. 

Benefits of strengthening your core include:

Improved posture and balance

Help with back discomfort 

Graceful yoga transitions 

Arm balances

Inversions

Functional movement 

Running

Weight training 

And much more! 

 

Why is yoga so good for the core?

In yoga we do many postures that help activate our deep core stabilisers such as plank, cobra, locust and side plank. Almost all of the postures require some sort of core stabilisation so it’s hard to get away without doing core in yoga! 

We love and appreciate the core so much we have dedicated an entire class to it called Core Flow. What to expect in this class are exercises designed to help strengthen your center. By combining practices such pilates, ballet and yoga you will be sure to leave feeling strong and empowered in your centre!

10 Tips to strengthen your Home Practice

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The end of the year is a busy time for all of us, with all the commitments Christmas entails, and that can often takes us away from our regular yoga practice at a studio with a teacher.

It can be frustrating to let go temporarily of that precious mind-body time in our week, but we believe a flexible approach to self-care is key to keep grounded throughout this period and beyond.

Steph Wall, owner and principal teacher at the Kali Collective, has put together for you her 10 best tips to help strengthen your home practice and navigate the end of the year busy-ness peacefully.

  

For years I struggled with maintaining a home practice. I made a million excuses, such as I didn’t have the space, I didn’t know what I was doing or I didn’t know how to do it right. But after discovering these techniques, I slowly created a strong home practice. Now I wake up early every morning to move in my own way. During this time, I find my balance, my grounding and my strength to set me up for a beautiful day. This is also where I create sequences to teach during class. This alone time where I can express myself fully. The creativity that arises from my home practice is staggering and exactly what I need to be able to share my practice with others. 

10) Find a quiet place. Set yourself in a place where you know you won’t be interrupted. I prefer to set my mat at the end of my bed rather than in the living room because I know no one will bother me in my room. Finding a quite space is vital for me, otherwise I have the constant worry of being interrupted during my private practice. 

9) No distractions. Phone off. Tell your roommates or family members you need this time for yourself and can’t be bothered. Make it clear to others and to yourself that this is alone time for you. 

8) Music. Set a playlist that you know you can run for a while without wanting to change the song. For me, music has always been my escape. Whether it’s the Nine Inch Nails or Bon Iver,  when I practice with my favourite tunes in the background, I know I’m allowed to wander into my own world.

7) Keep the lighting low. I really enjoy practicing in the near dark, either as the sun is rising or after it has set. Losing that sense of sight by not seeing myself in studio mirrors or even my own body in the light, allows me to just feel what’s going on in my body. What I look like doesn’t matter, as it never really should. 

6) Take advantage of online resources. It’s amazing how many free classes are online. Just google or youtube free yoga practices. Being guided by someone at home opposed to a studio, allows you to create a space in your home that belongs to yoga. This is a great way to get you moving at home until you are able to turn off your computer and move in your own way. 

5) Educate yourself on the basics. This allows you to stay safe. Once you start moving on your own, take the time to figure out the basics. When is it safe to do deeper back bends, twists etc? By trusting and listening to your body, you should have a good gauge of what’s right and wrong.

4) Ditch trying to make a sequence. It is not necessary to have a perfect sequence created in order to practice on your own. Yoga teachers have done hours of sequence training to develop creative, safe ways to move.  For now, maybe consider covering the basics first before making longer sequences. Do one or two poses at a time until you become more comfortable and able to remember a longer order of poses. And if you try something and forget it by the time you get to the other side? Who cares! Do it when you remember. 

3) Keep your practice short. It can seem intimidating to try to create an entire 60-90 minute class on your own. Try setting a goal of moving for just 10 minutes on your own. Once you become more comfortable being your own teacher, you will find that you need more and more time for your practice but let that come naturally. 

2) Trust yourself.  You don’t need to be a yoga instructor to be able to do your own home practice. As long as you know how to stay safe, anyone can practice yoga alone. If you are unsure about a pose, try it, close your eyes and go with how it feels in your body. Your body know’s what’s right or wrong. When you no longer have a teacher there to tell you the correct alignment, you then need to check in with the physical feeling of the pose in your body. If it doesn’t feel right, play around.

1) Stop thinking! Just move. Your practice doesn’t need to be or look perfect. Shut your brain off, forget about being your own teacher and instead do what feels great. Just because you do a warrior 2 every single studio class doesn’t mean you need to do that at home. In fact, take that time to explore other things. Breathe, listen, honour and move.

Take time to develop your practice. Let yourself make “mistakes” and enjoy the expressions that arise within you. 

 

For those of you who are ready to advance their yoga practice after the festive period, Steph Wall is inviting you to Bali on March 10 - 17 2018, on a very special retreat entirely dedicated to fulfilling your potential. With only a small deposit required at this stage, why not treat yourself with a Christmas present with long lasting effects, well into the New Year? 

An Introduction to Arm Balances & Inversions | By Steph Wall

An Introduction to Arm Balances & Inversions  | By Steph Wall

We flew, we balanced, we fell...

And we certainly laughed too! Remember all those reason we spoke about for wanting to learn arm balances and inversions!? Well, top of the list was to have fun and be challenged! And that's exactly what happened. You rocked it and it's been so fun to see some of you put those tools into practice since the workshop! 
I wanted to do a little write up about the workshop because I know it's easy to forget things. Remember that everything is a progression and we build bit by bit until we are upside down and flying around! 

Read More

Transitioning into the New Year

On Jan 3rd, our belied teacher, Zac and Hollie taught a beautiful 2 hour class themed around transitioning into the new year. A challenging practice to help us move through blockages, shake the dust and come into this year brighter and firm on our feet.

A Thank You doesn't cut it! Our thanks will be embodied action that will ripple through our communities and beyond. 

We love you Zac and Hollie!

My Journey into Stillness | By Steph Wall

A series of events put me in a situation Ive never been in before.; an experience more powerful than anything I could have ever paid for, any course I could have ever taken, or any advice Ive ever heard. As a person who thrives on excitement, determination and achievement, this experience came to me in the most unlikely of places: I gave everything up and got really still.

 

It all started because I decided to take a job overseas. Had it not been for prior commitments at home, I would have leapt across the pond to the UK immediately. Instead, I have had to spend several months in transition. I decided it that would be perfect to slow down and enjoy my remaining time in the beautiful Okanagan. So I left my jobs, moved in with my boyfriend got super quiet.

 

I was one of those people that busied myself beyond belief and could give you a thousand reasons why

 

My life used to be insane. I was one of those people that busied myself beyond belief and could give you a thousand reasons why. I was teaching around 15 classes a week, working twice a week as a caregiver for a quadriplegic and going to University. I practiced yoga once a day and my spare time consisted of juggling friends, a relationship, homework and marketing my yoga business. So when I took time off, I thought it would all slow down - but I quickly busied myself in other ways doing things I never had time for before like cooking, studying yoga, running and seeing friends and family.

 

It didnt take long for me to realize I was filling my time to ease the intense anxiety I had towards doing nothing. In the rare quiet moments, I felt all the things I was trying to hide. I found myself anxious to get things done when I had nothing to do. I would create weird little deadlines for things that held no importance. I felt guilty for relaxing, as if I didnt earn it. I struggled with my self-worth as I quickly realized I valued myself by who I was as a teacher not a person: my pay-cheques could no longer determine my value because I wasnt getting any. Worst of all, I questioned my relationship with my boyfriend many times. Now we were living together and spending much more time with each other than before. My insecurities bubbled up fast as the tables turned and now time spent with my boyfriend revolved around his schedule and not mine. He was the one that needed some space now, not me. I had to let go of the control I held for so long in order to find a compromise with him. It hit me hard realizing how much I love control -even harder seeing all the excuses I used and believed as a way to justify distracting myself.

 

I realized then, that it was time I had a serious sit down with myself. I made a deal with myself to get more curious about this illusive stillness I was trying to avoid. Here was my opportunity to look straight at the deepest parts of myself and see what I knew it would be the ugly truths behind my anxiety, guilt, insecurities, lack of worth and value, and need to control.

So I got even quieter. I enforced limitations on my phone use: turning it off between 9 p.m and a.m. and only using it on wireless. Realizing the studio was my little escape, I began practicing yoga at home, and no more than necessary. I stopped filling my schedule to the brim with coffee dates and dedicated much more time to just being still, allowing myself to go wandering outside without my phone, to lay in the sun without checking the time, to sit and meditate without setting a timer, to lay on the couch watching repeats of The Mindy Project without feeling guilty. Most importantly, I created space to observe the emotions that would start to rise from the nothingness and then patiently watch them leave. And the lesson I learned was priceless.

My conclusion is this: I understand that the things I do are not nearly as important as I thought. Who I am is what’s important. My friends and family dont care if I teach zero classes or 15 a week; they care that Im happy and healthy. The pay-cheques from overworking were temporary moments of satisfaction that hold little real value now. And all those extra classes I jammed into my schedule because I thought I should, didnt help me feel any less guilty when I sat down to relax. All that happened when I glorified my busy-ness was I let the most special feelings you could have about yourself come from what I did not from who I was.


Feeling valuable without a decent income is difficult for me. So is feeling loved without a jillion coffee dates, and feeling worthy without teaching full classes, or feeling wanted when my boyfriend needs more space. Through working to cultivate these things on my own, though, Ive learned that I cannot allow the external world to define me; as the universe continues to teach me, all those feelings of love, worth, value, and security can still be present when you have nothing at all. Because stillness is not nothing.