It had been a pleasurable journey. I left Dublin in good spirits. I had plenty of time to catch my connecting flight in Frankfurt. I was relaxed and content. But, that changed.
My heart was pounding in my chest as I sprinted through Frankfurt airport, desperately looking for gate B23. I had never missed a flight and I wasn’t going to start now. Or, so I thought. I ran and ran and eventually got to the gate. I could see a plane. As I screeched to a halt, I handed the attendant my boarding card, bending over to catch my breath.
“Your flight left 15 minutes ago. All the rest of the flights to Prague are full. I’m not sure if you will get there today.” My heart sank.
I was about to learn a firm lesson in patience and surrender.
The winter is a time of darkness. It is cold and damp (if you live here in Ireland). I used to fight this. I wanted it to be sunny. I wanted to play basketball outside. I was fighting the darkness. I didn’t adjust to the change of seasons and it often made me sick.
But, now I embrace it.
I embrace the cold. I use it to invigorate me. I embrace the darkness. I use it to slow me down, to do less and to hibernate. I embrace the night. I sleep more, I spend more time breathing. I don’t fight it anymore. I dance with it.
That lesson came back to me as I stood looking at the empty runway in Frankfurt airport. I had to dance with the situation. I had to look at all the possibilities, accept them, sit down and wait for the situation to unfold. No amount of worry or stress would fly me to Prague. I had to embrace the darkness and surrender.
Here are a few other ways we can embrace the darkness:
Enjoy the darkness, revel in the Winter Solstice and have a merry Christmas.
This was the question I was asking myself one day. My life had taken some unexpected twists and I found myself caught between two worlds: that of the warrior and that of the healer. In one hand, I held a bunch of herbs, while the other was clenched ready to fight.
Watch the video to find out. What else will you learn?
Nearly everyone is sniffling and coughing. But, we can boost our immunity and stay healthy during this cold part of the year by using our breath, herbs and cold showers.
I love the change in seasons: the mornings get cooler and the leaves are changing colour. But, with that comes a change in us too: snotty noses, chest infections and colds.
When I was younger, I inevitably got a cold at this time of year. It was a pattern I found hard to break. But, now things are different thanks to our greatest ally - nature.
We are part of nature and when we start to learn from her, everything changes for the better.
A couple of weeks ago, I could feel the early signs of a cold: I was a bit tired, a little achy and not myself.
Breath and sage
I used two things to ignite my immune system, increase my energy and fight off any infection before it could take hold:
A local eccentric once told my mother that when he felt a cold coming on, he would walk up Howth Head and let the freezing sea wind blow it out of him. I used to think he was mad. It turns out he is right. Gradual exposure to the cold ignites our immune system and helps us fight off sickness. Wim Hof Method has proven that.
Learn more about Wim Hof Method.
Cold and breathing
I really didn’t feel like getting into a cold shower. But, by doing that, and the Wim Hof Method breathing exercises, I felt stronger and more energised. But, that wasn’t all I did.
After the showers, I warmed up with some magnificent sage and honey tea. I have written about its power before. Read more. The video explains how to make it.
Within a couple of days I was 100% again. The cold never really took hold. It was a great feeling to know that I could do something about it. The old pattern was broken and I could get back to enjoying the changing seasons.
If you feel tired, sick, stressed or depressed, there is a simple and effective way to change that. It is a natural combination of breathing, focus and gradual exposure to the cold. It has turned the medical world's view of what we’re capable of upside down. For the first time in Ireland, you can now learn the Wim Hof Method.
It was a strange sight. The sea was grey, nearly black, except for the white tops of the choppy waves. But, there in the middle of it was the figure of a woman, swimming using only one arm. She bobbed up and down on her side, but still managed to crawl through the water.
I kept a close eye on her as I walked down to the shore. Eventually she emerged from the cold water, clutching the handrail with one hand as she got out.
Cold and free
She was old and glamorous with gold dangling earrings and full make-up (waterproof I presume!). On land, it was clear that she had suffered a stroke in the past and could only use one arm. But, in the cold Irish Sea she was free.
Gradual exposure to the cold is hugely beneficial to us. It boosts our immune system, reduces stress, increases cardiovascular strength and connects us deeply with our emotions and nature. We feel exhilarated and electrified (in a good way) afterwards.
Bursting with energy
When we combine it with profound, deep breathing the benefits are nearly limitless. It has been scientifically proven that the combination of breathing, cold and focus can increase our immune system, decrease inflammation, balance our hormones, bring about a stable, calm state of mind and make us feel happy. It is natural, simple and effective.
I’ve felt it. I went from being tired all the time (that’s what four young children will do to you) to bursting with energy.
The person spearheading this revolution in health and happiness is Wim Hof. His simple and effective method combines breathing, cold and focus. It is proving again and again that we are capable of becoming healthy, happy and strong one breath at a time.
Deep down we already know this, but we’ve forgotten along the way. Well, not all of us. When I finished my swim, I ended up sitting beside the glamorous old lady as we dried off. She turned to me and said:
Life is always better when you’ve been in the cold sea.
Learn more about the Wim Hof Method by watching the video below.
The conversation had ended a few days ago, but the frustration was still going around in my head. Did you ever have a conversation that didn't go your way? Things I wished I had said only came to mind hours later. I should have said this. I should have said that. These thoughts were going round and round in my head. I had to get them out and that was when the Book of Rage was born.
Book of Rage
The idea is simple, but it is a great way to reduce stress and mental, emotional anxiety. This is what I did...
Reduce the stress
I grabbed an old notebook and started scribbling down all my thoughts and feelings about the conversation. I just kept writing and writing, often repeating the same phrases and feelings. Eventually, the frustration was gone - there wasn't anything else to write. So, I ripped up the page and threw it in the bin. It was over. I had gotten it all out and it felt great - a relief, a lightness, a freedom.
This notebook became known as the Book of Rage and this technique has become something I have recommended to many people.
So, if you're feeling stressed, anxious or emotional, grab a piece of paper and start writing. Here are a few handy tricks:
Something as simple as this can have a profound effect on stress. It helps to clear our minds and brings more calm and peace into our lives. So, find your Book of Rage and enjoy the writing, ripping and relief.
Eventually, my Book of Rage mutated into a book of thoughts, ideas, tasks and lists. I always carry a notebook with me and jot down the things I'm thinking about. It helps me - I feel calm and peaceful because of it.
Workshop: learn to be calm and stress-free
Join me for a workshop that will make you calmer, more focused and happier by using profound breathing, herbs and healing.
A simple walk in the cold can ignite our dormant vitality and unleash creativity. Sound too good to be true? Find out how.
We’re surrounded by a noble force that can help us. Nature is always there, providing us with what we need to be happy and healthy. But, we don’t always see (or feel) that. We often insulate ourselves from the rhythms of the days, seasons and weather.
Nature and us
The ancient Romans thought that happiness came from being in harmony with nature. The opposite is also true: if we separate ourselves from nature we feel disconnected, discontent and lethargic. That is especially true during these dark and cold winter months.
But, there is one simple thing we can do to change that.
This evening, when the day’s work is done, take some time to walk outside. Even if you only have a few minutes.
Wrap up well and step out into the cold winter night.
Feel the way
Walk under the stars and moon. Feel the cold on your face and breathe it in. Use movement to generate inner heat. Try to feel every step and every breath. Enjoy it. It is a simple pleasure.
When we return home everything is different. We appreciate the warmth. We appreciate the protection. We appreciate the comfort. We feel energised and a part of something.
The contrast between outside and inside, cold and warmth unleashes our vitality. It is a very interesting type of energy. We can use it to think creatively, to inspire us.
Grab a pen and paper. Try to write down 10 ideas about something you’ve been thinking about. Use the energy of the cold to unleash your creative mind.
I use it all the time to help me figure things out. I used it to write this blog post. And I used it to write the list at the top of the page.
A better now
You’ll probably use that energy for something different. But, it is there for all of us. Embrace the cold, use its energy and enjoy a better now.
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The longest day of the year has just passed, but we have a few dark and cold months left until spring. So, let's look after ourselves with these simple and effective tips.
Fresh air is free and a vital part of our mental and physical health. Let's get out more.
Sage and honey to the rescue
Head cold? Running nose? These two simple things (which you probably have in your kitchen) will save the day.
Thyme, thyme and more thyme
This little beauty of a plant is nature's most effective way of over-coming viruses and infections. Use it regularly.
Every time we wake up we are blessed with another day. It doesn’t always feel like that though. If we’re under stress, those thoughts can occupy our first waking moments. If we’re worried about something, this can be the first thing we think about. It doesn’t have to be this way.
A powerful start
These waking moments are very important. For many of us, they set the tone for the next few hours. Or, even the rest of the day. The great news is that we can choose how we think.
For me, my early mornings used to start with a series of rapid-fire thoughts about what I needed to do that day. When would I have the time to do it all? Will I have the energy? And so on. All of this happened before I’d even lifted my head from my pillow. It was a draining way to start. Then, I learnt I could do it differently.
I learnt three simple techniques that now help me start my day with gratitude, vitality and purpose. They only take a few minutes and you can do them from the comfort of your bed.
Firstly, take a few deep breaths, gather yourself and give thanks for the many good things in your life.
"Thank you for this day.
Thank you for the lovely food I had last night.
Thank you for this comfortable bed.
Thank you for the money I have."
Give thanks for the small things as well as the big ones. Really think about them. List five to 10 things you are thankful for.
Fill yourself with light
Once you have finished giving thanks, it is time to move on to the next technique.
This should only take you three or four minutes. As you lie in bed, visualise your feet filling up with light. The light is like a liquid, you are like a glass vase and the light is being poured into you. Visualise it moving up past your ankles, your calves and your knees. As it goes, the light is imbuing every cell, every tendon, every bone with energy, healing and love.
Again, visualise the light moving up your body, filling as it goes. If a part of your body is sick or injured, pay particular attention to it. Feel the light move through that area, filling it, shining through it.
Visualise the light filling your entire body and take a minute to see yourself glowing bright, radiating. Finish the exercise by declaring:
“Every cell of me, every depth of me, every breath of me is full of light, love and healing.”
Creating the day
Now, for the final part. It is time to think about how to approach your day. What one thing do you want to focus on today? What one thing is going to inform your decisions and actions? For example:
At first, I wrote my commitment down so I would remember it. During the day, I would read it, remember it and act on it. Now, it frequently pops into my head at different times and helps me stay focused.
All in all, these techniques should only take a few minutes to complete. But, they are powerful and when you start to use them regularly, you’ll start to feel the benefits. You’ll begin your day from a position of gratitude, vitality and purpose. You’ll begin your day with a powerful morning ritual.
There are other ways to improve our health and happiness.
If children aren’t sleeping, then parents aren’t sleeping and no one is happy. Teething can be a reason for that, amongst many other problems. But, there is a wondrous plant called chamomile that can help. It soothes, calms and performs the occasional miracle.
Where am I?
It was a shock! I woke with a start, jumped up and nearly ran into the wall. What time was it? Where was I? The haze began to lift and I realised I was at home in our bedroom. But, I was deeply confused. Then it dawned on me - the baby! He hadn’t woken at all during the night. It was our first full night’s sleep in months. A miracle! Thanks be to chamomile.
One of the many shocks of raising a baby (especially the first time) is the lack of sleep. Now, I understand why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a beautiful little yellow and white flower that can help us.
Snot, watering eyes, an aching skull and a sore throat are no match for this head cold remedy. It is a simple, effective cure and you’ll have most of the ingredients in your kitchen already.
Galle was a tropical paradise. The Indian Ocean shimmered through the palm trees. The walls of an ancient fortress rose above us. The fortress surrounded everything - elephants, people selling fish and me with my head cold. Even a paradise like Sri Lanka can seem hellish when you’re sick.
A local man drove us to a hut that sold papers and sweets. He bought a little packet of strong spices - a cold remedy. After swallowing it with some water, my head felt like it was on fire. But, my cold was on its way out. I’m not in Sri Lanka now but the same principles apply when curing a head cold.
I work with people to bring greater health, happiness and meaning into their lives. I write about the things I learn along the way. My name is Níall Ó Murchú.
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