Quick Core Strengthening Yoga Sequence

Here is a beautiful core strengthening sequence to inject into a vinyasa flow or do on its own. 


1. Start in downward facing dog. 

2. Take your right leg to the sky for three legged dog. 

3. Roll your weight forwards, round your upper back and bring your right knee to touch your nose and back to three legged dog.

4. Bring your right knee across the body to touch your left elbow and take your leg back to the sky. 

5. Touch your right knee to your right elbow. Bend both elbows down into chataranga and perhaps tip your weight forwards so your back leg lifts. 

6. Repeat with the left leg. 

For increased challenge, hold each step for 3-5 breaths. I sometimes like to add kapalabati or fire breathing to this sequence if I am feeling energetic. 

DIY Furniture: Create a beautiful outdoor setting for free 


When we moved into our house, we had this beautiful outdoor area but no furniture to make the space useable. New outdoor settings were upwards of $1500 and second hand ones within our price range were old and uncomfortable. So I set out to make a beautiful space on a budget of $0. Yes, that’s right, I spent nothing. 

Here’s how: 

1. Decide on your design 

Have a vision of how you want to use the space. Is it for your morning coffee? For socialising? I wanted a space that I could lie down to read but also to be used when we have friends over for a barbeque. Depending on how big your space is and its intended purpose, decide on your arrangement of pallets. If you need inspiration, Pinterest has a multitude of ideas! 

2. Hunt for pallets 

Pallets are everywhere and you should be able to pick them up for little to no cost. Try local warehouses, gumtree or local Facebook buy and sell pages. I happened to be driving through an industrial area and asked with my best puppy dog eyes if there were any unwanted pallets and scored 6 huge pallets. Aim to get pallets of the same size so they easily stack on top of one another and come to the same height. 


3. Enlist a strong friend 

My pallets were super heavy duty and carrying them from the roof of my car to my back patio was a mission. We ended up balancing them on a wheelbarrow to transport them. Plus side is that my couch is stable and could hold a baby elephant. Down side is that it is not something that you want to be moving around often. 

4. Stack pallets and ensure an even height 

My couch is two pallets high which is the perfect height. Unfortunately my pallets were different sizes so we had to place some extra planks of wood underneath to create an even height. This took a lot of fiddling to get stable so I urge you to find the same size pallets if possible! I debated whether to create a wooden backrest for my couch but I didn’t have the technical skills or tools so ended up just putting cushions down. 

5. Sand down 

I used an electric sander to remove any splinters from the sides of my pallets. 


6. Hunt for mattresses and cushions 

Get thrifty again and keep an eye out for old couch cushions and mattresses to use as a base. My couch is made up of two cot mattresses (perfect size for covering the pallets) and old couch cushions from road side pick up that others were throwing away. Give them a good wash and they work just fine! 

7. Cover with throws 

I had these beautiful wall hangings that I got from the markets years ago and had on the roof of my yoga studio. Any sheets or blankets that you have on hand will work here. If you are a competent sewer, go ahead and sew covers for the cushions. I just lay the throws on top, that way I can easily remove to wash! 


8. Decorate with cushions 

I had a bunch of mismatched cushions inside that weren’t getting put to use so I threw them on for aesthetics and comfort. 


9. Use your space! 

There’s is something about a piece of furniture or space that you have created yourself. It perfectly suits your needs and tastes and you feel more inclined to use it. I ritually come out to my couch in the late afternoon to read a book or journal while enjoying a cup of tea. 

The perfect afternoon reading spot

Journey to less stuff: the bathroom

I have been a hoarder for as long as I can remember. A true hoarder. As a child, I had a cupboard full of collected boxes, toilet paper rolls, brochures, birthday and Christmas cards. I couldn’t stand to throw anything away. As I’ve moved houses and grown up, I realise that these materials don’t often add value to our lives and getting rid of stuff can be quite liberating! 

So I thought a good place to start was my toiletries cupboard.

I had multiple deodorants, eye shadows from years ago that I never wear, lipsticks, fake tan, samples, etc.

Tips to cull and organise your toiletries:

  1. Take everything out on the floor. In other words, horrify yourself with how much stuff you own that you don’t need!
  2. Organise the items into categories: makeup, skin, hair, hygiene.
  3. Throw any doubles of the same thing I had 3 mousturisers and 3 mascaras – GONE.
  4. Get rid of products older than a year. Old products harbour bacteria and the active ingredients do not have an effect anymore. Plus, if you haven’t used it up in a year, how necessary can it be?
  5. Throw out any products with nasty ingredients or chemicals known to be potentially harmful. I got rid of my deodorants containing aluminium (some links to breast cancer) and lotions containing mineral oil (unpurified form has been linked to
    cancer).
  6. Place your frequently used items in baskets.  I used one for hair items, one for makeup and one for general hygiene items. This way, you can quickly and easily find what you’re looking for without digging through bags.
  7. Voila! Hopefully you have a simplistic and tidier toiletries cupboard.img_9967

Our beautiful birth journey part 2: labour and birth 


I was convinced that I was going to be overdue. I was measuring small so I thought that my dates might be wrong and I knew a lot of first time mothers didn’t go into labour until 40+ weeks.


I was woken up at 1am in the morning on the 5th of September by cramps. I was 28 weeks and 6 days. I became so excited! Is this labour? No, it can’t be, this must be Braxton Hicks! I lay there in bed feeling the tightening in my abdomen come and go. It continued regularly and was intense enough that I couldn’t get back to sleep. I timed the contractions for curiosity’s sake and they were about ten minutes apart. My excitement started to rise – maybe our baby was ready to come out and meet us! After a couple of hours, I woke Josh to exclaim that I think something was happening. He fell back asleep but I stayed awake through the waves, lying down and occasionally sitting on the gym ball when I felt like I needed a change of position. I must have fallen back asleep at some stage because Josh woke me at 6am to ask whether he should go to work or not. I waited for the tightening to start again but nothing was happening. A quick google search informed me that I must have been experiencing false labour. My body was just practising what to do. Josh went off to work and I was left in disappointment.

An hour later, the sensations started up again. They were fairly regular but I wasn’t going to be fooled again! I knew that these were Braxton Hicks so I just bounced and jiggled around on my gym ball, using them as an opportunity to practise my relaxation breathing. This continued on for several hours and they appeared to be getting more intense. Although google warned me that real labour contractions are predictably spaced and mine were 10 minutes apart, 7 mins, 5 mins, 10 mins. I again concluded that I was getting ahead of myself and they were too irregular to be real.

I decided to finish watching Sarah Jane Buckley’s lecture on the role of hormones in natural birth just in case I was going into labour.  It soon became apparent to me that I was definitely going to have my baby today. My body was working so hard to achieve its goal and it can be a scary feeling, not being able to control what is going on inside you. I was unable to sit or stand comfortably by this stage through contractions and made my way into the shower for a distraction. Ah the relief of the warm water hitting my back. I laboured in the shower for some time, moving between standing while leaning over and on my hands and knees. I got out and timed my contractions on my phone app – it was exciting to see the contractions get closer and closer. I moved around my house, naked and free – experiencing the waves, snacking and drinking in between, moving in and out of the shower as I felt I needed to.

I found the combination of hot water, good music and swaying my hips through the waves to be actually enjoyable. I had finally found my rhythm. I would sing loudly to the tunes to help move my energy and emotions around. I remember every song in the moment seemed to be about labour or my baby. I remember a particularly emotional moment where Jason Miraz started to flow from my speaker…

“I see that you’ve come so far
To be right where you are
How old is your soul?
Well I won’t give up on us, even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love, I’m still looking up
And when you’re needing your space, to do some navigating
I’ll be here patiently waiting, to see what you find
‘Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We’ve got a lot to learn
God knows we’re worth it
No, I won’t give up”
In that moment, singing along to my little baby boy, I just completely broke down into tears. The love I had for this unborn child hit me harder than it ever had before. I swear, that was when my self was broken and I saw through another’s eyes clearly. In that moment, I really felt for this baby and what was happening to him. Were these contractions hurting him? Was he scared about what was happening? Everything from here changed for me and I was determined to bring my baby into the world in the most peaceful and loving way possible. My fear melted away to reassure this child and I welcomed each wave, knowing it was bringing my baby one step closer to me. I don’t know how long I stayed in that shower for, playing “I won’t give up” on repeat, weeping and rocking.
By this time, it was about 3pm and I had been labouring for about 14 hours. My contractions were around 2-7 minutes apart and much much more intense, things had escalated quickly and some fear started to set in – I no longer wanted to be alone. I spoke with Josh and urged him to come home, reminding him not to forget my labour snack list on the way home. (I expected to be in labour for a long time and had written a list consisting of gatorade, lollies, etc.)
Once I knew he was on his way, I relaxed back into a rhythm. Timing my contractions was actually really helpful here – it gave me something to focus on. The wave would start and I would lean over the bench or hop on all fours and focus on breathing. Once it finished, I promptly pressed stop on the timer and started pacing around the house. These waves were on a different level, they took every ounce of focus that I had. In between, I was again overcome by excitement and nervousness. I could not sit still, I was so jittery! An hour had gone by and I called Josh, exasperated. He was in Woolworths and I warned him to get home right away, I didn’t need the jelly snakes anymore!
By the time Josh arrived home, things had really intensified. The waves were so intense that I couldn’t find any position that worked. I had my hypnobirthing affirmations playing through the speaker next to me. I ended up lying down through the contractions to try and get them to slow down. I was exhausted and this was now moving so fast! I was at the point that I could no longer communicate between contractions beyond a few words, I needed that short amount of time to recover for the next one. Josh was busy installing the car seat, packing the car with my hospital bag and setting the front seat up with pillows for the ride. I came out and glared at him to communicate as best as I could that I needed to leave now. It was 6pm and I got in the car and called my midwife to let her know that we were heading to the hospital. She could hear in my shaky voice that things were serious.
From all the birth stories that I had heard, I knew that many first time mothers arrived at hospital way too early and were sent home. I had my heart set on labouring at home for as long as possible and I remember having a thought in the car, “I hope I’m not going in too early”. The drive was the longest and most INTENSE (I really don’t have another word) car ride of my life. It took an hour to get to hospital and I was in full blown transition. The hypnobirthing affirmations were blasting through the car speakers and I was kneeling over the reclined front car seat. The contractions were 1-2 minutes apart and I needed to moan loudly to get through each one. The hypnobirthing lady came through the speakers…“I am so calm and relaxed” I looked over at Josh between contractions and all that came out was, “fuck”.
I remember stopping at traffic lights, moaning through a contraction and glancing out the car window to see a car full of people glaring at me. I felt so vulnerable in that moment. I thought, “If it gets worse than this, I really don’t think I can do it”. After feeling that self doubt, I remember back to my podcasts – every woman said they thought they couldn’t do it when they were transitioning. Maybe I am transitioning? Suddenly, a strong urge to poop came over me. “I need a toilet” I told Josh. Thankfully we were pulling up to the hospital and he helped me stagger inside, slowly. Oh so slowly – the weight of the baby was bearing down, I needed to poop right now!
I took a step inside the hospital and my waters broke. I felt the trickle down my leg and looked up at Josh. His reassuring look ushered me to keep going. When I saw my midwife, all I could stagger was “toilet”. She pointed around a corner and as I stepped into the bathroom, I projectile vomited all over the floor. Another step and again I vomited. My midwife rushed me into a nearby room and I went straight for the toilet. I sat down and suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to push. Every cell of my body wanted me to push with my contraction. I whispered out “pushing” and my midwife rushed in and I heard her yell out the corridor “My primi is pushing, get me a wheelchair!!”. She turned to me and asked me to stop pushing and lay on the bed so she could check me. I didn’t want to be checked but I also wasn’t able to communicate at this stage so I just lay down. She looked and reported “oh yes, you’re ready, I see his head!” as someone brought a wheelchair in and next minute my midwife was running, pushing my through corridors and up into a lift.
Soon we were in a new room and my midwife told me that there was no time to fill the tub for the water birth I had planned. She turned on the shower and I scrambled onto my hands and knees and backed into the corner. The room was completely dark and I felt immediately calm to have the water on my back again. The hypnobirthing tracks were still playing next to me. I had a sudden thought that I wanted Jason Miraz singing “I won’t give up” again like in the shower earlier that day. I managed to get out “song!” He got out my phone and found a spotify playlist titled “Labour tunes” (side note: this was a playlist during the day that I tried listening to but hated the music, hence it was on my recently played). “Which song?” Josh urged. I managed “Give up” hoping that he would understand my meaning. Soon enough a loud, heavy, totally inappropriate Public Enemy song blasts at full blast through the speaker and I scream “NO!!!!”. I hear my midwife say “put the hypnobirthing back on” as a huge contraction starts and I bear down and push with all my mind and body.
Oh that ring of fire! I feel a stinging, a burning that takes all of my will to breathe through. Several more contractions come by where I feel myself pushing my baby out while on my hands and knees. I reach down and can feel the top of his little head with my hand. Oh my goodness, I am so close. I just want to meet you! One incredibly intense push and his head comes out. The contraction stops. I reach down and his head is right there, out in the world while his body is still inside me. (Josh took a great photo!) I waited, longing to hold my baby, until the next wave came and the rest of his bodyslithered out and was passed straight into my arms. I held him up to my chest and exclaimed “my baby, my baby” over and over as I looked into his precious eyes. I felt a familiarity, like, ah yes, you are the little part of me that I have been waiting to meet. I held him close and tight and felt a huge sense of pride. For making this perfect human. For bringing him safely and calmly into the world.

holding my baby for the first time

Giving birth was easily one of the hardest, most exciting, tiring and also most natural days of my life. My body knew exactly what to do and I needed to surrender and welcome the beautiful process.

 

Nature art: DIY wall hanging 

Oh how I love to create. My latest creation obsession is incorporating nature into my art! Now I can not take full credit for this idea: I was inspired by a post I saw on Pinterest. But I would like to share my version!

What you will need:  

  • Large piece of cardboard for the stencil
  • Marking pen and stencil
  • String/twine (I used white)
  • One large stick for the horizontal structure
  • Sticks: try and find sticks as straight as possible to make this project easier and collect way more than you think you need. I had to make many trips to my local bushland to collect more sticks!
  • Sandpaper and sanding block
  • Hand saw
  • Wood stain (any colour you like)
  • Paint (I used white + dark pink and mixed them together to create 3 different shades for the Balayage effect)
  • Nails and hammer (to hang)
  • Decorative vine and fairy lights (optional)

How to create: 

  1. Mark a heart shape on cardboard. Make this as big or as small as you would like your hanging to be.
  2. Lay your sticks onto the shape. At this stage, don’t worry about their length, just lay them out aiming to get the sticks as close together as possible to ensure a good shape. This is where having straighter sticks makes it easier.
  3. Once you have filled your outline with sticks, mark with pencil on your sticks where you need to cut them to the desired length to fit inside the shape. I cut the bottom of the stick at an angle to create a tapered effect.
  4. Saw the sticks to the desired length. img_7911.jpg
  5. Sand down the sticks to remove bark, create a more uniform texture and get rid of rough edges.
  6. Stain the sticks using wood stain on a piece of cloth. Allow to dry overnight.
  7. Using pencil, mark a line across all of the sticks around 1/3 to halfway up the heart.
  8. Paint the botto
    m of the sticks in the darkest colour (I used dark pink) – the sticks in the middle will have the most of this colour and there will be less and less as you move out to the edges.
  9. Mix some white and create a lighter pink and paint just on top of the base colour. Make sure to blend the colours slightly to create a smoother look.
  10. Continue repeating the above step with lighter shades of paint until you reach the pencilled line. Allow paint to dry.
  11. Lay the large horizontal stick across the top of the stencil at the distance you would like it to hang.
  12. Cut a piece of string. Tie the string around the first stick, run it taut toward the horizontal stick and tie firmly directly above the heading stick. The best way to tie the string is to wrap it around the stick several revolutions then tie a tight knot.
  13. Continue with each stick, ensuring that the horizontal stick is re positioned in the same place each time to keep the shape. This step can take quite a bit of fiddling around. As you can see, I lost patience during this step and my heart is consequently a little uneven. But I don’t mind a little imperfection!
  14. Once your sticks are all attached, carefully transfer the hanging to the wall. Enlist a helper to hold the hanging steady as you put a few nails halfway into the wall for the stick to rest on.
  15. Readjust the sticks when it’s hanging to ensure you still have your shape.
  16. Decorate with vine and lights as desired.

 

Our beautiful birth journey part one: pregnancy and preparation

Giving birth. It truly was one of the most amazing and surreal experiences that I have ever had. I don’t meant to write this story to make anyone else feel bad about their own experience but to empower women and share the beauty of birth rather than frighten and exaggerate with tales of horror. I have titled this blog “Our beautiful birth journey” rather than “my” to emphasise that this is an experience that the mother and baby share and it’s important to consider the impact of birth on a baby.

Let me start by saying that when I became pregnant, I was terribly afraid of birth. In fact, I almost ignored the thought of it until a couple of months in to pregnancy. This seems to be a normal phenomenon in our society. All of our lives, we have been bombarded by images, movies and stories of what a painful and horrendous experience pushing a baby from your most sacred regions is. Tales of screaming and tearing, laced with fear and made into a kind of competition – who has the most scarring birth story to share with their friends? Who can appear the toughest from what they have had to endure? To top that off, I had spent my career working with children with disabilities, many of whom had been born prematurely or who had complications at birth leading to lifelong physical and intellectual impairments. I was well aware of what could go wrong, to say the least. In fact, I had never heard of a birth story gone right. I tell you all of this to show you that this is a typical way of thinking about birth. But it is not the only way. Change your perspective a little and everything transforms.

During pregnancy, I decided that ignoring the transition between pregnancy and baby was not going to make it go away. I decided to arm myself with all the knowledge I could. I went searching for a podcast to hear other women’s stories and I chanced upon something that changed my life – “The Birth Hour”. An amazing podcast where women share their positive birth stories – hospital births, VBACs, twin births, adoptions, birth centre births, home births. I quickly learnt that I knew nothing about birth. What is a mucous plug? Birth can take days? Your water can break at any stage? I devoured as many episodes as I could handle – I listened to birth stories to and from work, on the way to the shops, while I was working out. I couldn’t get enough of them! The common theme was that everyone had a completely different experience – birth was unpredictable. When I heard these women speak about what a beautiful experience they had, I just knew that’s what I wanted.

My partner and I are both in health professions, so we decided early on to give birth at the hospital. We weren’t in a place to afford private care or a OBGYN so we just went with the standard midwife care through the public hospital. I ended up being placed in a midwifery group practice (MGP) program where we have our midwife appointments with a group of pregnant ladies who are due around the same time and we are all allocated our own midwife.

I definitely wasn’t one of those gorgeous glowing pregnant ladies. I was very active and fit before I fell pregnant – teaching yoga, doing heavy power lifting and rock climbing several times a week.  I had envisaged myself teaching and practicing yoga, lifting weights and eating healthily all through my pregnancy. The reality was very different.  I ended up being quite sick, nauseous and vomiting right up until around 30 weeks.  I was so fatigued and suffered from terrible pelvic pain. I wasn’t able to walk without pain and lived off a diet of ham and cheese croissants and coffee to settle my nausea.

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30 weeks

After listening to many hours of the birth hour podcast, I had come to the conclusion that I wanted to try and have an unmedicated natural birth with as little intervention as possible. I had heard many women who achieved a natural birth credit a doula for invaluable support so I began looking into doulas. When speaking with Josh (my partner), he expressed concern about having another woman in the room. “What can she do that I can’t?” was the theme of the conversation. So I stumbled across a website for a clinical hypnotist that ran hypnobirthing classes (she is also a doula). I brought up this idea with Josh and he was on board (after several convincing literature reviews on the effectiveness of hypnobirthing in achieving a natural childbirth).

Hypnobirthing was a game changer for me. Hypnobirthing is essentially the philosophy that birth is inherently natural and safe. It aims to give a woman knowledge of birthing and techniques to relax to enable her to have an empowering experience. As Hypobirthing Australia explain:

“The ‘hypno’ part of ‘hypnobirthing’ refers to the hypnotherapy that we use during the program to release fears and condition ourselves to release endorphins at times during our birth.”

Essentially we were given relaxation and affirmation CDs to listen to while meditating on having a peaceful, calm birth. By programming yourself to relax to certain tracks, you can then play the music during birthing and trigger yourself to surrender to the process.

I worked in a physical job where I was on my feet all day until I was 34 weeks and then finished work as my contract had ended. Initially I was disappointed as I felt like I had lost my purpose and I had to just hang around until the baby arrived. But it turned out to be great for me! We bought a house and moved when I was 36 weeks pregnant (actually a great time to move because no one expects you to lift anything!) and I had a few weeks to settle in to my new house and prepare for the birth. Those few weeks I focused on relaxation, meditation, yoga, breathing, creating art, eating well, journal-ling. I would listen to my hypnobirthing tracks in a relaxing bath every night. I devoured books, lectures, videos and documentaries on natural birth. I was given Sarah Jane Buckley’s book – Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering which I can not recommend highly enough! She is a doctor and through research and science, explains why a gentle, natural birth is best for both mother and baby and how the cascade of interventions can negatively impact the pair.

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37 weeks 4 days – yoga at my new house

Around 38 weeks, I went for a hypnotherapy session to release any fears that I had been holding on to. I felt amazing and didn’t feel like I was harboring any fear about birth but it came up that I had started to want a homebirth rather than a hospital birth. I had armed myself with so much knowledge and felt so confident in my ability to birth that I was afraid the hospital staff would get in my way and stop me from having the birth I had envisaged. I was also fearful of the car ride to hospital.  Through hypnosis and diving into my subconscious, we discovered that my house didn’t yet feel like a place I wanted to have a baby – descriptions of “dark”, “dark energy”, “stagnant” kept coming up.  When we investigated my feelings towards a hospital birth at a subconsious level, feelings of “safe” and “calm” arose. It became clear that I wanted a hospital birth to feel safe but that I wanted to labour for as long as possible at home alone to achieve my calm, gentle birth. Michelle (my hypnotherapy instructor) did a fear release hypnosis for me around the car ride to hospital and transitioning into the hospital environment. When I got home, I used a sage stick to smudge my entire house, clearing the “dark energy” I had felt and reassuring my baby that he was coming into a welcoming, loving place.

Stay tuned for the next installment – labour and birth itself!

Motherhood: an awakening

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Becoming a mother has caused me to look to the future in a way that I have never done before. It has also caused me to release my egoic view of the world and imagine how it would be as an outsider entering this world right now. Sure, I thought about the future in my pre-child life; perhaps to plan out my next holiday or envisage a future with my boyfriend. But there has been a deep shift in my consciousness, one that I am just trying to begin to understand.

I have come to the sudden and profound realisation that we are destroying our planet at an absurd rate and so many of us are not even considering the impact we are having beyond, or even within, our lifetime. In the six months that I have been a mother, I have begun seriously contemplating things that barely grazed the surface of my mind before motherhood: growing my own food, reducing waste and protecting natural habitats. I’m not saying that everyone needs to have a child to become an earth conscious philanthropist, just that, it has been an awakening for me. It allowed me the space to develop perspective.

There are  too many of us and we are using up the world’s resources insatiably. Medical knowledge is improving and life expectancies are increasing; technology is expanding and women are now able to have babies later in life.We can not save the world but we may be able to provide a better life for future generations if we make sustainable living a priority now.

Prior to parenting, I saw the internet as an exciting and invaluable resource to tap into a wealth of information. Now I realise that my son has been born into the age of internet, data collection and rapid technologic advancements. His lifetime will see us using self-driving vehicles and living in a virtual reality where the “cloud” will know every detail of his schedule, finances, aspirations and social connections.

I understand the positive impact technology will have but I can’t help feel apprehensive of the problems we are yet to face. Even already, I feel self-conscious of the exposure my six month old has to my phone – the constant pictures, messages,  social media, online shopping, books, apps and even white noise all exploding out of this device.

What will be the impact of this technology on these developing brains? Not only from the constant radiation and wifi spinning around their heads but also the secondary impact of reduced parental mindfulness and presence in this crucial stage of development. I shudder to think what we will discover years down the track. I am feeling completely overwhelmed because at the rapid pace technology is changing, working out how to set boundaries, safety barriers and parent effectively is completely new terrain.

The other thing that has become blatantly apparent to me since having a baby is that our time on this earth is so limited and our precious time should not be wasted preoccupying ourselves with worry, fear, jealousy and doubt. A baby has an amazing way of showing you how magical and different each moment can be if you let go of the narrative in your head and become present.