So today we are talking about Zen spaces. I’m going to tell you about mine and how it helps me zone out to write better. Sort of.
So this whole concept first entered my house at Christmas, and the reason for it is that this boy done good with his present buying this year. For anyone following my blog, you will know that I started writing this about eighteen months ago when I was unceremoniously jettisoned from a job I’d committed fifteen years of effort to and found myself unemployed for the first time since I left school. I decided to chronicle the journey, but that quickly became a study in depression, as I was rejected time and again from multiple job applications and eventually wound up back in the same industry I had left.
But that turned out just fine. I work with good people, I started getting money moving in rather than out of my bank account, and then Covid came along and I think I’ve spent more time on furlough than actually in my place of work. Yep, it’s been a weird sort of year.
One offshoot of this was that last Christmas I had to limit myself to just one gift each for my family members, which became something of an embarrassment as my siblings bought be multiple gifts and I felt like a bit of a tight-arse. So, this year, I decided to have a real think about gifts and spend a few quid.
And in no greater direction did I focus this than on my long-term partner. I thought long and hard about what sort of gifts to get her, and soon developed a theme. You see, she’s a very stressed out girl, mostly through her own devices, and I have a feeling she may have G.A.D – or General Anxiety Disorder. To give you an idea, she was stressed when she was furloughed, then stressed about going back to work, then stressed about everyone else doing the same.
Essentially, she is a little tsunami of stress.
So I decided to go in for alternative relaxation methods for her as my gift theme for Christmas. We had scented candles, aromatherapy diffusers, massage wands (hmmm?) and, of course, copious amounts of flavoured gin. Long and short, she took to it all with zest and zeal, and now our bathroom and bedroom has lingering aromas of orange and jasmine and vanilla that I don’t think will ever leave the place without professional fumigation.
But the big offshoot was that she decided to go the whole hog and have us convert the bedroom into her personal Zen space. So, for consecutive weekends, we’ve been wallpapering, painting, cutting shelves, hanging LED lights, to turn the whole thing into a chilled-out boudoir that I am only allowed in to sleep.
That’s okay, though, because my own Zen space is where I am right now, in my writing area, which looks like this:
Now let me begin by reiterating that yes, I am a Tube wanker. I love trains, and the London Underground is my favourite. I love it. The pictures were a Valentines Day gift, the large map and roundel light presents from this Christmas. And lights and lamps are a big part of my Zen space. I have a moon lamp which turns different colours:
And a pyramid that not only has colour options but comes with relaxing nature sounds:
Now the sounds are key for me. I’ve been getting heavily into ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response lately. Now, if you don’t know what ASMR is, Wikipedia defines it as:
“A tingling sensation that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. A pleasant form of paresthesia, it has been compared with auditory-tactile synesthesia and may overlap with frisson.”
Essentially, this form of relaxation uses sound, and sometimes movement, triggers to give you ‘tingles’. It can be tactile sounds such as crinkles or rubbing, mouth or natural sounds, right up to light and barely audible whispers. I have been using this heavily for sleep and relaxation and it’s becoming a borderline addiction. I have a number of favourite ASMRtists that I follow on Youtube and there are literally hundreds of videos to chill out to.
Some of my favourite ASMR is actually in the form of nature sounds. I can pass out to sounds of rain and thunderstorms, blizzards and crackling fires, ocean sounds and the trick-trock of old trains as they rumble along, all of which can be found online. In addition to this, relaxing music for yoga – particularly Celtic harp and flute music – regularly clogs up my watch history online, and I find it as equally inspiring to write by as it is to fall asleep to.
I think it gives you focus, quietens the mind to just one thing. And if that is a relaxing thing then so much the better. It works for me, anyway.
And in these bizarre times, mental health is high on the agenda. Rightly so, too, as we are all being forced to find new ways to exist in this most peculiar of worlds. My coping mechanism is to dip into one of my fantasy realms, to write about fictional others in the absence of interaction with real others. And with sounds and stories, lit by my array of lamps, that is what my Zen space looks like.
If you don’t have one, you might want to get one. Who knows what it might inspire you to do.
Stay safe … and Mind The Gap!