Should we care what others think?

We are all subject to other people’s opinions, it’s something that is freely offered, whether we ask for it or not. Of course we do the same, our judgement of others comes often without any effort at all, it’s almost like we have no control. We see something but in reality we aren’t really seeing it, we are interpreting it through the lens of our own past experiences, tastes and preferences. I guess this is part of being human and it’s how we survive, making sense of what we see through what we already know.

In her book “The top five regrets of the dying” Bronnie Ware lists the following:

  • Regret 1: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

  • Regret 2: I wish I hadn’t worked so hard

  • Regret 3: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings

  • Regret 4: I wish I had stayed in touch with friends

  • Regret 5: I wish I had let myself be happier

Regret 1: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Is it not sad to come to the end our lives to realise that we had taken on the opinions of others and allowed them to direct the course of our life? Is it not a waste of a life to not be true to ourselves?

Ok of course we live in a world where we must live in harmony with others and our environment. It would be totally reckless to not consider the impact of our actions on others, unfortunately this can be most damaging, as we can see on our environment at the moment. We can not go along speaking without thinking of how it might land on others. Too often I hear people say “I will speak my truth” or be insistent on their views being heard. And of course this is what we should be free to do, however being mindful of our speech and actions requires us to sit back and think about how important it is for us to do so. If we just throw the words out because we need to express it, then we must be willing to take the consequences that follow, whether they are good or bad. This is Karma in practice, or if you prefer, cause and effect, our actions have a consequence it’s really that simple.

I’m not saying we should care what others think, it is more about considering why you are saying something, what might happen if you say it and of course, is it worth it? This is mindful speech and action.

So back to the main theme, should we care what others think?

In this case I’m more interested in talking about how we receive other peoples comments and opinions on us. How does it play out in our life and how much space do we give to other people in our mind?

When we should not care about what others say

There are people who we seek advice from, there are those we trust to help guide us in life, if we are lucky we should all have these people in our life. But here’s the problem for those of us who have chosen a different path, perhaps a little unconventional, others will not get us. Or more than that, we may even be challenging their insecurities by going against the grain. When we turn up with a different perspective on life, when we say “no I don’t do things that way”, then we are open to a whole host of opinions.

I guess the main point here is, if you dare to be different, if you dare to go your own way, then be prepared for a lot of opinions, whether you want them or not. I love Brene Browns work because it speaks to me and people like me. She says it as it is, this quote of hers is what inspired me to write this short post:

If you are not in the arena also getting your butt kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.

In my life I’ve found that the ones that so freely offer their advice (otherwise known as opinion) are usually those that never step out of their own comfort zone. They are the one’s that sit safely in their life who do not want to be shaken by those of us who dare to be vulnerable, who dare to let go of security in the name of living and who dare to not be tied by the expectations of others. These people are the ones that should be ignored, or perhaps not ignored because they too have lessons to teach us.

And before I go, I’d like to highlight how Mindfulness ties into this by sharing this paragraph from Bronnie Ware’s book The top five regrets of the dying. It’s taken from a conversation with a dying patient called Stella, as she recalls an experience when she just took a risk to follow the unknown:

“Unhealthy patterns surfaced in my mind, results from my past conditioning and society telling me I couldn’t live this way. Fear starting rearing it’s ugly head as I wondered how on Earth it was all going to come together, yet again. Bringing myself back to the present moment was the only thing that had saved me before and was the only thing that could save me now”

If you ever doubt yourself again, perhaps remember to bring yourself to the present moment and don’t worry so much about what others think.

Mindfulness can help you uncover past conditioning that maybe limiting you from reaching your full potential. You can join one of our upcoming eight week programs or sign up for our unique Women in Life Transition program coming soon.

The Truth About Being a Strong Woman

The question that often sits on my mind is “are we born strong or do we become strong?”

If we are born strong then that would imply that we come into this world as a blank canvas and life moulds us, in a sense we have no control of who we will become. However life has shown me that to a certain extent we bring some qualities with us, how this happens depends very much on your personal beliefs. I know for certain that some people are born with insight and wisdom, others seem to live forever and never develop the capacity to develop as humans.

I am tough, ambitious and know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, Okay - Madonna

I was both gifted and cursed with the label “strong” since I was a child. It was a persona I created to protect myself in a world that left me vulnerable and often alone. Others around me would say “you are too strong to cry” and completely forget I too was a child, this is the curse of the strong child! As I grew up I embraced the strong label because it kept people away, and I learned to stand alone. What others couldn’t see or didn’t want to see was the soft, emotional, caring person underneath, what those close didn’t want to see was the hurt that was being covered by the strong persona. What they couldn’t see was the little girl that just wanted to be loved and cared for.

Over the years this young girl became an independent, intelligent, self-sufficient lady who others could rely on, what else could she have become? The world isn't ready for “strong” women, it’s too much of a threat. We are aloof, uncaring, downright bitches who won’t be tamed.

I know what I bring to the table….so trust me when I say I am not afraid to eat alone

When I reached fifty my life took a surprising turn, things started to fall apart one bit at a time. Just as I thought I’d reach the stage where I could reap the benefits of all my hard work, the rug was pulled below me and nothing could hold me up. The illusion of a happy home, successful career and good life was shattered, the lie finally exposed.

First there was the text from my ex-husband to a new female interest that just happens to land on my phone, it was karma in action, the marriage was never going to last, two people who were clearly on different paths.

Then the news that I was going to be made redundant. I remember the day that I was called into the office at work to be given my notice, I hadn’t expected this even though I probably should have. I was the main earner in our home, my salary paid for most things and we were comfortable with that (or so I thought). I remember the words being said by my manger at the time but my mind drifted off to thoughts of panic, anger and even at times a sense of freedom. I had been feeling trapped for a long time, not just in my working life.

I left the office that day to take the train home in a daze, shocked and emotional but unable to cry in the center of busy London, that’s what crazy people do, isn’t it? But I was broken, sad and emotional, I guess that’s what it feels like to be made to feel worthless. All I wanted to do was to get home so I could cry!

As I entered my home, I could feel my posture change however instead of letting myself feel hurt and emotional, I realised I was putting on that strong woman persona again. Why? Because in my marriage that was my role and I was just being who I had become. I remember telling my husband and being very careful about my words to not upset him too much, not out of fear just so I didn't rock his boat too much. It was because I knew he was weak, he was never going to be the one to give me good advice or be there for me, he wasn’t capable of that. So I let go of how I was really feeling to make sure he was alright, the same old cycle repeating itself. This game we played we had mastered after thirty years, I was superwoman, and nothing could touch me and he needed to be saved every single day.

I decided that I wasn’t going to go back to work, they didn’t deserve that from me. So I went to the doctor to get a sick note. As I entered the doctor's surgery, I began to run through the story I was going to tell the doctor. He was a young doctor I’d never seen before. I sat down and began to tell him about my redundancy and how it had made me very anxious, the truth in fact. Then he looked at me and asked me if I was alright. Nobody had asked me that, I started to cry uncontrollably, and this startled me. Then the doctor asked me if I had any suicidal thoughts, “of course not” I replied. I was given time off work and left.

As I was driving home, something felt very different to me. I kept thinking “why could I cry in front of a complete stranger and not to the man I’ve shared my life with for over thirty years?” That question kept going on over and over in my head.

He who conquers others is strong; he who conquers himself is might - Lao Tzu

It suddenly hit me that I could no longer keep up with the fake persona that had got me through a difficult childhood. I had shut down as a person, attracted people into my life that were takers and had no idea who I really was.

Over the following weeks, this change became apparent to my husband, I just wasn’t willing to play that game anymore. I was fortunate to find out that he was already having a flirt or whatever you like to call it with another woman, this was my get out of jail card and I used it with no option to return. He wanted the woman that never made demands on him, the one that just got on with everything and never expected anything in return, so I stopped being that woman and this is where I began, and we ended.

To be strong means I am grounded and confident in who I am

I learned that being strong is not being uncaring, being strong is daring to be vulnerable and open. I learned that having the courage to be who you are without having to fit the expectations of others is worthwhile.

I’m done saying sorry for being who I am, I’m done being the strong one, I’m done being what others want me to be or expect me to be. I’m happy to be who I am, I’m happy to be with me if that’s what it takes to be me.

To any woman or man who feels like they don’t fit, I say be fucking proud of who you are. Don’t become someone others need, become who you need. Weak people will always try to break you because watching you makes them feel bad about themselves. Let them be, don’t try to fix them or change them, move on and walk your road. No man or woman is worth you losing yourself for, in the end, we will go our own way anyway.

And be thankful for the pain, it’s what has brought you to this place, the one that you are at now. This is where you get to change your life. I thank my redundancy, I thank my divorce because finally when I sit alone and it is quiet inside.

Being strong doesn’t mean you can’t reach out, how can we help? Contact us and let’s work together through whatever is keeping you stuck right now.

Thoughts from a Mindfulness Approach course participant

It’s not often that you get to hear what Mindfulness is from the perspective of a course participant, so here it is directly from Pam:

Mindfulness is a term many have heard by now. Some may understand it to be the latest fad in naval-gazing, others may see it as the new fix or cure. I've asked friends and family (including those on a spiritual path)what they think mindfulness is, and they said that it's meditation, or another way of mastering our thoughts. We've all got our ideas about it.


At a taster session I went to last autumn, that was run by Anna Zannides, she talked a little about the practice of Mindfulness. We did a sitting meditation and I experienced walking with awareness through all my senses. I left there feeling more alive! Why, how you might ask. I was more aware of myself in the fullness of my environment. It was like stretching out and feeling muscles I didn't know I had.


I was initially drawn to go to the taster session, having searched for a way to stop thinking and acting on automatic - like a mechanical hamster on a wheel. I was looking for a way to stop taking so much of myself and my life for granted.


At the first session of my 6 week course with Anna, she asked: what is an unstable mind? Some answers thrown out might have included;
Someone who's off the wall
A person who is highly strung
An over sensitive person
I don't know what the other participants actually said, because I wasn't really listening. I was too busy figuring out my own reply which I eagerly offered.
"Being easily influenced and swept up with other people's opinions and circumstances," I said. My reply was based on criticisms from my daughters: for not listening to them and not admitting my shortcoming. Of course I had my reasons and justifications over the years, for not listening, (usually too much on my plate, or some variation of that). Nevertheless I took on the guilt.


Anna listened to the group's offerings and said that a busy mind is an unstable mind. There in Anna's answer, was my confirmation: I was definitely in the right place.

"So what's a stable mind?" Anna probed. I pictured myself sitting squarely with legs crossed and eyes closed in the middle of a hurricane; it is said that the centre place is calm and still. I shared my thought-picture with Anna, who responded carefully. Many people have the idea she said, that we must be like Buddha - but we are human. She continued saying that we don't have to remove ourselves from the goings-on around us, or even the ones hurled at us, it's about us learning to calm ourselves in the midst of it.


"Even the Dai Lai Lama has said he can get angry or upset at times." Anna said smiling.
I was wrong, but I felt like I was in a safe space to make a mistake and learn from it. In my first class, I got clear about what is a stable and unstable mind. Learning how to observe what I think and feel, and the way I think and feel - with acceptance of where I am, is all on the path to becoming calm. This seems more do-able than the picture I was holding on to, the one with me sitting in 'the eye of the storm'.


With this distinction made, I knew that I would love the peace and stability that comes with more self awareness and acceptance.


Next, Anna told us to walk slowly round the room noting the shifts of pressure on the souls of our feet and the shifting weight of our bodies from the left-side to the right. She also asked us to notice feelings and sensations in our bodies.

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I could feel the spongyness of my trainers as I pressed my heel down on the floor. I felt the tension in my ankles as I slowly shifted my weight from side to side. I felt a little anxious about bumping into the woman in front of me and thoughts about walking too slowly also came crowding in. Anna gave the group permission to accept all the thoughts and sensations that each of us had. It felt liberating to know there wasn't anything to get wrong.


For homework, Anna wanted us to observe our thoughts and journal them. That was the end of my first week's class. How did it help me? It's too early to tell. Mindfulness is not a magic trick, or superglue, or a band-aid plaster. During the session, I was stopped in my tracks to explore some of my thinking and to experience myself and my setting more fully. That's no small thing.

Anna is very down-to-earth and explained mindfulness with lots of real, everyday examples based on her experiences and learning. I feel stimulated and ready to learn more at the next class.


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Is Compassion and Kindness the same thing?

One subject that we Mindfulness practitioners are often asked about is Compassion and Kindness. It is something that is often associated with spirituality and mindful living, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject.

Compassion is best defined as having concern and sympathy for the suffering of others. It is very different from being kind, it requires a level of self awareness that enables you to see beyond your own pain. Kindness on the other hand is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.

The challenge for those of us who are in a “caring” role or that are practising Buddhists is that people expectation us to always be kind, caring and compassionate. Whilst that is our aspiration, it isn’t always possible to step out of the ordinary human habit to be kind and compassionate at all times, we are just ordinary beings after all.

Compassion requires Wisdom

“Idiot compassion” is a term that the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche used to describe the type of compassion that is absent of wisdom. Another great Tibetian Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron puts it this way:

Idiot compassion refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion. In some ways, it’s what’s called enabling. It’s the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering.

Compassion is giving someone what they need not what they want.

I felt compelled to write this short post because after working in a school for a while, it suddenly hit me what we are doing wrong, it is idiot compassion. We are not preparing children for the real world, we are not giving them what they need, we are giving them what they want and this is harmful in the long term and certainly not preparing them for real life.

In today’s society we chase all the pleasures and luxuries, avoiding any discomfort and hardship, even though life is surely a mixture of good, bad and ugly. We spend much of our lives running away from the unavoidable, instead of preparing ourselves for real life, one that is constantly changing and full of the unexpected. Life is just moments of joy with a mix of disaster!

As parents and teachers, should we not be giving our children the tools to deal with all that life will throw at them? Doesn’t real compassion mean we have to sometimes let our children and loved ones experience pain? How else will they be able to live a healthy life if they are never given the space to fail, to pick themselves up and become resilient adults?

Pema Chodron goes on to say that often we use compassion in a way that is harmful to others.

“Instead of offering a friend medicine, bitter though it may be when ingested, you feed them more poison at the very least, you don’t take it away from them”

What Pema Chodron is illustrating here is when we don’t say the truth in case we hurt someone, we don’t offer them what they really need and so we are not helping, we are just making it worse. This she says is not compassion, it is selfishness as we are more concerned about our own feelings than our friends. Real compassion requires courage, it is not about being a doormat, sometimes compassion requires you to stand for what is right. Look at people such as Gandhi, Martin Luther Kind and Nelson Mandela, they are examples of compassion in action.

Compassion and Mindfulness - The Stable Mind

Buddhism is often called the middle way, we learn to live with what is at any given time as best we can because it is the only moment that truly exists. As Mindfulness has it’s roots in Buddhism, we could say that it is also the practice of living “the middle way”. In other words, we live moment to moment, we don’t chase distractions such as short term pleasures and we seek happiness through a stable mind.

A stable mind is one that is not easily stirred by external events, it is a mind that even if thrown out of balance for a while, it comes back to a peaceful state relatively quickly. A stable mind doesn’t get lost in stories, it let’s them go without a struggle.

Someone with a stable mind knows when to say no, when to walk away and when a hard truth needs to be said. A really compassionate person doesn’t mind losing a friend in order to help them because real compassion isn’t about how we feel, it’s about what the other person needs.

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You should just go for it?

It is very much my moto in life “You should just go for it”, however I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m not too sure it’s always the best moto. Why? Because if you are not careful, just going for it can also be reckless and I have to admit I think at times in my life I’ve been pretty reckless.

Now being reckless isn’t always such a bad thing, it can make life interesting and unpredictable but at the same time it can also mean that life has no planned direction.

What does this have to do with Mindfulness? Well often we see Mindfulness as living moment to moment and that of course is pretty much mindful living, except as a friend keeps reminding me,

“dreams without a plan are just dreams”

If we are to create a life that is based on our values and dreams we must also have a forward looking perspective. This can sound very much opposed to living mindfully but in fact it isn’t. To be focused on creating a meaningful life, one that will be fulfilling and content is a noble aspiration. And the trick isn’t to live in the future, it is to have that vision whilst being able to stay very much in the present moment.

Dreams - Aspirations - Living in the Moment

I'm currently based in a school in London, a very challenging one at that and what I’m noticing is a little worrying. Our young people are living almost completely for the future and whilst that is of course healthy for young people, what is missing is a sense of reality and presence in the now.

Dreams and aspirations are unrealistic because they are based on what young people are seeing on social media, their “heroes” are people who are living materialistic lives that are not deeply happy. What I mean by that is that their happiness is completely reliant on materialistic gain which is never going to bring lasting happiness. It is so fragile that to base a lifetime ambition on materialistic wealth is unhealthy.

I guess we owe it to the young generation to show them that sometimes being content with the simple things in life is a real aspiration that can bring lasting happiness. And of course to help them see that happiness is not something external, it is a mindset that is very undervalued.

Should you just go for it?

Of course I would never advocate a life lived always on the safe side, that would go against my values. Perhaps finding a happy medium is best. Or perhaps thinking about calculated risk rather than just going for it. Have a plan, meditate on it, check how it feels in your body when you think about whatever it is you are contemplating doing and always have a plan.

I guess it’s never too late to learn, I’m still learning every day but this time trying to do it without jumping into the deep end without a life vest!

Thanks to a close friend, I now have a new moto:

“I don’t have dreams, I have plans”

A Day in the Life of a Secondary School Teacher

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This week I had the opportunity to spend a day in a local secondary school. It felt a little strange returning to the classroom after four years and to be honest I was dreading it!

My mind was buzzing over the weekend, worried that I’d lose control of the class and there would be mayhem. However, I guess teaching is like riding a bike, once you’re in that classroom, you just know what you have to do. So it went relatively well, the mind stories were wrong again.

The first two lessons were year 9 Maths, not my specialist subject or my strongest but you just have to get on with it. When I first saw my timetable for the day I was a little worried, I mean year 9’s? I’ve often said they are the most challenging year group, a kind of limbo year, not quite keystage 3 or 4, just there preparing for when things get really serious!

It’s interesting to watch young people as they walk into a class, notice their normal teacher isn’t there and then start working out how they should behave with this random stranger. This is when it’s absolutely crucial to make sure you as the teacher gain control because if you don’t have them in the first few moments, it’s very difficult to bring it back. Lesson learned from working in a special measures school for many years, nip it in the bud before it gets too hard to control. Both classes went well considering my freshness in the classroom or maybe the students didn’t notice, I’m guessing they didn’t otherwise I’d have been slaughtered!

In lesson three I had a year 10 group (ages 14 to 15 year olds). Now I felt there was a little heightened energy with this group. They just returned from their first break of the day, probably starting to tire after a couple of lessons and all the other dynamics that are in play for a teenager at school.

What’s Mindfulness Got to Do with It?

Here I was in a classroom full of hyped up teenagers, feeling slightly vulnerable when one of the young ladies asked me what I do when I’m not teaching. I explained that I teach Mindfulness and she asked if I would show them how to meditate. And that’s exactly what I did. I guided them through the posture process and asked them to close their eyes. Some were very up for it, others were a little self conscious. We only spent a couple of minutes doing a short breathing practice. I certainly needed it and from the comments, the students said it helped. Well the lesson was much calmer after, so it was worth doing.

I continued the day with year 7’s (11 to 12 year olds) who were a little lively but by that time I’d pretty much settled back into the familiar role.

By the end of the day I was absolutely exhausted, as I was driving home I wondered how I had managed to do that for almost a decade, along with having three children of my own to look after. And I renewed my respect to all those adults who work day in and day out with our amazing but often challenging young people.

Whats more, I confirmed my belief in our young people who are mostly kind, thoughtful and well behaved. However I was also reminded just how easy it is for young people to be influenced and led into behaving against their own better judgement so they can to fit in. It is precisely because of this that we need to support teachers to do their jobs as best as they can. We need to support our school leaders to lead without having to look over their shoulders constantly. And we must ensure our young people can learn and flourish in a safe environment.

The Life of a Teacher

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Sometimes I wonder if there are many jobs more stressful than teaching? A teacher isn’t just someone who turns up for an hour to teach in a class, in reality a teacher has many roles. They must be master planners, each lesson must be appropriate for each group at the same time as being personalised for the varying abilities, special needs and progress capabilities. Then throw in behaviour management, I’m going to say this is probably one of the most challenging roles because children are children, each with their own personalities, emotions and family life. Oh and these young people know how to play the rules, so a teacher has to be on guard to stick to the rules or be ready to be challenged!

Teachers are held to account by their line manager, senior leadership, Ofsted inspectors and parents. I can think of a few professions that could do with such scrutiny but don’t have anything close to it.

Then teachers have to be kind and understanding, even if they are being challenged or just plain tired. And for the most part, teachers are good at what they do.

Mindfulness made all the Difference

What I noticed was how different I was on the day. My attitude made all the difference, my constant awareness of how I was speaking, moving and projecting, mindful self awareness. This is where Mindfulness comes in, the ability to self regulate throughout the day so your own stress levels do not increase and are kept in balance. If teachers can help themselves to stay still inside, then the outer environment is easier to handle and that’s got to be a better way to be throughout the day.

Do you want to bring Mindfulness into your school? Find out more on our Mindfulness in Schools page or get in touch to discuss how we can help.