mindfulnessteacher

What is a Present Moment Experience?

I've just returned from Scotland where I attended a five-day retreat as part of my continuing professional development.

It was a tough few days where at times I felt like running, self-doubt stories kept creeping up on me. The point of the retreat was to assess my readiness to teach the eight week Mindfulness Based Living Course. The assessment required that I lead two practices to my peers. You would think after years in the classroom teaching challenging teenagers that this would come naturally, that certainly was not the case. 

The Fear Story

I think the strongest, most paralysing emotion for most of us is fear. And I don't mean fear that is real, when perhaps your life is in danger, I mean the fear that comes from the stories we tell ourselves.

I had booked onto this retreat twice previously and both times fear took over leading me to pull out at the last minute. I wasn't good enough, I would fail if I went and so the story went on for over a year. Holding myself back from taking the next step.

Finally, I decided to accept that whatever happened, I just had to take the chance. I'd overcome so much more in my life, this was not going to beat me! 

So there I was into the third day and doing my presentation. I couldn't believe how much I was shaking but I did it and I passed. And the relief was like I'd put down a huge weight that I'd been carrying for a long time. 

The Present Moment Experience

The next day I was to give a shorter presentation but still part of the assessment. And I got thinking about my school teaching days. When a teacher knows they are going to be observed for assessment, they will play it safe. I did it myself and I observed many other teachers do the same. We would plan a "safe" lesson, one that didn't require too much classroom management.

The problem with playing safe is that you get safe results, nothing inspiring, just safe. And often that can be a bigger risk because a dull lesson is not always seen as adequate by inspectors. 

So with this in mind, I got up in the morning, trying to decide if I would take a risk and deliver my presentation the way I would normally teach it to my groups? 

I was fortunate to wake up to a beautiful scene, the snow had covered everything and it was just an amazing white picture. I stood outside just looking at the tree, the grass, the almost unreal natural beauty. Then something inside suddenly spoke, "what are you doing just standing here?" And out came my phone to take a photo.

snow bridge.jpg

In this world we live in, to just stand is not natural and when we do it, many of us feel guilty. Like it's a waste of time, we should be doing something. However in that moment, I realised that I didn't want to see this view through the lens of my phone, I just wanted to experience it as it is. I wanted to be in it, see it in its full beauty and take the whole thing in. Breath the fresh air, smell the wet ground and be right there.

In that short space, I was in the Present Moment. I stopped doing, I just started being. It wasn't long, it was just a few moments, a few breaths but it gave me a taste of Mindfulness at it's essence.

Thinking adds a layer to present moment experience - unknown

I took this experience into my teaching practice, I took the risk and used my own experience to present my task. Thankfully it worked out well for me. 

Mindfulness is learning how to not become so involved with the thinking so that it interupts our experience of life. It's not easy but with practice you get better at it.

To learn how to develop your own Mindfulness practice, then join us at one of our events. 

How to make this Christmas more meaningful

This quote from the Dalai Lama is especially appropriate for this time of the year. Christmas, whether you are religious or not is meant to be a time for family and friends. It's supposed to be the one time of the year that we get to just be with those we love and care about. Yet statistics show that many of us find the festive season a struggle. I certainly feel stressed trying to think of something original to buy my family and friends.

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THE PARADOX OF OUR AGE

We have bigger houses, but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge but less judgements; more experts, but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness.

We've been all the way to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour.

We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever but less communication.

We have become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;

Tall man but short character;

Steep profits but shallow relationships.

It is a time when there is much in the window but nothing in the room

Remember what it used to be like

I know it's not very mindful to focus on the past but in this instance, it could be helpful to remember what Christmas used to be like. Remembering what it was like before we allowed technology take over. Before the constant distraction of our mobile phones and repeated beeping of social media notifications. 

What would happen if we just spent a few hours or a whole day with our mobile phones on silent? What if we stopped looking down at the screen and looked up at our loved ones? What would we notice if we actually paid attention?

Mindfulness is a love affair with life. You see the beauty in everybody and in everything - Jon Kabat-Zinn

Staying in the Moment

We spend so much time in preparation for the "big day" that we are future focusing, missing the moments in between. We are stressed about the Christmas meal, the presents, the plans for the day and then when the day comes we are too exhausted to enjoy it. 

If the traditions and rituals of Christmas do not mean anything to you, there is still the opportunity to make this time of the year meaningful. This is still an opportunity to really just let go of the craziness of everyday life and take time out to be, to stop doing and just be present.

Remembering to enjoy the little things like wrapping up presents, putting up decorations or maybe just having the time to reflect on life.

Managing Our Expectations

I guess the biggest challenge is how to manage our expectations. We build up a picture of how we want our Christmas to be and what we would love to give or receive from our loved one's, often this very anticipation creates a sense of "let down" or disappointment. And after so much planning, how do we cope with the come down after it's all over?

We have to learn how to manage the emotions that arise after Christmas. It's no coincidence that depression, divorce and stress spike in January. 

If you don't get what you want for Christmas, if you couldn't buy your children the biggest and best present possible, if the food wasn't as fantastic as you dreamed it would be, if your partner buys you a present that you don't like, can you let it go or will you carry it forward? 

Can we just accept a gift without judgement? Can we give a gift without expectation? 

Mindfulness Tips for the festive season:

  • Pay attention to your thoughts and catch them before you react
  • Every morning sit for a few moments and ask yourself this questions "What is the meaning of Christmas to me?" - see what comes up and how you feel. This will help you to remember what is important to you rather than getting lost in all the busyness and craziness.
  • Notice what triggers your negative feelings and thoughts. When you begin to notice, you can do something about it before you get lost in them.
  • Remember to be grateful for the things and people in your life. Gratitude is a powerful attitude.
  • Plan family and friend activities, things you can do together. And maybe dare to go technology free for a while.
  • And make sure you get fresh air, get out even if it's just for a while. A little freshair can make all the difference.
Don't sweat the small stuff - it's all small stuff! - Richard Carlson

Remember that having time to be with our family and friends is enough. We don't get meaning from things, so perhaps this year have the courage to do it a little differently. 

 

What is Mindfulness?

What is Mindfulness?

It's difficult to define something that is a felt sense, an experience and not an intellectual concept. There is already so much out there about Mindfulness, that it has over complicated what should be a very simple practice.

In it's essence, Mindfulness is a way of life. It's a purposeful effort to pay attention to what is going on right this moment. In this video I try to demonstrate how you begin to develop mindful awareness in everyday situations.

Mindfulness is learning how to accept and deal with the ordinary situations of our daily life

In the West we tend to look at most things from the point of "what will I gain?"  That's why when someone asks me what they will gain from practising Mindfulness, they are a little apprehensive when I reply - "let's see!"

As Mindfulness practitioners we always start with a beginners mind, everyday is a new day, every moment a new moment. If we can stay with that fresh mind then we are beginning to practice Mindfulness. As soon as we start looking for benefits, progress and achievement, we are no longer in the present moment. We are now venturing into the comparing of ourselves to a past self or a future better self because right now we are not good enough. And this is where we lose the point, that the only moment that exists is this one.

A short video where I try to describe Mindfulness in action.

A short story to explain mindfulness in action. To learn more visit mindfulnessapproach.com

If you want to learn more about Mindfulness, why not join our course in London starting in October. Click here for more details

What is the true meaning of love?

If we really understood the true meaning of love, it would save us from a lot of needless suffering. Perhaps if we knew what real love is we would stop chasing after it? Love can’t be found, it’s always present, always inside us, there is no need to look for it, there is no lacking of love.

Of course, this may not be how we grew up thinking about love. We have these fantastical notions about love and this one special person that will give us the love we need. If we think about it then maybe we will finally see that love is a feeling, an emotion, it is not static.

Love should not cause us pain, it should not be hard work and it should not keep us trapped. Love is supposed to be quite the opposite, yet look around you and see how we all suffer from love. What causes our pain is not love itself, it’s forcing love and clinging to it like if we let go, we will lose something that belongs to us.

What true love isn’t

When I think of love I bring to mind my children and grandchildren because the love I have for them is unconditional. Over time I’ve learned that for me to be the mother my children need, I must give them the space to grow and be who they need to be. I cannot stop them evolving, experimenting, making mistakes and even doing what I think is wrong. It is not my life to live. Just because I gave them life does not mean it’s my life or that they belong to me.

That doesn’t mean as a parent we can't give advice, offer our experience and more importantly model the behaviour we would like our children to take on. But ultimately, they are free to live as they wish, we have no real control. So we must be there to offer love unconditionally, giving our children complete freedom to live their lives. Not to live for us, to please us or to fill the voids we should be filling ourselves. 

Romantic or Intimate Love?

This love thing becomes a bit sticky when it’s between two people who share a “romantic” love or an “intimate” love. Actually, the two are not the same in any way. One can have intimate love without the need for a romantic relationship. This is something that many of us become totally confused about. Intimacy in our society is constantly portrayed in a negative way, in a dirty way, leading to so much confusion. Dare we even mention the word “sex” without sniggers, blushing, turning away and total misunderstanding?

These lyrics from Alicia Keys song War really highlights just how messed up we are:

If war is holy and sex is obscene
We've got it twisted in this lucid dream
Baptized in boundaries, schooled in sin
Divided by difference, sexuality and skin

Such poignant words. We easily send our armies to kill but dare not speak the truth about “love”

"Immature people falling in love destroy each other’s freedom, create a bondage, make a prison" 

Osho was a highly influential spiritual teacher who had many followers and was published by over 200 publishers worldwide, in over 60 languages. His teachings have had a huge impact in the West. He believed that traditional belief systems, religious traditions, and socialisation have caused us to suppress our awareness, our ability to truly love and our creativity, courage and humour.

He spoke in detail about real love, his teachings challenging us to review our perception of love and relationships, not to say they are both exclusively related.  

Love can exist outside of a relationship and relationships exist with an absence of real love

In one teaching, Osho talks about “immature people falling in love, destroying each other’s freedom” He goes on to say that mature people in love help each other to be free, they help each other to destroy all sorts of bondages. And when mature people are in love, their love flows with freedom. He goes on to say that

when love flows with dependence there is ugliness.

A mature person does not fall in love, he or she rises in love. Only immature people fall; they stumble and fall down in love. They do not have a back bone, the spine; they don’t have the integrity to stand alone.

 A mature person has the integrity to stand alone.

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And when a mature person gives love, he or she gives without any strings attached to it. When two mature persons are in love, one of the great paradoxes of life happens, one of the most beautiful phenomena: they are together and yet tremendously alone. They are together so much that they are almost one. Two mature persons in love help each other to become more free. There is no politics involved, no diplomacy, no effort to dominate. Only freedom and love.

Mature Love in the West

Inspite of all our education, wealth and supposed progress, we have forgotten how to truly love, in favour of ownership and selfishness. We want our needs fulfilled, we need to fit into society and so must be just like the rest. We must have our “special” relationship otherwise we are misfits. We fear all the negativity that comes with being solo, the being seen as lonely or perhaps not even good enough to have a full-time partner. One that we can show to our friends, "look at me I'm good enough to catch a man (or woman)!" 

Do people that choose to live a solo life make others feel uncomfortable? What if people understood that some of us choose freedom, total freedom to do as we wish, when we wish without having to ask for permission? That it is not lonely to stand alone, or to give without any strings attached.

People go about their lives with a desire for freedom, yet their actions go completely against creating this freedom in their lives. They work hard at a job, chase after people to bring meaning into their life whilst becoming more and more trapped. And believe me I speak from experience, not from judgment. 

What would happen if we could stop clinging, learn to let go and open up to the unfolding of our lives? For me, this is mindful living, a total trust in life unfolding whilst living in the moment. 

Let Go Of "One Day" - This is that day

Today I decided to clear out my wardrobe; I'm not one to hold on to things and I don't like clutter. I've never really been one to get attached to things or people. Change has never been a big deal for me, quite the opposite I get bored easily.

Anyway back to me wardrobe story! I’m sure many of us have a "one-day" wardrobe. You know those clothes we hold onto for when we can actually get into them or when we feel good enough. 

This got me thinking, why do we do this to ourselves? After all, it's crazy to have clothes you may never wear until you become that perfect person you think you should be. Why do we constantly beat ourselves up about not being good enough, right now, right this minute?

So I made a commitment to myself, no more waiting for one day. If it doesn’t fit today or look right today, then no point hanging on to it. There is nothing more liberating than letting go of waiting for the perfect conditions before you just get on with living.

Why do we wait for that “one day”?

Every day I see people struck by unexpected life threatening illness, it's part of my life now. And this often wakes people up to the reality that life is indeed unpredictable. But why do we need to be reminded that in life there are no guarantees?

What are we really waiting for?

When we live with this "one-day" attitude it's most likely because we don't feel quite good enough. We feel not worthy or perhaps incomplete. We are always waiting for something before we give ourselves what we really want and need. We project into a future we don't even know we will reach.

We live in this crazy mind of ours that convinces us that we are not good enough just yet, if ever!

We wait for that perfect body to one day realise that your body is perfect because it's your body, the only one you've got. We buy into all the myths designed to make us feel inadequate, to keep us buying into consumerism, to keep us in fear of actually just loving and accepting ourselves as we are.

We wait for that perfect partner because we don’t feel good enough on our own. This is probably the biggest myth of all. Spending our lives looking for this perfect person to complete us, to give us what we won’t give ourselves. We know we are not perfect, yet we think that a perfect other might exist? 

We buy into this illusion that we need others to validate us, that without a partner we are not worthy. However the truth is that we will leave this world alone, we can't take things or people with us, so best we put ourselves right. And we experience life in the moment, allowing people to flow in and out without expectations. 

The apology we never got

We wait for that apology that we will never get from the people who let us down. We carry anger and regret as if it will somehow make our lives better, not realising that the longer we hold onto this the more of our life we give to those that do not deserve it.

All this waiting for the right time, the right person, and the right place just robs us of life, until one day we look back and know we should have just lived our life.

As I reflected on this subject it suddenly hit me.

This is my life, right this minute.

Of course, there are parts of it I'd like to change. Just like everyone, I have regrets and disappointments but I also have joy, happiness, and lots of love around me.

So what choice do we have but to live now, with all the parts of our life and do our best to put things right? 

There is no choice because we can only experience life in this moment, no point waiting for another time, no point putting things off.

Feeling unworthy and not good enough is no excuse to stop yourself from living life to the fullest. You may never feel worthy, so might as well just do what you want now, no need to wait for permission, no need to wait for someone else to validate you and no need to wait for the perfect conditions.

The greatest shame is to go to our death with regrets, let’s make sure we work on living with no regrets.

 

 

 

 

 

How Mindfulness Awakens Our Sixth Sense

Most of us go about our daily lives functioning at a conscious level, discarding anything that is not what we perceive as real. 

We are externally stimulated by our five senses on a constant basis. We use our sense of sound, taste, sight, smell and touch in order to function. Each of these senses are directly associated with a particular body part, for example we use our eyes to see or our ears to hear. It's something that comes natural, we don't have to try to hard, unless of course we are blind or deaf, in which case we develop the other senses to compensate.

Science proves that our brain has evolved enormously and that it is three times the size it was seven million years ago. Given this shouldn't we be functioning perfectly? At the very least we should be able to be happy.

Has our over reliance on our conscious awareness disconnected us from our subconscious awareness? 

The Polynesian's mapped out the sea's before we even knew the Earth was round, using their sixth sense or what we call intuition. Their deep connection with nature and knowledge of the stars, enabled them to journey into places formally undiscovered. Christopher Columbus set out to find America trusting his instinct that in fact Earth was not flat. 

Trust the power of intuition. It’s your connection to the past, present and future.
— Malidoma Some

Mindfulness helps us tap into our intuition

In our effort to advance we have become disconnected with nature and our natural intuition. We easily discard anything that is not rational or easy to see. How often do we ignore those hunches, those feelings and first instincts because they seems so irrational? 

Perhaps in our quest for knowledge and development, we have in fact lost abilities we have naturally. We have lost that animal instinct, the closeness with our universe that makes us feel whole. And this is why we suffer so much from loneliness, depression and what some may call hopelessness. 

Intuition is to see within - the sea within can not be restrained
— Rick Riordan

We are constantly distracted by noise and call it entertainment because the thought of just sitting to admire the sun would be a waste of time. We need to be doing something, going somewhere or working towards a goal for our lives to be purposeful. 

Mindfulness teaches us to stop, to pay attention and to see from the inside out. Mindfulness helps us to develop a strong inner compass to navigate this ever changing world. 

When we start to pay attention, becoming ever more present in our lives we can start to experience life at its deepest levels. Intuition is not some fluffy new age concept or idea, it is awareness of the subtle stuff that lies outside of the focus of our normal attention. 

Intuition is the awareness of the unconscious mind. It’s awareness of what we already know

Through persistent practice we can develop our ability to trust our instinct because our instinct is also our inner wisdom. This does not mean we throw logic out of the window or stop living from a conscious level, it means we learn to listen to our gut a little more. We learn to silence our external world for a while so we can listen to what our internal world is trying to tell us.

If you want to learn about Mindfulness please do get in touch.