• "Tell me, what is it you plan to do…"

    Mary Oliver - Summer's Day

    "Tell me, what is it you plan to do…"

     

    Mary Oliver in the poem ‘A Summer Day’ asks us the question, ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ The question challenges us to face the fact that life is precious and that it doesn’t last forever. This question feels particularly pertinent at the beginning of a new year, “Time is passing, opportunity is lost, am I living well?’ It prods complacency, creating a sense of helpful, motivating urgency around making choices that support health, happiness and well – being.

    Many people attend mindfulness courses because they understand that the capacity to be present is absolutely fundamental to a sense of being fully alive. After attending an MBSR course people often struggle with continuing to integrate practice into daily life. Graduate courses like Deepening Mindfulness and Interpersonal Mindfulness, ongoing practice groups such as the Weekly Drop-in Sessions and varies one-day retreats, are designed to support people in sustaining practice, and bringing mindfulness more fully into their lives. There is however much we can do ourselves to support our practice.

    Intentionality, grounded in a recognition of self- responsibility and accountability is essential.  Recognising that a life lived mindfully centres on actively locating and integrating ones practice within the context of daily life. If you are serious and passionate about living a healthier and more fulfilling life, it is necessary to take a regular, disciplined approach to what you do. Choosing a specific meditation practice that you do each day, and setting aside a specific time are fundamentally important in sustaining a practice. Success as in any other enterprise – business, arts, sports – depends on establishing a disciplined and committed lifestyle. If you live haphazardly, just doing what you feel like when you feel like it, you may not find the time or inclination for things that will benefit you.

     

     

    Making Choices in Every Domain and Every Day

    Applying mindful awareness to the entire domain of your life involves continuously reflecting on how you are living your life. It means being aware of the choices you have. Angeles Arrien  describes three ways that choices function. It is through choice that we can:

    1)Create new ways of being/realities

    2)Sustain and maintain current ways of being/realities.

    3)Release and let go of ways of being/realities that no longer serve us.

    Slowing down, pausing and recognizing the choices that we have enables us to know firstly, that we have a choice, and secondly, the consequences of the choices we make.  It means being aware of the choices you are making and the motivations and intentions behind these, and recognising what these choices are creating in your life; whether it is well -being or its opposite.

    For example having the intention to eat mindfully brings many benefits. We slow down while we are eating, notice more; taste, texture, sight and smell, and a deeper level of appreciation emerges in relationship to our food. The routine, everyday activity of eating becomes more enjoyable and vital! This greater sense of awareness extends to the ways in which we consume. We develop a greater awareness of impulses and cravings for foods that are not nourishing, that are unhealthy for our bodies. We perhaps recognise what lies behind these impulses, whether loneliness, fear or stress and make healthier choices about how to be with these. We read labels, paying a greater attention to what we will be ingesting, or consciously reduce our intake of fats, salt and sugar. In this simple act of paying greater attention to our eating we can cultivate a relationship of respect and care for ourselves, our bodies. We ingest foods that are nourishing and that contribute to our bodily health and vitality.

    Noticing our patterns of consumption in general can support us in understanding ourselves and taking greater care of our well-being. Noticing our relationship to shopping for example. Do we shop excessively, buying things that we don’t really need? And the media – Do we watch TV programmes and films or read magazines that fill our consciousness with damaging or unhelpful information? What we consume psychologically impacts our well-being. Try noticing how you feel physically when you veg out in front of the computer or TV.

    How do we spend our free time, nourish our minds and hearts? Spending time nurturing ourselves through inspiring reading, a hobby that we love, walks in nature, listening to music we enjoy, an audio talk, a deep bath, playing with our children, being in silence, or just being. Making the choice for well-being can be just what we need rather than deepening the groove of habitual unhealthy lifestyle habits.

    Mindful movement, whether it be Yoga, Tai-Chi, dance, Aikido, running, walking or gardening can cultivate a greater sense of awareness with regard to our bodies, as well as being fun and good for our health. Developing bodily awareness allows us to be more receptive to our bodies messages of fatigue, discomfort and stress, and to recognise that we need to take care of ourselves. Giving your body regular attention allows you to attend to the build up of tensions and strains that gather from everyday living. In this way we can develop a preventative approach to our health care rather than one of cure; where we give our bodies attention only when they are crying out for it. Mindful movement is as vital a maintenance skill as brushing your teeth and is deeply life enhancing too. It allows us to be more in touch with ourselves and our world and to live more vital, healthy lives.

    This mindful enquiry can also extend into the realm of our social relationships –What conversations do we have, are they helpful or unhelpful to others and to ourselves? What is our intention in speaking? How do we listen? Do we listen to speak or do we listen in order to really hear what the speaker is wanting to express? Mindful listening can deeply nourish our relationships creating understanding, empathy and compassion. Check out Nik Askews’ Ted talk for more on this here.

    Crafting Our Future with Present Choices

    Living mindfully, can offer us a deeper quality of happiness. A happiness that is derived from an overall vision of well-being and health, rather than a short term vision of immediate gratification. As we proceed in our practise we begin to realise the truth that what we will become, and how our lives unfold, depends to a great extent on how fully, how un-distractedly, we can live in this present moment.

    Jane Hirshfield on the threshold of a new year, reflects in her poem on how our choices have a significant impact on how our lives are shaped.

    I imagine myself in time looking back on myself- this self, this morning,
    drinking her coffee on the first day of a new year
    and once again almost unable to move her pen through the iron air.
    Perplexed by my life as Midas was in his world of sudden metal,
    surprised that it was not as he’d expected, what he had asked.
    And that other self, who watches me from the distance of decades,
    what will she say?  Will she look at me with hatred or with compassion,
    I whose choices made her what she will be?

    Our choices now, will make us what we will be. What are your priorities? What choices are you going to make? Who, or what will you want to look back on in a decade?

     

    We have a full programme of courses this January for beginners and more advanced meditators to help cultivate more intentional living.

    >> VIEW UPCOMING COURSES <<

    Written by Rosalie Dores, Mindfulness Teacher at The Mindfulness Project

    Originally posted here

  • Exploring One-to-One Mindfulness Sessions

    Two Small Birds Blue & Grey on a Branch

    Mindfulness teacher Rosalie Dores shares her insight into one-to-one mindfulness, exploring the benefits of private teaching.

     

    Many people find learning mindfulness in a group context transformative. The opportunity to participate in shared learning and exploration with peers allows for the recognition of our common humanity to arise. No-one is alone in their struggles. This coupled with the presence, wisdom and experience of the teacher allows for insight and understanding to arise. People learn about how their minds work and what gets them in, and importantly out, of trouble.

    It is not always possible, however, for people to attend a group. Attending a one-to-one mindfulness course provides an equally potent option. During a one-to-one course the participant receives the undivided attention of the teacher. They also attend a course tailored specifically to their learning needs.

    For many people the privacy that the one-to-one context provides allows for a deeper level of learning and understanding to emerge. They are less concerned about being vulnerable within a larger group. Having taught in this way for over a decade I have had the privilege of witnessing the power of the one-to-one mindfulness course. Participants deepen in self-understanding, shift unhelpful patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving and develop a sustainable mindfulness practice.

     

    Compass on Sand

     

    Deepening Our Understanding

    At the end of a mindfulness course many people long to maintain the benefits that they have experienced from regular practice and contact with the teacher. Regular, ongoing, one-to-one mindfulness sessions offer a deeply supportive a way to do this. They also offer a space to continue to deepen mindfulness practice, while navigating the inevitable ups and downs of life.

     

    Gaining Guidance & Wisdom

    As well as teaching one-to-one mindfulness, I have received the wise counsel of various teachers over my 30+ years of practice. Without the benefit of their experience and guidance my practice would have stagnated. It sounds obvious, but I can’t see, what I can’t see, I can’t know what I don’t know.

    My teachers have offered me the benefit of their many years of practice. I have learnt from their hard earned wisdom derived from personal struggles and triumphs. I have also felt their deep kindness and compassion derived from being humbled by life over and over again.

    Having the benefit of their perspectives and presence has allowed me to recognise when I was caught in painful patterns of behaviour. Receiving their invaluable practice guidance has allowed me to relate to my experience in a way that reduces stress rather than increases it. My gifts and capacities have also been supported to flourish.

     

    Mindfulness Isn't Taught, It's Caught

    My experience of being ‘held’ in this way has been beneficial to me both personally and professionally. I’ve heard it said, that ‘mindfulness isn’t taught, it’s caught’. This rings true for me. The skills that I bring to my work with people; deep listening, feeding back, checking my understanding, inviting and guiding experiential exploration is informed by my experiences of being supported by other, ‘elders’ along the way.

    If you want to climb a mountain, I imagine you would employ an experienced mountain climber, who knows the landscapes, it’s opportunities and pitfalls. So it is with engaging in one-to-one work with a meditation teacher. You need an experienced guide.

     

    Two Comfortable Pink Chairs Tilted Toward One Another

     

    Learn More About One-to-One Teaching or Book With Rosalie.

    >> LEARN MORE <<

     

    Written by Rosalie Dores, Mindfulness Teacher at The Mindfulness Project

  • Are You in Need of a Mindfulness Retreat?

    Close-Up Tree Leaves

     

    “On retreat, we nourish the most important relationship that we have - the relationship with ourselves.”

     

    -- SARAH POWERS

     

    This year, as well as taking a traditional holiday, consider taking a break to nourish your body and mind on a restorative retreat day. 

    A retreat takes us away from the distractions of daily life. It might include the surroundings of nature and can be a wonderful opportunity to slow down, take a digital detox and truely experience time for ourselves.

    And there are many ways in which a retreat can be beneficial...

     

    Space To Grow

    Carving out the time to fully dedicate ourselves to an extended period of mindfulness away from everyday life is an excellent opportunity to deepen and rejuvenate our practice.

    Mindfulness teacher James Milford explains;

     

    “A retreat removes the daily responsibilities and technological distractions, meaning that you have more time and space in which to dedicate yourself to sitting.

    This is essential as practice can grow stale and tick-box like if all we ever do is try and fit it into an existing schedule.”

     

    Breaking Habitual Patterns

    Although it may take some time to adjust to initially, taking a retreat in silence gives us the chance to see ourselves and our habitual patterns more clearly.

    Mindfulness teacher Christiane Kerr highlights;

     

    Silence can be challenging for many of us when we first start to observe it, but over time it becomes a welcome and nourishing refuge.

    Being in silence allows our practice to deepen and helps us recognise our habitual thought patterns.”

     

    For example, you might notice that you get very self-conscious at meal times, which might lead to urges to eat more or less than usual. On retreat, there’s no distracting ourselves in such uncomfortable moments by checking our phones or chatting. Instead, we have the opportunity to cultivate awareness of our patterns, and meet them with self-compassion.

     

    Comfortable Chair for Meditation

     

    Connecting With Others

    Although it might sound strange, silent retreats offer a wonderful opportunity to connect with others in a new and profound way. Surrounded by fellow meditators, a retreat offers a supportive and nurturing environment in which to practice -- there is always someone there supporting you with their presence.

    Moments where you catch someone’s eye or receive an encouraging or understanding smile become really special.

     

    “Practicing mindfulness alone day after day can be a little dispiriting at times, so a retreat is a welcome chance to be with others and draw benefits from their participation and proximity.” 

     

    For most of us, sitting in collective stillness for long periods will be a new experience - but through it we may find that we discover new ways of being with others and a rich sense of connection that nourishes and enriches our practice.

     

    Training Our Muscle of Attention

    On retreat, we spend a large amount of our time in formal meditation, and the rest of our waking time in informal practice. This means we are exercising our muscle of attention much more than we would usually do. This presents a wonderful opportunity for us to have deep insights, and this turning inwards to connect with ourselves and our inner wisdom can bring new perspectives that leave us feeling refreshed and renewed.

    Most retreat attendees notice a significant difference in their ability to meet everyday challenges with more ease when returning back home.

     

    Blanket & Cushions Outside

     

    For those new to meditation or a silent meditation retreat, the idea might seem quite daunting and scary, or even just really unappealing. But by placing ourselves in this unique environment, we can truly spend time with ourselves, have space for reflection and practice living in the present moment.

    And just because it’s silent, it doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to one of the teachers or support staff if you need to. There is often dedicated time for discussion with the teacher in groups during the retreat. In other words, the silence isn’t there as a test of stamina, but rather a way to observe your habitual patterns and thoughts. It is only through this awareness that we gain a platform to change and grow.

     

    All eight-week courses include a retreat day. For those that have completed a course, we run regular retreat days to help reconnect with practice. 

    BOOK A RETREAT

  • Mindful Journaling & Writing

    Coffee, Journal & Pen

    An interview with mindfulness teacher Dr Natasha Papazafeiropoulou, as she reflects on the practice of mindful journaling and writing. 

     

    What’s Your Personal Interest in Mindful Journaling? 

    I have been practising meditation since 2004. In 2011 I became certified as a mindfulness meditation teacher by the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). During my training, we were encouraged to share our experience in meditation and emphasised the importance of reflection after each meditation. 

    Years later, I decided to extend this practice of mindful sharing from verbal to written form. So, I started keeping a journal of my everyday meditation practice.

    Having initially had no expectation as to how trivial or profound this practice might be, my experience was so rewarding that I decided to design a course and workshop to teach people how to journal in a mindful way. 

     

    "Writing can be an incredible mindfulness practice"

     

    -- JON KABAT-ZINN

     

    How Can Journaling Support Us?

    There are different types of journals. Journaling can be a good way to keep track of our activities and our progress against fitness or work-related goals, but also can be used as a good outlet to express emotions and reflect on our experiences. 

    The uniqueness of  a journal is that we can express ourselves privately, with the freedom to be authentic and original in our writing. At the same time, it's a tangible keepsake that remains throughout the years so e have the option to go back to old journals or share them with others.    

     

     

    How Does Practising Mindfulness Benefit a Journaling Practice?

    There are two ways mindfulness can support a journaling practice. First, using mindfulness awareness we can use the journal itself as the anchor to keep our attention in the here and now. This way journaling becomes a mindful activity such as mindful walking, washing up, etc. 

    Secondly, journaling can be used as an alternative way to share our experience of our meditation practice. Practising journaling while in a meditative relaxed state, we are more able to get insights into our practice, life situations and keep a record of our reflections.   

     

    "Whether you're keeping a journal or writing as meditation, it's the same. What's important is you're having a relationship with your mind."

     

    -- NATALIE GOLDBERG

     

    How Does Journaling as a Group Differ From Journaling Alone?

    In the journaling course we practice in a group setting. Although journaling is a solitary activity (just like meditation), when we share our journaling experiences with others we can gain better insights and different perspectives. 

    For example, participants see similarities with the way other people usually see journaling as a way to express distractive emotions, such as anger, and realise how a mindfulness practice can inform their journaling practice. 

    During the course, we learn how to use journaling to reflect on the past and set intentions for the future. We practice different ways of journaling from structured and guided written reflections, open writing, and combining writing with drawing or sketching.

    We practice different mindfulness ideals such as equanimity, gratitude and self-care and use mindful journaling as a way to apply these principles to our everyday life in a meaningful way. Finally, people learn to use their discretion to share as much or as little as they feel is useful. 

    It’s deeply rewarding to teach this course and I am excited to watch people getting insights into their practice and to use an alternative means to reflect and develop. 

     

    " I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. It was very well paced, a variety of meditations and opportunities to practice journaling and exchange experiences with other participants."

     

    -- ANNA, WORKSHOP PARTICIPANT

     

    Finally, Do You Have Any Top Journaling or Mindfulness Tips?

    My top tips for both mindfulness and mindfulness journaling are:

    1. Let go of any effort to achieve something or get a specific outcome   
    2. Let go of any guilt of not practising enough 
    3. Consider group meditation to gather momentum for your own practice                                                     

    Dr Natasha Papazafeiropoulou

    Dr Natasha Papazafeiropoulou has been practicing meditation since 2004 and trained to teach mindfulness meditation at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2011. Since then, Natasha has been teaching mindfulness to organisations, universities, small groups and individuals. Natasha has a PhD in computer science and taught at Brunel University. She now lives and works in Athens, teaching mindfulness, yoga and running retreats. Natasha has a passion for teaching mindfulness in any setting and is particularly interested in applying mindfulness ideas into everyday life.

     

    Join Natasha’s 4-Week Mindful Journaling Course or Half-Day Workshop.

    JOIN COURSE OR WORKSHOP

  • Making Healthy Choices from a Place of Self-Nurturing

    Fruit Smoothie


    If we approach healthy living from a place of guilt, shame and self-criticism, we may find ourselves trapped in cycles of yo-yo dieting or unrealistic exercise plans that inevitably fail.

     

    Rather than exercising and eating well because we want to or because it feels good, we might be making choices based on emotive should’s and shouldn’t’s; because we feel that we are doing things wrong.

    Trying to stay healthy from this place of feeling bad about ourselves doesn’t usually work. However, if we cultivate a sense of self-nurturing awareness, it becomes much easier to take care of our bodies.

     

    Are We Punishing Ourselves?

    If we notice that we’ve been putting on weight or that our physical fitness is not as good as it used to be, it’s common to feel that we’ve let ourselves down, that we’re lazy or bad in some way. We recognise that our bodies don’t feel good, yet rather than listening to what it needs and nurturing it with care, we may start punishing it because we feel ashamed of ourselves.

    For example, say we’ve been busy with work, so we’ve been eating unhealthy convenience food and we haven’t exercised in a long time. Our shame might drive us to become very restrictive about what we can and can’t eat, or we might put ourselves through gruelling exercise routines to make up for all the time we’ve spent not being active.

    When we do this, however, we step out of the present moment, away from listening to our bodies and what they need. Rather than acknowledging that we want to change our habits with a sense of self-compassion and patience, we become stuck in self-criticism and rigid rules.

     

    Plants & Watering Can

     

    Although we may find that we’re able to stick to our new regime for a short while, it sure feels like hard work. We’re might get into a cycle of fighting ourselves. Just one slip up can make us feel like everything is ruined, and soon enough we’re back to our old unhealthy habits.

    This is because our foundation for health is built upon unstable, negative emotions. In the same way that a romantic relationship can’t flower from resentment or bitterness, our relationship with our own body can’t be healthy and complete if we’re always telling ourselves that we’re bad and wrong.

     

    Shifting Our Focus

    Instead of focussing on what we’re doing wrong, and trying to enforce change, we can shift our focus onto cultivating self-compassion and self-nurturing. This way, healthy habits can flourish organically. When we become more attuned to our physical needs, we’ll naturally want to take action to meet them.

    So if we find ourselves in a situation like the one above, where we’ve not been eating well and not been exercising, rather than jumping into self-criticism, we can instead pause and try to notice how our bodies feel in a kind, non-judgemental way.

    Do we feel tired? Drained? Are we having trouble sleeping? Do our muscles feel weak? Do we feel lethargic or bloated after eating unhealthy foods? If a loved one felt this way, would we dump guilt on them? Probably not. We’d more likely want to help nurture them back to health. We can do this for ourselves too.

     

    Weights & Yoga Mat

     

    Making Choices in the Moment

    Tuning into our bodies on a regular basis can help us make healthier choices, not from guilt, but from a place of honouring our body’s current needs. Approaching health this way makes everything more manageable, because we are taking each moment as it comes. We can adjust slowly to a new way of being.

    For example, if we are feeling lethargic and weak because we haven’t been giving our bodies the right nutrients or exercise, what do we do?

    First we can pause to assess how we feel in this moment. In this quiet space of reflection, we have the opportunity to step out of our regular, auto-pilot pattern, and instead of buying comfort food for dinner, we might notice that our body would prefer something healthier.

    If we notice that our mind is jumping ahead, thinking about how we’ll eat vegetables every day, we can patiently and compassionately re-focus our attention to right now. Instead we can think, “Today I will eat healthily. Tomorrow I will tune into my body again and see what it needs then.”

    The same approach can work for exercise. If we go out for a run today, we can notice how it makes our body feel. If it feels good, then we might think, “I will try and do this again, because I like how it makes my body feel. I’ll tune into my body tomorrow, and see what feels right.”

    Once we start listening to ourselves, with compassion, we’ll start to build a different relationship with our bodies. Rather than fighting against it, or trying to restrict and limit it with rigid rules, we become more present with ourselves, more grounded in the moment. We’ll start to notice which foods make us feel bad, and which give us energy. We’ll notice the difference in our bodies when we exercise.

    By becoming more mindful, we’re likely to find that our bodies naturally start to guide us towards what it needs, rather than having to make a forced effort with our minds.

     

    Learn More on an 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course.

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  • The Mindful Way Through An Interview Or Presentation

    Interview Chair

     

    Practising mindfulness when we're facing a challenging situation such as an interview, performance review or presentation can be hard. But it can help us to learn more about ourselves and to move through these situations with greater ease in the future.

     

    When we're facing an interview or a presentation, our minds may start to ruminate about what might go wrong. For example ,"I could blush or not know what do say!"

    Often these thoughts lead to yet more anxious thoughts and together these can lead to the bodily symptoms of anxiety, i.e. sweaty hands, increased heartbeat and fast breathing.

    Those bodily sensations then might trigger even more thoughts, which lead to more anxious feelings, which lead to more anxious thoughts… So no wonder our anxiety builds and we end up blushing!

    In mindfulness we don't try to change those thoughts or try to get rid of the anxious feelings. Instead we train our minds, so that when those thoughts occur we can come back to the present moment.

    The fact is it won't help us to create an apocalyptic presentation or interview scenario in our heads before the actual event. Why? Because all this ruminative thinking will only make us more anxious!

     

    Laptop Presentation

     

    But How Do We Train Our Minds?

    By practising mindfulness on a daily basis, including trying mini-meditation techniques for the workplace. By doing so, we strengthen our ability to catch our minds when they drift off into ruminative thinking and gently escort them back to the present.

    Over time, we become so skilled at this, that it only takes a few seconds to notice when we've drifted. We can become the master of our minds.

     

    Find Out More About Our Individual and Corporate Mindfulness Courses.

    VIEW CALENDAR

     

    Mindfulness also teaches us to turn towards uncomfortable bodily feelings i.e. anxiety. After all, anxiety is a natural feeling – especially when we face an interview or a presentation! But humans have the tendency to want to push things away that feel uncomfortable.

    As mentioned, anxiety is a natural part of human life. Thus if all we want for 'it' is to go away, then we will never get to know it. The interesting thing is that once we start observing our symptoms of anxiety, we will notice that our anxiety is simply that – anxiety: increased heartbeat, sweaty hands, etc.

    What makes anxiety so bad is all the ruminating thoughts around it, which lead to the vicious cycle of more and more anxious thoughts and feelings.

     

    Whiteboard Presentation

     

    Taking a More Mindful Approach

    Imagine you have a presentation or interview tomorrow. Someone who practices mindfulness will notice thoughts popping up, such as “I could blush or not know what to say”. They might also observe bodily feelings of anxiety arising.

    However, they will soon catch their anxious thoughts and bring their attention back to the present moment, where there is no real threat. They will also turn curiously towards and observe their bodily feelings of anxiety.

    For example, exactly how fast is my heartbeat? Where in my body can I feel it? Only in the region of my heart or does it even spread out into my fingers?

    If we approach our anxiety in a mindful and curious way, it will loosen its grip over us with time and practice.

    Now imagine that if you don't spend all your time on what could go wrong and on trying to make your feelings of anxiety go away, you'll have loads of time to actually prepare yourself for the upcoming event.

    Don't forget though, even the most experienced mindfulness practitioner will at times get anxious thoughts arising during an interview or a presentation. However, they have the mindfulness skills to come back to the here and now – the presentation or the interview giving – and that will make the likelihood of blushing or loosing their words a lot smaller!

     

    Find Out More About Our Individual and Corporate Mindfulness Courses.

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  • Why We Procrastinate & How Mindfulness Can Help

    Dog Leaning Head on Table

     

    You’re sitting at your desk, you have a task you should be getting on with, but you tell yourself you’ll start it right after you’ve checked social media. Or, maybe you’re deciding what to eat and consider eating something healthy, but you decide you’ll have pizza today and eat more healthily tomorrow.

     

    Part of you may know exactly what will happen: that you’ll get stuck on social media for the next hour, or that you’ll decide to 'eat healthily tomorrow' for two months.

    Yet, you can’t seem to stop putting things off, even when it’s something you’d quite like to get done. Why is that?

     

    What Makes Us Procrastinate?

    We may feel like we know why we’re procrastinating. If we’re in a job we hate, we’d naturally not want to complete our tasks each day. Or if the house needs cleaning but it’s sunny outside, it makes sense that we’d rather go to the beach.

    However, the fact that some of us procrastinate even when it comes to things we’d like to do, such as joining a dance class, learning a new language or decorating our home, suggests that it’s not so straight-forward.

    Even when we think we know why we’re avoiding tasks, the real reason may be a little more complex.

    Timothy A. Pychyl, author of 'Solving the Procrastination Puzzle' explains that procrastination is in fact a self-regulation failure. When we’re faced with tasks that prompt any kind of negative emotional response, even very subtle feelings of frustration or boredom, and we have low self-regulation, we go into task avoidance mode, i.e. “I’ll just do XXX first”.

    We feel unable to simply sit with our feelings of wanting to do something else, and instead feel that we must constantly act on them.

     

    To Do List - Mainly Procrastinate

     

    Poor self-regulation isn’t just a problem when it comes to getting things done. Procrastinators are also more likely to lie to themselves about how they really feel.

    For example, “I won’t do this until next week because I work better under pressure”. Procrastinators are also more likely to develop addictions or compulsive behaviours.

    Procrastination is a learned behaviour, not something we’re born with. This means that we can take steps to unlearn this way of coping with unpleasant emotions.

     

    “Effective self-regulation relies on emotion regulation, and this emotion regulation in turn relies on mindfulness.”

     

    -- TIMOTHY A. PYCHYL

     

    Mindfulness Helps Us Regulate Emotions

    Ruby Wax describes mindfulness as an 'internal weathervane'. This internal weathervane is crucial when it comes to regulating emotions. Without it, we have no hope of even knowing what we are feeling, let alone regulating it.

    Although becoming mindful of this moment right now will bring some instant benefits, it’s only with regular practice that we can fine tune that internal weathervane, helping it become more and more sensitive to the subtle emotions which come and go throughout our day.

    Michael Inzlicht from the University of Toronto sums this up:

     

    “Mindfulness as a practice cultivates the ability to Maintain focus on the present moment. This present-moment awareness provides sensitivity to sensory cues—like that negative emotional “pang” we might feel when facing an aversive task.”

     

    In other words, mindfulness gives us the ability to notice when we start feeling uncomfortable, bored, frustrated or even scared by a task. Rather than acting on unconscious drives to check emails, have a cigarette or distract ourselves, we can not only kindly acknowledge and accept the feeling, but make a conscious effort to stay in control.

    We may not always succeed - lifelong habits are hard to change overnight - but with awareness comes choice; without which we’d have no hope of doing things differently.

    Remember, mindfulness isn’t just about being aware. Compassion and acceptance are equally important. In fact, in a study by Inzlicht and Rimma Teper they concluded that people who were better at controlling their behaviour were probably able to do so because they were 'more accepting of their errors and associated conflict.'

    A habit of procrastination might make it difficult to get into a mindfulness meditation practice at first, but that’s OK. If you find youself putting it off, try to simply be aware of your resistance, accept it, and notice what feelings arise when you think of sitting down for a few minutes to meditate. It's all part of the practice.

     

    Join a Mindfulness Course and Start Building a Regular Practice.

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  • Mindfulness for Relationships

    Mindfulness Teacher - Rosalie

    An interview with mindfulness teacher, supervisor and retreat teacher, Rosalie Dores, exploring the Relational Mindfulness Course and what motivated her to become a relational mindfulness teacher.

     

    What Attracted You to Relational Mindfulness?

    I qualified to teach mindfulness in 2011 after completing my five-year master’s degree at Bangor University. While training I attended a seven-day relational meditation retreat. I had been practising meditation for 15 years. Practising relational meditation transformed my meditation practice and my relational life. It was a real turning point for me, it felt like a quickening.

    I’ve since graduated as a relational mindfulness meditation retreat teacher and spend much of my time studying reading and cultivating a wholehearted and skilful approach to life. I feel very fortunate that my passion for learning to live well, for developing the mind and body has become my livelihood.

     

    How Can Mindfulness Affect Our Relationships With Others?

    Relational mindfulness is grounded in personal solitary practice. In our personal practice we become more aware of what's going on within ourselves. With relational practice, we increase our availability to ourselves and others.

    We recognise our habits in relationships of advising, fixing, controlling or manipulating. We learn how to allow others to be as they are, and to allow ourselves to be as we are.

    A part of learning relational mindfulness, particularly as a group, relates to our sense of common humanity. We all experience challenges in relationships. We all experience some happiness. 

     

    Dog & Cat

     

    How Can Mindfulness Help Us To Communicate More Effectively?

    The first guideline we learn on the course is to pause; pause is fundamentally mindfulness. When we pause, we develop the habit of knowing what is going on in our bodies, hearts and minds.

    With mindfulness we create space to recognise our habits of relating, our reactivity and to choose a way of relating that feels more beneficial both to ourselves and others. Additionally, the safety of the group supports people in growing their confidence to be more fully, and authentically, who they are.

    People learn to recognise what values are important to them, what their needs are and how to express these, and get them met. 

     

    Join the 8-Week Relational Mindfulness Course With Rosalie.

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    How Would You Describe the Relational Mindfulness Course?

    The course was developed to help people to carry some of the calm and peace found in solitary meditation into their relational lives. Not only intimate relationships but all relationships, including our friends, family and colleagues.

    We are relational beings and as such much of our happiness relies on the quality of the relationships we find ourselves participating in. Relationships can be both a rich source of fulfilment and a primary source of stress.

    The relational mindfulness course supports people in recognising the roots of their relational stress and the possibilities for experiencing more fulfilling and satisfying relationships. 

     

    What Do Participants Do on the Relational Mindfulness Course?

    The course runs over eight weeks with two and a half hour sessions and a full day retreat day. Each session includes periods of silent meditation, relational practise, group sharing and a small amount of movement.

    Every week participants are given a specific topic that draws on western psychological understanding and eastern wisdom to support people in deepening their self knowledge and understanding. 

    During the course participants learn six meditation guidelines. These guidelines support us in accessing and developing skilful ways of relating to others. We take one of the guidelines, learn and practise it. I sometimes think the guidelines are like dials on a radio - supporting us to tune into both ourselves and others.

    People who participate in the course often speak about the depth and richness of relationships they experience with other participants. Many of them report that the course has profoundly impacted them, their experience of relationships and what might be possible. Relating in this way can bring about deep satisfaction and joy. 

     

    Tea for Two

     

    How Does This Course Differ to Other Mindfulness Courses?

    The course is different from others because it focuses specifically on relationships. It is ideal for people with a mindfulness or other meditation practises because it deepens and strengthens that practice, while developing skills for integrating awareness into daily life. 

     

    Will the Course Help Me To Build More Confidence?

    The course is excellent for supporting people in developing greater confidence. One of the core skills we learn is how to manage the inevitable anxieties, large or small, that arise in relationships.

    People with social anxiety have found the course to be liberating. Being in a group of likeminded people, cultivating awareness and suspending judgement, individuals find that they can be truly authentic. These skills are transferable to daily life. 

     

    Who Is the Relational Mindfulness Course Most Suited To?

    The course is particularly supportive for people wanting to deepen their meditation practice, as well as those who work with others or that can feel socially anxious.

    We explore every kind of relationship; family, partners, friends, colleagues and even our interactions with strangers. Essentially, it's for anyone that would like to improve the quality of their relationships to live a richer, fuller and more satisfying relational lives. 

     

    Join the 8-Week Relational Mindfulness Course With Rosalie.

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  • 4 Tips for Mindful Communication at Christmas

     

    A season for family, friends and festivities, the Christmas period brings our relationships and interactions with others into the spotlight.

     

    It’s often said that our closest relationships present us with our greatest challenges in life, so it’s little wonder that family gatherings over the festive season can be fertile ground for tension and conflict.

    Bringing mindfulness to our interactions can help us to navigate our way through this period and cultivate positive connections. 

    With this in mind, we bring you four top tips to support a mindful Christmas.

     

    1. Listen with Intent

    Connecting with others is important to our happiness and wellbeing -- when we are disconnected, we can feel stressed and revert back to reactive patterns of communication.

    We can bring mindful presence to our conversations by staying open and curious. We can listen with patience and acceptance.

    We don't necessarily have to agree with what a relative or friend is saying, but we can still be open to different points of view and listen with the intent to understand, not to judge.

    We can consider these moments an opportunity to practice equanimity and compassion.

    In this way, the person communicating has the experience of feeling respected and valued.

     

    Snowman

     

    2. Make Space for Emotion

    The festive season can bring with it a full spectrum of emotion -- from warmth and celebration, to bitterness and frustration caused by quarrels. It can also bring moments of sadness and loneliness triggered by memories of lost loved ones.

    We can use mindfulness to make space for all of our emotions by observing whatever arises, and knowing that we don’t have to act or react to it.

    Instead, we can simply let it pass through our awareness with acceptance and non-judgement.

     

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    3. Abandon Expectations

    Around this time of the year, we can find ourselves bombarded with images of Christmas ideals of unity, harmony and joy, but the reality can be different and far more complex. This is especially true when it comes to close relationships.

    We can lay the ground for a more enjoyable experience at Christmas by choosing to not have expectations. Instead, we can stay mindfully present with our social interactions as they unfold moment-by-moment.

     

    4. See the Good In Others

    Dealing with difficult relatives can be one of the greatest challenges over Christmas.

    This year, see if you can transform a testing interaction with a relative by looking for the good in their character.

    It’s always possible to find qualities that you appreciate in someone, such as kindness, generosity, humour or even just positive intentions.

    When we make the choice to stay consciously look for these traits, we may find our interactions are transformed.

     

    The Mindfulness Project runs at calendar of events to support mindfulness practice and communication throughout the year. 

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  • What Is Mindful Self-Compassion?

     

    An interview with mindfulness teacher and supervisor Jiva Masheder, as she reflects on the practice of mindful self-compassion. 

     

    Firstly, Can You Tell Us a Bit About Yourself?

    I came to mindfulness in 1997 and loved it immediately. In 2007 I started the Masters programme at Bangor University to train to teach mindfulness which I finished in 2012. 

    I find the practice so beneficial in terms of improved emotional stability and mood and greater clarity about my own internal processes, which gives me choices about how I want to be. 

    After 20 years of mindfulness practice, I still felt something was somehow missing. Mindful Self Compassion filled that space and has been enormously helpful to me in viewing myself more kindly. 

     

    What’s the Science Behind Self-Compassion?

    This works because we are very sensitive to an internal climate of criticism and judgement - it's like having someone nagging at you, all the time, and this contributes to anxiety and depression. 

    As mammals, we are hard-wired  to respond well to kindness and tenderness, and cultivating that as our internal climate is enormously beneficial for our wellbeing. It's also quite possible to do. 

    It turns out a kind internal motivator works better than a harsh one! Just think of the best teachers or coaches you've ever had - were they kind and encouraging? Or did they berate you at every turn?

    Dr. Kristin Neff, who co-wrote the Mindful Self-Compassion programme with Dr. Chris Germer, is a researcher on the subject of self-compassion. She has written three books on the subject; ‘Self-Compassion’, 'The Mindful Self Compassion Workbook’ and ‘Fierce Self-Compassion’.

     

    Cat Relaxing

     

    What Are Some of the Benefits of Self-Compassion?

    There's a mass of research to show benefits such as reductions in anxiety and stress, depression, and building resilience.

    It can help to improve communication and relationships, support healthy living and allow us to self-regulate emotion. It also offers a general sense of well-being and self-worth.

     

    Isn’t Self-Compassion All About Bubble Baths and Chocolate?

    The research shows that actually, when we are more self-compassionate, we are more likely to have good health behaviours. So while the occasional bubble bath and chocolate might be just the right thing, people are also more likely to eat healthily, exercise and get enough sleep.

    Self-compassion can also help us to draw clear boundaries so that we're choosing where, when and how to spend our time. When we focus on our values in a self-compassionate way we can protect what is important to us.

    For example, if we value family time it might mean declining an invitation to a work event we don't really want to attend to ensure we have the time (and energy) to dedicate to our family. 

    We don't get more self-indulgent - which is a common concern - we are more like a good parent who makes sure their child eats their broccoli!

     

    Join a Mindful Self-Compassion Course or Workshop.

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    Will Self-Compassion Help Me To Silence My Inner Critic?

    We do spend a session looking at the inner critic. People often feel that without it, they'll just lie in a bath and eat chocolate all day. 

    Instead, we learn to develop compassionate, encouraging motivation, which over time will come to replace the inner critic. This does take time. 

    Whilst self-compassion might not silence our inner critic, we can learn to relate to it differently and find a kinder motivation which can gradually replace the inner critic.

     

    Heart-Shaped Coffee & Fern

     

    How Does the Course Differ From the MBSR and MBCT Course?

    It's superficially similar - eight weeks, group course, practices and sharing. However, it includes more reflective guidance and written exercises. There’s also more discussion and exploration in small groups than you typically do in MBSR or MBCT. 

    As you'd expect, it also has a far bigger emphasis on self-kindness and a wider range of self-compassion practices to engage with. Many participants appreciate this as they're more likely to find a couple of practices that really resonate. 

    The course works well whether you've got experience in mindfulness or not. It's also a great follow-on course after a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course.

     

    Is There Any Home-Practice on the Course?

    From the first week there are practices to engage with and they are a crucial part of the course. They are shorter than MBSR, typically 15-20 minutes, and there's a wider range to choose from

    The suggestion is to do 20-30 minutes a day of guided practice. As with anything, the more time you give yourself to engage with the course, the more it will give you. The programme also equips participants with ongoing practices and reflective exercises beyond the course.

     

    Join a Mindful Self-Compassion Course or Workshop.

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