Monthly Archives: December 2015

  • Delve into the Unknown This New Year

    Dive

    It’s at this time of year that we reflect on what we have done during the previous twelve months, and think forward to the future to what we would like to achieve. This can be a good time to honestly and mindfully look at our lives and consider whether we are feeling fulfilled, and what we might do differently to ensure we are spending our time in ways that make us feel alive and content.

    What usually happens when we do this is to think of changes we’d like to make and new things we’d like to try. However, while the prospect of change can be exciting, it can also be daunting, especially for those of us who struggle with anxiety. When faced with the unknown, our minds naturally try to seek answers, even when there aren’t any. We want to know beforehand how we will cope, how we will feel and what to expect. Because we can’t possibly know these things, our ‘answers’ can so often take the form of ‘I can’t’, ‘It’s a silly idea’ or ‘I’m just not ready/capable’. And so we find ourselves sticking with what’s familiar.

    Making plans is of course important. It’s not wise to rush into new things unprepared, especially if it’s something big like travelling to a new place or changing career. Doing some research or asking for advice can help answer some of the more practical questions we may have. Yet there will come a point when we must finally face the unknown, without all the answers. As we all know, life is not always accommodating to our careful planning.

    Mindfulness can help us meet the unknown with presence and curiosity. When we get stuck in our old thought patterns we become inflexible; unable to open to new experiences or to access new parts of ourselves. But if we can find ways of coming back to this moment right here (again and again) we can not only find the courage to try new things, we may also surprise ourselves. We may find that we are far more capable than our habitual doubts and worries would have us believe. And we may also find that simply being more present in life creates exciting changes all by itself!

    MEDITATIONS:

    Changing Season Meditation

    COURSES WORKSHOPS:

    New Year's Resolution Workshop

  • Every Encounter is a Once in a Lifetime Occasion

    photo-1449885164684-02f9f7f1caa5 (2)

    ‘Ichi-go ichi-e’ is a Japanese idiom which roughly translates as ‘one time, one meeting’. It is used as a reminder that each encounter we have with a person or group of people will never be repeated. Even if we meet with those people regularly, that one particular encounter with them is unique.

    According to the Japanese Tea Culture Glossary, the expression has been traced back to a 16th century Japanese tea master, Sen no Rikyū. The concept was later elaborated on in the 19th century by Ii Naosuke: “Even though the host and guests may see each other often socially, one day's gathering can never be repeated exactly. Viewed this way, the meeting is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.”

    Indeed, it’s interesting to reflect on how our experiences with family and friends over the holidays, or even with our co-workers when we return to our routines, might take on a deeper significance if we were to view each encounter in this way.

    We might sometimes feel that life is rather monotonous: we may see the same people, and do the same things every year. But if we can bring more mindfulness to these occasions we may find that life actually presents us with many new and unique moments, if we just adjust our perspective a little.

    Experiment with applying the ‘ichi-go ichi-e’ concept as you engage with people over the holidays, and notice how it changes your experience of them. We’d love to hear your findings in the comments below!

    MEDITATIONS:

    Good Friend Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course

  • Don’t Forget Self-Care This Christmas

    photo-1423145369430-a9ea0de096cdChristmas is a time for thinking of and giving to others, and of course that’s what makes this time of year so beautiful and special! Yet it’s also important to take time for ourselves amidst all of the gift-giving, party preparations and cooking. Sure it’s a fun holiday, but if you’re responsible for buying the family presents, or if you’re hosting Christmas dinner, it’s easy to start feeling the pressure. Making sure you take care of yourself as well means you can enjoy the festivities without any unnecessary stress.

    Mindfulness is important when it comes to self-care, because without it we are not likely to notice when the pressure is getting to us. We have a habit of trying to soldier through things, often thinking to ourselves that we’ll only have time to rest once this and that are done. But there’s no reason why we can’t care for ourselves as we go.

    Those who have a regular meditation practice will probably be used to checking in with how you’re feeling. Maybe you’ll notice when you’re feeling tight, or feeling tired or overwhelmed. If you don’t meditate regularly, or if you struggle with noticing when you’re feeling low, it may be useful to set an alarm to go off at certain times of the day, to remind you to take a moment and ask ‘how am I feeling right now?’

    Once we get into this habit, it becomes easier to take action when we’re not feeling great. What we do to help ourselves feel better and cared-for is very individual. Perhaps we might make time for a relaxing bath, we might watch a film that makes us laugh, or we might go for a walk in the countryside. As it’s Christmas, maybe we could put on our favourite Christmas song that fills us with warm nostalgic Christmas feelings, or we might even buy a gift for ourselves! Whatever it is that makes you feel more relaxed, happy or rejuvenated, try and find some time for it this Christmas, because when we take care of ourselves, we have more energy for taking care of other people too.

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    MEDITATIONS:

    Changing Season Meditation

    Candle Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

  • Putting Down Our Cameras to Make Mindful Memories

    CameraMobile technology makes it easier than ever before to document special moments in photographs or videos. However, how many of these moments are we actually experiencing mindfully, rather than simply viewing through a screen? Whilst it’s wonderful to be able to capture these sights or occasions so that we can remember them later on, we may sometimes find ourselves simply pointing and clicking in lieu of really looking and letting the moment sink into our minds.

    Mindfulness encourages us to slow down, and even to completely stop sometimes in order to notice or savour what we are currently experiencing. Rather than rushing from moment to moment, trying to see or do as much as possible, we can instead start taking the time to use our senses as a kind of camera, capturing the moment in a deeper way. By mindfully looking, listening, feeling, tasting or smelling, we can create a full sensory memory of the moment, so that in the future when we look back we’ll have more than just a snapshot on our phone. Although of course we can still take a photo or video as well!

    Next time you’re at a party or get-together with friends or family, or next time you see something beautiful or interesting, pause and take a moment to let the scene sink into your mind first. Really feel into the emotions it brings, whether it’s happiness, gratitude, love, awe or fascination, let it permeate your whole being. It may be helpful to think of it as a way of honouring the moment with your full presence. Take a mental snapshot before you take one on your camera, and then notice how it changes the quality of the memory when you look back on it later on.

  • A Thought on Judgement

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    With the practice of mindfulness comes a lot of talk about non-judgement. Indeed, when we become more mindful we do naturally loosen our ideas of what’s good and bad, right and wrong, etc., and as a result we may drop some of our past prejudices and knee-jerk reactions to things. However, judgement is also necessary; we need it in order to navigate our daily lives and to make decisions. So how do we find the balance?

    It’s useful to approach judgement with curiosity. If we can step back from automatically buying into every opinion we have, we can start to learn more about where our judgements are coming from, whether they’re helpful or not, and whether they are in line with our true values.

    For example, say we’re with a friend and they’re telling us about a problem they’re having. As we listen, our minds may be throwing up many judgements about why the problem is happening, what our friend could do differently, even judgements about the overall character of our friend. These judgements are inevitable (we can’t stop our minds from judging) however our reaction to those judgements is slightly more within our control. As soon as we notice them, we can try to hold them more lightly. This way, we don’t get so lost in our judgemental thoughts, and can instead redirect our focus on listening with more awareness.

    However there will of course be times when we must act on our judgements. If our friend is constantly telling us about their problems and yet never asks how we are doing, we may feel that we no longer want to spend time with that person. And that’s okay. Being mindful isn’t about passively accepting everything that happens in life. It’s about cultivating that ability to reflect on our judgements first, and then take action.

    So next time you notice a judgement, get to know it a little better. Is this judgement coming from your values, or just from the temporary mood you’re in? Is it true? Is it fair? After taking a few deep breaths, or even meditating for twenty minutes, is the judgement still the same? Don’t push the judgement away or make it wrong, simply sit with it for a while and explore.

    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    Good Friend Meditation

    RETREATS:

    8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course

  • This is the Season to be Jolly… But What If You Aren’t?

    goatFor some of us Christmas is the most enjoyable time of the year. However, for others it might be a more difficult or painful time. When we’re caught up in our excitement, we may sometimes find ourselves pressuring others to feel the same way as us; reacting with judgement or criticism (either directly or passively) when someone tells us that they won’t be sending Christmas cards, or that they’d rather spend Christmas Day alone with a meal for one. This reaction, whilst understandable (we might fear losing our own joy) and socially acceptable, actually flies in the face of what most of us consider to be the true spirit of the season: love.

    There are many valid reasons for people to not enjoy this time of year. It may mark the anniversary of the loss of a loved one, it might remind us of a painful childhood, or the sights, sounds and expectations of Christmas might simply just be too overwhelming for the senses. And just because it’s Christmas time doesn’t mean that normal life stops; couples still get divorced, people become ill, lose their jobs, or suffer with depression.

    The most compassionate thing that we can do is to say, ‘It’s okay’ to our friends or family members who aren’t feeling jolly this Christmas, or to ourselves if we’re the one feeling that way. We can use mindfulness to help us make space for those feelings to just be as they are, without trying to enforce cheer upon ourselves or others. If you’re excited and happy for Christmas, that’s okay! Enjoy it! But if you’re not feeling so great, that’s okay too. Just bring awareness to whatever is arising right now, whether festive or not, and try to meet that experience with openness and presence.

    MEDITATION:

    Candlelight Meditation

    Changing Seasons Meditation

    Good Friend Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

    8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course

    New Year's Resolution Workshop

  • Eat, Drink and Be Merry (Mindfully)!

    smell
    If you’re trying to stay healthy, the Christmas season can bring some stress. When we’re catching up with friends and family, and attending work parties, we’ll likely be offered countless mince pies, cakes and chocolates, plus plenty of glasses of alcohol. Usually we might eat and drink too much in December and then try to make up for it in January with a strict diet. Yet we could instead use a little mindfulness this season so that we can enjoy all the tasty things without feeling guilty, bloated and groggy afterwards.

    Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the food and drink after all. The smell of mulled wine, the taste of spiced fruit, and that sound of lifting the lid off of a box of chocolates are nostalgic elements of the season. We probably have many warm memories of these things, and so we should feel free to enjoy them! By mindfully savouring these treats we’ll not only enjoy them more fully, but we’ll also be less likely to overindulge and make ourselves sick.

    The key to mindful eating (and drinking) is to slow down and fully engage all the senses, and what better time to do this than at Christmas! When we eat a slice of Christmas cake we can savour the smell of mixed spices, and take a moment to think of the time it took to soak the fruit in the alcohol, then to mix it with the cake batter, and then to decorate it, all so that we can enjoy eating it in this moment. Even if we’re out drinking, we can apply the same attention, savouring the warmth of our mulled wine or the bubbles in our champagne; we can mindfully enjoy getting a little light-headed and merry, and of course we can also savour the company of our friends and loved ones.

    It’s usually only when we do these things mindlessly that we end up regretting them; we knock back too much wine or overeat without noticing, and are then left with all the bad feelings that come after, like a hangover or a stomach ache. But by being present while we eat and drink, we can monitor our feelings as we go and will know when we’ve had enough.

    So this Christmas don’t be afraid of mince pies and bubbly; be present and make precious memories of sharing them with friends!

    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Eating Awareness Training Workshop

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course