Love

  • Using the Body’s Wisdom as a Signpost to Healthy Relationships

    Written by Alexa Frey

    Mindfulness means living in our body. Noticing what footprint experiences leave on us.

    Some of us were repeatedly hurt by our primary caregivers or other important people in our lives. Repeatedly. Throughout childhood or adolescence.

    People hurt us and we got used to that pain. Somehow pain became part of our lives.

    Now, as grown ups, we might find ourselves meeting people who hurt us. We might have a partner that doesn’t give us what we need. Maybe he or she is even causing us emotional pain on a regular basis. Or we find ourselves working in a job that stresses us out, day by day.

    If we were exposed to repeated pain in our childhoods and couldn’t escape, we are now more likely to stay stuck in and stay in such unhealthy situations or relationships. We’re trying to manage, tell ourselves it’s not as bad. We’re enduring. We’re trapped.

    How can we use mindfulness to free ourselves from our past conditioning that creates unhealthy patterns in the present?

    It’s simple. By dropping into and checking in with our bodies.

    How does this over-chatty and nervous friend make me feel we meet in this loud bar? Does my chest tense up, or does my heart rate increase? Does my body become restless?

    How does my body feel at work? Am I feeling claustrophobic? Stressed out? Tense?

    How does my romantic partner make me feel every time we meet? A bit anxious that I am not good enough? Restless or bored?

    As we start to frequently check in with how our body feels in certain situations and with certain people, we will become more and more aware, which situations and people actually nourish us, and which deplete us.

    The next step is to take care of ourselves. Which means, taking the necessary life changes to expose ourselves less to situations and people that leave a negative footprint on our body, and increase the ones, that make us more happy and healthy.

    So, mindfulness is about using our bodies wisdom. We don’t always have to analyse every situation or person. How about we just simply start with asking ourselves: how does this right now, make me feel, in my body? That’s it.

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    MEDITATIONS:

    Body Scan

    Good Friend Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course

  • “They Might Have Guns But We Have Flowers.”

    paris2In a recent interview at the scene of the Bataclan attacks in Paris, one French father shared a beautiful message of hope with his young son.

    In the short clip, the son says that they will have to leave their home because of the terrorists. After the father’s reassurance that they won’t be leaving, and that France is their home, his son pleads, “They have guns, they can shoot us because they’re really really mean daddy.” His father then replies, “It’s okay, they might have guns but we have flowers.”

    “But flowers don’t do anything,” says the son.

    “Of course they do, look,” says the father, pointing towards them, “everyone is putting flowers. It’s to fight against the guns.”

    “It’s to protect?”

    “Exactly.”

    “And the candles too?”

    “It’s to remember the people who are gone yesterday.”

    “The flowers and candles are here to protect us,” says the son.

    There’s a short pause as the reporter, the father and the son smile warmly at each other, and then the reporter asks the boy, “Do you feel better now?”

    “Yes, I feel better,” says the boy.

    Some may argue that this exchange was ‘soft’ or naïve, because of course flowers and candles cannot protect us from bullets and bombs. And yet, these things can protect us from the hatred and fear that terrorist attacks inevitably cause. Expressions of love and unity protect us from closing our hearts; they protect us from disconnecting from each other.

    Mindfulness practice teaches us how to redirect our focus; away from dwelling endlessly on the men with guns and towards the acts of courage and love which have been shown not just in Paris, but also in Beirut and other parts of the world. That’s not to say that we ignore the tragedy of what has happened and that we should not educate ourselves on the spread Islamic Extremism and do whatever we can to prevent it from spreading. But it is helpful to consciously notice the continuing goodness of people too. People like Adel Termos, who selflessly tackled a suicide bomber to the ground in Beirut, thus saving countless others from the explosion.

    Thankfully few of us will ever face the terror of gunshots. Yet we all face the fear those gunshots send echoing across the world. If we can mindfully look to the goodness of people, to the flowers and candles, to the kindness expressed in the face of horror, then we have not lost.

    “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people helping.’” Fred Rogers

  • Can We Practice Falling in Love?

    mindfulnessIf we look at the phrase ‘to fall in love’ we’ll notice that it implies an effortlessness. We don’t think of it as a ‘pushing’, ‘forcing’ or ‘creating’; it’s a falling, a letting go. If we think of the things that we are in love with, whether it’s a partner, a close friend, a pet, a career, or even a pastime, we’re likely to find that we did not choose to love them. Rather, there developed a love which we have allowed ourselves to be open to.

    This makes love a rather beautiful and precious thing. We love things not because they are perfect (after all, what in life is truly perfect?), or because we have made a logical decision to love, but because we’ve tapped into a connection or alignment with that thing in that moment.

    That feeling of falling in love can be fleeting. Perhaps this is because it requires a presence that we often don’t feel we have time for, or at least don’t make the time for in our busy lives. Even in long term relationships, where one would assume both partners are consistently ‘in love’, there are in fact moments when you find yourself falling back in love again after having become disconnected. This usually happens in moments of letting go of expectations, resentments, and narrowed ideas of how things should or shouldn’t be. When we’re just ‘there’ with that person, connecting heart to heart, that’s when we find ourselves falling into love.

    So can we practice falling in love? It actually seems a lot like practicing mindfulness. With love comes acceptance and compassion, and a gentle tenderness. Perhaps love is not that dissimilar to that state of presence we so often talk about in mindfulness. If we make a conscious decision to stay open to life, maybe we can practice falling in love with a beautiful view, a bittersweet song, the dog barking in the street, a stranger who smiles at us, an inconvenient change in the weather, an old friend, a new date, or the partner we’ve spent many years with.

    .....

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

    Gratitude Meditation

    Love Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Cultivating Happiness Workshop

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

  • Getting the Most Out of the Summer

    Flower Box

    Summer is here! And so it’s time for picnics, walks on the beach, BBQ’s with family and friends, and chilled out summer evenings. For those of us in England, it can also mean super changeable weather!  But whether we’re having a typically unpredictable English summer, or the sun and sand of exotic holiday destinations, there’s many things around us at this time of year that we can take time to appreciate and feel grateful for. We can use the signs of summer as reminders to practice being mindful.

    The Gift of Sunshine

    There’s something about a clear blue sky and warm summer sunshine that makes life seem that little bit easier. Of course, just because the clouds have gone doesn’t mean our worries have too. Yet by taking a moment to appreciate the nicer weather we can at least soften our troubles for a while. Actively noticing and feeling grateful for the positive things in life, like the sunshine, can help make us healthier and more resilient. You can read more about this in our blog post, 8 Wellbeing Benefits Of Practicing Gratitude.

    So next time we notice that the sun is shining, we can take a few deep breathes and spend a moment or two to focus on our experience. We can let our eyes drink in the beautiful blue of the sky, and notice the warmth of the sun on our skin or in our hair. Try sending a smile or a heart-felt ‘thank you’ up to the sky, and notice how it might change your day.

    Switching Off

    Maybe we’re on the beach or lounging in the garden, and we want to take pictures of our cocktails or our ‘hot dog legs’ to put on social media. This isn’t a bad thing, but maybe we don’t always need to show the world that we’re having a nice time; maybe sometimes we can appreciate the lovely day and keep the experience as a private gift to ourselves, or something we only share with those who are there with us.

    Mindfulness is all about getting in touch with the moment to moment nature of life. By pausing and settling in to the moment, we may find that it’s simply enough to enjoy what we’re doing without immediately reaching for our phone to share it. Experiment with appreciating some moments just for yourself, and see how it changes your experience.

    Connecting with Nature

    Summer offers a great opportunity to spend some time in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of town or city life. Although a lot can be said for winter walks, sometimes it’s easier and more pleasant to be outdoors when it’s warm and dry! If we’re not mindful, the summer can pass us by before we know it, so if we have busy schedules we may need to consciously set aside some time to appreciate it while it’s here.

    No matter where we choose to go, there will be plenty of things around us to help us become more mindful. If we go to the beach, we can take time to notice how the warm sand feels between our toes, or how the gentle sound of waves can soothe our worries away. If we’re in the countryside, we can notice how the sun shines through the leaves on the trees, creating brilliant greens and dappled shade on the ground. Or we can watch how the bees and butterflies flit from flower to flower.

    The great thing about nature is that it’s never in a rush. It takes its time, and yet everything gets done: the flowers bloom, the grass grows and the bees collect their pollen. This provides us with a gentle reminder that we too are part of nature, and that we are all growing and blooming in our own time.

    Ice Creams, Berries and BBQ’s!

    When it comes to food and drink, there are lots of things we can enjoy in the summer that just don’t taste the same at any other time of the year. If we practice mindful eating and drinking, we can really enjoy and savour these things.

    We can notice how our ice cream tastes, and how it melts in the heat. As we try to lick the edges of our ice creams before they melt, we may be reminded of carefree childhood summers, or simply just enjoy getting a little messy! If we’re eating strawberries, we can slow right down and really experience eating them; noticing how they look, smell and how they taste as we bite into them. Maybe they’re still warm from the sun, and so we can feel grateful for being able to eat fresh locally grown fruit. And if we’re at a BBQ with friends or family, we can take the time to notice the smell of the coals and smoke, or even how it’s kind of satisfying to watch how the food slowly cooks on the grill.

    There are so many unique sights, sounds, textures and tastes to be enjoyed in the summer, and noticing them with more attention, and intention, can make our moments so rich and memorable!

    Changing from one season to another can be difficult. The following meditation helps you let go and be grateful for the season that lies behind you, and lets you welcome and look forward to the new one - so that you can gracefully flow through life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3nFcLtGWuU&t=13s

    Would you like to learn more about how mindfulness can enrich our lives? Check out our calendar for upcoming workshops and courses!

  • Being Vulnerable In Love

    There’s a popular saying that we must first love ourselves before we can expect others to love us. However, as with everything in life, the truth is more complicated than that.

    Love for ourselves will come and go; there will be times when we actually don’t like ourselves at all. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be loved by others. What is more crucial in a relationship is that we are willing to be vulnerable and honest; that we are willing to be open and show our loved ones who we really are, warts and all. This is by no means an easy feat, and however long we have been with our partner, it doesn’t seem to get easier with time. Being vulnerable is painful, and risky. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

    Love is a Risky Business

    Even in the early stages of a relationship we’ll find that vulnerability is necessary. Telling our date that we’d like to see them again, leaning in for that nervous first kiss, or telling them for the first time that we love them, all require us to take a risk. We open and offer our hearts to this other person, without any guarantee that they’ll want it. It’s no wonder that many of us find it easier to stay single! Yet love can’t blossom without us taking these risks, without these painfully vulnerable moments. This is true even 10 or 20 years into a relationship. The need to be vulnerable with each other never goes away.

    Strawberry Heart Square_3For a long time, society has taught us that vulnerability is a weakness. We’re not safe when we’re vulnerable, so it’s important to be strong. It’s true that we don’t feel ‘safe’ at all when we open ourselves up to others. But mindfulness can help with this.

    “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
    Thích Nhất Hạnh

    Life gets difficult when thoughts, emotions and outside events are constantly throwing us off balance. This is also true in relationships. When every misunderstanding and argument throws us into doubt and inner turmoil, it may feel that being in a relationship is not worth the hassle. However, through the practice of mindfulness we can develop a stronger centre, an anchor to ourselves. This way we can keep our heads above the waves, even if sometimes it feels like we’re only just managing to do so, rather than drowning every time our imperfections make the waters become choppy.

    Reframing Our Baggage

    By cultivating compassion and adopting a less judgemental viewpoint, we can reframe not only our own flaws and hang-ups, but those of our partner too. Rather than seeing our failings as a sign that there is something wrong with us, or that we’re not good enough (or that our partner is not good enough), we can start to see that everything we struggle with is simply a sign that we are human. These imperfections are something we share with all of humanity. Whatever we may feel embarrassed about or ashamed of within ourselves are not unique to us alone.

    Of course, there will be some issues that cannot be tolerated within a relationship. Not all relationships can last. But even in these cases, we can aim to end relationships in the most compassionate way that we are able to, forgiving ourselves or our partner if possible, so that we can move on in life without holding onto resentment or blame.

    Taking the Plunge

    There can be no love without an element of risk. In order to connect with others on such an intimate level, we are required to go out on a limb, to potentially make fools of ourselves, to take the risk of being rejected. But the payoff from taking these risks can be worth all the heartache it may cause.

    We can only be truly loved if we are loved as a whole. Allowing someone to only see and love our best side means we are not loved fully. The same goes for our partner; if we don’t allow them space to be imperfect, can we really say that we love them?

    Ultimately, if we want love we must dive into it, even though it is bound to be messy and difficult at times, because true love will also be beautiful and profound too. Let mindfulness be your anchor, and take the plunge.