Mindful Eating

  • Mindfulness for Teenagers

    It goes without saying that adolescence is a time of physiological and emotional upheaval.  Emerging from the cocoon of childhood in a tumult of hormones, physical developments and emotions, teenagers try and forge their own place, their own identity and to do so whilst trying to manage the expectations and opinions of their family, friends, and wider peer groups. Add to that the omnipresent reality of homework and exams, demanding extracurriculars, and impending decisions about their future and it is easy to see how these very real pressures can increase stress and anxiety.

    Luckily, there is increasing awareness of the pressures faced by teenagers, and the need to help guide them in dealing with the emotional realities of adolescence. Within mindfulness there are courses and school-based programmes specifically aimed at teenagers. These have provided a foundation for the growing research interest in the field, which is indeed showing positive results. A recent study showed that group mindfulness practice for teenagers resulted in “significant improvements in anxiety, internalising stress and attention”. Another research paper looking at mindfulness and self-compassion highlights how a course not only has the “potential to decrease stress”, but to also boost positive aspects of behaviour, such as “increasing resilience and positive risk taking”.

    Mindfulness, as the research indicates, can offer tools and attitudes that help navigate the uneven terrain of adolescence. Stress, anxiety and pressure are part of a teenagers’ reality, but they do not have to be debilitating. Through mindfulness, they can develop awareness, resilience and the emotional intelligence needed to skillfully cope with the pressures of their academic and social lives.

    One of the missing pieces is how to give teenagers access to mindfulness programmes outside of school-based programmes, as these are not yet widely available. One of the best ways is to practice and embody it as a parent. Be a living demonstration of the ability to respond rather than react at times of difficulty and stress. By seeing how a calm, even demeanour leads to less emotional upheaval, the benefits of mindfulness are passed on almost by osmosis.

    But this might not be enough on its own. Teenagers are known to rebel against anything their parents do or suggest, so they might dismiss your actions. Or perhaps they simply do not pay attention to your good example. Therefore, getting them to practice mindfulness themselves might require other in-roads.

    One way is to use the technology that is (quite literally) at their fingertips. Smartphones are now central to the lives of teenagers and these devices can be utilised to help them engage with mindfulness. There are apps they can use. Headspace has a version of their app for younger children, three different age ranges going up to 12, while “Stop, Breathe, Think” and “Smiling Mind” have been developed to make mindfulness accessible for teens.  Youtube too has a wealth of videos aimed at engaging teenagers with mindfulness and the cultivation of wellbeing, helping make it relevant to them.

    The one thing these technological routes into mindfulness cannot offer though is the teacher led experience. Mindfulness practice raises many avenues to explore and there is a need to find a qualified and experienced teacher who can skillfully guide practitioners. There are some options available. There are some family and child therapists who offer mindfulness for teenagers, or perhaps a dipping the toe in the water approach, attending a workshop, may be the perfect way to get teenagers into mindfulness in a relaxed and informal way?

    Even if teenagers only grudgingly participate at first -- they will thank you later. It seems safe to say that everyone who comes to mindfulness wishes they had only found it sooner.

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    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindful Parenting Workshop

  • How To Use Mindfulness To Cultivate Happiness

     

    By Amy Jane Wood

    Is negative thinking clouding your happiness? Mindfulness may be able to help. Scientific studies have confirmed that we all hardwired with a ‘negativity bias’ - an evolutionary function that was once necessary for our survival. This means our brains are built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news and a tendency to embed negative experiences more strongly than positive ones. As Dr. Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, puts it: The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” But the good news is we can break this bias. Studies have shown that mindfulness can help to rewire the brain and increase our capacity for happiness and wellbeing. Read on to find out how…

    Mindfulness short circuits negative thinking

    In mindfulness, we learn to be on close terms with the nature of the mind. As we hone in on our present moment experience and observe our mental activity, we become more skillful at noticing when our minds are getting caught up in negative and discouraging patterns of thought. In observing this, we can choose to break the circuit and shift to a self-compassionate mode of thinking that is supportive and nurturing instead.

    Mindfulness promotes gratitude

    Gratitude is a powerful antidote to negative thinking. To be mindful means to be aware of what is happening around us, and within us - and this is the first step towards being grateful for what we have. Cultivating an awareness and appreciation of the things that are going well in our lives and developing a daily gratitude practice prevents negativity from clouding our vision and reinforces positive connections in the brain that increase our capacity for happiness. It’s simple and transformative.

    Mindfulness rewires the brain

    What we think, feel and do all sculpt our neural networks. This is neuroplasticity in action - the brain‘s ability to constantly change throughout life and rewire itself in response to our feelings, thoughts and experiences. Research has shown that every time we use a particular pathway of thinking - either positive or negative - it increases the likelihood that we will do it again. Happily, mindfulness can be used as a tool to dislodge deep-rooted negative thinking patterns over time and chart new pathways in their place, which are more positive and nurturing. By bringing mindful awareness to everyday positive experiences, noticing when something feels good and actively taking in that feeling, we can weave the experience into the brain. The more we establish and exercise these pathways for happiness, the stronger they become.

    Mindfulness builds inner contentment

    One of the greatest gifts that mindfulness can bring to our lives is a sense of inner happiness and calm. It is often said that states of anxiety and depression stem from our ways of thinking - if we’re anxious, we’re spending too much time thinking about the future and if we’re depressed, we’re ruminating too frequently on the past. Of course, there are other factors to consider here - both biological and environmental - but the simple act of staying present keeps us more centred, teaches us acceptance and gives us a greater appreciation of life. In mindfulness, we also train ourselves to observe the world more objectively - which gives us the power to see things as they are, not as we are. This allows us to respond to situations and interactions without projecting our own mental model onto them, and frees us from the tendency to live in our own minds.

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    MEDITATIONS:

    Gratitude Meditation

    Love Meditation

    Animal Affection

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Cultivating Happiness Workshop

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

  • The Secret to Keeping your New Year’s Resolutions

    It happens every year. We start off with the best intentions to break old habits, learn new skills, stay fit, be productive, get happy. But we are quickly reminded that change rarely happens in one fell swoop. Lasting changes are made up of lots of little choices, lots of little moments that, when added up together, become powerful. The key to being present for those moments where change can actually happen is mindfulness.

    In practice, mindfulness is a simple and very powerful way of training our awareness. It is about paying attention to what is happening here and now (i.e. to sensations, thoughts, and emotions) in a non-judgemental way. The practice also encompasses a set of principles that can wholeheartedly change how we relate to our experiences. In this way, it can serve as an antidote to the stress and habits that can undermine our health, performance and quality of life. From a place of inner calm and balance, we are better able to set value-oriented goals and move towards the positive life changes we seek, one moment and choice at a time.

    Regardless of your goals for 2017, every regime can benefit from mindfulness. By becoming more present and grounded in our day-to-day lives, we can start to surf the urges that keep us locked in old habits and patterns, and instead make healthier choices that align more truly with our values and offer a start to long-lasting change.

    Here are some tips on how to set and keep your New Year’s resolutions:

    1) Use mindfulness to tune into your body and sense what really matters to you when you make your resolutions. Then let your values guide your priorities.

    2) Set goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding and time-based).

    3) Take small steps.

    4) Bring awareness to those moments when urges to pursue old patterns arise. Notice how it feels in your body and use your breath to surf the urge. See if you can make a different choice.

    5) Savor the satisfaction. Take time to acknowledge how good it feels when you achieve a goal.

    6) Self-Compassion: Try motivating yourself with kindness rather than criticism, and see how it changes your experience.

    Remember that change isn’t easy and takes time and practice. And whether you start in the New Year or any other time, remember that every moment is a new opportunity to begin again.

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    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    New Year's Resolution Workshop

    RETREATS:

    3-Day Mindfulness and Nature Connection Retreat

     

     

  • Understanding The Seven Types Of Hunger

    Purchase this image at http://www.stocksy.com/40413

    How many times have you reached for a handful of snacks at a party and munched through them without thinking, or ordered dessert even though you were already completely stuffed, just because it looked so good?

    We eat for many reasons - because we’re stressed or feeling sad, because we feel like we deserve a treat or simply because it’s our scheduled mealtime.

    Eating mindfully is about expanding our awareness around food habits, so that we can make a more conscious decision of what to put in our mouths and when. According to Jan Chozen-Bays, MD, author of the book ‘Mindful Eating’, there are seven different types of hunger relating to different parts of our anatomy - the eyes, nose, mouth, stomach, cells, mind and heart.

    Once we are more aware of these different types of hunger and their reasons, we can respond consciously and more appropriately to satisfy them. Here are the seven types:

    1. Eye hunger

    We are very stimulated by sight, so a beautifully presented meal will be a lot more appealing to us than a bucket of slop - even if the ingredients are the same. To satisfy eye hunger, we can really feast our eyes on the food before we put it in our mouths. If we mindlessly stuff our dinner in our mouths while watching TV, we’re wasting an opportunity to really appreciate it.

    2. Nose hunger

    Most of what we think of as taste is actually the smell of the food. Our sense of smell is much more subtle than that of taste, as anyone who’s had a head cold and a stuffed up nose will tell! To satisfy your nose hunger, practice sensitising yourself to the smell of your food, isolated from taste, by taking a pause before eating to really take in the aromas.

    3. Mouth hunger

    What we think of as tasty, appealing food is often actually socially conditioned or influenced by our upbringing. This includes how sweet or salty we want our food to be, and the kinds of seasoning and spices we like. What is considered a delicacy in one country can be repellent to another culture. Anyone for deep-fried cockroaches?! Many people’s aversion to raw food is a prime example of this social conditioning of the mouth hunger. Generating greater awareness and a sense of open curiosity around the flavours and textures in our mouths as we eat can help satisfy our mouth hunger.

    4. Stomach hunger   

    A rumbling tummy is one of the main ways we recognise hunger. And yet, it doesn’t necessarily mean our body needs food. The hunger cues from the stomach are self-taught - linked to the schedule we’ve given it for when are appropriate times to eat. It takes practice to sense when a grumbling stomach means actual hunger. Often, we can confuse the sensation with other feelings that affect our stomach such as anxiety or nervousness. If we feed anxiety with junk food, then get more anxious about our diet, we can spark off a negative spiral of emotional eating. What to do? This takes practice. Listen to the stomach’s cues and start to familiarise yourself with them. Try delaying eating when you feel hungry and become aware of the sensations. Assess your hunger on a scale from 1-10 before a meal, then halfway through check in again and do the same.

    5. Cellular hunger

    When our cells need nutrients, we might feel irritable, tired or we may get a headache. Cellular hunger is one of the hardest types of hunger to sense, even though it is the original reason for eating. When we were children, we intuitively knew when we needed to eat, and what our body was craving. But over time, we lose our ability. Through mindfulness, it’s possible to become more aware of our body’s cravings for specific nutrients and to develop some of the inner wisdom we had when we were children. As Jan Chozen-Bays says, “To learn to listen to cellular hunger is the primary skill of mindful eating.”

    6. Mind hunger

    Modern society has made us very anxious eaters. Constantly being influenced by the current fad diet or the latest nutritional guidelines or research paper, we are deafened by our inner voice telling us that one type of food is good and one type bad, meaning it’s very difficult to pick up on our body’s natural cues. The mind is very difficult to satisfy, as it is fickle and will find something new to focus on if one craving is satisfied. Mindfulness can help calm the mind and allow for a more sensitive awareness of the other cues our body is sending us.

    7. Heart hunger

    So much of the time, what and when we eat is linked into our emotions. We might crave certain comfort food because we were given it as a child, or because we’ve associated it in our mind as a treat for when we’re feeling down. Often emotional eating boils down to a desire to be loved or looked after. We eat to fill a hole, but that hole often can’t be satisfied through eating. To satisfy our heart hunger, we need to find the intimacy or comfort our heart is craving. Try noticing the emotions that you’ve been feeling just before you have an urge to snack and you might be able to find other ways to satisfy them, such as calling a friend or having a cup of tea or a hot bath.

    So, next time you feel hungry, check in with yourself and work out what kind of hunger you’re sensing. If eating is appropriate - go ahead and eat! But try to be mindful of what and how you eat, take in the aroma, feast with your eyes and savour every flavour - then you’ll be truly satisfied.

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    MEDITATIONS:

    Body Scan

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Eating Awareness Training Workshop

  • There’s More to Looking After Our Bodies Than Diet and Exercise

    1Let’s just start by saying that a good diet and exercise are super ways to nurture our bodies! However, there is no shortage of advice on eating well and working out, especially at this time of year. Instead, this blog post will look at other, less obvious ways that we can ground ourselves in the body and find more enriching physical experiences.

    Becoming more connected and in tune with our physical bodies is an effective way of becoming more mindful. By bringing more awareness to our physical experience, we naturally come more into the present moment, using our senses as anchors to the here and now. It can also help us adopt a more self-nurturing and self-compassionate approach toward ourselves.

    Mindful Movement

    Mindful movement practices sometimes double up as exercise, for example something like yoga is great for strengthening muscles as well as practicing mindfulness. Yet, there are other ways we can practice mindful movement; ways which focus less on fitness or weight loss, and more on simply enjoying the movement of the body for its own sake.

    Those of us who spend all day at a computer may particularly benefit from connecting with our bodies more. How often do we reach the end of the working day and discover tightness in the shoulders or an achy back? We can be so focussed on our work or studies that we disconnect from the body completely. Yet if we can make a habit of regularly checking in with the body, we can start to give it some more movement and flexibility.

    So right now, tune in for a moment. How does your body feel? Sense into your feet, legs, back, shoulders, even down through your hands to your fingers. Are there any parts of the body that want to stretch or wiggle? If you feel comfortable with it, why not stand up for a moment and get curious about how your body wants to move. Maybe you feel like bending forward to touch the ground, rolling your shoulders, circling your hips, or raising your arms high above your head for a tall stretch. You can’t get this wrong; it’s all about taking notice of your current experience, and meeting it with openness. Notice how any stretching or movements affect your mood or energy levels. Have some fun with it!

    Comfort and Cosiness

    There’s nothing like putting on your favourite pyjama’s and curling up in a freshly made bed to read a good book. Or perhaps your favourite comfort is to wear some fluffy socks as you watch TV with your cat. Whatever makes you feel comfy and cosy, try to regularly do those things for yourself, as a way of treating your body with kindness and care. Bringing mindful attention to these comforts can make them feel even more yummy! Notice how your self-nurturing intentions affect your body.

    Sensory Pleasures

    This could mean so many different things; from finding a shower gel in your favourite scent, to being touched by your partner in certain ways (or touching yourself). Getting to know what feels, smells, looks or sounds good to us, and then consciously giving ourselves those things is important to our well-being, and helps us engage with the physical world around us. We can use these pleasurable sensations as a type of meditation. For example, we can listen to our favourite songs and really notice all the musical elements in the piece, or we can place things around our home that we love the look of, and spend some time admiring the small details of those items. Bringing more awareness to our sensory experiences may even help us start to enjoy things we normally do on auto-pilot, such as brushing our teeth or applying moisturiser to our faces.

    Our bodies don’t need to be perfect in order for us to enjoy the physical world around us. Having fitness or healthy eating goals can be very rewarding, yet by taking the time to look after our bodies in other ways too we can step out of seeing our bodies as a ‘project’ that needs work, and start to simply enjoy the fact that we have a body that can move, feel and have experiences.

    MEDITATIONS:

    Body Scan

    Face Relaxation Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

    Eating Awareness Training Workshop

     

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Weaving Mindfulness into your Day

    Strawberry Heart Square_3People often complain that they don’t have the time to practise mindfulness. If your one of those busy ones, you might like this: Think about three things you do each day. Like brushing your teeth, being in nature and having lunch. Then link this activity to a mindfulness practice:

    Nature + Mindfulness: Every time you go for a walk become fully present for a couple of moments. Connect with all your senses: smell the air, feel the wind on your skin and just walk. When you notice your mind going into thinking, just gently return to the present moment experience of simply being in nature.

    Lunch + Gratitude: Before or during each meal spend 20 seconds consciously feeling grateful for having food on your plate. Bring to mind where the food comes from and how lucky you are to live in a country where there is enough food. Stay with the feeling of gratitude and notice how it makes you feel.

    Brushing your teeth + Something Good: In the evening when you brush your teeth, make a habit of bringing to mind one good think that happened on that day. Maybe you had a wonderful conversation with a friend or someone gave you a gift. Whatever it is, close your eyes, bring the situation to mind and stay with that mental image for some time.

  • Exploring Fear with Compassion

    CompassionThis blog post is based on a talk by Tara Brach, titled ‘Transforming Two Fears: FOF and FOMO’. Click here for the full audio.

    When we experience fear, sometimes the last thing we feel we want to do is meet it head on. Our habitual response may be to distract ourselves, or try to ignore it. However, by doing this, we miss out on the opportunities for freedom and growth that fear offers. If we can investigate our fear with compassion and openness, we can move through it and beyond, to a more spacious place – not a place where the fear ceases to exist, but where it can safely co-exist with other aspects of our humanity.

    In her talk ‘Transforming Two Fears: FOF and FOMO’, Tara Brach explains two common types of fear: fear of failure (FOF) and fear of missing out (FOMO), and what we can do to meet these fears with kind awareness, curiosity and acceptance.

    Fear of Failure

    This can encompass many different fears, not just the obvious ones that may come to mind. Fear of failing in our career, education or relationships is common, and something we all share. So is the fear of not being able to cope with certain situations, for example ‘How would I cope if I became unwell?’ There are probably countless other situations that we may have imagined, and consequently worried about, namely about our ability to successfully meet those challenges. Fear of rejection, or of not being good enough also fit this category. Tara describes it as ‘fear of deficiency’; a feeling that we’re simply not prepared or equipped for what the future may bring.

    These fears keep us alert to everything that might go wrong, in either our immediate or distant futures. They come from the primal part of our brain, which simply wants to avoid harm. It’s tempting to believe that by analysing everything that could go wrong, we will be more prepared. And sometimes this may be true. But usually what happens is that we become disconnected from the present moment, which is where our resiliency and strength truly exists.

    Fear of Missing Out

    Fear of missing out is somewhat different. It’s that nagging fear that we’re missing out on pleasure or gratification of some kind, that our lives could or should be different somehow, that we could have more, that things could be better. This fear creates a feeling of dissatisfaction with our lives. Or it can create a fearful sense of urgency, that we ‘must’ take this particular action now, otherwise we might miss out on an opportunity forever. Advertisers regularly take advantage of this shared fear of ours, promoting limited time offers, and encouraging material competitiveness with our peers, for example. But we may also experience this fear in relation to things such as finding love, having children, or losing our youth.

    Investigating Fear Through Meditation

    Tara Brach offers two reflective meditations to help us meet these two distinct fears, with honesty, acceptance and kindness. After all, these are fears that we all experience. Although we often believe they are a personal failing on our part, they are in fact a shared experience across all of humanity, and even other species too!

    Reflecting on the Fear of Failure 

    The first step of widening your identity – not being caught in the cocoon of fear – is to just investigate. Just to notice it, witness it,” says Tara. “So you might bear witness, without judgement, and just ask yourself, ‘So where do I become afraid of falling short?’

    With a sense of openness and curiosity, we can explore the kinds of thoughts and memories that come to mind when we reflect on our fears of failure, rejection or not being enough. Can we think of one particular habitual fear that comes to us time and time again? Rather than trying to dance around it and avoid it, take some time to really meet it within yourself. Notice the reactions it triggers, the typical line of defence you take against it. And rather than seeing it as your personal fear, Tara suggests viewing it as ‘the’ fear – one of the archetypal fears that all humans experience. How does doing this with a sense of kindness affect that fear?

    Reflecting on the Fear of Missing Out

    Now with the same openness, we can feel into the distinctly different fear of missing out; the stress or anxiety we experience from feeling there is something pleasurable or gratifying to be had that we don’t yet have. What feels particularly important to us to have right now? The range of experiences this could include is vast, from not wanting to miss out on the latest piece of technology, to not wanting to miss out on achieving an enlightening insight. It could be that we’re frightened of never achieving the level of wealth or success that we crave, or of not finding ‘the one’. The less we feel that our needs are being met in that area of life, the more intense our fear of missing out on that thing will be. Our desire or fixation on what we don’t yet have can cut us off from the present moment. By exploring our FOMO, we may notice that shift, from a mindful state to a more narrowed, restricted view. But again, this is not a personal fear of our own creation, it is ‘the’ fear of missing out, arising in us as it arises in all of us. How does it feel in the mind, heart and body? Tara reminds us that, “You’re bearing witness to how this human self is when caught in this conditioning. So bring some kindness to it.

    Using Fear as a Portal

    “If we deepen our attention when we’re caught in the fear of failure, when we’re caught in that fear of rejection… the more we discover a kind of timeless belonging that takes us beyond that fear. And with FOMO, the more we get in touch with that fear of missing out and that wanting for gratification, the more we discover that what we wanted was always here. And we tap into an absolute infinite flow of creativity, of dynamism.”

    So by meeting these fears with attention and compassion, we can use them as portals to move beyond, into greater spaciousness. Our fears will still be there, and will still catch us. Yet by mindfully greeting them each time we notice them arise, we can become less and less contained by them. We can stop basing so much of our identity around constantly trying to subdue these fears by using outside sources, such as money or achievements, and instead tap into something deeper within.

    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindfulness for Anxiety and Depression

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