• Meeting Imperfection with Kindness

    imperfection

     

    This post was inspired by Tara Brach’s talk ‘Relating Wisely with Imperfection’. You can listen to the full talk here.

     

    When we bring to mind our imperfections, how do we feel? Perhaps we feel a sense of guilt, embarrassment, shame, regret, depression or anxiety. We may feel a tightness; an urge to keep our imperfections hidden from others. We probably wouldn’t want everyone to know of our addictions and failings, all the times we acted stupidly or selfishly, the times when we’ve lost control, lost our courage or lost our minds.

    And yet, in the act of me writing these words and of you reading them and relating to them, we’ve both tapped into an important point to consider: these imperfections are not unique to us alone; they are universally shared by all human beings. We all know the fear of being seen as ‘not good enough’.

    If we take just one of our imperfections and look at it for a moment, what happens when we ask ourselves the question...

     

    “Imperfect, compared to what?”

     

    What standard are we holding in our minds that we feel we are falling short of? Is it a person, or an imagined ideal? Whatever the answer may be, it’s useful to bring awareness to the standards we are expecting ourselves to meet, and to question their validity.

    We may feel concerned about normalising our imperfections, however, because if we don’t feel bad about them how will we ever change? Some of our imperfections may cause hurt to others, and so how can we be okay with that?

    Yet, we may also know deep down that reacting to imperfection with judgement never really works. We will never run out of imperfections to judge, and so where does that approach leave us? A life of self-loathing and anxiety simply because we are human?

    True healing and change arises from acceptance and compassion. These qualities can only flower from mindful awareness. In order to cultivate this new approach towards imperfection (in ourselves and others), we can use mindfulness to help us remember to pause before we judge.

    Kindness rarely makes a person lazy. In fact, kindness and acceptance often gives us the strength to be able to make better choices, and to forgive ourselves more easily when we make ‘bad’ choices so that we can move beyond them.

     

    The Mindfulnes Project runs regular courses, workshops and masterclasses, including 'Overcoming Perfectionism' with author of the book ‘Present Perfect’, Dr. Pavel Somov.

     

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  • Using Mindfulness When Things Are Beyond Our Control

    control

     

    As much as we like to plan and make our own choices, there will always be times in our lives when we have little or no control over what happens to us.

     

    Say we have an accident and have to stay in hospital for a while, or we’re involved in a legal procedure and are awaiting a decision that could change our lives, or even something less serious as waiting to hear about how we did in a job interview.

    That waiting, lack of influence or loss of autonomy can be incredibly stressful or depressing. Our minds may be full of solutions that we simply are unable to put into use, or we may be plagued with regret, rumination and thoughts of 'if-only'.

    However, we can use mindfulness and self-compassion to help us get through these difficult or uncomfortable situations.

     

    ‘Fight or Flight’ Reactions

     

    Ever noticed how stressful situations get your blood pumping, your heart beating faster, and your whole body buzzing with nervous tension? That’s a ‘fight or flight’ reaction (also known as ‘hyperarousal’ or ‘acute stress response’) – a physiological response to a perceived attack or threat.

    An initial response from the amygdala then starts a chemical chain reaction within the body, which is why our blood pressure goes up (among other things). The nature of the threat doesn’t really matter to the brain; the fight or flight response could be triggered by a vicious dog jumping out at us, or just the prospect of speaking in public.

    Basically anything that we perceive as being potentially harmful to our physical or psychological well-being will send us into that stress reaction.

    In general, this is no bad thing; it’s designed to help keep us safe from danger. However, if this reaction is triggered regularly, it can make us feel constantly anxious and on-edge.

    This can happen in situations that are beyond our control; we naturally feel threatened or at risk, however, there’s nothing we can do to avert that risk.

    For example, say we’re waiting for an important medical scan, the results of which could show whether or not we have cancer. We have to wait for the scan, and then we have to wait for the results, and throughout all this time there’s nothing we can do other than worry.

    Our anxious thoughts of not-knowing, of not being able to ‘do’ anything will keep triggering our fight or flight responses, trapping us in a perpetual state of stress. Aside from the health issues this can cause, it’s simply not pleasant! So what can we do when we find ourselves helpless against our circumstances?

     

    Noticing When We’re On High Alert

     

    The first step in helping ourselves cope is to notice when we’ve gone into a stress reaction – sometimes this can happen just from thinking about the situation we’re in. By bringing mindful awareness to our bodies, we can notice if our breathing has become rapid, or if we are holding tension in parts of our bodies.

    What usually happens when we bring mindfulness to these things is that we naturally let go a little, simply from noticing that the tension is there.

    Of course, this won’t always be the case though. It’s not always possible to relax ourselves. In these cases, it may just be enough to simply acknowledge how we’re feeling. If we’ve been going through a trying time, we may have got stuck in the belief that we must keep soldiering on, that we can’t allow ourselves to feel sad, angry, anxious or whatever else.

    And so we hold it all inside. Being honest and accepting of whatever is arising for us at this time will allow those feelings to come and go more freely, rather than getting held tight in the body.

     

    Find out more about our mindfulness courses and workshops. 

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    Mindfulness Shrinks Amygdala Volume

     

    Studies have found correlations between increased mindfulness and decreased amygdala volume. Remember that it’s the amygdala which kicks off the whole stress response process. So in other words, people who practice mindfulness benefit from a reduction in stress and anxiety.

    That’s not to say that we won’t still feel stressed during stressful situations! Yet we are more likely to be able to cope better when those things arise. Therefore, practicing mindfulness isn’t just a good idea for in-the-moment stress relief, but is useful as a sort of ‘preventive’ measure for future stresses too, in the same way that strengthening your back muscles may help prevent so many aches and pains in later life.

     

    Self-Compassion in a Crisis

     

    There’s never really a time when some self-compassion isn’t a good idea, however when we’re helpless and in a difficult situation that’s when we really do need it the most. When there’s nothing else we can possibly do, we can at least be kind to ourselves.

    In a beautiful talk (The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion), self-compassion expert, Kristin Neff describes a particularly challenging experience she had on board a plane with her four year old autistic son, Rowan. As can sometimes happen when autistic children are very young, Rowan had a terrible tantrum. He’s flailing and screaming on the plane, while all the passengers are staring disapprovingly. Kristin decides to take him to the bathroom to comfort him away from everyone else, but when they get there it’s occupied:

     

    “So imagine being in that little space, outside the bathroom door, with this tantruming child, and I knew that in that moment the only refuge I had was self-compassion. So I put my hands over my heart, and, I tried to comfort him but I was mainly focussing on myself: ‘This is so hard right now darling, I’m so sorry you’re going through this, but I’m here for you.’ And you know what? It got me through.”

     

    So although there are some things in life that we can’t control, we can at least choose to be kind and caring towards ourselves; to take a deep breath, acknowledge how hard things are right now and that we’re doing the best we can, and show ourselves some compassion.

     

    The Mindfulness Project runs a full calendar of events, including the 8-Week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Course. 

     

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  • Chronic Pain & Illness - How Mindfulness Might Help

    Written by Tina Stallard

    The Breathworks Mindfulness for Health course helps people living with long-term pain or illness to improve and even transform their quality of life. During the eight-week course you learn how to pay more attention to the present moment, rather than living in the past or the future. Mindfulness helps us to open to our experience with compassion and care – an approach that can have many benefits: improved physical and mental health, increased resilience, better concentration, more fulfilling relationships and greater enjoyment of life.

    Mindfulness has been shown to be effective for people with a wide range of conditions, including chronic back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis and cancer. Long-term illness and pain can often lead to sleeping difficulties, anxiety or depression. Clinical trials show mindfulness practice can be as effective as prescription painkillers and it also boosts the body’s natural soothing and healing systems. Neuroscience demonstrates that it can cause physical changes in the brain’s structure, allowing us to feel less anxious and more contented.  Its benefits are now widely accepted in modern psychology and health care.

    Over the eight weeks, the course teaches simple breathing techniques, gentle movement and guided meditation to help deal with chronic pain, stress, illness and other difficulties.  I’ve been teaching this course for many years, and I have been privileged to witness how powerful these simple practices can be.

    I see people arrive on the course, some who have exhausted all other avenues, often feeling desperate, frightened and powerless. I see how during the course, people begin to open to their pain and difficulty, rather than using energy to fight them, how the simple act of committing to regular practice gives a chance to develop new responses, how the gentle movements encourage us to relate to our bodies in a different way.

    Gradually, in subtle and deep ways, the bleak landscape of pain and suffering shifts, and rays of light start to shine through the cloud.  At the end, people tell me the experience was “life-changing” and “empowering”.  One person said it gave her a “more joyful quality of life, …regardless of how much pain I am in”.

     

    Find out more on a mindfulness course, masterclass or workshop.

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  • Unleash Your Creativity with Mindful Photography

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    Mindfulness is about more than just sitting down to meditate. The wonderful thing about mindfulness is that it can be used to enrich all aspects of life, including our hobbies and creative pursuits.

     

    With smartphones and compact digital camera’s now being common place, it’s never been easier to get into photography. By adding some mindfulness into the process, we can not only start taking more interesting pictures, but can also start to see the world around us from a fresh perspective.

     

    Be Present with What You See

     

    In our daily routines, we may spend little time really noticing what’s around us. When we’re walking, we tend to have a destination in mind (work, the bus stop, a shop, etc.), rather than contemplating the many sights along the way. However, by setting aside some time to go out and take photographs, we can give ourselves an opportunity to be more present with our surroundings. By not having anywhere that we have to get to, we become free to explore our world.

    Before we start taking photos, we first need to look around and seek out interesting things. Many of us don’t do this often, so we may be pleasantly surprised by what we find! It could be some unusual architecture, a street view, the sky, a tree, or something more abstract like the play between light and shadow on a pavement.

    We can experiment with different angles, discovering how common sights look from new perspectives. Trying to look at something as if we’ve never seen it before can help us to truly see it, rather than seeing our pre-conceived idea of it.

     

    Find out more about our mindfulness courses and workshops.

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    Where to Look?

     

    Colour – This could be single blocks of colour or contrasting shades. They could be beautiful hues that remind us of some happy memory, or colours that make us wonder what people were thinking! Notice how different colours affect your mood. What thoughts arise as you look at them? Can you get across some of those emotions through your photography?

    Texture – In a city or town you’re bound to find some interesting textures on buildings or concrete. Chipped paint, cracks in a pavement or even a pile of litter could make a great photograph if captured at the right angle.  Nature can offer other types of textures, such as the bark of weather-beaten tree, a feather or lush green mosh on a stone. Get up close! Notice every little detail.

    Shape – Traffic signs, curbs, fencing, and corners of structures can all create fascinating shapes for us to photograph. Try looking down from a window or balcony to discover shapes that we can’t see from the ground, or kneel down and look up for another fresh perspective.

    Movement – Movement will be trickier to capture, but is worth experimenting with. A bird mid-flight, a twirling dancer, a flowing waterfall or your best friend laughing. Look for the life around you, and capture those precious, fleeting moments to remember forever.

     

    Let Yourself Play

     

    Taking a mindful photography trip can also be a good opportunity to notice how we may limit ourselves when it comes to being creative. We may find that we hesitate about being too experimental, or notice that we have some thoughts about only wanting to take ‘good’ pictures. These things can block our natural curiosity and creativity from flowing freely, but when we notice them we can start to consciously let them go.

    Digital cameras make it super easy to take lots of photographs, so if we later don’t think they’re good enough to keep, we can just delete them. But whilst we’re out and about we can feel free to try out new things, and just take photographs of anything and everything that grabs our attention. Whether we show them to anyone else is entirely up to us. Mindful photography isn’t about being good at it or not, it’s all about the process of seeing, exploring and experimenting.

    Happy snapping!

     

    Find out more about our mindfulness courses and workshops.

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  • How to Introduce Mindfulness to our Friends

     

     

    When we discover something that improves our lives it’s natural to want to share that knowledge with others - especially our friends. Whether it’s a new way of eating, a new found love of yoga or the benefits of mindfulness, we may feel compelled to tell our friends and family how they too could feel better if they were to try it.

     

    However, as we’ve probably also been on the receiving end of such recommendations, we know that, while intentions may be good, it’s all too easy for these suggestions to come across as pushy or overzealous.

    People, in their eagerness to help, may end up forcing ideas on others that are not always helpful. As mindfulness practitioners, we are not immune from sometimes becoming a little fanatical too.

     

    So how can we share the benefits of this great practice, without losing sight of what we’re trying to promote?

     

    It’s useful to develop some awareness of the kinds of situations that prompt us to suggest mindfulness to others. For example, when a friend tells us that they are feeling depressed, is our first thought to tell them to try mindfulness? If someone tells us that they’ve been feeling stressed at work, do we jump in and start telling them how much mindfulness has helped us with that problem?

    We may find that we sometimes make such suggestions in a bid to ‘fix’ the other person’s problems, instead of engaging in some mindfulness of our own. Sometimes a friend may simply want someone to listen to their struggles for a while, and rather than telling them to sign up for a mindfulness workshop, we could use this time to practice our mindful listening skills.

    That’s not to say that suggesting a mindfulness practice is always wrong in these situations! Yet we should use mindfulness ourselves so that we can better judge whether it’s the right time to discuss solutions.

    We should also keep in mind that mindfulness isn’t a cure-all, and that not everyone will find the same benefits in the practice as we do. And that’s okay. If we feel offended or frustrated by their lack of interest, this may be something for us to meditate on and explore within ourselves.

    Perhaps the very best way to introduce the concept of mindfulness to others is simply to embody it. By focussing on and deepening our own practice, rather than telling everyone else to start theirs, we will naturally become better listeners, more empathic and compassionate, and more emotionally spacious to deal with other people’s problems. This way, mindfulness can arise in conversations organically, without feeling forced or like we’re trying to fix things.

    For those that would like to integrate mindfulness practice into their interactions with others, explore our 8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course. 

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  • Restore, Reset, Reconnect

     

    After a busy or stressful period in our lives it's important that we find time to reconnect with ourselves and re-establish our inner space.  This can be the perfect time to press the reset button, so that we can enter our next chapter feeling recharged and refreshed.

     

    In order to reconnect with ourselves, we must first disconnect. That means making time and creating space to be with ourselves. In an age where our inner and outer space are encroached upon as never before, by technology, media and advertising, it can seem quite a radical act to disconnect -- but the benefits it offers us are manifold. Below are a few ideas to guide you this month.

     

    Schedule Solitude

     

    Solitude has a crucial role to play in helping us to recharge. Prioritise some time spent in your own company, and plan something nourishing for yourself -- it could be as simple as a cup of tea in your local café, or a solo stroll through the park. Use the time to reflect on your intentions.

     

    Take a Digital Detox

     

    For as many days as you can manage, unplug from technology. Put down your phone and delete news and social media apps for your return.

    Disconnect from the internet. Bring your focus back to the people and places around you. Give your brain a holiday from the constant stream of information it is inundated with.

     

    Create Space for Silence

     

    Silence restores the senses and recharges the mind and body. Stepping away from the distractions and stimulations of life every now and again can do us the world of good.

    A silent mindfulness retreat can offer refuge and space to turn inwards. We may also find it rejuvenates the relationship we have with ourselves.

     

    Relax & Release

     

    Slow down, and take time to be, rather than to do. Give yourself permission to be idle, and to experience periods of openness that you aren’t trying to shape with expectations or fill with thoughts and actions.

    Relaxation slows down brain waves, which refreshes and renews the brain's chemistry. Perhaps consider if you need a retreat day to reconnect with your mindfulness practice? 

     

    Establish a Daily Practice

     

    We can extend the benefits of a reset by carving out the time to dedicate ourselves to a daily mindfulness practice.

    The more we practice, we are better connected to ourselves and our intentions, which guide the direction of our lives.

     

    Join one of our retreat days and make some space for yourself.

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  • What is Mindful Birthing?

     

    Pregnancy and childbirth can be some of the most special, significant and singular experiences in a woman’s life. But for so many, they also bring a lot of fear, pain and uncertainty.

     

    Happily, research from the University of Oxford has shown that mindful birthing may hold the power to transform and ease the experience of pregnancy, labour and delivery, as well as the relationship with the new baby after birth.

    At this point you might be wondering if mindful birthing has a connection to hypnobirthing. Although there is some common ground between the two practices – both place emphasis on breathing exercises, for example – they are essentially quite different.

    Hypnobirthing focuses on self-hypnosis – using affirmations, visualisations and relaxation techniques that help to prepare for a positive labour and birth. Mindful birthing, however, follows the principles of mindfulness to support both pregnancy and birth.

     

    Working with Pain & Fear

     

    Mindful birthing teaches how to skilfully work with pain, fear and uncertainty, and to shift perspectives by optimising the mind/body connection. Pioneered by Nancy Bardacke, an experienced midwife and mindfulness teacher, it is also known as the MBCP (Mindfulness-based Childbirth and Parenting) course -- an adaptation of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

    Mindfulness is uniquely positioned to help with the birthing process because in its modern form it was initially devised to help with pain management. Jon Kabat-Zinn was the first to study the connection between mindfulness meditation and pain when he set up his MBSR program in 1979 to treat chronic pain patients at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His landmark study years later showed that patients who were trained in the program and took a mindful approach to their physical pain, experienced significant reductions in intensity.

    In this way, mindfulness strategies can give mothers-to-be the tools to change the way they manage pain during labour and delivery. Fear and resistance can sustain and inflame physical pain, so by learning to relate differently to the discomfort that may surround intense physical sensations – to welcome it and work with it – women can reduce the likelihood of being overwhelmed and losing control.

     

    Find out more on a mindfulness course, masterclass or workshop.

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    Acceptance, Letting Go & Trust

     

    Beyond pain management, expectant mothers will benefit from the core principles of mindfulness – acceptance, letting go and trusting – which can help them to prepare for the unexpected during labour and delivery: a change to birth plans, sudden interventions or unforeseen outcomes.

    Cultivating the skill of awareness during pregnancy – which is the ability to notice thoughts and feelings as they arise – also allows expectant mothers to observe any fearful stories that the mind may be creating about birth from a more objective standpoint, and therefore identify with them less, which can help to reduce overall stress and anxiety.

    Recent research by BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth also shows that mindfulness may offer important maternal mental health benefits following childbirth. In 2017, pregnant women who undertook in an intensive course based on the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) education reported benefits including improved psychological adjustment and reduced postpartum depression symptoms.

    Well beyond pregnancy and childbirth, mindfulness skills keep giving, because they are skills for life. With regular practice, they have the power to transform future experiences of parenting, as well as all other areas of life. 

     

    Find out more on a mindfulness course, masterclass or workshop.

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  • A Dose of Meditation: Mindfulness for Mental Health

     

    ‘Mental health’ is defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community’(1).

    Today, we know that this is not the case for millions of people worldwide. In fact, one in four people experience a mental health problem each year. According to mental health charity Mind, the way in which people cope with mental health problems is also getting worse – with the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts on the increase.

    While mindfulness is no magical cure-all elixir, there is emerging evidence to show that it could support a state of mental wellbeing. In instances of mild to moderate depression and anxiety, for example, mindfulness-based interventions hold great promise to ease symptoms.

    With regular practice and the support and guidance of a teacher during an eight-week mindfulness course (MBSR or MBCT), studies have shown that the benefits include stress reduction, emotion and attention regulation and reduced rumination. It also has as much power to prevent depressive relapse as antidepressants, shown by to a large-scale study published by the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.

    Essentially, mindfulness works because it gives us better access to resources that may help us deal positively with our experience of anxiety and/or depression. Firstly, we are introduced to the skill of awareness – which is the ability to notice our thoughts and feelings as they arise. Awareness creates space and allows us to observe our mental processes more objectively so we identify with them less.

    Secondly, we cultivate an open and accepting attitude, which allows us to welcome whatever arises, rather than trying to suppress it, avoid it or become overwhelmed by it. In this way, there is less internal conflict – which can make things a little lighter. Beyond the power of attention training, practicing mindfulness in a community may also play an important role in easing symptoms. Anxiety and depression can heighten feelings of isolation and self-judgement -- which may further feed our suffering.

    Learning mindfulness and sharing our experiences in a group setting such as an MBCT, helps us realise there is a common humanity to these conditions and that we are not so alone.

    There are instances, however, in which mindfulness should be approached with caution where mental health is concerned. As we turn towards ourselves to face our thoughts and feelings, mindfulness can often heighten our experience and perhaps even intensify symptoms for a short period. In this way, it can be incredibly difficult to maintain motivation. For those with a history of certain mental health conditions, such as psychosis, borderline personality disorder, bipolar or PTSD, mindfulness needs to be approached with care and often a tailored one-on-one approach with the specialist knowledge of a mental health professional is advised.

    While mental health awareness has improved dramatically over the past decade, we still have a way to go to change the conversation we have around it – to break social stigmas, encourage education and strengthen our response.

    Mindfulness may not be a short-term fix, but with continued practice it could provide a long-term solution for mild to moderate disorders, by giving us the power to respond to unpleasant emotions and distressing situations more reflectively rather than reflexively. We know from emerging neuroscientific research that mindfulness also facilitates plasticity, and herein lies the hope -- that each time we respond differently, we create new, more positive connections and pathways in the brain.

     

    Find out more about our mindfulness courses and workshops.

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    References (1) WHO: Mental health: a state of well-being

  • “Just Start Over”: The Secret to Sticking to Your Mindfulness Practice and Other Tips

     

    With the turn of the seasons and the change in the air, September is a month when we might naturally assess where we are at and what we’d like to renew in our lives. Some of us might be thinking of what we can do to regain balance after the break and set ourselves up for the final half of the year. It may also be a time when we think about our mindfulness practice, and how we can pull it back into focus.

    Different flavours of distraction and discouragement may have drawn us away us from our practice. We may struggle with challenging emotions that come into our awareness, and the alive, felt-sense of our body. Our enthusiasm may wax and wane. But we can rest assured that it's all a part of the learning process. The practice of meditation is a journey of turning towards ourselves, of cultivating self-knowledge. Naturally, we are going to run into challenges and obstacles that can knock us off our intended path. The human experience is, after all, highly complex -- as is the relationship we have with our self.

    We know from nature that to grow anything, we must nurture it -- give it attention, patience and importantly care. There are many small, simple steps we can take to support our practice in its tentative stages or to get it off the ground again. A lovely motto to remember is Sharon Salzberg’s “Just start over”. Instead of getting caught up in the stories and judgements we have about our practice, we can use the core values of mindfulness -- acceptance, non-judgement and compassion -- and simply begin again, over and over, until we have integrated the practice into our being.

    We asked around for other useful ideas on nurturing practice, and here’s what we found:

    Seek community. The role of community and groups in sustaining mindfulness practice is so valuable and can be easily underestimated. For anyone who is struggling with their practice, joining a group or getting together with like-minded friends is a good place to start in order to establish a rhythm.

    Enrol on further practice. The 8-week course is just the beginning of our journey with mindfulness. We can also look to enrol on further practice -- such as a retreat or other courses. Retreats help to cement our learning and bring new insights, which in turn, can support our motivation for practice. Attending other graduate courses, such as the Mindful Self-Compassion Course, can also add a new dimension to our practice.

    Explore online resources. If you haven’t already, check out online resources, which can provide support in the form of free talks and guided meditations. There are many experienced teachers, from different backgrounds -- be it neuroscientific or Buddhist -- all sharing their offerings online. Find the ones whose meditations you really love to practice with.

    Start with small commitments. If all of these ideas seem overwhelming, we can simply start small. Mindfulness is a tool that works to the extent we use it, and knowing that what we practice grows stronger can be really encouraging to keep our personal practice going. We can remind ourselves when things get difficult that even small amounts of practice -- 5 minute bursts, for example -- are better than no practice at all.

    We may find that we understand mindfulness conceptually, but are under-prepared for the experiential challenges. However, we can rest assured that obstacles are to be expected and are actually essential to our practice -- serving to strengthen it and make us better equipped to deal with future challenges.

     

    Find out more about our mindfulness courses and workshops.

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  • How To Make Friends With Change

    If there’s one thing that can be counted on in life, it’s change. Sages, scientists and philosophers have agreed on this simple fact since time immemorial:

    “Nothing endures but change,” declared Heraclitus back in Ancient Greece.

    "All conditioned things are impermanent" said Buddha.

    “Nothing gold can stay,” wrote Robert Frost.

    A profound acceptance of this truth – that all things are impermanent – can truly transform the way we live.

    Of course, it is in our human nature to try and defy change. Left-brain thinking, which is so dominant in our culture, seeks to sweep the world into tidy boxes -- filing and ordering life to give it more permanence, security and familiarity. But to do this also goes contrary to the truth – that the present is living, in flux, and therefore difficult to fix. In a paradoxical twist, the only thing we can count on is change – so it makes sense to try to make friends with it.

    We can try to see change with new eyes by appreciating what it brings to our lives. Have you ever stopped to consider what a world without change would be like?

    “Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.” says Thich Naht Hahn

    Without change, we would be frozen in time and space. In this way, change opens a world abundant with potential and possibility -- a living moment for which we can be grateful.

    Many of us may feel that change arouses fear and anxiety. Perhaps this stems from an expectation that it will be for the worse, or from a desire to distance ourselves from unpleasant aspects of our experience. Whatever the reason, fear blocks our ability to meet change with acceptance and open-mindedness. In these moments, we can use mindfulness to become more aware of the dialogue that’s taking place within -- and by looking at fear with curiosity and non-judgement, we can begin to disconnect from it and find the power to step into courage.

    Of course, we all need to feel grounded when change takes place around us, but so often we seek this anchor in external things or people. Once we truly understand that the external world is transient and fleeting, it makes little sense to continue to seek security in it -- and that's when we can start to look for that anchor inside of ourselves using mindfulness and meditation. By practising over and over the act of remaining present with what arises, we can come in touch with a part of ourselves that is beyond the ebb and flow of life.

    In fact, the more we let ourselves experience change, the more we may realise that it is something we can survive and benefit from. Life doesn’t necessarily get ‘easier’, but using mindfulness, we can ride its waves with more resilience and equanimity – or in the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, we “learn to surf.”

     

    Find out more about our mindfulness courses and workshops.

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