on my mind this week.....
take a moment to appreciate....
So lovely to attend Elderflower Fields festival last week and a real honour to be delivering mindfulness sessions. Thanks to all of you who attended and shared your practice.
Its always a bit of a challenge, and a great exercise in being mindful, trying to share an hour of mindfulness...there is so much to say and so many practices we could do together.
I shall try to recap, as I said i would, so you can all be reminded what we did together.
Over the two days we did a variety of guided mindfulness practices that you can use in everyday life. This means no extra time is required to get started on your practice. However, i cannot stress enough the benefits of setting aside some time for regular - i.e. daily - meditations. The trick to this is to get them in your schedule, ahead of the day staring and running away with you! For those of you who are struggling with busy-ness, there will probably never be time, so its a case of looking at where it can be squeezed in, what else can give, be delegated, not done etc in order to give yourself this precious time. Just that simple act, of kindness, self compassion and acknowledging the importance of time for yourself can be extremely beneficial.
For a simple guided meditation, mail me and I am very happy to drop box you a link to some of the ones I have recorded if you feel the need for guidance, or look on Insight Timer or Youtube to get you started. Even before that, just setting a timer for 5 minutes and being with the breath is a great start - you always have it with you. By now you know the mind will wander, so every time it does, use this as an opportunity to practice kindly bringing it back. If it wanders 200 times, then theres lots of opportunity to be patient and kind with yourself.
Each of the mindfulness in action practices we did flow the same principle. Decide on the task or action you will be doing mindfully, e.g. cleaning your teeth, set the intention to stick with it, then each time you notice the mind has wandered, gently bring it back. When the activity is done, thank yourself and move on. Notice at this point if you are holding an idea that you didn't do it properly, or it didn't work...if so, well done, you've spotted a judgement! Decide to let that go, and come back to thanking yourself for sticking with the activity.
Each time we bring our mind back, with kindness and compassion we are remaking the relationship we have with it, and retraining it to stay where we have decided it will stay. This is so helpful when in the middle of the night the mind brings you lots of worries and anxieties, you can recognise this and practise mindful breathing, or mindfully becoming aware of each body part in turn. We call this the body scan, and its a great practise to do in the night.
We also practised mindful eating, and as always when I guide this exercise people are surprised at the experience. As we acknowledged then, we see to eat with our minds, not just our mouths. This is true of all experiences in our day, if the mind is busy somewhere else we are not properly present to what we see, hear, feel, taste and experience. Ever noticed that when you go on holiday, food often tastes so much better? Maybe that is because you are totally 'present' to the experience?
So mindfulness is about being in the moment, as it is. It has been estimated that we are on autopilot for around 90% of the time. So even if we become 10% more present, thats a lots more of our life we are experiencing. There was a common theme over the weekend for a lot of you, realising that your children are growing up quickly and you are often in the past or future, not here in this moment. One way to help with this is when you notice the mind has wandered, make an effort to bring it back, with an idea like pulling your energy in, calling it back like birds coming in to roost perhaps? Or letting it float off an ducting the strings to the items that are pulling you away, or letting the thoughts go, like helium balloons. These are all strategies that my clients regularly practice and find useful. Another is to say to yourself, 'be here, now' or something similar.
We also did mindful movement, a great one to do while you are walking, being present to all of the sensations of movement. Or start your day with a mindful shower or doe mindful stretching, as we did on day 2.
We practised mindful listening, tuning in to the sounds around you and just hearing them. When the mind chats and comments, just notice and come back to listening. Mindfully listening to a friend or colleague can be very powerful, in this exercise you pay the speaker all of your attention. Listening for the sake of listening. it can help to drop down into the heart and feel a connection to the speaker. In this exercise you are not waiting your turn to speak, as we so very often are when we 'listen', instead you are listening to really hear the other person. For some people this is really difficult...as there is a real need to agree, speak, disagree, prove something etc. Try it!
We did mindful body awareness, dropping into the body and noticing feelings and sensations, levels of comfort, discomfort, warmth coolness etc. This can be a great way to get away from a busy head, dropping down into the body, and can be done any where for a mindful break. Maybe try it with a mindful culpa, just allowing yourself to be present to all sensations that are there.
We talked a lot about the breath, and did a couple of breathing exercises - square breathing, where you can use the guidance of a 4 sided shape, e.g. window, phone, door etc breathing in for the count of 4, holding the great for the count of 4, breathing out for the count of 4, holding for a count of 4. This can really help if panicky, as can any counting with the breath. It gives the mind something else to do, and deep breathing helps to switch on the body's relaxation system, the parasympathetic nervous system.
We also did calm hand, where you hold your non dominant hand up and use the pointy finger of the other hand to trace round each digit in turn, in breath on the up stroke, out breath on the down for 5 slow breaths. Or use this hand as 5 cadres, blowing each one out in turn with a long slow breath. the latter two exercise are good for younger kids and my young teen yoga students love the square breathing.
I talked a bit about jon Kabat Zinn and his work with people with chronic illness.A book of his I have found very inspiring is Full Catastrophe Living.
We talked about the way that there are so many great resources out there, and many ways to be mindful. Its a great idea to find a group or a teacher as mindfulness can initiate you 'arriving' more fully into a life that you may have distracted yourself from for good reason. Also being human, it is easier to keep up our practice with the support of a group. I run a lovely group on Tuesday evenings in Hove, with people who have been coming for some time. I will be setting another group up in September in Lewes, so if you're interested in that do get in touch.
I hope i have covered most of the stuff we talked about, if not, do get in touch and I'm happy to go over anything else with you.
With love Jane
There is always so much that we can engage in nowadays, its really tempting to be busy all of the time. It really does seem the norm doesn't it? And of course busy-ness, like all of our ways of being is built on habit.
Since I began practising mindfulness, i have become so much more aware of the cycles i tread. I am interested in lots of things, i like variety, I like to help people...and then I find I am over committed again! Often I am 'busy' with lots of lovely things, including practising yoga and meditating, but none the less I am over committed. I have realised that I like space in my life, for me, for quiet, for spontaneity, to meander. So once i notice the lack of space, I clear some space, in the diary, in my head and then I feel better.
What habits are you aware of in your life?
Mindfulness is so helpful in that it teaches us to notice, to be aware, without judging. Once we are aware, we can learn to press the pause button and to choose from a range of responses, rather than just reacting for our normal place of automatic pilot.
Habits seek to keep themselves going, cos thats all they are, habits! Once you have rumbled that, and now you know that you are good at creating habits, you can create some more - maybe creating ones that you can design to enhance your wellbeing.
Take this a step further and have a look at your life, look at habits that are outdated, that you could upgrade, and then go forth and create new ones, just because you can.
If this seems too daunting to be doing alone, do consider an apppointment to see me one to one. This is exactly the kind of thing that we can work on together to set you on the path to a happier you.
Get in touch for a free chat to see how I can help
What an interesting time of year...can you feel the changes? Energy levels starting to increase all around us, after a time of hibernation. I for one am a huge fan of hibernating in winter, a great time for conserving energy, eating soup, being cosy at home and resting in preperation for Spring.
I love the way that the plants naturally start to respond to the increased warmth and light levels, the way there is so much potential in a seed, the difference in the behaviour of the animals - have you heard the birdsong! These are all small everyday things that can help us to tune into the season of growth, and in doing so, maybe we can match our mood and approach to this.
Spring cleaning time, out with emotional and physical clutter! Who doesn't love the look of a calm room, with excess junk moved on, what a great feeling that brings. If you're overwhelmed by the task break it down, do one shelf at a time for instance.
I came across a great decluttering exercise recently, in the 'downsizing' movement, which I have modified slightly here -
A challenge for 30 days. On day one you give away 1 thing, on day two you give away 2 things, you get the picture! Make sure you have a big bag to put them in, and if its not possible to actually get them gone on that day, you can collect them in the spare room and then deposit them all at the end of the week...
Of course, giving it to charity increases the feeling of wellbeing. Or maybe give it to to a friend...and then enjoy that smug feeling of palming your junk off on someone else!! No, seriously, one persons junk can be another persons treasure.
Whatever you do, take some time to enjoy the simple spring changes, connecting with nature. Jane x
I am really enjoying running weekly mindfulness classes, with regular attendees. I hear from each of them how mindfulness is impacting upon their everyday life. Having worked in end of life care as a specialist nurse for many years, I am keenly interested in the 'everyday'. There is so much of it...well everyday! Its very easy to take for granted and very easy to decide that these days are not this, that or the other. Maybe not exciting enough, maybe too busy, maybe not busy enough, maybe full of people that annoy us,maybe lacking special people that we may have lost. Yet, if someone were to tell us that we only have a few weeks to live...how different might that feel? How dearly would we want to hang onto the day of niggles with a partner, or the rainy boring day at home, or being stuck in traffic?
Mindfulness can help us to be present to the expectations and judgements that we all bring to everyday, and to learn that they are often making our reality into something different. Our mindful practice can help us to wake up to the fact that life is as it is, and our constant struggle to make it something else may be leading us to overlook all of the great things in front of us. Stop now and check in, take a couple of mindful breaths and notice three things that you are grateful for right now in this day.
Of course, there are also times when life is not great, when its really tough, and this may be an opportunity to reach out and use the support network that you do have, or stretch a bit and develop a new one. A time to delve deep into the resources that you have used in other areas of your life, and see if there is a way to mover those around. Or it may simply be a chance to sit with the suffering and the pain, knowing that time will change things...as it always does.
As ever, get in touch if this strikes a chord with you. Do come along and join us at a class if you would like to learn more. Or get in touch to chat one to one about how I can help you.
I am delighted to say that I am setting up a new evening class at The Hanover Centre next Thursday 17th Nov, 'everyday mindfulness'...hope to see you there x
I was sitting in the conservatory the other day, just about to settle into my meditation, when a squirrel caught my eye. i have plenty in the garden, having big trees nearby, and have become used to sharing my garden and its bounty with them. I had put some monkey nuts out for them and watched as one discovered them, chased off a rival and set to with a plan for these nuts. i thought the squirrel would take them away, but it started to hide them...one at a time, each in a different place. This got me thinking about hiding, and the subject stayed in my mind all day.
What do we hide from others? Maybe physically, or emotionally? Maybe we hide things from ourself?
The tradition of mindfulness encourages self awareness, self compassion, kindness and curiosity. Seeing this subject as one for exploration, rather than as a negative. Maybe you are hiding your talents? Maybe you are hiding your truth by believing that others are more important, or more 'right' than you.
Fo rme, mindfulness allows exploration and contemplation, an opportunity to expand and grow. There is no right or wrong.
So...what are you hiding?
We are almost at that point, with the longest day upon us, following a spring and early summer of abundant growth all around us! The light levels are at their highest, weather permitting it is a joy to be outside, soaking it all up. And the rain isn't that bad if you've got the right clothes on!!!
From a mindfulness perspective, watching the daily changes in nature can help to root us in reality, also reminding us of the impermanence of...well, everything. A certain plant may flower, but if we are too busy to look up that week we may miss it. There is so much for us to see, but we need to be looking, and able to see, rather than just rushing by. Lots of people tell me they will meditate/stop/relax/etc more, when they have time, but when do we suddenly find that we 'have time'. rather, it is a case of re prioritising our time, re locating our time, making space for that which can support us
The seasons come and go, without us needing to make anything happen. Different flowers, plants and crops come to fruition, at just the right time for them. Any nurturing and care we may apply to them can certainly help, and so for ourselves.
Can you make some time for yourself and your practice? Can you make some time to sit, or to properly engage with a loved one, or to just smile and relax, or to just day dream?
Look around, make today count, whatever you are doing. Make the most of every moment.
With love Jane
Its a great opportunity to really draw on ones mindfulness practice! Its all very well to be able to regularly do our meditations when there is time, and head space, and it feels relaxing, but how about when everything seems to be going wrong!?!
There are a few aspects of mindfulness that can really help here for starters. The first port of call being self compassion and kindness. Taking a good look at the situation and checking out that we are being as kind to ourself as we would be to another who is in this situation. Are you expecting too much of yourself? Have a big pile of 'shoulds' crept in unnoticed here? What can we do to be kinder to ourselves?
This may include stepping out of our normal routines and habits, which in itself is a great exercise in mindfulness, ditching the autopilot! It may be that we do not usually ask for help, as we expect that we should 'cope', or we may assume that others will judge us as 'not coping'. It may be helpful to lower our expectations: not doing the housework, cutting corners with non essential chores, getting friends to come to round instead of going out, making simpler meals etc.
Mindfulness can also give us the opportunity to focus on 'non problems' if we have been practising strengthening our ability to do so. This can really give us a break from the rumination that often accompanies difficult times, as often we are bringing stuff into the moment that does not need to be there.
Adversity can show us many things about ourselves, which can be a great opportunity for growth, and it can also be very scary. Take every chance you can to do something nourishing for yourself, and notice the difference. Make sure you get plenty of good quality sleep, factor in relaxation, share your troubles with someone you trust, do something fun to offset that worries, get outside and be in nature, get some exercise. And know that this too will pass...whilst we can't usually control what is happening to us, we can learn ways of responding to it.
For more guidance like this, do come along to one of my weekly groups, or see my one to one for private sessions.
As ever, these are my own personal musings, based on my life and practice. Feel free to take what resonates and leave what doesn't. Very happy to hear from you with your comments.
Had a really great week last week attending the .b trainers course to teach mindfulness in schools to 11-18 year olds.
Staying in London, house sitting for some friends, really stepping out of my usual routines was in itself a brilliant opportunity to be more mindful. Trying new routines is useful like this...as we so quickly slip into autopilot, sitting in the same seats, driving the same route, shopping in the same places, taking so much in our lives for granted. Autopilot is wonderful for getting lots of things done is a short space of time, a great way to short cut, but we tend to rely on it so much that we are rarely present in our day to day lives. As a consequence of this, we miss many things, or see right through them. Or worse still, see only the negative side of them. For instance if a family member has left the lid off the toothpaste, or made the tea not quite how you like it, or left the wet towels on the floor - its so easy to feel irritated isn't it!? Mindfulness can teach us to notice that response and give us space to choose whether that is really how we want to be.
Try doing a few things differently this week and see if it helps you to feel more present. Look for ways to vary your routine, see who you meet, what new places you pass, take in details and look for things that you have never noticed...it could be the start of all kinds of new adventures! Also notice how you feel by changing your routine. Lots of people don't like change, however there are times in our lives when its inevitable, so if we keep up the skill of dealing with it, we may be better equipped when its thrown upon us. One thing is for sure, nothing stays the same.
So I'm very excited to now be able to deliver the .b curriculum in schools, its a 10 lesson programme, researched and written for kids of this age, to give them an introduction into what could be a tool to carry with them for the rest of their lives. The course is active, engaging and fun, with plenty to think about. Its also given me some exercises to be trying on my adult classes.
Come and join us if you fancy trying mindfulness for yourself, theres regular friendly classes, and a lovely half day session this Sunday.