The Crazy Chimp

Hello December 🙂 hope you are all enjoying some peace and calm in the run up to the Christmas holidays. What a perfect time to talk about the crazy chimp…

I am reading a book someone recommended me to called, The Chimp Paradox, by Prof Steve Peters, an English psychiatrist who works in elite sport. I am probably only 10% in, but the premise of the book is that our minds are basically operated by two key drivers. Our human and logical self and then an emotional chimp. That in itself sounds crazy, however, it is a simplistic and brilliant way in helping us to understand and manage the way our minds work. 

It is one of those books that you relate to so much that you find yourself nodding or saying out loud how much you agree with it. So relatable and so relevant to our every day thinking and behaviour.

In my meditation recently I have been reminded of the sense of self and the fact that we all interact and experience through our own perceptions. Through the practice of meditation it can become possible to see yourself separately, so that you are almost getting a birds eye view a situation to see that your own perception is often skewed. When you can detach from a situation in this way on a day to day basis, you become much more able to see the perceptions of others in the same way. It isn’t that one person is necessarily wrong or right over another, it is just their perceptions are different. We each come from our own place of thinking, feeling and experiences.  However, understanding this and considering the theory that Steve Peters outlines in his book about the chimp and the way that ‘it’ operates, means you can begin to interact with others in a totally different way. You begin to think and, therefore, act, more on, ‘what is’, rather than what you ‘think’, is. Two very different things; the latter coming from your own skewed perception of what is, which you learn is controlled by the crazy emotional chimp. 

Meditation breathes space, not just into the moments you are practising, but throughout your day. Allowing for pause where you would ordinarily respond and enabling you to consider how to respond to someone or perceive a particular situation. Your perception becomes based on fact, rather than fiction – which is created by our chimp running the show.

When we are present we are not acting on emotion (which is truly what the chimp controls) and causing a REaction. Being present allows us to respond instead or sometimes just choosing not to respond at all, indeed, there is great power in silence. 

Having the choice is the key. We do have control over our perceptions and the way in which we interact with others and experience our world, once we realise how our minds work and our thoughts and perceptions are formed. It doesn’t matter what our understanding is now, or even if we never reach a point of understanding, simply meditating will unravel an inner understanding all of it’s own…we just have to begin and I quote my sister who said, ‘be where your feet are planted.’ The only place that can be is here and now, in the present moment. 

[I’ve had this image for years…bought for a website project I was doing at the time. It depicts being free…when you walk through the door that meditation opens, freedom awaits you on the other side…]

noticing the transition

If you meditate regularly you’ll most likely sit and practice for a set period of time each day. This might be just a few minutes, half an hour  or maybe more. We see this as our ‘meditation practice’ and a specific time when we sit to do that.

I was reminded recently about the transition from meditation practice and into daily life.

When I talk to other people about practising mindfulness during their day, it’s simply about bringing your awareness to the present moment and noticing. Noticing the sights, sensations and sounds around you as they are happening.

This morning, as I finished meditating, I noticed the transition. The point at which I stopped meditating and opened my eyes. There is a moment, a split second of transition; from sitting in silence to jumping into life and starting my day. I’m up and moving. I make the bed, go into the bathroom, brush my teeth, take a shower and on it goes.

What if there is no transition. What if I don’t ‘finish’ meditating and instead, open my eyes and continue on in my day being mindful – as if performing a moving meditation.

Now I know it is impossible to meditate continually while going about your day, and I am not suggesting this at all, unless of course you are Dynamo…[hmm, now there is a thought]…What I am suggesting though is to take the awareness and mindfulness into the rest of the day as much as possible. Erase the transition.

So as you are brushing your teeth, taking a shower, making coffee, walking the dog, driving the car, interacting with others, working and so on, you are mindful. Mindfulness takes some serious practice at the best of times and often means having a cue or reminder to bring your awareness to the present moment. However, if there is no transition then are you still meditating?

Perhaps it is that simple…I like to think so and am going to try that tomorrow…

[Image was taken in Tomales Bay, California on a hazy, warm October afternoon ….the stillness reminds me of meditation practice and then when you start your day you create simply ripples in the water.]

We are all connected…

No, I’m not going to talk about aliens on another planet. I’m talking about you, me and the 7 billion or so others on our planet.

Being connected to one another has come up strongly twice in the same week, so feel somewhat nudged to write about it.

I went along to a mind, body and spirit wellbeing event (don’t ask but yes there was the odd weird thing going on and a lot of falafel). I also attended a talk there by Dr. David Hamilton on the placebo effect. I didn’t really think, ‘oh, that’s interesting, I want to go to that.’ My friend is a huge fan of his, wanted to go and invited me along. I’ve read one of his books, ‘I Heart Me’ and liked it, so thought I’d most likely enjoy it. I wasn’t totally sold on the talk topic because it isn’t something I’ve really needed to practice in my life. I believe it whole heartedly, but I’ve just never really needed it.

I was totally surprised because although the topic was indeed, the placebo effect, it focused more on quantum field healing. Not only that, but actually the idea of bringing situations, circumstances and things you want into your life by applying the techniques of quantum field manifestation. Absolutely fascinating and we took part in a guided visualisation which totally transported you literally into the quantum field. I hadn’t had any mushroom tea beforehand by the way!

Years ago (12 to be exact) when I first began learning about conscious creation and transforming your life, I was introduced to quantum physics. It wasn’t that I couldn’t believe without seeing, it was just the path I followed began with that science. So for me, quantum physics isn’t a new subject.

I realised, however, that I’ve not thought about it for a very long time. Listening to the talk reintroduced the basics and the fact that everything – literally everything, from the chair I am sitting on, to the keyboard I am typing on (my fingers too!) is made up of nothing more than waves of energy.

On the face of it we see objects all around us. We see trees, roads, cars, mountains, furniture and masses and masses of people. Break that down, however, until you reach atoms, and within that space you’ll find nothing more than waves of energy. Quantum mechanics explains that through this field of energy we are all connected. It is of course where we understand that like attracts like and thought, being nothing more than energy, when aligned and fuelled with action, creates manifestation, and the process of conscious creation. Entirely a topic for another blog post.

This talk reminded me of our interconnectedness and a desire for the world to be a kinder place where people aren’t cruel and unkind to others. Rose coloured spectacles? Perhaps, but if there was a global movement towards this viewpoint it would have a pretty staggering impact, positively on our planet and those within it.

I’m not just talking about people harming each other (although in of itself that’s quite enough). I’m talking about our entire planet and the future of the human race. Our constant need for more to the detriment of our oceans and forests, our animal planet and our resources.

If the importance of interconnectedness were a fundamental teaching, we could literally transform our world.

I’ve always had an ability to think, ‘bigger picture’. I believe we all have a responsibility as a human being to contribute as much as we can to our fellow human beings and our beautiful planet. When you think about our actions at the smallest, quantum level, you can see how those waves of energy ripple and interact with others. Take a massive group, community, army, nation or country of people or actions and you can see how much power that energy builds and impacts on people and our planet. Thats the good and the bad – energy doesn’t differentiate, it just is.

Fast forward several days and I listened to a podcast today by A. J. Jacobs, who did a stand in for Tim Ferriss on his show podcast. Very funny guy and never heard of him before today. He has just written a new book about gratitude called, ‘Thanks a Thousand, A Gratitude Journey.’ Very interesting story about how he travelled around the world to thank every single person who played a part in his morning coffee. There were a thousand of them! From the guy who chose the coffee beans and the farmers who grew them, to the truck driver who transported them and the guy who put lines on the road to keep the truck going! Brilliant and can’t wait to read it. Aside from the obvious reminder to continually practice gratitude – which I do but not to that level often. Well if I did it would become my job and so for now I try my best at being grateful as much as possible. Ok so aside from that, it smacked me in the face once again how totally connected everything and everyone is.

On a side note, I laughed out loud when he talked about his previous book, ‘The Year of Living Biblically’ because he literally lived for an entire year according to the laws and rules set out in the bible. Throwing pebbles rather than stones at adulterers so as to avoid being arrested!

He talked about connectedness more. How if you pull a thread on your sweater it unravels half the hem (seriously why we pull those things I never know). There’s a group of scientists and researchers who are building a family tree of all the people in the world – yes all. They aren’t done yet – but they have around 100 million people connected and you can use DNA and other information to see how you are connected. Wondering at this point if publicising that too much might result in a storming of the Buckingham Palace gated as floods of people claim relation to the Queen!

I loved this little story he gave that really sums up being connected and gives real pause for thought…

‘Years ago, John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA and he met a janitor sweeping in the hallway. He stopped and shook the man’s hand. “What do you do?”, he asked.

“Well, Mr President, I’m contributing to putting a man on the moon,” the janitor replied…’

Interconnectedness. If you really give a little time to pondering this, the level it impacts our lives every single moment of every day is phenomenal. From what we think and do, to how we behave, communicate and interact with others. It goes on; consider the decisions we make and the actions we take every day that impact others, our environment and our planet.

People often say, it doesn’t matter. One person doing something can’t make a difference, but when you truly understand the significance of interconnectedness, it does matter (love the pun).

The irony is, in a world that is so inextricably and inexorably connected, with a constant need to develop more technology to give more ways to connect, we were and have always been intrinsically connected, on a level that is so vast it encompasses our entire planet and human race.

Interconnectedness is available to each of us, at any time, without WIFI, logging in, or connecting via USB…

Are you distracted by sounds during meditation?

I doubt there is a single person who isn’t distracted by sound during meditation. Recently, however, I started a meditation course with Sam Harris, which you can find on your app store by searching for Waking Up with Sam Harris.

Even meditating early in the morning you will find you are subject to sounds, whether it be dogs barking, distant traffic or birds singing. I have often meditated on birds singing which I find quite peaceful but add a barking dog or someone leaving their house in a car and I find myself distracted. I’ll bring my focus back to the breath and resume.

Sam Harris teaches that rather than be distracted by sounds, no matter what their origin, to simply focus upon them. Just in the same way that you would the breath.

I was actually surprised at how easy this was and the difference it made. Rather than being distracted by sounds, they simply become a focus of the meditation itself.

Previously I deemed birds chirping to be pleasant, whereas dogs barking to be distracting. Now it doesn’t matter what the sound.

“If you can’t meditate in a boiler room, you can’t meditate.” – Alan Watts

The sound simply permeates consciousness just in the same way breath does. And sound comes and goes, just like the breath does.

So the next time you meditate and hear the kids shouting, dogs barking, cars starting or neighbours chatting, simply focus on whatever sounds come into your awareness and follow them until they disappear.

This totally changes your meditation. Try it.

 

[This image was taken (clearly on the roof of a car!) close to Point Reyes, California – if you can meditate on the top of a car you can meditate anywhere, right?]

The Myth of Missing

Some people spend their whole lives searching for that something they feel is missing from their lives; that thing that will make everything ok, make sense and complete life.

I spent most of my life this way too. Always feeling less than, knowing that if I could just find what was missing, I’d figure it all out. If I knew that missing thing and understood it I could get past being stuck and live a happier life.

For years we might seek to find what is missing externally. If I am perfect at this and that, achieve this goal or that job. If I get to have that house or go on those holidays. The never ending need to add things to life to make ourselves feel happy and all in an attempt to fill that missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle and all will be well.

I’ve come to realise that it’s a myth, this missing something.

There are a myriad of reasons we feel something is missing. Usually totally falsely created during childhood when we don’t feel good enough or up to what is expected of us. We begin, although certainly not consciously, to feel something must be missing from us. We must not be smart enough, loveable or likeable enough, good enough. As we grow, this belief simply attracts more of the same situations to further affirm this belief until it becomes truth. By the time we reach adulthood we aren’t aware of its origin, we simply feel something is missing. In a cruel way it becomes an excuse. We cannot achieve this or that because of what is missing. We are stuck on a never ending treadmill. Truly we are the cause of our problem and yet continue to search for what is missing regardless. We cannot see the wood for the trees.

When you seek you find and with mindfulness,  through the process of cultivating self awareness, there will come a time when you realise, so profoundly, there is actually nothing missing. You are already complete. Everything you seek is already within you and you are perfect as you are. There is nothing to be gained, nothing that needs to be added to complete that jigsaw puzzle. For me this began when I sought yet another therapist to help me discover what was missing, what was wrong. She said to me, “has it ever occurred to you that nothing is wrong, that nothing is missing?” It sounds so simple yet it was so profound and it led me to unravel truly where this belief had come from and to realise I was ok. Nothing was missing. It isn’t as night and day as; one day you feel something is missing and you are stuck and the next you are not, but the realisation is the first step to thinking and ultimately taking actions that are different; leading to a different outcome and a happier, more fulfilled life.

These childhood experiences create a separation within; a discord from who you truly are, to who you think you are. Your whole or the completeness of who you really are becomes fragmented.  To give an analogy, it’s as though you’ve taken a hammer and broken up a complete block of toffee…the pieces are fragmented and separated, broken. You spend your life searching for the missing pieces but because of the separation and discord within, you don’t see they are already there. Seeking inside yourself enables you to be in the space between the pieces and realise they are all there and perfectly fit together. Through the power of mindfulness your heightened self awareness can look ‘outside in’ as if viewing your broken pieces from above and to see how they fit perfectly back together.

This allows us to let go of the false beliefs we hold in our mind and that we’ve held about ourselves for so many years. It enables us to see ourselves truly as we are; when you feel that completeness from an inner knowing of its existence, you can love yourself, value yourself, and in turn, this becomes I am loveable, I am likeable, I am…

 

 

[I took this image while on a flight from England to California, over Greenland. Beneath us the ice that was once a solid mass was fragmented but from above you could see it fit perfectly together.]

 

 

 

The Cycle of Self Sabotage

A friend of mine suggested revisiting a limiting beliefs exercise. While completing it and journalling around it I arrived at some profound realisations about self sabotage and drew The Self Sabotage Cycle. This is experiential for me and wanted to share here in the hope that it would help others who experience self sabotage and/or are not aware of it.

What is self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage is an extremely powerful and destructive behaviour that is almost always created during early childhood. By the age of 10 we begin to apply meaning to our experiences and thus create beliefs about ourselves which then begin to shape and create our lives. The complexity of this process means, that the fears we hold at the core of these beliefs, then force us to create rules and excuses that become ingrained within us and form our ‘innate’ character. By thinking, behaving and acting based on these beliefs, over and over again, we condition ourselves until the responses become automatic – and we live on autopilot.

We aren’t consciously aware that the actions we are taking and decisions we are making come from a completely dysfunctional perspective, simply because of the meaning we placed on our early childhood experiences.

How do we create self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage is created as a way of ‘protecting’ ourselves during traumatic or negative childhood experiences. As an example, and this will vary from person to person depending on individual experience, an immobilising fear of; making mistakes, being ridiculed, being rejected, being physically or emotionally abused, being disliked and being unloved, is the catalyst for a child to develop a need to create a response that, in their mind, will keep them safe. In this example, that response is to ensure one remains small and goes as unnoticed as possible. The fear the child has is very real; in response to the behaviour and actions of someone close to them and/or to the environment in which they live, but as an adult, although the threat no longer exists, the fear and the need to protect oneself remains as strong as ever.

The child may experience difficulties with interpersonal relationships, but largely; going unnoticed, keeping quiet, not laughing or having fun and playing the victim, does the child little harm. It simply serves the purpose (although on a subconscious, ‘unconscious’ level) i.e. if I act this way I am less likely to; be ridiculed, be noticed, be hit, be rejected, and so on. As the child grows up, however, and inevitably becomes an adult, self-sabotage wreaks havoc on every element of life; from work and finances to all interpersonal relationships, especially intimate ones where trust and commitment is required, health and lifestyle.

What are the effects of self-sabotage?

Where a child’s needs are not met, it can be the case where the adult also experiences addiction. Although driven by a need that can never be met to fill a hole that can never be filled, addiction becomes merely another form of self-sabotage and a useful and wicked resource from which ‘it’ can draw from. Adult life can become tumultuous, chaotic and very painful.

Sabotaging jobs, relationships, finances, health and so on are all common place when self-sabotage is at play. It goes undetected because of a lack of self-awareness and simply not realising where the behaviour stems from and that it is responsible for the life you are living.

How can I be free of self-sabotage?

Not everyone becomes aware of the self-sabotage at work in their lives. However, fortunately, due to the nature of the destruction it can cause and the associated feelings of being stuck (which truly are beliefs and excuses we create) it can lead to seeking a better life and a desire to become free.

Self-sabotage requires mindfulness, patience and loving kindness towards oneself. Bravely delving into the limiting beliefs held about yourself and uncovering the fear that lies at the root of them. The fears are rarely real. The only frightening realisation is that something you were afraid of 30 or 40 years ago is now ruling and ruining your life – keeping you from living the life you desire and truly deserve.

When anything is brought into the light it is never as frightening as it seems. When you can identify the beliefs, rules and excuses, and importantly the fear beneath them, it brings a level of awareness that enables you to notice your actions. Over time it becomes easier to realise the thoughts and behaviours driving the actions that no longer serve you. There will come a point when you are able to see clearly the points at which you are sabotaging something you want to bring into your life; whether that be around work, purpose, money, health or relationships.

Naturally, the most powerful limiting beliefs you hold about yourself are the areas in which you sabotage the most.

By living ‘mindfully’ you are able to choose differently. When your choices are no longer based on fear and fuelled by beliefs that are simply not true, you will find you begin to manifest more of what you want in your life, rather than getting in your own way and receiving more of what you don’t want. The only thing keeping you stuck where you are, is you. Be courageous and make your goal and intention to become free from the cycle of self-sabotage.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”

– Grace Murray Hopper

The Self-Sabotage Cycle

Practising mindfulness brings self-awareness. You will notice a pattern emerging around your self-sabotage behaviour; a cycle – the series of actions that you regularly repeat in the same order.

The diagram below shows the Self-Sabotage Cycle at the point that most people become aware that self-sabotage is ruling (and ruining!) their lives.

Before this time, you will have probably gone through the cycle countless times over many years and most likely, experienced it throughout your adult life to date. The sabotage will often kick in before you have even taken any action. You might get an idea or want to do something or bring about a change in your life, only to ruin it before it even starts. You won’t have even been aware you were ruining it, you were just doing what you do. Life is chaotic, and you constantly change your mind, second guess your decisions and generally run amok with yourself. Self-sabotage is cruel, relentless and plays out in a myriad of destructive ways.

As time goes on the cycle might continue to where you experience some progress and even success, but no matter how far around the cycle you get, you will inevitably at some point sabotage your happiness and eradicate the possibility of getting what it is that you desire.

The stages of the Self-Sabotage Cycle

In any area of your life you may set yourself a goal or intention. You act and find you are making progress. This inspires you and you feel excited to take more action towards achieving what it is you want. You may even achieve some success, and this gives you confidence to work on achieving and realising your goal. It is at this point that you will sabotage yourself. Whether that is convincing yourself it wasn’t for you, distracting yourself to do something else or out and out destroying something or putting an obstacle in your path to ensure you don’t achieve your goal, no matter how big or small it is.

The diagram clearly shows that at the point which you sabotage yourself and thus prevent yourself from achieving your goal and manifesting your intention, the circle is broken. It is symbolic in reflecting the incompleteness and ‘stuck feeling’ it creates within you and your life. The Self-Sabotage Cycle is one where the prize, glory, happiness or whatever you see it as, is missing. In the Self-Sabotage Cycle, once you have sabotaged your goal or intention, you simply start over again with something new. Constantly repeating this cycle can become intense, turbulent and incredibly confusing.

Breaking the Cycle 

With mindfulness comes awareness and clarity. At the point which you would ordinarily sabotage your goal and intention (ultimately your happiness!) you simply choose to continue. Often the one thing we need to do is not a gargantuan task or mountainous climb, it is a simple act and, in this case, choosing to take another step forward, another action and believing you can be successful, you are good enough, loveable, deserving and so on. It is in this final quarter of the cycle you have faith and trust you will achieve what you desire.

This completes the circle and by doing this you have become unstuck. You have created a flow in your life. On a subtler level, over time, when sabotage no longer exists in your life cycle, just as the circle denotes, you feel complete, whole and what was missing is now fulfilled. There is no gaping hole to fill and with more confidence in your own ability to create the life you desire, you will become free, to live a happy, healthy, fulfilled life.

SELF SABOTAGE

 

 

[The beautiful featured image in this post was taken through a Monterey Cypress tree overlooking Carmel beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.]

Joy

I have written about joy before….experiencing it on demand (as the great Chade Meng Tan talks about). Truly though, if you give it a little thought to it, aside from Christmas when joy seems to be scattered everywhere (joy to the world and all that), when do you experience joy?

It isn’t a word I am familiar with. I haven’t experienced a lot of joy in my life and haven’t come to know it well, until recently. It has always been fleeting and has required much thought and focus, which really, if you think about it, totally negates joy.

To me, joy is happiness multiplied. It is the feeling of being overwhelmed with love, happiness, elation, positivity and total bliss in the moment.

The Oxford dictionary describes joy as;

the joy of being alive

..which to me, and am sure you will agree, sums it up perfectly.

Recently, I decided my focus is on joy. Noticing it and bringing more of it into my life. Surprising how that attention of awareness brings so much to fruition. The main joy in my days are my two children – who honestly are not the epitome of children. My daughter is 19 and my son is 15, and although I am totally biased, they are the funniest two humans ever. They make me laugh constantly….the forever running stream of accents that range from Russian to Italian to something Polish and in between. My son only ever speaks to our dog in a Polish accent, it is absolutely hilarious. You could not find a comedian that could make this stuff up. They are my greatest critics and the cause of my greatest sorrow. I love every inch of both of them and my life would not be what it is without them. They are joy in it’s full entirety.

I am always in a state of some self development….and this year has been the culmination of many, many years of work on my self worth…and the value I place upon my self, which, if you think about it is probably the cause of most people’s discord – that feeling of not being good enough basically. I have worked hard on this and have to say, I like who I am today. I have bad days, but don’t we all? But I no longer hate or loathe myself and this is alien to me now. However, joy is also quite an alien thing. It comes and goes, but I want more of it.

I’ve talked about affirmations before and especially the power of writing them down, which you can read about here. My affirmation has been for a while about loving and valuing myself and noticing joy. Seriously, these written affirmations never fail to materialise…it is totally magical and you can’t truly believe it until you practice it and do them daily.

Here is my list of joys just this past week:

  • Feeling somewhat annoyed at a business trip having turned into a mega long trip stuck in traffic, only to realise that my destination [seriously didn’t realise it was that far] was in North Wales…I LOVE Wales – such a great feeling to be there
  • I apologise if this seems racist, it totally is not intended that way, but the total picture of it was so funny…I kept seeing signs on the M6 of pedestrians in the road. I thought that was odd, I mean would they not be ran over? So a couple of miles after the signs, I see a car and a traffic officer with two completely white robed muslim men bombing along the hard shoulder and the slow lane trying to retrieve luggage that had flew off….I was laughing so much I nearly crashed the car
  • Woo (my lovely daughter) singing
  • Re-connecting with the third book I want to publish and actually finding a way to publish it (am working on it and it precedes Maldives for the Mind)
  • Looking at photographs (whilst working on aforementioned book) of my kids when they were little
  • Creating some positive quotes with my photographs for social media
  • Baking both days of the weekend
  • Meeting my sister and mum for drinks at the pub
  • Visiting my beautiful Grandma and sitting in the garden with our faces in the sunshine
  • Embarking on my 50 minute National Parks Challenge that turned into an hour and 43 minute, 5 mile walk through mainly wet grass with our dog, Lenny
  • Visiting my brother and chatting with my nephew who fashioned a ‘fix’ for the light pull in the bathroom. It was too short and you couldn’t grasp the cord so he fixed it with a tampon ha ha ha…seriously the kid is just too intelligent
  • Sitting on my garden swing in the sunshine, just for 10 minutes with a cup of tea
  • Ironing my son’s new (6) school shirts and realising this was the last year I would be doing this and remembering all his school years… picturing him as that cute 6 year old (warms my heart…he is now 6ft 2)

There is so much more….

Notice joy and it is everywhere.

 

[This photograph was taken along the Highway 1 route in California in 2009. My beautiful two children on the campsite we stayed at, just across from the beach.]