The New Year Sale

I’ve been pondering recently on an exercise suggested as an alternative to setting New Year resolutions.

I am not a fan of New Year resolutions. I don’t make them. I can resolve to changing something at any time during the year. New Year resolutions for most people don’t stick. Most often people make them because they feel they have to, rather than wanting to, which makes it meaningful and more likely to last. If this is the case, chances are they won’t last much beyond February. Another reason why you find the gym you go to so jam packed during January only to quieten down again and return to normal in February.

Instead, I like to reflect on the year that has passed and think about what I’d like to see happening for the coming year. I avoid setting goals at the beginning of January and just ease myself back in and then start thinking about it towards the end of the month.

So an alternative New Year exercise is to review your entire calendar for the year just gone by. Take a notepad and draw a line down the middle of the page, heading ‘negative’ on one side and ‘positive’ on the other. Review the calendar week by week, writing down the name of each person you’ve interacted with in one of the columns based on the impact they’ve had upon you?

Easy right? Not so, there is more to this than one would first think…

By the way, if you have an iphone it will have a default setting that erases your calendar as you go along. No idea why it thinks this would be helpful. You can restore all your diary by going into calendar settings and choosing to ‘sync’ all events. It adds everything back in almost instantly. I can’t speak for other devices but for ical this works. If you don’t note or write who you meet in your calendar, you could simply make a list of all the people you have interacted with through the year. To be honest I found I did a bit of both because I don’t always schedule personal meet ups in my calendar, so I wrote down a list of all the people in my life and who I have met with in the last year.

Once you have your list of people, write them on the naughty or nice list.

The idea is that at the end of the exercise you can choose to have less or no interaction with those on the negative or naughty list.

For me it wasn’t quite that black and white. What I found was, that there were many people who had both a positive and a negative impact on me. Not surprisingly some of these were family members, but also people I work with too.

There were so many benefits to doing this. It gave me the opportunity to see who I spend most of my time with – am sure you have heard of the saying that we are the sum of the 5 people we surround ourselves with. It gives you the opportunity to appraise who those people are.

I realised that at some points we all (some more than others) impact both negatively and positively on others. Even if we aren’t intending to it is the perception of others that decides the impact we have upon them. So in that vein I came to the conclusion that really it is my response that makes it positive or negative. After all that’s all I am in control of. I can’t change the way another person behaves. I can only change the way in which I respond, and, as the purpose of the exercise, decide whether or not to keep people in my life.

Gives a whole new meaning to a New Year sale.

Random Act of Kindness Challenge

One of the practices I incorporate into my day is random acts of kindness. I’ve been doing a 30 day Random Acts of Kindness Challenge that I think I was introduced to on a Tim Ferriss blog. I started this in November and loved it so much, both in the sense of making me feel good and of course extending acts of kindness to others, that I decided to embark on another month.

The challenge is simply to do one random act of kindness each day. It doesn’t have to be some gargantuan gesture. It might be letting someone go in front of you at the checkout line, smiling at someone or donating to a cause that comes your way during that day.

During the first month I found I would forget. That isn’t to say I am not kind outside of these RAOK (we’ll go with that acronym for short) but I didn’t want it to become a box ticking exercise. It is more around increasing my contribution to others, which is something that I believe to be so central to living a more fulfilled life.

I keep a list in the notes on my phone so that I can see how I am doing and over the month look at the bigger picture.

The second month, however, I found I rarely missed a day. Here are some examples of my RAOK during the past couple of months:

  • Gave my Auntie ¬£20 so that she could stay in the guest room of my grandmother’s care home.
  • Picked up a little girl’s balloon that had blown away and gave it back to her.
  • Bought my daughter a bear when she was feeling poorly.
  • Donated money to a dog charity on top of my bill at the pet shop.
  • Gave my gifts to someone at an event because there weren’t enough to go round.
  • Treated my nephew to a football game ticket.
  • Read the bible to my Grandma.

These are perhaps things you would ordinarily do. However, the fact you are consciously embarking on the challenge is a daily reminder. I’ve found the more random acts of kindness you do, the more opportunities come your way to give them. There are days when there are many and then days when perhaps I have been home for most of it I have to remind myself to give. It isn’t about right or wrong, good or bad, just more of creating this as a daily ritual to practice kindness and contribute to others.

I remember watching a Friends episode where Phoebe tried to find a selfless good deed..it was impossible. Even if you think you aren’t gaining, you are left feeling good, so technically you are benefitting. It makes me smile when I am faced with something during the day and it pops into my mind that it’s another opportunity for a RAOK. The purpose of this is obviously not to receive, but it adds to the joy of your day when your random act of kindness has helped someone, made a difference or impacted positively on another person’s day.

Try it for yourself and let me know how you get on!

The Crazy Chimp

Hello December ūüôā 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.]