Listen and show interest in others

Over the years I’ve learnt there is one sure fire way of taking the focus off you own problems and distracting yourself from your own issues, and that’s by focusing on others.

You might think you’re a good listener but are you really?

When someone tells you of their woes, or confides in you their problems, how often do you respond with stories of your own. How often do you relate by telling your own perspective, your own issues and your own problems?

Being a good listener is not easy, but incredibly rewarding. I have found that by really intently listening to someone else, you not only learn something new but you also feel yourself. Primarily you are helping a fellow human, simply by lending an ear.

We get so caught up in our own story, journey and tale of life that we can’t see a bigger picture. At times when it becomes overwhelming we might feel we can’t cope or can’t see a way out. Truly one of the biggest blessings and antidotes to our troubles is simple. Focus on helping someone else. Whether that’s by lending an ear, helping out or whatever it may be, take the focus off your own woes and help someone else. It is liberating.

Truly I believe we are all here to serve one another. Help each other. Despite the duality we are all one. Using our innate gifts and talents to serve others is a gift.

Commit to doing that today. See the difference it makes. See how much better it feels.

Share your experience here.

[Image copyright thank you Austin Chan, Unsplash. Instagram @austinchan]

7 daily practices to change your life

It doesn’t matter the area of your life, if you strip things back to basics you will find that life just becomes easier. When I was thinking about writing this article, I thought about skincare and how going back to basics always works. I thought about diet and healthy eating; keeping things simple gets results. Exercise and keeping it simple means you can sustain a regime that works. Clothing is another example I thought of and the notion of, essentials. Keeping things simple, stripping back to basics and working on essentials gets results. When we over complicate things, start adding in too much our lives become chaotic. The mind, therefore, is no different and I started to think about the basic practices I apply to my daily life that makes a difference…

What I have learnt over the years on my own journey of self development is that consistency in any area of your life is the key to success. That and being persistent. So doing the same thing but doing it regularly. That isn’t to say that you can’t or shouldn’t change something if it isn’t working, but to truly get results you have to keep practising.

Creating healthy habits don’t just apply to diet and exercise, they apply to the mind too. Ultimately, everything comes from mind because it dominates our being and drives our body, so to speak. Cultivating a healthy mind is, therefore, paramount if we are to live a happy and peaceful life.

Here are my basic, essential and simple 7 daily practices that if practiced consistently, every day, will change your life. They are in no particular order and so it isn’t that you have to do them in the order in which they appear. I do have times of day when I prefer to do some practices and have outlined those and why that is below, but truly find what works for you and remember, they are intended to be basic and so keep it simple.

1. Yoga

Although at first this may be perceived as just an exercise, yoga goes way above and beyond any conventional form of exercise. Indeed, the physical practice does have its benefits, truly it is a spiritual practice; a moving meditation and a daily practice or discipline if you like, where you are unifying your mind, body and spirit with universal consciousness. Even if your intention is just around the physical, you will benefit on all other levels regardless.

For me, yoga is a self discipline and one that sets the tone for the day. It cleanses and detoxes the body from the inside out and leaves my body feeling lighter, stronger and energised. My mind is calmer and overall I feel balanced. The physical practice of yoga (hatha) is traditionally the foundation for meditation (raja) and so naturally once I have practised yoga I move into my daily meditation practice.

It doesn’t matter really what time of day you practice yoga. I practice at 5 am simply because that is I have found the most beneficial time. Traditionally yoga is practiced in this way and really does set you up for the day. If your schedule doesn’t allow it, then practice at a time that suits you. It took me years to be able to get up at 5 am and just roll out of bed onto my yoga mat. There are days when I don’t want to do that and days when my body feels like lead, but this is the practice. Getting to the mat regardless of how I feel and taking myself, warts and all as the saying goes, to the mat. Yoga is a practice of self development and a great teacher.

Yoga has become so intrinsically woven into my life that if I have days where I rest from practice it is my body that calls for me to return. I am a better person when I practice yoga. My body feels better and my mind is clearer. Yoga is breath and breath is after all life. Yoga is life.

2. Meditation

By the absence of grasping one is set free. – Buddha

If we can surrender to the present moment we will experience freedom. Meditation allows that space where we can be ourselves, surrender to the present moment and let go of our attachments. In that space we are free and over time the practice spills into our lives in such a way that things just aren’t the same again. Meditation is the foundation to live each day mindfully. It is like turbo boosting your ability to be mindful throughout the day.

It can take time to learn to meditate but simply if you can breathe in and out you can meditate. Once again, we often overthink it so much that it becomes impossible. Truly all we are doing is allowing ourselves to just sit and just be. Focusing on the in breath and focusing on the out breath.

Meditation is the focused awareness of something so that we become at one with it. Truly this becomes consciousness itself but in the beginning it is a case of just sitting and focusing on ones breath. Noticing the thoughts that come and go, sounds and other ‘distractions’ around us and returning focus to the breath. The practice itself is the constant returning to the breath. There is no need to force thoughts away or be carried off with them. We are simply a silent watcher, focusing on our breath and noticing what comes and what goes. Witnessing the arising and falling of whatever comes into consciousness in each moment.

3. Mindfulness

There is no difference between meditation and mindfulness. The two terms are used interchangeably. It is often easy to differentiate them by thinking of meditation as a sitting practice and mindfulness as a daily practice; being mindful of each moment as it happens.

We live most of our lives unconsciously. This is not to mean we are KO’d on the floor, but it does mean we spend most of our time on autopilot. It is our past, conditioned responses that drive how we think and act. This is our ego. We spend most of our time either ruminating over past or dreaming about the future. We rarely spend time in the only time there actually is, and that is now. Be in the now. Be present, fully, in each moment. When you are present to each moment as it is happening you undergo an awakening. You are free from ego. You experience life with a much deeper connection and from a much richer perspective.

This way of being, of living mindfully, takes time. We are not used to being conscious, of being in the present moment. When you spend time in the here and now you are experiencing consciousness as it happens. You are the creator of your own life. You are experiencing each moment and making decisions based on the now, ultimately consciously creating your own life.

To do this, be present as much and as fully as you can throughout the day and your waking life. Bring your attention to the present moment. Experience each moment as it happens.What can you hear, what can you smell, see, touch, taste? When you open yourself up to the present moment you feel alive and your senses revel in what they are being flooded with. The more you become present, the more you will experience and your life becomes fuller and richer from it.

You will begin to notice your thoughts and behaviours and over time change these. You will begin to feel compassion and empathy towards others. You will notice when your emotions shift and you experience anger or other negative emotions. Again, over time being mindful enables you to start to choose how you interact and respond to those around you. Truly there is tremendous power in the now. This is where you always want to aim to be.

4. Gratitude

Gratitude is not something we say with a, thank you. It is something we feel. Gratitude is a daily practice that on its own will change your life. When you are grateful for all that you have now, you are opening yourself up to receiving more. When you spend your life complaining about what you have, or don’t have, what is missing and what you need more of, you create more of the same. When you truly feel grateful for all that you have now, you invite more into your life naturally. The more gratitude you can practice, the more you will have to be grateful for.

This again is a practice you need to do daily. I sometimes write my list of gratitudes down and sometimes I play it through my mind. Either way I am feeling grateful. For all that I have and throughout my day as I experience each moment.

Even when we experience something seemingly negative or ‘bad’ we can practise gratitude. There are always lessons in everything sent our way. Find the gratitude in every experience, good and bad. Be grateful for everything that comes through your life, whatever it is. In this way you will find over time you become less rocked by the good and bad, simply accepting the ‘isness’ of everything. When you have this acceptance of what is and being grateful for that you will begin to experience more joy in your life too.

5. Loving Kindness

In Buddhism loving kindness is the expression of the true nature of Buddha and called ‘metta’. I was first introduced to the idea of practising loving kindness by Chade Meng Tan who is a brilliant thought leader and author of the book, Joy on Demand. He used to be a software engineer and motivator at Google.

Practising loving kindness literally takes seconds and I would encourage you to do this as often as possible. Sometimes at night before I go to bed I practice loving kindness for longer but really it just needs you to bring your attention to the present moment and think about someone to send loving kindness to. In his book, Meng relayed the story of a woman who took his course at Google and who agreed to take part in his loving kindness exercise. He asked everyone to simply wish someone well every hour. It could be anyone and in the case of this woman she simply noticed whoever was passing her at the time and wished them well. She said that at the end of the day it was the best day she had experienced for 7 years!

Often times the best way of getting out of our own head and moving away from your own problems is to wish someone else well. Transferring our attention onto someone else is a sure fire way to make us feel better. I absolutely guarantee that if you practice loving kindness every day for a month you will notice a massive difference in your life. Try it.

6. Contribution/Service

Oprah Winfrey says that service + significance = success. We are born to serve. We are here to help our fellow humans with whatever talents, gifts and skills have had bestowed upon us. You may not know your purpose, but whatever you do, every day, ask yourself, what you can do to serve today? What can you do to contribute to others today? Truly the meaning of a happy and fulfilled life is to serve others and as with loving kindness, serving and helping others makes us feel better.

Contributing to something greater than yourself is your purpose, whatever that might be. Asking this each day will open up opportunities every day for you to serve and help others. Ways that you can contribute for the good of humanity. These might not be gargantuan things, but unless you are open to them you won’t see them. If you are being mindful throughout your day you will notice far more than you did before. In this way, ask this question and be present enough to notice what comes up.

You might not choose to take up everything that comes your way to help others, but there will be opportunities that align with your soul and you just feel moved to do. Service to others will make a massive difference to how you feel and what comes into your life. Take the spotlight off yourself and put it out to the world. Ask yourself, how can I serve or be used to help others today and do it every day…

7. Compassion

Compassion is something I have felt I don’t struggle with towards others, but enormously towards myself. However, over time I realised that you cannot be compassionate truly to others unless you first show compassion to yourself. This daily practice then is as much to you as it is to be practised outwards to others.

Compassion is showing kindness to others. If it is not a daily practice for you now, try incorporating it into your day. To be giving to others is a form of compassion and so coupled with your daily desire to serve and contribute to others will naturally cultivate your compassion practice.

With all of these practices it is about including them in your day in a way that isn’t contrived. Although there is an element of faking it until you make it when it comes to believing in yourself, especially when you start out and are new to self development practices, you can’t fake true kindness or compassion. You can’t fake helping someone or being giving of your time to someone, otherwise it is not true giving.

As with any practice, the more you do something, the better you become at doing it. Over time these practices will become your natural habits – how joyful to have such positive habits! Be patient and simply practice…

What must you do before you have a good level of self worth?

Ask yourself this and, ‘what must I be or do in my life before I value myself?’

If, ‘I am not good enough’, is your most dominant self limiting belief, then you will (most likely unconsciously) create a whole myriad of things you must be and do before you can have a good level of self worth. So when you look to answer these questions honestly, the most likely answer to them will be nothing.

If you are truly honest with yourself, you will see quite clearly that there is nothing you could ever do in terms of external achievements that would impact on your level of self worth to a degree where it is sustainable. You could continue on through the rest of your life convincing yourself that before you can value yourself and have a good level of self worth you must first; buy a house, secure the job of your dreams, live in a warmer country, find a husband or wife, have thousands in the bank, have published a book, be thinner, have better skin (or whatever other body part you think you’d feel better if it changed) and so the list goes on. However, if what you have achieved in your life to this point hasn’t affected the level of self worth you hold for yourself, nothing you ever achieve will affect it. This might seem obvious, but until it sinks in what I am saying won’t have enough of an effect for you to do something meaningful about it. At certain points in your life, when you achieve something, you may get that feeling of elation that ‘this is it!’, this is what you have been waiting for, but you will soon realise it isn’t and continue on with your search for what is missing and needing to just reach another point.

In the end you realise that half of your adult life has disappeared in ‘some day isle’ (a phrase a good friend of mine uses) and that you spend half your time living in the future. You aren’t where your feet are planted, i.e. in the here and now where truly your life is and where it matters most. If you think about it, this is right where your future is created.

The nature of the problem to feeling less than or not good enough is there is something missing. This is why you live your life constantly looking at what you have done wrong or what you could do better – you are focusing on the lack and the scarcity – the what is missing from your life that makes you not good or enough or less than. If you could fill that space, that void with a better job, more money (something from the list above or whatever you feel is missing) your life will be complete. You will be more than enough and feel good. This is self sabotage and a cruel trick of the mind.

The solution is always to be found within the problem – in this case it is simple; to what is missing – there is nothing missing, it is already there within you – your false perception of what is real deludes you into thinking there is something missing. I cannot comment on what your life experience has been to create these false limiting beliefs about yourself, but usually it is the case they were created in childhood. It isn’t even the case that there needed to be great torrents of abuse – truly most parents do the best they can. However, it does not take much for children to grow up believing they are not good enough. Depending on the degree to which they take that on board, will shape the way they then live their lives. This happens through constantly reaffirming the belief by repetitive patterns of behaviour, until it is so conditioned within their being, that by adulthood it simply becomes a normal way of life. Not good enough and the feeling of being less than is so intrinsic to character that it weaves its way through every single avenue of one’s life making it nigh on impossible to spot.

Through meditation and mindfulness it is possible to raise your level of self awareness to such a degree that you can unravel the behaviour and change it. Starting with identifying the beliefs you hold about yourself, others and the world at large. Being mindful enables you to see how your beliefs shape your thoughts that in turn guide your behaviour and ultimately drive your actions.

If you can replace the limiting beliefs you can transform your life. It will not happen overnight. These beliefs have been within you for many years. The further along your life path you are, the trickier it becomes, but it is possible and often times I have found that it is not gargantuan leaps you need to take to make a difference, just small steps that over time become the difference.

If you are reading this, you are already seeking some sort of change. Start by noticing what you think about yourself, what are the habitual patterns of thought that run through your mind are. If you can’t figure these out, that’s ok. Honestly, these beliefs are so ingrained that it can be difficult to know what they are. Another effective way of figuring them out is to look at the end result i.e. what you experience in your life. What are the common themes that run through your relationships, your career, your lifestyle habits, your finances? Really look closely and be honest with yourself. Meditate upon them and seek the answers. They will come.

Once you have figured out the most dominant limiting beliefs – we all have so many, but usually there are just one or two that literally infiltrate most of your life – work on them. I guarantee if you can start to replace the limiting belief with a new one that does serve you, your life will start to change. I am not good enough becomes I am enough, I have enough and I am more than capable of …..(fill in the gap). It all starts with a belief. If nothing else at the starting point, believe in yourself enough to want to change. Start here, right now where your feet are planted and believe in the power you have within you to change. Take each moment of each day and affirm that to yourself until you identify the beliefs and do the same to change those. When you begin to form new beliefs these in turn spark different thoughts. When you start to take actions that are aligned with your new beliefs and thoughts you put energy into motion and you manifest a different outcome than the one you are living. You consciously create a new life, a better life and all those things you believed you needed to achieve to be good enough will already be in front of you. You will realise you are enough and you have enough. In the here and now. I am good enough comes from within and when you truly believe that it will emanate from you into every aspect of your life. What is within will always be without.

“To know you have enough is to be rich beyond measure.” – Lao Tzu

[There is a paradox to me in this photo, finding peace and serenity sitting on the top of a Range Rover. It sums this post up to me in so many ways. This photo was taken by the ocean close to Reyes Point, California, where my sister and I were convinced of climbing down a cliff with my brother!]

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…

Do affirmations really work?

The simple answer is a resounding, YES!

I was first introduced to affirmations about 10 years ago when I read Shakti Gawain’s book, ‘Creative Visualisation’.  An affirmation is simply a sentence that outlines a goal you would like to realise. Over the years I have tried many different affirmation techniques, from repeating them in the mirror while I look at myself, to having post it notes all over the house. If you are ambling along your own self development journey you will know that fundamentally you have to unearth your self limiting beliefs and work on those, as well as a myriad of other facets of your being, to enable you to begin peeling back the layers of the onion, so to speak.

However, affirmations, even if you aren’t self aware, can work and you could think of as being based loosely on the ‘fake it until you make it’ model. The key, as with most things in life, is of course persistency and consistency. Doing them every now and then and switching up what affirmations you do at a rate of knots won’t get you anywhere.

The most powerful and successful affirmation technique I have ever come across, I learned while listening to one of my very first Tim Ferriss podcasts. Tim was interviewing Scott Adams, the creator of the famous Dilbert cartoon. During the interview, Scott divulged that he had began doing this affirmation technique and said that it was what was responsible for making his dream to become a cartoonist come true and what ultimately led to Dilbert becoming a reality. Wow!

The technique is quite simple, but prescriptive and remember, you must persist and be consistent. Do it daily and keep the affirmation the same until it has been realised.

Most people have many goals, or things they wish to bring about in their lives, but there will be one that really stands out for you. That’s the one you choose to start with. Simply write your affirmation down in a sentence. This is the actual one that Scott Adams used:

“I Scott Adams will become a syndicated cartoonist.”

You write that down 15 times each day. That’s it. A little bit like writing lines for being naughty at school, but in this case the outcome is a much greater one! You can see that if your goal is 3 sentences long you will be writing for some time. I have a notebook I keep just for affirmations and 15 lines fills half the page. Just write your affirmation out each day. The way that this works is somewhat of a phenomenon and definitely one of those situations where you just have faith and trust the flow. The magic just happens and before you know it, synchronicities occur and things start to happen in the way you want them to. At first you might not even realise it, but at some point it will dawn on you that your affirmations are working. It is quite unbelievable how it can happen.

There are lots of theories as to why this works. My view is that writing it down brings it to reality and while you are writing, you begin to imagine it and thus you create the feeling to generate the energy and action for conscious creation to work. You can read what Scott Adams himself has to say about it here.

I have tried and tested lots of different ways to do affirmations and this is by far the best – I mean it is the best, because it works!

The Tim Ferriss interview with Scott Adams is podcast 106 on Tim’s blog, which you can find here.

In addition to this, I will sometimes recite affirmations to myself while swimming. I am mindful during swimming, being in the present moment, but at the same time reciting my affirmations. It is such a great time to do it because that 30 minutes would otherwise be spent thinking about something that had happened yesterday or figuring something else out that has not happened yet. I am always aiming to be mindful of course, but my mind wanders. By reciting affirmations, I am almost performing a moving meditation, with the affirmation as my mantra. I will swim a length and repeat my affirmation to myself – in my head of course because otherwise I would be taking on water – then I might swim back and recite my Buddhist mantra (OM MANI PADME HUM) and then the next lap practise loving kindness. If you have read my other blog posts, you will know that I am a huge advocate of loving kindness meditation and practise it as much as I can. These to me are all affirmations and during exercise is the perfect time to repeat them. Try it yourself.

 

Remember, be sure to write your affirmation down each day 15 times and expect great things…

 

[This photo was taken under a beautiful blue early morning San Francisco sky, at the top of Lyon Street steps]