I recently read a wonderful quote’ from M. Reitz and M. Chaskalson:
Mindfulness is: ‘Stepping out of the fast flowing & sometimes turbulent stream onto the river bank so you can easily see what’s going on’
I’m not sure mindfulness practice is necessarily ‘easy’ although it has been scientifically proved to get easier with practice.
So then I got thinking about being mindful at work. In some environments this may seem impossible to do. If you work in health & social care for example there may not seem to be many occasions when you can be mindful. However, with a bit of thought I believe you can.
So, here’s my list of six activities you can try to build into your day at work, and if you don’t work then you can equally build them into whatever you're doing:
Taste: Can you taste the air as you walk. If there are any late season blackberries help yourself to a couple and eat them mindfully as you go. If it’s raining then taste the rain.
Temperature: Are you warm, hot or cold? Can you feel the temperature on your face? Is your face colder or warmer than other parts of your body?
Touch: Can you feel the ground beneath your feet? The differences in texture? Pick a leaf and feel it in your fingers. What does it feel like? What does it feel like if you run it across your face? Can you crumple it?
Seeing: What can you see around you? Notice the buildings and fields, the grass or tarmac beneath your feet. Notice something you’ve never seen before.
Sound: What can you hear? Really listen. Approach this playfully. Does the siren you hear change note, what about the birds? Is that the same song sung over and over or are there variations?
Smell: What can you smell? Dew on the grass maybe, or the exhaust fumes of cars.
If you drive: You need to be alert to what’s going on around you, so I’d hesitate in getting too focussed on the activity! However, notice the feel of the car door as you open it. Look carefully at the lights which light up on your dashboard. If you realise you don’t know what they all mean perhaps now’s the time to find out! J What sound does the door make when it closes? What about your engine when it starts? Do your brakes make a sound when you first pull away? What about the noise of the surfaces you drive over? I live at the end of a mile long lane, I have grass and gravel, concrete and ruts to negotiate before I get onto the main road. Each makes a different sound and feels different as I drive over them. What about if you drive through puddles or a wet road surface, or mud? What do they sound like, how do they feel? What sounds can you hear? What temperature are you? What smells are there inside the car, or coming from outside/ I love driving through bonfire smoke, or behind a two-stroke engine or a car which is burning oil.
Or, when the phone rings, don’t answer it straight away, take a couple of breaths first and then answer it.
So hopefully I’ve shown you how you can incorporate some mindful activities quickly and easily into your day. Please let me know in the comments how you get on, I’d love to know how you managed.
Until next time
A Personal Story:
I have a phobia. It’s called Siderodromophobia … no, I can’t pronounce it either! Basically it’s a fear of trains. Phobias are usually caused by some traumatic event, or they can even be hereditary. In my case I fell off a train in my teens. It was at Cholsey Station in Oxfordshire and the train started up and pulled away as I was getting off. I remember hitting the platform just before it ended and grazing all the right side of my body. Since then I’ve had a fear of trains. Initially I couldn’t hear a train without breaking out into a cold sweat and I certainly couldn’t watch them. I took very scenic routes to avoid having to drive across level crossings. I did force myself to travel on them if I really had to, but I distinctly remember, in my early twenties, standing at the bottom of an escalator on the London Underground having a full blown panic attack and my boyfriend at the time being less than sympathetic. I was going to the Boat Show and I remember spending the whole day dreading the return journey.
On another occasion I had to travel from Trowbridge to work at Bath by train because of a fuel strike. I was in such a state all day that a colleague went miles out of her way to drop me at home that evening.
Then two years ago I qualified as a Mindfulness Tutor. Last year I had a day trip out with my Husband which involved catching the train from Chippenham to Bristol. I couldn’t get on without him holding my hand and I asked lots of questions like, ‘What’s that noise? Should it do that? How does the driver know when to stop? Do other trains travel towards us on the same track?’ However, despite my endless questions I applied mindful breathing techniques and I survived both journeys – to Bristol and return – without having a panic attack. I can’t say I enjoyed the experience, and I would be very reluctant to travel by myself, but I did it!
Anxiety and the Stress Response:
Let’s start by looking at anxiety and how that links to the Stress Response.
Anxiety causes feelings of unease, or worry or fear. Take a moment and think about what anxiety is to you.
What situations make you anxious and how does anxiety display itself in your body and mind?
Common causes of anxiety include sitting exams, or certain subjects such as maths, or perhaps walking into a crowded room. It could be financial stress or marital stress, stress caused by medication or family issues. Change is a major cause of anxiety, moving house or divorce, perhaps changing jobs.
When we feel anxious it triggers our Fight/Flight Stress Response. This is an inbuilt response, which evolved out of the need to survive. It makes us more alert to danger. Hormones are released which help aid our thinking, we have the ability to run away or react quickly by ‘fighting’ the danger. We breathe faster to enable more oxygen to travel to our muscles and our heart beats faster to aid this.
Panic attacks are extreme stress response. We think we are in danger so our body goes into Fight/Flight mode and the symptoms become disabling for us. Our heart beats faster, we feel faint, we sweat, feel nauseous, may experience chest pains and shaking. When a panic attack grips us we may feel we are losing control, that we are having a heart attack, that we can’t breathe and that we might die.
Panic attacks can last for five to twenty minutes and we need a period of time for our bodies to recover from the Stress Response so in extreme cases we may feel panicky for up to an hour.
Self Help for Panic Attacks:
I’m going to describe two methods for dealing with panic attacks, and the good news is that if you can apply them once you are likely to experience panic attacks less frequently in future. You can take control!
The first piece of information you need to hold onto is that panic attacks will not cause you any harm. This is Step One in taking control.
Step Two is that your body is only capable of keeping up an extreme Stress Response for a short period of time. It will end, and it will not cause you any harm.
So, hold onto both of those thoughts and you are already taking control.
The first technique is called, ‘BLOW OUT.’ Knowing that your body cannot keep up this response, and that it will not cause you harm, let it blow itself out.
The more you do this the less likely you are to experience panic attacks.
You are in control!
The second technique uses the letters from the word, ‘PAUSE.’
A Absorb the detail around you
Notice the floor you are standing on, the curtains in the room, your surroundings.
U Use Relaxation
Activities which activate our ‘Parasympathetic Nervous System’, such as relaxation or breathing techniques help us to recover faster from the Stress Response.
E Ease yourself back
So, two techniques to try if you experience panic attacks. I find the second works for me and now I can ‘nip panic attacks in the bud,’ before they occur. At the first sign of extreme anxiety I PAUSE and can prevent a panic attack occurring.
So, know that you are in control. That panic attacks will not cause you any harm, and that they will end.
Armed with this knowledge you can start to apply either of the techniques above and decrease your experiences of panic attacks.
As always, if this affects you then please let me know, and let me know how you get on.
With Serenity & Balance
During my workshops and 1:1 sessions I often state that even practising small amounts of mindfulness can have a beneficial effect on our health & wellbeing. We know this is true from various pieces of research which have taken place. Therefore, think what a positive effect regular, consistent practice could have on you! The good news is it doesn’t have to be for a long period of time, it can be just five minutes a day, as long as it takes place frequently. You can tag your practice onto an event each day as a reminder; when you’re in the shower perhaps?
By looking at some of the key elements of mindfulness practice we can start to pull out the consequent benefits to ‘our-selves.’ Some of these key elements are as follows:
Ability to be aware of self:
Mindfulness helps us to connect with who we truly are. We are sometimes so busy being a wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, colleague, friend, carer and so on, that we lose sight of our true self. Mindfulness helps us to reconnect with our true nature, with our-self. That’s not to say it is necessarily an easy task. Sometimes we may ‘hide’ in our roles to avoid knowing ourselves better. I’ll discuss this further in a future blog.
Paying attention to thoughts and feelings:
The more we think about our feelings the more we become able to recognise patterns in our behaviours and emotions. When we recognise patterns we can start to better control our responses to situations by pre-empting our actions before they occur. If you notice that you always respond in a certain manner to certain situations then you can spot that behaviour before it occurs and choose how to respond.
Regular mindfulness practice helps us to foster an attitude of being non-judgemental. This is both to others and ourselves. It helps us to be more accepting of the way others act, even if we don’t agree with those actions. The next key element, ‘being gentle’ fits in here too, as during mindfulness practice we are reminded to be ‘gentle’ with ourselves, especially if we notice our minds have wandered from the activity. When we start to become gentle with ourselves we start to become so towards others which in turn supports us in acquiring a non-judgemental nature.
Moving away from thoughts (Monkey mind) towards our sensations and physical experiences & experiencing the ‘now’:
I am not suggesting we must stop thinking, for this would be an impossibility! However, how often have you driven somewhere and realised when you get there that you can’t remember some of the route? Or perhaps your child is talking to you and you’re not really listening to them, you are so wrapped up in your thoughts and then they ask a question and you’re not sure of the response because your focus was somewhere else? We have ‘monkey minds’. Thoughts trigger thoughts and before we know it we’re off focusing on something else. Have you ever practised meditation, or yoga, and realised that you have not thought about the words being spoken, or you start with good intentions and then realised that you completely missed a lot of the practice as your mind was ‘elsewhere?’ I’ve taken part in guided meditations where I’ve got to the end and can’t feedback to the group as I’m not entirely sure what I was doing, but it certainly wasn’t ‘following a footpath through a wood!’
Mindfulness teaches us that when we notice our thoughts have wandered to gently bring our attention back to the activity, to the sensation of feeling in our bodies, to the movement of the breath, or the sounds we are paying attention to, whatever activity it is we are doing. Think how much of life we’ve missed because we’re distracted from the present moment.
Another aspect of this key element is being aware of ‘now’. When did you take time to really enjoy a cup of tea, or other drink? Did you feel the warmth from the cup, the smell, the sensation of the heat rising towards your lips? What about the feel of your lips on the cup before you take a sip? Have you taken a sip and noticed how it feels in your mouth, whether there’s a change in taste the longer you hold the liquid in your mouth? Or noticed the colour, are there any bubbles on the surface, or froth?
Unless you practise mindfulness the answer is probably no. In which case, how much of our day to day lives are we actually missing the full experience of because we are preoccupied? Why not try drinking mindfully the next time you make a drink?
Give it a go and let me know how you got on.
The final key element I’m going to discuss in this blog is: Focusing more on the positive, being aware of it, however small:
As humans we naturally have a negativity bias. Think back to an event in your past for a moment. Which events or episodes are we most likely to remember? Negative ones. Now this is vital for our survival and to support us in the fight/flight response to danger, but it’s also very sad that we can still feel the negative emotions surrounding unpleasant events many years on.
Rick Hanson is one of my favourite authors in the field of Mindfulness. He’s a neuroscientist and psychologist, and in his book, Buddha’s Brain explains how our ancestors survived by approaching pleasant stimuli, like a carrot, and avoiding unpleasant stimuli, like an incoming stick from a neighbouring tribe. Our ancestors eventually realised that avoiding a stick, and possible injury or death, was far more important than picking a carrot. Therefore, over time our brain slowly adapted and eventually we became wired to pay more attention to information and events that are negative.
You can read more about the negativity bias in Rick Hanson’s article by following the link below.
However, the good news is that mindfulness can help us start to shift that bias so that we begin to notice the good that is occurring. We will never lose our response to danger, but we can start to address the balance. I’ve shared the following activity with you before, but it serves us well to share it again here. It’s ‘Taking in the Good’ and can be found on numerous sites on the internet.
www.positivepsychologyprogram.com goes into more detail, and you can find a guided ‘Taking in the Good’ meditation on my YouTube Channel. The link to which can be found elsewhere on my website.
So, let’s end this article with a short ‘Taking in the Good’ exercise. As always, settle yourself into an upright and dignified position and take a few moments to focus on your breath which will allow you to settle ready for the practice.
Taking in the Good:
First: Look for good facts, and turn them into good experiences.
Make a conscious effort to look for the positive aspects of your experiences.
Next: Savour the experience.
Give yourself plenty of time to fully enjoy that moment. The longer we can hold a positive thought in our minds more neurons fire together to help us retain that memory.
Finally: Sense that the good experience is sinking into you.
Notice where you feel the emotions connected with this positive experience. Do you feel a warmth? If so, where? What emotions do you feel? Where do you feel them? Be curious about what you feel.
Take as long as you wish with this practice. A minute for each stage, or a minute for the whole practice. Do what feels right for you.
So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this read. There are many other Key Elements to mindfulness and I’ll discuss them in a future blog.
In the meantime, keep practising, keep reading, and do pop over to the Forthcoming Workshops page of my website if you haven’t for a while as you’ll find an updated list of events for the rest of this year.
With Serenity & Balance
I was recently e-mailing Paul Southgate, the Husband of Chakradance Founder Natalie Southgate,about a video I want to put together to promote Chakradance in Wiltshire. Paul gave me a warning; 'The main challenge of videos of Chakradance classes is that the real experience is an 'inner' experience ...it doesn't always look that great from the outside, and can at worst look like a bad school disco, only for middle-aged women!!'
So, what exactly is Chakradance? From the outside it can look 'interesting' and not necessarily in a good way, and if you search for Chakradance in Youtube you're likely to get all manner of things, which aren't 'Chakradance,' but which might suggest it's for drugged up raver & party-goers. As a result, marketing Chakradance in a county where you're currently the only Facilitator can prove a challenge!
Chakradance (all one word, and a Trade Mark of this particular style of chakra dancing) is a healing practice. Yes, it's fun, and yes, you will get a workout, but primarily Chakradance helps to balance your chakras.
The Chakradance website: www.chakradance.com describes it as follows;
'Chakradance is a healing movement practice. It's a form of nourishment for your true self - for your soul. Moving to music specifically created to resonate with each chakra, you are guided into your own inner dance of release and re-connection. It offers a kind of liberation. It feels like coming home.'
It certainly did feel like 'coming home' the first time I danced. It felt like there had been a hole in my life that I'd been unaware of and suddenly I'd found an answer I didn't know I was searching for.
So, what exactly is it?
Let's start at the beginning. The Chakras are concentrations of energy in our bodies. Each one resonates to a different frequency of sound. In Chakradance we dance to music chosen to resonate to the frequency of each chakra. There are no taught moves, we each move to the music in our own, unique way. We also dance with a lowered gaze, or our eyes shut, so the dance becomes a moving meditation.
At first you might find you 'check in' and peek to see where you are in the room, but gradually your confidence grows. Regular Chakradancers may wish to use blindfolds to cut out the light. In fact, some of the best sessions have taken place on a Winter's evening, dancing in candlelight, with a raging storm going on outside.
Plus, because your eyes are shut ... as are everyone else's ... you lose your inhibitions, you don't care what you look like! So who cares if you do look like you're at a 'bad school disco?' Certainly no one who is Chakradancing with you!
What about collisions?
As a Facilitator I keep my eyes open to ensure people aren't heading for a collision. In fact, only a couple of times have I gently guided a participant into a space. Regular Chakradancers comment that they can sense where others are in the room, and most people tend to stay in one area of the room, even with their eyes shut.
What can you expect from a session?
We start each session with a guided meditation to settle ourselves and prepare us for the workshop. We then briefly check in to see how everyone is after the previous workshop. After that I will guide you through a dancing warm up before moving straight into the dance of that session. Although there is some guided imagery your dance and inner expression is exactly that, yours, and only yours. There is no expectation for you to share how you feel or any thoughts which came up for you. After the dance, which is approximately 25 minutes long, we put our experiences of the session onto paper, in the form of a mandala, as a way of creating something 'concrete' which you can then take away with you and reflect on during the week. Again, there is no expectation to share these.
During the very final dance of the sequence of nine workshops we bring all our mandalas from the previous weeks along and reflect on the journey we have taken. One of my regular candidates had kept his previous mandalas too. When he compared two cycles the similarities were amazing!
What can you expect to experience?
I can't answer that as each person's experience of Chakradance is unique to them. Personally I have met spirit guides and power animals, I have received messages, and sometimes I have just had a really good evening! I find I dream more in the week after dancing and on occasions I have received clarity over a problem I've been pondering. During a Solar Plexus, inner warrior dance, I even 'became' Robbie Williams! That caused great amusement when I shared that my group!
Do you need to be physically fit?
Absolutely not! In Chakradance you move within the limitations of your body. One candidate had a bad back and chose to lie on a mat and dance from that position. She could feel the beat of the music through the floor. I have had people who use wheelchairs join the group and danced with people with learning disabilities. Reports were that some of those people slept better than they had done for weeks.
And what about the 'drug taking ravers?'
My role as facilitator is to turn anyone away who appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As a healing practice this would not be conducive to experiencing healing and anyone turning up obviously having partaken of alcohol or drugs would not be welcome.
Want to find out more?
Why not join me each month at Yatesbury in Wiltshire, just three miles from Avebury Stone Circle. Visit the 'Workshops' page of my website to find out more about these sessions.
If you wish to get a group of people together and have a suitable space, then I can come and do longer, three hour workshops. Contact me for details.
Hope to see you Chakradancing soon!
I was recently listening to a Radio 4 discussion about anger and today’s society. In the discussion, which involved various professors and lecturers of anger management, it was suggested that there is more anger around today than there ever has been. It was suggested that anger is catching, so the more people who feel and express anger the more people there will be who will react in an angry fashion. The danger is that feelings of anger can escalate into aggression. If someone then responds to us in an angry or aggressive way our ‘Fight, Flight’ survival instinct kicks in and we are in danger of responding in a way which may not be in our best interests.
The Guardian, ‘Long Read,’ published on 8th December 2016, written by Pankaj Mishra, was entitled, ‘Welcome To The Age Of Anger’ and discusses just this thought. In fact, it went on to state that where people state they wished they lived in simpler times that, ‘These lamentations for simpler times …ignore the fragmented nature of our politics’. Suggesting that people should be accepting of the society as it currently is. Indeed, the article doesn’t make for very positive reading, suggesting that those of us who long for a simpler life will be unable to achieve this in today’s political arena!
So I got thinking about the role mindfulness can play in anger management. I believe it’s important to recognise that anger is a natural emotion and we shouldn’t try to stop feeling angry about situations. However, as humans we are natural storytellers and when we feel angry we can easily escalate towards feelings of aggression by dwelling on the negative of the situation, perhaps by overthinking the situation. If we allow the pain or anger to linger then we stand the chance of becoming aggressive, which in term could fuel aggression and anger in others.
Are you one of life’s natural storytellers? How often have you dwelt on a situation and made it seem much more frightening, stressful, worrying, than it actually is? This is where Mindfulness can help. It can stop the associated story.
Andrea Brandt PH.D.M.F.T. in Psychology Today (February 2015) stated a three stage approach to dealing with anger mindfully:
Stage 1 – is to recognise what your triggers are.
What things make you angry?
I like to think I’m a naturally calm person and I rarely get angry, however, I know that if I’m out driving and I come across a local fox hunt, or witness anyone being cruel to animals, I start to feel rage smouldering in me.
Stage 2 – is to notice what your ‘impulses’ are. By this Brandt means where in the body do you feel the anger. Do you feel hot, or irritable? Can you physical identify where the anger is, how it affects your body?
Stage 3 – is to give yourself space to respond, by breathing, watching and counting breathes. What she is describing is a physical pause, which allows us to think about the situation which in turn allows us to give a more measured response.
A second approach allows you to sit and meditate on a situation or event where you have felt anger in the past. This approach will allow you to explore anger in a safe environment, knowing that at any time, if it becomes overwhelming, you can end the activity:
Know that at anytime you can remove yourself from these feelings, you are in control. To bring yourself out of the meditation shift your focus on your breath. Take a minute or two to focus on your breath again before opening your eyes.
When meditating on anger in this way it can bring to the fore very uncomfortable feelings and emotions. Be gentle with yourself, don’t continue the practice if it becomes overwhelming. However, by focussing on anger in this way we can start to recognise our ‘impulses’ when angry and by ‘being’ with the anger it can give us room to pause, reflect and respond in a non-aggressive manner.
It seems slightly paradoxical that, to get from A to B, where A is anger, and B is a calm response, we actually need to be at A for a while. We need to know ourselves well enough to recognise our triggers and responses, and to pause at that place before we are able to move on.
The final Mindfulness Technique for dealing with any difficult emotion is called R.A.I.N.
Rain is an acronym:
R = Recognise emotion is present
A = Accept this emotion
I = Investigate your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations
N = Non-identification – By being with the emotion you can gain an awareness that you are not the emotion, the emotion will pass.
R.A.I.N can be used as an on-the-spot response when you are in a situation where you feel angry, or it can be used as in the second approach above, to explore anger in a safe environment.
Both R.A.I.N and Andrea Brandt’s version give the user a moment to pause. By pausing we are better able to respond in a manner which is more conducive to a peaceful resolution.
I will finish with a quotation from an article called, ‘Loosening the Knots of Anger Through Mindfulness Practice’ by Thich Nhat Hanh.
‘If you learn not to fear your knots of suffering, you can learn how to embrace them with the energy of mindfulness, and transform them.’
You can read the full article here: https://www.lionsroar.com/loosening-the-knots-of-anger/
Until next time,
With Serenity & Balance
So, for the month of February I have been posting regularly about the benefits of Loving Kindness on social media. It's been great fun filming the guided meditations and I shall copy them across to my Serenity Balance Youtube Channel at the weekend ... once I've worked out how to again!
Loving Kindness is one of the three core components of compassion. These are: kindness, having a recognition of common humanity and mindfulness.
I will describe each of the three components separately but Gilbert and Choden say that,
‘It’s more like (as we would say) a social mentality. '
P Gilbert, Choden (2014), Mindful Compassion, Chapter 4, Page 135.
In other words, whilst each element is a unique and separate entity we need to foster a combination of all three in order to have self-compassion.
Kindness is described by Gilbert and Choden as ‘Understanding one’s difficulties and being kind and warm in the face of failure or setbacks rather than harshly judgemental and self-critical’. (As above, Page 134).
Thus kindness is a gentle, nurturing way to be with yourself. Being kind to yourself helps prevent that self-critical voice that tells you it’s your fault. Being kind to yourself can include using self-soothing words of endearment or allowing yourself time to relax.
In other words .... It's GREAT to direct Loving Kindness to ourselves!
The second core component is having a recognition of common humanity. Vidyamala Burch states that,
‘… human beings face the same difficulties and are propelled by the same tendencies. We live them out uniquely, but we enact the same dramas and struggle with the same predicaments.’ V Burch (2010), Living Well With Pain & Illness, Chapter 4, Page 47.
When pressure has an effect of people’s lives, to the extent that it is having an effect on their health and wellbeing, by having a recognition that others may be in a similar situation can help to avoid feelings of separateness and isolation.
The third core component of compassion is mindfulness. By having an awareness of the current situation, and the way it may manifest itself in our bodies, we may become less likely to avoid acceptance of our health issues. We may be less likely to turn to additive behaviours, or to develop a sense that we are overwhelmed by the situation. Being mindful leads to an awareness and acceptance of ‘what is’.
Showing empathy towards ourselves allows us to create a feeling of mutual trust. When we are able to connect with our feelings we can support others to do the same for themselves.
As Maya Angelou said,
‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’
If you have compassion then you will have a wish to support an individual in easing their suffering. I believe this goes hand in hand with loving kindness. When we have loving kindness to ourselves then we can offer loving kindness to others, wishing them to be free from harm.
Goldstein and Stahl state that we should have sympathetic joy so that we can delight in the happiness and joy of others and finally, equanimity, described as an evenness and steadiness of mind allowing us to have balance and composure.
All this month on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram I have been posting the benefits of practising the Loving Kindness Meditation. Please do follow the links and see for yourself.
My favourite is that it is 'Anti-ageing!' What's there not to love?
I'd love to hear what your favourite benefit is. Please do drop me a line.
You can find three Loving Kindness guided Meditations on my Facebook Page @serenitybalanceuk.
Next month we'll be looking at the Mindful Body Scan.
Bye for now x
Letting in the Good.
When you attend a Mindfulness course you are likely to come across a discussion and practical activity called ‘Letting In The Good’.
Most usually associated with Dr. Rick Hanson www.rickhanson.net Dr Hanson talks about there being two types of memories; ‘Explicit ones,’ those associated with the recalling of actual events, and ‘Implicit ones,’ those associated with feelings, emotions and the ‘gut feelings’ you have.
For survival purposes we, as humans, have a bias towards negativity. Recalling bad experiences helps with our survival, we learn from them. If we have a scare crossing a busy road we are more likely to take care next time. If we get a shock when we touch an electric socket with a screwdriver, as my husband did as a child, we will remember the dangers of electricity!
Over the last couple of weeks, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I have been focusing on posting daily reminders, hints, tips and videos, to guide you to ‘Let in the Good.’ Why not visit those pages after you finish reading this and try some of the techniques? The links are at the end of this blog.
Dr. Hanson suggests that for positive experiences to register we have to hold them in our memories for 5 – 20 seconds and not just that, in order for positive experiences to affect us we need to hold them in our memories and focus on ‘how’ they make us feel.
You can do this now.
Read through the instructions below first, then think of someone or something that makes you feel good. Close your eyes are think about this memory or person.
Dr. Hanson talks about how recalling positive experiences can help us build in confidence. It can help us to have a more positive outlook and approach to life. We can become ‘glass half full’ rather than ‘glass half empty’ people.
Do you know anyone who is a ‘Negativity Vampire’, who is a drain on your energy when you are around them, who focuses on negatives all the time? You’ll know if you do, you may even dread being in their company. Perhaps you are aware that you can be quite negative yourself.
I try to distance myself from people I know who are like this. I ‘un-follow’ those who constantly make negative comments on Facebook and have deleted negative comments they’ve made on my feed. I feel no guilt in doing this. I don’t wish to be surrounded by negativity.
Recently, in my job for a local charity, I was asked by a colleague whether I ever got stressed as I’m always so positive. What a lovely comment!
I was able to say that, yes, I do get stressed , but I’m also able to recognise when I am feeling stressed and I have a tool kit of techniques to help myself when I am. I could have gone on to discuss the stress response and how it serves a useful purpose …
So what positives can we hold in our memories? It doesn’t have to be big things, it can be little moments. For example:
Why not make your own list?
So, next time you experience something good, don’t let the moment pass. Savour the experience. Notice what emotions it triggers and notice ‘where’ you feel this in your body. If you can do this for ‘5, 10, 20 seconds’ (R. Hanson) it will have a positive effect on you.
Next month I’ll be focusing on ‘Loving Kindness’. If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter do so now so you don’t miss out, using the ‘Contact Me’ form. February’s newsletter is due out on 1st Feb.
For more information why not book yourself on one of my Mindfulness workshops? Perhaps you’d like me to run one at your workplace?
Finally, as mentioned above, for bite sized reminders and activities take a look at my recent posts:
Until next time,
On the evening of 22nd November my husband & I went with Peter Knight, local author and historian to West Kennet Long Barrow, on the Dark of the Moon, for an evening of drumming in the barrow itself. Peter facilitates these sessions on a regular basis, usually on the Full Moon, so this was unusual. We were a small group of approximately ten and the energy was particularly healing and nurturing. At one stage I spent time in the first chamber on the left as you enter the barrow. The spiral of energy I felt was so intense I struggled to stand upright and ended up squatting against the wall of the chamber. The flow of the Mary Current takes a direct route through the long barrow and has a very feminine, healing energy. I felt particularly comforted and cocooned.
During the final session of earth healing, where we send out healing to those who need it and to the world I felt I had to make a shamanic rattle and in doing so I had to visit Swallowhead Spring, at the foot of the hill on which lies West Kennet Long Barrow.
Now, I knew nothing about shamanic rattles at this stage but I felt drawn to 'Google' them that evening. In doing so I found instructions for making one.
So the following morning, armed with some leather and a container to collect some of the water from the spring I made my way to the spring. This was my very first visit and what an amazing place. I walked to the Kennet River itself then turned right and followed its bank to where I found stepping stones across the river. It was a very muddy and squelchy walk and I took delight in getting mud up my legs as I walked across the field. When you reach the point where the river bends to the right you are faced with large stepping stones and across the river you can see a clootie tree and willow arch which was also decorated with fabric offerings. From beneath the tree Swallowhead Spring emerges with crystal clear water. The Mary Current passes through the spring and the Clootie Tree and again I felt the same sense of nurturing I'd felt the night before. I had the place to myself and once I had, carefully, made my way across the wet stepping stones I gently walked around the tree and took in the peacefulness of the place. My discovery took on a meditative feel and I lost all knowledge of the background road noise from the A4, focusing instead on the rustle from the slight wind in the trees and the sound of crows and a pheasant calling.
In order to make my rattle I had to soak my leather to soften it. I had already cut it to shape and I entered the river in order to soak the leather. I then collected some of the spring water in the bottle I had brought with me in order to continue soaking the leather at home. I needed something to make the rattle 'rattle' and so I collected pebbles from the river bed. Wow! Was that icy! My fingers gradually took on that wintery red colour as I collected what I could without entering the water too far that it flowed over the tops of my wellies! Now I needed a handle. I walked back around the Clootie Tree and found a perfect stick at the base of the tree. So my collection was almost done. The thing left to do was to walk under the willow arch. Unfortunately the recent rain meant the slope up to it was too slippery, and whilst I'd enjoyed squelching through the mud and wading into the icy cold river I decided that to return to the car having gone bottoms up trying to climb the slope was a step too far ... plus my fingers were still suffering from the cold water. So I saved this delight for a return trip.
On my way back to the car I felt there was some sort of decoration missing. I really wanted a feather to add to the rattle. As I searched for one a crow flew over and gifted me one of his.
So now I have my rattle, after a couple of days work soaking, stuffing and sewing. If I was making another I'd use stiffer leather and find smaller pebbles as I was unable to use some of those I'd collected as they didn't fit through the opening. However, the rattle is as it was meant to be. It had its inaugural trip out last Saturday for the Full Moon when I was once again drumming at West Kennet and it currently rests on top of my husband's drum, ready for its next trip out.
I've been drawn to labyrinths for the last 18 months. I first discovered them on a stress awareness workshop where we walked one created out of tea lights, walking in mindfulness. From then on links started to appear on websites and labyrinth books fell off shelves, both at home and in book shops.
I'd been meaning to walk the Bradford on Avon Labyrinth for a while. However, the first time I went there to walk it I didn't find it, and so came home disappointed. This time, however, I followed my intuition and kept walking further along the river. There I found it, on the banks of the River Avon. It was a grey but warm and dry, Autumnal day. No one else was about at the Labyrinth so I had the space to myself.
The Labyrinth has been created out of willow. Being Autumn the leaves were only just holding on and many had fallen along the route. As I entered I could see the centre, my goal. At first I walked purposefully, the goal staying just out of reach as the path meandered first one way and then the other. Then a change occurred, as I surrendered to the walk I began to slow and the walk took on a different meaning. No longer was I anxious to reach the centre, now I began to enjoy the journey. I started to notice my feet, placing them one in front of the other purposefully. I noticed the feel of the grass underfoot, and occasionally touching my ankles. I began to tune in to the rustle of the leaves as I stepped through them and enjoyed the call of a buzzard overheard.
The walk wasn't always easy. The centre appeared close and then the path twisted away, the goal stayed just out of reach. Others before me had twisted willow together to form brief tunnels which meant I had to duck to pass through. I began to get disorientated, my usually good sense of direction not needed for the path.
Then it dawned on me that the centre wasn't the overall goal. The Labyrinth became, for me, a lesson in attaining a dream. That we shouldn't ourselves choose the steps or path to attain the dream, as the route taken will bear little resemblance to our planned route. The journey became a lesson in trust. I knew I would reach the centre and I began to trust the path as it led me first this way, and then that, sometimes close and sometimes not so close. Sometimes our dream will seem hidden from view, sometimes close. I knew that in the end I would reach the centre, the goal, the dream.
When I reached the centre I gave thanks and then turned back on myself, so take the return journey. I slowed even more and enjoyed the return journey, tuning in to the sounds of nature around me; ducks calling, the buzzard, crows, and a deep booming sound which I at first thought was human but as it persisted seemed more bird like. I never identified the sound, but that didn't matter, it became part of the experience.
Once I completed the Labyrinth I felt a sense of achievement. The feeling of mindfulness remained with me as I walked away from the Labyrinth, vowing to return.
I took the lesson away with me; to concentrate on the dream and not plan the journey. Trust and it will happen.
Image by Colleen Koziara.
The second Awakening cycle came to an end last night with a group of us dancing the Integration Dance. We all experienced the dance as being particularly uplifting and although it felt sad to complete the cycle the next one starts again on 20th June. I can't wait to begin again with friends old and new x
I'm off to France next week for a week's holiday. This is the reason for the gap between the end of a cycle and the start of the next. My group expressed dismay at the wait, anxious to start again. So, if you are in the middle of cycles, or unable to get to a weekly class what can you do?
First, keep an eye on my Forthcoming Events Page and come along to a weekend workshop. I use venues in Devizes and Cherhill and both are within fifteen minutes drive of Avebury Stone Circle. In addition, Devizes has it's wonderful canal and the impressive Caen Hill flight of locks. Cherhill has it's white horse, one of several in Wiltshire. I also highly recommend The Divine Cafe in Cherhill for a spot of lunch or afternoon tea! Within an hour's drive you can also reach Stonehenge or Bath, so plenty to see if you want to make a day or weekend of it.
Alternatively, why not pop across to www.chakradance.com and look at the range of music and DVDs you can buy? If you put HELLY into the promotional code box when you come to pay you will receive 10% off the price. The Seven Keys DVD and music is great and will lead you though an hour long Chakradance class in your own home.
Finally, I've been busy booking dates with venues for the summer. In addition to the Awakening cycle I will be starting a seven week Journeying series of Workshops, suitable for those who have already experienced the Awakening cycle, or who are healer or therapists and familiar with the chakra system.
I've also booked a three hour Celebration workshop for the afternoon of 21st June, to coincide with the Summer Solstice. I'm really looking forward to this one. It will be the very first time anyone will have danced this Celebration workshop in Wiltshire. I haven't danced it yet either, so I'll be busy dancing and experiencing it for myself while in France! Hopefully, if the weather's good I'll be dancing outside as our house is at the top of a hill in complete seclusion and tranquillity. Bliss!
So, lots of planning and lots of dancing planned for the coming weeks! If you are curious and wish to try Chakradancing for yourself, have a look at what's coming up and do join me. Come and experience your own inner dance and see why this healing practice is becoming so popular around the world.
Finally, please share and share again! Even if you can't make a workshop there may be others who can or who may be curious. Please help me to spread the word!
Each month, throughout 2017, I will be posting in more detail about the topic of the month. Let me know if there's anything specific you'd like me to discuss.