Positively Mindful is a place of self-discovery. We teach meditation and mindfulness techniques to adults and young people (rooted in Buddhist Vipassana) with an emphasis on practical application, we facilitate self-enquiry and we inspire people to live and to free people from all negative thoughts, stress, and worries through its positively-mindful techniques.
I met Thomas Katan on a workshop by the infamous Jamie Catto and I was inspired by his proposition. He was choosing to live a nomadic lifestyle so that he could do ‘live-in personal development coaching’ based on gifting and donation. I would give him a bed and food for a few days and we would hang , working together on anything I’d like to work on.
We agreed three days, Monday to Wednesday. I was excited! Time for some RADICAL COACHING in the form of 'Shadowing'. (All the photos here are by him, as he shadowed me teaching a group.)
Day One In preparation Thomas asked me to set an intention and give him my schedule - something I do with my own clients. His main difference was that we would then just hang out and follow the flow of interaction to see what would arise. I would describe Thomas as a coach that has an embodied faith in the wisdom of emotions. Our first interaction revealed that to me. Grumpiness We met in the park, on a sunny Monday afternoon. We played around and talked with passers by and I realised that Thomas was very open to connections. I noticed the contrast in myself, the desire to get him alone and get ‘working’. So I bought him a smoothie and we found a quiet patch of grass to talk. I noticed my inner grumpiness and acknowledged it, trying to change the dynamic of things. Thomas invited me to feel into my mood and reveal, what he called, ‘the need underneath’. I realised that I had a strong impulse to move, so I stood up and climbed a tree as he watched me, and then I felt something new - aggression. I told him that I’d love a play fight. He was up for it!
Fighting So it was that at Two O'Clock on a Monday afternoon in Castle Park two grown men began grappling and throwing each other around, whilst people watched and ate their lunch. It was incredibly cathartic and we sat down, catching our breath, laughing. The emotion had moved through me and left space for us to connect. We made our way back to my place by bicycle.
Fasting Our conversations went this way a lot, following emotion and impulse into action - and this was very revealing. We talked about this word 'need' a lot - could we gently exploring soft edges of ‘neediness’ by spending extended amounts of time without food? We decided to do it together - 3 days of fasting, allowing 1 afternoon meal per day! For me this was unnerving, and fascinating.
Skill Share Rather than direct coaching this was more of a two way ‘skill share’. We would learn from one another. Thomas came with me to my evening meditation class, which I teach. I taught about expressing emotion, through voice ('oming' meditation), sharing (I feel… I imagine…) and movement (shaking and sighing). This was a reflection of things I had learned in the play fight today! Then I took Thomas to his first blues dancing class, taught by Tristan Brightman and followed by social dancing to live music (The Blues Happening). This was my community and a skill I had cultivated. At the time I thought this was out of his his comfort zone but after checking in with him I was surprised to see how comfortable and happy he was in that space. I was pleased to see him get stuck in, and we both had a lot of fun.
Day two - Building Trust here is something about revealing oneself to one and another that enables trust to develop. We had each shared a part of ourselves with the other and now we were relaxing into being with each other, more naturally. Thomas led me through a morning movement meditation, which I loved. Rocking and stretching as we sat cross legged and observing emotions and thoughts. He then joined me as I taught a group in what I call 'Mindful Positivity' at the local NHS clinic. He was kind enough to take photos of the session. Thanks to Simone Davies for allowing him to come along.
Lunch Emotions The afternoon came - we ate veggies flavoured with basil in the sunshine and talked at length. What arose was a belief in me - “I need to do something, I can’t expect things to come to me”. Whilst this may seem rational it also came with an emotion which Thomas picked up. He probed me with questions and I noticed the emotion shutting down. That was no good - I wasted to catch it and build it up to discover what this was about - to ride the wave! I remembered that Thomas had done work with touch and breath so I suggested we switch gears and try those methods. I laid down and he pressed on the area I felt was the centre of the emotion - the chest and forehead. Here the work became more intuitive. I asked him to repeat some words and he encouraged me to see myself as ‘land’ and the emotion as ‘crashing waves of sea’. I cannot be harmed by them, and I can even build them up to an intense amount, as I observe from the land. This resonated and I was able to build and explore the emotion with safety. I explored bodily shaking, crying, memories and it revealed that fear was lying underneath the 'need to get things done’. The instinctive desire underneath all the thoughts and emotions was for friendship.
Cathartic Calmness Something had moved through me and settled down to leave a beautiful oceanic depth. I asked Thomas “what’s the point of all this?” as I couldn’t cognitively grasp the process. He simply said “to connect you to yourself so you can feel good and realise the real inner need”. He was right - all this work is about feeling good, and connecting to myself - the scared, vulnerable and ultimately beautiful inner me. The me which simply wanted friendship. That emotional work was tiring and after a nap I finished the day by teaching with Mark Dunn at Bristol City Yoga. During these sessions I sometimes get nervous and lose my calm presence, however, today I was able to calmly listen and take in the emotions of others and even had the presence to see my own fears and impulses, without ‘needing’ to react. Mark lead with lots of words and enquiry of the students, and I listened. He had to leave early and I held the last 30 minutes. I was able to shift the energy of the room with movement and then gentleness and I think this had an enormous effect on everyone. I felt great about it.
Day three - MORNING routine Another sunny day and another movement meditation, before Thomas went off to teach his own yoga practice. I channelled my inspiration into my morning routine (MORNINGS - Meditation, Outlook, Reach out, Nourish, Inspire, Nature, Gym, Stretch). I spent a good hour of ‘inspiration’ writing my book (work in progress) and when he returned we continued my morning routine - Nature (we went for a run and slack line practice in the park) and then Gym. I showed him my HIIT practice, which I do regularly. He particularly enjoyed the rice bucket challenge.
Rounding up We spent the afternoon talking and eating, ending the three day food fasting. I helped him learn the guitar. We shared a lot of information and we explored the work again, in review of the past few days. We came to these conclusions:
Western culture is overbalanced in prioritising ‘mental’ intelligence. To me the brain is a fantastic organ at looking for an solving problems. Perhaps there are also other, more beautiful ways to meet our instinctive desires and find a balance of productivity, purpose and peace. Thomas believes that there are 5 main intelligences (mind, breath, emotions, belly, and body) who communicate in their respective languages with us. I prefer to simplify it down to perhaps 4 main intelligences that can be part of this process:
We created a ‘water company’ analogy: A CEO in a high office reads that some customers are receiving empty water containers. She panics and hires an expensive team of critical analysts to expend a lot of time, energy and money in developing an elaborate alarm system to solve the problem. However, down in the factory the workers get annoyed by the alarm and demand the CEO to come down to the factory floor. When she finally does she observes them voicing emotion, and clearly pointing at the window! Confused, but recognising their obvious urge she permits them to take action and watches their relief as they unlock the window and cool air rushes in to blows over any empty containers. The workers breathe a sigh of relief. Alarms stop and the factory runs smoothly again.
This more elegant and efficient solution was found only when the CEO (consciousness) had tried the analytical ways (thought), and listened to the emotions of the workers in the factory (body) to experience the reality (sensations) and allow simple, clear action (impulses) to be followed, even if it was not cognitively understood (thoughts). This led to expression of an instinctual desire, which was trying to reveal a way using wind (breath) to heal the system with ease (emotional release).
Thomas called this “Being in the environment of the emotion” where feedback is felt, where impulses are clear. Often we try and over-think solutions, when we could instead observe the body, follow impulses and get fresh air (breath) to release problems and soothe emotions.
This led me into a simple realisation of the system: Feel, Revel, Heal:
Feel: bring awareness to the body and acknowledge feelings in their locations
Reveal: explore the SITE of feelings and reveal the instinctual desire underneath
Heal: follow the impulse to allow bodily healing to occur. This might include:
Sensations: Observing and allowing them to guide you back to your senses, and to the environment of instinct
Impulses: Observing and creating a safe space to take physical action to allow them to heal the body.
Thoughts: Witness memories and dispel negative thoughts to prevent over-thinking, leading to simple and truthful self-expression.
Emotions: Reconnect to the truth and beauty of your instinctual desires to release emotions and find peace.
In practical terms these ‘healing’ solutions could include a variety of means, as you saw in my examples from the week (fighting, climbing, talking, questioning, breathwork, touch practice, affirmation and friendship). There is no single solution, which is often the way we ‘think’ about things. The 21st C conditioned brain tries to intellectualise everything and make life overly complex, or instead find quick fixes, urgent for relief, without appreciating the true nature of the issue. Instead we can choose to observe the context of the present moment, get in touch with instincts and trust in the body and breath to show us elegant solutions, when the intelligence of the mind does not work.
At the end of day three We chatted and Thomas shared his photos, and I felt close to this person who was but a stranger three days ago. I relayed how,the fasting process had been a microcosm of the ‘feel, reveal, heal’ method. Throughout the week I had found hunger arising and I would not react, as I have done in the past, with filling up. Instead I observed it and felt into the deeper drive, realising it was often an impulse to move, or to dispel a story and come back to my senses. I now know that the hunger waves don’t last long and I’ve discovered more energy when I channel my focus into revealing and healing the underlying drive and emotion. This is just another example of the insight revealed by working in a different way with an interesting person, like Thomas.
I feel grateful to have experienced Thomas directly. I intend to continue to develop and research the new modes of exploring that he has inspired in me. Overall the biggest takeaway of the week was friendship, which it seems was the underlying desire all along. :)
Do you ever get stuck or end up arguing because of miscommunication in your relationships?
This is a tool I created to use when talking between two people becomes incredibly difficult and you’d like to reconnect, constructively. I hope you enjoy it and please let me know if you have feedback.
The problem: is that both people get so frustrated that they interrupt and don’t really listen. This leads to resentment and frustration.
The method: Schedule 30 minutes to connect without interruption in a comfortable space. You’ll need a timer and you might need writing material each. Begin in silent contemplation of our intentions (which may be written down as an aid). We then take ‘timed’ turns - one person speaks and the other listens. The listener’s first words before changing roles should be ‘ thank you’ to show respect for honest sharing. We repeat this for 3 rounds, with a shorter final round.
SETUP: Make sure everyone is comfortable. Tea/water is onhand. Ensure you are in a distraction free zone for the next 30 minutes. If you need to do anything else within that time attend to it first. Place the timer between you. Ensure you both have a comfortable distance.
INTENTION: Set the timer for 3 minutes and then sit in silence with your eyes closed and ponder the question: What ‘state’ would you love to create within the relationship? Writing it down may help you later. Eg. Connection, understanding, calm, clarity, friendliness etc.
DECIDE WHO STARTS: Flip a coin and the winner goes first as ‘speaker’. The speaker always starts the timer.
SHARE INTENTION: 30 seconds each: Speaker will share intention as the other listens, then change roles. The second speaker can say exactly the same if they wish, but try to remain focus on starting your own intention and not just responding to the other.
ROUND 1: 5 Minutes each: Speaker is free to talk and look where they want and to spend time in silence. Listener tries to maintain eye contact and practice whole-body-listening, not filling any silence. No suggestions, or advice. At the end of 5 minutes the listener says ‘THANK YOU’, then you swap. The second speaker is free to respond to points raised or talk about their own ideas. It is always up to you what you say.
ROUND 2: 5 minutes each: Remembering your intention, and to say ‘thank you’.
ROUND 3: 3 minutes each: Remembering your intention, and to say ‘thank you’.
ENDING: You may wish to hug or continue talking, sum up or simply finish.
REMEMBER: Emotions are welcome!
A useful ending can be to sum up:
What you now realise and understand (that the other person was saying). “I’m realising you thought…”
What you appreciate (about yourself and the other). “I’m appreciating that you took the time to…”
What you want (sharing a plan or requesting something). “I’d like… would you be willing to…?”
This tool is related to the I FIND I’m RAW tool for self expression. You may wish to consider using this format if you get stuck in talking. However, if at any point there is silence the listener must not interrupt or prompt the speaker. LET THERE BE SILENCE, It is vital for respect processing.
VULNERABLE! Having a real conversation with actual listening takes courage and feels vulnerable. Remember to practice healthy self care by finding your own balance of boundaries and empathy. In the end you will know if it is worth it, because experiencing this kind of honesty and intimacy can feel incredible and reconnect people through seemingly impossible arguments. Good luck, keep breathing and listen to yourself too. x
Listen. If you're mouth is open your not learning. No one ever 'listened' themselves out of the job. Listen to yourself too! Breathe.
Be as brief as possible and try not to repeat yourself - it's boring and condescending. Remember that you don’t have to say everything, right away, or even in this conversation. There will be more opportunities to speak. .
Trust they care about you so stay out of the minutiae of detailed data to prove a point.
Remember that people need time to process before changing their mind. Sometimes they need to sleep on it.
Keep an open mind and be prepared to be surprised. Instead of assuming you know:
Don't multitask, stay present, allowing thoughts to come & go by bringing your attention back to the breath as you listen.
If you don't know, say that you don't know.
Use open-ended questions.
Recognize their experience as unique Don't equate your experience with theirs. and let go of the opportunity to brag.
Speak without blame, if possible, using ‘I feel’ and ‘I imagine’. Don't pontificate and moralize. If you want to state your opinion (without another arguing back) write a blog.
10 ways to have a better conversation | Celeste Headlee - YouTube
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who has counselled people in their last year of life has revealed the most common regrets we have towards the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is "I wish I hadn't worked so hard." Bronnie recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which became a book called "The Top Five Regrets of the Dying." In it she says, "common themes surfaced again and again." Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Bronnie:
1. "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
This was the most common regret! People realised late on that their life is almost over and with that perspective could see the dreams they gave up on. They realised they had a choice, but kept telling themselves they didn't. The choice wasn't easy, so they pretended there wasn't one and made no choice, which let to hiding. They weren't able to find peace and clarity amidst the noise of external and internal expectations.
In old age they saw how lucky they were to have a healthy body, which brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. "I wish I hadn't worked so long and hard, sacrificing what I loved."
This came from every male patient. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Females from an older generation felt this too. People realised late on that they could have enjoyed work more and found more balance by prioritising their values This is particularly relevant now as we work behind screens and become sluggish in our bodies. This is why I created the DO-BE-DOTS system.
3. "I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings."
Fear, shame and guilt led people to suppress their feelings in order to be functional and keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and felt they missed out on the joy of real feelings and connection. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried. They realised too late the stories of the mind kept them trapped in suppression. They worried if they felt their feelings everything would be unbearable and fall apart. They realised in old age that the stories weren't true, and we all fall apart in the end anyway, so may as well feel the ride!
4. "I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends."
The full benefits of old friends were not seen until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over time. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying and the realise how easy it would have been to maintain a friendship, and to bring their honest selves towards others for real friendship, instead of superficial connections.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier."
Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice that each individual has the responsibility to make. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits, giverned by the stories they entertained in the mind. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity stifled them. Fear of change had led them pretence both inward and outwardly. "I'm fine" they would say, whilst inside they longed to laugh properly and have silliness and joy in their life again."
What's your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?
What's stopping you? (The cost of action)
What's the cost of INACTION?
What's the cost of inaction in 1 year and then 5 years?
These questions are from Tim Ferris' FEAR SETTING exercise, which I made into a tool called WORST/BEST. Which asks us to check out the scenarios and clear up the BS stories of the mind that hold us back. Give it a go and let me know your feedback!
I was recently asked to interview for a company (Adlib) blog based on "work and life balance". Here it is:
ADLIB: Let’s start with ‘Why’, how do you think can mindfulness help with workplace stress? Neil Morbey: People work most effectively when they have good focus, which requires a clear mind, so one can move the attention effectively from one task to the next, and with an overview of the whole purpose. This requires a balance of attention. 21st Century education and society has filled our waking moments with busy-ness of pinging smartphones, marketing, unreasonable expectations and endless information. The modern worker is lost in a world of confusion and therefore mentally creates stress - a mind full of ‘stuff’, instead of clarity, focus and balance. Anxiety, burn out and apathy are the inevitable result and businesses foot the bill for recovery. Mindfulness is both preventative medicine and helps people to ‘hit reset’ when they’ve gotten themselves into a hole; to pause and reflect, connecting with what is simply beautiful - the experience of being here and now. This is the beginning of awareness, acknowledgement and appreciation, which allows us to refocus, as a clear and balanced choice. The how is simple - make space for learning, practice and for integration of ‘moments’ within the fabric of the way we work and interact. Mindful communication quickly follows mindful self-awareness. Inspiration keeps it moving
ADLIB: Can you share 3 pieces of wisdom or mindful exercises that one could introduce into their daily routine as an employee or as a manager? Neil Morbey: Yes.
Schedule a meeting with yourself. Let that be time to reflect, and set an intention on how you’d like to do that. Do this every day.
Put pressure on management to create a darkened, comfortable and quiet room, with space to lie down, if possible. Or allowance for quiet time. Afternoon naps or mediation have been demonstrated to aid productivity. At the same time ask them to get CPDs from inspiring practitioners. Whatever interests staff - yoga, meditation, singing - whatever inspires and gives people space to ‘be’.
Go outside every day, without your phone, and breathe in the fresh air deeply. Smokers have the advantage of this habit, but with the addition of toxic death-sticks. Just relabel them ‘fresh air’ breaks, instead of fag breaks. Better still go for a walk and notice the trees, the sky and something beautiful and stay with it a few seconds longer than feels ‘normal’.
ADLIB: In your opinion, how can mindfulness improve the way that people work? Neil Morbey: It allows us to move our attention from one thing to another with more ease, and therefore let go of resentment and speak more assertively and compassionately. At the end of the day it allows us to shift modes and leave work at the office so we can balance our lives and manage our ‘human’ priorities. This will help us feel that work is not a chore, but a nourishing activity that is integrated with our lives. People who feel in control of our lives worry less and are more productive, with less passive aggression. It also opens us up to creative possibility. We become more positive in our outlook, which drives innovation and inspiration.
ADLIB: How can mindfulness be reinforced consistently in the workplace and be made a priority? Neil Morbey: The leaders must first recognise the importance of mental health in their duty of care. However mindfulness cannot be forced on employees, it must be inspired. So I think the best way is to involve people in that question and to bring in people that can inspire. Regular refreshment of inspiration is key to keeping the practices fresh and ‘reminding us of why, and with new styles of ‘how’. No one wants to repeat the same stuff every single day. Ultimately every individual is responsible for themselves, but it usually takes a few to lead the way and create momentum.
If that’s you, reading this, I suggest practising what Gandhi preached: Be the change you want to see in the world. Be vocal about it and enjoy it. When others hear and see you you’ll be giving them permission to do it too, because you show it’s possible, fun and the risk is worth it. Encourage them and get the ball rolling. Leaders inspire the people around them. Be the change.
About Neil Morbey: Neil specialises in helping people become emotionally resilient and work with schools, businesses and individuals to facilitate people to find their sense of happiness, confidence and connection.
MEDITATION POSTURE There is a lot of bollocks on the internet about posture, featuring attractive young men and women sitting on rocks overlooking water, or on steps (!?) as if they've been sat there for hours contemplating wise enlightened attention. Utter marketing drivel. Please don't buy it or anything you read here that make you think you're not good enough.
The aim of this blog is to dispel that claptrap and keep it simple, concise and useful.
HOW SHOULD I SIT IN MEDIATION? Firstly let's get it clear - meditation is a practice of mindfulness (paying attention to the present moment without judgement). Therefore there is no 'right' as that is a judgement. The aim is to sit in a way that is comfortable for your body, and which also represents the attitude you want to carry inside as you meditate. What you 'want' not what you 'need' to do. This chosen attitude will dictate your posture. Interestingly there are theories that the external attitude is related to an internal attitude. One is affected by the other. That means your current posture is a reflection of your internal state AND you can affect your internal state by changing your posture. My experience is that by choosing a posture to reflect an attitude that I deeply enjoy I have created that inside and out as an automatic pattern. :)
INTENTION + ATTITUDE + VISUALISATION + BODILY FEEDBACK = POSTURE. Intention: Why are you here? What are you hoping to feel, have or do within this meditation? You don't have to think about this every time, but for the first few it's worth considering. Generally my intention is to love myself, to be diligently focused and peaceful & loving towards what I find. Attitude: What attitude would I like to bring to create that intention? Again, I'll get into the swing of this and barely think about it most day, but I'll often remind myself: I'm going to choose an attitude of 'self respect' and 'alertness'. Attitude and intention are nearly the same thing, but attitude is more of a feeling and way of 'being', whereas intention is more a 'doing'.
Visualisation: What image could help create the attitude? I like to use either, the image of wearing a cape, like superman, and tying it on creates a shoulder roll. Or the image of a string at the crown of my head getting lightly pulled up so that my spine hangs naturally. Another is to imagine a cushion of air between each vertebrae and then as you breathe in deep it inflates and as you breathe our some air is released, leaving the spine well adjusted and stacked. You can hold the visual image for 10-30 seconds to make it stick. You don't have to physically change anything, the body will do the work for you.
Bodily Feedback: What would this look like in posture? Let's give it a go and find out as we tune into the body. I start by choosing to kneel, with a straight back, relaxed face, slightly dipped chin. I then realise my shoulders are hunched and chest is collapsed so I correct this with a rib cage lift (engage the core muscles!) and roll my shoulders behind my back. Posture: This is my starting posture. Many people like to sit cross-legged. I usually like to use a stool and kneel. I can change my posture in small ways (or completely) as I meditate. Moving doesn't mean I've failed. I've gradually learned when to tune in to discomfort, to watch and wait. Now I rarely move, but that is a natural product of years of experimentation. I've been meditating a long time and I'm used to this posture. Sometimes I try a different posture once in a while to shake things up. These could include:
1.Sukhasana (Easy Pose) Basically legs crossed sitting with feet under the knees. Some all it Burmese.
2. The Lotus positions (seductive name!) Quarter is basically legs crossed with feet on the calves. Half lotus would be one leg on top of the other thigh and one leg extended (awkward!) and full lotus is both feet resting on top of the opposite thighs. Pali term: Padmasana.
Tips: Structure of checks for an aligned posture
1. Allow the floor to support your weight with lots of contact
2. Allow a natural tilt of the hips and curve of the lower back
3., Use the internal muscles to raise the rib-cage and then relax it, especially the belly
4. Ease the shoulder blades back together and then relax slightly
5. Align to centre yourself forward/back and left/right
6. Imagine a pull up from the crown of the head and thus allow the chin to naturally dip a few millimetres.
7. Keep the alignment and allow all other unnecessary tension to soften away.
** IN ALL POSTURES TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY AND NOTICE PAIN. ADJUST AS NECESSARY
3. Kneeling / Stool (Seiza in Japanese Zen) Kneel on cushion between your legs, or use a kneeling stool. I make these and sell them for £20. Let me know if you want one. They have cool hinges. The stools have a tilt to encourage the hips to tilt, so there is a natural bend in the lower back and the spine is stacked comfortably. Geisha used to sit for hours like this, without a stool or cushion! I don't recommend it for your knees.
4. Chair If you use a chair I recommend putting the feet flat, or if the chair is too low for that, cross them. If the chair is too high find a book or cushion to support the feet. Sit right back, but don't lean back into the back rest. Come off it. You can always use if if you get tired. A little cushion under your butt can help, and even a rolled up towel to support the lower back.
5. Lying Down You can lie on back or front, but try and use a posture that doesn't promote sleep, unless you want that. The hands can help with this by placing one on the chest and one on the belly, or both on the ground, palms up. Support the head and neck if you experience pain.
Summary These are the overall postures, but remember the attitude is more important than the specifics. Do what feels 'right' (with the context I describe above) for you.
In all of these postures the hands can relax as you wish. Some prefer palms open or fingers together as that has mental associations to energy moving or to openness. Ok, if that works for you do it.
That is the general rule. So if you find lots of pain, give it a little time, breathe with it and see if it shifts. Only you know the difference between a little pain of muscles stretching and adapting vs damage occurring. Listen closely and adjust as necessary.
Now that your sorted in posture wouldn't it be helpful if we would bring a helpful structure into meditation? Well I have good news - lets get back to basics!....
The Alphabet Meditation, by Neil Morbey A - K: from Attitude to Kindness. A method to learen the steps of body scan meditation that will start with an intention, but lead to natural joy and kindness (I hope!) Here's the guidelines:
1. With each step repeat the word in your mind as you follow the breath. I sometimes combine it with 'here' and 'now'. Eg. thinking in time with breath: "Breathing...(in)...Here...(out)...Breathing...Now
2. Spend the most time on sections F,G and H. This is the 'peak' of the mediation. If you wanted to you could count breaths. I prefer not to.
A: ATTITUDE - choose and observe the attitude of body posture, using visualisations. Adjust with feedback.
B: BREATHING - connect with the sensation of breathing, without changing it.
C: CURIOUS - cycle through common three senses (sounds, sight, smells)
D: DEEP-BREATHS - Take two reps of 5 deeper breaths and feel the difference in your belly, then chest.
E: EFFORTLESS - Feel contact with the floor, allowing it to support. Notice & soften tension in the face, shoulders and back.
F: FEEL-IN - Tune the attention into small areas inside your body, the pelvis, the belly, the chest, the throat and then the nostrils. Stay with that soft inner focus for some time, feeling the subtleties.
G: GRADUALLY-EXPLORING - Move the attention slowly, around the face and down the body, spending at least three breaths on each part. You could switch the mantra to replace 'here/now' with 'exploring'.
H: HEART - After you complete the scan spend some time at the heart. Many spiritual and scientific people consider this to be the powerhouse of the body and mind. I imagine the heart beating, or a light, flooding my system with loving life-force.
I: INCLUDE-ALL - Tune into the whole inner world allowing it all to be there. From there you could include the senses of the room again - sound, smell etc. Then you could go wider and imagine the body of another person near you - include them in your imagination. I imagine their heart beating. I go wider and wider, until the bell rings. This often feels amazing.
J: JOY - Open your eyes to enjoy colour and form, staying with the first thing you see, then expanding as you move your eyes. Keep with the breath and mantra to help: JOY...(in)... HERE...(out)...JOY...NOW... To me this reminds me that the world is her to be enjoyed and colour and form are part of that.
K: KINDNESS - Perceive your first movements as kindness to your body by giving it what it wants and by thanking yourself for taking your time. KINDNESS...(in)... HERE...(out)... Once you bring your attention up and into normal living you could decide how you're going to bring kindness today.
This is a basic structure and it is malleable. Make it fit you rather than crushing yourself to fit it. The principles are simple - keep it simple, relax your judgements and enjoy. Find what works for you through playful experimentation!
Notice the postures indicate internal states. What would you like to feel inside?
There is a lot of confusion about coaching, and a lot of pessimism. The reality is that the most happy and successful people usually see a coach regularly, or have used a coach in their lives. I am a mindfulness coach and I have a coach. I use coaching with mindfulness practices to help people untangle worry and confusion, pain and suffering and rediscover clarity, inspiration and confidence. Coaching is not counselling and I'm not a qualified counsellor. The main purposes of coaching is:
Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
Encourage client self-discovery
Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
Hold the client responsible and accountable
The difference and similarities between Coaching and Counselling
Listening and asking questions
Future / present focused
Solution / Intention focused
Works towards outcomes (building skills)
Does not give advice unless asked
Asks the question “How can we change?”
The client is believed to hold the answers The client is assisted to find their solutions
Backtracking – using client language and tone to recap important words or phrases
Listening and asking questions
Past / present focused
Problem / Pain focused
Works towards emotions (making peace)
Does not give advice unless asked
More interested in ‘why’ - finding meaning.
The counsellor has the answers – gives diagnosis and treatments
Paraphrasing – restatement of a statement or text using other (medical) words
Both approaches can be useful, and when I coach I may at times take more of a counselling approach, but I see coaching as an effective way to encourage clients to improve their self-connection, become happier and more successful in achieving chosen goals. The big question is...
DO I NEED A COACH? No. 'Need' is a strong word. You don't need - you are a capable human even if you have lost your way a little. You can work on yourself and you will arrive at the right place. A coach will facilitate that process to make it smoother, faster and easier. It's a choice. But here are 7 clear reasons you might choose a coach to help you, even if you feel fine:
1. COMPLACENCY: When you think you’ve tried everything you get complacent and can fall into the trap of belief that “it’s hopeless” or "I know what I’m doing." This is a stagnation. Coaches challenge knowledge, and will encourage you to learn, by asking “what may I be missing?” If discovered this can shift your entire worldview and help you enjoy and acheive more than ever before.
2. BLIND SPOTS: The longer you live and work the more blind spots you develop. Coaches point them out and help you plan to clear them.
3. UNBIASED HELP: Unlike friends and family coaches are unbiased, honest and skilful communicators. Coaches say it as they see it and try and remove their prejudice. They're not invested in your choices, so they won't be tainted by them. They’ll just aim to help you find the right path for you.
4.EXTRA ENERGY AND COMPUTING POWER: You haven't always got the energy and courage to ask pertinent and difficult questions of yourself. A coach will. With the energy boost comes another human to direct it at solving issues - two heads are better than one!
5. CONFLICT RESOLUTION: A coach supports you to manage conflict effectively - to walk the line between empathy and boundaries, from a detached perspective, and with the skill of their training and practice.
6. OPENING UP: You can be more open with a trusted coach than any other business relationship, and at times, even more than intimate relationships. This is helpful, to get stuff off the chest and stop wasting energy holding it. It can also be helpful to encourage us to open up vulneraby with those you’d like to be more intimate with; to build real connections.
7. EXPAND OPTIONS AND FOCUS DECISIONS: The Coach helps you significantly expand your options, and also your decision-making ability, by facilitating you to remind yourself of what is important and what isn't.
WHAT HAPPENS IN A COACHING SESSION? Ok, you like the sound of that, yes? Confused about what will happen in the session?
A sessions usually last 75 minutes.
Beforehand you’ll be asked what your intention is - what is it you’d like to work on and what is the outcome you’d like to achieve.
The coach will help you arrive and welcome you with a guided meditation to clear your stressful mind and body.
Some questions will be asked to get thoughts stimulated. The coach is there to guide you to help yourself.
It may be that you need space to be heard, reflected and encouraged.
It may be you then need some tools to help cope or to transform the suffering into productive and positive action.
The coach will have an array of these available, but instead of advising and teaching, they will offer you the choices. The aim is that the client feels supported and has a plan of action at the end of the session.
The coach will check to see if you are happy with the session and how close it was to meeting the aim you specified at the start.
We usually end with a short meditation to help embed the work.
You’ll be amazed how much progress we can make towards an aim in one session. Picking a block of 4 and working in between the sessions exponentially increases your progress and learning (potentially).
CONSIDERING IT? Ok, here are 6 questions for you to consider, if you are thinking coaching might be helpful: 1. Do you have the courage to acknowledge that you may need or could be helped by a coach? 2. Are you ready to question your limiting beliefs, biases and assumptions that may be stopping you from achieving your full potential, or your organization’s full potential? 3. Do you and/or your organization/relationships lack a clear vision of where they want also lack inspiration and motivation? 4. Do you need to be shaken up out coasting and slumber, to get excited and refreshed? 5. Are you working hard, and yet not achieving all of your desired results? 6. Are you ready to make a learning commitment, and then build a learning culture?
If your answer 3 or more as 'Yes', then time has come for you to get yourself a skilled coach.
WHAT SHALL WE WORK ON? Next, ask yourself - “what areas do you want to be coached on?” Often this is straightforward, as you are aware that there is unhappiness or ineffectiveness in certain areas or situations of your life. But remember, everyone can benefit from a coach so even if life is going pretty well, we can still use a coach to iron out blind spots and improve connections.
DETAILING THE INTENTION If I’m a little stuck I can choose to look at my lifestyle in more detail. For me I think of 10 core roles (I call them roles, because I choose to act them, and put on a slightly different persona and set of values for each). I look at each and decide how I'm doing and what issues I'm facing.
10 Roles to consider: 1. PERSONAL GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT MANAGER 2. SPIRITUAL BEING (connected to something larger than can be understood) 3. FINANCE MANAGER 4. CAREER/ BUSINESS MANAGER 5. A ROMANTIC PARTNER 6. A JOYFUL PLAYER OF RECREATION 7. A CONTRIBUTOR TO COMMUNITY 8. A FIT AN HEALTHY HUMAN 9. A CARETAKER OF MY HOME/ENVIRONMENT 10. A FAMILY MEMBER AND FRIEND
TRY IT NOW! Take 15 minutes now to rate yourself out of 10 and then go through the issues on the ones that are lowest. Make two lists: Positive (+) = All the things I'm doing well in (Generating well being) Negative (-) = All the things I'm avoiding, have resistance or confusion about (Depleting energy) here's my one to show you how it might be done:
1. PERSONAL GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT MANAGER: (7 /10) + I'm reading loads and writing. - I'm avoiding more retreats and investing money in new training, my writing is unfocused and sporadic, I'm indulging in isolating myself, and in addictions like youtube/movies/fb a little too much. 2. SPIRITUAL BEING: (10 /10) + I'm meditating and opening up to trust life - ...none! 3. FINANCE MANAGER: (7 /10) + I'm making money and accumulating wealth - I'm not doing accounts as much as I'd like, I'm not creating systems, I'm not investing money wisely, I'm not planning for my future 4. CAREER/ BUSINESS MANAGER: (7 /10) + I'm busy, with plenty of appointments, I'm writing my book and self-learning - I'm not responding to emails quickly enough (within 8 hrs), I'm not planning for growth, I'm not systemizing enough (invoices for example), I'm not sure where I'm headed and if the sums add up. 5. A ROMANTIC PARTNER: (8 /10) + I'm in love and being honest and open, I'm suggesting next steps... - I'm not sure where it's going / if it'll work, I've not visualised enough to make sure I definitely want it. 6. A JOYFUL PLAYER OF RECREATION: (9 /10) + I'm playing guitar sometime, I'm climbing sometimes, I'm playing with slackliners, I'm dancing, playing board games - I'm taking dancing too seriously, 7. A CONTRIBUTOR TO COMMUNITIES: (8 /10) + I'm helping a lot with BM and I'm thinking about putting together more intimacy spaces - I'm not finding the courage or time to action the intimacy spaces, I'm avoiding social spaces a little 8. A FIT AN HEALTHY HUMAN: (8 /10) + I'm eating well, sleeping well, keeping fit, hydrated and stretching. I'm balancing screen and sitting time. - I'm not as strong or flexible as I'd like, I've damaged: my shoulder blade a little 9. A CARETAKER OF MY HOME / ENVIRONMENT (6 /10) + I'm cleaning up efficiently, my room is tidy, my g-drive is in good order, I'm recycling and being mindful -I'm not staying on top of mobile phone/laptop/car maintenance, I'm still making lots of trash 10. A FAMILY MEMBER AND FRIEND: (7 /10) + I'm in regular contact with family, and friends, I'm having dinner with friends, - I'm avoiding going out in evening, or phone calls, I'm not relaxing and being myself as much as I'd like, I'm not being as generous as I'd like
So when I look at this I see my areas of lower score are Caretaker and Finance, followed by Family/friends, Career and Personal Growth. So to delve in and prioritise by only looking at the lowest ones first.
DEVELOPING MY INTENTION This analysis has helped me see that a lot of my time is wasted on worry, addiction/ procrastination and not planning ahead for the future. So these are the areas to work on, within the lowest two roles: Caretaker: I want to get my maintenance items done because they weigh on my mind. To do this I want to make a list of those items and use the swallow the frog method to knock them off one-by-one. The outcome I want is to feel my house is in order and I have routines scheduled to make it easy. Friendships: I want to be myself more, relax and be honest, generous, and make time to connect. To do this I want to think about what values I cherish, why I want these values and who in my life do I want to see more of. Then to consider how to communicate this and facilitate it happening. The outcome I want is ease, fun and honesty in my friendships.
I can then choose to look deeper at my other items in the same way, but not until I've addressed these two action points with a coach. If I slow down and take one step at a time, instead of tackling everything at once I am more effective and less stressed.
WANT A COACH? I hope this inspires you to have a think about your life and if you want a coach to help you. If you think this is for you please get in touch - there are three ways I offer this:
1. PERSONAL COACHING: I coach people from all walks of life - some with trauma, and others who want to just enjoy life more and learn to connect to what they love, just like I am showing here. I do this in-person, at my home, or via skype, or going out for a walk-and-talks (which is the most cost effective!) Taster sessions are available now.
2.CORPORATE SESSIONS: I work in offices in groups and with individuals who'd like to improve their flow, their inspiration and their headspace, so they can work happily and effectively. Email me now if you'd like a taster session.
3. GROUP CO-COACHING TEACHING: I also offer courses in co-coaching. Sign up alone or with a friend and over a single session we can teach everyone in the group how to coach, and we can create a network of co-coaches, so that we never have to pay another penny to coach. I have used co-coaching and co-counselling over the last 5 years to help me. If you think this might be for you email me and I'll add you to the email list to let you know when the next session will be.
This blog is a sharing of some of the information I teach at the start of a mindfulness course - I've knocked it up quite quickly. The theory is informed by the work of Robert Lustig a leading US academic who studies addiction and hedonic behaviour and explains brilliantly the difference between happiness and pleasure. I've supplemented his work with my own ideas. Enjoy!
We've confused Happiness with Pleasure If I were to ask you the difference between happiness and pleasure I'm guessing you'd struggle. That's because modern capitalism has conflated the two. I'm here to suggest we can't' do', 'take', 'get' or 'buy happiness (which means we have to ignore the marketing and social lies), because it is a balance of two things - pleasure and contentment and contentment is something trickier to get hold of. Sure there is a little more to it (meaning for one) but by realising the balance we can start to understand why we might be unhappy, when we see we are chasing our tail, so to speak. If we choose to balance serotonin and dopamine in our system then we may be on a happier track. Let me explain...
How do we find balance?
Understand what creates Dopamine and Serotonin
Begin to change habits to bring in more of what is lacking and stop tricking our systems.
Don’t demonise either - both are useful for living well, when we make more choices. None of the activities I suggest in this post are 'bad' , but they do have risks.
Let's start by looking at the two neurotransmitters that Robert points out...
Dopamine: is the exciting neurotransmitter that excites neurons (as a signal to pay attention) in anticipation of a stimulant. Endogenous opioid (rush of pleasure), Cortisol (rush of fear/excitement), Adrenaline (rush of energy for attack) or Endorphins (rush of pain relief), after which the neurons must close down to protect themselves, which gives a feeling of withdrawal. This is all a natural part of our motivation system, like the dog - doing, getting, busy, like:
Ticking items off to-do list gives mini bursts of pleasure,
Taking part in sports, especially competitive sports can generate lots of pleasure.
Sleeping well allows receptors to be open, so we look forward to the day of pleasure. Lack of sleep makes the system slower, therefore less internal rewards of pleasure.
Sex and orgasm gives us big rewards, exciting the body and mind with rushes of pleasure.
Eating foods with amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy and legumes will help us regulate dopamine, but they may not provide the immediate pleasure of the items below.
We live in dopamine a lot of the time, and that's all fine until...
Watch out for modern addictions caused by the illusions of connection
Modern Tricks: We can now trick our reward systems with these things, which we may want to consider reducing:
Substances like sugar, tobacco, alcohol give short-term pleasure, long-term addiction, because they give the illusion of food or medicine, but are often toxic or not nourishing for the body. This confuses our senses and mind.
Addictive activities like gambling, on-demand TV, Facebook, over-working etc can give us the illusion of connection and reward, which can create loneliness and isolation.
Negative thinking, when we anticipate a pleasure/pain we are using our imagination to trick our senses. We also stimulate cortisol and adrenaline, which adds confusion and further craving for pleasure. This includes rumination and criticism, which can create anxiety or depression. This is critical to understand in our re-balancing.
Serotonin: is the down-regulator of neurons, which is a necessary component in relating, resting and digesting (food and information). If dopamine is ‘doing’, serotonin is ‘Being’ - like the sloth - slow, calm, content. Or a Cat purring nicely. We can generate this via:
Eating slowly and green, fresh, unprocessed food, which contains high levels of tryptophan. Fish can be useful too, especially those with high levels of Omega3 fatty acid.
Resting - which could include sleep, or closing your eyes and relaxing.
Exercise - is good for general body regulation.
Sunshine and fresh air
Mindfulness and meditation: As serotonin is linked to inspiration, slowing down and appreciating, by regularly practicing mindfulness as a habit, we reform the structures of the brain to be able to create serotonin more easily.
Risk / Reward Cycles: IT’S NOT WHAT YOU DO, SO MUCH AS HOW YOU DO IT. Any activity can be done in a content way (with rewards), or a way that chases pleasure (with risks). Doing something dog-like: to chase and control a pleasurable outcome risks falling into our innate bias towards negative thinking, which could negate our efforts to find pleasure. The mind may jump to negative stories as expectations are rarely met, creating confusion & craving. Some activities encourage contentment - meditation, reading, walking, whereas others discourage contentment, like gambling or gossip. The more we ‘choose how to be’ with mindfulness the more activities can be contented. Doing something cat-like, or sloth-like: mindfully, slowing down to to connect. This will lead us to more long-term rewards. Sex, sports, and productivity can all be a contented if we slow down and reduce our ‘need’ for pleasure and ‘avoidance’ of pain. Then we can balance our desires and find happiness in the mix.
We can slow down and connect, like the sloth, who spends most of the time resting and digesting
In order to summarise I made a fun table, enjoy! It's based on the 7 differences Robert discussed, and I've made an acronym!!!