Sunday, 15 May 2011

Back to the future? No! Let's stick to the present!

I know!  It's been an age! 

I'm not sure why that is, maybe just that life has got in the way somewhat....or is that just an excuse!  I do that with mindfulness sometimes.  I really do need to finish this episode of Emmerdale before I meditate! No honestly.....that ironing really is my priority (as is emptying the bin, decorating!!!  Both of which I hate but they are good excuses!)  It sounds like I don't like meditating which is ridiculous because I love it, it's so calming and has changed my life in many ways.  But there is just this little voice in my head (actually, it's like having a Good Buddha and Bad Buddha on my shoulder, whispering.....). Good Buddha says, you know you will feel so much calmer if you do half an hours meditating?  Bad Buddha replies, yeah but think what you might miss on Twitter!!!  It's really happening on there!!!  Good Buddha says, well ok then, if you can't do half an hour, how about being kind to yourself and just doing 20 mins?  Bad Buddha says, nah!  It's hardly worth it - do it later, tomorrow, next week, you're only playing at it anyway!!!  At this point, Good Buddha interjects, punching Bad Buddha on the nose and shouting, "She is not playing at it, that's just a critical, judgemental thought and we don't do those!  She's trying really hard at this and it's important to her so STOP distracting her and filling her head with negativity!   Good Buddha then recovers her composure, dusts down her ....(whispered aside...what do Buddha's wear?  Is it a tabard...No!!  A toga?  I think it might be a toga, gosh I really should do my research) dusts down her toga (???) and being totally accepting of herself, doesn't judge herself for having "gone off on one", gently saying "Missy, just do it" and I am!

It's been an important week in our household for two very different reasons and I think it highlights the benefits of being mindful and "living in the moment".

I've been to hospital this week with my dad who'd had a screening test for cancer which had thrown up an anomaly.  Now, with older parents you expect that there are going to be health issues but cancer is in a league of it's own!  My mum couldn't bring herself to say the word, thinking that if she said it, then it would happen!  Anyway, I go with them, a 3rd pair of ears because I know when you are at hospital having tests you can be so stressed you don't hear a word. He has the tests, reassured and supported by the most wonderful doctor and staff (for some people it really is a vocation isn't it - you can just see it in their eyes and their whole demeanour - like a stick of Blackpool rock with "caring" written all the way through!)  At the end, the doctor drew up a chair (an alarm bell rang).  It's not as good as we'd hoped he said!  (a cacophony of bells) I felt calm.  He explained more.  I breathed and still felt calm (what's going on, I'm normally catastrophising by this stage!!).  Now I don't know if it was the reassuring support of the doctor and staff who explained things so clearly and gently, painting a clear picture of the problem and how it would be dealt with, or my continued mindfulness practice but somehow, I was able to take a step back, observe the situation and not allow my thoughts to pull me into some negative narrative that didn't have a happy ending!  In this moment, I was able to see that dad had a problem and the medical staff were going to try and fix it!  Result!  I felt like I'd come of age!  So fingers crossed, dad will have his treatment and be fine!  And I am so grateful to mindfulness for giving me the skills I needed to handle such a difficult situation.

And finally, FA cup final week in our house.  35 years of waiting for a trophy!  My husband was beside himself!  He's been a bag of nerves, distracted, edgy!  There's hardly been a smile cracking his lovely face!  I can see in his eyes that he's been in the future all week, somewhere around the 89th minute of the game, with City 1-0 up and he dares to allow himself the possibility of winning!!   But then, his own Bad Buddha has been tagging along all week and he's not been whispering....oh no ...he's been shouting!!  City win the FA cup!  Don't make me laugh!  You will never win anything AGAIN!   You can't win, you're not allowed to win, you City fans have to have something to moan about, and joke about in the self deprecating, City way!  It's the law!  And with that he swooshes his toga (for he wears one also) over his ample girth and grins menacingly!!!  So it's 1pm and coverage starts, D makes excuses not to watch the preamble, helping me clean the house (oh the things we do to distract ourselves!!).  Eventually, 3 O Clock arrives and we watch with bated breath.  The minutes tick by, first half over (we're playing well?!!!  There's a tinge of relief but we need a goal!).  Just when we think it's never gonna happen and we (mentally) fast forward half an hour seeing the agony that is...extra time and penalties!! City score!  I scream and D makes a sound like a possessed hyena!  But on no,  we've still got 15 mins to play!  D paces the lounge, I tap my legs randomly!  It gets closer and closer, D watches less and less until finally after several last minute corners (to Stoke) the ref blows and they have done it!

D is elated!  Followed by deflated!  I fear that he has lived this match and the outcome so many times in his head he can't now deal with the reality of it!  35 years of waiting and he can't enjoy the moment!  I'm sure he's not alone!

Back to the future anyone!  Nah!  I'll stick with the present thank you!

Have a good week.

Mindfulmissy xxxx

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

In pursuit of Happiness

A really huge initiative was launched this week called "Action for Happiness.   It's main aim is to increase joy and happiness in the world by being kind to others and fostering a sense of community in response to what they say is "an epidemic of loneliness and isolation".

So is this true?  Are we at the stage where we need an intervention to be happy?  Professor Richard Layard, who runs the wellbeing programme at the London School of Economics says that despite earning more money than ever before society isn't any happier.  To this end, he has helped mastermind this initiative and is asking people for an individual commitment to increasing happiness for themselves and perhaps more importantly for others.  Supporters will do this by setting up local action groups with a view to promoting happiness and well-being in their communities.

Now it's easy to pour scorn on such a seemingly "frothy" idea but I have to admit when I read about it I felt positively excited by it all.  I spent last night reading everything I could on Action for Happiness, tweeting every nugget of information regularly in an attempt to get the message out there.  I think I did this because I have felt that, as a nation we have become glazed with a veneer of negativity.  We seem to have lost all sense of community and yet this is the glue which keeps families together and each other safe and happy.  By operating within our own personal bubbles, are we missing out on simple acts of caring for other people, the vulnerable and isolated, when a small act of kindness could foster a sense of belonging and improve well-being? 

Yesterday's media was all about the postive effects of Action for Happiness, I mean after all, who would DARE to diss such a positive cause on it's launch day.  Today, this was counter-balanced with the headline along the lines of "happiness makes me feel a bit sick".  Wow that didn't take long did it!  Launched Tuesday, placed on pedestal; dissed on Wednesday, shoved off pedestal!  Happy.......for one day!  To be fair the journalist in question, did admit that the organisation had "fantastic chutzpah" to attempt this in the grip of the worst recession in decades.  She also noted the impact of technology in pursuit of happiness and highlighted the wonderful MINDAPPLES ( which is another social enterprise promoting positive mental health.  Their aim is to "make looking after our minds as natural as brushing our teeth" and they do this by asking the question “What’s the 5-a-day for your mind?”.   It's a simple concept but how often do we really give our minds our full attention (if any!!).  Given the list of daily chores, work, cooking tea, packed lunches, feed fish, feed cats, feed cats, feed cats (AGAIN), washing, remove choc wrappers from washing machine etc etc, is it any wonder we don't think about nourishing and protecting our minds!

I'm sure the debate will continue about the validity of pursuing happiness as a specific aim.  But for me, I'm certainly going to give it a try and have already signed up to Mindapples and posted my 5 a day which were:

1.  Watching my washing blowing in the wind (chance for a brief meditation!)
2.  Share a joke with my 11 year old (laughter always the best medicine for me!)
3.  Listen to Pause for Thought, Radio 2, 9.15 am or thereabouts (eclectic mix of vicars/monks/wise people   offering an insight into daily life which is always refreshing and thought-provoking.
4.  Have coffee, cake and a chat with a friend (my cure all for everything - guaranteed to make me feel good).
5.  Give a hug (best of the day usually when husband returns home from work) - I used to get them from my son and they were glorious but he's 11 now and its SOOOO uncool!! Boo!

Why not take a moment and think of your 5 a day!

I'm off now to see if I can log on to the Action for Happiness website.  I've tried on several occasions only to be told that the website is overwhelmed and has crashed under the weight of users!!!  I guess I'm not alone in pursuit of happiness!

Have a good week and BE HAPPY

Mindfulmissy xxx

ps  Forgot to mention that yesterday during the launch, someone led a group meditation which was disturbed by a persistant ringtone!  I can just imagine all those lovely people merrily meditating and then getting more and more annoyed by this.  I know my own mindfulness guru would have said "turn towards the discomfort - explore how that ringing phone makes you feel".  I would have wanted to shout SHUT THE BLOODY THING OFF I'M TRYING TO GET HAPPY HERE!!!  Still learning......

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Can I be a mindful mum?

I looked at my 11 year old son today and thought "OH MY GOD, who stole my toddler and replaced him with this.....well bloke really!  All broad shoulders, big feet and a phone that rings permanently to the tone of Mr Blue Sky (ELO - we have taught him well!!!).  It got me thinking on this wonderful Mother's day, have I really been there for him, savoured those special moments, really noticed him grow?  Or did tiredness, work and those duller than dull daily tasks get in the way?   It's so hard to be in the moment with children, the very nature of their being makes us constantly look ahead as we approach the next milestone and tick it off in our mental manual of motherhood!  Each stage of childhood brings untold riches - that first smile, the first moment they roll over, the first time they sing a Tinie Tempeh track.....(google him!!)  But, is this tempered by our desire to move onto the next stage so we can be rid of the more arduous tasks of parenting such as getting up in the night for feeds or dancing the merry "colic" dance? 

And so it continues....oh how we hung on that first word "Shooooooooooe,  shoe.................DAD HE SAID SHOE!!!"  Ok... for a first word it was a bit random but I was beside myself with joy at this new development!   Over time these words grew and grew until they numbered so many they squeezed the space out of my brain.  You know that moment when the lift door opens, everyone packed in like sardines.  There's only you waiting and you feel you have to get in and then it beeps for ages in protest.  Well that's how it's felt sometimes when my precious boy overfilled my day with dialogue!  And yes, I have been forced on occasions to say......"WILL YOU PLEASE JUST GIVE IT A REST".  All that time teaching them to speak only to say....stop speaking!  I hang my head in shame!  So these wonderful beings we bring into the world continue to grow and blossom and we get sucked into a cycle of planning ahead, often without realising.  Even now, when my son is still in the last year of primary school, I'm looking towards September when he goes to secondary school;  checking out uniform, what he will need, who he will walk to school with and, to this end, allowing him to "practise" walking to school in preparation (while I wait patiently by the window, heart in mouth until he appears, waving and rolling his eyes at my anxiety).  Where is the NOW in all of this? 

But not to be too hard on myself (or mums in general), I guess this forward thinking is what keeps us afloat.   It's perhaps inevitable that we live a little bit in the future so that we can pave the way for them, make their day a little easier, or bring some organisation to the chaos that can surround our kids.   However, I think it's also about checking out that at some point in our day we really do pay them some proper attention; rather than that half-hearted "how was school?" said whilst making a stir-fry, doing the packed lunches and keeping an eye on twitter!  (points for multi-tasking!! yes!  Points for being no!).   Learning mindfulness and developing a commitment to it has really helped me pause more, notice when I'm doing too many things at once without focus and it's enabled me to really look at what's before me.  The only problem is, that since I last looked my cute little boy, all mucky faced and knobbley-kneed has started to change into man complete with deeper voice (eery! - I keep thinking there's a burglar upstairs then I realise it's my boy!), spots (please can I have my clinique concealer back) and bigger feet that mine!!!  (AT LAST!  I've got my trainers back - there are some perks to this growing lark).......BUT.....

I don't think I'm ready for this!!!   

Have a wonderful mother's day!


ps  I read this lovely poem today via Paulo Coelho's blog.  It's really worth a moment's pause in your day to celebrate motherhood (or parenthood)

pps have just had to break off to send text to son as it's chucking it down and he's out playing/hanging out with his friends!  "Are you keeping dry?" I asked (sub-text, you might get a cold/flu/pneumonia/bubonic plague...somebody stop me!!).  If I was a mindful mum I'd have said "Enjoy the rain"!!!!  Still learning........

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Can you meditate anywhere?

Gosh I've been so resistant to doing a blog this week!  When I first started out and, having read around, the general consensus was that you had to post 3 times a week to get your message out there (what message?....where?.....).  So being the dutiful person that I am, that's what I aimed for, and ...I think one week I achieved this.  Ah there's the rub!  Mindfulness by definition is about not striving for things!!!  It's about being in the moment, paying attention to what's there for you right now; being accepting of yourself and all your little faults.  So in setting myself a target for writing a mindfulness blog - I have kind of missed the point.  Mindfulness isn't about being goal centred!!   Some teacher I am! 

But then again, that's why I LOVE mindfulness.  You can never get it wrong.  It is what it is on any given day.  You may practice diligently every day, for 30 minutes, sat on a special cushion, in complete silence, your zen timer patiently counting down the minutes until your practice is over.  Or you may be sat squashed like a sardine on the 201 to Manchester, 9 different ipods sharing their tinny, irritating version of tunes you'd never normally listen to - all the while eavesdropping (I say eavesdropping - I mean come on!  People share EVERYTHING when they are on their phones on the bus!).  You just can't help but overhear that Brenda is having cheese and onion pie for tea; Kylie copped off last night and woke up with a love bite and no purse and the ubiquitous "I'm on the bus, I'm getting off now...I'm walking towards I am" conversation. Yes, I have tried to meditate during said bus journeys - does it work?  Sometimes.  Does it make my meditation experience any less than a Buddhist monk (ok maybe that's the wrong example), let's say from someone sat quietly on their spesh cushion?  I'd have to say no and that's because mindfulness is about experiencing the now, whatever it is and wherever it is. 

I mean let's face it....if you can meditate on the 201 you can meditate just about anywhere!

So next time you are on the bus or train, why don't you take a moment to look out of the window and pay attention to the view.  Or close your eyes and just feel your breath rise and fall, easily and effortlessly - letting any thoughts drift by like leaves in a stream........Oh.....and when Brenda says she's having cheese and onion pie for tea....TELL HER TO SHUT UP COS YOU'RE MEDITATING!!!

Have a great week


ps Cautionary note:   No commuters were harmed in the making of this blog.  It is perhaps inadvisable to shout on a bus especially if late for work (poetic license has been used here).

Sunday, 20 March 2011

I really must stop catastrophising!

As part of my on-going development as a mindfulness trainer I regularly attend supervision meetings.  The aim of these sessions is for trainers to discuss any issues they may have either with their own meditation practice, or with their work with others.  We also have time to discuss books we've read about the subject, interesting courses we've seen, future workshops that we are planning and the merits of internet dating (Yes I did say that!).  Well it's not all work work work!

Anyway, it was at one of these supervision sessions that the idea of "trust emergence" was discussed.  It's a Buddhist principle which, in a nut shell is about not always planning everything to the nth degree but going with the flow and seeing what emerges.  So for instance, instead of me sitting down with a specific subject for my blog, I just wait and see what inspires me and what my subconscious throws up.  I've just realised that my definition isn't perhaps as eloquent as I'd like so for a more edifying description, see below:

To 'trust' is to make the leap of faith required to enter the seething sea of change. 'Emergence' refers to the process by which the complex things we experience arise spontaneously from underlying contributing factors.  Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom…(Paperback)
by Gregory Kramer, Chapter 13
I really loved this definition and the idea of jumping into "a seething sea of change".  I called my first blog "leap of faith" and it took me about 20 minutes to press the send button when I'd written my first post.  This was because I was totally outside my comfort zone, standing on the precipice of a brave new creative world.  I didn't know what outcome would emerge from my random ramblings, I just had to trust that it was the right thing to do and jump!!!  Having landed firmly on the other side, well ok I may have hit my head on the way but no other major injuries (no bruised ego or wounded pride......well not yet anyway) I can look back at the view and think "I'm really glad I did that".  I never thought I would sit at a computer and feel excited at the idea of writing a blog or be able to cope with the fizzing adrenaline rush that consumes me when I haven't got a clue what to write!!!  But I'm still here and I'm still writing.
So I guess I'm inviting you to have a go at a little "trust emergence".  Do you always need to know where you are going and plan for every eventuality?  Is your path mapped out for you or can you take a diversion because who knows what's down this road as opposed to that road; what view you may miss or experience you may not have.  "Trust emergence" is really about being totally in the moment or "mindful".  Just letting things happen and going with the flow.  Why don't you give it a go and see what "emerges"!
One quick story to finish off with:
The other evening I was awoken by the sound of our side gate being rattled.  It was 5.30 am and still dark outside.  Hub was, as usual, dead to the world, puffing and blowing so I gave him a nudge - D!  There's someone trying to break in!    He stopped snoring and sat up bleary eyed!  "Someone is trying to break in at the side gate!!!  What shall we do?"  By this stage D was awake and confirmed that the said gate was indeed rattling like a rattley thing!  I ran to the back bedroom window - the security lights were on....gulp!  D ran to the front - that wasn't on (BECAUSE HE'D NOT REPLACED THE BULB DOH!!!).  Unfortunately, it was at this point that we realised we didn't have a view of the side.  I therefore made the executive decision to race down to the kitchen and set of the infra-red alarm sensor in a bid to scare off the burglars!  I felt sick with anticipation as I went into the kitchen as I could see the side light was also on - someone was definitely there trying to break down our side gate.  Alarm goes off - cats go wide-eyed with fear - I go wide-eyed with fear and then look round to see D, fully dressed armed with mini-D's cricket bat. "DON'T GO OUTSIDE!!!"  I say.  "What if they beat you up? ". I was terrified, but with a small sense of pride at my bloke being all manly!  I stand behind him, not knowing whether to arm myself with the bread knife  (risky) or the cat scratching post (just weird!!)  and we took a deep breath and tentatively opened the back door.
And there, in the darkness he stood,
Bobby the badger!
And so you see, that's what happens when you have a powerful mind!  Talk about catastrophising!
Have a good week.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Don't miss one day like this...

I read a really interesting article this week, all about how technologyy is shaping our lives.  We live in a digital age where our every waking moment, thought or action is recorded for all to see.  It so instantaneous, but does it interfere with us living in the moment?

Even before the advent of social networking and camera phones I've always argued with my hub, D, about his need to photograph everything and keep a record for posterity.  Now this is a lot to do with his penchant for archivy - history and record keeping is kind of what makes him tick so I know I should cut him a bit of slack.  However, I have often found myself saying - stop photographing and LOOK AT THE VIEW!  I'm just not sure you can ever fully do justice to an image by photography alone - it needs to be in context.   I have a photo of the Grand Canyon which looks great but what makes the Grand Canyon GRAND is the fact that it's impossible to capture by camera due to it's utter vastness.  It needs to be seen in context not in isolation.   You'd think I'd practice what I preach but no!  In a moment of madness I decided to take a photograph during an Elbow concert - imagine the scene, it's the encore.....Guy Garvey begins to sing "One day like this", his voice like a gorgeous piece of toast, soft and buttery on the top but with a bit of crunch underneath! - the chorus arrives (Throw those curtains wide - one day like this a year will see me right) the lyrics rising majestically - huge and anthemic, the crowd singing as one, totally lost in the moment! And happens!  Loads and loads of huge bouncy balls descended onto the crowd, accompanied by a veritable ash cloud of ticker tape!  It was breathtaking!  I was beside myself, singing my favourite song, marvelling at the mad view in front of me, people laughing and batting these huge balls from one side of the crowd to the other, their faces misted by the descending confetti!  I must capture this moment I thought and reached for the camera.....In the excitement I couldn't find it - then I did...quickly I need to get it out of the case:  aghgghghgh where's the "on" switch - oh it's there!  Quickly (Throw those la la)...more ticker tape, what should I photograph?.....I want it all, a photo of everyone enjoying this moment, get the balls in and the ticker tape CLICK, CLICK, CLICK.....and then it was all over.  It was at this point I realised that I wanted to do it again because I hadn't taken it all in - I hadn't been fully engaged from start to finish and I really really wanted to be.  It's one of my favourite songs and I wanted to hear every note, sing every word and watch the performance unfold before my eyes.  Instead I watched half of it (which was WONDERFUL) but missed the finale as I was too busy taking the photo!  Oh I was SOOOO annoyed with myself afterwards - especially when I saw the photos - THEY WERE RUBBISH!  You can't even tell what they are supposed to be.

So I guess what I'm saying is that despite the advancement of technology - don't miss what's happening in your "here and now".  It's nice to let friends know what you are up to via facebook, posting photos or videos but it's also important to savour the moment too!

Have a good week


ps:  Just in case you are interested, here's a You Tube video of the Elbow song!  Enjoy!

pps:  Hey I've really been in the moment today as was supposed to be writing more about Twitter and Facebook but have gone off on a completely different tangent!  I love it when that happens!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

You can't judge a book by it's ........

In the spirit of adventure, last week I got tickets for a literary event that was taking place at the University near where I work (ooooohh get you... I hear you cry!).  Now I've never been to one of these in my life before and I felt quite mature if a little middle-aged!  I'd got the tickets for D, my lovely hub who is a big fan of David Peace, the author in question, and it was so local (and cheap - £5 with a glass of wine thrown in - bargain or what!!) that I couldn't pass up on the opportunity.

Of course, Monday arrived, the day of the event and D and I both had that "Do we really have to go out on a Monday night" feeling, closely followed by "Who decided we should be adventurous" kind of vibe!  I mean, I don't even like David Peace!  Far too dark and edgy for me.  But, in a show of solidarity we didn't cancel and made the effort to attend.

It made me realise quite how strong my mind can be.  All through the afternoon, I moaned inwardly.  "Gosh I'm going to be so bored, it's going to be full of pretentious people who will all know I've never read a David Peace book in my life, I wish I was at home watching Emmerdale".   And I really allowed myself to believe these thoughts to be true.  By the time I met D I was thoroughly miserable!  We went for pre-show eats which was lovely - I was mindful of my food (see.. I am learning) and savoured every mouthful.  It helped that I was eating particularly healthy and freshly cooked noodles - It may have been different if I'd been eating a fast-food burger!  (Very hard to savour claggy bread and a pickled gerkin).  By the time I'd finished, I realised I had a bubble of excitement appearing and my negative thoughts had shifted slightly.   I was now thinking - "oooh look at me, out on a Monday night going to a cultural event".  I wasn't even missing Emmerdale!

And so with renewed confidence, we swept into the venue.   ...."Hmmm not many people here"...-  Time to balance the negative thought of "oh no - it's going to be me, D and David Peace - how EMBARRASSING will that be" with the more realistic "you know they had practically sold out - it's just that people haven't arrived yet!" idea.  "Mind will you just STOP TALKING!!".   We sat down (you know the score - somewhere in the middle where you can blend in) and I cast a nonchalant gaze around to suss out my fellow audience!  Yup, there were definitely lots of "Students" around (like there wouldn't be - this university being famed for it's creative writing department!!) but there were also other non-studenty looking people there too.  Once I realised that we didn't look out of place, we settled in.  Now I did have a plan B which was that I could quietly meditate if I got bored (wow - poor David Peace doesn't stand a chance - I've switched off already).  But, before I had time to drift off into a soporific stupor, the event began and I was mesmerised! 

David Peace read extracts from his own novels and then chatted about them; how he worked; his personal background and his inspirations.  It was totally captivating and I wasn't even a fan!  Had I taken the trouble to read one of his books I would have known he has a real poetic style.   This is something no television adaptation can capture and is a real strong motivator for reading the book first rather than just watching the film.    He seemed so quiet and unassuming and yet when he spoke his own words he really conveyed a passion and feel for the characters he was writing about.  Towards the end he revealed that he loved to unpick other people's work to see what it is that makes them so good, in particular what makes you want to carry on reading.  He really paid attention to what was happening in the books by looking at the text word for word and trying to see why certain pages moved him, hooked him in or caused a reaction.  He did this by picking out certain sentences/paragraphs and re-writing them, sometimes changing words or the tense of the text and seeing what impact that had.  To me this seemed such a mindful thing to do - he's asking himself.. "what is happening in this moment of reading - how does it make me feel/think/react".  I never realised that there could so much involved in writing books - so much personal investment and attention to detail.

So if I hadn't switched off the negative self talk I could have missed a really interesting and insightful evening.
I've also learnt to appreciate the value of the written word and how much more goes into it.  It's more than just putting words on a page. In this instance, you really can't judge a book by it's TV programme!

Happy reading!

Mindful missyxx

ps  note of caution - readers are advised not to unpick this blog - you will be left with one long ball of gobbledygook and not much have been warned!!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Have you got 3 minutes to spare....

Well if ever there was a need for me to be mindful it's now!  I haven't got a clue what to write! 

I was going to devote a whole afternoon of thinking about, drafting and writing my blog which would of course be wonderfully interesting, thought provoking and seriously funny all at the same time but it just didn't happen!  (I'm seeing a pattern of behaviour here - high expectations....never gonna achieve don't bother!).  But here I am!  I have switched off the negative self talk and turned up anyway!  I think I've digressed...where was I?  Oh yes, I was going to devote hours to making this the best blog ever but I got waylaid.  Life's like that isn't it?  I started off well, I sat down, mindfulness books stacked majestically, lap top poised and ready to access the latest in cutting edge mindfulness research - ok ok, that's going a bit far but I was going to nosey round and see what was going down in the world of the here and now!!!!  And just as I was about to start, my lovely father in law called round.  We had a chat, both of us a little deaf (him because he is a little deaf and me from sinusitis), it was an interesting dialogue, lots of hmms, pardons and misunderstandings but we managed well.  Then I decided to try and download a 3 minute breathing space for one of my counselling clients who'd asked for a copy (I was delighted!!!).  I'd done a recording on my voice recorder and our lovely Mindfulness head guru had talked us through the basics of sound editing.  Unfortunately, this was over a year ago and I've had a sleep since then and now don't know my WAV's from my elbow!  After much googling and forum advice I realised that the (cheap) voice recorder I'd purchased only recorded in WMA and that didn't work with my sound editing software!  So that's 3 hours I'm never gonna get back!  I spent a further half hour wondering whether to record it again (aiming to get it word perfect without any hmms, coughing, paper shuffling or cats miaowing in the background - could be a bit off putting when you are meditating don't you think?) but in the end decided to leave it for the day and look at twitter instead!  Then I thought, oooh I'll do a 3 minute breathing space on Twitter (not easy in 140 characters I can tell you!)  Actually it turned out to be 420 characters over 3 tweets but I was impressed with my brevity!  So...whilst I was unable to record my work for one client on a CD, I was able to send it out into cyber space where 1 of my many!!! (17) followers may choose to just stop what they are doing and spend 3 minutes of their day just being mindful. 

So....have you got 3 minutes to spare?  If so read on.  Here's the 3 minute breathing space.  Great to do when you feel a bit stressed.   You can try it first thing in a morning as you start your day (even before you get out of bed).  Between tasks at work (you can do it just sat looking at your computer or out of the window) or on the bus going home.  It's just an opportunity to press the pause button.....and we all need to do that from time to time.

Have a good week.


3 Minute Breathing Space

Step 1 - 1 minute - AWARENESS

Get yourself comfortable.  Sit in an upright dignified posture.  If possible close your eyes.
Bring yourself into the present moment by asking yourself...

"What is my experience right now?  What are my thoughts?  What are my feelings?  What are my bodily sensations?

eg:  You may be worrying about work, feeling happy that you have finished for the weekend, that there is a knot in your shoulder or butterflies in your tummy etc.

Whatever your experience is, just acknowledge it and accept it without judgement or criticism. 

Step 2 - 1 minute - GATHERING

Moving now to your breathing, giving it your full attention.  Notice your breath as it enters and leaves your body.  Where do you feel it, chest/tummy/nostrils/throat.  Observe the rise and fall of your chest or tummy.  Notice the quality of the breath and how the in breath may differ from the out breath.  You're not trying to change your breathing or force it - you are merely observing your own natural rhythm of breathing and using this as a way to anchor you into the present moment.  Giving yourself a moment of awareness and stillness.

Step 3 - 1 minute - EXPANDING

Develop your awareness of your breathing further by expanding it so that when you breathe you include a sense of your body as a whole.  Imagine you are breathing right out to your edges - finger tips, soles of your feet, top of your head including your face.

This breathing space allows you to step out of automatic pilot and just connect with the here and now.  It can be very grounding and calming and is a useful exercise if you are feeling overwhelmed with difficult thoughts and feelings.  Or just because you want to pause. 

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

There's more to eating than just shovelling it in!

I LOVE eating!  Who doesn't?  But more recently I've really got to thinking about how I sometimes don't even taste the food I eat.  There's so much more to it than just shovelling it in don't you think?!!!  For an activity I hold dear, I don't always give it the attention it deserves.  Two things have highlighted this to me recently;  The first was when, as a result of a virus, I haven't been able to smell a thing!  Consequently, everything I've consumed has been bland and devoid of taste!  Eating really does need to be a whole sensory experience!  I need to smell my food to thoroughly enjoy it; similarly, presentation is paramount!  Isn't it great to cast your eyes over a rainbow of fresh ingredients rather than a splodge of brown trying to pass itself off as a chilli con carne?  And who doesn't love that moment when you eat a chocolate eclair to have the cream squish out of the sides so you end up licking it off your fingertips......eclairs... let's face it, you never eat THEM in company?  Anyway, what I'm saying is, do we pay enough attention to our meal times and the food we eat?  I eat the same cardboard toast every morning because it's quick and can be digested (I use this term loosely!!) somewhere between me tripping over a yarling cat and looking for my car keys.  What does it taste of.......precisely nothing!

Which brings me onto my second example.  Despite my milky pallor and snotty nose, my lovely hub had booked us a night away.  The first one in years that wasn't work related so I was understandably over-joyed.  We ended up at a wonderful hotel in Helmsley, North Yorkshire - fabulous rooms, gastronomic fayre and spa including outdoor hot-tub - what more could a girl ask for?  Anyway, it turns out that we were booked in for a "Food lovers" weekend - woooo hooooo!  We started off with afternoon tea.  Teeny scones resplendent on tiered cake stand, clotted cream and jam all washed down with loose leaf tea!  As we snuggled in beside the cosy fire, we both eyed the scones and thought....hmmm they look a tad small.  However, they were fresh from the oven, perfectly cooked and after two each we both felt happy and satisfied.  Eyes bigger than belly?  I think so!

This was tested later as we came down for dinner - would we choose the 3 course a la carte or the 5 course "tasting" menu?  Now we always play safe, choosing our favourite meals over and over so, in the spirit of adventure we chose the former. Our first course arrived!  Celeriac soup with cauliflower pickle.  It came in the tiniest of bowls - gosh this really is just ...a taster!  Gulp!  Now it was at this point that hub said "I think we might have to order the optional cheeseboard because, if these portions are anything to go by, we are gonna be starving"!  However, buoyed by the appearance of 4 freshly baked bread rolls we.....well I was going to say "ploughed on" but that implies the soups were bigger than they were!!  Let's say...we delved in!!  As the portions were so tiny it made me eat slowly, taking small spoonfuls and savouring every mouthful.  It was exquisite!  It seriously was!  So I slowed down even further, not wanting this wonderful taste sensation to end!  As I finished the soup it was all I could do to stop myself scraping the soup spoon across the dish in a vain attempt to find one more mouthful.  Heaven!   The rest of the meal followed in a similar vein - dish after dish of teeny tiny portions of superb food, all presented like works of art, the attention to detail quite breathtaking.  It made me think of the Chef who must have been mindful as he cooked the food - really in the moment bringing together an array of wonderful ingredients just at the right time.  Then, presenting it with such care and flourish - which all added to our experience of eating it and we appreciated it so much more.

And so, a wonderful gastronomic experience was had by all.  Surprisingly, despite small portions, by the end of our 5 courses we had no need for the cheeseboard - we were completely full to the brim.  Now is that because our palates were satisfied rather than tummies?  Or because we ate much more slowly and savoured every mouthful?  Who knows!  But it was a real learning experience that  has made me rethink my attitude to food and consequently, I will try and savour things a little more and be mindful when I eat.

Most humorous point in the evening came when the slightly quirky wine waiter came over and asked for our choice.  Not being big drinkers and also if I'm honest, mindful of the cost, I chose a half bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.  It was duly brought to the table by said waiter, wry smile on lips who asked me if it was the correct bottle and would madam like to taste it!  I really felt like I wanted to giggle (a) from nerves and (b) because our half bottle was so little it looked just like a bottle of Balsamic Vinegar!!!  Oh the shame!  I don't know why I worried though - everyone else in the room bought their wine by the glass!!! Riff raff!

Happy eating!


ps  Just in case you fancy a gastronomic experience

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Always take the weather with you

I was driving back from an appointment the other day and I felt really quite positive and happy!  Strange, I thought.  How can that be!    Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a particularly negative person, but just recently, the dark mornings, cold, damp weather, rising prices, job uncertainty, bad news in the press...need I go on.... have all contributed to a general dip in mood.  I say dip but in all honesty, at times, I've hidden under the duvet not wanting to face the day.    This is obviously a totally disproportionate response to my life (which is fine) but felt very real nonetheless.  It's hard not to get caught up in the doom and gloom we are constantly fed via the many forms of media which now inhabit our lives.   So, what changed my mood?  I was driving along, Adele's new CD playing, both of us belting out "Rolling in the Deep" - (I do a great harmony), when I realised that the SUN WAS SHINING!  Doesn't it cast such a better glow on life?  I could have climbed atop a windy hill, whilst wafting my dirndl skirt, I felt that joyous!

This all tied in really nicely with a meditation I was preparing for a weekend workshop.  I had chosen to do a "Mountain Meditation", which is a nice grounding meditation.  In a nutshell, you visualise a mountain;  it might be a huge dominating one, or soft and undulating.  It may be within a moutain range, on it's own or hidden behind another.  You consider the size, shape and colour of your mountain;  is is dark and grey with it's summit hidden in the clouds?  Or is it green and pleasant, dotted with flowers.  One of my favourite bits is when you ask participants what the weather is like on their mountain?  As you sit there pondering this during your guided meditation it's amazing what it can reveal.  When I was doing mine recently, I found that my weather was very blustery!  To me, this represented the fact that my mind was full of ideas, thoughts and feelings that kept buffeting me about. I couldn't focus because I was being pulled this way and that!   I'd not even realised that's how I felt but this meditation helped me take a step back and realise just what was going on!    So you could say that the weather is a great metaphor for mood and you can be your own barometer - all you have to do is go up your mountain and pay attention to the weather. 

In the words of Crowded House......"Always take the weather with you".

Have a good week.

Mindful Missyxx

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Work in Progress

As much as I really like mindfulness and all it stands for sometimes it can be really hard to practice what you preach!  Take last night for instance....

I spent 3 hours in the company of my lovely mindfulness colleagues under the guise of supervision.  We meet regularly to discuss mindfulness, it's problems, personal practice issues, working with mindfulness, that kind of thing plus, we eat lots of cake and nibbles and take the time to find the fun in life (that's my favourite bit!!).

So, our facilitator for the evening compiled our agenda then chose to work backwards...well that threw me off kilter straight away......woah!  Backwards.....but that's not straightforward ( I can be a bit obvious sometimes).  Anyway, I remained in the moment, went with the flow and the meeting turned out really well.  We discussed the retreat - fabulous!; our up and coming Saturday workshop - themed "The Senses" - We like a theme and for some reason they always begin with "S".  Soon we are really going to have to be creative with that one!  We also discussed how we integrate mindfulness into our work (not easy for me) and also about me hitting my metaphorical meditation "wall" at 16 minutes 57 seconds.  To explain, I've recently downloaded an app (so IT savvy) called "Zen Timer".  You can set it for a certain length of time and then it chimes bells when you are done (what's wrong with that!!!???).  Anyway, for some strange reason, each time I put it on, I think it's gone faulty.  Surely it must be 20 mins by now....I resist looking on several occasions but then when I do says 16 minutes 57 and has done so on several occasions!  Spooky or what.  So, we discussed this and the wiser and more experienced of our group put forth the idea that meditation comes in waves and sometimes it is necessary to ride these out to progress.   As I'm only practising for a relatively short length of time, I'm only really getting one wave!  So, I'm going to extend my time next week (via the Zen timer!!) and see if I can do some serious surfing!

The evening ended with a great meditation just simply focussing on the breath, hands on tummy, feeling the rise and fall.  It's really comforting feeling the warmth of your hands resting on you as you meditate and an easy place to focus on.  I left feeling really chilled........and then I lost my keys (arhghghgh where are they!???  Someone might find them and burgle the house!!!!).  Suddenly the "moment" was lost and I was hijacked by my thoughts, catastrophising over what might happen!!! 

I guess you could say I'm definitely "Work in Progress".

update:  Used Zen timer tonight and hit the wall at 15.05!  So much for my theory then!

Have a good week.

Mindful Missy

Sunday, 6 February 2011

There's some things you just can't plan for!

Well I've had such a great week since coming back from the retreat!

I don't quite know what's happened but I definitely feel more peaceful and contented.  Last week I was so restless.  I didn't know what to do with myself and even small decisions proved a nightmare - what bread shall we have?....I don't know....there's so much choice....seeded, non-seeded, brown, wholemeal, rye, granary, ciabata, help!  Whatever happened to just white! 

Sorry about that!   Kind of lost myself in the past for a moment.  Where was I?  Oh yes, I felt settled and clearer about life and also excited about the future.  It would be nice to do something different and even just writing this blog is away from the norm for me.  I don't really do social and here I am talking to everyone.  Well ok not everyone.....maybe just the five of you but it's a start!!!

Which brings me to my dinner party on Friday night - now even calling it that sets me up for a fall doesn't it?  Perhaps I have delusions of grandeur!  I mean I'm not quite Hyacinth Bouquet.  If I was it would of course have been a "candlelit supper" but still, my friend made me laugh when she said "Dinner party, aren't you posh - we just have friends round for tea".  This got me thinking that perhaps I do put pressure on myself and this stops me doing things.  Having friends over is far nicer than having a dinner party!  So it was within this frame of reference that I planned "the meal".  I texted my friends and said "think rustic rather than posh nosh".  Rustic means you can of course shove it all on the table, in mis-matched tableware and tell people to help themselves.  Marvellous!  Once I was in this mindset I was so able to enjoy my cooking and overall preparations.  Normally, I'd be, It's never gonna be right, I hate all, tidying, cooking but I was really in the moment, without a hint of resistance and everything just fell into place.

So, with starter prepared, casserole in oven (rustic) and pudding not even made (I was going to do that during the meal, how chilled am I!!!), I had time to throw on a silky top, paint my lips red (so on trend) and revel in my inner calm.....

There was a knock on the door, the guests had arrived..... just as my table decoration caught fire!

Now there really are some things you just can plan for!

Have a good week.

Mindful Missyxx

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Well....I survived!  A weekend which involved long periods of complete silence!  Saturday morning  - 5 hours!  5 hours without uttering a word including a silent breakfast!  Have you ever tried to eat toast in silence?  In the end I had to suck it to avoid noise overload!  The indigestion afterwards!!!!! ! 

Still, it was a really interesting experiment.  You think you need words to get you through the day and to be honest you don't really.  A raised eyebrow can convey so much and the hand gestures for "would you mind awfully passing the butter" just speak for themselves.  So, I sat in silence, with my discomfort, various thoughts going through my head.  Should I get up and make toast or is there a cooked breakfast?   No-one to ask you see!  Perhaps I'll wait I thought, tapping my fingers nonchalantly, looking around to see if anyone else was moving.  Yep, someone's up at the toaster, so off I go, hand gesturing all the way, "no you have that piece, I insist!!  And then later, as I munched away, someone called order.  Well at least I thought that's what it was, until I noticed it was just someone cracking their boiled egg on the table.  You could definitely make a sitcom out of this!   

I guess what I'm trying to convey is that, yes, it was difficult at times.  Sometimes my own thoughts and insecurities roared inside my head and I had to slap them down to control them.  Occasionally, during the sitting meditations, I felt like I had Tourettes, compelled to twitch my aching limbs, shout a rude word to break the silence or just get up and leave but I did none of this and just sat with it.   Eventually, the discomfort passed and I realised that I had meditated for 3 hours (with breaks for a cup of tea of course) and I had done so admirably.  More importantly, I actually enjoyed watching my mind as it danced about, waving mad thoughts, worries and random ramblings at me as if to say..."see what you make of this??!!".  I also enjoyed the company of some great people who brought so much humour to the weekend.  Bet you never thought a silent retreat could be fun?  How wrong you are!

Would I do it again......definitely yes.  I spent the early morning lay in my bed watching the sun rise above a crescent moon, plane trails drifting across the sky.  I took time out to just sit and look at the landscape in front of me and it really was beautiful.   It was such a peaceful start to the day and that feeling of contentment stayed with me throughout the whole of weekend. I paid attention to the start of the day in all it's glory and I never said a word!

Now that doesn't happen everyday.......

Time to beat a hasty retreat!


Mindfulmissy xx

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Leap of faith

Am I on?

Here goes...earlier this week I signed up to desperately looking for some inspiration about leading a better life.  I was tired of the daily grind and wanted to find some joy in life.  There has to be some hasn't there?  Anyway, one thought I've had recently was about starting a mindful/well being blog.  "No-ones gonna read it!"  I thought, so what is the point in writing it!  But the thing is, I've lots I'd like to share with you if you are interested?  We could all do with enjoying life a little more, being calmer and more content.  I'm mad about mindfulness....hence the name.  It's all about connecting with the here and now.  Taking time to press the pause button in our day and watch that washing blowing in the wind or savour that latte that you don't normally even taste.  It's about being kind and accepting ourselves and learning more about what makes us tick.  I've really only just started this journey (can you say the "J" word on your first blog....ah well, too late now) and I'm hoping it will prove an interesting ride! 

In the meantime, it's my first retreat tomorrow (2 days of peace/quiet/meditation/tranquility/no TV/no wine (or maybe just a little), only minimal chatting and lots of looking at what's going on in my head)

Help!  I'm scared!

Wish me luck and I will let you know how I get on next week.

That's if anyone's there.........

Press that pause button just once over the weekend.

Take care