A world of unrecognised thoughts

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Friedrich Nietzsche

 

I am reading a fascinating book at the moment and one small section really caught my attention. It mentions:

“Thought is the architect of both hope and despair, the source of every colour in the emotional rainbow.

Without thought, there would be no delineation in our world, like the pure clarity of light before it passes through a prism and bursts into a kaleidoscope of color.

But unrecognised thought demands our attention and fills our consciousness.

And when we get caught up in thought, we lose our way.”

We are ruled by the thoughts in our head. Generated moment by moment, every day. What triggers those thoughts can be any outside influence. Be it a picture. A place. Someone you see. A physical object. Literally, anything. However, whilst we might experience an external trigger; our minds pick up this and run like hell. We get caught up in a relay race of chasing thoughts. One following another. A personal example from me:

Question  – “What are we going to have for dinner?

Thoughts and self-talk – Why ask me what is for dinner?

I don’t know?

What is in the fridge?

I’d better check the fridge before I go and buy something? [Seems logical…]

We could have fish cakes? [Where did that come from? Not had them in a week?]

But Jen is allergic to fish? [Logical as this is a friend who is staying with us who is allergic]

Why is she allergic to fish?  [Seems sort of reasonable thought]

Burgers then. [Back to food]

I need some shoe polish. [Now where did that thought come from?]

Better clean the oven? [Now I think I am loosing the plot]

Brillo pads and vim are the best? [Deffo time to call the nut house…]

… and so the thoughts keep coming.

See. Hundreds of thoughts running into and alongside one another. Constantly. It’s a wonder we have time to do anything. As the quote above says, “when we get caught up in thought, we lose our way”.

However, there is something that can help us enormously.

Something so simple, yet so profound, people will think you are quite mad. You have to recognise that these thoughts that you have, are just that. Thoughts. Nothing more. Moment by moment you are recreating a past inside of yourself. A past that you are choosing to create. A past that you can choose to make positive and uplifting. Or a past that is full of doubt. Fear. Even horror. That is what we are capable of. Talk to any counsellor or psychologist and they will confirm, that most treatments for anxiety, fears, phobias and the like are based on changing your perceived view of the past.  

What is even more profound, is that you can then change your viewpoint of what the future might hold. If you accept the future more openly. Without judgement and the feelings of the past, the more likely you are to look at things positively.

What helps you to do this you might ask?

For me, it is Mindfulness and the meditation that goes with it. Moment to moment, being present. Open acceptance. The technique is simple, systematic and direct. Mindfulness training focuses on observing the mind in its natural state, with a non-attached, objective awareness (mindfulness) of what is actually present; moment to moment. Meditation is not a goal, but a tool for realization. Unlike our normal attitudes and perceptions in daily life; which carry an ethical content; during mindfulness we observe only the phenomena of the mind and the body.

There are “Four Foundations of Mindfulness” which serve as the primary base of an insight meditation practice. They are as follows:

  • Mindfulness of Bodily Objects (breath, movement or posture)
  • Mindfulness of Bodily Feelings (pleasant, unpleasant or neutral sensations)
  • Mindfulness of States of Consciousness (mind with or without greed, hatred or delusion)
  • Mindfulness of Mental Contents (joy, apathy, worry, calm, doubt, restlessness, happiness, sadness, etc.)

Or, simply stated, mindfulness of Body, Feelings, Mind and Mental Objects. Once you start to practice Mindfulness, you begin to realise how deep and meaningful it really is.

So the next time you get wrapped up in your thoughts, the first step is to recognise that there is a way to do things in a different manner. Stop for just a moment. Let the thoughts come and then go. Don’t chase after them. In a while the thought that triggered that relay race in your mind will fade. And you can come back to the present moment.

By the way, the book that prompted this post is “The space within, by Michael Neill”. I would really recommend it.

I leave you with the following quote:

The past is gone: the future has not come. But whoever sees the Truth clearly in the present moment, and knows that which is unshakable, lives in a still, unmoving state of mind.”

— The Buddha.    Bhaddekaratta Sutta

I, Me, Self and You

 

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter

 

What does being the person that you are, from one day to the next, mean? This is the question of personal identity, and your answer to this question determines what type of identity you have. Personal identity theory is the philosophical confrontation with the most ultimate questions of our own existence: who we are and what we are?  

Personal Identity is how a person sees themselves in relation to those around them; it is what makes them unique. Personal identity may be described by factors such as age. Gender. Nationality. Culture. Religious affiliation. Disability. Sexuality and sexual orientation. Interests. Talents. Personality traits. Family makeup and relationships and friendship networks. Part of our personal identity is given to us at birth, such as sex, family makeup, nationality and genetic history. Other aspects of our personal identity are formed during our early years of development and continue to develop during our life as we grow, mature, make choices, forge relationships and build an evolving identity for ourselves, these include gender, profession, hobbies, relationships, sexuality, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

Primary Identity References: However, there are four primary identity references that you might be aware of that you can use to help identify yourself. They are I. Me. Self. And You.

Each of these reflect different personal identity levels that you have. Here is an example of the context that these different identity references are used by us in everyday conversations.

I have a dear friend who has recently recovered from a bout of cancer treatment, who said something interesting to me. She said, ‘I didn’t realise just how much the cancer treatment would affect me. I guess in myself, I knew I’d always be ok, but what really shocked me is just how much the treatments can change you.’

To summarise what she was inferring:

  • I: Didn’t realise the effect on me
  • Me: (i). Is affected. (ii). Is shocked.
  • Self: Is ok.
  • You: Changed.


There is actually a relationship between these levels of personal identity. For example:

  • I tell myself to exercise more – (talking to self)
  • When I eat too much, it doesn’t really bother me – (me is unbothered by I’s behaviour)

So,  if you want to get a deeper understanding of your own self, you might want to ask yourself who you are when you think of I. Me. Self. And You. Can you see, or describe what you are feeling or experiencing at the time?

How to identify the primary identity references: You could try asking the following three questions in sequence:

  1. First Question – Ask: “…and when you think where ‘I‘ is, where about is ‘I’?”
  2. Second Question – Ask: “…and how old is thatI’?”
  3. Third Question – Ask: “…and what is happening around that <insert age> that you are thinking of ‘I’?”

You can then repeat the exercise, replacing “I”, with “Me” and then “Self” and finally “You”.

You might get some surprising answers.  I did.  

A few years ago, I did this practice as part of my training to become an IEMT [Integral Eye Movement Therapy] practitioner and therapist. When I went through the process, I found that for each of the four Primary Identity References I had a different reference set. A different place where I was. A different age for each primary identity reference. I was thinking of different things. 

  • “I” was seven years old and was out playing
  • “Me” was a teenager going to a disco
  • “Self” was a thirty-something settling down with a new wife and child
  • “You” was a forty-something going to work on a train into London

I had been going through a serious trauma and this was reflected in these strange differences. The differences represented how “split up” I was feeling. IEMT can be used to bring congruence to your primary identity references and this is what happened. After a short session,  I felt calmer and more centred into myself.

I shared this with a colleague at work recently and they are much more present and grounded. When we went through the three questions across all four primary identity references,we found that they were in the present moment for all four references.

If you would like any help with this, or it raises questions, do get in touch. Likewise, if you want to know more how IEMT – Integral Eye Movement Therapy can help you, you can get in touch with me or you can go to:

https://integraleyemovementtherapy.com/

 

I leave you with the following quote:

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter

 

Paying attention is really hard

 

“She said things and I nodded. I didn’t pay attention. She didn’t pay attention to me. We floated through our days in that way.” ― Frederick Barthelme, Elroy Nights

 

Carrying on the theme of pulling apart the definition of Mindfulness and trying to articulate my interpretations; this post is all about paying attention. Or in my case, my lack of!

“Are you listening to me?”, was the comment passed to me recently.

I was in a meeting recently and we were in the middle of a detailed discussion and my mind wandered off. No idea where it went, but it did. The next thing happened was I was asked to make a comment and I said “yes”. That was all. A simple, single word answer and I was caught out. The meeting stopped. Everyone looked at me. I had to apologise and say that I had not been listening. People looked at me, there were some laughs, the person who asked me the question, asked it again, and this time, I did give the right answer.

We all do it. Every day. In fact, more often than we care to admit. Our world is filled with sights, sounds, activities and generally so many things going on; that our brains can not begin to cope. We can receive upwards of 2 million “bits” of sensory information per second. Yes, per second. Our eyes are never still. Our ears constantly pick up sounds. The hairs on our body create sensory inputs. Even standing creates sensory inputs.

Add to that that we have to interact with other people;communicate; engage and build relationships and you can see why paying attention is a challenge.

So how do we cope with this?

Our natural methods include deleting the inputs. We literally erase the inputs as they arrive. We do not recall every sight we see. They come into our brains and if there is no “flight or fight” response; no memory recall, we generally delete the visual image.

We generalise. Think back to a time when you were in a conversation with someone. Did you really listen to the words and their means? I think not. We listen to the conversation and generalise the topic.

Finally, we distort the meaning of the input. This is where someone is saying something and instead of thinking about them and their issue, you instead, internalise their issue and create a meaning based on your perception of reality.

We do it is so many ways and so often, it is surprising that we can effectively communicate at all.

Paying Attention Tips: These are some of the tips that I use. They work for me and you might find some of them useful for yourself.

  • Remembering Peoples Names in meetings, on courses and at events: Whenever there is a first meeting or the first day of a training course that I attend; I always draw a rough map of the table / room and a cross to indicate where the people are. When people introduce themselves, I write down both their names, roles and anything interesting or thought provoking that they say or are wearing. That way, when I get into a discussion, I can refer to the layout and be able to say their name. Why the addition of note with their name? Well, the second time the meeting occurs, they might not sit in the same place.
  • Random Thought Pad: I have note pad with me and use the back of it as a random thought pad. During the day, whenever I think of a task, action or event, I’ll jot it down. During the quiet moments, I’ll refer to the jottings and use them to structure where my activities go to next.
  • Diary reminders: I use my diary at work to record actions both at work and in my social life. If it is private, I’ll mark it private.I always send a copy of the action or activity to my google calendar, so that I can leverage my mobile phone as a prompted reminder.
  • Maintain Eye Contact. I now maintain eye contact with someone with whom I’m having a conversation. I am more likely to keep my mind focused on what they are saying and they will feel like I am paying attention. I don’t stare, rather look at their whole face as well.
  • Finally, learn to meditate. Meditation is one of those things that is good for so many different aspects of our lives, but it can also help improve our ability to pay attention in the long-run. Meditation increases your perception and your sense of the present moment, so you’ll be better able to pay attention to your own body and to other people because your mind will be more in the moment rather than racing ahead into the future, or lagging behind in the past.
  • You can do meditation at your desk at work if you need a quiet moment. I will close my eyes, draw in some long, deep breaths, and pay attention to my breathing. Even five breaths can give me a break and help refocus. I have explained to the person that sits opposite me what I am doing so that they don’t think I am falling asleep. They can see the effect, especially after a serious teleconference and have started practising themselves. 

These are just some of the tips and tricks I have learnt over the years. How do you pay attention? What tricks and tips do you have? Do share…..

 

I leave you with the following quote:

“Who doesn’t want to know that we notice them and value them? And who might respond to us better when they feel that they matter? It probably cannot be overstated – it matters…that people matter.” ― Steve Goodier

How to manage and deal with anger

 

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Gautama Buddha

 

Anger, frustration and that sense of being out of control is something we have all felt at some time in our lives. Often, it comes about in a rush. Suddenly. Unbidden. If we are not careful, we get caught up in the events and the moment that “triggered” the anger and follow through with words or actions that often we come to regret afterwards.

The interesting thing about this feeling of anger is that it often comes upon you unannounced, in the moment. What triggers it and how on earth can you come to deal with it. Manage the anger. And possibly reduce it to minimum levels.

I recently read three different articles that all talked about anger from a number of perspectives. I hope the following tips help you to manage anger.

 

Conversational Cross Purposes:

Imagine for a moment. You have been at work all day, working hard and probably in a frustrating and stressful environment. You come home and literally the first thing you say as you walk in the door is

“Evening. What on earth is all this mess?”. Your partner will probably react immediately and quite angrily to the implied criticism (I know when I do it, my partner does!),

“For God’s sake, I’ve been at work all day as well and when I got home, I tried to tidy up after the kids!”. You then retort with,

“Look I’m just saying. Surely, you’d agree with me it’s a mess?”.

What you have done is make an observation that’s factually correct, but implies a critical judgment. The other person will react angrily to the implied criticism. Next, you defend your initial statement vigorously but focus only on the surface-level meaning. What you have done is you’ve established a textbook case of cross-purposes,

Often we do this by accident. Letting our initial thoughts and feelings come to the fore. Not thinking about the context of the conversation. You could say, speaking your “unedited mind”. This is often the primary cause of a conversational argument.

So how do you try to minimise these? Pausing and reflecting on what the person is saying is key. Learning to take that small moment; a second or two is all it takes; before responding. Go on try it. The next time you are faced with a potential cross purpose anger moment, just pause, reflect and then respond.

 

It is all in the brain:

A recently published scientific study has found that there is a part of the brain, a region of the hypothalamus – which regulates emotion, sleep and appetite – that is responsible for triggering violent behaviours. Although the study was based on trials of the brains of mice, there is quite a significant link to that area of the brain as this area of the brain is common across all mammals, according to the research. The research goes on to talk about long-term future treatments for anger related issues through drugs.

What triggered my interest is that sleep and appetite play a critical role in how people react to situations. The less sleep you have, the more irritable you become and hence, more likely to get angry.

Likewise, eating a balanced diet is important. I know people that if they do not eat on a regular basis, their blood sugar levels drop. They then become very irritable quickly and react in an apparent cross manner to situations. You sometimes feel as if they have “bitten your head off”. They don’t mean it and quite often do not even realise that they have done it. The trick to managing this is to learn to recognise the signs and gently persuading the person to have a sugary snack. So if you are with someone and suddenly they go from “mild mannered” to “Mr Angry”, you might want to consider something as simple as, when was the last time they eat something?

 

Finally, Mindfulness:

One of the benefits of mindfulness meditation is the calming nature it brings to so many things. In addition, the self-compassion and loving-kindness meditations help to balance your emotions. However, these do not “fix” anger issues. Contrary to what some people believe, meditation does not make us emotionless, nor does it convert all emotion into some form of fluffy minded bliss. When we’re doing mindfulness meditation, if we feel anger, we feel it: the pain, the guilt, the whole nine yards. What also happens, though, is that we have a little space around the emotion. We can see it for what it is. We develop the capability to see emotions for what they are; transient, momentary, fleeting. The emotions follow the thoughts. And as your thoughts change, so to does your emotions. The challenge we all face is to let those thoughts and associated emotions come and go, rather than trying to hold onto them and ruminate on them.

If you find yourself in this situation and want some help, do get in touch.

How Meditation Helps You with Difficult Emotions: Anger

http://www.mindful.org/how-meditating-helps-you-with-difficult-emotions-anger/

 

I leave you with the following quote:

“In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope. In a world filled with anger, we must still dare to comfort. In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream. And in a world filled with distrust, we must still dare to believe.” Michael Jackson

Being non-judgemental

“I used to think anyone doing anything weird was weird. Now I know that it is the people that call others weird that are weird.” Paul McCartney

 

The definition of Mindfulness that I use comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the modern mindfulness movement. It states:

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” Jon Kabat-Zinn

One of the biggest elements of the practice of Mindfulness is the non-judgemental element. We are filled with “self-talk”, with thousand’s of thoughts flowing through our monds per day. Many of these are where we are reflecting and often ruminating. Typically, along a negative path. Thoughts such as:

“I can’t do this…..”; “I keep failing at….”; “Why does it always happen to me?”;

“I am no good at….”; “It will never work….” You get the picture.

What is so amazing, is that up to 70% of most people’s thoughts are negative. We fill our minds every day with negativity. When you consider we have up to 70,000 thoughts per day, that means upwards of 49,000 negative self-hits. We are constantly beating ourselves up thinking we are failing. All too often we find it difficult to accept what we’re feeling. A common pattern is to experience some initial unpleasant experience and then to feel bad because of feeling bad, and then to feel bad about feeling bad about feeling bad, and so on. It’s a vicious cycle of feeling bad about feeling bad.

So, what does Mindfulness do to counteract this?

Recognition: The first aspect of the meditation practice is to recognise that you do have these negative and judgemental thoughts. No matter how much you practice, you will never get rid of them totally. The benefit of regular pracice is that the number and frequency will decline over time.

Diary: You can use a mindfulness diary and write down all the judging, evaluating, appraising and so on thoughts that go on in your mind during the course of a short period of time, say half an hour. Don’t be shocked if you find hundreds of jjudgmentsgoing on. Afterward, note down any patterns in your likes or dislikes. For example, do you mainly judge yourself, other people, life, the government or activities you engage with, or just everything? The starting point to any change is to understand what you are seeking to change.  

Patience: Be patient in your practice. When you start to practice and you are asked to concentrate on your breath, you will notice that your thoughts will drift off. Don’t judge yourself. Accept that it will happen. And simply return to the basics of the breath. The in breath. The out breath.

Acceptance: Acceptance indicates that you’re prepared to do a reality check. Acknowledging that, for example, you drink too much, sleep too little, feel down in the dumps or bad about choices you’ve made. You can feel that if you accept things as they are, at least for now, you may never be able to change them, but as the song says, this ‘ain’t necessarily so’. In fact, the exact opposite may be the outcome when you’ve faced your demons.

Compassion: One of the best practices is called the Metta Bhavana, or Development of Loving Kindness meditation. This practice directly addresses the idea of forgiving yourself, other people, events and situations and  brings you to a sense of peace and wellbeing.

There are many different approaches that you can take. Some that work for me, might not work for you and visa versa.

I have found that being non-judgemental has become more than just a practice by practice thing. It pervades my whole waking day. When I am in a traffic jam and someone jumps the queue, I am less judgemental and quick to anger. When some does not complete a deadline at work, I am more forgiving and patient with them. Does this mean I never get cross, ofr judge people? I still do, but much less than before I started Mindfulness.

If you would like any help, or would like further details on the Loving Kindness practice, do get in touch.

I leave you with the following quote:

 

“Of course we need to accept ourselves as we are, but we can’t stop there. We also need to value ourselves enough make needed changes.” ― Steve Goodier

Mindfulness guidance

“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” ― Rumi

It would appear that Mindfulness is getting more and more popular. This week, I have had numerous discussions and inquiries regarding it. People have asked me why I practice it; what the benefits of practice are; where did Mindfulness come from, etc.

There were two discussions that I’d like to share with you.

The first discussion was with a colleague whose partner had been referred to take up Mindfulness by their GP (General Practitioner). I did not ask the background as this is not appropriate. Rather I explained the two general streams of mindfulness practice. MBCT – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and MBSR – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a mindfulness-based program designed to assist people with pain, high levels of stress and life issues that were initially difficult to treat in a hospital setting. Developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970’s by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, MBSR uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, and yoga to help people become more mindful.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is the practice that I follow.

One of the concerns that my colleague had was was Mindfulness a religious based practice? While MBSR has its roots in spiritual teachings, the program itself is secular. THis put their concerns at rest and we finished off the discussion with me sharing a number of articles and away for their partner to find out more.

The other stream is Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). MBCT is a psychological therapy designed to aid in preventing the relapse of depression, specifically in individuals with major depressive disorder. Ruby Wax (the comedian and TV presenter) is a major proponent of MBCT due to her history of depression and is a qualified therapist. MBCT uses traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) methods and adds in newer psychological strategies such as mindfulness and mindfulness meditation.

The second discussion was with a friend’s connection who is looking to develop a sports coaching business. He had heard of Mindfulness but wanted to know more. I explained the history and the difference between MBSR and MBCT. I pointed out that MBSR was the stream he needed to follow to help his athletes focus and be better competitors.

The example I gave was as follows:-

“Imagine that you are a golf player or a rifle shooter. You have to calm yourself before you take that shot. You have to become rested. Focused. In the present moment. All of these attributes are part of Mindfulness.”

As the definition of Mindfulness states:

 

Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

Before you discount Mindfulness in the world of sport, I’d suggest you read the following article from the Daily Telegraph on the 7 things that Leicester City Football club used to help them win the Championship recently.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/work/leicester-city-premier-league-win-7-things-underdogs-leicester-c/

If you would like to know more about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). How to start practicing. If you have started and come to a halt. Or any other queries, do get in touch.

I leave you with the following quote:

“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” Rumi

We Have A Choice

Of Undisputed Origin

Today’s thought is inspired by Ryan Holiday’s “The Obstacle is the Way

Sure bad things happen to all of us. Let our mistakes become our training. No matter what happens we decide what story to tell ourselves or whether we will tell a story at all.

We have a choice in every situation, we can take advantage of problems and turn them into opportunities or we can succumb to anger and fear.

We decide what we will make of every situation.

“There is always a countermove, always an escape or way through.”

Everything we fear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. – Marcus Aurelius.

What obstacles are you facing? What opportunities do they provide?

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