Fears, Worries and anxieties?

Above all, we don’t know the future. It’s the other side of our dependence on chance. Things can get slightly better for reasons it’s hard to foresee. Just as pleasures fade and can seem meaningless in retrospect, so pains (at least sometimes) can pass or soften. The School of Life, on Feeling Depressed

Stress is an unavoidable part of modern life.

There are two main kinds of stress — acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is the reaction to an immediate threat, commonly known as the “fight or flight” response.

Chronic stress — the kind most of us face day in, day out — is a killer.

However, what does not help is that we pile even more onto ourselves in terms of fears. worries and anxieties into the chronic stress mix.

I came across a really great phrase that seems to capture the idea of fears. worries and anxieties. The phrase came from Henry David Thoreau. He talked about “quiet desperation: a large, grey hinterland in which beneath an outward surface of endurance, we feel exhausted, close to tears, beyond the sympathetic understanding of others, easily irritated and daunted by the simplest task”. Perhaps we should call it “Thoreau stress”.

Many situations can trigger it. Work. Family. Friends. A social situation.

People try to hide their feelings. We can all put on a facade of fake happiness. I am sure we have all done it in the past. It is hard to maintain and since it is false, people quickly see through it. This makes it even harder as people around you know that there is something not right, but because you can not share, it places a double bind on the whole thing.

I have experienced it and I am sure those that are reading this have experienced it too. It is not something that comes upon you quickly and then fades as quickly. Rather it is something that builds over time. Normally based on a constant pressure that you are trying to cope with.

You might feel that it is all “your fault”. But it is not. I have come to realise that many times, it is self-talk and not stepping back from the situation that piles on the pressure. In addition, you can get caught up in your own emotions and feelings. As I call it “self-ruminating”, over the same situation or course of events.

Tasks and activities; even talking, can become hard. You might lose focus. You might feel that you can not move forward, sideways or even backwards. Stuck in a hinterland of fears, worries and anxiety.

For me, my continuing journey with Mindfulness helps. Is is the cure-all? No. Absolutely not.

I still get those feelings and can get caught up in those Thoreau moments. The first step on any journey is to recognise where you are and that is the case for me now. When those moments come, I know that they are happening. I can recognise the signs. With the mindfulness programmes I have done, I know I can do a breathing exercise; or a body scan; or even mindful walking. The last one is the one I find the best for me.

I have always loved getting out in the fresh air. Walking in the countryside. I combine this with a deliberate walking exercise. And it certainly helps. Does it fix everything? No. But as the quote at the start of the article says “Above all, we don’t know the future. It’s the other side of our dependence on chance. “ And that is what I believe in.

By the way. The photo I am using, was from a recent walk. Enjoy.

The article that inspired this blog can be found at:

http://www.thebookoflife.org/on-feeling-depressed/

I leave you with the following quote:

“If only we could see into the minds of strangers, friends and loved ones we would feel so much less alone and recognise we are all feeling similar things. Hopes. Dreams. Fears. Desires. Wanting to connect. “

 

 

Change, love it or hate it? It happens.

“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.” ― C. JoyBell C.

Do you love or hate change?

I don’t mean the word, I mean the fact that change happens. I think we are all pretty similar in that we are pretty adaptable to change so long as it occurs in increments and in a timescale that we feel comfortable with.

As opposed to those major gut-wrenching changes that sometimes happen, like separation, a change of career or perhaps death. I have yet to come across someone who is so opposed to change and wants everything to be exactly the same every day. Have you?

I think we adapt quite well to changes. I was reflecting back today.

I remember vividly the girls starting primary school. That first day, of getting up early, getting ready and being excited to go to “big school” at the age of 5. Six years follow. A routine is developed. Friendships created by them and by us as adults. Then suddenly that day arrives when they have to leave primary school and go to senior school. Tears and moments of joy. A summer holiday and then the journey starts again at senior school. Another six years of developing new friendships. Growing into young adults. Suddenly, the final year is upon us and a prom and exams are the focus on their minds. Another change and they start the sixth form.

In that same time period as parents, we have gone through changes as well.

We extended one house twice, with all the building works going on around us. We then moved house, – don’t ask why! Bought and sold four horses. Yes, four. I find it amazing I ever agreed to one, let alone four. I have changed jobs a number of times and started to define a new career path for myself along the way. I even had a midlife crisis and owned a boat and frightened myself witless learning how to captain it on one of the most challenging tidal rivers in the UK.   

When was the last time you took some time out to reflect on the changes that have gone on in your life? We live our lives going through huge amounts of change, often without even realising it.

As we experience a change in the moment that the change happens, we might feel fraught. Perhaps frightened. We might not want the change to happen. We might be angry that the change is happening. I learnt a trick a few years ago that has really helped me.

HELPFUL TIP: When you are going through a change period, take a few minutes to write down how you are feeling. The thoughts and worries that you might have. How you think others are reacting around you. I call this a Memory Note.

Then put the note you have written away. Somewhere safe, out of sight. Why?

Because you are not going to look at the note until the change is over. Sometimes when I have done this, I have even forgotten I wrote stuff down. Six months or more may pass and all of a sudden I’ll remember I wrote something. More recently, I have taken to put a reminder into my diary months ahead to remind me that I wrote something down and also where I hid it.

When the reminder comes up, I grab the notes and sit and read them. I then reflect on the feelings I have now as opposed to those that I might have written at the time. It certainly helps me to understand what I was feeling at the time and how I coped with the change. It also helps me understand and learn from the change. Maybe, next time there is a change going to happen in your life, you will give a Memory Note a try.

I leave you with the following quote:

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”  ― Maya Angelou

My reflections on the attitudes of Mindfulness

“The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.” ― Václav Havel

This is the last of the series on the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn developed and has stipulated are the basis for Mindfulness.

The practice of mindfulness is like cultivating a garden.

A garden flourishes when certain conditions are present. The right amount of light; water; ground conditions, but most important of all, how you, as the gardener, tends to the garden.

I have had many a perfect day in the garden, the kind of day that I hoped would never end. A day when the borders are bright with colour, and the perfect lawn grass and shrubs stand green against the blue sky. A day when there is a warm sweetness in the air while you prune and weed and plant out seedlings. It’s a kind of day that leaves you feeling calm, collected, and aware.

If you’ve ever had a day like this, there is a good chance you’ve achieved, at least for a few moments, the mental state known as mindfulness.

As I have gone through the seven attitudinal qualities, I have been trying to reflect my own practices, challenges and learnings. You might like to go back over the articles to review and reflect.

Keeping these attitudes in mind is part of the mindfulness training that you can go through either in a group eight week programme or even individually – as I did – or online. Keeping these attitudes in mind is a way of channelling our energies in the process of healing and growth. Remember too that they are interdependent. Each influences the other and working on one enhances them all.

One last thought, though. Jon, mentions two other attitudes that he has thought should be added to the previous seven. They are Gratitude and Generosity.

The video where Jon describes the Gratitude and Generosity attitudes can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M-ZJLmP4b4&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D&index=8

 

I came across a wonderful article from Tiny Buddha on “Tending to Your Garden of Thoughts and Keeping Your Mind Weed-Free” which made me think further about the garden analogy.

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/tending-garden-thoughts-keeping-mind-weed-free/

I leave you with the following quote.

“We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.” ― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

Attitiude 7 – Letting Go

“If you want to forget something or someone, never hate it, or never hate him or her. Everything and everyone that you hate is engraved upon your heart; if you want to let go of something, if you want to forget, you cannot hate.” ― C. JoyBell C.

This is last of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for Mindfulness.

so what is Letting Go?

Definition: Letting our experience be what it is.

  • Letting go is a way of letting things be, of accepting things as they are rather than striving all the time to hold onto something
  • We let things go and we just watch…
  • If we find it particularly difficult to let go of something because it has such a strong hold on our mind, we can direct our attention to what ‘holding’ feels like. Holding on is the opposite of letting go. Being willing to look at the ways we hold on shows a lot about its opposite.
  • You already know how to let go… Every night when we go to sleep we let go.

This is the last and in some cases the most difficult of the attitudes of Mindfulness. It is the one that I have the biggest difficulty with. Relationships. Family. Work. Life itself. I find letting go so hard. I used to jump in and try to cling onto something when I thought I was loosing “control; a relationship; a work situation”. Almost anything. 

For me, nothing worked to help minimise the feeling of loss. Until that is, I came to Mindfulness. It has only been through both the daily formal and also the informal practice have I come to recognise where I try to cling and in so doing, get even more caught up in the situation.

Rather, in our meditation practice, I see my thoughts, body sensations, and feelings, come and go, over and over again. With time I have become better at intentionally letting them go. God, it is hard. Sometimes it is almost a conscious effort. Others, I just feel as if I am moving thorugh the moment. 

As I continue my practice and become more comfortable with it, I see that this is not unlike life. Everything in life changes, in the outer world and in our inner world; the more clearly I see this, the easier it is to let things go. See for yourself if it causes discomfort to hold on tightly to things. Keep in mind it is also very natural to cling to the things we love and want or believe are important to our well-being, so we don’t have to force ourselves to let go.

Using trust, acceptance, non-striving, patience, beginner’s mind and non-judging can lead us to the ability to let go.

The video where Jon describes the Letting Go attitude can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBCithP9JrM&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D&index=7
I leave you with the following quote which really struck me.

“This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, some go. The ones that stay with you through everything – they’re your true best friends. Don’t let go of them. Also remember sisters make the best friends in the world. As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too. And baby, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up because if you give up, you’ll never find your soulmate. You’ll never find that half who makes you whole and that goes for everything. Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” ― Marilyn Monroe

Attitude 6 – Acceptance

 

“Some lose all mind and become soul, insane. Some lose all soul and become mind, intellectual. Some lose both and become accepted Charles Bukowski

This is the sixth of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for Mindfulness.

So what on earth is the idea of Acceptance?

Definition: Simply put, coming to terms with things as they are.

Some of the key things you can try include:

  • Seeing things as they actually are in the present. If you have a headache, accept you have a headache.
  • We often waste a lot of time and energy denying what is fact. We are trying to force situations to how we would like them to be. This creates more tension and prevents positive change occurring.
  • Now is the only time we have for anything. You have to accept yourself as you are before you can really change. 
  • Acceptance is not passive; it does not mean you have to like everything and abandon your principles and values. It does not mean you have to be resigned to tolerating things. It does not mean that you should stop trying to break free of your own self-destructive habits or give up your desire to change and grow.
  • Acceptance is a willingness to see things as they are. You are much more likely to know what to do and have an inner conviction to act when you have a clear picture of what is actually happening.

Practising non-striving leads us directly to the next attitudinal quality of mindfulness which is acceptance. Sometimes we confuse acceptance with approval or resignation.

Accepting something means seeing things as they are right now. It doesn’t mean we aren’t going to do something about it. See if there is something you feel challenged to accept, and what resisting it feels like.

Does it help? Does it make you feel stuck? Just notice. The attitude of acceptance can have a quality of compassion and understanding to it. These qualities actually make it easier to change something. I once heard someone say with regard to weight loss, “No one ever changed by hating themselves into it.” When I reflected on this statement, I found it to be true for myself. See what is true for you with respect to acceptance.

The video where Jon describes the Acceptance attitude can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOGsj0Aklx8&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D&index=9

I leave you with the following quote.

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

 

Attitude 5 – Non-Striving

. . . My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop looking for it. My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness: and this, in the minds of most people, is the worst possible course. I will hold to the saying that:”Perfect Joy is to be without joy. Perfect praise is to be without praise.”  ― Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu

This is the fifth of the seven attitudes that Jon-Kabat-Zinn believes are the basis for Mindfulness.

What is non-striving?

Definition: Trying less and being more.

  • Meditation has no goal other than for you to be yourself. The irony is you already are.
  • Paying attention to how you are right now – however, that it is. Just watch.
  • The best way to achieve your own goals is to back off from striving and instead start to really focus on carefully seeing and accepting things as they are, moment by moment. With patience and regular practice moving towards your goals will take place by itself.

Another aspect to living mindfully is practising without striving for any particular outcome. It is almost unnatural for us all to practice non-striving. We approach life with the idea of constantly trying to “fix things”; t strive to sort out problems. We may even approach our meditation practice with a goal of trying to fix a problem, and the harder we try to accomplish this, the less we experience what may be unfolding quite naturally. The notion of trying to get somewhere with your meditation has built into it the belief that there is something wrong with where we are right now. Instead, allow things to unfold naturally and try to stop the driving desire in you to get somewhere other than where you are right now, and see how it makes you feel. Then explore what it’s like to practice with no specific goal and see what happens. I have just sat and concentrated on my breath and have been amazed a the depth of peace that I can achieve.

Is there to be found on earth a fullness of joy of non-striving, or is there no such thing?


. . . What the world appears to value is money, reputation, long life, and achievement. What it apparently counts as joy is health and comfort of body, good food, fine clothes, beautiful things to look at, pleasant music to listen to, etc.

What society seems to condemn is a lack of money, a low social rank, a reputation for being no good, and for being different.

If people find that they are deprived of these things, they go into a panic or fall into despair. They are so concerned for their life that their anxiety makes life unbearable, even when they have the things they think they want. Their very concern for enjoyment makes them unhappy.

. . . I cannot tell if what the world considers “happiness” is happiness or not. All I know is that when I consider the way they go about attaining it, I see them carried away headlong, grim and obsessed, in the general onrush of the human herd, unable to stop themselves or to change their direction. All the while they claim to be just on the point of attaining happiness.

. . . My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop striving for it. My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness: and this, in the minds of most people, is the worst possible course.

I will hold to the saying that:”Perfect Joy is to be without joy. Perfect praise is to be without praise. Perfect peace is without striving.”

Contentment and well-being become possible the moment you cease to act with them in view, and if you practice non-striving, you will have both happiness and well-being.

The video where Jon describes the Non-Striving attitude can be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cl0DreXY4JI&index=6&list=PLkgahhWgJW97ADlyc2BYMwOD8wZjcBZ8D
I leave you with the following quote.

“In mindfulness practice there is nothing to achieve, nothing to get, and nowhere to go. Instead, you are cultivating another way of being, learning how to be fully aware of exactly where and how you are in this very moment, even if the moment is painful or you don’t like it, because in this moment, this is your reality. A non-striving attitude can be especially valuable during childbirth. As you will see, allowing things to be exactly as they are during labor actually creates the optimal mind-body condition for your body to open, change, and give birth.”

Nancy Bardacke, Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond

Who are you?

Thank you it made me stop and think

Julian Summerhayes

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” ― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Your name?

Your job title?

Your bank balance?

Your circle of friends?

You don’t honestly know, if only because, apart from your social conditioning, you’ve never looked much further.

It’s OK. It’s like that for most people. If they do look, it’s usually too late.

The flipside is that if you go looking for the next (faux) liberation, you’ll find yourself exhausted.

Stop.

Sit.

And do nothing.

No, this isn’t a meditation instruction but rather my crass attempt to get you to sit still long enough to ask one simple question (thank you Darryl Bailey):

What is there when there is no thinking?

If you’re able to construct a semblance of an answer — which may be nothing more than a series of hackneyed lines — then you may find yourself exploring new territory. If nothing…

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