Presents with Presence

We have all done it, dashed into the shops at the last minute, grabbed stuff, threw it on the credit card, without thinking about the financial consequences — or even what the recipient really wants or needs.

Gift giving has been around since the beginning of time. But as technology developed, marketing and advertising have convinced us that we need to be buying the latest and greatest. We look for the best deals and the hottest trends. We may have lost the art of giving. 

This December I invite you to make your buying intentional. Presents with Presence. Whether it’s Christmas, Chanukah, a wedding or just a social gathering, take a moment to ask yourself (maybe pick one that resonates with you the most):

 Am I on autopilot here, creating more junk that gets passed around?

Am I buying this in order to avoid feeling uncomfortable?

Am I just getting caught up in all the hype and spin of commercialisation?

Am I just doing what’s expected?

How do I feel taking out my credit card yet again?

Do I really even like this person?

What are the consequences of this purchase?

What has gone into making this product?

Am I spending my time, energy and money here out of habit, obligation, or guilt?

Do I truly want to gift something that benefits this person, our beautiful Planet and me?

5 Ways to Overcome Common Difficulties to Meditating Mindfully

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When you first hear about the technique behind mindfulness meditation it sounds really simple: focus on an object like your breath and when your mind wanders observe where it's gone and gently bring your attention back to the object.

Easy peasy. Well I guess it’s the same as trying to lose weight. Simply stop putting too much stuff in your mouth.

Of course, if it was so easy we would all be healthy svelte yogis.

The truth is that a formal practice of meditation takes grit and determination - a lot like losing weight! It can be a hard habit to establish.

So lets have a look at what can get in the way. These obstacles are nothing new, they commonplace and have existed for thousands of years. It's not just you, believe it or not! 

Doubt. This is all about uncertainty - whether meditation is really for you, if you'll be able to do it, and if it will “work”. Perhaps you are the one person in the whole wide world who just can’t meditate. Maybe mindfulness it’s just another passing fad, it does sound a little cultish doesn't it? To look closely at things before we buy and to be curious and questioning can be very healthy. But if doubt takes us away from an experience before it even has a chance to teach us anything, that's not so healthy. 

Consider this. If you have a body and you can breathe, and you can sometimes pay attention - then you can meditate. We have to remember that thoughts are just thoughts; they’re not facts (even the ones that say they are). When we notice this doubt slipping in, just take note of it, perhaps even notice the fear that is often underneath it, and then gently return back to the practice. 

Restlessness. Yes it’s hard to sit still when the mind is so busy. It may rebel while learning how “to be.” You might catch it running through a million to-do lists and counting the minutes until the end of the practice. This is all completely natural.

Consider this. Restlessness and boredom are just sensations like any other. If you look deeply at restlessness or boredom, underneath it is often some form of anxiety or fear. You don’t have to do anything about it; just naming it and getting curious about the sensation of restlessness itself, can reduce its impact. You could try getting curious about the sensation of restlessness itself.

Irritation: Irritation comes up for many reasons. Maybe you don’t feel like you’re having a good meditation experience, there’s an annoying noise in the room or it’s a secondary emotion that comes after feeling restless. In other words, we’re irritated that we’re restless.

Consider this. Remember “what we resist persists.” The work here is to include the irritation as part of the mindful experience. “It is what it is, while it is.” Our work is to recognise the irritation, allow it to be there and watch as it naturally comes and goes. 

Sleepiness. We are a sleep-deprived nation so when we stop and sit down to meditate our body does what it naturally wants to do - rest. We can also feel sleepy when an experience is overwhelming so it’s good to be curious whether the tiredness is telling you that you need more rest or that there’s a feeling that needs to be expressed.

Consider this. If you fall asleep when meditating, a good nap may be exactly what you need. However, if this is happening often you might try sitting in a more upright posture, standing up, doing some mindful movements, having your eyes slightly open or maybe splashing some water on your face before starting. Be curious.

Wanting. Maybe you find yourself wanting to be somewhere else - anywhere other than where you are. Or maybe it’s even more innocent like just wanting to go get something to eat. Or your mind wants the conditions to be perfect (but it's never perfect), so you don’t even get to practice.

Consider this. If you notice this state of mind before you practice, you might consider doing a walking meditation or a mindful movement practice like yoga. If the mind is busy wanting to be somewhere else during your practice, be easy on yourself, simply continuing to notice and naming the desire and wanting, and gently bringing your attention back.

Having a regular meditation practice seems so simple, but practice isn’t always easy. We have our brains to contend with. Just being on the lookout for these obstacles and apply the antidotes as best you can would be an extremely beneficial practice in itself.

REMEMBER to be gentle and forgiving - you can always begin again.

Moving from A Human DOING to A Human BEING

Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life…
— Martha Postlewaite

Do you sometimes feel like you’re a human doing rather than a human being, always running to catch up with a general sense of anxiety? Your emotions and physical sensations are yelling for your attention, your minds are working harder and harder to find a way out.

Even just writing and reading that last sentence my heartbeat quickens and my temperature rises. This is definitely one form of suffering, as if I had to tell you that. You see yourself here (uncomfortable, stressed, anxious) and you want to be there (at ease) so your mind analyses the gap between and tries to bridge it. Good old rational critical thinking.

The mind uses the doing mode to break problems into smaller bits in an attempt to find a solution. It then assesses if you are any closer to your goal. The doing mode is activated whether you're trying to catch a train or file your taxes. Thank goodness we have it! It's one of our most important assets.

BUT, if the gap can't be closed, because you've tried everything, you become fixated on the gap, torturing yourself with harsh criticisms like, What started it this time? What have I done to put so much pressure on myself again What I should have said, done? Why does it hurt so much? Maybe it'll never get better? What if I fail?

These open-ended questions can increase anxiety depression and stress, burning up your energy and leaving you feeling fragile and broken. It gives the mind free reign to catastrophise. One fear leads to the next and before long you're spiralling into a dark and scary place. It’s a vicious, exhausting cycle.

But there is an alternative.

You can’t stop the triggering of unpleasant sensations in the body but you can stop what happens next. The spiral of negative thoughts, feelings and emotions.

You can learn to take a mountaintop view that is unclouded by thoughts, feelings and emotions. Psychologists call it the being mode.

You can become aware that you are thinking. This metacognition allows you to experience the world without your thoughts acting like a distorting lens. You can learn to see things as they actually are, not as you expect or fear them to be. This interrupts the cycle that leads to anxiety stress and depression.

Awareness allows you to step back from your pain and suffering by breaking free from the tendency to overthink. It takes practice, but you will gradually begin see thinking as only one aspect of your daily experience. Unpleasant yes, but not all of who you are.

BEING MODE IS NOT BETTER OR WORSE THAN DOING MODE. IT'S JUST DIFFERENT.

It’s bigger than thinking, kinder than thinking and often wiser than thinking and it has been cultivated for thousands of years. And we can learn this by the practice of mindfulness meditation. The only way to know if this works for you is by carrying out the practices. Belief is irrelevant but it’s certainly worth a try. Isn’t It?

Early bird offer closes 30 September!

Early bird offer closes 30 September!

 

Good Morning!

Do you jump out of bed in the morning revitalised, refreshed rushing to get into another day? Big smile on your face and hugs all round; the cat, your partner, your barista.

Or is it more like this.

The way we greet the first few minutes of our day can have a profound affect on how the rest of it will unfold. It makes it possible to be more mindful, self-compassionate, connected, and resilient throughout the day.

Try to do the following 3 simple things EACH morning for one week and be curious about the outcome.

  1. HEARING. Rather than starting the day off tense and startled by loud alarms choose one that’s gentle and soothing — chimes, bells, more relaxing music. Instead of hitting the snooze button or peeling yourself off the ceiling take the time to indulge in three mindful breaths… or maybe even five (radical!). Deep in-breath, long slow out-breath till you can no longer exhale. And then another, and then another.
  2. TASTING. Drink a BIG glass of water. You will be dehydrated after the long night. The coffee or tea can wait a few minutes, even if you think it can't. Your gut will be grateful.
  3. SEEING. This is the biggest but most profound. Before grabbing your phone, computer etc. go outside or open the window wide. Look at the sky, a tree, a pot plant. Observe something natural. Most likely your day will hold plenty of technology and I promise you won't miss anything in these few minutes.

Give yourself a moment giving these a try. Then move on to the rest of your day.

Agghhh! I Need Some Impulse Control!

I have been spending time lately looking at my impulses. I am learning to watch when desire takes over and I become grabby. I must have that, this or whatever. NOW. I am trying to being more responsive and less reactive. It’s a wonderful skill but easier said than done.

It’s tough but I’ve learnt a lot. I am less reactive around family. Not all the family but hey I am seeing growth. I am eating more mindfully, unless there is alcohol involved. If there’s alcohol I can eat anything. EVERYTHING!!! I have limited my coffee intake from four a day to one and realise I don't actually like coffee that much. And I am trying to not get up from my meditation cushion on impulse because I remember something I need to do NOW. I’ve found that one of the ways to tame an undisciplined mind is to watch an impulse arise and take a pause, check in with your quiet mind and watch what happens to the impulse if you don't act upon it.

But here’s my downfall. Ask me to sign up for any summit, teaching, new online course and my fingers hit that keyboard as fast as I can get that credit card out of my purse. Ah now I am about to do something constructive, learn some new skills. Grab grab grab. Gimme gimme gimme. The problem is I don't actually log on to do it, BUT I feel like I’m doing something.

On the good side though I used to do the same with books. So many impulses, so many unread books. But at least I HAD them on the bookshelf. Again I felt like I’d done something! I rarely buy a book these days. There is so much good stuff online and my bookshelves can now breathe easier. My kindle on the other hand…

So why am I writing about this. Well this week I decided to attend to my wardrobe. Younger sons’ birthday present was to sort out my clothes, get rid of stuff and then take me shopping. Great present. So there was younger son texting on the phone on the floor in my bedroom directing me to chuck, keep and more than a few times asking ‘What were you thinking?!”

I need to paint a clearer picture here. This son is seriously cool. I know he won’t read this so I feel very safe saying so. He has hair half way down his back, one of those awful beards, wears black t-shirts, torn black jeans, worn R. Williams boots and rides a black Harley. I am telling you that guy is gorgeously cool. So he is telling his mum what to dispose of and I am left with a very spacious wardrobe of black white and denim. Happy Mother.

I had so many clothes in there that I never wore. Boots that weren’t made for walking but looked great in the shop. Dresses that were fine when I bought them but could never be worn because I never had the right shoes. There was my denim period, my primary colour lets-be-happy time, my corporate outfit that I could never wear because it was so uncomfortable. My three pairs of exactly the same coloured sandals in case they ever wore out. I was over them before the first one left the house. My hippy summer beach cover ups that never ventured onto any beach. And lets not go anywhere near the swimming costumes! The list could go on and on... All bought on impulse, all gave me that retail therapy high, for a few moments at least. All now ready to give away.
So the next step was to fill in the empty spaces. YAY! This time I will be more discerning. No impulse buys.

And then same son sends me a link to a documentary he had just finished watching - The True Cost. A good documentary will make you stop and think, a great documentary will make you change your behaviour. I urge you to take some time to watch this. Sometimes we just need to be exposed to the right thing at the right time to curb our impulsivity. I think this was it.