Tag Archives: mindfulness

A new year and a new hope

Happy New Year!

What do you plan to do with the year ahead? It’s traditional to look back on the year gone by and to work out what you want / need to do for the coming months. It’s a time for planning, for resolutions, for looking at yourself, I’ve done my share of introspection, and thought I’d share my findings with you.

It’s been very apparent over the past year or so that we’re living in an angry society, where so many people seems to be railing against so much. The slightest thing seems to set them off, and there seems to be little thought given to care and compassion for others. You don’t need to look very far to see examples of this, and I wrote about some of our experiences earlier this year.

If I have a resolution for this year it is to be kinder to and less judgmental of others. It’s to be more thoughtful, more caring, and to do more for those less fortunate than myself. In other words, I need to be more mindful of all I say or do, and how that affects others. In order to do that well, I need to show myself compassion, and set boundaries where none existed before.

To that end, I need to let go of the last of the toxic relationships and friendships in my life. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort over the last couple of years trying to explain what issues I had to those who were causing me pain, and I thought that they would take that on board. I thought that they’d try to find some sort of common ground, some way of resolving those issues, but I have been mistaken.

It’s taken me a long time, but I have realised that those people will never change, and they will never even try to see things from my point of view. For the sake of my own mental health, I have to accept that there will never be a happy resolution with these people, and that I need to stop hoping for one and get on with my life.

My “new hope” for 2018 is therefore that people will start being kinder and more thoughtful, that rather than descending into something from Lord of the Flies, we can help ourselves and help other people.

At the risk of diluting this message, back in 1989 Bill and Ted hit on the right idea, and I thought I’d leave you with a reminder…

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Healing and helping the community

Over the weekend Dee has been working at a nearby Mind, Body and Spirit event.  It’s been a really busy weekend for her, with a lot of visitors at the event and a lot of interest in what she does.  There were some amazing stands, from painted stones to clairvoyance, from reiki healers to magnetic jewellery, from artwork to numerology.  I appreciate that this sort of event may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but please read on, as I think you may be as moved as we were by what I’m about to share. 

One of the adjacent stands to Dee was for the Chakra Project.  We’d been admiring the hand stitched wall hangings for quite some time over the weekend, and spoke to the man running the stand, a man called Shah.  The Chakra Project is run by his mother in the Kashmir region of northern India.

Wall hangings of different sizes, yoga mat bags and individual chakra pieces are just some of the items made by the project.
In that part of the world, young girls are apparently not often formally educated, their life choices tend to be limited and many end up illiterate and unemployed.  Essentially, the Chakra Project teaches young girls how to do needlework to a high standard, as they make these wall hangings in a mindful way.  It takes months to learn the skills and colour schemes required. It gives them marketable skills, it gives them confidence and belief in themselves, it gives them job prospects: in short, it gives them hope.  

To my mind, this is a remarkable project, and one that is worth supporting.  One woman – Shah’s mother – decided that she wanted to try to make a positive difference to many other women’s lives, and appears to be succeeding. She founded the Chakra Project and is very involved in it. I think that is simply awesome. 

Oh, and have we bought anything off the stand?  Yes we have, and here it is, in pride of place in our quiet room. It looks and feels like it was custom made for the space.  In a sense it was, because it’s handmade with love and care. 

Share your strengths


Of all the places to find inspiration for a post, the tag on a teabag was one of the last places I’d think to look!  For some time (actually, since I went caffeine free for August last year) I’ve been drinking all sorts of different teas.  I’m not too keen on black tea, and there’s caffeine in that anyway, so I’ve been going through a couple of brands here in the UK, Pukka and Yogi.  The tea bags from both are individually wrapped and they have little tags on them: the Yogi teas have some kind of “thought for the day” or mindfulness quote on the tag.  

Share your strengths, not your weaknesses

– Harbhajan Singh Yogi

Today’s tag was Share your strengths, not your weaknesses, and I thought that was a really good way to look at life. I know that Bing Crosby sang about something similar back in the ’40s or ’50s with the release of Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive, but it strikes me that this is a really sensible approach to the stresses and rigours of life these days.  

I had been unhappy at my previous employer for several years before I finally plucked up the courage to leave.  One of the main problems I had was that I was really good at finding reasons why someone else wouldn’t employ me (I had a limited skill set, I had no marketable skills, that sort of thing) and I was really bad at finding reasons why they should.  I had talked it through a number of times with Dee and eventually sat down to draw up a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) chart, a bit like the one below. 


It was hard going, but I managed to come up with a number of things which I thought I was good at, and then set about targeting roles which allowed me to capitalise on them. It also helped me figure out what sort of role I wanted, what sort of working environment and conditions I wanted, etc. I found what I was looking for and have gone from (pardon the pun) strength to strength.  It turns out that the blend of skills I had was exactly what my new company was looking for too, and I’m really please I made the move.  I try to play to my strengths all the time, but in the background I’m also working on my weaknesses, so that I’ll be able to develop them into positives too. 

How many of us get bogged down in negative thoughts and poor self esteem?  When talking to people, do we talk about the good things or the bad things we’ve experienced?  For example, mention to someone that you’re going in to hospital for an operation, and the chances are you’ll get a horror story back from them about someone they know who went in for the same thing and who had the worst experience imaginable?  What about if someone is waiting for a book deal, or about to take their driving test? There are endless examples which I’m sure you can come up with.  
Why do you think that is?  Why do you think there’s a tendency among many to focus on the negatives, on the pessimistic outcomes?  

Here’s a thought.  Next time you hear a conversation that’s going down a negative route, why not look on the positive side, give a helpful example where everything worked out ok?  Try it, and see how the people you’re talking to react.  See how you feel after sharing a story with a positive outcome.  Is it better, or worse, than when you’ve done the opposite?  

For the record, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences from my two stays in hospital since I turned 16.  

This sort of positive approach is allied (in my opinion) to the view that “before you say anything, ask yourself if it is true, if it kind or if it is helpful: if the answer is no, then don’t say it”. In this case it becomes “if you can’t say anything positive about something (a person, event, activity, place etc) then don’t say anything”.  I think the world would be a much happier (and dare I say, quieter) place if we could all do this.    

When not Writing I…

…spend a lot of my time writing!

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My work means that I spend a lot of time on a keyboard, whether it’s in answering emails, writing documentation, reviewing someone else’s documents or other things like that.  I’m not a full time Writer, and what I do on this blog is entirely for my pleasure. I find it a way of managing my thoughts, of making order out of the myriad of things going on in my head, and in some cases even making sense of the world around me.  I don’t believe I’ll ever be a published author (because I don’t think I’ll ever try), and I’m never sure how many people actually read my blog anyway.

So, when I’m not writing for work, or Writing for pleasure, how do I fill the time and why?  Family takes up a lot of time, and I love spending my days and nights with them.  We like to go on day trips, road trips, afternoons out, to all sorts of places and for a number of different activities.  Dee and I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in bookshops, and are continually seeking out interesting volumes on a wide range of topics, though rarely fiction.  That’s because one of our other favourite pastimes is reading: we’ve always got several books on the go at once.

Other than those, my main distraction is generally music, whether listening to it or playing bass. That and walking I find helps clear my mind, to simply be, and they help me to return to every day life refreshed and full of new ideas.

If I had extra time, would I write more?  I don’t think so.  I enjoy the time I spend writing my blog articles, and I enjoy reading other people’s blogs, but I think if I had more time I’d find other ways of spending it.  My diverse ideas are finite and I wouldn’t want to get to the end of them too soon!  I’d like to spend that extra time becoming more adept at mindful meditation, and practicing mindfulness.  I’d like to be more thoughtful – or at least, less thoughtless. I’d probably try to complete a Tai Chi course we’ve been signed up for for ages, and I’d like to try yoga, though as a tall 50 year old slightly overweight bloke with very little flexibility, I think it would take me years even to be able to touch my toes without bending my knees!

Do you mind? Image #57

Today has seen the end of my first course at evening class in many a year, and I have to say that I think I’ll miss it.  Every Friday for eight weeks Dee and I have gone along for a couple of hours to learn about and to practice Mindful Meditation, and tonight marked the end of the Beginner’s class.  It was taught by a bona fide Buddhist monk, and as he said we were getting the real deal!

 

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Most people think it would involve sitting cross legged, chanting, with hands on your knees, thumb and middle finger touching: they couldn’t be more wrong.  On the course we learned how to meditate when sitting or walking, though standing and lying down are also “postures” which can be used.  You don’t necessarily clear your mind either: if you’re doing noticing meditation you let your mind go and just notice where it goes.

I’ve learned a huge amount from these classes. Not least is that, with regular practice (20 minutes a day), I can sleep soundly and wake refreshed every day.  I’m generally calmer, more rational, more chilled out.  Being aware of the moment, the now, and knowing that at that point in time that’s all there is, is liberating and refreshing.

I’d go as far as to say it’s been a life changing experience, and we will both be doing our best to continue the practice.  At some point we will definitely do the Advanced course, but that takes 6 months and requires sitting still for 4 hours at a time, so we’ll need to work up to that.

There’s a dinosaur in my… Image #29!

Picture the scene. It’s Friday night, the end of a long hard week. You’ve just spent an hour or so in a large church hall, being instructed in Mindful Meditation by a bona fide Buddhist monk who is wearing a wireless mic and whose mobile phone case matches his robes. Taking advantage of a comfort break, you go to wash your hands, and there’s a dinosaur on the sink!

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There was a weird contradiction with Buddhist practices being taught in a Christian venue, and a monk using modern technology seems a little odd too, but plastic dinosaurs? Really? Just weird!

Incidentally, the monk has a wicked sense of humour, and we’ve noticed that he likes to start the second half of each session with a joke. and his jokes aren’t bad!

Got time for a quick rant for Image #28?

Driving through town the other day, we happened to be heading past one of the retail parks on the outskirts. On one side there are lots of different stores from toys, shoes, sports and clothes, and on the other side of the road there are a couple of DIY stores and a food hall.

On both sides of the road there was a coffee place from a well known chain, and on one side there are some fast food restaurants.  And here’s the crux of today’s post.

It's spelled "Through"!
It’s spelled “Through”!

Why do they all have Drive Through lanes? (Oh, and sorry, but I can’t bring myself to spell it the way it appears in the image!) Not only does it appear that we don’t have time in our lives now to sit and enjoy a coffee without having to be somewhere else, but we can’t even be bothered to use three extra letters!

Maybe it’s because I’m doing a Mindful Meditation course, which teaches that being in the present moment is everything, or maybe I’m just getting (more) cynical and irritable as I approach 50, but come on people, really? You can’t stop, go into the cafe, and sit down for 10 minutes with your coffee? You can hardly drink it on the move can you? I wonder how many accidents are caused by hot liquid seeping out of the top of a coffee cup while driving? What’s so important in life that you can’t sit back, try to unwind and just be?

Take the time, breathe and relax. Give yourself a break, for your own sake!