Welcome to my blog, scroll down for the latest posts. 

If you have any questions about anything to do with the course or with Mindfulness in general please contact me 


 9th December 2018

Are you sitting comfortably? - if not check this out.

I've just been meditating on Open Awareness for the past 30 minutes. I decided to sit cross legged on my cushion and after about ten minutes had to change position because of hip pain. This is such a common problem. Sitting cross legged is supposed to be the most stable position in that the balance is low down but we in the West need to work on it - our bodies just aren't quite the same shape as Eastern yogis!

Some time back I came across this video which gives some very good advice on the best positions in which to meditate. I'm going to reacquaint myself with it, you might like to take a look too.

##sittingmeditation #meditation positions

Conflict in communications  13th November

Communications in close personal relationships or with work colleagues can be a major source of stress in our lives. Week Six of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme focuses on communication styles and habits we may employ that can lead to conflict. Aikido moves offer a really useful source of metaphor to demonstrate different  ways we might communicate and ways to resolve those difficulties. 

Watch this YouTube video by Aikido expert Judy Ringer for some interesting insights

 Using Mindfulness in difficult communications
Mindfulness and working with  difficulties

Dealing with Difficulties 5th November

In dealing with difficulty, Carl Jung said “What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size”.

Resistance has to do with not being able, or willing, to deal with the negative experiences in our lives, and to a greater or lesser extent that means all of us.

Mindfulness practice trains us to notice our thoughts and how mind chatter can affect our sense of equilibrium.

Negative thoughts may influence our moods and emotions until we are sometimes left feeling powerless and overwhelmed. We don’t have to buy into the negative thoughts that arise but until we notice them, and realise “I am not my thoughts”, we may allow them to influence us in ways that can lead to anxiety, stress, depression and poor quality of life.

There are many ways we try to escape the difficulties in our lives, for example, pretending they’re not there, escaping into distractions such as overwork and busyness, numbing ourselves with alcohol or over-eating or becoming angry with feelings of it not being fair or blaming others. All these can just end up making the situation far worse.

So how do we work with difficulty using mindfulness? A big part of mindfulness training is observing our mind chatter but not getting caught up in it. We learn to notice where the negative thoughts and difficult emotions show up in the body in tight shoulders, a heavy feeling in the heart region, headaches, facial tension. Once we do this it opens up the possibility of approaching and working with these emotions, where they show up in the body, using the breath as an anchor.

Training in Mindfulness isn’t a quick fix, you wouldn’t expect to become a virtuoso violinist after a few lessons -but you may well be able to get a bit of a tune out of it! With a bit of effort, regular practice and patience there’s a very good chance that Mindfulness will bring more calm, peace and equilibrium into your busy life and help you get more enjoyment along the way.

We only have one moment to live and it’s this one!

follow the link above to Courses and Tasters 

Can Meditation change your brain? 30th October

Neuroscience has demonstrated quite clearly that meditation can change your brain! It can

Decreased stress

Reduced symptoms associated with Depression, Anxiety, Pain and Insomnia

It can enhance our ability to pay attention

Increased quality of life

Slow down ageing process (nice one!) and assists learning, memory and emotion regulation.

Here is a TED talk by Neuroscientist Sara Lazar who started off as a sceptic then went on to do some interesting research.


Meditation benefits brain change neural pathways

'Not happening now!' 21st October

What a great idea for when our thoughts take us into fears and imaginings about future events that may or may not happen!


 Zen author, Ezra Bayda, says these words have become one of his favourite practice phrases. He goes on to say …


 "If I become aware that I’m imagining a difficult conversation with someone, all I have to do is say, Not happening now! And it’s like poking a pin in a balloon - it just disappears.” 

                                                                             Ezra Bayda in Thirty Thousand Days


Who is Mindfulness for? 10th October

I've recently been asked this question and the answer really is 'everyone'. The people signing up for my courses come from many different backgrounds and all ages from 18 to 80+. Many reasons bring them. Sometimes it is a long history of stress or depression, physical or emotional pain or loss. But often it’s something more difficult to put into words; a deep sense that there should be more to life, more contentment and happiness. Sometimes work or personal relationships have become difficult and people want to find new ways of relating to others and to themselves. Sometimes it’s just a vague feeling that things could be better.

I guess I was in the last category when I took my first eight weeks course at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. I had little idea about how much it could change my life for the better; so much so that in order to share it with others I went on to train to teach Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programmes with the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University.

The MBSR course is held over eight weeks of two and a half hour sessions. There is an expectation that participants will do around half an hours home practice each day between sessions. There is also an all day retreat at around week 6.

No-one says it is easy. Things that are worthwhile rarely are. You wouldn’t expect to learn a new musical instrument without putting in the time and the same goes for Mindfulness.

Neither is it a ‘quick fix’. It is a way of life; a way of relating to both the pleasant and unpleasant aspects of life in the present moment with more balance, kindness and equanimity.


Mindfulness. Calm. Serene.
chronic pain Stress Brain scans

Does it work?  3rd October 2018

I know it works, many thousands of people around the world know it works, but how do we know that? 

In this short video BBC's David Sillito investigates 

and asks 

Can an 8 week course in Mindfulness practice help reduce stress, chronic pain and even self centredness?

  

calm happy joyful

Contentment      1st October 2018

'If you can sit quietly after difficult news; if in financial downturns you remain perfectly calm; if you can see your neighbours travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy; if you can happily eat whatever is put on your plate; you can fall asleep after a day of running around without a drink or a pill; if you can always find contentment just where you are:

you are probably a dog' - Jack Kornfield


For the rest of us there's Mindfulness Training!

18th September 2018

Silencing the Inner Critic

We all know about the 'Inner critic'. It's that voice in our head that catches us, especially when we're a bit down, telling us we're 'not good enough'. 

How do we manage to work with this? 

Well the first step is to notice what's going on. The sheer extent of our mind chatter is the first thing we start to notice when we introduce mindfulness into our life. It never ceases to amaze participants how negative these thoughts can be. 

Recognising them for what they are enables us to respond with choice - do I listen to this or do I just smile - 'there it goes again'-  and let it pass?

How mindfulness can help us notice the inner critic
calmness in meditation

12th September 2018

This article by the Greater Good magazine summarises the difference between four types of meditation and how research has shown each can benefit us in different ways. 

They summarise them as follows:-

Breathing Meditation

Body Scan

Observing thoughts meditation and 

Loving Kindness meditation

The good news is that the world renowned  Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course offered by Mindful Stream covers all four approaches - which is probably why so many research programmes have shown it's benefits in helping people lead more fulfilled lives.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_choose_a_type_of_mindfulness_meditation

Mindful use of mobile phones

10th September 2018

'I haven't got time to meditate' can be our first response to the suggestion that 30 minutes of Mindfulness practice each day can help us decrease our stress levels etc. It might help to ask ourselves - how long do I spend looking at my mobile phone? Flicking channels on the tv? Procrastinating about that to-do list?

Here are some sobering statistics

https://blog.tempo.io/2013/7-time-consuming-things-an-average-joe-spends-in-a-lifetime

choice

7th September 2018

I just love this cartoon. It reminds me that there is usually more than one way of looking at things, something that mindfulness helps us to become aware of more often.

2nd September 2018

I'm sure we can all agree with Neuroscientist Rick Hanson when he says we humans have a natural tendency towards a negative bias. Our memory, he says,  is like Teflon for good experiences but Velcro for bad ones. In other words, we might have nine good experiences throughout the day and one bad one - but which do we dwell on?

But, he reassures us, this needn't be the case.  Throughout our lives, our brains are capable of 'Positive Neural Plasticity'. In other words, (and this is where Mindfulness training comes in) we are able to train our brains and empower ourselves to take on a more positive attitude.

Watch Rick Hanson's short YouTube talk here -


15th August 2018

Last year, whilst on a Mindfulness Teacher Training retreat, I fell in love with my feet! 

Now that may seem a strange thing to say but for most of my life I have been embarrassed to show them. They're big. I have bunions. And to make the matter even worse I sustained damage to my big toe nail whilst on a cycling marathon a few years ago. 

Prior to the retreat I agonised about how I would keep them from public view. It was summer and tradition has it that people there meditate in bare feet. So I bought a pair of yoga socks to hide the worse. 

Then one day we were invited to go outside and practice Qigong in bare feet on the dewy morning grass. I was in turmoil. Then something that Jon Kabat-Zinn the founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction  programme says came to mind. 'If you're still breathing there is more right with you than wrong'. 

This really clicked. There was far more right with my feet than wrong. I could walk on the grass. I could do the Qigong moves. I could feel the dewy grass through the soles of my feet - bliss!

Image from the cuckoo jar blog



11th August 2018

In his book 'Happiness -  the science behind your smile', author Daniel Nettle writes "The evidence of a positive effect of meditation on subjective well-being is becoming quite impressive. Regular meditators have reduced levels of negative emotion, and a course of mindfulness meditation in volunteers has been shown to reduce stress, increase well-being and improve immune responses.'


He then goes on to talk about the beneficial effects of journaling. He suggests that writing about both pleasant and unpleasant experiences enables us to become more mindful of our thoughts. 'Over the last two decades a large body of research has shown that writing regularly about one’s experiences clearly has beneficial effects on well-being, health and our immune system.'


Dr Susan David, author of 'The Oxford Handbook of Happiness' would agree with this. In her TED talk 'The gift and power of emotional courage' she says she was advised as a troubled youngster to 'write like nobody is reading'. Julia Cameron author of 'The Artists Way' advocates writing 'Morning Pages' in much the same way.


So what are we waiting for? Nothing to lose but a few sheets of paper!


8th August 2018

Recently at a family camping weekend, my five year old grandson asked 'Why do we need things when we have family'.

In Mindfulness we talk about bringing the 'Beginners Mind' to our experience.  Young children have no problem at all in seeing things with a wonderful freshness. As we age we often start to believe that we 'know how things are'. The result is we miss out on experiencing the little things, such as the breeze rustling in the trees, the clouds drifting across the blueness of the sky or as here, the light reflecting off a bubble. 

As the saying on this image goes  we should try to 'Enjoy the little things in life, because one day we may look back and realise they were the big things'.


5th August 2018         What we resist persists.

The Mindfulness ideal is simply to watch thoughts arise and pass away, without letting them trouble us. Easier said than done. This is where an 8 week course comes in handy. It challenges our thinking and teaches us to notice our thoughts without getting tied up in knots or metaphorically beating ourselves up.

But sometimes difficulties arise such as stressful events, life crisis, disappointments. How do we deal with these? We can find ourselves blocking them out by pretending they're not happening,  distracting ourselves with work and busyness, overeating, drinking too much or simply giving up.

If, on the other hand, we learn to mindfully approach life's challenges rather than avoiding them, we can discover inner resources to help us through.



No-one driving the bus....

Some of you may recall watching John Cleese’s film Clockwise. In it he is faced by obstacle after obstacle on his way to an important presentation. It made me cringe in my seat, I could feel my heart pounding as I witnessed his distress. It reminded me of those situations when we’re under pressure and everything seems to stack up against us, can’t find the keys, car won’t start, traffic jams ahead when we must get to an important appointment etc. We all know what that feels like. Our reaction to the stressful situation increases our adrenaline and cortisol so that the thinking and reasoning part of our brain goes into a spin – no one driving the bus!

In this TED talk, Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, introduces the idea of ‘Pre-mortem’. Firstly, he says, science backs up the idea that having a regular place to keep important things such as keys, passport, tickets, shopping lists enables the Hippocampus part of the brain to know exactly where to find them. This is the part of the brain that, for instance, enables squirrels find nuts - not smell as previously thought. London taxi drivers are found to have an enlarged Hippocampus enabling them to navigate the city. Because our brains are capable of neuroplasticity it means that, throughout our whole lives, we are capable of training it in this skill.

He then goes on to talk about how in the run up to what may be a stressful event, we can anticipate what the situation might demand. This might be questions that may need asking, or information we may need to hand. The example he gives is a medical appointment, but the same approach could be used for many situations.

Mindfulness training is another way of paying attention when things get stressful by learning how to respond by taking a pause, focussing on the breath and getting our hands back on that steering wheel.

Click here for Daniel Levitin's TED talk 

Stress reaction. Under stress. Stressful situations.

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25th July 2018

What's this about Mindful Movement?

Yes, in the MBSR there is a bit of moving involved such as simple yoga type stretches or forms of Taichi. It is open to all physical abilities and there are no black belts involved!

But why movement at all?

For most of us we have become so caught up in our thinking mode that we fail to notice our bodily sensations until they give us grief – headaches, back ache, tight shoulders or we begin to suffer ill health of some description.

Our bodies are wonderful early warning systems that give us the first clue that our stress levels are starting to rise. Getting in touch in this way wakes us up to what’s happening and enables us to respond sooner rather than later.

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Our Latest Blog Entry

23rd July 2018

There are many advantages in joining a group course but not everyone finds this easy. Family or work responsibilities can easily get in the way.

One-to-one sessions are now available in a more flexible format, either face to face or via Skype.

The shorter sessions follow the 8 week MBSR format and include a Retreat Day. There is also an ongoing commitment to home practice.

For more information please get in touch.

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Our First Blog Entry

July 16th 2018

Is it just 'meditation'?

Some people think that mindfulness is all about 'meditation' and this can worry them. Well, yes, MBSR does incorporate a form of 'meditation' and we do at times sit either in a chair, on a stool or even cross legged on a cushion if that is comfortable for you. We can have our eyes closed or open and we bring our attention quite simply to the breath. 


Focusing on something as simple as the breath helps us begin to notice how our minds constantly chatter. Our minds will have us worrying about the future or mulling over the past. Sometimes they carry us off into catastrophic thinking. 

As Mark Twain famously wrote 'My life has been full of tragedies, but only some of them happened'.

But, there is no navel gazing, just focusing on the breath and noticing passing thoughts with interest and curiosity and learning not to get dragged down by them by returning to the breath, our anchor point.

Sunday 8th July 2018

All Day Retreat

I have just enjoyed breakfast in the garden - eaten very mindfully! - surrounded by the morning chorus of mainly wood pigeons. The climbing rose above my head was showering me with fragrant petals and, in the words of the old song, 'I think to myself what a wonderful world'. 

Yesterday, we enjoyed a 'retreat day' at the Wyre Forest Discovery Centre' and I'm still basking in the afterglow.

Why a Retreat Day? It is part of the MBSR 8 week course and is also open to previous participants.  A wonderful chance to practice and embed the skills we have been learning throughout the course and to take time out from our busy lives. To experience what it is to stop 'Doing' and just 'Be'. 


Going off recent conversations there seems to be a bit of confusion about what MBSR is. Over the next few posts I shall try to clarify some false assumptions.


My First Blog Entry

6th July 2018


1. First of all MBSR is neither hippy dippy or wishy washy.

There are no joss sticks, mantras, candles, or recorded dolphin calls. (Not that there is anything wrong with these if that's what floats your boat but they have no place on this mindfulness course!)


2. It is a structured, well researched, 8 week programme, recognised by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence)


3. It has been recommended by the cross party Mindful Nation report for use in schools, the health service, prisons, the police and other public agencies.


4. Over two hundred members of the British parliament have taken part in one of these programmes, among them many MP's – 

you might try guessing which ones haven’t!


If you are interested to read what was said, HERE is a link to the report.