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Breathe, go within and be present

It’s ever so simple, and yet so profound. Breathe! Yes, just do it! Take in a deeper breath or two and breathe out long. Take a moment to really notice it and feel it. Feel your body as it responds. Notice how you feel. Really savour the moment. And notice the effect it has.

Now, what was going on for you? Where were you at when you read those words and took some deliberate, conscious breaths? Were you a bit somewhere else, a bit in your head, a bit on edge, or other ways that your mind uses to grab your attention? And how was your body? How were you feeling inside?

When we pause like this, and take in a few breaths, we give ourselves a moment to ourselves. To our Self. For a fleeting moment perhaps, we can sense pure heaven.

It’s an opportunity to come into the moment, be aware and fully conscious, to relax and let go, and go within and allow ourselves to feel more peaceful, connected and At One.

Very simple. But do we do it? Probably not as much as we’d like!

Do we do it?

As so often with taking care of ourselves, the challenge is in the doing of it. Remembering to take the simplest of actions to restore our equilibrium and balance can somehow elude us. Familiar?!

When I was in training, when our group would get a bit tense around something very emotional, our facilitator would call out, “Breathe!” with a long drawn out emphasis: “Breeeeeeathe!” And we’d all breathe, and let go, and the room would relax. It proved a great way to support oneself, which it is why it is so widely used by group practitioners. When there’s stuff going on in the room, you make a firm, steady effort to consciously breathe, down into the diaphragm, like you are expanding your belly, strengthening yourself in your power centre, grounding yourself, and being very present.

You can practice doing that in stressful situations. I have often coached people to use their breath when under pressure. It’s a great stress-management technique and superb in interpersonal conflict situations. It has often proved a great way to heighten awareness, since when you breathe consciously you start to feel and notice things you maybe weren’t attending to before. When people do this, they can start to react emotionally, but this is healthy since they can then be aware of and let go of stuff.

You can practice anywhere. After all, you’re breathing anyway, so why not give it some personal attention?! The situations are massively numerous. I found it particularly great when travelling, eg. when on the London Tube, on over-crowded trains or in delays at the airport.

How to breathe in meditation

It is also of course a fundamental technique in meditation, and a brilliant time to practice it. Consciously using the breath is a great way to start your meditation. You sit with the intention to meditate, taking a good, comfortable posture, and you start by attending to your breath. One or two deeper breaths, and then a gentler awareness of your breathing, breathing in, breathing out, and continue like that. There’s then a variety of ways you can notice your breathing and how you can use it to settle you, manage thoughts and refocus on your meditation when distracted.

When we slowly and steadily breathe like this, we become more calm, more peaceful, more relaxed, and more contented. We let go of stuff, and settle into a gentle steady presence, and be with ourselves in the Now.

You can practice this now if you like. There’s a link here to a page with a recording that will guide you into meditation using the breath. Click here.

It’s ever so simple, and yet so profound. A gift we have, which we can enjoy any time we choose to use it. Enjoy!

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Breathe and you have the power to change your life

The power to change your life can be contained, it is said, within a single breath. Yet there’s also a whole lot of understanding and practice behind that. If you take a breath right now and, let’s say breathe deeply and then breathe out slowly, you might feel a bit calmer and more relaxed, depending on how tuned in you are. You might in that instant also welcome the chance to be in the moment and let go of whatever is currently pressing in on your life.

The real skill however, if we can call it that, is within the understanding and knowledge you bring to that moment, what Neale Donald Walsch calls “the holy moment of Now”. In that moment you can turn away from what is pressing in – and have a different relationship with it.

There is a process involved and we need an understanding and knowledge of how it works and how we can use it for a purpose.

I was working with a client recently, teaching her the breathing technique we so often use. There’s nothing particularly novel about it, simply one that huge numbers over the ages know works. Just a few breaths, done in a certain way, and she said she felt much more relaxed. She reported that she went away from our session feeling so much more positive and calm. The practice had been calming for her in a way her life wasn’t at that point, but there was so much more. She understood much more fully how she operated, and realised at last that she had some control over her experience, over how she dealt with what came up for her and how she might respond differently to certain challenges in her life.

And all she did was consciously breathe!

It is one thing to write about it like that, in a few words, and it is another to explore in detail how all this applies in your life, in understanding and managing your process and how your individual mind works, and in how you respond to what occurs in your life.

A focused approach

This is where using these approaches in a targeted way comes in, in relation to your mind and what happens in your life, and why our trainings are so incredibly useful. Like for example

• How you switch from being “caught up” to being present
• How your body and mind interact and feed off each other
• How you release yourself from what is getting in the way
• How to shift from being identified with the content of your mind, like this is who you are, and instead become the “witness” of it
• How you use it to manage difficult situations and people

It is through such an approach that you can gain the ability, knowledge and understanding to mindfully focus your awareness on what uplifts you and draws more positivity into your life. It is the knowledge and understanding that enables you to knowingly apply your awareness, to see for example when your mind has gone off where you don’t want it to go, to know that you get re-focus it, to know how to disengage from unfruitful thinking, to understand how we feed off our negativity, or to get that when you step back and be the witness of your experience you can have a very different relationship with it.

To learn more about our courses, click here

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We can very easily miss the simple solutions in life that are naturally available to us

When things are not going so well we can very easily miss simple solutions in life that can make things better for us by using the  simple gifts naturally available to us, like breathing or laughing!

It’s curious how the simple things in life are so hard to get, were it not for the barriers we’ve put in their way.

That can sound almost inappropriate, if we don’t realise the power of these very available things. Breathing consciously, focusing your awareness on the action of breathing in and breathing out, is a mindfulness technique that brings you into the moment and offers the opportunity to break your state. The same applies to laughter, even if you fake it.

Wrapped up  in whatever is going on for us has an addictive quality to it. It’s sort of compulsive. We keep on with it. With mindfulness however, you learn the skill of being able to realise what’s going on, step back from it, see what’s happening and let go. This is simply through the action of breathing. When you learn the technique, and understand the thinking behind it, it is instantly available to you.

Similarly with laughter, you can learn how to trigger a laughter state, and thus shift away from what had you so caught up in something that wasn’t serving you. In addition you get access to healing energy. Breathing consciously, you calm yourself down and get away from behaviours that can damage your nervous and cardio-vascular systems. Laughter is a cardio-vascular workout, as well and triggering the release of positive endorphins in the body. People as variously famous as Norman Cousins and Kylie Minogue laughed themselves well, through the conscious application of what is naturally available – and you don’t even need a so-called “sense of humour” or to “see” the humour in something!

You can even test this out a bit by watching this video about some people laughing on a metro train in Paris and then seeing how you feel afterwards! Bodhisattva in Metro

Both mindful breathing and laughter can be learned, as you can find out for yourself on our courses. Click here to  learn more.

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Your invitation to the party

It’s a vital distinguishing feature of people today, those that have self awareness. It’s that ability to take a step back and be aware of oneself in action. With skill and practice, we become far more able to be aware of when our less useful characteristics, those of the ego, are in play: for example if we check ourselves out and put a pause perhaps on that old “knee-jerk” response. It’s not surprising that Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence”, describes it is the key emotional intelligence ability.

It also enables us to be more connected, to be more aware of that far more profound part of us, our greater “Self”, that for many of us lingers around on the edges of our consciousness and yet can be the author of a far more fulfilling life.

Thus not surprisingly too we become more able to manage what occurs for us, to practice the skill of the Masters, that anchoredness in Who we Are that I and others call self management, that ability to discriminate, to steady ourselves, to be centred, to let go of what isn’t serving us, to pause in mid-flight and say to ourselves, “Hey, this isn’t who I am, this isn’t what I want, this is not how I choose to express myself, this isn’t what I want to create”.

And we are far more likely to feel good to be Who we Are, to value and to be ourselves, because we know that space within us, we know it works and it’s what we really want, and we also know we can choose as That.

I remember coaching someone who I had invited to practice awareness of the breath as a tool to manage his stress. He said that he hadn’t got into it and done the practice because he “didn’t like this pink and fluffy stuff”. He was a very competitive person, with strong career ambitions, who saw exercise workouts as a way to compete with others in the gym. He also didn’t sleep well, and was sending his team emails in the middle of the night. He was very analytical, controlled and controlling, but felt isolated and had no one to talk with about his difficulties. He lived for his work and had marriage difficulties.

So he turned down my invitation to the party. Yet, right there, in his breath, was a whole new world, once he took the step to let go.

We can so easily be our own worst enemy. We even know what we’re doing but will resist taking the action for our own higher good. The ego is a very powerful block to awareness, which is why we include training in awareness of ego too in our training.

But I’m going to renew my invitation to you today.

On our course you have an opportunity, a really good opportunity, to learn useful techniques and to explore further these issues in awareness:

  • To become aware and mindful – even when your mind keeps resisting all this “pink and fluffy stuff” or distracting you to other seemingly more pressing things
  • To learn more about self-management – even when it too seems like “pink and fluffy” or it seems like “it” doesn’t work
  • To recognise and name the ego – even when it all feels like too much hard work or too much “psychobabble”
  • To choose love – even when you’re sceptical about all this – and maybe even embarrassed
  • To be authentic, really you – even when you doubt it’s possible for you – and you don’t like parties anyway!

And start to live in a way that is true to you at last. It is after all your birthright.

You can read more about the course here

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Feeling driven and needing a break after a holiday

For many a holiday can feel like a well-earned rest but for others it can be a much-needed break after very pressured work. Some even feel guilty to take time out. Yet breaks are necessary pauses for us, especially if we’re feeling driven.

Today is classically when large numbers of people return to work in the UK after what seems to some of us like quite an extensive Christmas. For many it’s also when the children go back to school. Yet I wonder how many of you collapsed in a metaphorical heap this Christmas and still found that time flew by, such that you wondered what happened to that break. No doubt many succumbed to the winter flu bugs and colds, since our immune system can get worn down by stress and we are more vulnerable to infection.

Then coming back to work can seem like they’ve never been away and people can feel tired and depressed and wonder why. No wonder so many plan their summer holidays at this time. We need something to look forward to.

Taking time out is one way of pausing the system, giving oneself a break from the seemingly endless flow of everyday activities. We can feel so driven and even say to ourselves and others that “we have no time”. Yet time is an illusion. It can expand and it can contract. Time can even seem endless. In our current culture we need to give ourselves time, to “give to our self time”.

Very driven people can lose this sense of time and space, the endless present moment. Yet it’s always there, here.

Take a moment now. Yes, just pause, right now, in the moment….Take a deep breath and breathe out long. And take another. As you breathe out…let go….and relax….and as you breathe in and out now more gently, notice your in-breath…and your out-breath…being aware of your breathing….and notice the present moment…Just allow yourself to be very aware of the present moment…and the next moment…and if your mind wanders, come back to noticing your breathing…and be aware…Nothing to do…nowhere to go…let go of thinking and be aware…and enjoy this moment you are giving yourself…and you can continue like this…or start to come back to this article you are reading.

What was that like?

It’s a practice, pausing and giving yourself space and time. Do it regularly from now on. Take breaks in the day. Maybe go for a walk and do this. Sit at your desk and do it. Do it at the beginning and at the end of the day. It’s a quick five-minute re-charge. Enjoy!

We have lost the ability to give ourselves space and time and slow down and be present. It’s time to give ourselves back this precious right.

 

 

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Feeling overloaded by data

Feeling overloaded by data is a widespread phenomenon that’s having a big impact on people’s work lives, and one might even add personally too, as with stress, anxiety and depression. Do you find your self feeling overwhelmed with the mass of tasks, activities and areas of focus you need to attend to on your computer? Like you know you have to make a call shortly and yet you’ve just had an email about something you’re doing that’s gone wrong and you can’t find the relevant file. Then there’s a text from someone close to you and someone has just dropped by with an urgent question.

According to psychologists this phenomenon of data overload is very real, is increasing and affects very many people. The way the mind and the body work is such that we get a stress response, and the way the response works is to increase memory loss, depression, and high blood pressure. I’ve heard people say it feels like their brain has seized up. Others say they feel very emotional and upset. Not surprisingly people will wonder about their own competence and whether they are “up to it”. Of course this won’t be for everybody because different people respond differently and some can handle large amounts of data and tasks with more ease. However, the point here is that very many of us are having this experience. So there’s no point giving ourselves a hard time.

What’s very important is to have your own way of managing the overload experience, such as with relaxation techniques. For example, there’s something about keeping one’s work organised and structured and sticking to tasks. Stressed people seem to lose control over structure. However, the constant distractions of the situation can often mean our emotions get the better of us and we become stressed and feel excessive anxiety. This is where it is so important to pause, breathe deeply and use present-moment awareness, letting go of thoughts, which are fuelling the response, and focus on breathing. These techniques of mindfulness are very powerful. Letting go and being present and calming down like this allows the brain to re-connect with the rational side and work out an approach. While we’re in a panic, for example, this gets cut off.

If you read the article on the link above, you will also see about what could be done to manage what’s on the screen differently. That is another subject. We first need to manage our state and deal with the thought patterns that drive the response.

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On being purely aware of breathing

I went to a wonderful evening about Rumi in Bath last Thursday, at an event led by people of the Sufi Way. Peter Hawkins led a fascinating session on Rumi’s life and the mystical poetry that he wrote, interspersed with readings by Kunderke Kevlin.

Rumi is frequently quoted not only by his followers and other Sufis but also very many others interested in the mystical approach both in the East and in the West. One particular poem stood out for me, Only Breath. Such a powerful reminder of that which is formless and unattached.

For me it was a great session on the inspiration of Rumi’s encounter with Unity and how his life moved into a different dimension in consequence. Listening to the story and to the sequence of poems, a calm gradually descended over me and so too did a smile. Then came the poem, Only Breath. And it felt complete.

When the meditator sits focused on the breath, and gradually thought recedes into the background or disappears entirely, the simple awareness of breath can seem like all there is. The breath comes in and the breath goes out. Utterly simple. It comes into the chest region and is often best felt in the heart centre, where at the end of the in-breath it merges with the energy of the heart centre and with the Love that is its essence. It goes out and merges with the air outside. The air is everywhere, all one and omni-present, all That. When breathed in, it connects with the whole on the inside too. It’s a powerful way to feel totally connected, unity consciousness in practice.

Practice it.

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Now just stop, pause, and breathe

Now pause and breathe! “What?” you might think, “I haven’t the time for that!” We many of us arrive at work with a lot on our mind. For example, how many of you will be starting your week with a great, big “to do” list? You might of course be all fired up with enthusiasm and inspiration about what you’re going to “do”. However, given that over half of people are in jobs they currently don’t like, it might be more with a heavy heart. Along the latter way lies stress and illness after a while.

Pausing before taking action is a very useful technique, especially if combined with conscious breathing, deliberately attending for a few moments to your in-breath and out-breath. It seems almost to be the opposite of what many of us do, but it enables us to make better decisions. It also flies in the face of the immediacy and the busyness culture, the “do it quick” syndrome, the “I must have it now” way of seeing things. Pausing in this way slows the mind down and by stepping back from the multitude of what is going on, you can get a better balance, be aware of more options and crucially empower the right side of your brain (if you are left-handed!) to bring in more creativity and insight. By calming yourself down you are giving yourself more energy rather than draining yourself. How many people feel tired when they get to work?

At a fundamental level, by pausing, we allow ourselves to be still and it gives us an opportunity to connect. Meditators deliberately meditate on the gap between breaths. It is a still point, a moment of profound silence. If you meditate regularly you can get to know this space inside. So, in your daily activities, you can remind yourself by pausing and being still. It need only be for a moment. Thus you can contact the immense resources within you, ones only dimly touched upon by most of us in our day-to-day lives, a time for re-membering, re-connecting.

Thus we interrupt the compulsivity of daily life, come into the moment – and know who we are.

We teach more about this vital skill within our program, Connecting to Inner Peace.

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Has fear got hold of you?

Anybody watching the collapse in share prices across the world over the last few days may well be feeling more than a touch of fear. It is after all panic that drives these massive sell-offs. Previously what was regarded as quite “safe” investments suddenly looks very unsafe. People pull the plug and cash drains away.

Fear can be all-consuming. It gets us in the grip, paralysing us and driving us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. Or it can sit in the background, as an underlying anxiety. It tends to lead to exaggeration in the level of the perceived threat. When in its grip, our rational selves cease to be effective.

So, in case the crisis has been getting to you (“Is this Lehman Brothers Round 2?” “Are we in for a double-dip recession?” What about my job, mortgage, house, family, ability to pay my debts and feed ourselves, how will I/we survive?), it is worth remembering that fear isn’t real. It is False Evidence Appearing Real. It is a major ego behaviour. In Law of Attraction terms, it is the most powerful negatively attracting emotion, drawing to us more of what we don’t want. But it is an illusion.

The more absorbed in fear we get, the more real it becomes. Because we get more of what we’re thinking about.

This is therefore just the time to practice a fear-management strategy, like:

  • Becoming aware that you are in fear’s grip – this is always the first key awareness step
  • Summoning your will
  • Allow yourself to shift your awareness from the thoughts which are fuelling the fear to the feeling. Keep focused on the feeling – and let the thoughts go. Keep doing this if you go back to thinking. Be in the moment. Now, as you’re feeling the feeling of fear (and we fear doing this, which keeps all this in place!)….
  • Breathe deeply, down towards your diaphragm, and repeat this several times – and, as you breathe out, let go of fear, or have the intention that you are letting it go at some level
  • Imagine yourself breathing down towards your fear, which might be in your heart area or solar plexus or your stomach. Imagine the breath reaching down into the fear and relaxing and releasing it. And as you breathe out, imagine yourself letting the fear go

This is an invaluable practice. What you may find as you get used to it, is that the fear gets released, or it gradually lessens, and you discover much more positive awarenesses behind it.

Shifting from the thoughts to the feelings allows us to start to master the negative emotion, by being able to work to release it. Also it allows us to get off the thoughts which are what are really driving all this. These thoughts need to be replaced by much more powerful and positively creating ones, of course. But it’s hard to do that when you’re caught up in fear.

You might need to keep practising this over time to start seeing the results. I did this over a period of many months when I would wake in the middle of the night consumed with fear, at a time when we were financially very challenged. It proved a powerful weapon. But you will need to stick with it.

With practice, you can build a sense of centredness and calm. This can be very useful in meditation. However, you can then take this new state out into your every-day engagement with others and be calm and centered and provide leadership in a positive way when it is needed.