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Merry Mindful Christmas

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Merry Mindful Christmas

Amidst the annual pressures to purchase piles of presents, decorate every orifice of your office or home, manage a social schedule that keeps everyone happy, and still leave enough time for the pursuit of the perfect mince pie… It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger-picture point of what this time of year is all about and end up super stressed.  

Thankfully you don’t have to wait for the Three Wise Men to come knocking at your door to get the advice you need to enjoy a fabulous festive period free from stress.  You just need to be more mindful with the help of these three top tips.

1. REDUCE THE RUSH BY BEING MINDFUL OF THE MOMENT

Time tends to feel limited and stress-levels rise when we stop focusing on what we are doing now and get caught up over thinking about all the things that need done later. The reality is you can only ever do one thing at a time. Through being present by giving all of your attention to whatever you are doing, right now, you will naturally end up even more effective and efficient.

Focus on the task in hand by being mindful of your senses. Notice what you can currently see, tune into the sounds you are hearing and fully feel whatever you are touching.  Wrap each present without giving much thought to the pile waiting in the sidelines.  Properly feel the spoon in your hand as you stir the gravy.  Notice the colours of the pretty Christmas lights that are passing by as you drive to the shops or your next social engagement. 

In essence, fully engage the present moment reality of whatever is occurring in the immediate here and now. You’ll be amazed by how time appears to stretch, you get so much more done, with very little stress and much more enjoyment.

2. AIM FOR AGREEMENT IF ARGUMENTS ARISE

Whether it is the best way to baste the Turkey, the precise timing for the opening of presents or what to watch on the box. Things can quickly become heated and we all want to avoid the family fighting out their differences by brandishing the nearest luxury cracker.

Arguments usually happen because we are disagreeing on the finer details and forgetting to find the collective consensus.  If you sense an argument arising, you want to be a calming influence by remaining mindful of the common ground.  This can be done by rising above the details and recognizing the bigger picture preference of everyone enjoying what they eat, getting along and having fun.

Yes, there are multiple ways to cook the bird. But what matters most is it’s cooked properly and the family doesn’t spend the following week frequenting the toilet with food poisoning.  Yes, you may want to watch a particular programme. But isn’t it more pleasant to use some of your festive spirit to relinquish control of the remote?  I promise the positive paybacks are far more rewarding than getting your own way. (Besides, there’s always iPlayer later.)

3. TAKE A TIME-OUT FROM ALL THE TINSEL

Just because you love them, it doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking moment in their company.  Silence is golden after all and giving yourself the gift of a few minutes time-out can work wonders not only for your serenity, but your sanity too. Find a quiet place in the house, sit down, close your eyes and have a few moments of meditation. 

Even 5-10 minutes of sitting still, breathing in a balanced way and gently exploring the stillness of the space surrounding you, can help you to hit the re-set button and return to proceedings with more calm and Christmas cheer.  

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Warm Your Heart this Winter

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Warm Your Heart this Winter

Five Ways to Connect Deeper and Love Without Limits

For the best relationships, aim to focus on warming up your own side of the fence - instead of trying to fix, change or improve others so they are more loveable.

It is easy to fall into the trap of making relationship conflicts about the other person. What they said or didn’t say. What they did or didn’t do. What they meant or didn’t mean. But to proactively move from conflict to connection, you must remember that your relationships with others are a perfect reflection of your relationship with yourself. Here are my five top tips for keeping your heart warm this winter.

1. Be the person you want to love

People try to take from others what they aren’t experiencing within themselves. If you think that someone else should be kinder, more communicative, giving etc. then ask: Where can I be more of what I want?  When you become the person you have wanted other people to be, many conflicts dissolve away because you no longer resist the lack of certain attributes in others and aren’t attached to them being a better or improved version.

2. Take everything as an invitation to love better

We habitually want other people to change so we don’t have to. However as the saying goes, when you point the figure there are always three pointing back at you. Look for themes in any arguments, disappointments and common feedback you receive from others. Don’t waste time playing the blame game to instead be open and humble. Explore if any issue you have with someone else is an invitation to learn how to love in a more unconditional way.

3. Look for opportunities to give

Service sits at the heart of the most successful relationships. ‘How can I serve you?’ as opposed to ‘What’s in it for me?’ Whenever you feel a problem arising in a relationship, find ways to give and be of service. When you make the relationship about how you can help the other person to be happy, feel loved and have a great day (without trying to fix or change them), then it’s amazing how fluid and fun relationships become.

4. Be willing to share more of yourself

Raising your defensive walls within relationships is a fear-based habit that can be transcended. There is great strength in vulnerability because it takes humility and courage to let your ‘weaknesses’ be seen by others. I am constantly amazed by how quickly conflict evaporates when one party is willing to honestly share what’s really going on for them. ‘When you did that I felt scared that you might leave me’ or ‘when you work late I question if it’s because you don’t want to be home with me’. It’s very hard to be in conflict with someone waving the transparent flag of vulnerability.

5. Don’t go changing trying to please me

Would you feel completely loved by someone if they always wanted you to be different? If you weren’t quite good looking enough, funny enough, clever enough, rich enough or tidy enough, for example?  How loved would you feel living with that kind of pressure to perform? I can only assume, not very much.

My Spiritual Teacher once asked: Are you willing to fully commit to this relationship, even if the other person never changes? Well, are you? Forcing others to live up to your criteria for what’s ‘loveable’ only leads to a fake love with its foundations based in judgement. But if you desire deeper connections then let others be enough, exactly as they are now, it’s the key to loving without limits.

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Love without Awareness is Fear

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Love without Awareness is Fear

Love without Awareness is reliant on the analytical mind and inevitably ends up conditional. The mind cannot comprehend ‘unconditional’ because it operates using reason and check boxes. All of the minds conditions that determine whether someone is loveable or not, is based upon the past, and what you’ve been conditioned to believe is loveable and what is not.

Love from the mind usually includes a silent ‘because’ along with some kind of performance related justification. ‘I love you because… You are good looking, are nice to me, agree with me, or are successful’, for example. But what makes love without Awareness so problematic for so many is that if you aren’t Self-Aware (aware of the aspect of your Self that is Aware), then you will be more inclined to experience a false love that has its foundations in fear and conflict.

Fear inevitably arises when you’re not engaging Awareness.

Being Self-Aware you discover that your Awareness is an unconditional, all-allowing, all-encompassing, all-embracing, ever-present presence of love. Amazingly, you can find that the presence of your inner being is love. Or in other words, at your core, you are the love that you have been seeking from external means. Recognizing this enables you to ‘live in love’, engaging everyone with an attentiveness upon the inner being of love that you are.

Until I discovered this, ‘I love you’ had become a question. I love you? I would graspingly ask it to check that I was loved by hearing the words back. If there was ever a slight pause and the ‘I love you too’ didn’t return as fast as a boomerang on speed, I would freak out. What’s wrong? Are we ok? What can I do? Why don’t you just love me as I am?  I’m a good person, you know! My fear and resultant insecurity, neediness and jealously ruined a series of perfectly good relationships.

Performance-love makes us puppets on the strings of fear.

Growing up, many of us have been rewarded with love and reprimanded by the removal of love.  At the nursery I went to as a kid, if I did something wrong I had to stand and face the corner. Perhaps your penalty was the ‘naughty step’ or being sent to your room?  This conditioning causes many to feel the need to start performing to get love from their parents, partners and peers. Even complete strangers in the street!  

Being unaware of the unconditionally loving presence of your own Awareness, you end up forced to look for, and try to get love outside yourself - through finding your ‘perfect match’ or by making sure everyone who crosses your path loves you. If the source of love is outside of you, then it can be taken away, and fear kicks in immediately. 

Living with the fear of love being taken away from you leads to unhealthy relationship habits like dependency, jealously, sensitivity, neediness, ownership, arguments and loneliness. Again, at the heart of these fear-based behaviours is conflict. Including resistance to love being taken away and attachment to love being attained from every possible external source. It is a recipe for disaster due to the necessity to twist and contort yourself in order to be loveable by others, along with the pressure it puts on the people you are trying to take love from. It is also a lost cause because you are trying to get love from a place that it cannot be found.

Yes, people may love you, but you won’t feel it or fully accept that they do. Frustration, distrust, closing down, distancing yourself, unworthiness, self-dislike and unresolved hurts all end up standing in your way of connecting deeply with yourself and others. However, once you find that the love you are looking for is inside, you find there is nothing to fear and these habits can fall away.

Relationships are given space to breathe, grow, and move on if need-be, and you get to love freely with an open palm. You get to enjoy being free and single.  You get to enjoy being free and in a committed relationship. You get to be free because you’ve moved from conflict to true connection… with your Self. 

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The relationship between praise and love

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The relationship between praise and love

If you want to experience more love, then you want to play with praise. By praise, I don’t mean anything religious. Rather, I’m referring to a very natural way of being that you experience when you rise above mind-based judgements. Praise, which is the doorway to appreciation, is a choice you can make at any moment. Irrespective of what’s happening, it is always possible to make it a priority to be in a state of praise instead of criticism.

Praise creates gratitude and gratitude leads to love.

Let me prove it to you now. Wherever you happen to be as you read these words, I want you to stop and have a look around. While you do, I want you to find something that you do NOT like. (I know it’s not a very positive thing for me to ask you to do, but bear with me, we are going somewhere!). Do your best to find something within your current setting to criticize. Then, once you’ve found it, take a few moments to actively think critical comments about it in your mind.

You might notice a stain on the carpet, a pile of dirty clothes that need to be washed, or hear the music that you don’t like coming from your neighbour’s place. Find something now and think critical thoughts about it for a few moments. As you do, notice what happens within your body.

Anyone I’ve ever done this exercise with has commented that they have felt a heaviness or constriction in their body and described a range of other downward-spiralling emotional experiences.

Now, with the exact same thing you were just being negative about, I want you to find something to praise about it. I appreciate that you may have to scrape the bottom of the barrel and be creative, but nevertheless, for a few moments I want you to actively think positive and praiseful comments about it in your mind.  So you could now choose to be appreciative of having a carpet that keeps your house warm, clothes to wear and fully functioning ears that are able to hear sounds.

Again, as you do, notice what happens within your body. If you genuinely do rise above the previous negative comments by focusing on what you can praise, you will find that a change occurs within your psyche. The feedback I consistently receive when asking people to do this includes that they feel lighter, more open and expansive.

Overall, the comments I get are that praising is an upward-spiralling emotional experience, in contrast to criticizing. Now here’s the point. Miraculously, the thing you were originally criticizing did NOT have to change for your inner experience of it to improve – your experience changed and improved simply through the power of praise. 

LOVE IS A SIMPLE CHOICE

This simple praise game perfectly illustrates a liberating possibility when it comes to enjoying freedom from problems and loving life. It proves that your emotional experience of life is ultimately your choosing. By “experience of life”, I don’t mean the external events occurring because they can often be outside your direct control. However, your inner experience of life can always be a positive one if you choose to make it a priority to praise.

Take a moment to consider the implications of this. Your external life circumstances, whether on the surface they appear to be good or bad, no longer need to have any power over how good you feel inside or how much love you experience.

Freedom in life comes from you being OK irrespective of what’s happening. If you have to manage and control your life so that it looks exactly how you think it should, then you aren’t free. Quite the opposite! Your emotional experience of life will continue to be governed by external forces because your mood will go up and down depending on inner thinking about the weather of your life circumstances. In fact, the truth is that you can only be free by learning to let life be. You don’t have to wait for your life circumstances to improve before you can experience your heart’s greatest desire. You can be love life now!

With the power of praise you enter into a state of joyful existence, flowing from one moment to the next, effortlessly enjoying the journey. 

 

PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE PLAYING WITH THIS PRAISE GAME BELOW.

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