Tag Archives: Jon Kabat-Zinn

Integrating mindfulness into EVERYthing

LizHallMindfulCoachingBook

I always enjoy BACP Coaching and AICTP meetings – there’s something about integrating different models (coaching and counselling) that makes me (with all the hats I wear) Very Happy.

And tonight this went even further. I arrived early and a couple of friendly looking strangers asked if I was there for the mindfulness meeting. I said, no but that it sounded very interesting and asked more. Turned out that WAS the meeting I was there for. The lovely Liz Hall was talking about coming out of the meditation closet and her new book Mindful Coaching.

I’d had a sporadic mindfulness practice for over a decade. My psychosynthesis counselling training had incorporated some mindfulness elements and my yoga therapy for mental health training had mindfulness as a key component.

But it was only after hearing Jon Kabat Zinn (click here to read my blog) in March that it has really stuck as a daily practice.

Some days it’s 5 minutes, other days 20. Sometimes in between. On occasion, longer. Sometimes, the 5 minutes brings a sense of peace and wellbeing. Other times, even 20 minutes doesn’t give me that ‘hit’ of wellbeing but I have learned to be OK with that, too. Other times it’s in between.

I usually do more than my first thing in the morning practice by taking moments throughout the day to be more consciously present. But it still amazes me that my morning meditation has become even more essential to my wellbeing than brushing my teeth (don’t worry – I still do that too).

Mindfulness is a big part of my yoga therapy work and of my counselling (psychosynthesis is very holistic). But mindfulness (when not called something different like sensory acuity in NLP) as a key component of coaching?

Liz’s Mindfulness in Coaching survey (2012) showed the benefits of mindfulness going beyond self-awareness (70%) and stress reduction (59%). 61% of respondents said, ‘In being more reflective, our clients are better able to identify what they really want.’

Using mindful awareness (of our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and whatever is arising in a given moment) enriches everything. It was a gorgeous evening and I cannot wait to read Liz’s book.

Whether you’re a coach/therapist looking to integrate more mindfulness into your practice or you’re contemplating having coaching and like the sound of this approach, you may want to check Mindful Coaching out.

And if you’re interested in exploring mindfulness techniques to boost your emotional intelligence, encourage neuroplasticity, reduce stress, help you feel more present and focused no matter what’s going on in your life, work or relationships, let me know.

Metta x

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Feeling our feelings (even when they SUCK)

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Being a counsellor, coach etc, with all my work being so focused around helping clients and readers (and myself!) feel better every day, I sometimes forget all the good stuff I’ve learned and experienced.

In these moments, I think I should (warning sign in itself, those ‘shoulds’) somehow not let life’s challenges get to me.

This means that not only am I experiencing something I’m finding challenging, but I’m beating myself up about it. (It’s not Egypt or Syria. I’m so, so lucky compared to so much of the planet’s population. Yet thinking about all the people who are enduring much greater challenges doesn’t actually help me feel any better about myself and my own challenge).

I’ve read enough of the fantabulous Brene Brown to know that when a shame spiral hits, it’s best to allow those feelings to flow. So, tonight, I observed myself go into fight/flight mode. I felt the surge of adrenaline (I can still feel it). I felt myself get a bit shaky and hot.

I paid attention to and regulated my breathing. And I did a little yoga to help alleviate some of the stress hormones and shaking.

And I reached out to someone who could help.

I asked, quite articulately, for help. And when offered the exact kind of support I’d asked for, I said, ‘Sorry for wasting your time, I’m over-reacting…’ and stopped them following through.

Sigh.

So now I’m attempting to show myself a little more self empathy, to acknowledge that it was a horrible, scary thing (I’m sharing this in order to illustrate the challenges of self-care even when it’s your job. Please don’t worry about me – am fine. All is well) and that anyone would have been stressed about it.

And somehow, telling myself this helps my whole system calm down. Sure, the mindfulness and breathing and yoga (and conversation where I then went back on what I needed) helped too.

It’s something my clients sometimes get sick of hearing when I encourage them to pause in challenging moments and tune into their inner wisdom and just ask themselves what they need before figuring out a way to honour that as much as possible.

But ultimately, it’s acknowledging to ourselves that whatever we’re feeling is OK. Even if it’s scared, vulnerable, shaky, afraid, weak, powerless – all the things I still sometimes do my best resist feeling (even though I know that allowing myself to feel all of what Jon Kabat Zinn calls the emotional landscape the better able I am to experience joy, delight, love and all those ‘good’ things).

So next time you feel something you don’t like feeling and you want to put a lid on it and just numb yourself and stop feeling anything at all, you may want to experiment with allowing whatever the feeling that’s arising to flow.

It WILL pass (so much more quickly than when we attempt to divert such things).

And I’ll continue to do my best to do the same… :)

Metta xx

Image courtesy of Jennifer Ellison/freedigitalphotos.net

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NEW – Personal Peace coaching workshops for meditation and creative visualisation in Witham, Essex

Meditation as mental hygiene  Image courtesy of digitalart / freedigitalphotos.net
Meditation as mental hygiene
Image courtesy of digitalart / freedigitalphotos.net

We all know that meditation is good for us. Over the past few decades, modern neuroscience has been able to show actual differences in the brains and bodies of regular meditators.

And you don’t have to become a Buddhist monk or nun to benefit. These classes are secular so you don’t have to believe in anything in order to access your own inner wisdom and a greater sense of personal peace.

Studies show that meditative practices can benefit everything from concentration to heart health, pain management to immunity and general wellbeing.

I first started meditating in 2001 during my crystal therapy training and over the next several years, went through phases where I loved it and did a fair bit and other phases where I missed it.

I didn’t quite believe that taking time to meditate would actually give me a greater sense of time and ease throughout the rest of each day and actually only developed a daily (as in Every Single Day) practice this year after hearing Jon Kabat Zinn speak (click here to read more).

I can’t imagine not meditating each morning any more than I can imagine not brushing my teeth and, if you’d like to make meditation, creative visualisation and relaxation a bigger part of your life, I’d love to help you.

These fun, friendly, small group sessions will introduce you to a range of meditative practices from around the world so you can experiment with what works best for you.

Themes include: Overcoming obstacles, Energising, Heart opening, Manifestation, Crystals, Chakra Balancing, Trusting life and Letting go.

Click here to find out more. And I hope to see you soon.

Metta xx

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Mindfulness of mood – feel better every day? Really?

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Often, in the early stages (and later, sometimes) of the therapeutic relationship, counselling clients look at me as if I were wearing pineapples on my head when I encourage them to feel their feelings.

Naturally, this isn’t something to be jumped into if you’re already feeling like you’re, as Anne of Green Gables used to say, ‘in the depths of despair’.

But the more we attempt to numb ourselves to pain, grief, loss, anger and other ‘negative’ feelings, the less capable we are of experiencing joy, love, awe, happiness and all the yummy feelings we take for granted when things are going well.

The delightful Jon Kabat-Zinn talked about feeling the full emotional landscape and I love that analogy as some of my favourite paintings are of stormy landscapes.

Still, this week, my daily morning mindfulness meditation (which, after 13 years of more sporadic practice, I’ve been managing Every Single Morning since hearing Kabat-Zinn) has been leaving me feeling cranky.

It’s one thing to have complete faith that a client’s feelings will shift when he (or she) allows himself to experience it fully and let go but a part of me, yesterday morning, felt a little panicked.

Maybe I’d worn out the mindfulness meditation / broken it somehow? At first, while I could identify a few external triggers, they were things that normally wouldn’t impact me. Still, I figured, Must Meditate More to Become Less Cranky.

Of course there’s another way. While the meditation had helped me identify the feeling as crankiness and to be on guard rather than acting out, it was only when I took action (and spoke to one of the people triggering it) that it vanished.

I could almost see it go up in a puff of smoke and we (the person I spoke to about an issue) laughed about the situation. Had I not allowed myself to feel the irritation, I might never have addressed it and we wouldn’t have resolved things.

After that, I relished feeling pretty amazing for the rest of the day and much of this morning. I much prefer feeling good, energised and bubbly. I adore mindfulness when they’re the feelings I’m aware of.

So when another external trigger depleted some of my effervescence, I again felt cranky and annoyed with myself for letting the situation get to me.

And yet, letting it get to me and checking in with myself (the way I encourage clients to ask themselves, as close to that moment as possible, ‘What do you need in this moment? What will help support you?’) helped me move through it.

Mindfulness practices help remind us that nothing lasts forever. We can feel amazing one minute and flat (or worse) later on. Similarly, what feels world ending will also pass. We will feel good again.

When I talk about working at your wellbeing and feeling better every day, I don’t mean it to sound flippant. I know this work can be tough. That it can feel exhausting and that you might worry you’ll never feel OK let alone happy again (I’ve been there). But it’s worth it.

The more we build on the things that support our spirits and lift us up, day by day, the more resilience we have when life gets a bit grr-inducing (or worse).

When did you last take a few moments to check in and notice your mood and feelings and just allow them rather than trying to force a different way of feeling? I’m not suggesting you torture yourself by staying with unpleasant feelings for an impossibly long time but regularly checking in on your mood will help you be more mindful and, ultimately, improve your access to your full emotional landscape.

And, of course, if you want some support, click here to find out more.

Metta xx

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev / freedigitalphotos.net

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How can you make pain less painful?

Image courtesy of Ambro / freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of Ambro / freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve had a chronic pain condition since my 20s and am really fortunate in that it now affects me less than 10% of the time and I know how to manage it (mostly).

I remember hearing Maya Angelou’s ‘Just because you’re IN pain doesn’t mean you have to BE a pain’ when I experienced pain for most of every day and I wanted to not be a pain but, to be honest, I was.

Still, I do my best to take better care of myself when impacted and to do all sorts of self-care things (from eating better to ensuring enough sleep and getting as much exercise as possible) as well as ensuring I have a healthy supply of painkillers.

Because I’ve had this for a long time, I am used to it. But when I had a different kind of pain the other day (broken tooth. On a CRISP of all things), even though I’ve had far worse tooth issues and other types of pain, this really impacted my mood.

I felt broken and elderly. I couldn’t even cycle to the pool for an early morning swim because the cold made it agony. When my superstar dentist fixed it, I almost hugged him (instead I went back with a more appropriate Thank You card and box of chocs). I felt whole again and able to do things (and I treated myself to an afternoon swim).

I know lots of people struggle with different types of physical as well as emotional pain on a daily basis. If you’re one of them, think about the things that help you most.

I’m going to hear Jon Kabat-Zinn (the guy credited with bringing mindfulness meditation to a secular audience) today and love the research around mindfulness helping with pain management. Mindfulness can actually change our experience of pain.

I learned about this during my yoga therapy for mental health training and, as I continue to work with The Minded Institute (doing social media, PR etc), I get to learn about developments in this exciting field.

Kabat-Zinn’s research in 1982 demonstrated that mindfulness meditation could substantially reduce short and long term chronic pain. In 2012, Tim Gard et al found that participants were able to reduce anxiety around pain by 29% when in a mindful state.

Because mindfulness meditation changes the brain (increasing our capacity for neuroplasticity as well as impacting the lateral prefrontal cortex, right posterior insula and rostral anterior cingulate cortex) it can also change our experience of and relationship to pain.

And my psychosynthesis counselling training taught me that rememembering that we are more than our pain (or anything else we might be struggling with) can itself shift our relationship to it.

But it can take practice. Personally speaking, while I know that it’s good for me and do know how to persevere, I find it much easier to be mindful and embodied when I’m feeling strong and healthy than when weak and vulnerable and in pain.

If you’re new to mindfulness, maybe listening to a Body Scan will be a nice, relaxing introduction. It’s just something to explore.

Anything that helps you relax will have benefits for your pain as stress exacerbates so many painful conditions. And ultimately, you know yourself and your pain best.

Get into the habit of asking yourself what will help you most right now and do all you can to support yourself.

Much love xx

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