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If mindfulness means moment to moment awareness, without judgement, then the opposite ‘mindlessness’ means spending each and every moment without awareness of what is before us. To be mindless means to be so attached to our thinking that we are immersed in it. All day long we are moving from one activity to the next. We are activity seekers. So much so that we feel guilty if we pause. No wonder, stuck in this rat race, our bodies give up and we begin to feel the stress. I watch my ten-year old on weekends as he goes from one activity to the next, Tennis, Wi-U-, Math’s homework, reading, handball, TV! I often have to remind him to stop and do no-thing. And then he will grumble as he stops but after a few minutes I notice the change. He calms down and feels more grounded. More connected with his body.
As I write this article, I have a cup of tea I drink from and I have to remind myself to stop all writing and all thinking and focus fully on the act of taking a sip of my tea. And in that moment I can notice my tea is warm, it smells nice, I can feel the sip moving down the back of my throat into my belly. I listen to the birds chirping and I feel alive and joyful. I can take a mindful breath and then I resume my writing.
For that brief one minute, I took a break from my thinking mind. This mind can only do one of four things at any given moment: memory (re-living of a past event), planning (for the future), creativity (working on a current project), or judgement (judging something or someone). The mind believes if it doesn’t plan or think it will die and rightly so! The Ego (false identity with self) dies in that moment when you let go of thinking and focus on what’s real, what is alive and what is here around you!
‘The NOW is Life itself
Life can only be in the NOW!’
5 Mindful tips for your day:
1. Connect with the present moment:
In the midst of your doing, take some breathing space. Consciously connect with the movement of your breath in and out of your body. The breath is always in this moment. Here and NOW!
2. Practise gratitude:
We all have our to-do lists. And we all want to achieve all our goals NOW! As my teacher (who has OCD) gently pointed out to me, if she can get 3 things done on her list, she has achieved something and is happy about it. So give yourselves a pat on the back if you too get 3 or 4 things accomplished on your list.
3. Dis-attachment to form:
Establish a regular mindfulness of meditation practice. Not only does it teach you focus and attention, it also enables you to dis-identify from your mind stream and negative thinking. And you learn the important lesson of impermanence, i.e. that your thoughts, sensations and feelings are all temporary. You can then begin to bring this quality in your daily life and apply it to issues that seem very important to you Now. In particular, not becoming attached to your activities or to who you are or are not when you engage in them or do not engage in them!
Accepting each moment as it is, accepting when you can’t achieve everything on your list, accepting that your body needs a rest, accepting that everything is transient and temporary and allowing your day to unfold exactly as it is unfolding. This acceptance takes the pressure off performance allowing you to relax, trust and be in the flow. Accepting all the feelings and thoughts coming up allows you to be more authentic.
5. Loving Kindness to yourself and to others:
Recognising that we all have our burdens to carry and connecting with the essence of who you truly are allows you to see the perfection in you and in others and in each moment of your day.
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I grew up in a tradition where anytime there was a difficult situation, the grown ups around me would resort to Tasbih, a form of chanting using rosary beads. I was 18 years old when my mother went for a brain surgery and I was introduced to a special Tasbih that I was encouraged to use when I felt anxious or worried. I did find that it helped settle the internal turmoil I was experiencing. Fast forward 27 years later, and I have needed to use Tasbih once again to support myself in my grief towards my mother's passing.
When we are in the grip of overwhelming emotions such as aggression, anxiety, fear and grief, we often forget that these emotions are generated in response to what our mind is thinking and believing. Behind every emotion, there is an underlying thought. Panic results when the thought-feeling cycle continues uninhibited.
"Our true nature could be compared to the sky, and the confusion of the ordinary mind to the clouds- Sogyal Rinpoche
When our mind is like the clear blue sky, with no thought clouds, we experience clarity and calmness. The same calmness is experienced in the gap between two thoughts. In fact, the purpose of mindfulness of meditation is to increase this gap between our thoughts. The gap is where the true nature of mind resides!
_In fact, the purpose of mindfulness of meditation is to increase this gap between our thoughts.
The true nature of mind, therefore, is to be calm and spacious. However, the human brain is designed to protect the human species. How it perceives danger is determined by the life experience of the person and the set of beliefs already embedded in the subconscious mind. Alas, the Cortex or the thinking brain is not able to differentiate between real danger and perceived danger. Thought processes from the Cortex are perceived by the Amygdala and result in the Limbic brain producing biochemicals or 'molecules of emotion1' which flood the body and result in various sensations.
The true nature of these molecules, nothing more than neuro-peptides and their receptors, is to rise and fall. In other words, our emotions are meant to arise and fall like the waves in an ocean. However, people often react to these emotions, resisting them, judging them or wanting to fix them and they do this by generating more thoughts in response to that emotion. Now, the new thoughts generated produce another wave of molecules of emotion and in this way the cycle of thought-feeling-thought-feeling(....) is perpetuated!
So how does it help to use Tasbih, or prayer, or chanting a mantra for overwhelming emotions? What is really happening is that for a brief moment the thinking mind is replaced with a repetitious statement as in chanting or Tasbih. The destructive thought has now been replaced with a neutral thought. And the link between destructive thought-painful feeling is broken.
-The destructive thought has now been replaced with a neutral thought.
For a few minutes the body experiences peace and calm. The same peace and calmness that is the result of mindfully recognizing and choosing to break the destructive link between painful thought and painful feeling by focusing on present moment awareness, or mindful breathing. Of course, this alternative is possible only with practice and intention. Therefore, it is a conscious choice. Whichever mode you choose, it will be effective in breaking the Thought-Feeling cycle in that moment when you have been taken over by fear and anxiety, even anger and grief!
So what is your favourite mantra or Tasbih for breaking this connection in overwhelming moments?
1. Molecules of Emotion. Candace B. Pert, 1997
We are taught from childhood that one must always put others before ourselves otherwise we have been selfish. So most of us go through our lives giving, giving and giving; until we experience burnout. Nothing to give anymore. I remember my first trip on an airplane as a teenager and when the flight attendant took us through the safety procedures, I was shocked by the idea presented in the video that when the oxygen masks drop the mother should put it on herself first and then on her child. I could feel my judgements rising on the surface! Only a selfish mother would put herself first! A selfless mother protects her child always! A good mother always puts the child’s needs first! And so on!
Fast forward a couple of decades and now the mother in me realises how important it is to take care of my needs first so that I am available for my child and others. And as a counsellor, this is even more important as many counsellors experience burnout if they don’t look after themselves.
Self care is looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. It is filling your cup up with an activity that raises your energy levels and brings you into alignment with your centre. You can also refer to it as raising your inner vibration.
What is Vibration?
In physics, vibration is defined as ‘the oscillating, reciprocating, or other periodic motion of a rigid or elastic body or medium forced from a position or state of equilibrium’. In Spirituality, our “vibration” essentially refers to our energetic state. Our thoughts and beliefs, our physical health, and our emotions, all collectively contribute to the vibrational state of our energy field.
Our energy is most depleted when we go into a fight or flight response. Triggers can be our work mates, boss in particular; our loved ones and even our own selves (the voice in our head).
When we react to a situation or a person, it is because our brain has perceived a threat and our body is initiating the fight, flight or freeze response. A common scenario is work place conflict. Instead of throwing a spear at an animal that endangers us, we use anger to rise against the perceived threat. We might raise our voice or bang something very hard against the desk!
So what causes this ‘fight or flight’ response that leads to our reactive tendencies? If you look at the physiology/biochemistry of stress and burnout, the seat of this outcome is our reptilian brain that is an evolutionary response to stress. When a reptile experiences a dangerous situation it responds by going into a fight, flight or freeze response. This response helps the animal to survive. Fast forward the evolutionary chain to Mammalian brain and remember the deer or the impala being chased by a tiger; a vision many of us remember from the countless documentaries we watched as children! Remember the relief in our bodies when the deer survived! (Our mind and body experienced the same stress as the deer). Now what the documentaries don’t capture is the shaking and trembling response the deer experiences in its body. This shaking and trembling actually regulates the high level of energy that has been activated through its reptilian brain perceiving a dangerous situation. In other words the deer discharges the excess energy and eventually calms its body down physiologically and biochemically.
Going up the evolutionary chain, we reach the Human brain. Our brains have the gift of perceiving dangerous situation, however, do not have the ability of automatically shaking and trembling to release the excess energy. Human brains also contain the Cortex, the seat of consciousness, analysis, logic, awareness. While the cortex serves a very important role in that it allows us to think, it also stores our memories.
Real Threat vs. Perceived Threat
The gift of our reptilian brain (aka brain stem) has made our body really good at responding to threat. The problem is, sometimes what it senses as a threat isn’t really a threat, but it responds as though it is anyway. A common example is any conflict situation we encounter. Lets take the example of workplace conflict involving your boss and you. The fight response will show itself as a yelling match; your boss yells at you, you yell back. The flight response could be that you hear the boss’s anger and you quickly run away. You make sure you never make yourself visible around your boss, always running away. The freeze response may manifest as an inability to respond and you remain quiet, even when you are not to blame!
In each of these scenarios, the body is responding physiologically with elevated levels of stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. These hormones are essentially involved in the fight or flight response. In our reptilian brothers and sisters, these hormones determined survival. Essentially, survival of the fittest would have meant those reptiles that activated the fight or flight response quickly, survived. In the example of work place conflict, there is no actual danger, and you are not actually running or fighting, there’s no way to burn off the neurochemical fuel that’s surging through you. It builds up and causes each one of the physical symptoms that come with anxiety. Over time as these chemicals accumulate in the body it leads to fatigue and burnout.
Whenever we are in a reactive mode or experiencing a reactive situation, our bodies automatically go into a fight or flight mode. Once you witness your reactive tendency, you can self regulate through mindfulness awareness and practices, however, it is important that you fill your cup up so you remain vibrationally aligned. This will help cultivate more peace of mind, more happiness, more clarity, and more overall wellness immediately.
As we approach the countdown to our deadlines, things tend to get rather busy, both in our minds and in our bodies. Depending on the state we are in, we get more affected by outside influences and like a sponge may tend to soak in negative energies. Against your best intentions, it is very likely that you will experience moments of frustration and stress. In each case, you may find that you lose touch with your grounding, your stillness, even your peace. In this space of contraction, how will you expand and rejuvenate?
My favourite practices of raising one's vibration include:
Think back to what has been instrumental in recharging you, allowing you to come into wholeness and well being after a stressful situation, and add it to the list.
I wish you a wonderful journey to coming into alignment with your centre!
© Transformative Holistic Counselling 2015
Tripty is a level 2 REIKI practitioner. She is currently offering 25% off when you book for 45 minute REIKI session. Offer available until June, 2016. May be combined with other Counselling Specials! Feel relaxed and calm after your session and take this calmness into your everyday life. Call now to book an appointment or contact her on her website: www.TransformativeHolisticCounselling.com
As the school holidays approach, many parents are intending to travel with their children to holiday destinations, some for the first time. Whether you are planning a holiday travel or intending to spend time at home with your children, it is very likely that there will be moments of frustration and stress, that you will experience. Such moments usually arise when one has become identified with the mind and believes the reality should be different than how it is in that moment. It is always the thoughts we have about a situation that cause us stress and distress, never the situation itself.
Out mind can only take us in one of two directions; our thoughts either take us into the past or into the future. As Eckhart Tolle puts it aptly,
"All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry -all forms of fear- are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence."
In each case, when we go into the past or the future, we move away from the present. And by doing so we lose our grounding, our stillness, even our peace. A very practical way of supporting oneself in those moments is through consciously practicing awareness of the present moment. For in the present moment there are no problems.
So what is the present moment? This may be baffling for the mind. The present moment is what is around us at any given moment. Our sense perception is always in the present moment. What we see, hear, touch, and feel. Our breath is always in the present moment. When we use our sense perception 'consciously', we move our attention from the mind. In simple words, it is not possible to breathe consciously and to think at the same time! Try it for yourself!
In that moment when all the mind wants to do is to retort, and the body wants to fight (yell) or flight (close off), how will you self-regulate?
Practice presence or present awareness. Use the breath i.e. conscious breath or the sense perception i.e. looking around the room slowly while breathing consciously or use inner body awareness as anchors to stay in touch with the present moment. For difficult emotions arising, give them as much space in your body and drop into them i.e. directly surrender into them. Remember that emotion is energy in motion. You need to feel it to let it move through.
For more information on practical ways of practicing presence, I invite you to click the button below to read information on my classes on Mindfulness for Adults, starting on Oct 14, 2015 in Kenmore, Qld 4069.
I wish you a very enjoyable school break of connection and presence with your children!
As an ex-scientist who worked in the field of signal transduction, it is no surprise that I now engage holistically in an area which is substantiated by the hottest scientific research that identified molecules of emotions as significant factors involved in the perception and regulation of our emotions. Everything that our brain perceives gives rise to these molecules of emotions, the neuropeptides of pain or pleasure. These neuropeptides and their receptors were originally discovered in the Limbic brain (the brain that gives rise to emotions), thus coining the term 'Molecules of Emotions'. The work of Dr. Candace Pert (author of the book, Molecules of Emotion) has been ground breaking in establishing the paradigm that the seat of consciousness or the mind is mimicked by the body. This important discovery has given rise to a new phrase: the body is our subconscious mind!
What is the implication of this finding? It means that we can no longer just train our minds if we want to see a shift in our consciousness but we also have to train the body! We can identify this in our lives where we have tried very hard to have 'mind over matter' and exert 'will power' to make a change, and after a while we revert back to the old pattern. This is because we have not worked on our second brain, the body to make a shift. Suddenly words like ‘cellular memory’, 'memorized emotions' and 'body work' take on a new meaning!
How is the mind-body connection maintained? The mind is the conscious self. The conscious has the ability to choose, consciously. The body is the subconscious mind. There is evidence to suggest that our gut is our second brain as it has the same peptides and receptors as those found in the brain. Whereas the mind reacts consciously, the body reacts without choice, hence subconsciously. ‘The body never lies’. The unconscious includes both the mind and the body. This includes our behaviours, thinking patterns, belief system, how we react to a situation. Thus our conditioning is made up of all 3 elements. The biggest influence on our conditioning is our PAST. The past consists of our environment, personal experiences and behaviours that served us in that moment. As a child, our experience in our first six years influences how we will live the rest of our lives. These include the personal experiences the child has, and the beliefs he/she is exposed to through parenting, and the educational system. All these become the lens with which we see the world. Of course, it does not mean that we are stuck in this reality. We have a 'choice' to consciously change our conditioning and therefore change our mind-body connection and therefore change our lives, our personal reality.
When the human genome was sequenced more than a decade ago, people were afraid that their genetic destiny would determine how their life would be. In other words, the genes would determine if you got cancer, diabetes and all the life-threatening diseases. People reconciled themselves to their fate believing there was nothing they could do to change this reality. And then came the field of Epigenetics where the environment in the cells determined which genes would get activated. Suddenly, people had a choice, our bodies have a choice. The placebo effect is for real!
MINDFULNESS and the Brain:
Mindfulness lets you become aware of the unconscious and the subconscious, bringing it to light, to the conscious. So that one can do it differently. So how will we use mindfulness to connect with where we are in our brain?
When we experience overwhelm, anxiety, panic attacks, stress, it indicates that we are stuck in the Reptilian brain, in the fight, flight or freeze mechanism.
Through mindfulness you can get in touch with your body emotions. By allowing them to be expressed, you release them. By suppressing them, you store them.
The pre-frontal cortex affects self-regulation, decision-making, and attention processes.
Mindfulness deliberately places attention in the present moment, activating the cortex through an observational process. Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation support optimal pre-frontal cortex functioning. The more you incorporate mindfulness and its meditation into your daily experience, the more you will be training your brain to recalibrate, balance, and control. Instead of being drawn into the past or future by activating your reptilian or emotional brain, you can stay in the present moment by functioning from the prefrontal cortex, the seat of presence and creativity.
The pre-frontal cortex is already functional in children as young as 4-years old. Thus the implication of teaching them Mindfulness from an early age takes on a new significance!
It is important to reflect that the lower brain structures usually focus on the past or the future. Mindfulness Meditation can significantly increase pre-frontal activity and result in a quieting of your overall mind and specific lower brain structures.
We are living in a technologically-driven era that consumes our attention, often producing a multitasking frenzy of activity that leaves people 'constantly doing', with no space to be and just breathe. It is causing the younger generation, our children and teenagers, to get accustomed to high levels of stimulus-bound attention, flitting from one activity to the other, with little time for self reflection that the brain needs for proper development.
Now, more than ever, with our hectic lifestyle schedules, and the incessant commentary in our minds, it is time to 'consciously make some time' to sit in 'Thoughtless Awareness' and connect with the present moment. To wake up from a life on 'automatic' and develop a sensitivity to the novelty in our everyday experience.
1.Molecules of Emotions. Candace B. Pert. 1997
2. The Biology of Belief. Bruce Lipton. 2005
2.Train your brain: how to reduce anxiety through mindfulness and meditation. ReWire Me, Feb 15, 2015
3.The Prefrontal Cortex: Functional Neural Development During Early Childhood. Satoshi Tsujimoto. Neuroscientist August 2008 vol. 14 no. 4 345-358
4. The Mindful Brain. Daniel J. Siegel. 2007
“You get what you think about, whether you want it or not!
So be careful about what you think about.” – Wayne Dwyer
Right now as I read this inspirational quote, I am aware that I have a lot of fear inside of me. There are too many stories, some old, some new, unfolding in my mind brought on by recent conversations and events. As I read this quote I am aware that I have the power to change and I contemplate on what I need to shift within myself.
The first word that comes is “Open”. An openness to what ever is unfolding around me at this moment, with no judgement. Total acceptance of what is. Accepting that this is the right experience for me or I would not be having it.
The second word is “Heart”. Simply breathing through the heart. It is amazing what happens when one can drop from the mind into the heart space. Simply breathing in through the heart space or heart chakra and breathing out through the heart space. And perhaps as I breath out now, I direct the heart energy to this moment, and to my intention of remaining open .
When I let go of the mind’s need to control me, an energy begins to flow through me, and in my openness I am directed to experience that which I would not have normally. Sometimes it can be an inspiration to write, to create something. Whatever and however the inspiration flows through you, know that it is always for your highest good. Perhaps you hear a word or receive a sign that tells you all is well in your world right now.
Wayne Dwyer always talks about inspiration as being “in spirit”. Remaining open and present, connected to heart energy allows you to become in spirit and therefore allows inspiration to flow through you life.
So just for today, bring your awareness to how you are feeling right now, open yourself up and connect with your heart space and notice how in spirit your day becomes.
The RADICAL teenager
Yesterday I did a crazy thing. I went out for a walk knowing fully well that it might rain. My legs wanted to move and I followed the urge. I should tell you at this point that I am one of those people who like rain only when I am not getting wet! So off I went for this walk, without an umbrella. My mind said 'don't take the cell phone', which I usually do to listen to a podcast or some interesting spiritual talk. I agreed with my mind as I wanted to listen to what it had to say instead of suppressing its thoughts.
I say I did a crazy thing because the adult responsible me would have never gone for a walk in a potentially rainy situation. And as I walked, it began raining, of course! I continued walking. And then I noticed that I was feeling excited and exhilarated, feeling Free-er and joyous. And a word popped into my mind: RADICAL. I contemplated which part of myself was responsible for this crazy activity; by now I was the only one walking in the rain, where usually there are many more morning walkers. I realised immediately that it was my teenage self's idea. She was smiling and happy and she kept saying to me one word: RADICAL!
I often hear people describing teenagers as being disappointing, irresponsible, with no common sense, totally selfish... (you get the picture). People forget that teen years are the one time in our life where we are not afraid of new experiences, we are extremely adventurous, spontaneous, full of aspirations and dreams. Life is one big party and the possibilities are endless! It is that lack of fear of danger that often gets teenagers into trouble.
Sometimes as teens, we don't get to be adventurous due to our circumstances. I certainly had great dreams and visions and wanted way more RADICAL experiences than my circumstances permitted. And of course, as I grew older, I ended up suppressing some of those desires. However, when I look back upon my life, there have been many instances when I have followed that voice inside of me and engaged in RADICAL experiences which upon reflection I am grateful for and amazed at. I now know that I was listening to my Teenage Self wanting to have that experience, knowing everything would be fine if she kept an open mind, heart and body and embraced the experience FULLY.
What a wonderful resource the teenage self can be especially when embarking on a new project, a potentially crazy project. To harness its enthusiasm and undying belief that it will work, knowing no fear only the excitement. The teenage self has great power so call upon it and harness its amazing energy!
Even in those circumstances that were not favourable for your teenager, if you look carefully, deep within it you will find this Radical teen just waiting to be discovered and given another chance!
So if you are starting a new project, business venture, have a deep desire to write and are hesitating, call on the adventure spirit of your Teen self.
And as I walked in that rain, I was grateful to my teenage self whose voice I had listened to and had such a wonderful and exhilarating experience connecting with the elements.
So go ahead and honour that inner teen by listening to its cry for adventure. And be RADICAL today!
Tripty Hirani is a mother, wife, a Holistic Counsellor who runs her own practice. She loves to read and write, go for meditative walks in the bush and practice compassion and mindfulness at every opportunity.