Archive Monthly Archives: October 2016

Mind-ful or Mind-less?

Mind Full or mindful?Mind Full or mindful?Mind Full or mindful?

This Mindful Monday blog is being written as I sit at the kitchen table at my parents’ house, in Wiltshire. I’ve retreated to the countryside for a long weekend for a number of reasons: I couldn’t’ be here for my mum’s birthday at the beginning of October as I was in Canada; my six year old niece is arriving to stay for half term in a few hours and I don’t get to spend much time with her so it will be finger puppets and cupcake baking for the next 48 hours or so; and I realised I really needed a break!

In fact, I needed a break so much that all the blogs I had planned for last week haven’t materialized, so I’ll just refer to them here and now. I had planned to write about the value of rest, to celebrate International Sloth Day on Thursday, but instead of writing about it, I just decided to actually do it instead. I stopped working on Thursday lunchtime, spent the afternoon cleaning the house, baking a cake, and got a very early night after a long bath. I need it as I realised I was very tired and feeling quite overloaded, a mixture of work and other stuff that’s going on. That was my commitment to slothery in action. I am not sure “slothery” is a word but I like it, so I’m going to use it.

I had planned to write a blog about my mum, for Celebration Saturday, to celebrate her. But instead of doing that I spent the day with her, in a little market town called Frome, which is far more charming these days that it ever was when I lived in Wiltshire as a kid. We had a lovely day, mooching about, having lunch, chatting and that felt like much more of a celebration of her and with her than whipping out my macbook and writing.

But I am commited to you, my unicorn friends, and I get enough feedback from you, thank you, to feel that some of you enjoy my words and read them. So whilst my parents are going to collect my niece, I’m catching myself up and thinking about mindfulness, given that’s my theme for Monday blogs, I thought it was time I wrote about it.

I ran a session for a client the other week which was on coaching skills development for workplace coaches and how we can use our understanding of neuroscience to inform our coaching practice. I know it was a good session, I spent a long time creating the material and putting it all together. Rather than being focused on workplace coaching, it turned into a personal development session for nearly every person in the room. It was so interesting to watch what emerged as each person revealed in different ways that what they had going on was feeling overwhelming, their heads and hearts were full and what they really benefited from was some facilitated time and space to step back, reflect, become both more mind-ful and have less in their minds. Which got me thinking about the words “mindful” and “mindless”.

The latter to me usually gets associated with a phrase like “mindless violence” and so appears to mean that someone isn’t thinking, or isn’t thinking about others, only themselves. Yet when we are overloaded and feeling that our minds are too full, we have too much to think about, take care of, do, then surely what we want is some “mindlessness” as in we get out of the patterns of thinking and drop into breathing, being, being still, being present, just noticing our thoughts come and go, rather than doing anything about them.

So I think there is another way to think about “mindless” and that has much more to do with finding ways, meditation being a classic and obvious example, but there are so many others, to swtich off our minds, our reactive thinking patterns and drop into different, deeper brain waves states and have an experience of being. Even if just for a few moments. The value and benefit of this is so well-researched these days that it’s a no-brainer. There’s another interesting phrase too, no-brainer, which means it’s so obvious we don’t need to think about it, and so I think being mindless is also a no-brainer.

I think that “mindfulness” has become a very trendy thing, it seems to be common as both a personal strategy for wellbeing and strategy for powerful and authentic leadership. Yet the meaning of it, in terms of being “full of mind” or “full in the mind” almost seems to be to be the opposite!

I use the cartoon showing a person and a dog going for a walk in the park in some of my training. There are thought bubbles coming out of each of their heads. The person’s thought bubble is full of “stuff” – work stuff, words, shopping lists, lots of business (or busyness? Only one letter difference!). The dog’s thought bubble is an exact picture of the park they are heading for. No business or busyness in his / her mind.

This cartoon for me symbolizes how I choose to interpret mindfulness and I realise that’s it’s much more like “mindlessness”. As in being present to the moment and not much else. Allowing my thinking and self-talk, the chatter, to subside and being focused, present, in the zone of the now as it were. Eckhart Tolle has written about this in his book, The Power of Now, which I would recommend.

So I’m curious – what does “mindful” mean to you? Does my definition of “mindless” feel more like what you’d like to experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts so share a comment wherever you are reading this, on the website or on Facebook.

I’m going to take a very mindful and mindless nap now! Nothing so good as a Sunday afternoon nap to allow the brain to rest and rebalance.

How I hope that Trump will bring balance into the world

This is  Mindful Monday’s post but I’m writing it now on Sunday as a) I’m out early doors and back late doors tomorrow and b) it’s really on my mind! You know this whole piece with The Donald over the weekend has really got me thinking about what I know instinctively and intuitively is needed in the world . . . the power of the feminine, to address the balance and bring to life in politics, global leaders, big business and in organisations of all sizes, shapes and forms around the world. I am astonished that anyone, of any gender or political persuasion could frame those comments as “locker room talk”. He refers to the host in the purple dress as “it” at one point in the conversation completely underlining and objectification of women for his own pleasure both proceeded and followed by boasting about a direct abuse of power, as a man, as someone famous. Let alone the more graphic comments . . .

I don’t actually care whether this is man talking about women, or a woman talking about men, or a man talking about goats, cows, donkeys or trees . . . the point for me is a complete lack of unconditional positive regard for another being and seeing this being only as an object to be used for his personal gratification.

The fact that she appears to put up their cheesy flirtations and sidles along with them in the video seems to be to me both testament to the “acceptable” nature of their comments and behaviour and to the fact that she’s used to being a woman operating in a male-dominant culture. I am wondering if she consciously realises that her beauty and ability to hold her own are both valuable assets and probably are helping her keep safe and keep her job. Is she playing along with the game? And if so, how sad is that, that a woman, or any person has to play a game with buffoons like Trump and that boy-child he is with Billy Bush.

What I also reflect on from reading and watching all this coverage over the weekend is that we are all capable of judgement and I am curious about how much people feel self-wrongeous around Trump and therefore expand his position to the highest levels of self-righteousness? I have decided after this weekend I do not wish to contribute to that on any way and so I’m going to step out of judgement on him as a person, as a man. What the American people are entitled to judge is whether or not they wish him to be president. I hope they don’t . . . and I suspect that the emergence of this video at what is a rather crucial stage in the election campaign has been deliberate.

In her book The Whole Elephant Revealed, Marja De Vries, writes about the re-emergence of the power of femininity as a long energetic wave to counter balance the male-dominated societies that have formed and developed globally during the last few thousand years. Forgive me if I am misquoting, I lent the book to someone so I can’t check, but the essence of her argument is that we are due a return, on a deep, powerful and spiritual level, to an age where the qualities of femininity are felt more resonantly, noticed, appreciated and spread into leadership on a global scale. She says that this is what could save the planet from the destructive path of consumerism, lack of regard for the environment, subjugation of others, including women, children and those from any kind of minority. I hope this is the case and I think that femininity is present in many men, men I would choose as friends, lovers, colleagues and is expressed in values such as empathy, connection, open-heartedness, caring, compassion, making a difference. It’s not about having women in charge, it’s about having the balance of the best of the genders rising to the fore and held together in an unspoken divine union of highest purpose that allows human evolution to evolve. But for those women who do end up in charge, for the moment I think, they are needed to be tougher, more resilient, more able to handle themselves in this hopefully fading way of masculine qualities of aggression, objectification and abuse, for the moment at least. Maybe in a few generations, or a few hundred years, we’ll see female leaders who are able to be feminine and appreciated for it, alongside male leaders who are able to be masculine, and bring all the strength, tenacity and resoluteness that is required, without the extremes we’re seeing in the world at the moment. It’s not about gender for me on one level, it’s about humans and how we choose to relate to each other, see each other, support each other. And there is much to do, much to evolve.

So for this reason I am grateful for Trump viagra en ligne achat. His actions, his words are a form of energy and so, as we know, there will be an up from his down, or a down from his up, a wave that comes to counterbalance the lack of empathy, compassion and sensitivity he has expressed in that video and on many other occasions. I will be mindful of what he is contributing to our planet and I don’t mind if what I value about him isn’t at all what he thinks he’s here for!

Who would win in a race between a moped and a unicorn?

I am delighted to feature this blog from Matt Whatmough today – so Celebrate Saturday is all about him! I hope you enjoy his writing.


What would win in a race between a moped and a unicorn?

No, I haven’t had some sort of breakdown and putting aside the apparent absurdity of the question, it is one that I currently find myself pondering. Allow me to explain. I have been on something of a transformative journey in recent months and had my thinking challenged on number of occasions.

I was a deeply cynical person. It feels good to even type that sentence in the past tense. Along with my cynicism – which of course I passed off as ‘realism’ in a deeply cynical trick of the mind – I could happily (oh the irony) refer to myself as a miserableist[1], depressive and neurotic. What a happy combination that lot is. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I have suffered from long and recurrent bouts of depression. In a cyclical thought pattern that will be familiar to most depression sufferers I was even cynical about depression. I would sneeringly mock myself for being weak and feeble minded, which of course lead me to feeling wretched about myself, which inevitably would lead to… you get the idea – ad infinitum, or at least it felt that way.

What in the blue hell does this have to do with a race between the eponymous motorised scooter and a mythical beast? Allow me to explain. In an attempt to re-frame my view of the world and more importantly my reaction to the world around me I have created… wait for it… the Moped of DOOM. Actually that’s a misnomer, but it sounds more dramatic. More accurately I now have in my possession a moped of cynicism. In my mind it should be written as

Screen Shot 2016-10-08 at 12.05.57

And whenever I talk about it there should be a dramatic dun dun durrrrr. That may say enough about the state of my mind. You will see I also love to digress.

Previously my cynicism has been a comfy pair of shoes. I wore them a lot. They were familiar to me and slipping them on was second nature. They also stank a bit, but of an odour that was in itself comforting and more offensive to others than to me. I can spray a bit of foot deodoriser to mask the smell but I’m not truly treating the underlying cause. I’ve got myself a new pair of shoes, in fact several pairs of shoes with gel inserts and I rotate them. But, cynicism isn’t something to be cast aside so easily. We’ve all been there keeping hold of those old pair of shoes because you never know when you’ll need them. Gardening shoes (ha!). Neuroscience informs us why it’s hard to give things up[2]. If you do something, anything, again and again then of course those are the things you are best at and most comfortable with. Tried giving up something that you love because you’ve been told (or know) it’s bad for you? Hard ain’t it. So to expect myself to just give up on cynicism when it has been akin to a security blanket for years is simply nonsensical.

Besides, cynicism can be a good thing. Cynicism is what stops all of us from being taken for fools. Applied in good measure cynicism can be our friend. For me, cynicism is also a great source of humour viagra en gel. Whether directed at myself or others I have used cynicism to make people laugh and laughter is a great feedback loop. Cynicism => Laughter => Being Liked => More Cynicism. For someone who has a core value of being liked you can see how the above Mobius[3] strip has led to cynicism being front and centre of my thinking.

That kind of explains the moped. Now, to the Unicorn. The Unicorn is not my creation but it has come to represent something aspirational for me. In all honesty, what I understand now, is that it could have been anything. It is a focus and a representation of change. In the context in which I was introduced to it represents the capacity for change within each of us and that, much like a unicorn, can feel magical. Now, my previous incarnation wearing my comfy shoes of cynicism would have been all over this like a shot. But I’m not wearing those shoes anymore am I? I have chosen to take those shoes off. The funny thing is that it has always been about choice, but never felt like that. I could have removed those comfy shoes at any time but it never felt like a choice because it had become autonomous to pull those little fuckers on[4]. Having discarded those shoes I now give myself the choice whether I hop onto my MOPED of CYNICISM (dun dun durrrrr) and wheel spin all over the unicorn. I choose not to. It sounds so easy. It’s not. There is no epiphany and I suspect that those who write about epiphanies truly believe they experience something, but it will likely be the result of lots of little things falling into place over time that taken in from a distance will reveal the bigger picture. I’ve fought hard for my ‘epiphany’, often and most violently against myself.

So, to answer the original question – The Unicorn will win… 9 times out of 10… because sometimes it’s still nice to hop on my moped and open that throttle up.

[1] Yes, I made that word up.

[2] Neural pathways are increased the more you do something. Obviously this is simplified but see Neuroscience for Dummies (seriously) for slightly more detailed explanations.

[3] The concept of which will feck with your head

[4] There is some argument about the concept of free will and the books of David Eagleman and Sam Harris are much better at explaining it – which you’d expect given that they are both neuroscientists and I’m, well, not.

No Blackbirds or Berries but the Bake-off instead

Mary Berry instead of berriesMary Berry instead of berriesMary Berry instead of berries

This is a Wellbeing Wednesday blog, albeit rather late in the day!   I had planned to write about the blackbirds I noticed in the garden yesterday morning feasting on some ripe yellow berries on a bush. I decided I would take a photo this morning before I left for work and then use that to accompany the blog. I intended to write about how much I have found stripping back my diet to pretty much nothing other than organic meat, wild caught fish, organic fruit and veg including lots of berries has really supported my wellbeing in the last month.

But when I came out this morning, there were no berries left and the blackbirds were nowhere in sight! They ate the lot yesterday. Which left me a bit stumped about what to write about. Until I put the telly on lol! Here I am, watching last week’s Bake Off on catch up and wanting to write my Wellbeing Wednesday blog and instead of images of “eating natural” I am seeing images of food containing masses of refined sugar, flour, butter and some quite unnatural colours!

And you know what, this is just as good for my wellbeing as the diet in some ways. I ‘ve had a great day, those of you who were there on our ILM Level 7 workshop will know what I mean and I worked for another few hours when I got home just to catch up on stuff from being away last week. A bit of innocuous sugar-coated TV is just the ticket for a wind down before bed. I’ve realised that I probably would benefit from more of this kind of relatively mindless activity during the week as I tend to keep going with work n weekday evenings on a regular basis.

Please let me know if you have a different view of me. I think I am very mindful, I am purposeful, I am switched “on” to myself and others most of the time and it’s almost like a mind-detox to just get drawn into the quiet tension and drama of the Bake-Off. It doesn’t feature much angst or stress, people aren’t shouting, there is some drama but in a kind of genteel and non-important way that I find very soothing.

I get that for the contestants it matters hugely and at the end of the day, it’s just a lemon meringue pie or a bakewell tart or a scone of some kind. Nothing world-shattering, definitely a bit life-enhancing in terms of watching people with a passion do something they love and I have learnt to just enjoy the tastes I can imagine, rather than immediately have to rush into the kitchen and whip up some kind of sweet, chocolately creation! Which I have been known to do in the past . . . !! And eaten the lot entirely by myself.

I’ve been a bit of out sync with writing blogs due to being away in Canada last week and I’ll definitely be using that as subject matter for future reflections to share with you. But I wanted to make sure I got something out this week that I had taken the time to write, had put some thought into and supported the theme of the day.

So on the theme of wellbeing, what the lack of blackbirds and berries has led me to conclude is that part of my personal wellbeing is supported by switching off in a much less significant way than what I know I’m good at when I go away, or decide to focus on everything other than work at weekends or days off. Just some time out, an hour even, doing something that doesn’t involve much, if any, commitment, energy or focus from me is really pleasurable and feels good for me. A bit of Mary Berry rather than blackbirds and berries.

“I’ve never been so stressed about dough in my life” is a line that I’ve just heard on this programme! It was Tom, for those of you who are interested and may remember last week’s episode.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been stressed about dough or producing any food to a particular standard at any point in my life. I am a pretty good cook and I would describe my style and approach as “rustic” which of course is code for “a bit messy but tastes good”.

In hearing that comment just now, I’m reminded about another aspect of wellbeing, which is recognising similarities and differences and not getting attached or into judgement of myself or others around this. We’re all different and similar in similar and different ways. I doubt I could muster much enthusiasm under any circumstances to get stressed about dough, but I can be aware enough to recognise how much that might matter to someone else and just be present with that person, even someone on TV, to pay attention to their priorities, interests and values. We learn about people by paying attention and learning about others supports our learning about self and that supports our wellbeing.

We had a great conversation about that today in the coaching workshop, about how as coaches we do of course take ourselves, with beliefs and ethics, into each coaching session. Being aware that I do, holding myself in attention to that, is also good for my wellbeing, as well as good for my coaching because it means I am present in the moment, with myself and my coachee.

Being present, learning to live in the now, free of fears (fantasized experiences appearing real!) and able to manage myself, my responses and the impact I have on others. Wellbeing in terms of emotional intelligence, I think, supports our overall sense of calm, feeling grounded, connected to ourselves and aligned to our values.

Ooh look at that! I’ve written nearly 2 pages and I thought this was just going to be short blog with a key message that a bit of TV for gentle relaxation might well be a good thing for wellbeing . . . and somehow or other some deeper and hopefully interesting realisations and thoughts have emerged. I guess that’s the impact of being soothed by sugary creations and some gentle tent-based tension.