In Bed with Flu

This last week I have been ill with the flu – a wonderful cornucopia of alternating symptoms – head ache, shivers, overheating, ear ache, sore throat & a chesty cough that prevents sleep – doubly amplified compared to my usual experience of such symptoms. I guess that’s the Australian element! I’ve even lost my appetite, which is very unusual.

sick-in-bed-422
I haven’t done any formal practice, but have stayed in touch with how my body feels – breathing in and out of particularly painful sensations. I have pleasantly distracted myself. At times when I have been too poorly to sit in the living room & watch a box set (Stranger Things on Netflix), I have laid in bed drowsing to my Harry Potter audio books – I’ve just started on book four!

For me, I have been very patient and have taken time off to rest. Thankfully Choden had taken over from me on the teaching skills retreat at Samye Ling this week and I am very grateful for this. I did have a marking deadline for the MSc, but everything else I have rescheduled.

My husband says I have been a bit grumpy and bad tempered. My brain is working so slowly and he talks so quickly that his conversation seems overwhelming at times.
What has helped me most is a sense of an overview – not getting caught up in thinking about being poorly, but simply allowing the symptoms to move through. I have been able to observe and not buy in to my usual patterns of thinking – that there is something wrong with me that I’m ill; that getting my work done this week is essential; and that I am letting the team down by being ill. Instead I am just observing it all with a relaxed sense of what will be will be.

So I have been able to enjoy the stillness of resting my body as it is working hard to defend itself from this virus. I have been able to relax my body when it tenses against pain. I have been more curious than distressed by the seemingly endless campaigns this virus is waging. So I think I could probably say that while I haven’t consistently enjoyed being ill – it’s not been too bad and ibuprofen helps when it all gets a bit too uncomfortable.

Practice is so important when things are going well, so that when we hit a rough patch the benefits of practice are available to us.

Also important is reflecting on our habitual patterns around being ill. Do we beat ourselves up and blame ourselves or do we relax and rest to give space for our bodies to recover. It’s all an opportunity for practice!

Hopefully, by the time you read this, I will be back in my usual routine, building resources for next time!

Kind Wishes
Heather

To visit our website: please click here

To join our membership: please click here

Follow us on YouTube: please click here

Follow us on Facebook: please click here

Follow us on Instagram: please click here

Advertisements

Walking My Talk

I would like to live a long and healthy life, free of the main health problems that beset us in the West: heart disease, stroke, degenerative brain diseases, cancer and lung diseases. Would you?

I would like to protect the environment from the effects of greenhouse gasses, deforestation and ocean dead zones. Would you?

But more than that I would like to see the creatures we humans have domesticated be treated with love and respect rather than being tortured and brutally murdered. Would you?

veganuary

Once I came to understand the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence that the best thing I could do to solve these problems was to become a vegan (eating plant based whole food) that’s what I did. I walked my talk and became a vegan over two years ago. I try not to be preachy about it, but I feel so passionately that we have all been lied to for so long, that I would like to give you the opportunity to look at the evidence and make your own decision about how you want to live in the world and what kind of footprint you want to leave on the Earth.

If you are immediately alienated by my blog this week – take a moment to reflect: why? We have a strong attachment to our lifestyle and changing it is a pain in the arse. I know, I’ve done it. But I feel so much happier and healthier for it, more energised and very joyful not to be contributing to the horrors of animal agriculture. My husband is a fell runner; when he went vegan his run times improved by 10%! Many top athletes are now vegan and see their well-being and performance improve.

The best source of evidence for the health of a whole food plant based diet is Dr Gregor’s website – NutritionFacts.org, or follow this link for a summary: Click here  or watch the excellent documentary film ‘What the Health’.

The best source of evidence for the damage to the environment is the excellent film ‘Cowspiracy’. For a summary: Click here.

If you have a strong stomach and want to see some of the common practices in animal agriculture within the UK, watch the film ‘Land of hope and glory’: Click here

Otherwise you might want to watch the fiction film ‘Okja’:Click here to get an insight into how the animal agriculture industry operates.

For an overview of what has been happening in the world of Veganism recently watch ‘Vegan 2017’: Click here.

The main thing that helped me in making the change and sticking with it was hearing the following phrase – ‘It is hard to be a vegan when I think about myself, but it is easy to be a vegan when I think about the animals’ – I would amend this to say – ‘the animals, the planet and my health’.

For those of you who like to be hip and trendy, veganism is the new black! History will look back on the madness of animal agriculture with horror and disbelief. What is happening now is so much worse than the way the Tobacco Industry misled the world about the dangers of smoking. For a wry and witty mockumentary of a vegan future watch Simon Amstell’s excellent film ‘Carnage’ on BBC iplayer: Click here 

There is no need to be black and white about it – start slowly with the aspiration of moving gradually to a vegan diet. Try Dr Gregor’s ‘How not to die’ cookbook or look at the great selection of recipes on the Vegan Society website. It may taste more delicious and be easier than you imagine!

Kind Wishes

Heather

To visit our website: please click here

To join our membership: please click here

Follow us on YouTube: please click here

Follow us on Facebook: please click here

Follow us on Instagram: please click here

A Better Version of Me?

I have a bit of a double whammy – a new year and a new decade of my life – for new year new me resolutions. The pressure is on, from me and from my culture, to make some changes to become a better version of myself. The implication is that I’m just not good enough as I am, resulting in rejection of certain aspects of myself, rather than acceptance. I know from long experience that unconditional acceptance of myself as I am is the prime cause and condition for an authentic change to take place.

Hypnotherapy_Counselling2

However, a myriad of products promoting exercise and well-being are being marketed around me and the endless isles of chocolate and booze in the supermarket have been replaced by somewhat healthier options! This is all well and good, but just more hype to make more money and reinforce the marketers message that ‘You are not good enough without..’

Several people have asked me about New Year’s resolutions or about how it feels to be 50 and I am at a loss about what to say.

I am just keeping going – staying in touch with my intentions – how I want to be in the world – and my motivations – why I want to be this way, so as to flourish myself and enable those around me and in the wider world to flourish. I will make this an aspiration and try not to beat myself up if I can’t always do that – after all I am only human! Acceptance of myself as I am is the crucial underpinning to it all. So, no new me for 2018 – just the old me aspiring to walk my talk amid a world of endless surprising and familiar experiences, ups and downs, tumbles and unforeseen twists and turns.

My experience today is mild bronchitis! So, an opportunity to observe my reactions to being poorly, with lots of work to do and a closely approaching deadline for marking MSc assignments. I always used to blame myself and be exasperated with myself when I was ill. Now I am kinder and look after myself and see it as an opportunity to rest, look after myself with hot lemon and ginger, echinacea and my favourite movies! I am curious about how my headache and chesty cough directly feels. They never feel as bad as I imagine they are, when I try to avoid feeling these feelings and instead think about how awful they are! This new approach is all down to practice and is much more enjoyable and less stressful than blaming myself and powering through with work despite being ill.

So next time I am asked about New Year resolutions or being 50 I might say – I am aspiring to be OK with myself just as I am. Then I can lighten up, relax and enjoy my life, just as it is.

Thankfully Mindfulness practice is free (except for courses and books)! Our new Mindfulness Based Living and Compassion Based Living apps are completely free for Apple or Android devices (click here for more info and to download). Practice helps us to be more accepting of ourselves and those around us. My experience is that acceptance of myself as I am, leads to a happier life and wonderful and unforeseen changes that I would never have thought of as a New Year Resolution!

Kind Wishes

Heather

To visit our website: please click here

To join our membership: please click here

Follow us on YouTube: please click here

Follow us on Facebook: please click here

Follow us on Instagram: please click here

An Unpredictable Festive Period

Each morning when I practice I choose one of Pema Chodron’s compassion cards, which accompany her book ‘Start where you are’ (both excellent additions to any Christmas list). I select a card at random and then read the relevant section of the book, which is often just a couple of paragraphs. I take this as my teaching for the day and it is astonishing how pertinent they are! More recently I have taken to bringing the teaching of the day to mind each time my daily life mindfulness bell sounds on my phone. I use the Spotlightsix Mindfulness Bell on my iphone.

BellOrnament

A recent card is ‘Don’t be so predictable’. It means to not follow our usual habitual pattern in the face of familiar situations. Generally, we are completely predictable in the way we react, especially in the face of unpleasant or unwanted situations.

I have found this advice particularly useful. At one point I was following a very familiar thinking pattern of not being good enough, but then the bell rang, and I awoke from this train of thought and realised that I didn’t have to buy into it. I became present and then some thoughts arose in my mind of some of my good qualities that help me in my life and consequently I felt a lot happier. This is an example of how refraining from our usual habitual pattern creates the space for something else to arise, in my experience something else more skilful and in tune with my intentions.

It is eternally fascinating to me how what we are thinking about creates our reality, which seems so real and solid, until we think of something else, or come in to the present. Then the previous reality often fades and it is as if it has never been……. Then I buy into the next habitual thinking pattern and on it goes!

Another example was a conversation, during which my bell rang, and I opened to mindfully listening to what my friend was saying, asking questions to explore their situation, rather than taking the first opportunity to turn the conversation around to me and my woes.

These are just two examples of how this phrase has been quite a powerful support in daily life: a reminder bell and a reminder to not be so predictable and to allow something different to emerge.

Then it struck me – what an awesome way to navigate the Christmas period with its many rituals, expectations and assumptions. Bells are Christmassy too! How would it be to hear the Christmas bell, tune into any habitual patterns of thought, feeling or behaviour and then perhaps to refrain and see what emerges. Or, we can take the opportunity to choose to do something different. Something more in accordance with our values and with our intentions for how we want to be in the world. Maybe kinder, more joyful, more courageous. Something different might be a loving kindness phrase to ourselves or others, a smile, a self-compassion break or a three minute breathing space – perhaps following our free Mindfulness Based Living app.

Anyway, I hope that you each have some happy time connecting with loved ones this festive season, that you include opportunities for walking in nature, for singing and dancing, as well as some quiet reflective time for practice and to rest as the year draws to a close.

Kind Wishes
Heather

IMG_5822Need some support for a Compassionate Christmas? Find our Compassionate Based Living app and download it from the Apple App store (IOS) or Google Play (Android).

To visit our website: please click here

To join our membership: please click here

Follow us on YouTube: please click here

Follow us on Facebook: please click here

Follow us on Instagram: please click here

Compassion at Christmas – Get Out in The Countryside

At Christmas time, with the night’s drawing in, we can find ourself cooped up in the house. This can feel quite claustrophobic, especially if we are guests or if we have guests staying over the Christmas period. Also, with all the over-eating, alcohol and Christmas telly a good walk in the fresh air can blow a few cobwebs away and build an appetite for the next buffet or dinner.

2017-12-12-PHOTO-00000896

An understanding of human pre-history is a wonderful guide about the causes and conditions that enable humans to flourish. Like the dancing in last week’s blog, we are evolved to walk in nature. As hunter gatherers this is most of what we did, so no wonder it feels so grounding and restful, enabling me to relax and open my senses to the environment. Evidence suggests that opening our senses out to our wider environment also helps us to feel safe.

I am fortunate in that I am close to a beach with vast skies- similar to those out of a Turner painting that go on forever. I take the dogs there often and they each chase and bring back a ball. Running and jumping joyfully across the wide expanse of sand. We have evolved with dogs too!

So, take time to schedule some outdoor time over the Christmas period with family and friends. Chatting can be more relaxed as we walk side by side in the open space.

Many of my friends and fellow students of mindfulness report how joyful walking in nature can be.

Don’t be daunted by obstacles. Choose somewhere with a nice cafe or pub with a view for those who are less mobile. Dress warmly, add some thermal leggings, a warm fleece, good warm socks to your Christmas list, if there is any room left on it. Or a head torch, if you struggle to find time to get out and about in the daylight, enjoy the night sky and wonder at the stars as our ancestors did.

If a real outdoor space is a challenge, have a go at the ‘Safe place’ practice on our free Compassion Based Living app available on the Google Play or Apple app stores. You might use this to imagine a most nurturing outdoor space, designed by you just for you. Sea, mountain, river, whatever safe space you wish can welcome and support you in this practice. You can also choose an indoor space!

Practices like safe place, compassionate colour or compassionate image can help to build our resources of compassion and inner safeness, especially at times when we feel unsure or under pressure. All these practices are available on our free Compassion Based Living app, there for you to support a practice of Compassion at Christmas and all year long!

Enjoy!

Kind Wishes

Heather

IMG_5822Need some support for a Compassionate Christmas? Find our Compassionate Based Living app and download it from the Apple App store (IOS) or Google Play (Android).

To visit our website: please click here

To join our membership: please click here

Follow us on YouTube: please click here

Follow us on Facebook: please click here

Follow us on Instagram: please click here

Compassion at Christmas Gatherings

Many of us struggle with the coming together of old friends and family that happens at Christmas. So how do we bring ourself fully into these occasions?

I think first it is important to acknowledge that some relationships are difficult, due to clashes (or more likely similarities) in personality. This is part of the rich tapestry of the human condition and is not our fault. Once we acknowledge and accept this we can focus on the love and connection in the relationship. We can focus on our good qualities and the good qualities of the other. We can also recognise that all of our bad behaviour and acting out (and that of others) comes from our suffering and then use this recognition as a way to feel compassion for ourselves and for those around us.

Young woman wearing Santa's hat is screaming.

If all else fails, take yourself off to the loo for a self-compassion break. There is a lovely guided version of it, that you can follow, on our Mindfulness Based Living app available for Apple and Android devices. In this practice, we acknowledge the difficulty, recognise our common humanity in facing this difficulty and then bring kindness to ourself.

If nothing else, coming together with old friends and family can provide an excellent if uncomfortable opportunity to explore our ingrained habitual patterns. These habits might be a result of coping strategies we developed in our youth, but they may no longer serve us. It is interesting to become aware of our expectations and assumptions about how to relate and how these might be different from others. These clashes of expectations and assumptions can cause a deal of confusion, upset and uncomfortableness – but expectations and assumptions are just ideas we have bought in to.

We can also become aware of conflicting narratives about a common history. All of us placing different interpretations on the same event dependent on our individual conditioning and associated preferences. Again, these stories are no more than ideas we have bought into.

Be curious about the suffering that manifests simply because of the ideas we buy into! We can be curious about our own, but best not to point out those of others!

A common habitual pattern, which is strong in me is taking responsibility for others’ behaviour, born out of a desire for harmony and control. It is exhausting trying to anticipate each flash point and relentlessly smooth things over. Often when we do this we are tacitly condoning the bad behaviour of others, tiptoeing around them to avoid conflict, which is not compassionate to anyone. If this is one of your habits, practice refraining from it and let the others take responsibility for their own behaviour. It may turn out quite differently from the carnage you expect!

Another one of my Christmas (and if I’m honest all year round) habits is a sense of self -pity arising from a storyline about how I have to do everything and no one ever helps me. This storyline collapses as nonsense upon inspection. But it doesn’t stop me boiling with resentment as I peel the sprouts, after having just done all the washing up, peeled potatoes, laundry and on and on and on. I am learning to ask for help before I explode.

My other support is music – it is impossible to be resentful, singing or jiggling along to music – for some of us it might be Christmas carols. Not me. For me, I have just downloaded the Ministry of Sound ‘I love disco’ – just let a DJ save your life and allow the run up to Christmas to become a boogie wonderland. Humans are evolved to get joy and connection from dancing! You might find everyone else joining you in a kitchen disco inferno! Enjoy!

Kind Wishes

Heather

IMG_5822Need some support for a Compassionate Christmas? Find our Compassionate Based Living app and download it from the Apple App store (IOS) or Google Play (Android).

To visit our website: please click here

To join our membership: please click here

Follow us on YouTube: please click here

Follow us on Facebook: please click here

Follow us on Instagram: please click here

Advent in Reverse

I did my Christmas shopping yesterday, with my husband and daughter. We had a fun day out, spent enough but not too much money and hopefully bought some nice gifts that will be enjoyed by our friends and family.

In general, Christmas troubles me: the unrealistic expectations, the excess, the over-spending, especially in an economy with such a big and growing gap between the haves and the have nots and where animal welfare in agriculture is so poor.

I find it difficult to wholly get into the enjoyment of Christmas with these nagging doubts. I find myself shouting at the TV ads showing tables overflowing with cooked turkey, goose, chicken, bacon and sausages being sold for next to nothing. Where has that food come from and how and by whom has it been reared, slaughtered and processed at such a low cost?

I walk around Manchester aware of the contrast between the luxury goods in the shops, the busy restaurants and bars and the homeless begging on the street and families walking about in clothes too cheap to keep out the cold.

What can I do about any of this? What is the answer? Compassion at Christmas!

Finding the balance between Compassion for myself and for all the others at Christmas time.

I am a vegan and will be making my vegan Christmas pudding and cake this week. On Christmas Day we will have vegan haggis with our roasties, mash and veg – delicious! Then if I can encourage just one more person to explore a vegan or veggie option over the Christmas period, that will help lower the demand for meat, dairy and eggs. It’s not just animal welfare that is problematic in modern animal agriculture, it is also the impact it has on human health and the environment. After Christmas, is Veganuary, but more about that at new year!

I don’t mean to nag, but these things all trouble me.

FOOD-BANKI heard about a reverse advent calendar today. During December you buy or set aside some food, toiletries, toys, etc each day and then at the end of the month take them down to your local food bank. Check with your local food bank to see what they need and when they need it by. Reflect that a few years ago most of us had never heard of a food bank! What a lot has changed!

When I get home today, I’ll be starting my reverse advent calendar. Why don’t you, too? For more details, click here.

To get you in the Compassionate frame of mind try our new free Compassion Based Living app, available for Apple and Android devices. If Christmas is becoming overwhelming, why not go lie down and do a Compassionate bodyscan? If you are dreading a visit from an annoying relative, why not have a go at the aspiring, dissolving and equalising practice? If you are feeling a bit glum, try the limitless joy practice!

I hope the app and practicing Compassion helps you to enjoy this Christmas, or at least face it with more equanimity!

Kind Wishes

Heather

To visit our website: please click here

To join our membership: please click here

Follow us on YouTube: please click here

Follow us on Facebook: please click here

Follow us on Instagram: please click here