Too Much Work!

I often find myself in a position with more work than time to complete the work, which is probably my main source of work stress these days.

I am familiar with a feeling of panic that I will fail if I don’t get it all done and a dismay at how tired and depleted I will feel if I work the extra hours required to get to the bottom of my to do list and clear my inbox. Sometimes this goes on for days or weeks! It is at these times that my computer will run slow or the internet will go down!

But eventually everything that needs to get done is done and I experience a day or two where I have a bit more time. Heaven!

So what helps me?

Firstly, I know that working some extra hours to clear the backlog will be counterproductive – by now I know the work/life balance I need to maintain in order to flourish and am no longer willing to compromise this. A fruition of my self-compassion practice.

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Secondly, I don’t buy into my concept of not having enough time, which is a fruition of my insight practice.

I remind myself that throughout the whole of my 30 years of a time pressured working life – everything important – has got done in time. This changes my perspective.

And if then by some exception something wasn’t done in time it would be an excellent opportunity to embrace failure! More opportunity for self-compassion! Then I can relax and prioritise.

I generally write what I have to do in my diary, on a date with room in it and before the job needs to be done. Then I can forget about having to remember these tasks and simply allow them to mull in the back of my mind. In this way I am not actively cluttering my mind up by thinking about them, but often simple solutions present themselves so that I can respond quickly and efficiently when it is time to address that task. I let go and trust my mind to sort it out without me interfering. This is a fruition of insight practice again!

Even so there are some weeks where there is no space in any of the days! So I will look through my week and shift less urgent tasks on a week or two – into the mulling zone. Then if it still looks too busy, I select the most important tasks to focus on, write them on a list and again let everything else go into the mulling zone!

This gives me a feeling of some control, which is reassuring. Then I remind myself not to take myself so seriously! I can always do a self-compassion break to settle myself and give perspective.

Also, I am not on my own and so one option is asking one of my colleagues to help me, which kindly they do and I am very grateful for their help and support. More compassion practice here – asking for help from others can be difficult.

Someone advised me once to only do the things that I alone can do. I would revise this to say that I only do the things that I am most suited to do, amongst my colleagues, and these days I always do things as collaboratively as possible. This shares the load and moves us all forward together.

I love my work and am highly motivated because I think it is important work in the world that can generate positive change. But I cannot do it all and much of it will do itself if I can let it mull.

It strikes me writing this how much my compassion and insight based mindfulness practice is helping me with my work time stress. Do you have this type of stress too?
We have just launched a new free online introductory course, which you might like to sign up to and which provides lots of tips on bringing mindfulness, kindness and compassion into our daily lives. It may help you.

Also, why not train in mindfulness, if you haven’t already, or continue training in compassion and insight. Here is a short video of my colleague Jane setting out our training pathway:

Enjoy!

Kind Wishes
Heather

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Motivation

I think that many of us see many problems and challenges in the world around us: political; social, environmental and economic. And at times there doesn’t seem to be much light on the horizon.

This is what motivates me to teach compassion based mindfulness – it empowers people in their lives to find their way to flourish within these challenges. Especially it is what motivates me to train people to teach mindfulness – every teacher we train can touch hundreds of others with mindfulness and compassion. To me here is the hope – the light on the horizon – even if it takes 50, 100 or as Jon Kabat Zinn said 1000 years before human consciousness evolves into one centred on mindfulness and compassion, rather than the current trend for distractedness and individualism. Here is a short video about my motivation:

In my practice this week I have been struck once more about how my stories from the past about who I am and what I can do constantly undermine my aspirations for how I want to live now. I see clearly how the best approach is to not buy into these stories any more, let them be and simply stay present now!

I also see clearly how I get stressed out and weighed down with my stories about the future, worrying about what may be and all the work and effort I will have to make. Again, these are just stories I buy into and I can let them be and trust the future to unfold in its own way. I can focus on now and skilfully responding mindfully and with care just now.

Only now – and then all is well!

When I take this approach my experience is that all goes pretty well. I am not limiting the outcomes by interfering and I am more relaxed and joyful. I just need reminding, regularly, as my habit of storytelling is strong!

I want to help others recognise the power of this approach to life.

This motivation, common to my colleagues in the MA, is why we have also this week started a Teacher Membership (for more information click here) to support our trained teachers and enable us all to come together in a community of hope and mutual empowerment. We hope to help our trained teachers in developing their teaching practice by online CPD sessions covering what they feel they need to flourish as teachers. We also want to help their businesses to flourish in a way that is in accord with the values of compassionate mindfulness.

If you share this motivation as a mindfulness teacher come and join us (just log in to membership site and click teacher membership tab in top bar) or as a practitioner, why not train to teach? (Click here for more information on our training pathway).

Then we can all work together in this project of the evolution of consciousness – the human mind is flexible and able to be trained. This is hopeful!

Maybe reflect on this, for a mindful moment as you watch the light on the horizon getting stronger:

Kind Wishes
Heather

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Community

th (3)As many of you know I moved to Scotland in the autumn last year. There were many reasons. One was to be close to Samye Ling where most of my teaching work is located, but also to be a part of the community of meditation and dharma practice there. When Lama Yeshe Rinpoche is there I can pop over for the morning meditation, which I find very powerful as it gives my levels of joyfulness a boost. It has been very supportive for me in my work at the MA to be more connected with Samye Ling.

We also moved away from a community that we felt was no longer in tune with our values to be part of one that was.

My husband is a hill runner and has connected with his community of people who like running up hills, by joining the local running club.

I have also set up a local weekly mindfulness practice group in Dumfries with my friend Moira. The group met for the first time last week and was very friendly. I am looking forward to being part of this community of practice and making some new friends with similar values close to my new home.

The Dumfries group is also on the MA membership site (for more on our membership click here) and there is also a group for Aberdeen and for central Scotland. I hope that practice groups, linked to the membership will start to spring up all around the country. All it takes is a couple of Mindfulness teachers to connect and volunteer to set up a weekly group. We have a suggested donation of £5 towards the costs of room hire and tea and coffee, and any excess we will give to the Akong Rinpoche Memorial Fund. All the mindfulness teachers in the group will be invited to take a turn in leading the sessions, so Moira and I can also get a chance to practice as participants. I am curious to see how it unfolds and am very happy to spend my Wednesday evenings in this way.

Then there are my friends who were in India doing the same meditation course. I take care to stay in touch with them for mutual support.

Then there is my community of work within the MA and the wider mindfulness community.

I understand how important it is to feel a part of communities that have similar values to me and with hindsight I can see how I have put the effort in. I have had to extricate myself from communities with conflicting values, that I have found unsupportive to my practice and the lifestyle I aspire to live and at times this process has been painful. Sometimes I have been involved in setting up new communities and I continue to make the effort to stay connected with others and to nurture these connections. I actively do this each day – via text, email, phone, face to face – and while I am motivated to care and support those around me – I feel very nurtured and supported myself!

So if you feel isolated, think about how you can connect and who you can connect with. You may well find that others around you also feel isolated and are grateful to connect. If you are anxious about connecting with others (which many of us are) try this loving kindness practice (link to widening circles practice) and include those you wish to connect with in the practice. Set an aspiration to connect with the groups you want to connect with. Then without expectation, with an open heart and curiosity, just see what opportunities present themselves – often these opportunities can be unexpected and much more wonderful than could have been imagined!

At least by doing this loving kindness practice we may connect more authentically with ourselves, which is always a good start.

Why not connect with us online via our membership or face to face at our membership joyful club weekend (for more information on The Joyful Club click here).

Happy connecting!

Kind Wishes

Heather

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Mindful Collaboration

There is a lot of collaboration happening at the moment within the mindfulness community within the UK, which I am involved in.

Today I have been at a strategy meeting for the Mindfulness Initiative (MI), which was initially set up to support the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness at the UK Parliament, which generated the Mindful Nation report. At the time I was invited to one of the meetings held at the UK Parliament to collect evidence for the report and after the report was published I spoke at the Manchester launch of the Mindful Nation report. Both wonderful and memorable days out!

As part of the work of the MI around 175 UK MPs past and present have completed a mindfulness eight week course. Hopefully, a strong foundation for mindful politics in the UK. In addition, many foreign parliaments have been supported by the MI to train MPs in mindfulness and from this basis of experience of mindfulness practice support policy development. Hopefully, a strong foundation for globally mindful politics.

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So I was delighted to be asked to join this strategy meeting on behalf of the MA and also as a representative of the UK Network of Mindfulness Teacher Training Organisations  and hope to continue to support the work of the MI in integrating Mindfulness in UK government policy in health & wellbeing, education, criminal justice and in the workplace and supporting the mindfulness community in these key areas across the UK.

While my personal passion is generating and supporting a grass roots movement bringing compassion- based mindfulness to our communities, I think that this movement can be supported exponentially if there are policy initiatives to implement mindfulness in many of our public institutions and private organisations. Top down meets bottom up!

I remember Lama Rinchen talking on Holy Isle to our University of Aberdeen Mindfulness MSc cohort (click here to find out more) a few years ago. She was very impressed by this group bringing mindfulness into a range of different professions and expressed her view that she felt that Mindfulness was the only hope for our world. I thought this was a radical statement at the time, but it is one I can certainly get behind now and it fuels my motivation for these collaborations.

On Friday I have an executive committee meeting of the UK Network, which runs the UK Listing of mindfulness teachers and develops good practice guidance and supports best practice for mindfulness teachers in the UK. I am passionate about this as it is so important that we are adequately trained and have sufficient mindfulness practice experience behind us before we start teaching mindfulness to others – we are working with people’s minds and I feel it to be a big responsibility, as many people are vulnerable and it is important to do no harm, or as little as possible.

The next collaboration is on a UK Mindfulness conference linking in to a conference taking place in South Africa, which Jane is taking the lead on, with a potential for future collaborative conferences including the main UK mindfulness organisations. Watch this space for more information!

Finally, I am hopefully going to be part of a collaboration of Scottish mindfulness organisations, with the support of the MI, with the aim of bringing mindfulness to the Scottish Parliament. Let’s see what unfolds here. If anyone has any links with an MSP that they can introduce me to, please contact me at heather@mindfulnessassociation. net in order to help us with this.

These collaborations have been astonishing so far, given that the collaborating parties are often in competition with each other and/or have diverse views, needs and driving pressures to overcome. However, these collaborations have been discussions between mature mindfulness practitioners with a common aspiration to bring mindfulness to more people in order to benefit individuals, communities and the wider world. At times our conversations have been uncomfortable, even at times painful, requiring us to embrace our differences, stand in each other’s shoes and find common ground – which we have always managed. It is about considering what everyone needs rather than defending our wants.

I have learned a lot about myself while taking part in and sometimes facilitating these discussions. I have faced my fear of rejection, my insecurities about myself and the MA, my feeling that I am socially quite awkward. I have learned just to be present and notice all of this and engage in the discussion as best I can, openly and honestly and without fear of saying what I feel needs to be said, regardless of the accompanying discomfort. It has often been a stressful journey, but I have met and got to know some incredible people, doing awesome work in the face of many obstacles – fired up by the desire to help others transform and flourish in their lives, just as they have, by the practice of mindfulness.

This is the power of mindfulness to connect us and enable fruitful communication to manage opposition and it has been a real privilege to be a part of it.

The outcomes have been looked to with envy from across the world, where in many countries the different flavours of mindfulness have not come together – in particular the UK Good Practice Guidelines and the UK Listing of mindfulness teachers.

If opposing political parties or countries can learn to communicate in this way then the world would be a much safer and happier place.

So let’s salute the amazing work of Jamie Bristow and the Mindfulness Initiative and move forward together to create a truly Mindful Nation!

Kind Wishes

Heather

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Our Children and Their Children

Many of us mindfulness practitioners have children or grandchildren – some of them are young adults, like my own 18 year old daughter.

Before we had her my husband and I did talk about whether it was OK to bring a child into the world. But it was just after the fresh Tony Blair government came to power and we really believed that ‘Things could only get better!’ We had no idea that she would come to adulthood at such a difficult time – especially for the young. Research from the Prince’s Trust (click here) reveals that young people’s well-being is in decline. Like many of us, they feel that they don’t have control in their lives and feel trapped.

To me it seems that many of them work so hard and under immense pressure at their school and university, with the associated student debt, and for what? For many it is to work in an insecure, meaningless job for long hours for a wage which won’t even enable them to have a nice home in which to raise a family should they wish to. They have been bombarded with junk materialistic and celebrity values all their lives telling them to buy endless crap in order to show they are a success in the world. How did we get here?

This was really brought home to me this week, as one of my daughter’s school friends committed suicide at his university just as he was due to return home for the Easter break.

At first I was shocked, then desperately sad for his family, then worried for the rest of this group of friends- some of whom are already struggling with the transition of being at university. Then I was angry – angry about the society and culture in which our young adults have to find their way. I was sad that I was in India and wasn’t at home and there to be with her, although we were able to FaceTime a few times.

So I spent time doing tonglen compassion practice for all concerned and a resolve arose in me – a resolve to do what I can to help our young people. So what can we do?

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At the MA, we have a version of our Mindfulness Based Living Course for Young Adults (MBLC-YA) – for 11 to 18 year olds – and we have a teacher training retreat in July (click here) and so I want to encourage anyone who has a strong motivation to help our young adults (and who has done the introductory teaching skills training or the first year end retreat of the MSc in Mindfulness with the University of Aberdeen (click here) to enroll on this course. Those of you who are already assessed as ready to teach the MBLC won’t be assessed again and the retreat will count as your annual retreat for CPD purposes.

The cynical among you may think I just want to sell some retreat places, but the MA is a not for profit organisation, that aims to keep our training as reasonably priced as possible and any profits we make will be reinvested or donated to The Everyone Project to fund mindfulness courses (including the MBLC-YA) for those who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to learn mindfulness.

Are you inspired to help our young people? The MBLC-YA has an emphasis on training in self compassion and includes a session on life values. We hope the training will enhance the resilience of young people, enable them to embrace and learn from their inevitable mistakes and enable them to flourish and lead a meaningful life based on their true values rather than the junk ones they get from the media.

If you want to help to fund an MBLC-YA course through The Everyone Project we will be having a crowd funding drive shortly to which you can contribute. I will let you know the details in this blog – so watch this space!

So I hope you will join me in my wish to help the young ones in our society. If you know anyone that might benefit, you could at least recommend them the MBLC-YA app, which is completely free and is available on the app or google play stores.

Also, talk to them, connect with them to see if you can support them to be clear about their true values and to support them in their aspirations. Tell them about your biggest mistakes and setbacks and how you learned from them so that they come to know that mistakes and setbacks are a normal part of life and not the end of the world. Be a back- up for them, with financial support or a place to stay so that they feel more secure to take a risk and follow their dreams. I will be doing the best I can to do this for my daughter and her friends – what better way to use the resources I am fortunate enough to have at my disposal.

Kind Wishes

Heather

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5-Star Yogi

I am in India again for teachings with Tai Situpa Rinpoche on Mahamudra. Yesterday he was telling us about what it means to be a yogi in the Mahamudra tradition and he made a joke that we were all 5- star yogis, as our teachings are taking place in the 5 star Leela Ambiance Convention hotel! Or as Kathy White-Webster and I like to call it Shanghri-La!

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Kathy and I travelled to India together and started off in the 5- star Novotel by the airport – with a beautiful outdoor pool, gym and spa. Then as we didn’t book early enough we moved to the 3 star Ginger hotel close to where the teachings are held – but we don’t have 3 star yogi karma – we couldn’t sleep because the air conditioning was so loud it was like being in a room with a helicopter and it was too hot for us to not have air conditioning and there were other draw backs!

When it got to midnight and neither of us could sleep we planned to move to the Radisson Blu hotel as we had heard that it was nice and not too far away. I asked Kathy if we should go now and she began to pack. So, we did a midnight flit and by 1.30am were settled in our 5- star room at the Radisson – we couldn’t escape our 5- star yogi karma! We are very comfortable here and will be able to stay physically well in this hot Indian climate.

We are very fortunate to be able to afford such accommodation and rather than berating ourselves for not having the stamina for 3- star Indian living, we are rejoicing in our 5- star surroundings, that enable us to attend the teachings in good health.

Each day we have a 15 minute taxi ride to get to our hotel and see from our window the wonder that is life in New Delhi. Un-breathable air, busy roads shared by cars, lorries, busses, tuktuks, cycle rickshaws laden high with all sorts, cows standing in the fast lane eating grass from the central reservation, stray dogs and puppies everywhere, whole families on motor bikes, kids begging at the traffic lights, a guy selling blow up plastic dragons at the roadside. Lots of dust, rubbish and plastic by the roadside and women in stunningly bright, beautiful and immaculately laundered clothes.

It would be easy to become distressed by some of the poverty we see and about which we can do little – but who will benefit from that? We will be upset and nothing will change.

Instead we are rejoicing in our good fortune, practicing meditation so that we are better placed to help others and we will donate to a charity run by Vin Harris and his wife, who are helping poor Indian girls get an education.

We will enjoy our 5- star time, hopefully not too attached so that we can cheerfully face deprivation when we need to. Our meditation practice will help us with this.

It occurred to me that we are all so fortunate in the West and although we do experience challenges in our lives, these are nothing to the day to day challenges I am seeing others face here in India. So, can you join me in rejoicing in our good fortune, in practicing meditation so we are better able to help others and helping others practically wherever we can?

If you struggle with rejoicing in your good fortune and find yourself constantly grumbling about everything that is wrong in your life, come and join us at our joyful club weekend (Click here for more information) and we will see if we can together turn our half empty glasses into half full ones.

Sending you kind wishes from my 5- star room!

Heather

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a lifting of childhood trauma

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I had a few weeks on my own during the snow and this gave a chance for my mind to settle. I was also listening to Johann Hari’s book Lost Connections (click here) and was practicing the on duty off duty practice from the insight training (click here) each morning. I felt open and my heart felt tender. I felt OK to be alone. Each time I listened to the Chapter on disconnection from childhood trauma, I would cry but didn’t know why.

I had been to the doctors and my blood pressure was a bit high and so they sent me home with a blood pressure monitor and it remained high. Frankly I was annoyed about this, as I have been a vegan for two and a half years and my smug expectation was that my blood pressure would be low. I walked the dogs most days so I wasn’t as sedentary as many and I had recently started more exercise after my bout of flu in January. I was 50 in December and so keen to not go downhill physically. So I did my research, reduced salt further, had coffee only first thing in the morning, started drinking hibiscus tea and taking a couple of tablespoons of ground flax seeds each day. I didn’t see much change. I don’t want to go on blood pressure medication.

I’ve talked before in this blog about a fear I carry around with me, that I am not good enough. But I can refine that fear now, or at least one aspect of it. It is a fear of being humiliated and it drives me to perfect and to make sure I don’t fail. There was also shame. This fear manifested as a physical bracing against life, a constant but subtle clenching of fists and teeth, on guard against the next attack. I can see clearly now how this has damaged my relationships with those from whom I expect criticism, how I have shut these people out and down. Of course, I am seeing this in hindsight and so have some reparations to make.

Anyway, when my husband got home from Australia I felt safer and the insights arose thick and fast. I experienced a series of memories from my childhood, which manifested together and a new understanding about them emerged. I shared them with my husband and was met with unconditional acceptance and understanding. There were more tears.

Something lifted. I was and still am filled with joy, I feel lighter and the physical bracing is gone – at least for now. I feel beyond right and wrong.

Then a couple of days later I took my blood pressure and it was healthy – just what you would expect for an exercising vegan. I was delighted! The stress I had been carrying was gone. This is the power of compassion- based mindfulness practice – it leads to psychological insight that frees us from the habits that cause us to suffer!

I don’t get a big insight like this every day, it is more like every couple of years – I can see that this one has been brewing for a while. I am happier for now – until the next difficulty arises and there is another possibility for personal growth.

I hope to connect with you this week in our new membership site (fingers crossed that it happens this week). Come and be part of our community of members: click here

Kind Wishes,

Heather

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