Emotions: Express, Suppress or Master them?

“Some people believe that if they yell and scream, others will get the point of just how serious they are. For me, all I get is the point of just how out of control that someone is.” Cathy Burnham Martin

 

People’s emotions are running a mock these days. We witness it daily with news stories of violent killings, sexual abuse and terrorist atrocities. On our roads, we see drivers filled with rage towards other road users. On social media, we read the outright condemnation of individuals in the comments section of a post. Also, in the workplace, we observe outbursts from coworkers as just something to tolerate as ‘collateral damage’. Read More

Cultivating Hope Amidst Challenging Times

“To turn a twist on an old saying, when the going gets tough, the hopeful keep going.” Rick Snyder

I am sure you have experienced a time when life, or a part of your life, seems like a long, dark tunnel with no light at the end of it. You are just in it. And there is nothing you can do. I have been in such a tunnel. Perhaps you have too. So, I thought it would be valuable to look at how to cultivate the essential psychological quality of hope when you are in that seeming darkness. Read More

How Situations can Make You Feel Powerful…or Powerless

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

I have noticed I have become a bit of a complainer in my middle age! Grumbling about the grey weather; the traffic congestion; the parking charges; the rising cost of things; higher interest rates; the unstable political and economic situation nationally and globally and the worldwide humanitarian, animal welfare and environmental crises. It seems that darker times are looming… and it is giving me a lot to moan about!

We all know that our response to any situation, good or bad, is our choice. We are the only ones causing our negative reaction, and we are the only ones who can change it. In situations we perceive as challenging though, it is easy to feel powerless and unable to do anything about our reactions. This belief in our powerlessness is a ‘victim’ mindset which we can fall into, almost without realising. Read More

Is Forgiveness Worthwhile? And How Buddhist Philosophies Can Support Forgiveness

‘To err is human. To forgive, divine’. Alexander Pope

Late summer every year I go on retreat for a week on The Isle of Wight. It gives me an opportunity to reflect, refocus and recharge my batteries. I spend my week alone walking in the beautiful countryside and along the deserted beaches of South West Wight, meditating, reading spiritual texts and writing my contemplations in my journal. I eat a light, raw food diet and have a daily Epsom Salts bath to help detoxify my body (Epsom Salts baths are said to draw out toxins and have many health benefits).

Every year I have a specific focus for the week’s retreat. This year’s focus was forgiveness. This gave me an opportunity to bring to mind all the people, present and past and from every area of my life, whom I was holding some angst towards, both big and small. I then went through a process of forgiveness with each one. It was a cathartic experience. Moreover, the value I gained from it was a lightening of the mental load I was carrying that was weighing me, not them, down. Read More

To Give or Not To Give? Part One

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give. Winston Churchill

Two afternoons a week I volunteer at a local dog rescue centre. There is one dog at the centre I especially like: a young German Shepherd Dog called Isla who came from a couple who felt they could no longer cope with her. In truth, they had made little effort to train Isla and, with her very intelligent mind, it had not taken her long to become a very badly-behaved dog.

I felt so sorry for Isla, an active, highly sensitive dog living 24/7 in a small kennelled area, that I aimed to give her an enjoyable time twice a week. I used to give her a long walk and then come back and play ball with her which is her favourite pass time. She was difficult to walk: lunging out at passing cars, joggers, cyclists and, viciously, towards other dogs. It took all my strength to hold her.

On one walk, I was pondering how I could use a principle that I believe in to overcome the difficulties with Isla’s behaviour: when we focus on the challenges, faults and foibles of people’s personalities, all we perceive are those personality deficiencies. When we train our ‘seeing’ to look beyond their flaws and instead see the innate goodness and lovliness of their True nature, we quite naturally come into better interpersonal relationships with them. Read More

Oxygen: The Optimal Fuel for our Body and Brain

We focus on eating healthily. Moving regularly. Sleeping well. Training our minds. But, do we also provide our body with the optimum fuel to keep us alert, vitalised, thinking clearly and relaxed? Fuel that helps us recover from stress, boosts our immune system and enriches every cell in our body?

What is that fuel? Oxygen.

How do we ensure that we get it in large quantities? Through breathing effectively.

We all know how to breathe. We can do it with no conscious thought at all. Yet how much of our unconscious breathing is taking in the oxygen we need to provide us with all the benefits we can obtain from breathing well? Read More

Attention: The Hoover in Our Brains

“Attention works much like a muscle—use it poorly and it can wither; work it well and it grows.” Daniel Goleman

Attention, from the Latin word ‘attendere’ means to ‘give heed to’, ‘to stretch towards’, as if we are reaching our minds towards something. Think about this: whatever you pay attention to, both good and bad, you are stretching your mind towards.

Neuroscience supports this, highlighting that our minds act like a hoover, hoovering in whatever we spend time focusing upon. Drawing our chosen awareness into our neural pathways. Consequently, being very vigilant about the placement of your awareness is paramount. Read More

Meditation: What’s Your Why?

“Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment.

Would you take it?

Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory.

Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it?

The pill exists. It’s called meditation.”
 Jonathon Haidt

There is a plethora of information on meditation these days. Type in a search for meditation on YouTube and 8,550,000 videos are on offer. Amazon sells 500+ different books on the topic. On Google there are 630,000 UK web sites offering some form of meditation facilitation from practical mindfulness to esoteric journeys to far away galaxies. We are spoilt for choice!

Despite the huge growth of meditation as an ‘industry’ and the array of options it offers, it is important to decide on your own personal type of practice and your specific reasons for doing it. Meditation is only an effective tool if it is practiced daily. And committed, frequent practice of anything requires you to have a strong reason ‘why’ you are doing it…or it is too easy to give up! Read More

Which Vault are you Filling? Build your Self-Compassion.

One of the greatest blocks to our inherent sense of value and worth is the mental dialogue we have with ourselves. This dialogue can erode our ability to perform effectively, reduce our resilience to stress and our ability to deal with challenging situations and lower our levels of optimism. Over time, it can move us towards depression and resignation.

If you are like me, you find it easy to have compassion for, and to speak compassionately to others. Their pain and discomfort can seem almost palpable which generates a warm heartedness towards them and a desire to help. Yet, to offer the same degree of compassion and support to myself through my inner dialogue feels somehow wrong. Like I am not worthy of such care. It can seem self-pitying. Weak. Selfish. An avoidance of responsibility. Read More

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