This past couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult for everyone. Not one person will be excluded from feeling the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. All around me, I see panic and anxiety, and it’s difficult not to get caught up in those draining emotions. I feel blessed that I have a strong mindfulness practice in times like these. Mindfulness and Meditation have helped me to feel resilient, strong and hopeful. I’d like to take this opportunity to share some ways in which mindfulness can help you too. May they bring you strength, peace and faith in a higher purpose for the weeks and months ahead.
Be an observer of your emotions
Practice becoming an observer of your thoughts, feelings and emotions as they arise. Observe the mental chatter and notice how anxious thoughts and emotions feel within your body. Does your heart rate accelerate? Do you become agitated or restless? Do you head for the biscuit tin??!! Just by observing your thoughts and how they affect your behaviour, you’re becoming mindful of negative habits. You can also detach from these emotions more quickly and the emotions will pass under your observation.
A Mindful Mantra
Suffering is not something that any human being really desires. When we feel any sort of suffering we tend to try to move away from it, distance ourselves from it. We simply don’t want to experience it. The problem with wrestling with negative emotions is that ‘what we resist, persists!’. By resisting the suffering and turning away from it, we can actually inflict more intense negative emotions on ourselves. By turning towards the emotional pain, befriending it and shining light on it, we actually dissolve the negative emotion and allow it to pass by more quickly. A mantra is useful to stop us from clinging to a thought about suffering. For instance, I like to use ‘All is well’ and ‘this too shall pass’. I find the energy of those words soothing, and if I say them with a smile, its very difficult not to feel better!
Plenty of mini-meditations
Anxiety around any topic makes our minds stressed and our bodies tense. We enter into the fight or flight mode and all hell breaks loose in our nervous system. Learn to recognise when anxiety is creeping in. Sense the clenched jaw, the sweaty palms, the tight shoulders, and take a deep breath in! Inflate your tummy on that in-breath, hold the breath in for the count of three, and then exhale in a long, exaggerated breath, letting go of all of your muscle tension. Feel it melt away as the out breath elongates, feeling yourself ease and soften into the moment. Do this a few times and feel your body and mind begin to calm and de-stress.
Crack out Creativity!
When we put our imaginative and creative mind to work we tap into a field of mindful awareness and inspiration. How many times have you got lost in a bit of sewing, crochet, woodwork, or doodling? Whatever your hobby, know that whenever you indulge yourself and allow your creativity to flow, you are entering into a meditative state just by doing it. Your mind focuses and mental chatter begins to quieten. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to the craft project at hand. This is mindfulness training in action – the ability to bring your mind back to the task trains your brain to put your focus where you want it to be. You become the master of your mind instead of a slave to it.
It sounds very cliché and smug when people say you should be grateful for all that you have. But actually, I find that if you live in a mentally of lack then you feel very unfortunate. Whereas, if you seek to find abundance in every moment, you soon start to feel very blessed. Today, I went for a walk with my children along the river. In that moment, I felt lucky to have such a beautiful walk close to my home; healthy, happy children who were fully embracing the weather, the river and the fresh air; and good health myself which enabled me to take them on a two-mile trek. It was a pure moment of ‘aaahhhh’ – peace and contentment with life. There was no global pandemic on that walk. Just happiness and joy. Seek to find those ‘aahhh’ moments whenever you can. Seek to find joy and happiness, allow yourself to experience pleasures and to rest, and the hard times will then feel easier.
I really struggle with this at the best of times. I have so many wonderful opportunities to explore that I find it hard to know which ones I really want to focus on and grow, and which ones I would like to filter out. Often, I try to do them all and this ends up in overwhelm. I know that I have to prioritise, and focus on what's most important to me, and at this time of the year, I start to reflect and decide upon what it is I want to manifest.
I stumbled upon a meditation by Nikki Wyatt and this became the inspiration for the meditation Ive written below. I intend to practice this meditation lots over the Christmas Period and New Year. I record them onto my phone and listen to them whenever I can. I'm hoping that I have greater clarity around my direction after practising it so that I can hold the visualisation in my mind in the weeks to come. I wanted to share it with you all to help you if you're struggling to know what it is you want to manifest in 2020. Let me know how you get on with it!!!
Your Hearts Desires
To open your heart, sit with either a real rose, rose essential oil or rose incense and a rose quartz crystal. Put your hand on your heart and take five long deep breaths in and out.
Take your attention to your heart chakra. See or feel a small pink flame burning within the very centre of your heart. As you look at it closely you see the pink light expand, burning brightly and vividly. As the flame grows brighter and clearer you start to see flecks of emerald green within the flame. Together the pink and the green create a marbled effect within the flame.
The pink and green flame starts to push outwards to absorb other parts of your body. Feel it spread as warmth outwards as it encompasses your throat, your diapragm, your stomach, spreading up to your head and down into your pelvis and lower back. The pink and emerald flame expands out and around, it now completely surrounds your body in a bubble, your whole being surrounded by the loving energy of your heart, your deepest and most heart centred desires permeating through your entire being. Your heart is now bigger than your mind, your heart is heard loudest above the workings of your mind. You have come out of your thinking mind and into your heart.
As you see yourself surrounded by and bathed in this beautiful pink light, you see yourself falling into a pile of soft pink clouds. You see yourself relax into the softness, settling down all of your muscles. You are safe and held within the cloud, supported and protected. A guardian is there with you, you become aware of their presence. An energy that loves you unconditionally.
Your guardian beckons you to follow them. You see yourself walking along a beautiful path, sumptuous and delightful, you enjoy the path to your destination, the journey from here to there is peaceful and joyous.
You see a door ahead of you, a golden door. Ornate and graceful. Grand and exquisite. A sign on the door tells you that this is the door that leads to your hearts desires. Curious and excited, you push open the door and walk through it.
What do you see ahead of you? What scene is ahead of you now? Where are you? Take a moment to fully absorb the scene infront of your eyes.
You can see the scene in front of you. The scene of your hearts desires. What it is you truly want, from the heart. You may see a landscape, you may see people, relationships that you have. You may see yourself fulfilling a job or a role of some kind. Don’t judge what you see, simply take it all in. Take in what is there.
You may feel emotional or weepy and that’s fine. When we admit and acknowledge to ourselves what we truly want, it can bring up intense feelings. We often don’t allow ourselves to see what it is our heart desires because it can be hard to face how far our current life differs from what we would really like. Our frustration and sorrow can mean that we have simply closed the door on these desires and refused to admit they are even there. But not this time. This time, you can confront your heart desires, you can embrace them. This time, sit with the feelings that surface as you look at what you’d really like and know that your heart is speaking to you.
However impossible your dreams may appear, however complicated your current life may be, you are calling upon universal energy when you allow yourself to dream. You are calling upon realms that exist beyond the physical dimension, where all sorts of magical coincidences and synchronicity is conjured up. Look at your guardian now. They are still with you, watching you take in the images and scene in front of your eyes. Your guardian has always known about your heart desires. Their only wish is to help you manifest your heart’s desire, they know that you deserve to receive everything your heart wants .
As you look once again at the scene unfolding around you, and back to your guardian, you make a commitment. Affirm to yourself and your guardian “together, we will manifest this. I AM this scene. I feel love and appreciation for the help that I am given and I commit to listening to you every day’. Your guardian may respond with words or wisdom or you may feel them transmit love and peace to you. You receive this energy and feel confident and excited in knowing that you will keep this commitment to receive your hearts desires. You thank your guardian for taking you on this journey to the centre of your heart and together you walk back towards the golden door.
As you pass over the threshold, you decide to leave the golden door open, so that you can see your vision perfectly whilst you manifest it. You walk back towards the pink and emerald flame within your heart chakra. You feel your hand resting on your heart and hear the rhythm of your breath. You start to come back to the room you are in in the physical world, the sounds around you becoming clearer and louder. You move your fingers and wriggle your toes and open your eyes when you are ready to do so.
Christmas can be the most stressful time of the year. With 4 children and a large family to cater for, I know how stressful it can be, but it doesn't have to be this way... If you follow my eight-step guide to ‘de-stressing' your Christmas then it just might become one of the most relaxing times of the year.
Eat chocolate mindfully.
We all know we’re going to overindulge over Christmas, so why do we fight it?! Christmas is not the time to diet or worry about the tight waistline. In my opinion, Christmas is about indulgence, joy, comfort and love, not restriction and self-judgement. So, if we really want to be de-stress this Christmas, lets enjoy the mince pies and chocolate mindfully with all of our senses. Did you know that chocolate has over 300 separate flavours within it? I’m now giving you permission to reconnect with your senses, explore all the wonderful textures, flavours and aromas, and enjoy the process.
2. Go for a Christmas walk.
Have you ever noticed how beautifully quiet it is on the streets on Christmas Day? Walking is a brilliant stress reliever and mood booster. A good walk can put the world in perspective and soothe your frayed nerves. It's the ideal way of taking a break from all of those jobs you’ll need to be getting on with and all of the people who may be getting under your feet!
So, why not go for a 15-30 minute walk? You don't have to go anywhere special and there's no need to feel that you have to rush anywhere; the aim is to walk as mindfully as you can, focusing your awareness on your feet as they land on the ground, and feeling the fluid movements of all the muscles and tendons in your feet and legs. Pay attention to all of the sights, sounds and smells as well – soak it all in. Probably best to do this walk before you start on the Baileys!
3. Take lots of 2-minute breathing breaks
No matter how hard you try, there are going to be moments when you feel like you might just pop. When you feel the red mist glazing over your eyes and your jaw clench, that’s a sure sign that you need to find a space to sit down and breath. My go-to space is the toilet! (btw…make sure you lock the door because the kids will walk in!) It’s tricky to bring yourself down from a temper when it comes, but the best way I find is to take some deep breaths down into my tummy whilst I recite a mantra in my head. Something like ‘I am calm and peaceful’, ‘I am calm and peaceful’…Slower and slower until the temper subsides (and the amygdala goes back to sleep). Find what works for you and take those two minutes at regular intervals.
4. Do something pleasurable just for you
I spend the largest part of the Christmas period ‘doing’ for other people. I don’t mind, I actually love to look after other people and I get great pleasure from seeing them happy. I’ve learnt over the years that it’s equally as important to take the time to please myself. If that means I’m taking an hour out of entertaining others to read my new book, or to have a bath, then I will. Guilt free. It’s not, I repeat, IT IS NOT selfish to pay yourself a kindness like this. Christmas is for you as well as for everyone else. Take time out!
5. Get ready early
I know I’m one of those really annoying people who likes to get their Christmas shopping done in November, but it works! If you can get all of the presents bought before the month of December then you will be saving yourself tonnes of stress. Who wants to traipse around a packed-out high street with dozens of heavy bags, standing in mile-long queues just to get served, at this time of year??!! Not me! And probably not you. Enjoy the build up to Christmas safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to be that person standing in that long queue. You’re sorted, your pressies are safely under the tree already. You can wander around Tesco and sing along to the jingles as they play over the tannoy and smile to yourself at how wonderfully organised you are.
6. Explore creative ways to get in mindful mode
It has been my mission for many years to work mindfulness practice in around my family life. I don’t have the time to sit in daily hour-long meditations but I do have a 10 minute shower every day. I do have 2-minute toilet stops. I do have a 10 minute laundry task per day (plus some on Sundays!) and I do have a 7 minute washing-up slot twice a day….etc etc… So, when I start to add up these little opportunities, I notice that I actually have over an hour of mindfulness practice per day. I can do this! As long as I approach every task mindfully, as if it is a mini meditation, putting my whole focus and attention on the process, then hey presto! I’ve nailed my mindfulness practice and done myself some good. We have way more jobs to do at Christmas time, so we can use these chores as opportunities to get even more mindful.
7. Play the gratitude game
I don’t know any families who really take the time to celebrate Christmas for it’s true meaning – the birth of baby Jesus. My own children would roll their eyes at me and choke on their chocolate coins if I attempted to even get them to think about it. So how can we make gratitude a more realistic and digestible concept at Christmas time for the family? Get everyone to think of all the things they have to be grateful for over the Christmas period. The warm home, the food, the time off of school, and of course, the presents. Stress dissolves when we let go of thoughts of lack and focus on the abundance we already have.
8. Have a day off!
And last but not least, make one of the day a PJ day. Get up in the morning, dry-shampoo your hair, leave the make up in the draw and put on your favourite pjs. Let everyone know that today is dedicated to rest. No cooking, no cleaning, no visitors, no visiting. A day of duvets, leftovers, snacks, Christmas movies and card games. Fun, fun, fun!
If you have children, you’ll know a thing or two about the extremes of emotion that children feel and display. Even if you don’t have children you’ll no doubt have some appreciation of how they work through these emotions. We’ve all seen the parents struggling in the Supermarket with a screaming toddler in tow, and many of us have had to face judgement from others when it’s our child that is screaming the roof off in Tesco’s.
Think back to when you were a young child. All the way back! .... Do you remember what your parents and grandparents used to tell you when you were expressing anger, or frustration? I remember mine would say things like ‘stop being silly’, ‘don’t show me up in public’, or ‘stop being naughty’. Us adults just want the behaviour to stop! But what effect do these comments have on our child? The child learns from a really young age that anger and frustration are silly, embarrassing, bad and naughty. Children take their emotions very personally and seriously, so they believe that they are bad and naughty when these emotions arise, they have probably not learnt that they are not defined by their emotions.
So, this natural inclination that children have to express their emotions starts to erode. A child who learns from adults in society that expressive anger is ‘naughty’ will learn, as they grow older, to suppress and stuff down that anger to please their parents. A child who learns that it is silly and embarrassing to cry in rage will learn to stuff that anger down and hold back the tears. A child who learns that expressive anger is bad, will judge themselves as bad when they feel that emotion and dare to let it out.
Bottled up emotions are not healthy for any mind, body or spirit. Eventually the lid will flip off of that bottle and the anger will start to seep out in the child’s other behaviours. They may become withdrawn or anxious or even unkind to other children. Anger needs to be felt as an experience and worked through in a healthy way in order for our children to be able to let it go. We have to try to neutralise the anger and teach our children not to overreact to it. We must learn to recognise our child’s emotions, how they express them and try not to overreact to them ourselves. Easier said than done hey?!
How do we nip anger in the bud?
Let’s clear a couple of things up - we don’t nip our child’s anger in the bud by shouting at them to stop. We can’t stop it in its tracks by teaching our children to hit a pillow or a teddy bear to get the rage out. These strategies just reinforce the behaviour and intensifies the amygdala’s response to danger. This response will actually make it harder for your child to release the anger – it fuels the fire. We need to catch the anger at the first stage, before those stress hormones really start flowing.
My son Tommy is three years old and is prone to bouts of anger. Tommy’s arch nemesis, his brother Joe, loves to wind him up and Tommy’s rage often peaks at least twice a day. He comes to me, red-faced, wailing loudly and I always say ‘oh, what’s wrong?’ He will explain as best as he can, and words often fail him, but he already knows how to tell me what the emotion is…’I’M ANGRY, I’M SO ANGRY!’ At this point we should try our hardest not to use any of those phrases that make them feel bad about feeling that way, however embarrassed or annoyed we may be feeling.
Teaching our children the words behind the emotion they’re feeling is the first step and then helping them to understand that this feeling is normal is the second step. Acknowledging their emotion- ‘Yes, I understand why you are upset, it doesn’t feel nice does it’- is a good place to start. Let them know you understand. Hold them whilst they feel it, if they will let you. If the anger is mild you can encourage them to take a deep mindful breath at this stage. When anger hits we often tense up but mindful breathing starts to calm the amygdala, dowsing the flames of the fire and rage. This may just do the trick and after a couple of minutes of breathing mindfully, your child may be calm and ready to face life again.
Mindful Breathing Practice for anger
Ask your child to take a deep breath in and blow out again.
Explain that you can do some mindful breathing which will help them to feel much calmer
Ask them to focus on a single object or to close their eyes, whichever you feel they will cope with better at this point in time. I often ask them to take their attention to the end of their nose where they can feel their breath coming into their nose as cool air. Or their ears – children often find it funny to think about how their ears feel! Or I’ll ask them to place a hand on their tummy to feel the movement of air in and out of his belly. This helps them to focus and makes sure they are breathing deeply enough. With older children you can tell them that breathing helps to calm their amygdala, and that they can use their breath to calm them whenever they need to.
Noises around the house or in the environment may interrupt the peace and distract your child, simply ask them to bring their attention back to their point of focus when their attention wanders. Be calm and soft in your instructions, to ensure they stay calm. Do this for as long as it takes for you to notice that your child has calmed.
Once the anger has passed, share with your child what it felt like. Talk about mindful breathing and the ways it can be used – when they are upset at their brother or sister or nervous about something. Talk about ways you can try to manage your anger when it arrives, things like listening to music, riding your bike, talking to someone.
Sometimes it is nice to have a toolbox of strategies to help manage anger in other ways. Why not try this mindful anger management practice from ’10 Mindful Minutes’. This traffic signal game is a lovely way to help our children calm down when they’re on the verge of a tantrum.
The Traffic Signal Game
Get some paper and crayons and draw a picture of a three-coloured traffic signal. Or you could show them a picture of a traffic signal or point one out when you’re in the car. Tell them that the three colours represent three different ways they can react if they ever feel angry, sad, or afraid:
Red: Stop and do some mindful breathing.
Yellow: Think about all the different ways to respond.
Green: Try the most mindful response and see what happens.
Ask them to think again about a time when they got really mad about something. Using the Traffic Signal Game, show them how to bring themselves down from a red light to a green light. Tell them that sometimes we get so mad that we can’t even think clearly in the yellow light phase. That’s when they can do things like count to ten, draw, or talk to someone about how they feel. Maybe they could go out on their bike, kick a ball around, or listen to some music. Remind them that bad feelings don’t last forever. And when they’re on the verge of a tantrum, remind them to use the traffic signals to calm down.
Suggest that they hang up the picture of the traffic signal to remind all of you to use it whenever you need to. Agree that everyone in your family will stop and go away to calm down anytime someone says, “Red light.” The signals also work as a warning system. Whenever you feel yourself losing your temper with your children, tell them, “I’m about to get mad. The red light’s going to come on. You’d better stop that before it does.” This way they have a chance to change their behaviour. Keep practicing and incorporating the game into your everyday experience.
Children can easily relate to the traffic signal imagery as part of their everyday experience. This game, adapted from a system created by Roger Weissberg, professor of psychology at Yale University, is a key tool for dealing with difficult emotions. As expert Paul Ekman explains, “The moment we become aware is less than half a second after the emotion begins, not before.” In other words, we’re already in the grip of a strong feeling before we know we are. It’s easy for children to see themselves as victims, saying, “He made me do it” or “It wasn’t my fault” or “She started it.” The Traffic Signal system helps children take responsibility for their choices in response to their feelings.
When we teach our children to think about the red, yellow, and green light stages of anger, it also teaches us parents to stop and think. Applying the imagery to our own anger helps to lengthen the time between impulse and action as soon as we recognize the difficult feelings.
(Hawn, Goldie. 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving our children - and ourselves - the skills to reduce stress and anxiety for healthier, happier lives . Little, Brown Book Group.)
It is best to talk about anger with your child as soon as they are old enough to talk about it. Implement mindful breathing (and meditation) as early as your child can manage it, even if it’s for a few seconds to start with. This way your child has tools in their own tool box way before anger strikes. Try some of these ideas with your own children and let me know how you get on.
Mindful Parenting Courses through Happy In The Moment are available as 1:1 workshops in your own home, or for groups of parents or child workers who would love to learn more ways to raise happy, healthy children. Follow this link for more information http://www.happyinthemoment.com/the-mindful-parent-course.html
Our new mindfulness and meditation workshops hit Wisbech on Saturday 5th January. And what a fantastic first session we had! Eighteen of you attended, and we spent a lovely two hours talking about mindfulness, meditation and what you would be able to learn and achieve along the way. It was wonderful to see all of the new connections being made in the room and to have some social time worked in amongst the activities.
We were delighted to welcome the Mayor and Mayoress of Wisbech, Cllr Peter Human and Mrs Janet Tanfield who had come along to support the new community project. They stayed throughout the workshop and were impressed with the content of the upcoming workshops.
We're looking forward to seeing you all again at the next workshop, on 19th January.
We even got a mention in the local newspaper! Follow this link to see the full article...
Worry. We all do it. Some of us seem to do it professionally! Worrying can be helpful when it spurs you to take action and solve a problem. I get a great deal of work done when I’m worrying over the to-do list. However, unrelenting worry, the constant niggling of worrying thoughts, can paralyze you, keeping you rooted to the problem and preventing you from moving forward.
The hallmark of anxiety is worry; worry about something that hasn’t happened yet and might not even happen at all. Anxiety can be so habitual that you may start thinking of yourself as an ‘anxious person’. We start to identify with it, and it feels as if it takes us over. As you start to practise mindfulness you will begin to see that your ‘anxious moments’ don’t have to mean that you’re an ‘anxious person’.
When I was feeling at my lowest, I would often worry about school holidays. How would I entertain the children on my own for weeks on end? How would I have the energy to keep them happy and go on days out with them all? I learnt to break my problems down into bits, using the tools below to simply focus on what could be done right now, in the present moment, then much of the feeling of stress went away.
At night, when we’re trying to sleep, our worries can often get more out of control and out of perspective. Your thoughts are often out of perspective at night; you’re tired, trying to drop off to sleep but there’s nothing to distract you from the worries. Nor is it a practical time to do anything productive about whatever is on your mind. You need to sleep for goodness sake! This is where mindful breathing comes into its own.
Have you ever been told by someone to ‘just don’t think worry over it’? Telling yourself to stop worrying about whatever is bothering you simply doesn’t work. Infact it can make the worries worse. Think of the ‘pink elephant’ scenario? You know the one…the more you tell yourself not to think about the pink elephant, the more you’re able to see the pink elephant!
Mindfulness can help you to stop all of this worrying and help you to focus on the present moment. Follow these steps below and see how you get on:
Back in 2015, I found myself at an all time low. The story is long and heavily detailed so I'm hoping to give you an in a nutshell version so as not to labour the point. In the space of 6 months, just 6 months, I had sold my home, lost my prospective new home, put all of our belongings into storage, moved in with family members (which was very cramped with 5 of us in two rooms), had a brand new baby on christmas eve (who wouldn't feed properly or sleep for that matter!), put my eldest daughter through an operation and had her subsequent recovery to deal with, had my cat put to sleep due to a fox, and had to buy a new car. Phew!
My life during this 6 months period was fraught with stress, tension, anxiety and fear. Fear that I wasn't ever going to find a new home, fear that I couldn't look after my family properly, fear that I was a total failure. I was tired, suffering from postnatal blues, mentally drained and unable to find any time to look after myself.
We eventually found a new house, one that was vacant and the seller wanted a quick sale. We completed the sale with 14 days left of our mortgage offer. It wasn't ideal, it didn't tick all of the boxes, but it was our home, and I looked forward to moving in. I thought that when I got settled in my new home, I would feel better. But I didn't. My initial happiness started to fade away as I realised that life was still feeling hard, I was still sleeping badly, the 80 mile round trips each day to the children's three schools were draining me and I was struggling to pay the new bills. I had convinced myself throughout the last six months that happiness would be delivered to me when I was in my new house, then life could begin again. But that wasn't the reality. I realised with a thud that happiness certainly does not come from external sources.
I had practised being miserable for so many months, that I was now really good at it. My sadness was habitual and had become my new comfort blanket. My hair started to fall out, my eyebrows thinned and then I really came to see just how damaging these thought cycles were. They were now having an effect on my body. Was I depressed? Surely not! I hated to label myself as anything. I hated the thought of having to go to a doctor, to admit to my feelings, and then to rely on antidepressants, which is all they would probably prescribe if I did pluck up the courage to go. No, I didnt want to go down that route. I decided to try some self-help.
Rachel Vanhinsbergh is an energy healer, spiritual teacher and mindfulness therapist. A life-long student of spirituality, she works with the angelic realms in her healing and spiritual teaching and incorporates mindfulness based cognitive therapy, stress reduction and meditation into her mindfulness therapy.
Rachel owns and runs Happy In The Moment, inspiring and empowering others to live a more mindful, meditative and spiritual life.