“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path”. – The Buddha
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”. – The Buddha
Lost in traffic
Have you ever felt overwhelmed at times? Constantly on the catch-up with life? Feeling slightly lost? Struggling with anger, anxiety or low self esteem? Left with a mind that doesn’t seem to want to slow down?
If the answer is yes, rest assured that you are not the only one. There are many who feel the same way too. A recent study showed stress costs the UK’s economy 8.6bn a year.
This was me around 5 years ago, I was working extremely hard as a musician, and I felt like I hit a brick wall, the harder I pushed with gigging, practice and writing the more I felt my creativity take a dip and my overall happiness decline. I remember just feeling exhausted, with life feeling very heavy and serious. I felt burnt out, and the worst part was that the harder I tried, the more disconnected I felt. It was a classic case of burning the candle at both ends.
I was trying to be more creative and found that the opposite was happening.
All these different types of thoughts and feelings would arise and I wouldn’t know what to do with them, one after the other, coming and going.
I was exhausted and I was very critical of myself. I felt frustrated, stressed and at times I felt very low, with fear constantly knocking at the door.
I started to ask questions. ‘Am I the only one feeling this? Why do I feel like this? What is going on?’ I was brought up in a society that said once I achieved what I wanted, I would be eternally happy. Also, I met people who had achieved great wealth and external fortitude and were still hugely stressed and unhappy. How could this be?
In our lowest moment lies the opportunity for personal transformation
I started to see I was constantly blaming the outside world for things not going the way I wanted. So if something didn’t quite go my way I would play the victim. Feeling as though life should make me happy, I should be happy, that music should make me happy. I slowly began to see this was far from the truth. Guided by insight, this was the final push into taking a proactive step away from the victim mentality.
I just one day said ‘Enough! Stop blaming other people or circumstances and take a good long look in the mirror.’ This was extremely hard at first as I could feel a part of me wanting to point the finger, but I knew this wasn’t going to serve or help anyone, least of all me.
I started reading a load of books, taking courses and researching human behaviour; everything from psychology, to self help/development, emotional intelligence, spirituality, biology and more.
So after all this research, I realised that in order for me to be happier, more productive and have a better quality of life, I had to take a step back and realise that been busy isn’t ‘cool’; it’s a lack of priority, that being stressed and feeling sorry for myself wasn’t the right path, that happiness is actually closer than you may think. The journey had begun…
Win – Win – An Inner Win to a greater Outer Win
What I have discovered, and what I would like to share with you, is there is a way out of the rat race; a beautiful discovery that can help millions of people and, in turn, help us surpass negative thoughts, feeling and emotions and deal with all our challenges with a greater understanding and intelligibility. Win Win for me is firstly feeling centred within (our internal thoughts, feelings and emotions) then moving to what your outer purpose is. It is being able to deal with challenges from a centred place.
If the mind and body are working together, we have a much greater chance of knowing what we want and how to face it, rather than constantly trying to fill the void within with external gratification. External gratification is beautiful, but firstly we need a strong foundation, anchoring our drive so that it can serve us and serve the people around us in an authentic way.
Liberation – moving into freedom
You deserve to live an amazing life. You deserve to be inspired. You deserve to be free. You to live a life on your terms. Transformation starts with yourself, so in order for us to move into a happier state of being we firstly need to be kind to ourselves, have a little bit of discipline, a shift in psychology and the willingness to awaken your great self. You are great, you just need to see it.
SOLUTION 1 – Creating some well-deserved headspace
Chaos at the show – a metaphor for the mind
Imagine you’re watching your favourite West End show. During the play a whole load of different scenes occur; there is a love scene, anger, tragedy, betrayal and a whole load of excitement. There are different characters, and there is a constant storyline running throughout.
Now imagine that during the play, you ran onto the stage and caused a load of confrontation because you didn’t like one of the scenes and wanted to stop it? Once you jumped on the stage you would probably feel a little foolish, and might leave with your tail between your legs, feeling baffled and confused once you turned and saw an angry audience now wanting their money back.
Well, what if you viewed the mind in the same way? Let’s say you’re sat at home, minding your own business, when an angry thought all of a sudden arises. It may have a character and there may be a story line within it. What do you do? A lot of the time, many of us get sucked into our thoughts and we are left in a downward spiral of thinking negative, angry thoughts. We are then left feeling worse than we originally felt.
We have metaphorically run onto the stage in our minds and the angry audience is usually our close family or friends. Sound familiar? Now what if I told you that you don’t even have to go into the angry thought? You can simply watch it and let it play, like you would at the cinema or the West End show. You simply see it, with little judgement, and let it pass. The seeing of the thought is the beginning of liberation.
This is one of the first major steps towards a healthier, happier mind. By simply seeing the thought, we begin to disassociate with it, leaving the space for it to pass whilst we continue with our day.
Mindfulness is the day-to-day seeing of the mind, called ‘awareness’ in many circles. If we are mindful, we simply see our thoughts and let them come and go like the cars on the road or scenes in the show. By simply seeing the thought we are then left with a choice; to let it go or hold onto it? Do I want to react angrily, or do I want to let it go and deal with the situation constructively? We can view this as the ‘match’, the major event.
Meditation is the training for the match. The preparation beforehand. This can simply be a 10 minute space in your day where you may sit, or a part of the day where your attention is focused entirely on the exercise you are doing. You may have already had moments like this when you exercise, or when you are in a high intense state of creativity, or you’re entranced by a beautiful sunset. You are focused, present and not distracted. If we can develop this in our practice, when it comes to the main event we are better prepared and ready for the challenge.
Removing the stereotype
Meditation can be seen as a little ‘woo woo’. The thought of a bunch of monks in robes come to mind, or maybe lit candles, bells, gongs and floating off to some eternal bliss. Meditation is simply how you define it. The classic stereotypes are old hat and we now need to let go of the clichés to realise how much benefit it really has. The value it can add to your life is immense.
So I now want to give you the first of two very simple and effective techniques to get you started. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but once you take the first step, the results can be amazing.
WHO IS USING IT AND WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MINFULNESS/MEDITATION
Mindfulness and meditation have really taking off in the west, with major businesses, military centres, schools and celebrities all getting involved. The big question is ‘why’? Why does a major company like Google have its own meditation rooms and courses? Just take a look at some of the biggest companies in the world investing in it: http://www.onlinemba.com/blog/10-big-companies-that-promote-employee-meditation/
Also check out this list of athletes and celebrities who have now started to use it:
Let’s dig a little deeper into the health benefits so you can see the potential of just taking 10 minutes out of your day for your great self.
THE BENEFITS – 10 fantastic benefits
10 great benefits it has to offer in your day-to-day life, work life and relationships
- Meditation helps you with your stress levels and improves your focus and attention
- Meditation can lessen worry, anxiety and impulsivity, lessening fear and loneliness
- Meditation improves empathy and positive relationships. It also helps reduce social isolation
- Greater information processing and decision making
- Increases positive emotion – http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2003/07000/Alterations_in_Brain_and_Immune_Function_Produced.14.aspx
- Improves your memory
- Enhances awareness and your ability to set aside mental chatter
- Decreases feelings of loneliness
- Increases feelings of compassion
- Increases grey matter in keys areas of the brain associated with compassion and awareness
What do I do? Where do I start? What type of meditation do I do?
I asked all these questions when I sat down to do my first mediation. For now I want to take all that worry away for you. There’s so much information out there and it can be overwhelming at times, so here we want to keep it very simple and actionable.
Simplicity is the key
Here are 3 very helpful tips to get you started and feeling comfortable
- Find a comfortable place to sit; it can be a chair or the end of your bed
- If you can find somewhere that has few distractions that will be helpful. This is not a priority but it will help in the early stages
- Put it in your diary or couple it with something (i.e brushing your teeth, before/after a shower. This works really well.)
3 extra tips once you are into the exercise
- Expectation – Expecting the mind to stop – the idea of mediation is not to stop the mind; instead the aim is to clearly see the mind with clarity and non judgement. Think of passing cars on the road or clouds in the sky. Remember it’s a skill, so at first you may be a little shocked by how many thoughts there are, but do not worry – this is perfectly normal. The mind will, with time, begin to free up a little and the thoughts will lessen. Ahh, peace!
- Effort – Finding the balance
We can’t force a quiet mind. A great example of this is when you can’t sleep, so you say to yourself, ‘I can’t sleep’, and you start to try harder, but what happens? Ironically, we struggle to sleep. So the idea is to have a nice amount of attention and focus but a equal balance of relaxation and rest.
- Unveiling happiness in the now – once we have a healthy balance of expectation and effort we can then move to the realisation of stillness. This is the realisation that happiness is already here, in this moment now. This will become more clear once you are into regular exercises. Rather than trying to create peace within, we simply realise it’s already here. This is one of the most exciting realisations and is a beautiful discovery. To realise it’s already here is one of the first steps towards internal mastery.
WHEN SHOULD I DO IT?
We normally recommend you do it first thing in the morning, but that’s only if that works for you. Everyone has different schedules so choose a spot when you know you have 10 minutes free.
COMMON ROAD BLOCKS
Watch out for the classic impulsive excuses… ‘I don’t have time to do it’ is a classic. Yes you do! As Tony Robbins once famously said, “If you don’t have 10 minutes you don’t have a life”. If you want to awaken your great self, give yourself that well-deserved mini break, so when you come back to your routine you’re rejuvenated and ready for the rest of the day.
‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ is another classic that never happens. There is no time like the present so just do it! This is why we have developed the feedback sheet for you to keep you on track. Once you do it, mark it off and you’re all done, and you have just taken a step forward to a happier, more focused mind. All you have to do is sit comfortably, click play and follow it along.
And finally, ‘This all sounds to be good to be true; this will never work for me’. The ultimate excuse! We now have so many scientific studies to back up the benefits, so give it a go, follow it along and enjoy the benefits. And remember, it’s how you define it. You may want to be more focused at work, find something to help quit smoking, eat healthier and so on.
FINALLY I WILL LEAVE YOU WITH THE MEMORY OF MY FIRST EXPERIENCE
Looking back, my first meditation was quite hilarious. To put your mind at rest, I thought all the usual impulsive clichés and was very self-conscious while I was doing it. I can’t count the amount of times a thought would come before I started, saying ‘You haven’t got time, look at all the work you have to do. This is weird. You need to empty the dishwasher. Did you call back Steve? I’ve got bills to pay. I have no free time’.
Whatever the excuse may be, I promise you the benefit of just slowing yourself down for 10 minutes can begin to change your whole world dramatically. Take that step today and get back in touch with your greatness. Remember, you are great. You just need to see it. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like a bit more peace, focus and clarity in their life, and it’s all here for us, right here, right now.