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Mindfulness in the Wild masters Garden near the Yoga Station

Limited edition…. Mindfulness in the Wild masters Garden in July 2020.

  • The perfect way to start your day, being present in your body and in the space around you….…. An inclusive 60 minute coming to rest, to taking a pause….to move as you are and take a moment to meditate in the beautiful surrounding of the Wild masters Garden, weather permitting.
  • Tuesday mornings: 14th, 21st and 28th of July between 9.30 and 10.30AM there is mindful movement and meditation in the Stations Masters Garden. Entrance £10,- (Conc. £5)
  • booking essential via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mindful-movement-meditation-in-the-wild-masters-garden-tickets-113022340864

Bodhicitta

We do not know what life has in store for us, we only know that it will end one day. To be aware of our limitations, to live this life of uncertainty fully is quite a task for a human being. Our capacity to think and plan is very enhanced, overwhelming in many ways and distinguishes us from other mammals.

Our brains for instance have a part that we call our limbic system. This part is activated by intense emotions, memories or sounds; our limbic system influences our endocrine system and our autonomic nervous system (the one that controls our bodily functions). We have a less old fashioned part of the brain that we call our monkey brain and which helps us surviving (fight, flight, freeze) by having immediate responses to (perceived) threatening situations. On top of that we have an enormous capacity to think, speak, plan and imagine.

We are aware of who we are to a certain amount, and we are also aware of the fact that our lives are impermanent, that everything changes all the time. In our human lives we have to deal with loss, fear and despair, we all will face something that feels almost unbearable at some point in our lives and for some of us this is a daily experience. Having faced many difficult periods in my life, my most difficult challenge came after I walked out of my job after years of bullying. My life as a professional came to an immediate stillstand as I did not have the stamina nor the courage to find another job. I was suddenly cut short of a work environment, an income, status, career progression, and prominence. Suddenly I was thrown in seclusion, relative poverty, loneliness, shamefulness, misjudgement and concealment. Undoubtedly the opposite of my previous more glamorous experiences. A place where nobody wants to go ever when given the choice.

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I have since experienced how deep, difficult, and dark such a place can be. A place where the sun doesn’t get through the thickness of thorns and untamed branches. A place of isolation, despair and obscurity. A place without status, identification or consolation. A retreat from the world of work and professionalism. And I was lucky! I had teenagers to look after. But it left me with many rampant versions of myself, it is a place full of shame and guilt. My soul became dyed with the colour of my own thoughts. Nothing can harm you more than your own mind untamed! I suffered depression and intense anxiety. I needed to learn to listen to myself in a different way.

Being invited to be an assistant on an 8 week mindful self-compassion course was my reconciliation with the path and the listening. A path this time through a completely unknown area and dark untamed branches. I had become too frightened to look up to see what was in front of me. I had no idea where I was going, scrabbling in the dark. In my life I never set out to harm anyone, but now I was harmed in an undignified way and I responded internally by agreeing with the harsh condemning voices. The harsh inner voices shouted in my ear about guilt, shame and unworthiness. They bathed in their relentless entertainment. Our critical voice is once born out of protectiveness; the inner critic is there to help me better my life. My inner critic was loud and had many ways of entering my thoughts.

In difficult times it is only Bodhichitta that heals, says Pema Chödron. Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word that means noble, or awakened heart. Wishing I could feel compassion for myself and in fairness; tolerate myself. Hold myself in a way that was no longer condemning but loving. Months, even years it took me until one day I found a little pocket of sunbeams in the wilderness and some time after that I found a beautiful, perfect, white stone. I kneeled on the forest floor and sobbed for its beauty and wholeness, this was the beginning of me forgiving myself for all my imagined wrongdoing.

To sustain an open heart you could daily meditate or practice tonglen (wishing yourself and others good health, happiness and ease), the Dalai Lama does 4 hours of compassion practice every day (The Dalai Lama’s book of love & compassion 2001). If you can keep your heart open when the woods are dark when you do not know where you are is the most courageous thing you can do for yourself. In the film ‘hunt for the wilderpeople’ they just did that…. in the midst of despair, in the darkest of the woods, they opened their hearts and looked after each other. That is what the evolution of the last couple of thousands of years has achieved in us humans, the ability to feel compassion for each other, to imagine how it is to be in the other person’s shoes. And with the current pandemic we see this openness and courage in people blossoming. I am grateful that we never forgot how to be human.

Pema Chödron on Bodhichitta

Overwhelmed

Being bullied is a gateway to feeling inadequate, not worthy and faulty. Within some big organisations bullying has become a fierce problem and it’s often the clinical staff who are enduring other people’s baggage. Helping others as a means of alleviating your own neurosis has been common for a long time and is a socially accepted form of occupational therapy. I do not mean this in a cynical way, all forms of work are a distraction and it took us millenia to construct the discourse that is occupation in its current form. Needless to say that with the current technology the discourse is rapidly changing, a universal basic income may soon be trailed in Scotland and many of our jobs are hanging by a thread.

Bullying and harassment, as defined by ACAS, means any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. It is not necessarily always obvious or apparent to others, and may happen in the workplace without an employer’s awareness.

Bullying or harassment can be between two individuals or it may involve groups of people. It might be obvious or it might be insidious. It may be persistent or an isolated incident. It can also occur in written communications, by phone or through email, not just face-to-face.

Negative acts from one person towards another happen often when there is an imbalance in power. Sometimes the negative acts are subtle, it slightly distorts your perception, makes you wonder whether you made it up or whether it really happened. It is easy to doubt yourself, and therefore helpful to have colleagues opening up about bullying as this can verify your feelings and viewpoint. We have an innate need for connection; to be seen and heard and believed. We urge our children to tell us when they are bullied, to acknowledge their feelings and to help them to stand up to any form of bullying. Because we know how hard it is to live with this feeling of being faulty, and of shame; nothing less than the feeling that we are unloved! Being singled out, undermined or excluded are in our minds proof of our underlying belief that we are unlovable, not good enough, not worthy of belonging. Shame is the fear of disconnection.

Hazards to health: the problem of workplace bullying May 2007, by Cartwright and Cooper published by the Psychologist BPS and NHS staff lay bare a bullying culture October 2016, by Sarah Johnson published as Bullying survey.   are examples of articles verifying the increase in bullying over the last decade. We all know that bullying can be caused by sociopathic tendencies in managers. A heavy workload that leads to stress is not helping, but being bullied or undermined on top of that easily leads to depression. Where is the acknowledgement in the organisations we are working for?  A quote from the Bullying survey: Sometimes a big organisation  “….becomes defensive and takes the corporate line to protect themselves from a legal challenge and puts it down to your perception. You are then managed out of your job through contrived actions designed to make you leave. All this leaves you broken and with no strength to fight. You go if you can find another job. Otherwise you suffer in silence”.

Personally I experienced that opening up about being bullied in the workplace is discovering an abyss of hurt and unacclaimed pain in others too. We are not alone, but often feel like we are. Mindful self-compassion provides a powerful tool for emotional resilience. Feeling able to turn toward and acknowledge our difficult thoughts and feelings (such as inadequacy, sadness, anger, confusion and shame) with a spirit of openness, kindness and curiosity.

Talking about the difficult experiences we have faced, exploring whether these were cognitive distortions (our mind convincing us of something that is not really true) or serious bullying. Let’s name our experiences and then sit and turn towards our difficult thoughts and feelings in a kind way. Not abandoning ourselves in this process is a challenge as we are so used to look for experiences that confirm our beliefs that we are faulty and wrong and bad, instead of sticking up for our kind assumptions of worth and belonging, believing in our true nature.

If there is a possibility to teach others where they crossed our boundary we should do so, and speak up for ourselves. Unfortunately not all organisations are equipped for this and only a very small percentage of employees who are bullied are fully seen, heard and acknowledged, for a few there is an outcome that makes life in the workplace worth staying for, for others this isn’t the case. Many people do not get any help with the emotional turmoil they are left with. According to the Bullying survey: “Only 17% of those who reported bullying said they received pastoral support from their organisation – and less than a quarter of these were satisfied with the result.” So in terms of organisational climate, HR and occupational health in organisations; improvements are very easy to make.

For me personally it has been an eye opener to participate in an 8 week Mindful self compassion course; to be able to endure and acknowledge those difficult feelings of failure and shame and to learn to soften, soothe and allow, which is nothing less than letting the bruised and broken heart lie open, so the wind from the good old sea can blow in…. A very different way of being with myself, and speaking to myself. It has become an opportunity to look outward with an open heart, be it bruised and all.

The Heart



When the heart is cut - bruised or broken

Do not clutch it - let the wound lie open.

Let the wind from the good old sea blow in

And bathe the wound with salt

And let it sting

Let a stray dog lick it

Let a small bird puts its head inside the hole and sing

A simple song - like a tiny bell,

And let it ring.
by: Micheal Leunig  (www.leunig.com.au/works/poems)

Teenagers

It is a gloomy day in the middle of winter, we are living on onions, potatoes and endless brown sloppy bread from the supermarket. It says ‘Still fresh‘ on the bag. With five teenagers and the dog who just delivered 6 healthy puppies our home feels like a supply hub. Teenagers storm in, trailing their bikes, bags, enormous shoes with mud, coats, hats and chocolate wrappers behind them, littering like the puppies and always looking for food.

To see the world in black and white, to endless dramatise things that are going wrong. As a parent you listen to all the lamenting and try not to get sucked into the drama of it all. To be able to see only a small piece of a big canvas, and forgetting that the big canvas is there and that you only experience a tiny part of it, that is so human and so part of growing up and being at the beginning of widening your circles. When you cannot shift your particular attitude or beliefs regarding something, you will have difficulty widening your perspective. How to grow up to be a rational sensible human who is able to take in the whole canvas?

Transactional analysis is a model that is particularly appropriate to study individuals in the context of their close relationships. The functional model is represented by three ego-states: the child, adult and parent. These three ego-states converse with one another in transactions (hence the name). This is so internally, but also between individuals or even groups. Each ego-state is defined by a combination of feelings and experiences which consistently occur together, these can be positive or negative. The parental ego-state are behaviours, thoughts and feelings introjected (swallowing it whole) from parents or parental figures. They are roughly divided in the nurturing parent (positive and negative aspects) and the controlling parent (positive and negative aspects). The child ego-state comprises of behaviors, thoughts and feelings replayed from childhood; we can distinguish the adapted child, the little professor (intuitive), and the free child and again, all can have a negative as well as positive aspect. The adult ego-state represents our rational, reality testing self and includes behaviors, thoughts and feelings; direct responses to the here and now.

The adapted child ego-state can have a rebellious force, as a person can either adapt to the demands and circumstances, or rebel against it. The natural child has more of an internal compass and feels free and supported in its ventures. Most likely the teenager who is displaying a lot of natural child ego-state has been supported by nurturing parents where the child could feel at ease knowing its parents (or carers) were there to help and acknowledge who he or she is or is becoming.

For a step or blended family, life and the interactions between the members of the newly formed unity is not always easy. Parental styles can be quite different and therefore both parents have different ideas and expectations of their child. One parent could be more of a controlling parent, who likes the children to jump through certain hoops thinking that it will help them manage in school and later in the wider world. Children have to follow the parent to a certain extent… does that prepare them for the future? When we look at the transactional model again, controlling parenting can incur the adapting or rebellious tendencies of the teenager. 

A nurturing parent on the other hand can be very enthusiastic about anything his/her child does. The nurturing parent follows the child. These children could therefore be much less adapted, but their curiosity and confidence are less confined. They are occupied with their own interests, they do not seem to doubt themselves; they seem to be relaxed with who they are. 

If a child is used to a certain parental style, it elicits that style in their step parent. Before we became a blended family my partner’s children were already subjected to a nurturing and mainly following parenting style, while my children were much more regulated, had lesser say and were treated in a more disciplined way. My children seem therefore to have more difficulties saying what they hope for and know less clearly what they want to do with their life. They feel they have to get a good job and earn sufficient money, but do they know who they are, or do they know what is expected of them. 

The road to becoming an adult is one with trial and error and a lot of teenage angst! I wonder whether children who have been less mirrored and more governed will have a more difficult time becoming adults; they have to figure out who they are and what they like, they have a tendency to rebel or adapt rather than be free. The puppies are now providing the teenagers with a new and different perspective altogether, they all noted how the mother dog was at the brink of exhaustion looking after the sextuplets, they were worried about her food and water intake and her mental health. I got a bearhug from my teenage son, saying ‘all mothers deserve a lot of love’; a glimpse of the bigger picture shown in that interaction.

Coastal tribulation

The practice of being fully present (an expression used in the art of meditation), feeling your heart and greeting the next moment with an open mind, can be done at any time. You can do this before the children come running down the stairs, before a complex situation at work, when difficult emotions as fear or grief arises or just when doing the dishes. Being fully present is not always easy. It is about being aware of your senses, your heart, and your body at any particular moment, without worrying or hoping for the next. It is a moment you check in with yourself, with how you are feeling, how your body feels and accept what is going on.

You can place a hand on your heart and feel its warmth. Connecting with love and acceptance. That is not always easy either. We find it difficult at times to be kind to ourselves. We might think of ourselves as being not-ok and to place a hand over our heart might initially generate strong emotions. When that happens it can be helpful to have a sort of understanding what these emotions are, so that when we practice being fully present; being with our emotions, senses, thoughts and open heart, we do not have to run away or distract ourselves.

When I struggle in the day to be fully present, when I think I have too many woes and worries, when I have trouble not anticipating the next moment. On such a day I might go to the beach. Walking on the beach gives me that feeling of insignificance. It helps me therefore to lessen the constant stream of worries and plans and anticipations in my head, to create a bit more distance between the unnecessary chatter in my head, the models I have created and create perpetually. Keeping some distance from the thoughts in my head help me to stop identifying with the models of the world, myself, and the future which are so persistent in my head.

It is then that I already have become aware of my senses …..the air, the slightly salty taste, the sound of the waves, the texture of the sand on the beach, the sky and the openness towards the horizon and before I know it I have not anticipated the next moment…..and there I am…… being in my body, sensing… and the moment just as it is.

 

 

 

 

The peace of wild things  by  Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting for their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and I am free.

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