Getting right to the heart of it

I have felt a definite shift in my mindfulness and meditation practice over the last few weeks.  I have felt the need to be silent, to be still, to step away from the noise and to drop into my heart, to hear what it has to say.

The heart seems to have a mysterious way of knowing just what is required, yet so often we don’t listen to it.  In the busyness of life, the heart gets drowned out by the noise of it all, opinions, judgements, I should do this, I shouldn’t do that. When we drop into the heart and truly listen,  intuition comes to the fore and common sense prevails.

I find it fascinating that science is coming round to the fact that the heart may have a brain of its own. Besides its primary function of keeping us alive, research has shown it appears to contain thousands of neurons and neurotransmitters.  I am not a doctor nor a scientist, I can only tell you, (from my heart) it has been one of the most transformational aspects of my practice so far.

“If mindfulness is the boat, compassion is the water it floats on”

Mindfulness without compassion is a bit like trying to push a boat on dry land. If mindfulness is the boat, compassion is the water it floats on (you know I like my nautical references).For this reason, compassion is the most important aspect of my practice and teaching. Compassion, kindness and awareness can come to us naturally if we truly listen to our hearts.

The heart of the practice

It takes time to connect with the heart again. For years, I didn’t listen, beating myself up, fears, judgements, all the noise took over. But slowly, without over thinking it, for ten minutes I would just sit, putting my attention to the heart area and breathing in deep as if breathing in light to the area, then a release of the breath out, sending the darkness out into the atmosphere, just repeating that for ten minutes, light in, dark out.  As with most of this sort of practice it is experiential, it cannot be intellectualised and in a way it can’t be written, it has to be felt and experienced with no expectation.  I don’t practice this at every meditation but at least once a week, I drop into the heart.

The heart knows what we truly need, it wants to be listened to.  Don’t take my word for it, drop into your heart every now and again and just listen. Put your hand on your heart and give yourself the love, the kindness and the compassion you need.

Be patient, watch the small shifts happen and allow things to unfold in their own good time, not forced but from the heart.

With Love from The Mind Shed.



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A compassionate reminder

Live life today

For so many years I lived my life in the future.  Constantly projecting a picture of what life could be like, constantly looking for the next big thing to make me feel alive. Whilst I was busy projecting, the day-to-day life, the real life, just past in a blur.

It took the death of a relative to snap me out of that fantasy world of make-believe and come back to life as it is right now.  I vowed from that day on to live life now, not in the future.

“Death is not the greatest loss, the greatest loss is what dies inside us whilst we are still living”.

Those simple moments we lose. That empty cup you stare into, wondering who drank your coffee and then suddenly realising it was you. Those moments you get to the top of the stairs and wonder why you went up there. That destination you arrive at and then suddenly wonder how the hell you got there.  The truth is we have all done it.  Small moments that may seem insignificant but what if we spent a whole life like that, what if you only had a few months left to live and you look back on your whole life like you looked into that empty mug. Is that it? was that my life? it must have been, nobody else has lived it for me.

Ask yourself the question “what simple thing can I do right now, to nourish my life”

I used to think, Oh I will enjoy life when I have this or that, or life will be better when I have completed this task and the next big think comes along. Life will be happier after the next holiday and so on and so on, always one day sometime, but never today. It is so easy to fall into this trap, I catch myself still doing it now and again.

Something amazing started to happen when I said to myself “what simple thing can I do right now in this moment to nourish my life and make a difference”.  It could be as simple as being aware of breathing, or just listening to the birds outside, having a mindful cup of tea or coffee, small moments of awareness that ground me to a life of reality and authenticity.

I started to not need the vacation to feel happy, or the next big thing to come along to make me feel alive.   I dropped the need to be so busy and in turn became more productive.  This different mode of thinking, although sometimes difficult to maintain, has and is having, a profound effect.

Last year, I took the leap to reduce my day job working hours, from five days to four. Something that was always going to happen in the future, started happening there and then, that day. Just a small step made possible by just living now, not in the future.  It has meant less money coming in but there is no contest when I weigh it up against having more time to live life in this moment, to follow my heart and passion, to write this blog and to hopefully inspire others to see it is possible.

Cherish those beautiful small moments, it may be walking barefoot on grass, walking the dog, sipping a cup of tea, listening to a friend or loved one or counting your breaths up to ten. Whatever it is, it is what reminds us we are alive now, right in this moment, not in the future.

Pause, take your time, be bold, be courageous but more importantly, live your life today, not tomorrow, not next month or next year, but today.

Be happy, have a great week.

From Roger

www.themindshed.co.uk

Meditation, The Mountains, The Ocean, The Sky

Like Space

Meditate without centre or limit!

Like the sun and the moon,

Meditate in brightness and clarity!

Like the mountains,

Meditate, unmoving and unshakeable!

Like the ocean,

Meditate, deep and unfathomable!

Milarepa

It has taken me a little while to open my eyes and reconnect with the earth, to see its beauty again.  It was always there but it was like a veil was over my eyes.

The sky, endless, colourful, forever changing. Above the clouds, always blue.

The mountains, serene, majestic, solid, unmoved by the weather and by what happens on its surface, an unwavering stillness and grounded in the face of everything that changes over seconds, over hours, over years.

The ocean, waves come and go, the ocean doesn’t hold on to them.  The tide comes in and go out. At times the waves may be rough but always under the surface, there is calm and peace.

Perhaps the earth can teach us,  to show us the way, to lift the veil, to open our eyes.


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Meditation doesn’t have to be so serious

Mr.Serious

There are times when I can be far too serious.  I started writing a post this morning about Silent reflection.  Half way through it, I re read it and thought it was very sombre and to be honest didn’t reflect how I feel at the moment.  I want to laugh, I want to smile.

How infectious a laugh is.  Yesterday I was driving down the road and a car was trying to park on the kerb opposite. It was double yellow lines and they were obstructing the oncoming traffic.  I stopped and waved through the oncoming car, the driver looked quite cross and did a hands up gesture as if to say “what the hell are they doing”.  In that split second we made eye contact, I laughed and shook my head, as she drove past me I saw her grimace turn into a smile.  A small snapshot moment, but it is powerful.

I haven’t always been able to smile and laugh.  I mean, a smile that is from the heart, one of those smiles you can see in the eyes and beams out.  Its getting easier.  Until I started meditating and doing the body scan, I didn’t even realise my brow was in a permanent frown haha!

A happy (or not) holiday

I remember as a kid going on a boating holiday on the Thames with my family. It was supposed to be a happy time but I was far from happy for some reason. My anxiety was raging and the holiday was fraught, the boat (or more likely the steerer!) had a tendency to veer towards the wrong channel in the river and we seemed to be forever fending off and avoiding going over the weirs. I was certain that there was going to be an impending doom for us all. I didn’t enjoy it one bit, which is odd that some years later, I ended up living and working on a narrow boat.  I can laugh now when I think back to that holiday but at the time it was a nightmare.  When I picture it now, it’s quite comical.  A seemingly happy, picturesque holiday on the river, scenes of the gently flowing water and tree-lined banks. That vision then smashed by a revving boat engine and screams of reverse,reverse for gods sake before we go over the weir!

Anyway, I digress but just a little snapshot of my early life and how I took life far too seriously from a young age.

Meditation and dropping the seriousness

I also looked at meditation with this seriousness I always knew.  I went about it as if I was doing an expedition up Everest,  but a few years down the line, I’ve learnt to hold it lightly, to smile with it and to laugh. It really doesn’t have to be so serious.  My meditation teacher mentioned Donald Trump in a meditation the other day, I can’t remember the context but it made me blurt out a little laugh mid meditation.

When I come to meditate without the seriousness, strangely I seem to get more out of it. As if by letting go a little, allows the meditation to do its work.  Letting the dust settle, allowing myself to just be me, with a little smile on my face.

Smile

I can only say I feel lighter just lately (in the spiritual sense, I have put on a few pounds in the last few weeks) which has allowed me to drop the rigid seriousness and smile a bit more.

Of course there are times when life has to be serious, the world we live in can be a serious place (too much so sometimes), but I think it is useful to be able to drop the serious every now and again.

So until next time (might be back to serious then, but maybe not) I wish you well, have fun, have a laugh and most of all, may you be happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A journey to where?

The journey of a thousand miles, begins with one step

Lao Tzu

The first step is often the hardest

When starting any journey or change in life, spiritual or otherwise, it is often the getting started that is the hardest part.

When I remember back to when I first started practising mindfulness and meditation, my mind would do anything to stop me from actual starting to practise.  Procrastination and distraction was there in abundance, doing all it could to stop me from making that first step.

One little simple trick helped me to push through all of that. I was reminded of it this morning when I was out walking George.

Our walk this morning took us into a corn field with a path running right across the middle.  As we traversed the field my focus was on the end of the path, way up ahead.

We do this in life too, we don’t concentrate on each simple step but rather tend to look to the end of the path far away.  This can lead to a sense of hopelessness, bewilderment and a sense that life is just passing us by.

We stop seeing the steps that we have may have already made, or feel that the task is so huge that it would be easier to simply stay stagnant.

All of these things went through my mind when I started to practise, how can I change? How can I calm my mind with all these thoughts? How is it possible to stop this rumination going on? I haven’t got time to meditate and so on and so on.

At this point, it indeed would have been easier to stay as I was, but instead I put all my focus into that very first step, nothing else. I sat for just ten minutes and counted my breath, in – one, out – two.  The thoughts came and went and tried to push me off-balance but I just simply came back to the breath, in – one, out – two.

The simple trick was to focus not on have I got the time?, can I calm my mind? how will I change? but just simply focusing on sitting and breathing.  It could be easy to dismiss this first step as too simple, too basic to be able to change a life. That first simple step was difficult but has truly changed my life for the better.  Dropping the expectation and taking that small step was the key to starting the journey, overcoming procrastination and taking action.

Steadily over the last couple of years, I have gradually increased those ten minutes to a regular daily meditation practice, ten minutes in the morning and twenty in the evening.  When I feel like I am going off track, or that knot of anxiety starts to bubble up, or life throws something up unexpected (life has a habit of doing that), I return to that very first step, the anchor, the breath, in – one, out – two.  A sense of peace and calm, slowly returns without fail.

a journey to where?

Unlike the path I took with George this morning, our lives rarely play out in a linear way.  The journey I talk about with mindfulness, isn’t a journey from point A to point B, it is a journey to now, right here, in this moment, the only moment we have.  It is a journey to this step, the one we are taking right now and being able to see it in all its glorious detail.

As we focus on each little step and not on our expectations and achievements, something magical starts to happen.  Decisions we have to make start to become clearer, we may become more creative and procrastination finds no home.

If you find yourself at a standstill, stagnant or unsure, try dropping the big picture for a while. Concentrate on now, this step, this moment and see what happens.  It sounds simple, but it works.

Think of the places where you plant your feet

Inscription on the door of Zen dojos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relighting the fires of wonder and curiosity for life

I have a distinct memory from my childhood.  Behind my Grandparents bungalow, was the most amazing rock formation.  There was a network of little grassy paths all through the rock formation and next to it an old wood, full of gnarled old trees, with knots in the bark that looked like faces.   We often played up there as kids. I had lots of fun, conjuring up little imaginary adventures and scenarios, but most of all was the sense of wonder and curiosity the place gave me as a child.

I stopped going up into the rocks and woods when I got older. That sense of wonder and adventure ebbed away as my mind developed and I started to become an adult.

My Grandparents have long since gone and the bungalow sold, but part of me wishes I could go back there now.  After many years, I feel that sense of wonder and adventure has returned. Slightly different from when I was a child, but quite similar.

I am sure I am not on my own with this, but as I grew up and became an adult, I successfully covered up this sense of wonder and curiosity or life, with layers of guilt, responsibility and fear (to name a few).  I closed my heart down to just functioning, just trying to get through it all.

Thankfully, those layers are now starting to be peeled away. Slowly, not forced, no goals in sight just a beautiful by-product of daily meditation and mindfulness.

Simple Rewards

The rewards show themselves in surprising ways. The  simple wonder of a seeing a flower open in the garden, the curiosity and excitement of trying something new.  I am listening to a beautiful piece of music whilst I write this, I can hear every instrument, every note and all the pauses. Simple signs, but it is that spark of childlike wonder and curiosity for life again.

Unlocking that childlike sense of wonder

So how to unlock this sense of wonder? My advice would be to not over think it. Just sit, just meditate consistently.  Don’t look for change, it will find you.  Small steps each day and may that wonder for life fill your heart.

Speaking of childlike wonder, my favorite author as I grew up was Roald Dahl and my favorite book was and still is …..

 Charlie and the Chocolate factory. I think I shall read it again. Although not from this book, I will leave you with a little quote from this amazing author…

” Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places”

Roald Dahl

 

 

 

 

Nature – The teacher

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished”

Lao Tzu

This morning, as I stood barefoot on the little lawn in the Mind Shed garden and supped my coffee, I could hear the bees buzzing around the flowers. As I looked around, Mr Blue tit was stood on the fence fluttering his wings about and chirping. He is proud as punch, Mrs Blue tit has had some babies. My senses are alive, the cold wet dew on my feet, the scent of earth and wet grass, the sound of distant traffic, but closer, the birds singing, the bees buzzing and George our little dog snoring away (he likes to lie in the morning sun and often drops off!).

Over the last week, I have felt a bit out of sorts. The usual tell-tale signs, a fluttering muscle next to my eye, the sense of life speeding up, the anxious knot in my belly, fidgety and irritable. Little signs telling me I need to stop, to pause, to reconnect. Its taken about a week to notice these signs, they are subtle, easy to miss in the busyness of life.  Before I started my mindfulness journey, I would have missed them completely, so a week is progress.  Anyway, that brings me back to why I was stood barefoot on the lawn this morning…

Nature – The Teacher

Nature has been one of the most powerful teachers on this journey.  For the last seven years I have had the greatest pleasure of working very closely with nature. My day job as an interior landscaper means I spend most of my days around plants. Strangely though, when you are up close to it everyday, it is easy to miss the lesson that nature teaches us.

Being humble

As I stand on the grass, it doesn’t complain or wilt away, It bears my weight. As I shift my feet it springs back up.  We need this quality too in our lives. Humility and a quiet strength, to pick ourselves up when we need to.  It doesn’t mean we become a walk over, but our reaction to the things we have to face in life can change, we don’t always have to react.

Patience

In nature everything happens in its own time. The seasons change, the flowers open, all in their own time.  Sometimes, I am so desperate to move onto the next thing that I forget what is happening here and now.  No wonder, I sometimes feel like life everything is speeding up.  As I stood in the garden this morning and reconnected, I was reminded that this journey, this practice of mindfulness, takes time and effort. It doesn’t happen over night.  We are so used to instant results, this can throw us of guard.  Nature can teach us that things will happen all in good time and to have patience.

Simple beauty

We have a of self seeded plants in the garden.  The most prolific self seeder that is in flower at this time of year, is the humble Aquilegia. At first glance the flower isn’t anything special, but get up close and lift the flower you realize it is simply beautiful.  In the busy frantic world that we live in, we can sometimes miss the simple beauty of life.  Simply noticing the breath, being aware of our bodies, simply connecting with those that we love, no words required, just a simple smile, a hug.  Simple things that can bring us great happiness.

Nature can teach us that happiness, the beauty of life doesn’t always come and give us a big slap in the face and say “Hey I’m here”.  It can be subtle, you have to sometimes get up close to see it, but it is there, all around us.
Getting deeply in touch with nature can be a great antidote to a busy mind. For me it just helps me to reset, to become grounded again, to just be me again.

Nature – a great teacher in this journey of life. Try standing barefoot on the grass or just pause and take a look around, let nature help you to feel grounded again.

I love to hear from you, let me know how you get on, leave a comment below or drop me a line at info@themindshed.co.uk

Have a super day!

 

 

 

Letting go of perfection

Me and perfectionism have had a long, long relationship until recently when we decided to part company.  It was an amicable split, we are still good friends.

Our history together goes way back, I think I was about seven when we met. That was when me and perfectionism decided to set the bar high, so high in fact, it was impossible to reach.  100% wasn’t good enough, just ok was a fail and a fail was the world is over.

In primary school, it was all about getting the teacher’s attention, striving to be clever and popular, to be the good little boy.

In secondary school it only continued, except now I not only wanted to seen as perfect in the teachers eye, I also wanted to be seen as perfect from my peers eyes, cool, funny, in the gang and so on.  I even tried to be the perfect football player (to this day I am terrible at it, no wonder they always put me in goal or defense!).

Next came the world of work, striving to be the best employer, to be liked, to be recognised, to keep my job, to earn more money so on and so on, makes me tired just writing it.

From the outside all looked okay, but underneath perfectionism was slowly turning me into a wreck.

Every time something didn’t go 100% perfect, I would beat myself up,I would tell myself I was useless. I was really good at that, always 100% perfect at beating myself up.   Oddly, the worse I started to feel about myself, the more perfect I had to be. A vicious circle, one that needed to be broke.

So, that’s how me and perfectionism met, but how did it end…

The thing with perfectionism, is that it is only bothered about the outcome. The experience itself becomes insignificant. When I really saw that for the first time, me and perfectionism started to part company.

When I think back there are so many examples of when I’ve been so focused on the outcome (of being perfect) that the experience of life has just passed me by.

My driving test was a good example, I failed first time and past the second.  My instructor couldn’t understand why I had failed, he knew I should have easily passed, but it wasn’t my driving that was at fault, but my striving to be perfect.

The first time I took the test, I told everyone when it was, I was so focused on passing, I had to pass otherwise I would be letting everyone down. On the day, I wore a suit so the examiner could see I was smart and conscientious. I was so anxious, the examiner was very strict and matter of fact, needless to say my nerves got the better of me, I made some silly mistakes and failed.

The second  time, I told no one. It was the same examiner but he was very different this time.  He got in the car and said, “I just want you to drive, enjoy it, pretend you are just taking your Dad out for a drive”. It was the best drive I had done, not once did I think about the outcome, I just drove, enjoyed it and passed without a single fault.

There really is nothing wrong with trying to do something well, but when the focus is only on the outcome, we can miss something vital. Perfectionism can be the one thing that stops you from being perfect.

Perfectionism can make you miss opportunities.  In my case, I started to stop doing things because if I couldn’t do them better than 100% what would be the point.  Perfectionism has a false logic.

How to say goodbye to perfectionism

  1. Give yourself some slack.  My journey into mindfulness has taught me that the strongest antidote to perfectionism is self compassion.  Give yourself that same understanding, gentleness and kindness you would give to your closest and dearest friend.  Easier said than done I know. Take small steps, when you notice you are beating yourself up over something, just take a few moments out, practice some self compassion and go easy on yourself.
  2. Ground yourself in the present moment.  When the urge is to focus on the outcome, bring yourself back to the present moment, to what is happening right here, right now.
  3. Stop people pleasing.  Perfectionism puts its roots down in people pleasing.  For me this is where it all started years ago, trying to please my teachers and peer’s.  I never really grew out of it.  Drop the people pleasing and perfectionism starts to lose its power.

So that is where my long-term relationship with perfectionism ended, in those three little steps.  It takes time, it’s a hard habit to shift but the work is well worth the effort.

Perfectionism is illogical, it doesn’t make sense.

Know that you are amazingly perfect because you are imperfect.