Frequently asked questions about how workshops help

A safe personal development workshop, run by appropriately trained facilitators can be instrumental in our emotional and personal growth. However, it is often not clear when it is appropriate to access a personal development workshop, what we can gain from a workshop and what makes a workshop safe. Getting clear about what a workshop offers and who is facilitating it, is highly valuable when considering attending one. Below are some frequently asked questions that I have been asked about workshops and my responses to these questions.

How can a workshop help me to heal from the past?

A professionally facilitated workshop can help us heal painful wounds from the past through providing safe avenues to explore issues with like-minded people who have had similar experiences. Workshops are a fantastic forum for delivering psycho-education as well as facilitating experiential healing activities. Groups are also fantastic events to meet people who could become meaningful friends, as we often share more of ourselves than we do in other public events.Ultimately, a good personal development workshop will give us the opportunity to risk opening up a little more than usual, in a safe and supportive forum, as well as teach us valuable strategies and tools.

What will I gain from feeling this stuff again in a workshop?

When we allow ourselves to feel emotional pain that is already held in our bodies, we open to the possibility of releasing painful memories and growing from them. When we keep our pain hidden from our conscious awareness, the emotions fester. They do not just go away on their own. They then manifest in other ways such as destructive behaviour, addictions or even eventually physical disease. In a safe and non-judgemental place, we can process these memories and make sense of them in ways that expand our self-awareness and benefit us in our lives. These benefits could be in our relationship with ourselves; such as building self-confidence, a sense of inner safety and acceptance; as well as in our other relationships.

In a workshop we open up around other people in a safe environment. This gives us the opportunity to experience being accepted by others while we feel the way we do. This allows us to enhance self-acceptance and increase our ability to tolerate emotional experiences. Learning to tolerate emotions and discovering that many other people experience something similar, is very powerful in creating inner peace. So, opening to our feelings in a safe workshop helps us to release past emotional pain and form more confident relationship with our self and others.

When is a workshop more beneficial than therapy?

There is a time for therapy and a time for personal development workshops. Generally speaking, if we are experiencing acute crisis and do not have safety and security, then individual counselling is more suitable. Likewise, if we will feel too anxious and uncomfortable in a group then perhaps it is perhaps not yet safe to share deeper feelings with a group of other people. Emotional safety is the key.

To actively participate in a group we need to feel comfortable enough within ourselves to open up without feeling too exposed. If we leave a group feeling exposed and unsure of ourselves, rather than welcomed, accepted, and at ease with our learning and group interactions, then something has not occurred within the group to ensure emotional safety and group integrity. This may be that we are not yet ready for a group experience or it may be that something was not adequately attended to by the facilitators. It is then essential to speak to the facilitator and for them to appropriately respond by validating our experience and getting us appropriate support through counselling or acknowledging their mistake.

What can a workshop give me that therapy can’t?

Appropriate therapy and workshops give us a safe forum to heal from the past and to experience unconditional regard in healthy relationships. However, workshops have some extra added bonuses to therapy.

Workshops also give us:

  • More structured and comprehensive information about psycho-social-spiritual matters, than in therapy
  • Facilitated opportunities to relate to other people in a healthy and safe environment
  • The opportunity to normalize our feelings by hearing how other people have had similar experiences
  • These are just three important benefits we can gain from personal development workshops. Ultimately, what is important in choosing whether to attend a workshop is ensure the facilitators are experienced, appropriately trained and that the workshop is safe for your needs and values.

    Embracing our Inner-Woman

    Join me for a fabulous weekend of learning new ways of relating to your emotional self that increases your self-confidence, acceptance, happiness and self-love.

    Learn more about how to work with your emotions rather than be overwhelmed them in my new book.

    Don’t Tell Me To Get Over It: A woman’s guide to navigating emotional overwhelm

    Why honouring emotion is central to a woman’s self-confidence and self-value

    “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerability is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light”

    Brene Brown

    We often think the problem is how we feel about the things that happen to us. We then try to avoid, suppress or medicate our emotional pain and we tend to miss the inner wisdom held within the emotion. We end up spending so long in our addictions and avoidance of how we feel, that we become disconnected from ourselves and unknowingly cultivate a deep pervading sense of shame. Then, when we feel an emotional reaction with any intensity we also feel the familiar shame and guilt associated with feeling bad about feeling. Finally, we lose confidence in ourselves and discontinue seeing value or worth in ourselves. This is a common cycle that most women experience to one degree or another. So how does it happen and what can we do about it?

    The three stages of loss of confidence and self-value

    The first stage of loss of confidence and self-value for women is when we are in some sort of relationship, either in our family, an intimate relationship, with a friendship group or at work, and we believe other people who dismiss or illegitimize how we feel. If we allow it, these overt or subtle messages corrode our belief in our normal emotional responses to the world. We begin to feel edgy, unsure of ourselves and insecure. We learn that our feelings are not trust worthy and that our perspectives are not important.

    In the second stage our self-doubts grow stronger and we feel increasingly anxious. If we cannot trust our emotional responses to the world, we cannot gauge what is safe and what is not. We tend to automatically think it is our fault if someone has a go at us and we lose our sense of healthy boundaries. Fear becomes disproportional because it is like we are walking around a booby-trapped room with the lights out.

    The third stage is where we fall into symptoms of depression, as we become stuck in anxiety, mis-trust, disconnection and isolation. The anxiety from feeling unsure of ourselves and ashamed of our emotional selves solidifies into depression because an extremely important aspect of our adaptive self has been systematically dismantled. Depression tells us that there is something very wrong with how we are operating in the world and perhaps in the relationships that surround us.

    The Solution

    The solution is to clearly see the mistaken belief that there is something wrong with us when we feel emotions. It is important to find a safe healthy relationship, such as a therapeutic relationship and begin to work through what our feelings are really telling us. We need to identify the psychological patterns that lead to this mistaken belief and explore our interpersonal relationships to see what is emotionally safe and what is not.

    This all may sound like a journey, and it is! However, it is a journey that holds the key to rediscovering our inner confidence and self-value. Our adaptive emotions help us establish and maintain healthy boundaries and discern what is right and wrong for us. Self-confidence IS confidence in our emotional selves. It is all about trusting ourselves that we can understand our emotions and follow their inner-wisdom to create a safe and secure life.

    Embracing our Inner-Woman

    Join me for a fabulous weekend of learning new ways of relating to your emotional self that increases your self-confidence, acceptance, happiness and self-love.

    Learn more about how to work with your emotions rather than be overwhelmed them, in my new book.

    Don’t Tell Me To Get Over It: A woman’s guide to navigating emotional overwhelm

    “I’m Perfectly Fine!”

    The secret battle women have with emotions

    This week I spoke to women about attending a workshop on emotions and the loudest message was that they did not feel safe to work through their emotions in a group. The lack of trust towards other women when it comes to us expressing emotions was undeniable. These women were strong. They ran businesses, managed families and some even had public profiles. They held it all together for other people in lots of different contexts, and saw themselves as in control of their lives, or at least on the surface. Yet the thought of revealing how they really felt with other women in a workshop was unpalatable. They stated they were more comfortable in psychotherapy on a one on one basis. Moreover, it was not just themselves they were talking for. They spoke about how this would be quiet normal for most women who moved in their circles.

    The importance of emotional well-being

    What really stood out for me from these conversations was just how ill-at-ease we are with our emotional selves and how deeply we fear sharing how we feel. Yet our emotional well-being underlies so much in our lives. Our relationship with our emotions forms the foundation of our relationships with our partners, children and friends. It forms the basis of our eating patterns and addictions. It underlies physical health problems and our ability to experience joy. Additionally, it is fundamental to femininity and our emotional wisdom.

    This made me wonder… as women, how healthy are we? There is so much emphasis on physical appearance and sex and yet half the country is suffering from depression and anxiety. This says something!!! It says we do not understand or accept ourselves as emotional beings.

    By being ‘emotionally sick’ what we are really talking about is being disconnected from our adaptive emotions and being stuck in painful conditioned patterns from our past. Metal illness may be a huge industry in the Western world, but really the truth is that we are caught in the grip of powerful emotional patterns without the tools, wisdom or knowledge to find our way out.

    Authentic healing

    The first step to discovering freedom from emotional overwhelm is to acknowledge our authentic feelings in a safe environment and work through our patterns. It is about knowing we are perfectly acceptable for having the full spectrum of emotional states, and that owning them and safely expressing them is healthy to our body, mind and soul. It is sad that we believe there is something wrong with us when we experience intense emotions. The truth is that this is inevitable at some point in our lives. What is more, we can learn to be at ease with who we really are only if we allow ourselves to feel without being ashamed of our emotions. This needs to be done both in individual therapy as well as in safe psychotherapeutic groups for us to experience being accepted by ourselves and others.


    Cultivating Emotional Wisdom

    Join me for a fabulous safe weekend of learning new ways of relating to your emotional self that increases your self-confidence, acceptance, happiness and self-love.

    Learn more about how to work with your emotions rather than be overwhelmed them, in my new book.

    Don’t Tell Me To Get Over It: A woman’s guide to navigating emotional overwhelm








    The New Agenda for International Women’s Day

    Empowering ourselves through embracing and honouring emotion

    There have been so many important issues celebrated and raised at International Women’s Day over the decades, including women’s rights, abuse towards women, and women and war. All of these topics remain relevant to this day and still need to be acknowledged. Yet, as we mature in our self-awareness as women we can also turn our focus towards ourselves and our inner growth, as much as we focus on atrocities happening to us around the world. A central aspect to empowering ourselves as women is to learn how to master our emotions and embrace our feminine essence.

    What does it mean to have a feminine essence and what does this have to do with emotion?

    As women with a feminine essence, we are emotionally-based. This means that we see the world through the lens of our emotions. We think about the world in response to how we feel about it. We communicate about the world in language that expresses how we feel about it. In a nut shell, we are connected to the emotional landscape of what is happening around us, rather than having a fundamentally physical and mental orientation. This does not mean we do not think or that we are not physical beings, it simply means that the mental and physical are secondary to the emotional.

    The masculine essence is the other way around. He is predominantly mental and physical. Men in their masculine essence still feels emotions; however, emotions are generally are secondary. Even when men are in alignment between their head and heart, they can be heart-based, however their emotions are still seen as ancillary.

    So the feminine is all about embracing our emotional selves and embodying the constant flux and flow of seeing the world through the eyes of emotion.

    How does this translate in women empowering ourselves?

    What this means is that as women we need to embrace how to understand and work with our emotional selves to master our inner world and our subsequent actions and reactions. Our journey of empowerment is one of learning how to read our own emotional wisdom and value ourselves by standing in our truth. It is about stepping out of the portrayal as a victim of oppression (even when oppression is still happening) and fully embracing the powerful feminine who knows how to listen to, acknowledge and validate how she feels before discerning how she acts.

    The problem is that throughout history emotions have been misunderstood, feared, diminished and ridiculed. Consequentially, the feminine essence has also been diminished. This has left women confused, feeling lesser than, and unsupported in understanding and embracing our emotionally–based nature. The key is to recognise this general social misunderstanding about emotions and learn how to have a new relationship with our emotional selves based on self-respect, self-value and inner confidence as a woman.

    It is important to celebrate ourselves as women. However, perhaps it is even more important to work through our unconscious wounds and discover how to access our emotional wisdom and self-value that defines our feminine essence.

    Embracing our Inner-Woman

    Join me for a fabulous weekend of learning new ways of relating to your emotional self that increases your self-confidence, acceptance, happiness and self-love.

    Learn more about how to work with your emotions rather than be overwhelmed them in my new book.

    “Don’t Tell Me To Get Over It: A woman’s guide to navigating emotional overwhelm”

    What do happy women know that you don’t?

    When was the last time you felt really happy within yourself?
    Do you feel comfortable in your own skin?
    Have you wondered if you will ever discover genuine contentment?

    These are just some of the questions that made me wonder, what do we women really want out of life? So, I Googled “what do Australian women want” and found links about losing weight in fad diets, finding a man and whether men from other countries like Australian woman. I was appalled! Not one link talked about what we really want in our lives.

    So I thought more about what we genuinely yearn for. Then the line from PS, I Love You jumped to mind… “The truth is… we don’t really know!”

    We are heavily trained to look outside of ourselves to fill the empty hole within our heart and soul. Yet, if we are to find happiness as a woman the answer lies within us. It is about feeling good about ourselves on the inside and being self-assured. A woman’s genuine self-value shines from within and speaks loudly to anyone around us. It naturally radiates! Self-value and contentment follows from loving and accepting ourselves as we are. This sounds simple and yet like the Holy Grail, it remains elusive to most of us. What we do not realise is that love and acceptance is innately within us, and our disconnection results from conditioned beliefs and unconscious emotional patterns.

    The real cause of loneliness, low self-esteem and anxiety is the clouds that block the brilliant sun, which is our authentic core-self. We are disconnected from ourselves and as a result, we are in emotional distress most of the time. The real solution to this problem is not more shopping trips or yet another phone call to our girlfriend, only to feel empty all over again as soon as we put down the phone. Nor is the solution finding the next intimate relationship or fling to temporarily quench our thirst. The real solution is to open our awareness to our blocks, dissolve them and then re-balance our authentic emotional selves and inner-connection. Genuine connection in relationships is important however, it only ever follows from self-healing and inner-connection. It can never be the other way around.

    The process of inner-connection and re-balancing our emotions is all about creating a new relationship with ourselves. It is where we learn to distinguish between emotional patterns and those emotions that are adaptive to current circumstances. The more we understand and work with the powerful energies of our emotions, the more we understand ourselves. Only then can we make choices that serve our truth and create the life we know we are meant live.

    Join Janet McGeever, Emma Creed and myself for a fabulous weekend of learning new ways of relating to your emotional self that increases your self-confidence, acceptance, happiness and self-love.


    Learn more about how to work with your emotions rather than be overwhelmed them in my new book…

    “Don’t Tell Me To Get Over It: A woman’s guide to navigating emotional overwhelm”



    Mindfulness: Aligning our head with our heart

    The heart break and confusion that happens in relationships signifies just how important it is cultivate a strong head/heart alignment. We can feel tortured between the pull of our compassion and the mistrust and judgement of our minds. We are all doing it! Judging our partners, our children, our parents, our friends or siblings and tearing ourselves apart at the heart.

    Using meditation to avoid emotional pain

    Many people practice meditation in times of stress and distress in an attempt to cope with their emotional pain. However, this can go two ways. When we meditate, the end result is often to open our heart. However if our heart is in pain we can actually intensify that pain and create a heightened desire to cling to destructive relationships just to sooth the pain. Alternatively, we can overcome the pain from negative dynamics in relationships through meditation, and accidentally fall into a delusional open heart space that loves without discernment. Either way, the heart opening meditations can be more destructive than helpful in times of tension.

    Heart opening meditations such as sound meditation, guided visualization, crystal bowls meditations, mantras, chakra dances and the like are all beautiful endeavors when our lives are generally in a state of balance. Problems only arise when we participate in these types of meditations without grounding ourselves or when we are in a state of acute loss or trauma. When we are emotionally overwhelmed and vulnerable we are at risk of making destructive choices to ease our pain which can be heightened by compassion orientated meditations. Only when we are grounded in our mind and our resolution can these heart opening meditations then be conducive.

    Mindfulness meditation and psychotherapy

    Here is where a combination of mindfulness meditations and psychotherapy can really help. When we are in emotional pain, we need to make sense of our situations and ourselves. Psychotherapy supports the development of personal insight and tangible coping skills. Mindfulness helps attune our conscious awareness either away from our pain or into our pain, based on whichever is most helpful at the time. Both of these approaches cultivate discernment of our minds and wisdom which is what is really needed in times of distress.

    Navigating through emotional overwhelm, loss and grief, or trauma takes mindful and wise guidance. It is important not to simply try to avoid our pain using meditation, but rather face our inner demon’s using mindfulness and psychotherapy. When we are beyond the intensity of the feelings and our lives have re-balanced and are safe and secure again, then the compassion meditations can be a wonderful practice.


    Join us on Friday afternoons at 1pm for an hour of mindfulness based training and psycho-therapeutic insights. “Embrace What Is” is an on-going relaxed group that will support your mindfulness practice and help you to integrate this practice into your everyday life.

    Call Vanessa on 0424 507 101 to book your place in this exciting and innovative group

    Bookings are essential, as places are limited


    Reconnecting with Emotional Wisdom

    A woman’s journey of self-value

    The Western world generally views emotions with negative connotations. As women, we have lost connection with our emotions that possess inner wisdom. Emotions can safely guide us through our lives when we learn how to hear them. The key to emotional wisdom is simply knowing how to listen to them. However, because we tell ourselves that unpleasant emotions are bad, we often try to supress or even medicate them rather than listen to their wisdom. Without realising it, we are not only blocking our emotional system, but also we are losing the opportunity to learn from our emotions.

    Allowing ourselves to feel our emotions helps us to work out personal boundaries, likes and dislikes, values, and direction. When we suppress our emotions we lose valuable information that tells us about ourselves and the world. An example of this is when Mary felt increasingly anxious without knowing why.


    Mary’s story

    Mary was afraid of trying anything new. When faced with unfamiliar situations, her heart raced and every now and then she noticed she held her breath. Her stomach was often in knots and she worried about little things constantly. Mary had been in a relationship for ten years with her husband Fred, who often put her down. While her self-esteem was stifled, she did not realise the full impact of Fred’s put downs. Instead she figured she was an anxious person and decided to go onto anti-depressants. She was using to being put down, as her father and brothers had done the same thing when she was growing up. Her mother was also unsure of herself, and often tried to reassure Mary that things would all work out if she was simply nice to other people. Mary could not figure it out, she was nice to other people but still she felt horrible about herself.

    When Mary saw her doctor, he agreed that antidepressants would decease her symptoms of anxiety and hep her to better cope in life. However, in the end it reconfirmed to Fred that Mary was the one with the emotional problems, and Mary became even more disconnected from her feelings and inner truth.

    It was not until one day when Mary felt deeply disillusioned and depressed, that she finally decided to push through her fears and try something different. She enrolled in higher education where she started studying languages, a field she had always been interested in but never thought she would be good at. Fred continued to dismiss and put Mary down for her attempts at doing something she wanted to, but she was too resentful and disillusioned to listen to Fred anymore. Her self-blame eased as she made new friends and began to adapt a different perspective on her life and herself. Slowly she began to realise that the problem was not her emotions but rather the put downs, both her own self-blame and Fred’s put downs. She started to consciously challenge the self-defeating thoughts with the help of her friends and counselling, until one she confronted Fred.

    This was completely new to both Mary and Fred. Neither one of them were accustomed to Mary standing up for herself. Unfortunately Fred simply became self-righteous and angry towards Mary which began to seal the fate of their relationship. Over time, the friction between them grew. No longer was Mary going to remain in a shutdown, depressed and anxious state, but Fred could not understand the changes in his wife.

    Eventually Mary left the relationship and continued to build her self-confidence, studying languages and eventually traveling overseas. On her journey, she realised she had no need for antidepressants anymore. While she still sometimes felt anxious and scared, she learnt to distinguish between helpful fear and anxiety that held her back from growing. Eventually she met a new partner who was completely different from the men she knew in her past. Brad was far more respectful towards her and encouraged her to learn and travel.

    The moral of the story

    This story reflects a common experience where the wisdom behind the emotion is lost. Rather than listening to her fear and working through why she was feeling that way, Mary created a simple explanation that there was something wrong with her for feeling anxious. Unfortunately, by believing that she was the problem and further supressing her emotion, she temporarily lost the opportunity to learn self-value, interpersonal boundaries, and possibly help create a healthier relationship with either Fred or another more respectful man. Eventually she turned this pattern around and learnt to honour her feelings, however she spent over a decade of her adulthood feeling rotten about herself. So the moral of the story is to learn how to listen to the wisdom within our emotion rather than suppress or medicate it.

    Available soon…

    “Don’t Tell Me To Get Over It”

    A women’s guide to navigating through emotional overwhelm

    Learn how to recognise widespread emotional patterns, and how to heal them. ‘Don’t Tell Me To Get Over It’ is a self-help book that explores abandonment, people pleasing, generational grief, self-righteousness and shame. Through five women’s personal journeys, we investigate how past childhood wounds continued to impact on their lives, resulting in the formation of psychological patterns. Step by step, this book outlines how to identify the patterns, work through the emotions within the patterns and heal them. The psychological processes endorsed in this book embrace honouring our emotion and learning from our inner wisdom.


    What stops us from regular mindfulness practice?

    Mindfulness is a beautiful practice to expand our conscious awareness and presence. We become more aware of what is occurring in the present moment both within ourselves and in the external world. Mindfulness practice can result in increased inner peace, improved concentration and memory and youthfulness. It is well known for its physical health benefits and preventive value. However, it is astonishing how this simple and effective practice is often avoided, dropped or even resisted. There are a range of reasons why we may push away mindfulness even though it benefit us enormously.

    Reasons why we discontinue mindfulness

    The first reason why we might discontinue mindfulness is that it involves relaxation. Often when we are stressed, anxious or distressed we tend to resist calming down. Relaxation is actually the antidote to stress and anxiety. However, ironically this can be the most difficult thing to do when we are tense.

    Another reason why we may resist mindfulness is that we can become lost in our messy minds. It is like we forget to clear our thought patterns, which then overwhelm us. We may feel trapped and hopeless in the torrent of thought. Then we do not see the forest for the trees. This is when our mind needs ‘de-fragging’, just like a computer does. Mindfulness is the mind’s de-fragging program, however we often do not realise the need for it when we are caught in metal noise.

    The third reason we may cease mindfulness practice is when we are entangled in a hurricane of emotions. When intense emotional patterns are triggered, it can be very difficult to pull ourselves away from the emotional overwhelm to practice mindfulness. Strong emotions tend to distort rational thought and distract our awareness from the present moment.

    The good news

    The good news is that a well-rehearsed mindfulness practice can overcome these barriers. The more we become accustomed to mindfulness, the easier it is to reconnect with the practice. It is like fitness building. So when we embrace mindfulness as a life style change and apply it into our daily lives, we benefit from it in the times when we need it the most.




    Join us on Friday afternoons at 1pm for an hour of mindfulness based training and psycho-therapeutic insights. “Embrace What Is” is an on-going relaxed group that will support your mindfulness practice and help you to integrate this practice into your everyday life.

    Call Vanessa on 0424 507 101 to book your place in this exciting and innovative group

    Bookings are essential, as places are limited




    Why controlling our thoughts does not work

    Mindfulness shows us a better way

    Last week we looked at why controlling our emotions does not work. In a nut shell, controlling our emotions is futile because they will manifest in one way or another, and usually when we least want them to. Emotions can help us to navigate through life when we learn how to remain present with them and to understand them. Mindfulness, rather than control, is far more effective in managing emotions. This week we will re-focus away from emotion to look at why controlling our thoughts also does not work.

    How thoughts blind us

    Thoughts, like emotions, tend to arise without conscious intention. They seem to pop into our mind and can take on a life of their own. One minute we can be happily looking at the ocean and the next minute we can be lost in a bombardment of thought. While thoughts are frequently triggered by emotional reactions, thoughts themselves are separate from our emotions. Thoughts are beliefs, attitudes, reasoning and the like. Collectively, they become stories that our mind tells us.

    Often when we are triggered by an event in the world, the emotional reaction will activate a story in our mind that is an attempt to work out what is happening. Our cognitive mind is geared to reason and forms beliefs and attitudes that figure out how things work. The reasoning human mind is ingénues. It is why we can create tools, houses, cars and televisions. What other creature on this planet has adapted so well due to their ability to think through problems and work out solutions?

    However, our rational mind is a double edge sword, particularly when our emotions are heightened. Our mind can scramble for explanations that are not only incorrect, but are also detrimental to our well-being. We often try to simplify things to get our heads around them. We do this by creating judgments, mis-guided opinions, and false beliefs. These thoughts may satisfy our minds and our emotional reactions, however they often do not help in our relationships and do not reflect the truth of the situation. The key is to train our minds to tune out unhelpful thoughts.

    We cannot stop thoughts

    An important point is that while we can re-train our minds to focus on different aspects of ourselves and our surroundings, we cannot actually stop thoughts. I have seen people increase their fear and anxiety because they believe that if they cannot stop certain thoughts then bad things will happen to them. Other people may be concerned because out-of-control distressing thoughts that haunt or plague their minds following trauma or adversity. Yet other people are simply fed up with certain ways their minds think. However, stopping thought is not actually possible, it is like not thinking of while elephants. If someone says “don’t think about white elephants”, it is pretty difficult to not think about them.

    So the trick is not about stopping our thoughts but rather becoming more mindful of our thoughts. Mindfulness is about increasing awareness of what is happening in the present moment, and making a choice where to focus our attention. It does not stop thought but it does determine what types of thinking we feed and what type of thinking we starve. The art of mindfulness is to learn how not to practice certain stories or particular thought processes.

    The gift of mindfulness

    If we are to really hone our mind to accurately appreciate and understand anything, then perhaps the best place to start is ourselves. Through mindfulness practice we can begin to increase our awareness of thought patterns and what stories we are creating. Only when we do this can we begin to master the mind rather than allow it to take us astray. By watching our thought and simply being present with it, we empower ourselves to start to see the thought for what it is… thought! We take a step back and cease mindlessly believing our thoughts that pop into our heads. We create space in our mind to sense our truth rather than being caught in the incessant stories. If we relax enough in our mind, we can gain clarity and insight. This is the gift of mindfulness, to come out of unconscious automatic brain function that we have been programmed with as children, and increase awareness of ourselves, other people and our environment.


    Join us on Friday afternoons at 1pm for an hour of mindfulness based training and psycho-therapeutic insights. “Embrace What Is” is an on-going relaxed group that will support your mindfulness practice and help you to integrate this practice into your everyday life.

    Call Vanessa on 0424 507 101 to book your place in this exciting and innovative group

    Bookings are essential, as places are limited


    Why controlling our emotions does not work

    Mindfulness shows us a better way

    We try to control our emotions for a range of reasons. We may have been told that we are weak or inadequate for feeling certain emotions. We may fear particular emotions because we have seen negative outcomes from other people expressing those emotions. Some emotions may not fit with our self-imposed image of ourselves. At the end of the day, there are a wide range of beliefs about different emotions, their roles and their meanings.

    Separate from the beliefs however, emotions themselves are our natural guidance mechanism system when they are in balance and are not distorted by the “stories” we tell ourselves. Emotions are derivatives from the feelings anger, guilt, sadness, fear and happiness. The stories, on the other hand, are what we tell ourselves about the emotions. It is like there are two layers of mind function happening simultaneously. The first layer is the emotional reaction, and the second layer is the egoic thought that tries to make sense of our experience. Often this is where our understanding goes awry. Our mind comes up with all sorts of ideas that in turn distort our emotional reactions.

    Caught in the story within our minds

    For example, we may feel anger because someone pushed into a queue in front of us. Some amount of annoyance would be natural (or adaptive) as we could justify that it is disrespectful to push in to line when everyone else had to wait their turn. It highlights our limitation of waiting in line and our frustration that someone can get away with something that seems unfair. I will not go into the situation too much, as another person may not feel annoyance but rather accept it gracefully. However, for the purpose of this point, let us agree that a small amount of anger is appropriate to the situation.

    The story in our mind may intensify the emotion by thinking about all the times when we perceived unfairness and our helplessness at standing up for ourselves. We may further feel worthless and ineffective. We may remember times in our childhood when we had to put up with frustrating circumstances when we were really being hurt. We may have been bullied and unable to talk about it, or abused and unable to defend ourselves. By the time our mind is through with us, we are standing inline fuming over the injustice.

    Then we may feel bad about feeling angry. We may equate feeling anger with being an ‘angry person’. We may think about angry people we did not like or how we are supposed to be nice people. We struggle and fight with our emotions of anger, worthlessness, guilt and anxiety. We try to suppress and control the emotion of anger. We push it down into our stomach and swallow it. Now our body is completely stressed.

    If we suppress emotions over a long period of time then we can eventually develop physical disease. There is a wealth of evidence showing links between the nervous system and the immune system. We know that long term stress can result in a range of physical conditions. So suppressing emotion simply holds the energy of that emotion in our organs and muscles. It does not actually get rid of the emotion. Nor are we really controlling it. This is an illusion. We may keep it down for a while but eventually it will manifest somehow, and usually in ways that are completely out of our control.

    Mindfulness and emotional processes

    So mindfulness teaches us that if we simply bring awareness into the emotion then we can listen to it, understand what it is really about and transmute it. The emotion, whether it is anger, fear, guilt or sadness, will subside once is job is done. All we need to do is witness it. As we do this we often also witness the ego-story about the emotion. This witnessing process allows us to better see that our thoughts about the emotion are actually feeding our distress. This helps us to consciously choose where we place our awareness. If the memories, images and beliefs that are triggered from a current event are causing us meaningless distress then mindfulness practice can assist us to make different choice and re-focus our attention on our breath, or our foot or the ocean.

    This process is not about control out rather witnessing what is occurring in the present moment and then making a choice to re-focus our awareness. If the choice to remain present with the emotion is helpful then this is fine too. However, in mindfulness we stay present with the emotion consciously. To be present with the emotion helps us to feel deeper into its meaning. Mindfulness combined with guided therapeutic processes helps us explore our emotions safely, rather than become stuck in the emotion or feed the destructive story or pattern.

    Click here to join us at the “Embrace What Is” mindfulness group on Facebook



    Join us on Friday afternoons at 1pm for an hour of mindfulness based training and psycho-therapeutic insights. “Embrace What Is” is an on-going relaxed group that will support your mindfulness practice and help you to integrate this practice into your everyday life.

    Call Vanessa on 0424 507 101 to book your place in this exciting and innovative group

    Bookings are essential, as places are limited