Mindfulness

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.

 

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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

 

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.

 

 

Click here to find the event on Facebook

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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.

 

Click here to find the event on Facebook

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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.

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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.

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Adaptive emotions and emotional reactions

Honouring our emotions the mindful way

Mindfulness allows us to increase awareness of whatever is occurring in the present moment without thoughts such as judgement, over analysis, or self-doubt. The practice is about watching or witnessing our inner processes with our awareness. So when it comes to learning how to honour our emotions using mindfulness practice, it is all about learning to witness the raw emotion as it arises in our body, as well as witnessing the thoughts and urges attaches to those emotions.

The nature of emotion

When we witness emotion, it is important to differentiate between feelings, thought and actions. Our emotions are the actual feelings that arise in our body. They are sadness, anger, guilt, fear and happiness. There are a multitude of other emotions, however these are the core five feelings that most other emotion stems from. Emotions are not thoughts about our emotions, nor are they our behavioural reactions. This is a very important distinction, as when we practice mindfulness of our emotion, we are simply practicing witnessing the emotion itself. Yes, re-activity involves thoughts, feelings and actions, but for the purpose of getting to know emotion, it can be a great practice to witness the emotion itself, stay present with it and simply identify it.

Only when we are clear in our process of witnessing the emotions within our body and identifying the emotion, can we begin to understand what they are about. We may experience an awakening out of confusion as we gain clarity about which emotions are arising in response to different events. For example, I feel scared when I do not know what is going to happen. I feel angry when someone steals my property. I feel guilty when I hurt someone. I feel sad when I lose something important to me. I feel happy when things in my life are generally in balance. So this is a good place to start.

Adaptive versus reactive emotion

As we begin to become acquainted with our emotional processes we may come to notice that some emotions make intuitive sense and are in proportion to the events occurring around us. These are adaptive emotions. They are primary reactions to situations that give us information about ourselves in the world. Remember, this is simply the arising of the emotion itself and not our actions or thoughts about the event. The emotions are as simple as a child’s emotional response to the world. These emotions have an innate wisdom of their own.

We may also develop the awareness that some emotions are disproportional to events around us, and they may repetitively arise under similar circumstances in ways that are individual to ourselves. These are far more complex than adaptive emotions. These emotions are often telling us more about a psychological pattern which we have learnt as a child or from a trauma or a highly distressing event. As children we are generally conditioned to distort our emotional responses. These emotions are either intensified or suppressed due to messages we receive from significant people in our lives. We learn to suppress anger, or feel guilt in situations that are not our fault, or develop anxiety when we do not know why we are scared. In mindfulness when we witness our emotional reactions which result from psychological patterns, we treat them in similar ways as with adaptive emotions. We simply bring our conscious awareness into the emotion and remain present with the sensations in our body. As we do this, we may also become aware of memories, images or senses that tell us where these emotional reactions are really from and what they are about. In this way we gain valuable insight about our emotional selves and sometimes about what aspects of ourselves require healing.

So on one hand, there are adaptive emotions which directly emerge from a situation and tell us about how the situation impacts on us. On the other hand, there are emotional reactions from psychological patterns which tell us about current life events as well as our past conditioning, trauma and psychological wounding. As we practice regular mindfulness, we generally increase insight into our patterns as well as our adaptive responses to situations in the world.

The key is awareness. Our patterns may need healing, however we can do this through seeing them clearly with mindfulness and learning how to refrain from spontaneously reacting from emotional triggers. The journey of mindfulness supports our self-understanding with compassion. This results in honouring our emotional selves, as well as increases clarity and peace of mind.

 

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“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.

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Join us on Friday afternoons at 1pm for an hour of mindfulness based training and psycho-therapeutic insights.

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The Difference between Crystal Bowls Meditation and Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness mediation is quite different from meditations that aim to raise compassion. This does not mean that mindfulness is without compassion or kindness, on the contrary, mindfulness is at its best when it embraces compassion. By ‘compassion based meditations’ I am simply referring to meditations that help us to feel warm and fuzzy. They include guided visualisations, crystal bowl meditations, meditating to a flower or candle, sound meditation, or meditating to drums, didgeridoos or gentle uplifting music. All of these types of meditations are focused on experiences that are pleasant to our senses. They are heart opening meditations.

How Mindfulness Meditation is Different

While compassion based meditations aim to open our heart space, mindfulness practice aims to train our awareness to expand. Both types of mediation bring us into the present moment, however, mindfulness cultivates awareness to watch ‘what is’. It is irrelevant whether our experience is painful or pleasant, mindfulness is only about watching whatever is occurring with open curiosity and neutrality. Mindfulness aims to expand the mind, rather than open the heart. This is important, as mindfulness strengthens the practice of wisdom and discernment.

I have commonly witnessed people cultivate a beautiful open heart, when their lives or their psyche are not ready for it. This can intensify a “broken our heart”. Compassion is wonderful, however, any wise Buddhist will tell us that compassion is only helpful when we simultaneously develop discernment. Without cultivating the mind, blind compassion can get us into a myriad of problems. A healthy heart/head alignment requires both types of meditations, if we are to cultivate true balance in our lives.

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Join us on Friday afternoons at 3pm and Saturday mornings at 9am 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 Happiness is not the Goal of Mindfulness Practice

A lot of people begin mindfulness practice to find happiness or inner peace. However, when they arrive they may find themselves being told that the aim of mindfulness is not to be happy but rather is simply to train the mind to remain present and attentive to what is occurring in the now. This can even be a source of disappointment to seekers of happiness. Disappointment and disillusionment are exactly why happiness is not the goal of mindfulness practice. Generally, when we seek happiness, it remains elusive.

Happiness is like love in relationships or the end of a rainbow. The more we try to find it, the more disappointed we become. The key to happiness and peace of mind is actually to stop looking for it. It is bizarre that when we finally abandon the search and get on with our lives that we are more likely to find what we are looking for. This is why in mindfulness the goal is to expand awareness in the inner moment, and not to find happiness. Ironically, when we attend to the present moment fully and forget about ourselves and our quests, that is the perfect state of being for happiness and inner peace to arise.

Join us on Friday afternoons at 3pm and Saturday mornings at 9am 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.

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

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The Essence of Mindfulness

Most people think of mindfulness as relief from anxiety or depression, a cure for health problems or a recipe for inner peace and increased concentration. However, the truth is that mindfulness does not actually aim to achieve any of these. Mindfulness is simply an Eastern practice to train our mind. It is a practice that cultivates sustained conscious wakefulness or presence. Mindfulness is all about raising awareness of ‘what is’.

The practice of mindfulness is like training a muscle. Only rather than a muscle, we are training our mind. In the East, the mind is not about thoughts and beliefs, as we conceptualize in the West. Rather, the mind is conscious awareness itself. We may bring awareness into our thoughts so we can witness their movement. However, the mind in mindfulness is not thought, but rather consciousness itself.

The benefits of mindfulness The practice of training our mind expands our ability to detach from thought, emotion and body sensation enough to witness them. This then allows us to better regulate emotion, train our brain to think more effectively, and teach our bodies to de-stress. Ironically, when we master this practice we often do find relief from anxiety or depression, cure health problems and create inner peace and increased concentration. So while the aim of mindfulness is to train our conscious awareness to witness what is occurring in the now, the practice often results in increased balance and happiness in our lives.

Join us on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings 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.

 

Click here to find out more

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

Bookings are essential, as places are limited

How Can I Trust Again?

The Aftermath of Loss & Betrayal

Trust is an essential ingredient in our lives as it lays the inner foundation for taking risks, trying new things, meeting new people and generally being open to new life experiences. Without trust we close our hearts and our minds and crawl into a hole, hoping to avoid any more pain. However trust is easily broken on many levels, and when major breaches of trust occur, we not only learn not to trust other people, but also ourselves and life. Rebuilding trust is a healing process, whether it is within an intimate relationship, a family or after a series of harrowing life experiences.

When we lose trust in life or in significant relationships, we lose trust in ourselves. In significant relationships such as couple’s relationships or family relationships, this can happen following sexual, physical and emotional abuse, personal violations, abandonment, or prolonged destructive patterns. In terms of general life events, loss of trust can follow trauma such as a plane crash, a serious car crash or natural disasters. These all lead to a loss of trust in our ability to protect ourselves and ensure safety and security. A loss of trust in ourselves and life is disorientating and feeds anxiety and depression. If the loss of trust is pervasive in life then we can start to heal by learning to trust ourselves.

Re-Building Trust in Perceptions & Emotions

The healing process to re-build trust in ourselves involves learning to reconnect to adaptive emotions, as part of the loss of trust is in our emotional guidance mechanism. Generally, after experiencing emotionally painful circumstances that rock our world and faith in life, our emotions become distorted. We can become very distressed and susceptible to depression and anxiety. Extreme circumstances lead to extreme emotions, which can mislead us if we do not understand the nature of emotions. Relearning to accurately listen to our emotions can result in re-engaging in self-trust.

When we do not trust our emotions, it is disorientating, confusing and impairs decision making. We do not believe that we will know how to cope with new situations. This is especially hard if the lack of trust of emotions resulted from childhood abuse, as there was never trust in emotions. If the abuse has been severe, it may be the case that the person also needs to learn to trust their own thoughts and perceptions as well as emotions. So learning to read emotions and distinguish between what are adaptive emotions as opposed to trauma emotions is vital to learning to trust ourselves.

Learning Boundaries

Another important aspect of learning to trust ourselves is knowing how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. Interpersonal boundaries are our ability to let in good, healthy experiences and keep out the destructive and painful experiences. Boundaries are about or ability to say “yes” and “no”.

When there have been interpersonal breaches of trust, abuse or personal violations, then trust can be difficult to maintain. We often question ourselves, such as “could /I have seen it in advance”, “why did they do this to me”, “what was so bad about me that they could have done this to me” etc. However, if someone has broken another person’s trust deliberately then they are responsible for their actions. Our only say in the situation is to stay or leave, and if the choice is to stay, then under what circumstances. For example, the criteria that may be put to a person who has abused the other that they seek therapy and that the relationship can only continue under safe circumstances. So establishing and maintaining safe and secure boundaries leads to increased trust in ourselves.

Trusting in Life

The final important aspect of re-building trust in ourselves that I will mention today is re-building trust in life. This can be very difficult after prolonged and severe abusive circumstances or a natural disaster. A counsellor once said to me “most of us live life under the illusion of safety” … of course, until it is devastated by traumatic experiences. The hard thing is that without trust there is a general foreshortened sense of future, disconnection with happiness and increased stress and anxiety. This is some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. So re-building trust under these circumstances is about creating new meaning of safety, security or purpose in life or even death.

It is interesting that one population that is particularly resilient to post-traumatic stress disorder is the Buddhist monks. Psychologist found that even after the atrocities that the Chinese Government inflicted on the Buddhist monk population in Tibet, which included torture and murder, most monks who survived were not traumatised.

When we look at the reasons behind the monk’s resilience, we find that their meaning of life and death is quite unique. Death is something they work towards their whole lives. A deep practice in meditation and mindfulness combined with a lifelong goal of reaching enlightenment buffers them from fearing death. Therefore they have a deep trust in life and death that many of us struggle with. Their trust is also not associated with physical safety and security. Rather they learn to detach from desire, including the desire to stay alive. In their detachment from the desire to live, they also lose their attachment to the emotions anxiety or fear that are usually associated with dying. Finally, with a loss of anxiety related to dying and powerful meanings about death that are positive, they also would not experience a loss of control in their lives or a sense of not coping. They are likely to experience some emotions, however they would not be consumed in the emotion nor would they hold on to the emotion in their bodies. So the Buddhist monks give us some interesting insights into trusting life, even in the face of trauma or adversity.

So whether rebuilding trust is following natural disaster or inflicted by other people, learning to trust ourselves again is vital to embracing life again. This could be done through reconnecting with ourselves and learning to trust our own thoughts, feelings and actions, or it may be through learning to establish healthy boundaries in interpersonal relationships. Finally, the meanings we make of life and death and the practice of mindfulness and meditation all contribute to establishing trust in life.

When has your trust been tested?

How did you overcome the challenge and re-build trust again?

 

 

Building Self Confidence the Mindfulness Way

Self-confidence is that sense of being acceptable, safe, self-assured and capable. It is the ability to feel good about oneself and not buy into those annoying self-talk messages in our heads that tell us we are too fat, ugly or stupid! Unfortunately, self-confidence is often sort after and illusive. This is especially so in situations that increases anxiety such as a new date, public speaking or a job interview.

How many times have you rocked up to that wanted job interview only to lose all your sense of self-worth, even though yesterday you were beaming with confidence when you caught up with your best friend for coffee in the park? We all lose a sense of confidence when placed in circumstances that challenge us or test us to get something we want. The question is… “what can we do to increase self-confidence when we find ourselves in stressful situations?”

Anxiety and Self-Confidence

Some things that tend to happen in stressful situations are that we become a prisoner of our anxiety which leads to disconnection from ourselves and becoming less aware of how we are presenting ourselves. Anxiety can lead us to talk louder and faster, make more mistakes, and become overly conscious of what we say or do. We tend to remember these times and cringe! To make matters worse, our inner critic judges our every attribute and move and we remember things that we might want to forget.

Mindfulness and Self-Confidence

The practice of mindfulness can show us another way! I remember reading the Delia Lama’s words in the book “The Art of Happiness at Work” where he said that when he speaks publically he is not nervous or self-conscious because he practices being present in the moment for the people listening to him. His focus or concern is on others and not on himself… while he is simultaneously aware of himself. This gives us two clues to increase self-confidence and come out of self-loathing or at least self-persecution. Firstly is to have more concern for those you are there for or are giving to. And the second is to witness and be aware of the self without judging about the self.

Mindfulness teaches us how to witness the self without being caught in the thoughts and emotions of the “ego self”. We can witness thoughts without believing them or the emotional landscape attached to them. This is a great way of facing those situations that seem to strip us of self-confidence as we can practice the art of mindfulness rather than floundering around in anxiety.

The Practice of Mindfulness to Build Self-Confidence

To practice mindfulness simply watch your breath without needing to change it. Allow your chest to expand and contract in its own time and its own way. As you breathe, allow yourself to witness your thoughts come in and out of your mind, knowing that they are only thoughts. Remain open and curious as emotions arise and physical sensations in your body emerge and fade. Notice if your thoughts try to convince you of some future unpleasant fate or that you are flawed in anyway. Watch them rise and then disappear without being caught “the story” of anxiety provoking thoughts. Know this response rising is simply a habit… a pattern of thought, feeling and actions. Irrespective of the outcome, know deep in the pit of your being that you are safe… you are good enough…. and either way, you can succeed at your goal.

When we put ourselves in situations that challenge us and practice mindfulness, we can build our confidence. We can increase confidence to some extent through visualising success in difficult situations, but the actual practice of mindfulness and perceived success, is what really builds self-confidence. Remember that success includes decreased anxiety in the stressful situation rather than the outcome of gaining the job or relationship. Mindfulness shows us how to succeed by helping us to centre our conscious awareness, calm our mind, and observe ourselves rather than remain self-conscious and fearful.

Has there ever been a situation where you “faked it until you made it”?

Now close your eyes and imagine adding the practice of mindfulness to your experience…..

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