Category Archives: Guidance and teaching

Dealing with thoughts and emotions.

We are coming to the end of our seven-week meditation course, Be Here Now. There is often a point when someone will ask how we do deal with emotions. How can I cope?

Suffering from your troublesome thoughts and emotions might be the very reason you started to explore meditation practice- but don’t limit it to just that.

Meditation is therapy but not in the way many mindfulness courses assume. I don’t just get how one can meditate specifically for better leadership skills, decision making, creativity  or compassion…..

All of those things happen ‘naturally’ depending on where you are and wether you will let them flow. Wanting those skills as your starting point is a bit like learning to paint like Raphael, because you want to be famous and rich –

Its never going to happen. It doesn’t work like that.

Raphaels-La-Fornarina-The-001

The key is to smooth out expectation by learning non-attachment. In mindfulness this is called non-judgment.

The point is that you are not your thoughts or your emotions.

What?

Yes, that’s right. You might ‘think’ that your thoughts are YOU, that how you feel are the concrete building blocks of your essential make up.

But they aren’t.

They can’t be because they are never around long enough.

Thoughts come and go at about 700 miles an hour.

Yoga science says that thoughts are like objects. They are like your car, your phone, and your shoes.  They are made of ‘stuff’, which appears and disappears. They don’t last. And because they don’t last that makes them an unreliable source on which to base any idea of whom you are or what you are doing and what is really going on.

Dealing with emotions, in fact all of those troublesome thoughts will happen naturally. You will notice through practice that they lose their power to impact on your mind, body and actions.

Imagine if you went though life believing everything your mind told you- good or bad… that everything that popped into your head, which in turn impacted on your body, stimulated your emotions, your actions, was how things really are.

Start swimming

Many say that are being –‘sucked downwards’ by their thoughts, their emotions. They are overwhelmed, caught in cycle of emotions, thoughts and worries… It’s exhausting, confusing and depressing.

Its no accident that the yoga term for thinking is ‘vritti ‘ meaning ‘whirlpool’. What happens when we get caught up in a whirlpool? We get sucked inwards, down under the water. If we don’t manage to break free, to start swimming; there is a good chance you won’t survive.

Our problems start when we are taught from an early age to live solely in our heads– not in the whole you, some not even on planet Earth – and I don’t mean that in a good way. Those people are really lost in space!

Unfortunately, that is how many of us do live.

They are not happy!

It takes practice and good meditation teaching. Those mindfulness courses that remain at the level of surface contemplation ( look at the sky…isn’t it nice. How do you feel about it?) are not enough. You need to get in the water…

Have you ever heard of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)? About 5% of the UK population suffer from it. Its caused by overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour. Yoga would say yes agreed! Its our whirlpool thinking connected to a  moment-to-moment confusion on how we think.

When we confuse our thought ‘objects’ with reality it’s like identifying yourself as a real, authentic, fully enlightened person, by your car, your job, your status, and your salary.

None of that lasts…in the end we discover its all lacks vital substance.In the same way we don’t have to identify with our negative emotions. Its not us. Its not real even though it feels real.

Cultivating insight

Look at how many times the word ‘insight’ is used in meditation. It means, awareness, intuition, perception, comprehension etc.… but it requires a starting position from which to direct our sight (attention) – inwards – from being outwards to inwards…

When we do that, we notice things – differently. We don’t have to go into therapy, we don’t need to analyse our thoughts, push them away, block them off and compress them. You don’t need to talk about them if you don’t want to…

You simply ‘watch’ them.

When we learn to do that we found ourselves in a new space (not so new, as its been there all the time). Like a farmer tending to crops, we prepare the ground for growth and change.

We notice, thoughts come and go, but underneath them, flowing through that new space is a deeper, more profound world of peace, creativity and stillness. It all grows naturally. You then realise that it has nothing what so ever to do with how you think you need to ‘deal’ with or work though your thoughts and emotions. You remember that  you already own the inner resources to change you perspective and thus transform the world.
You allow all of theses to happen to you. You don’t make them….you notice them. Probably, for the first time. We come to realise that we can do more, by not living in our heads all the time.

We often say that meditation is like learning to swim. You can read about swimming forever but you will never know what its like and how you can do it unless you get in the water.

So just start swimming, get stronger, be free and learn to keep out of those those whirlpools…

Naruto_Whirlpools_taken_4-21-2008

 

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Happy Spontaneous Me!

This week we hosted our Yoga In Action workshop, Happy Spontaneous Me! in collaboration with Chorlrton Arts Festival.

This is real YOGA. Otherwise know as the Yoga of Action.

It’s like an active meditation. Where we merge being and doing into one. We use simple techniques such as repetitive and flowing mark making as a way of connection moment to moment with what we are doing. We use this as ‘flow’ producing activity that everyone can do.

Its fun. But it’s also a serious practice. In many ways this is advanced yoga!

Don’t worry though… This is yoga practice off the mat and into the realm of everybody lives. It teaches you to take notice, observe and be in harmony with what ever you are doing. Sometimes called the science of autotelic experience, or ‘flow’ is when we fully direct and our consciousness into and with whatever we are doing purely for its own sake.

The experience is spontaneous happiness and joy. In yoga science Happy Spontaneous Me points to a deeper form of yoga practice called Karma Yoga or the yoga of action. This is essential and fundamental practice is where we change of mode of thought from trying to exert force over what we do towards a desired result to aligning out action to our inner harmony and intuition.

Most people confine themselves to never ending treadmill of expectation, desires, and rewards. It causes frustration, anger, jealousy and unhappiness. But its possible to step off the treadmill, still be in the world but free once we learn know where real happiness and creative contentment is.

But I am not creative…I cant draw. Oh yes you can.

Everyone can, that’s the whole point. The fact is that when you are in your yoga flow self-created expectations, desires or limiting feelings about oneself are stilled. They simply do not matter. You will feel in total control, present and fulfilled. In the workshop emphasis is letting go, observing and learning to finish meaning and joy in the ongoing experience of the workshop tasks.

During the workshop we learn to:

  • Understand how to make any activity into a flow or yoga experience.
  • Unlock your creative flow and liberate your inner joy
  • Develop a sense of meaning, effortless control and involvement in what you are doing.
  • Discover a deeper a sense of self and purpose.
  • Feel what it means to be totally present and not lost in an imagined future or past.  

The term autotelic derives from the Greek with, ‘auto’ meaning, self, and ‘telos’ meaning goal or task. In yoga we would call this ‘Being and doing’ or more accurately karma yoga, yoga of action where work is done not with some future reward or expectation in mind but just for the sheer joy of doing it.

When we pay attention to the activity for its own sake, not thinking about consequences or we fall in to the present.

We are in our own yoga state or ‘union’ – the goal of yoga. We are the conduit for the Flow producing activity.

 

Getting into the Flow

I have just completed a short workshop with the students called, ‘Spontaneous Thinking’ designed to help them relax a little more, get around creative blocks, ignore the inner critic and get into their flow.

The idea is understand that we operate between two different types of thinking, divergent (being) and convergent (doing) thinking. Designers in particular need to combine and constantly alternate been the two modes of operation.

The workshop set out to introduce a mindset that put to one side the rational and mechanical thinking required by a design brief and move into a new relationship with the requirements of the task. In the same way as so many other artists and designers the idea is to trust internal intuitive, intention and consciousness – and when the mind is calm and open the new ideas and solutions can unfold.

Using timed and focused metacognitive and meditation techniques the workshop combined drawing exercises to help them build personal awareness and apply a different sort of attention. The idea is to help bring them to the present and focus on the act of drawing and creating rather than ones relation to it. Working this way helps them let-go and bring joy and delight to their work which is the only way one can truly create

The workshop is fun but it devas have a serious intent. Happiness and creativity are the same thing. When you get it right you can learn to thrive…

The course is ideal for anyone, not just young designers. By learning to shift ones attention and expectation in a certain way, learning how to combine being and doing its possible to switch on optimum performance anytime, anywhere.

Out of the box!

At long, last artist Martin Nash and I have finally completed Phase 1 of our art project.

I have taken over a year on this I can say its been challenging trying to squeeze pretending to be an artist with yoga teaching at the YLP and the Founding of beanddo this year as well as designing more master plans.

This is how it the project works:

  1. Both artists fill a small box with stuff. It can be anything.
  2. Both artists then swap the boxes.
  3. They then have to make art with or be inspired by stuff they find in the box.
  4. Both artists then work. The idea is that both choose to do something outside what they would normally do. A chance to explore and challenge. To think outside of the box! (geddit!)
  5. When complete both artists make a small exhibition and invite each other over to review and discuss the work fuelled with lots of wine.

Here is a picture of my work. I was keen to look at scanning, repetition and collage. Similar,  to my assemblage work but on paper.

Phase 2 has yet to start but the idea is that each artist now chooses a piece from each other’s work and develops it further.

IMG_2688
Here is Martin and me holding each other up in the office in front of my Out of the Box work…

Happy By Design…

Earlier this week I was invited to give a talk on well being and urban design for the North West Region RTPI event, ‘Planning for a Healthy Future’.

Pages from Happy by design talk5

This is a subject I have been interested in for some time. Based on the New Economic Foundation’s 5 Ways to well-being the talk proposed  a new  approach and methodoogy for making new and happy communities. You can download it here: Happy by design

There is huge anmount of work being done on Happiness at the moment. It ties very closely with the emerging Mindfulness work which is spreading across the internet and, it seems, Waterstones in Deansgate.

For me its liberating and could be the basis for new ways of talking about design and place making over and above the usual design guidance we have. Its also very inclusive in that invites other professionals to get involved in design, particularly from the health sector. The 5 ways also puts the advantage back onto the developer and their design team to think more freely and  creatively about how we can make lasting places. I have always thought design guidance should invite and encourage what could be done rather than what can’t be done.

 Stay happy.