Tag Archives: Flow

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.


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.


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…



Who is watching who…

I have just finished (again) George Orwell’s trio of English political novels, Coming up for Air (1939), Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) Some of you know that Penguin have published new versions this year. Here are two of my copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four, ( I think I have about 4). On the left is my very first copy given to me at school while doing my CSE’s in 1974, 10 years before it was supposed to happen. It features a detail form William Roberts painting, ‘The Control Room, Civil Defence Headquarters. The other copy is this year’s Penguin, given to me for my birthday, designed by David Pearson.


Its brilliant in that its ‘redacted’ title (you can just see the words under the black in the right light) tells us more about where we are in relation to what Orwell wrote about regarding control, manipulation of truth and ‘Big Brother’. Of course many people take Orwell’s picture of a highly controlled society too literally. They say it’s never happened and that Big Brother doesn’t exist.

Plus those telescreens in Airstrip One, located everywhere, watching your every move, listening to everything you say and to whom, never really took off.

Well sitting on the tram this morning heading into the city I was completely struck by the countless number of people staring vacantly into their smartphones. Like the telescreens those things know who you are, where you are, what you are saying and to whom and through twitter, exactly what you are thinking – all the time. Unlike Winston Smith we all seem to be very willing participants.

The key question is who is watching it all?

Just saying…

Be prepared…

brian-eno_1355749cHere is one of my heroes talking about ideas and work. Having ideas is not about waiting for inspiration to start. It’s about keeping your eyes open and having what Brian calls a ‘prepared mind’, that will notice things, see things, recognise opportunities when they appear. And they appear all the time. The effort required is simply the need to open oneself up to new things…seeing new relationships etc. No amount of analysis, or ‘doing things because we think we ought to’, will help you open, observant or productive.  I like the fact that Brian says we need to ‘surrender’ to the idea, to the work…. become the work and put any ideas of ownership or ego behind you…. very yogic, and very productive.

Enthusiasm is the key says Brian.  Its infectious but also helps drive forward ideas and solutions. Of course timing and luck is everything as well as a good dose of talent but if you are open, observant and enthusiastic the timing and luck will fall into place…

Productive Simplicity…

This is one of my favourite expressions. Its also the key to all creative work. If you think creatively for a living, its imperative that you understand how you manage and control creative energy. Good quality work completed quickly doesn’t come from anxiety states, nor does it come being under utilised or simply bored. When you work with and lead creative people you need to be very conscious to keeping them in the ‘FLOW’ This is the state of optimum experience and creativity where solutions just seem to happen effortlessly and quickly. It’s also the state when we are most happy. Imagine being happy and creative at work.  It’s possible.

 Many people though in our business are not people who deal in creativity and understand how tapping into the Flow can be hugely beneficial for everyone. Many studio leaders are not leaders at all…..they are good managers, but not leaders. This confusion creates confusion. Add this to a lack of intellectual and creative direction and you are in trouble.

Designers like other people do what they do because they are compelled to do it.  They know what they are good at and they do it. Sometimes they get paid for it too. It’s all about making choices. You can choose to be creative, happy and productive. Or you can pretend to be creative, happy and productive by managing more and more meetings.  As they say, in the end, nobody ever wishes they did more meetings.

So work to keep others and yourself in the flow by keeping it simple and real by focusing on what really maters. That way your time becomes really productive.

Think of the value you could bring to everyone?