Category Archives: mindfulness

Space is our power


What do you do when someone flicks your button, do you go in a blind rage of retribution?

Is there another way?

 

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. -Viktor Emil Frankl

 

Could we use that space that Viktor quotes?

Stop awhile, reflect and respond, you may find that your button didn’t work after all.

Rediscover your ‘it’


I just come back from my Sunday morning walk with my dogs, now it is time for a coffee and write my daily blog.

Today I had an extra one today as well, some may say that four springer spaniels is too many for a walk, I’d agree if they were all on leads, fortunately they weren’t. They just run free in the forest, ranging around me as I walk. They do keep an eye on me to make sure that I don’t get too far away and I do the same.

I use my walking to reflect on things, today I did a voice recording of what I was thinking; I’ll listen to it later or not at all. The general gist was that I tend to write about how to become present in this moment, I’ve written plenty of blogs about this but have never really moved into what makes Alexander’s discovery so special.

To be fully content with life we need to know where we are in time and space, much of what I’ve written about is mindfulness, being present in this moment. Understanding where you are in space is a little more difficult. The difficultly is that our habits put us in various physical contortions. Just observe people, you may see some peoples heads jutting out in front of their torso, I guess this is tiring but is normal to them, if you ask them they will say they are perfectly upright and have a pretty good posture, you can clearly see this isn’t true. They have faulty sensory perception of their own body, as I do and most probably you do as well. It’s a global problem except for the fortunate few, normally the successful athletes, sportsmen and women and performers but not always.

head

Continue reading Rediscover your ‘it’

When things get tough


Sometimes I feel that things aren’t going my way, something is said, I hear something, I interrupt what I hear in a certain way, it may be put across a certain way to make me feel small, inferior, inadequate.

It hurts for a while and the pain can linger for a long, long time.

These are their views on life, they conflict with my views but it is all they have. Pushing bad vibes onto others can only mean one thing, they aren’t happy with their lives, they feel inadequate, things and people aren’t responding they way they want, so they are forcing their will; they have no right to do this as it is against my will, my beliefs, what I live for.

So what is to be done, simply nothing for them but offer kindness, support and time. For myself move away from feeling small, inferior and inadequate, booze could help for a few hours but those feelings will be even stronger when I wake up.

It’s the old classic, quieten myself down and think of things about the present, become interested in everything I do. Making a pot of tea, writing this blog, the ironing is to come later this morning, make the ironing a game for myself to enjoy.

Being interested in things when feeling inadequate I feel isn’t that authentic, it is just doing a diversion, so how do I bring authenticity to the party?

Authenticity comes with being present, that is in time and space, with an intention to do something, I’ve mentioned time and space in other blogs but I’ll mention it again. For time, I ask myself where is my thinking is, am I fretting about something other than what I intend to do; writing a blog about feeling inadequate. If and when the fretting rises I ask myself is it true in this very moment, I find the answer is always NO.

If it isn’t true then why am I fretting?

I find the fretting disappears and I can get on with writing, I notice some butterflies in my stomach just before doubt appears, I use the butterflies as a trigger to ask this question.

For the space part, this is thoughts about re-establishing my thoughts about head, neck, back relationship, my head gently supported on my neck, this support passes down my spine to the bottom of my pelvis where my sit bones are, I have thoughts that my torso is fully supported on my sit bones and I have loads of space between my sit bones and the top of my head. I used to get a bit rigid at this point of my thinking, I now have thoughts that my torso and head can move gently to and fro or sideways freely as I breathe and type this blog.

Whenever those butterflies rise I repeat my thoughts again, this does get better, honest.

I now have thoughts about my intention whilst being here in this moment and space. My inadequacy has disappeared.

If you need more information, you can drop me a line, or subscribe to my mailing list, its free.

Quiet Dogs


The blues hit me yesterday, some old habits do like to show theirs heads when I’m feeling vulnerable. Is it

  • post holiday blues,
  • going back to work blues,
  • returning to normal blues

Do you have any blues that kick you between the legs when you least expect it?

I find the blues a fuzzy place to be, I want to do loads but I want to do nothing, I’m stuck in limbo land. A sort of fuzzy floaty space that just lingers on and on.

So being a master and expert in noticing these thoughts in myself and others, sometimes my thinking goes awry, it just proves that I’m human. However I do have a back up plan, something that you could use in your blue days!

Pause for a moment to reset yourself, find out where the ground is and where’s the top of your head, now get these two points connected. The getting connected is a thought, I think of space getting bigger between the two points, if you feel any muscles joining in you are thinking and doing, pause again and get connected without any muscular effort, this is achievable but does take some practice.

You may have noticed your blues have quietened down, even without any blues you should notice a change in mood, I sense a quietening, you may notice things get louder.

I was at the vets today with one of my dogs, I helped the vet by holding my dog whilst the vet did the procedure, I’ve done this a few times before, what I’ve found that my dogs really quieten down if I think of space between the top of my head and my feet and today  the clock on the vets wall became very noisy then more I thought about space. The vet did comment on how well behaved my dog was.

An other layer of thought you can apply is to be nonjudgmental about yourself and what is happening locally, being nonjudgmental about politics may be a little too far.

You now may feel a little quieter and the blues may be disappearing.

Now for the bad news, these thoughts you have just developed cannot be kept, they are only valid for a moment, they age off in a moment, if you try to keep them they will trip you up and the blues will return.

They need to be refreshed constantly, this does sound like an onerous task, it is when you first start but it does get easier the more you practice. You will find that you don’t know to do this continuously, only when something is bothering you.

That’s enough for today, there is plenty more in my tool box to help me and you if you wish. You have a few options, you can always search for my blogs and read about my ideas, come to my workshops, and soon you will be able to do my workshops via a webinar. Let me know if you are interested.

 

 

 

I was on holiday


Traveling overnight just makes a long day, up as usual in the morning, a full day making the most our last day on holiday, then flying home with a couple of hours back. Then I woke up at my usual UK time, why! Just a couple of hours sleep.

Ugh.

I suppose habits are usually helpful sometimes but not this morning, I noticed it was daylight so time to wake up, why!

It did give me time to put the holiday clothes in the washing machine and to weigh myself, obviously too much beer and baklava, don’t ask, I wondered why my trouser are tight.


Beer and baklava, another habit, go on holiday and let and other habit slip or is it a good old habit reemerge of when I was younger and fitter, I could eat and drink what I liked then and still be trim. The Mediterranean has so many good memories of good times, the heat of the sun, clear blue skies, the sea, food, beer and back then a lot of hard work. This time the hard work was missing perhaps my trousers were saying something.

But I was on holiday, time to relax and worry about things later, later is here this morning, now back on low/ no carb food without baklava and beer, I’ll miss them.

Allowing habits to take control may or may not be a conscious decision, I was in holiday mode and just ran with my habits, so I could claim that I consciously choose to revert to an old behaviour. It was good, I was on holiday!

It’s great to be home now, still on holiday but doing some things at home that need to be done during a weekday.

Some thoughts for you;

  • do you change to someone else when you go on holiday?
  • do you like your holiday persona?
  • Have you ever thought why you change?

Muddy paws on a London bus


I had a very lucid dream last night, it’s still with me this afternoon, without going into too much detail it was about not holding myself back. 

As with many dreams it was surreal reality, real people I know in what could be real situations, oh, with a dog (not a spinger spaniel) with muddy paws on a London bus.

I’m sure I’m like many others, I have a plan to do something then some thought or other pops up, “you can’t do that because ….” then I’m deflated and everything stops, if I’m forced to do something I know I can do well, another though pops up “you’ll get it all wrong” and then I mess it up.

Perhaps that sounds familiar?

Time for an experiment, either think back to one of those times it didn’t go to well or notice the next time you hear your words of doubt. 

Are the thoughts a verbal thought, were you talking to yourself even if the words were silent? Mine are.

Now for the scary bit, what would happen if you asked for these thoughts to be quiet whilst you got on with your task. This is very difficult as I find these thoughts just want to chip in and take control. There is probably a few ways to quieten these thoughts, I find the best way is to go somewhere these thoughts can’t get to. 

Intrigued, read on.

These thoughts thrive when I’m reflecting on the past or worrying about the future, they have free range in my thinking. The place they can’t get to is this very moment in time, I wrote about this place yesterday in the last grain of sand. Yesterday’s blog was how I had a panic in the sauna, panicking comes in many forms, my view on panicking is that it’s overlaying past events with future what ifs to guess what is about to happen.  I may steer the outcome and fail fantastically, failing fantastically was in my verbalised plan but not in my original plan, my deep down plan, this plan was all about success.

Not holding myself back. 

With a bit of practice you may start to notice some muscular tightening, mine is in my stomach, when these negative verbalised thoughts pop up. When I notice them it’s time for action, I observe something without judgement, if words rise I let them go and intensify my intention to observe something, for example, I’m in a hotel reception, there’s specks of dust on the white floor tiles. Just wondering, listening to the hum of busy people, I’m just here without judgment. 

This does take practice, I’d guess, my whole life to truly not hold myself back, so there is no time like now to start.

I’d say practice, practice, practice, but I don’t believe in practicing, just do it or even better be it, be a non judgmental human being.

I don’t know what happened to the dog with muddy paws, I woke up

The last grain of sand


I was in the sauna today, I am on my holidays, I turned the sand timer over to start my time in the sauna, or rather, when I should get out of the sauna. Wow it’s hot in here, can I last until the last grain of sand has left the top bulb?

My instant panic surprised me, I’d set myself a rule and I’m going to struggle though, whatever!

So how am I going to struggle through, one way is to grim and bare it, I opted for another way. I decided to be interested in the wood on the walls, looking at the grain and knots, wonderering if any of the planks are off the same tree. I noticed that I was having verbalised thoughts between myself, I was saying words to myself, they were silent but I was definitely saying them to myself. 

I wondered if I could have similar thoughts without words, as it happens I can but words still pop up. I noticed that there is a different quality to non verbalised thoughts, they lack judgement. I have a sense of wonder, a quietening, a loss of time and in the sauna the heat became bearable, in fact it stopped being a nuisance. 

When words popped up I let them go and returned to observing without words. 

I felt grounded and content, oh, I looked at the sand and it was all at the bottom.

Time for the hot tub.

FORWARD = INTENTION and UP = ATTENTION


I’ve been thinking what all my training has been about, its been about a paradigm shift in thinking and how the show others how to achieve this change in thought.

We normally rely on our habits to conduct our day to day activities, just doing things without much thinking, take driving a car, have you ever been shaken out of you routine when a hazard suddenly appears and you have thoughts of “that appeared from nowhere”.

Why does this happen?

I have an idea why, we reuse old habits over and over again, driving down the same old road every day, its safe and nothing ever happens, so you have time to daydream and reduce your awareness of your journey, then something appears from nowhere, it didn’t, it was there all the time but it wasn’t on your previous journeys. It was your lack of awareness that created the hazard, if you had seen it earlier you could have taken early action around the obstacle instead of turning it into a hazard.

Relying on our old habits we switch between relaxed to startle in a moment. This is our normal thinking paradigm, Our thinking is either on or off,  on the seesaw of life, happy or sad, swinging between the two with no apparent control. Some think alcohol or drugs will help, they do to a point, they mask things but they don’t go away. I’m including the prescribed ones as well. I’ve certainly been on the seesaw of happiness and hatred and alcohol does mask things until the next day.

What I’ve learnt in my training is to slow the seesaw down so that it doesn’t swing too far either way, a lot of the time it works but not always, as they say, ever day is a learning day.

My paradigm shift in my thinking has two aspects, the first one is being content with not knowing what is going to happen, the second is knowing where I am in this moment. This thinking needs to be renewed continually, this needs practice.

Both of these aspects have many layers and they interconnect with each other everywhere, it is too complicated to understand, so lets not, this is the paradigm shift in my thinking, I am me in this time and space.

To make this simple I use thoughts of attention and intention, I have attention of myself in time and space, remembering to renew continually and the intension to move to perform whatever activity I choose.

I see this as FM Alexanders forward and up

FORWARD = INTENTION, UP = ATTENTION

So instead of driving down the road using the same old habits, I enjoy the journey even in traffic jams. You may be thinking about the developed habits in controlling the car, of course I use them, as I use the habits in developed in walking. These habits are all tied up with thoughts of attention and intention at this very moment

 

 

STOP WORRYING; if it was that easy!


You may think what is the Alexander Technique is and what it is to do with your mental health, from my point of few quite a lot; the Alexander Technique saved me from living  the rest of my life in depression or popping antidepressants to keep me happy.

The Alexander Technique sort of works the opposite direction to other methods in helping you with your pain be it physical or mental. We tend to not worry about what has happened in the past or what is to happen, The Alexander Technique is an educational approach that teaches you how to live your life fully now.

From my experience of mental health, I worry, I’m anxious. Worrying puts me in a place that is in the future, when I’m in the future I have no control of anything as I’m in a place that doesn’t exist, I’m worrying about nothing, I use a lot of energy worrying about nothing.

That can’t be healthy!

There is a premise that every thought produces a muscular action, we can only tighten muscles, worrying is thinking hence I tighten muscles when I worry. Tightened muscles get tired and eventually start to produce pain signals to ask for a rest. Continually worrying uses a lot of energy and eventually a lot of pain. You may start to blame the environment, chairs, beds, shoes, clothes, the food you eat. You may start to blame friends, family, your boss at work.

Take a moment to think; are they doing the worrying, they may be, but they are not doing your worrying, YOU ARE!

There’s a simple answer “STOP WORRYING”. If it was that easy!

I’ve noticed that when I worry I need to think about something, something not about me, something in the future or something in the past but definitely not about now. If I try to think about NOT WORRYING I need to think about something else, probably promising to be better in the future. This doesn’t work it is just more worrying.

It sounds absolutely hopeless, I thought that; back to popping antidepressants. However if you just could be in the moment then worry disappears, it’s true, there’s plenty of mindfulness practices that can do that. However the Alexander Technique has the edge on mindfulness, it is mindfulness in activity; knowing where you are in time and space as you engage with your daily activities.

You can teach yourself mindfulness in activity but we have a very good knack of not seeing how we move in activity, just try looking in a mirror and if you are like I was, you will do plenty of avoidance and that’s just looking at your face. This is where you need a nonjudgmental teacher to encourage you to observe yourself without judgement; it takes time but worth it.

It all goes back to those muscles you tightened when you worried, they learnt to stay in tension, if you just engaged in mindfulness it would some time take time for these muscles to release their tension, release their pain. With the Alexander Technique your muscular tension you developed over time, can be released by encouraging you to think differently, thinking the way you used to when you were a child, thinking that allows easy and freedom so you can do the activities you want to.

It worked for me, I have written a lot about muscular tension, all tension is related; by releasing muscular tension worry and anxiety disappear. It they reappear I’ve got the tools to let my anxiety quieten and disappear.

The opposite direction I mentioned earlier is to approach the muscular reaction to a stimulus instead of working on the stimulus to minimise the muscular reaction.

Intrigued, then why not contact me for more details.

 

 

 

Grumpy, miserable and sad


There’s plenty of words that describe people with mental health issues, I was going to write some but I’m not, as they are generally defamatory and demeaning. You also have your own list.

I’m really pleased that the Heads Together charity is the lead charity for this week’s London Marathon. It’s about time mental health is accepted and spoke about in public, I have a view that we all suffer from bouts of mental health issues, some are like a runny nose, some like flu and in some cases like pneumonia. My assumption is that we have all had the runny nose version and the runny nose can last for years and years. We just live with it because it feels normal.

I’ll let you into a secret, once upon a time I thought grumpy, miserable and sad was normal.

I was wrong, if you feel like that then you are also wrong.

My normal now is being happy (I do sometimes do get the runny nose but I have tools for me to return to happy).

Happy is a great place to be, I learnt this skill to be happy instead of learning the skill to being grumpy, miserable and sad.

Why is it so easy to be grumpy, miserable and sad? My answer is that where others want you to be because they don’t have the secret of not being grumpy, miserable and sad. The lowest common denominator is grumpy, miserable and sad.

I guess you want to know what tools I use to be happy, if you have read any of my blogs you probably know.

I’ve trained to teach the Alexander Technique, (a lot of hours over 4 years) you may already have heard about this, posture and reducing lower back pain may come to mind. It sort of is but the Alexander Technique is so much more, posture and reducing pain are just the sideshows that people can see, measure and brag about. What the technique is about is to change how you think during your everyday activities. If you are a stressed Eric as I was, full of anxiety, I was so anxious I couldn’t breathe without an inhaler, the inhaler ruled my life, ooh, I hated those years.

Learning to identify my anxious responses to everyday stimulus was the first step and then doing some different, even if the different thing was to do nothing, things started to change, I became less dependent in my inhaler. It took a long time, I’m inhaler free now.

The Alexander technique is many things to many people, it reduces physical pain, it reduces mental pain, I see anxiety as mental pain. It’s all this but what I understand the Alexander Technique to be is training on how to love yourself. If you love yourself from a safe authentic space then you can love others. Judgement of yourself dissipates as does judgement of others. Mindfulness is fine but mindfulness in activity is the key to this love and happiness; this is what the Alexander Technique is. My training as a teacher has taught me how to notice others and offer techniques and ideas to others, many of these ideas are indirect, this is an important aspect of the training as it helps you to notice your habits from a safe indirect perspective. Observing yourself, as I have written before it the first step.

If you are intrigued or want to get rid of your grumpiness give me a call.