Tips and thoughts on how to have a great life.
|Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on June 1, 2018 at 7:55 AM||comments (0)|
Check out my latest video on why self-esteem building doesn't work. If you want to get in touch, email me or give me a call, Elfreda
|Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on May 25, 2018 at 2:10 AM||comments (0)|
It often amuses me how lessons about life can come from the most random places or how something intended to have one meaning can be extrapolated to have another far more useful, and beneficial one. The strategy I am going to share with you in this post came from a comedy show, hence the photo of ‘The Goldbergs’.
I am not a big watcher of television. I was for many years and before I started practicing Mindfulness I filled my free hours with television, and in my case, often to distract me from the things I didn’t want to deal with or address. Now, I mostly watch television as a shared experience with my husband, we choose what to watch together and I only watch the things that interest me or purely for some light-hearted entertainment. The Goldbergs is one of these choices, mostly because it reminds me of my childhood in the 80s and it makes me laugh.
For those who haven’t seen it you can find out more about it here https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2712740/ but in a nutshell it is about a family in the 80s with an overbearing, helicopter ‘smother’, a father who just wants to watch tv in his underpants, 3 children, one of whom narrates the story as an adult and is fixated with movies and making films. The last character is the cool grandad, ‘Pops’ and it is from him that the following pearl of wisdom comes.
In one of the episodes, Beverley, the mother, or ‘smother’, is passive-aggressively manipulating her children in to doing things by making them feel guilty. This ongoing ‘guilt tripping’ is getting Barry and Erica Goldberg down until Pops teaches them a strategy to avoid the guilt, he uses the phrase ‘It’s Not Real, Don’t Feel’. Now, obviously in this context the strategy was to be used to avoid manipulation, but it got me thinking about how I could use it when it came to my thoughts and my worries.
For those of you who have ever experienced worry or anxiety, you will know that the over-thinking about events that have yet to happen or which you feel you have no control over cause a myriad of problems, including sleepless nights, changes in appetite, headaches, heart palpitations, IBS and much more. The feelings of helplessness, or fear of things going wrong, can be overwhelming. I know, I dealt with all of those things, and more, for years. The reality is that the main cause of our worry and anxiety, is our thinking about the problem and our inability to take action to resolve it. The reason I love Mindfulness so much is because it draws attention to this fact and pushes you to make changes in the present moment that will have an influence on future outcomes. However, sometimes the only action we can, or need to, take is to stop the thinking and this is where the Goldbergs comes in.
Since watching the episode with Pops’, ‘Its Not Real, Don’t Feel’ strategy I have adopted it as a mantra when I find I am thinking about things that haven’t happened, might never happen or that are causing me to feel bad unnecessarily. As soon as I notice what I am doing I say to myself ‘It’s Not Real, Don’t Feel’. The problem with our thinking, especially when it is faulty is that we believe our thoughts to be true. We believe we are who we think we are and not someone who has been created through programming, our environment and a series of habits. We believe that we are sure about what other people think of us, especially when it is the bad stuff, and we are certain that what we imagine they will do, or how they will react is correct. The truth is, much of what we imagine will happen, never does because when it comes to our thoughts, ‘It’s Not Real, Don’t Feel’.
The practice of Mindfulness is about learning to let go and deal with what is happening in the present moment rather than drifting into thoughts of the past or future. Sometimes this can be a challenge as it can take time to notice what you are thinking, but also, even if you do, breaking the habit of thinking can be difficult which is why having a new habit, and a new mantra to repeat in your mind, can stop your thinking in it’s tracks, ‘It’s Not Real, Don’t Feel’. We can’t stop our thoughts but can redirect our thinking to new and better thoughts and if nothing else this mantra will make you laugh, as it does me, every time I say it.
Thanks for reading, if I can help you in anyway, get in touch [email protected], 00353868373582.
I hope our paths cross again in future,
Elfreda (Mindfulness Instructor and The Goldbergs viewer, amongst other things).
|Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on May 18, 2018 at 3:15 AM||comments (0)|
I often get asked by students, how do I incorporate mindfulness into my daily life after I get up from my meditation cushion and finish my daily practice? The reality is that your mindfulness never really leaves you once you start to become more aware, and as time goes on, the less of your time you’ll find that you have slipped into old patterns of ‘mindlessness’. That being said, there are ways in which you can be actively mindful throughout your day and one of my personal favourites is mindful driving.
I practice mindful driving every day and especially on long journeys when I can easily slip into the habits of worry or overthinking. It’s a good idea to set the intention to be mindful at the very start of your journey and start as you mean to go on. Below is a typical journey for me and how I return to mindfulness each time I get distracted or my mind wanders.
As I open the door of the car I remind myself that this is one of my mindfulness practices. I sit in my seat and I pause whilst I adjust to my surroundings. I notice anything that needs to be dealt with, such a frost on the window or a mirror to be adjusted and when I turn on the engine I notice the volume of the radio and decide whether I want it on or off, for this journey. For quite a while, I drove in silence, before choosing to listen to the radio. I liked paying attention to the sounds I would hear and noticing how it changed depending on what type of road I was driving. More recently I’ve adopted easy listening radio, or ‘old-fart’ music as I like to irreverently call it. I like the slower pace of the music and I know from years of practice that when it comes to being mindful, slower is better.
I start my journey by reminding myself of where I am going, I always make sure I have plenty of time but if I happen to be under pressure, I also remind myself that being a few minutes (or even a lot) late isn’t a big deal in the big scheme of things. In my experience feeling embarrassed or afraid to be late is often linked to fear of failure or not being good enough or fear of being judged as inadequate or incapable.
I notice the feeling of the steering wheel and my thoughts about what lies ahead. I look for any feelings of anxiety or worry and explore briefly the underlying emotion or fear. I then let that go and return to paying attention to my driving. As I accelerate I notice if there is urgency in my driving or a lack of focus. I observe what I see around me, the road, the traffic, the scenery and the people. Once out on the open road I relax into an open awareness, allowing my attention to drift to whatever draws it.
I have noticed a number of things over the years, since I have adopted this mindful driving practice. When I am worried my thoughts always drift to my day ahead or the thing that concerns me, on those days it takes a bit more effort to return to the present moment. I’ve also noticed how much more of song lyrics I hear now, and as my choice of music is now easy listening I am often amused by the odd rhyming and sometimes downright bizarre lyrics in some of the songs. This also makes me aware of my judgements and how this can affect my experience of myself and others. Passing comment internally can be a way of me masking my feelings of insecurity and a need to be right to feel better about myself.
Another thing I have noticed is that some of the journeys I have been driving for years were so habitual that somethings were hidden from me. Mindful driving made me aware of changes to the environment and even brought to my attention things that I had never seen before. I love that aspect of Mindfulness, when something that seemed so familiar suddenly exposes a hidden gem that you had never noticed before, such as field in the middle of a town that suddenly appeared out of nowhere but in hindsight had been there all along. I think that’s what I like about Mindfulness when it comes to self-awareness too. For me, there is nothing as satisfying as the ‘aha’ moment when you develop a greater understanding of yourself and how you tick.
The practice of mindful driving has made my journeys so much more pleasant and I find now that wherever I arrive I am always in a relaxed, good mood, ready for whatever awaits me when I arrive. Happy Driving!
Thanks for reading. Please get in touch if you have questions or post in the comments, [email protected]
I hope our paths cross again in future,
Elfreda (‘old-fart’ music lover amongst other things).
|Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on May 4, 2018 at 2:05 AM||comments (0)|
I am often aware that when I write things on Facebook or in blog posts that it may seem like I’ve got it all figured out and that I never get stressed. (When I am teaching I am a little more self-deprecating). The reality is that I have all my own hang-ups and insecurities, the only difference now is that since practicing Mindfulness and using NLP on myself I call myself up on my BS and laugh at my ridiculousness. I am well aware of how foolish I can be, how things can get to me and even though I know this I can still trip myself up, knock myself of course and sometimes appear far more together than I actually am. So, in the interest of transparency here is me calling myself on my BS in public. Enjoy, I did!
A couple of weeks ago I had a dental visit for a teeth cleaning. I have to be honest I hadn’t been for quite some time so, it was rather painful, and I ended up on antibiotics for the bleeding, that’ll teach me. I loved the shiny, almost whiteness that the cleaning had produced, after the effects of the antibiotics wore off; tiredness, bloated stomach, headache, I really enjoyed the self-pity for a few days, life really was hard (*winks with sarcasm). Anyway, my teeth are not white, they are not straight and when I smile in photographs I always see this, and unfortunately you will probably see this now too, but hey I’m ok with that. Having stared at my teeth for days after the pain of cleaning had subsided, I decided to get a teeth-whitening kit to see if my pearly whites would be less pearly and more brilliant white.
If you’ve ever tried one of these kits, you’ll know how it works. You rub an accelerator on your teeth and then fill the gum shields with the whitening gel and then stick them in your mouth. I guess I didn’t really pay attention to the instructions and I inadvertently caught the bottom gumshield on my lip as I put it in. I waited the allotted time, brushed my teeth with the whitening toothpaste and went to bed. In the morning when I woke I noticed a tingling feeling at the edges of my lower lip, it felt slightly raw almost like it had been burnt. As the day progressed I noticed it was getting more painful and by evening I had realised that I had given myself a lovely chemical burn from the whitening gel. As Homer Simpson would say, D’oh!
Friday came, and I woke with two oozing, slightly green, strips along the edge of my lip. Not only did I have the hang-up of not white teeth, now I had to deal with the more noticeable green chemical burn. That’s when my Mindfulness kicked in. The truth was I could do nothing about this, I had to work, walk the dog, do the shopping, I had to go in public whether I liked it or not. I had to accept that people might notice it and because the body takes time to heal there wasn’t a single thing I could do about it, all I could do was let go.
This reminded me of the fact that I cannot control what people think anyway and they are far too busy with their own hang-ups to really care about mine. If they reject me ‘it’s not about me’, if they like me ‘that’s not about me’ either. People will love you or hate you because of what they think, what they feel, and based on their view of how the world works. So, green weepy lips and all, I got on with it. Nothing happened, no one commented on it, no one stared at me and even if they did what difference would it make, I’d still go home to the people who love me and the dog and cats who think I am the ‘food lady’ and worship me for that fact.
I know I will always have hang-ups, but I don’t have to let them dictate to me how I should live my life, where I should go or what I can or can’t do. The reality is that most people only notice the things that bother them and because we are so busy judging ourselves they often will tell you that your issue isn’t as bad as theirs, like the person who told me I had lovely teeth. Next time you are worrying about ‘how big your bum is in this’ or are busy noticing all your perceived flaws and failings remind yourself that letting go of the things you can’t change and getting on with it, is a far better use of your time. I’m off to brush my teeth now with some whitening toothpaste and to practice smiling with my mouth closed.
Thanks for reading. If I can help you in anyway, get in touch 00353868373582, email [email protected] or PM via Facebook.
I hope our paths cross again in future,
Mind Coach, Meditation Instructor (and ridiculous human being)
|Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on April 27, 2018 at 2:25 AM||comments (0)|
I was recently teaching a group about the Buddha smile and I thought I share it with you here as I find it a very useful way to change your mood when you are meditating, feeling awkward or could do with some happy hormones.
Whilst teaching Mindfulness I often notice that during the silent coffee breaks people have frowns on their faces. This can be because of the uncomfortable feelings they experience whilst having to sit, eat and drink tea or coffee in the company of others without speaking. My way to overcome this feeling is to practice the Buddha smile. I also use it when meditating as it can elevate my mood. I know it works because when I do breath meditation, I can feel the breath stronger in my right nostril which means my left side of the prefrontal cortex is in control and it is this side of the brain that is active when we are happy.
I have mentioned before, in other blog posts, the experiment called the Pencil Test. In this experiment they asked subjects to hold a pencil between their teeth so that it forced a smile, pushing their lips back. They tested their brains and hormones levels and found activity in the brain associated with happiness as well as feel good hormones, such as endorphins were present in the body. The Buddha smile is a bit like this, but you won’t need a pencil.
When trying this for the first time it’s best to do it with your eyes closed. Imagine a smile across your face, without actually smiling. Feel the softening of your eyes and the slight curl at the sides of your mouth. As you do this notice the change in your mood and feelings.
When I do this I immediately feel an increase in happiness as well as a kindness towards myself and others. No one will notice it as you are not really smiling but you will find that softness around your eyes will draw people to you. I often find, in a crowd, I’ll be the one asked for directions or the time and when I am out and about people regularly say hello to me. The other thing, which a student pointed out to me, is if you have a ‘resting b*tch face’ then less people will come up to you to ask you to ‘cheer up’ or tell you that ‘it might not happen’. Have fun with it, try it out over the weekend, the only thing you have to lose is your bad mood.
Thanks for reading. If you are interested in my one to one coaching or if I can help you in any way then phone 00353868373582, email [email protected] or PM me via Facebook.
I hope our paths cross again in future,
Mind Coach, Meditation Instructor (amongst other things)
|Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on April 19, 2018 at 2:30 AM||comments (0)|
At some point in our lives we have had someone say something that suddenly put what we were experiencing in perspective. As a coach and trainer, I regularly share sayings to help clients and students to understand either their experience or to give them greater understanding of the topic I am teaching, from Mindfulness to Stress Management. There are a number of sayings I use on myself too and I want to share them with you here. You may already know some of them, but I am hoping if you do this will act as a pleasant reminder, especially if you are faced with a challenge, at the moment.
It Is What it Is
This phrase is often used in modern teachings of the Buddhist Four Noble Truths. The actual origin in print, is in the Nebraska State Journal in 1949 and is attributed to J. E Lawrence, according to the New York Times. The reason it is used in Buddhism and Mindfulness is to demonstrate the importance of seeing things as they are and not falling into the trap of two of the Five Hindrances of Meditation, Grasping and Aversion. When you take things at face value without adding to them with your own story of woe then, you can let go of things easily or find a solution. I often tell the story of a broken cup when I’m teaching. A broken cup, is just that, a broken cup, but for some people it can be much more. It can be the cup ‘you broke on purpose even though you knew my grandmother gave to me for my 10th birthday and now I will never have another one like it’. These kind of reactions, can stay with us for hours even days and often have a negative impact on our relationships with others. Being able to accept it as it is and let it go, frees us from the second Noble Truth, the cause of suffering, craving or attachment.
That Which You Resist Persists and Grows Stronger
The first time I heard this saying was in a book by Ariel and Shya Kane, Working on Yourself, which I have written about in previous blog posts. I love this saying as it reminds you that the more you push against what you don’t want the harder things will become. It also links to the Five Hindrances of Meditation and more specifically, Aversion. The more we try to stop things from being the way they are the worse they often become. It’s like trying to stop your thoughts, you can’t, you can only redirect your thinking into something more useful. If you’ve ever been on a diet and gave something up and then found yourself stuffing your face with the very thing you’ve been trying to avoid then, you know exactly what this saying means.
Where Your Attention Flows Your Energy Goes
I am guessing by now you are seeing a pattern here. The above saying I was reminded of when attending training with Dr. Joe Dispenza. When we continually focus on our problems or keep looking back at what has gone wrong or forward to what we think might go wrong we miss out on what is happening right in front of us. If we invest all our energy in feeling bad, worrying, complaining or feeling helpless then it’s only natural there isn’t a whole lot of energy left for anything else. In NLP we talk about ‘Present State, to Desired State’, if you focus on what you want, rather than what you don’t want then you are more likely to spot the opportunities that will get you what you want when they come along. If you focus on what is wrong, you’ll just get more of the same. If you get up in the morning and decide you are having a bad day then, you are more likely only to notice all the negative experiences and very likely to dismiss or delete the fact that you have had lots of positive experiences too.
Cells that Fire Together, Wire Together
This next phrase is a simplified version of Hebbian Law. Basically, what it means is that connections made between cells are continually strengthened over time through repetition and habit. It’s like walking through a grass field and eventually creating a mud path. Habits in thinking make strong connections and so if we think negatively then we reinforce beliefs we have about the world and ourselves. Telling yourself you are no good at something, or that you can’t do something or repeatedly telling yourself that you are unlucky, that life is hard or that ‘this is just the way I am’ become self-fulfilling prophecies and, much like the previous saying, you will use confirmation bias to prove that it is true. In NLP we talk about Deletions, Distortions and Generalizations. These are the missing ingredients when someone states a belief about themselves that is not true but because they believe it is true, they have lots of proof to back it up because they have deleted, distorted or generalised the truth. Students are great at this, ‘I am no good at Maths, ‘I can’t draw’ and so on.
This Too Shall Pass
This last one I know you probably all have heard but it’s worth including it because it links with all the earlier ones. Things never stay the same for long. Time moves on, we learn new things, we grow as a person, our tastes change, and problems somehow always seem to resolve themselves. However, if we are caught in a cycle of pessimistic thinking then we often see things as permanent, pervasive and personal. I’ve mentioned this before in my writing about the work of Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology. When we are optimistic we realize that things change quickly, just because one area of your life has problems doesn’t mean every area has, and you are not always the reason things are the way they are.
If life is the way it is, and you give up resisting what is happening and give attention to things you want, knowing that the more positive habits you create, the stronger the neural pathways in your brain then, it is easy to see how your problems too shall pass.
Thanks for reading. If you are interested in my coaching or training then get in touch, 00353868373582, [email protected] or via PM.
I hope our paths cross again in future,
Mind Coach, Meditation Instructor
|Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on April 13, 2018 at 2:55 AM||comments (0)|
This week I am sharing a video from my online course an Introduction to Mindfulness. you can find the video on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/mettamorphics/ You will need headphones or a quiet place if you want to do the practice. You can find out more about my course on my Online Courses page here on my website or through the store on my Facebook page. You will also find useful information in my last two blogs which cover daily practice and silent retreat, if you haven't read them already. If you are interested in booking a one to one session then get in touch so that we can arrange something to suit your personal needs, Elfreda
|Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on April 6, 2018 at 2:45 AM||comments (0)|
Last week I posted about what it is like to go on a silent retreat and this week I thought I’d write about one of the more common questions asked of me when I am teaching meditation and Mindfulness to groups. Most of us, myself included, when we start out on a daily meditation practice want to know will it do for us what we hope it will? The answer to that question is complex, and the truth is, it depends. It depends on how much prior knowledge of meditation you have and if your expectations are realistic, it depends on how much time and effort you are willing to commit, and it depends on the quality of your meditations and whether you have been taught well and continue to learn. As Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson in their book Altered Traits say ‘Rather than just the sheer hours of practice put in…, it’s how smart those hours are’. They also state that without regular guidance we can plateau, and our progress stops. With all that in mind I will share my experience of having a daily meditation practice and what I have noticed and learned over my years of practice.
When I started out I was like most people, I meditated in fits and starts, doing around 10 minutes a day and sticking to it for a week or two before something would distract me and I would miss a day or several. I had read endless articles and books about Mindfulness and I knew a lot of the research said it was hugely beneficial for mental well-being and had a number of physical health benefits. One of those was sleep and back then I had chronic insomnia and regularly fell asleep during the day if I sat down for a few minutes. Most days I had to set my alarm at lunchtime to make sure I would wake up in time to go back to work. I often fell asleep whilst sitting in my car in shopping centres and car parks, and rarely stayed awake if I sat down in the evening to watch the television. At night it would take me anything up to an hour to get to sleep and I would be awake again before 4am and lie awake or get up long before my alarm was due. Most of those times was spent revisiting memories of past events and going over and over my worries to the point of having heart palpitations. I really wanted Mindfulness to be the answer to this problem as well as to my chronic ove-rthinking and worry. It was the answer to that and so much more.
It took a number of years before I decided to commit to a daily practice and when I did I was already doing twenty minutes or more a day. That quickly increased to thirty then forty minutes and now most days I do two hours or more of practice with a minimum of an hour if I have other commitments. The answer to my initial questions as to whether Mindfulness would help my sleep came fairly quickly and yes it did. However, I did also discover that the reason I wasn’t staying asleep was due to my sensitivity to noise and so ear plugs were necessary for that. It did however, end my night time worrying and pretty much my daytime worrying too and that came from my ability to notice my thoughts and to realise they are not real and will go away if I let them.
So, what’s a typical day’s practice like for me? I get up around 6am and I go straight to my meditation cushion (after a trip to the toilet, of course). My cushion is permanently in place as well as blankets to keep me warm as the heating may not have kicked in yet. I set my Insight Timer for one hour and fifteen minutes on an average morning and I sit. Most of my time, these days, is taken up with Vipassana meditation, which is open awareness meditation, although I play it by ear depending on what is happening in my mind. Usually the first few minutes is occupied with noticing my body. I might notice a twinge in my knee or that the blanket is tucked in funny or there’s a draft coming from somewhere. I notice my thoughts drift from one thing to the next and only respond if I think I really need to. On a weekday my thoughts will regularly drift to work. Over they years I have come to learn my patterns. I start to run through my day, checking in with my plan, reminding myself of where I need to be, times, things I need to bring and, more often than not, conversations I need to have. If I have nothing major going on then the thoughts drift into possibilities, I write blog posts, come up with ideas for new courses and get inspired solutions for client work. Unfortunately, this is not the time for this and so I usually intervene with some counting meditation or focused breath awareness to still my racing mind. In the beginning I resented these intrusions of thought, I tried to stop my habits by drawing attention to them not realising I needed to give them space to breath. My ability to plan was a defense against making mistakes, a protection against rejection, failure, and helplessness from feeling alone. My creative conversations and daydreamed solutions were escapism in difficult times to a fantasy world of my own creating, propelling me into a future of possibilities. These skills have served me well. Now that I know them I can use them to my advantage and just as Buddha welcomed and acknowledged Mara the demon, I acknowledge what these thoughts are trying do for me and I let them go.
My second pattern is to revisit past events that have caused me hurt or embarrassment. I go over conversations thinking of what I could or should have said. I think of ways to fix things, defend myself, apologise or make amends. As soon as I spot this pattern I laugh at my attachments to being liked, to being right and to not looking stupid. Each time the patterns reoccur I bring myself back; counting, the breath, sounds, my body, whatever is present in the moment. It’s not always so simple and often minutes have passed before I realise the blog post is written or the conversation has played out in numerous ways. If feelings arise I often change to Loving Kindness or Ho’oponopono practice as this is known to downgrade amygdala activity and the ‘Fight, Flight or Freeze’ process in the brain. If things are going well I can stay with this practice until the bell goes but other times I start to become fidgety, aware of numbness in my body, wondering how long is left, sometimes even peeking at the clock; which always seems to have seventeen minutes left. The restless meditations can be challenging but they are the most beneficial as they really challenge me to know myself and what is driving my emotions and thinking.
When I get up from my cushion I bring my Mindfulness with me throughout my day. Paying attention to my thoughts in the silence of meditation, has taught me to notice my thoughts before I react to them. I hear myself and internally laugh as I notice my neediness, my fears and my judgements. I don’t always stop myself as sometimes my motives become clear after the fact. I can see things for what they are now, my attachments to things having to be a particular way, my beliefs about the world, myself, and how I imagine my life should be. At best I shift my focus to what is happening right now and let them go and at worst I revisit them over and over again until I understand them or am distracted by some other more pressing problem. Therein lies another one of my patterns, the need to make sense of everything, the cause and the answer, but that’s the subject for another day’s meditation.
Is it worth it? I can definitely say, yes. Is it a challenge? It’s a commitment but one that pays dividends. I am happier now than I’ve ever been, and worry is a thing of the past. Over my hours of meditation I have discovered a still-contentment inside me that never leaves, it is present beyond the workings of my busy mind. It only takes moments to find it and to re-calibrate to that stillness that is me. In meditation these moments of pure silence and calm are what make it worthwhile. As Albert Camus said, ‘In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer’.
Thanks for reading. If you want more information about my classes, workshops or one to one coaching check out my website or get in touch, [email protected], 00353868373582.
I hope our paths cross again in future,