Why you may think that meditation won’t work for you….

22 Jun

Why you think meditation won’t work for you!

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Okay so you’ve read about the benefits of meditation and you’ve heard from countless people who’ve experienced these benefits for themselves…. BUT maybe you still don’t think that meditation is going to work for you.

This could be because you are one of those people whose mind just doesn’t stop. Maybe you always like to keep busy and the idea of stopping, even for a moment fills you with dread. Maybe in those moments your mind becomes even busier. All the thoughts that you can easily ignore throughout your busy day, get louder and louder and louder.

smiley businessman in suit running fast at outdoor

Or maybe you love the idea of meditation but the truth is that your life is so busy that you can’t even find 5 minutes to sit down. It would be lovely if you could, but your life just isn’t like that. It’s alright for others who don’t have to work so hard, don’t have so many people to look after, who have money or who don’t have to…….(fill in the blank) but for you it feels impossible.

There may be other really good reasons why your brain is telling you that you can’t even try meditation. How do I know? Because I have one of these brains. I’ve had these thoughts for years. In fact I still have them. The trick is that I’ve learnt to over ride them.

I deal with these thoughts in the same way that I’ve learnt to ignore well meaning but terrible advice from people. I nod politely, thank them and move swiftly on.

“Thoughts aren’t fact, don’t take them so seriously” Ruby Wax

Our brain is extremely complicated and science is still figuring out how it works. There have been amazing discoveries by evolutionary psychologists such as Professor Paul Gilbert who explains that our human brain is actually not a very good design as we have different brain systems all pulling us in different directions.

“My mind is like a bad neighbourhood, I don’t like to go there alone”   Angie Le Marr

Despite studying psychology at University, it wasn’t until I read Gilbert’s work that I realised how our brain has evolved. To avoid Science speak, mostly because I don’t know how to do it, ss we evolved, the new bits of our brain grew on top of the old bits of our brain.

This means that we have ‘caveman’ mentality in a modern world.

Hungry wild man wearing leopard skin hold fork and knife.

This more primitive part of our brain has completely different agenda from our human brain. As well as conflicting needs and desires.

So it means that it’s perfectly normal to have conflicting thoughts and feelings. There’s a part of you that wants to meditate and feel more relaxed and at peace within yourself but there’s another part of your brain which tells you that you don’t have time or that ‘meditation is for suckers’.

Meditation actually helps you come to peace with all your conflicting thoughts, even the negative thinking patterns. We learn that we may not be able to stop ourselves from thinking and in fact trying to stop our thoughts can often makes things worse. So we come to peace with the fact that we can’t always control our thoughts but we don’t have to believe them or act upon them.

“That voice inside your head is not the voice of God, it just sounds like it thinks it is”. Cheri Huber

In my meditations I guide people to come to peace with their thinking minds and rather than thinking of them like a hapless dictator, to imagine them as a loyal servant who has been working too hard. It’s frightened, it’s over worked and it’s needs our help.

Some say that the thinking mind or ego thinks that it’s all powerful and that it’s terrified of losing it’s power. I prefer to think that our thinking mind is like a goldfish and continually forgets the most important stuff.

Studio Shot of Golden koi fish scared isolated on white background.

Meditation helps us remember what’s important and gives us a better perspective on things. Meditation is also very soothing for the part of our brain that doesn’t want to switch off and is endlessly trying to achieve or improve things.

Meditation helps this part of us remember everything that you HAVE achieved rather than what you haven’t been able to do.

Gilbert calls this part of our brain our ‘drive system’ which is focused on our progressing. When things are going well this can lead us to feel: excited, empowered, fulfilled, loved, happy, proud and financially secure. No wonder we love to achieve!

However here’s the catch…. the problem is that your drive system will never want you to stop.  It’s job is to drive you. No matter how much you achieve it will always want you to do more.

This part of you that will never be happy with what you do. By constantly trying to keep this part of ourselves satisfied,  we begin to burn out, feel exhausted, anxious, stressed.  It can also set off a pattern of negative thinking where we berate ourselves.

Not so good huh! So we need our drive system but we’ve got to keep it in balance. One of the best ways to do this is to set aside 5-10 minutes every day to meditate.

The slight hitch here of course is that your drive system will tell you that you don’t have time to meditate. It maybe constantly reminding you of other more important things to do. Your choice is that you can believe these thoughts and continue to run around for the rest of your life looking after everyone else or you can dedicate a few minutes each day to looking after your own well being and bringing your drive system into balance.

Remember that even a small amount of meditation will refresh your drive system and stop you from burning out.

The best way to start is to get yourself along to a meditation class or download meditations that you can listen to. Once you begin to feel the benefits you’ll be hooked!

Here’s a free 10 minute meditation to get you started:    http://www.helpmetorelax.com/calm-and-focused/

Successful businessman working outdoor with a laptop

Meditation has made a world of difference to me. Those 10 minute breaks in my day have reset my drive system and helped me reap the benefits of the present moment rather than my happiness being fixed on the future.

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I hope that meditation takes you on a beautiful journey too and that our paths cross some day.

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Big love Susan

Family holidays…why they can often be a disaster

2 Apr

A solicitor I knew once told me that the busiest times of the year for divorces were after Christmas and after the Summer holidays.  It seems that spending extended time together as a family can not only lead to divorce but to many other mis haps as well.  Anyone who has a family knows that the word ‘holiday’ doesn’t usually fit with the experience that you have together.  Personally many of the family holidays we’ve had have been harder work than being at home.  We tried many different types of holiday -those focused on the kids, okay so they  were happy but it felt tacky and disappointing to us, adult focused – where we’d pay extortionate prices to put the kids into a kids club and I’d lie by a pool trying to come to peace with my guilt about the fact that the kids hated the kids club and that they weren’t really enjoying the holiday.  Before each holiday I’d spend hours searching the internet for the perfect balance, something for the kids, something for the grown ups.  Sometimes this worked but most often I’d find myself in a beautiful place doing as much cooking and cleaning as I do at home and feeling like my support network had vanished.  Though it was nice to spend time together, it wouldn’t take long for boredom and squabbles to set in.  Tensions would rise as we’d get lost in the car, trying to find a restaurant in a town we didn’t know, scraping the rental car when the sat nav would take us the wrong route in a quaint village, mis-timing the siesta and ending up with crisps for lunch, spending as much time in a foreign supermarket as on the beach and  feeling over whelmed by the constant decision making. I’d find myself not enjoying the holiday, even though I felt like I was supposed to.

One particular holiday we were over in Talum in Mexico. My brother was getting married over there and we decided to spend the week before having the kind of holiday we would have had before we had children.  It had been a long time since we’d flown long haul and we were craving that beach paradise kind of holiday. This place certainly was that.  It was on a beautiful beach, the staff were very welcoming, the food was delicious, there was yoga and scuba diving available.  Everyone would describe it as paradise – I think they even had a sign which said ‘Welcome to Paradise’.  For us however, it certainly was not paradise. The temperature would soar to 40 degrees from 11-4, we were all squished into one room with no air conditioning, the water was dangerous to drink so anytime our 2 year old was playing in the pool or near the taps we would have to scrutinise her every move.  There wasn’t a cool place where the children could play and one of the worst things is that there were NO OTHER CHILDREN.  This to our 5 year old son was not his idea of paradise at all.  You’d think that by allowing your child your unconditional attention for 1 week would give them all they need. Not at all. He was really bored with us after a couple of days and we’d end up feeling like we were stalking other family’s trying to arrange play dates.

I knew that there must be an alternative.  I tried to arrange holidaying with family and friends but different budgets and other commitments meant that this wasn’t really an option for us. As I loved yoga I’d search for ‘family friendly’ yoga holidays. These were the closest we came to a great family holidays. Time in the morning to do yoga while the kids did something craft based and time together in the afternoon.  It was really lovely to feel part of a group and to have that holistic feel to a holiday. However the down sides were, that the kids weren’t all that happy with the arrangement, we had to camp so we were all squished into a yurt together (I’m not a natural camper), there wasn’t usually a pool or a place to cool down, the enforced vegetarianism and lack of alcohol didn’t suit my husband. Also these yoga places were often in the middle of nature somewhere, which was wonderful in many ways but it also meant lots of mosquitos, food that wasn’t suitable for children and guilt over the fact that my children missed fish fingers and just wanted to play on their ipads rather than chase a butterfly.

A real yearning began to grow in me to create a holistic family holiday that was realistic about the children’s and husband’s needs as well as fulfilling my own need to be looked after and to connect with other like minded parents. This was the holiday I really wanted and could not seem to find.  Then I met Julie Leoni, who was one a facilitator on a community family holiday that I attended last year. Julie was such great fun, she created lovely, holistic workshops for both the grown ups and the children.   What I especially loved about Julie is that she was really realistic about what kids do and do not want to do on holiday. We had such similar feelings when it came to the following:

Ipads  – YES our kids have them,  YES they are useful for the plane journey, NO we don’t want our kids to spend hours of their holiday playing Angry birds.

Kids food  – YES we do want them to eat more healthily and try new foods but NO they’re never going to eat a tofu and aubergine curry, no matter how hungry they are.

Accommodation – YES we want big enough rooms or two rooms available so that you can have enough space as a family, NO we don’t want to pay hundreds of pounds for this.

Cooking & Cleaning – YES we want all this done for us and to feel looked after.

Beach – YES we prefer a natural beach to a pool that’s close by to the venue. YES the water to be warm enough for the kids to get in, YES we would like the option of buying food, NO we don’t want a rammed, tacky beach, NO we don’t want a surf beach with massive waves which will terrorise the children (or us if the children actually go in)

Village – YES we’d like to be close to a village, YES we’d like to feel part and welcomed as part of that village, YES we’d like it to be safe enough for the kids to run around and play while we sit in a bar if we wish, YES we’d like it to have bars or restaurants that couples or families can slip off to it they like. NO we don’t want it to be too big or busy.

Alcohol – YES this can be a great part of a holistic holiday.

Activities – YES we’d love a place to hold supportive circles, drama, creative writing, meditation, life coaching. YES we’d love others in the group to get involved and share whatever skills. NO it’s not going to be overly earnest or compulsory.

Julie and I decided to create the family holiday that we were both yearning for.  We’d spend hours together creating this (including asking our kids what their needs were). We spent hours online researching, talking to and visiting venues that might tick all these boxes.  We are now delighted to have finally found a couple of amazing venues which match these criteria and we’re kicking off our first season this Summer with a holiday on Cres in Croatia from 30th July – 13th August (the flyer is attached below).  We are so thrilled about these and a lovely group is beginning to gather together. If you haven’t done this kind of holiday before then you probably have lots of questions, we’d love to help answer these, so please email me at susan@helpmetorelax.com and we can set up a Skype call.  In my next blog I’ll be sharing my experiences of these kind of holidays and the positive changes they made  to our family life.

If you have a funny story about a family holiday that you’d like to share, please get in touch, I’d love to hear it.

Susan

 

New year’s resolutions

4 Nov

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I’m a massive advocate for change. I’ve always loved new years eve and the idea of a new chapter, a fresh start, letting go of the old and imagining what the new year will bring.

Even though sometimes we feel stuck and trapped, this is rarely ever the case. Everything is a choice – though this is sometimes a hard fact to swallow.

It’s so hard to make lasting changes on our own. Often those around us have got used to us the way we are, subconsciously they may not want us to change. So it’s really important to have a ‘circle of allies’ – a group of people who can support you through these changes.

The idea …. anything is possible when you have the support of like minded people. So I wanted to set up a group of people who would meet regularly and embark on these changes together.   I wanted to run a course like this because I know how hard it is to make significant changes in our lives.  Over the last two and a half years, my life has changed enormously. I’m so grateful that I now have friends that inspire and encourage me, a job that really fulfills me and a much better relationship with my family. So I LOVE change but I also know how difficult it can be.  Even though there have been lots of big changes, they came in lots of little moments, which at many times felt petrifying. The trick is to find a balance between knowing which aspects of your life you need to change and appreciating what you already have.

There’s a big part of us that doesn’t want to change at all.  Our limbic brain would prefer us to be safe, it doesn’t care how unhappy we are.  Often we have conflicting voices within our minds and we can feel lost, unable to see which way to turn. Sometimes we need the kind gaze of a friend to give us courage to live the life we want to live, rather than living for others.

I believe passionately that each of us has a unique gift to share with the world. The sad fact is that most people don’t even know what their gift is. As it’s usually something that comes so naturally to us, we may gloss over it or just presume that everyone else is the same. There are lots of great tips and techniques to:

a) help you find out what your gift is
b) give you the confidence and a compassionate kick up the bum to get out there and start sharing it

I’ve absolutely loved running these workshops and it’s been amazing to see the wonderful shifts that have happened in each and every person. Combining visualisations, insight meditations, creative exercises and lots of fun stuff to help nudge everyone out of their comfort zone. Watching and supporting each other through the success and the struggles was so heartwarming. We didfun nights out too, a fire ceremony, walking up Ivinghoe Beacon in the dark, watching inspirational movies like ‘Finding Joe’ and we had guest speakers come and share their wisdom.

I wanted this course to be a real mix of inner and outer changes. After all our human brain is designed to focus on the negative aspects of our lives so I felt it was really important to include gratitude meditations as part of this. Sweet appreciation for all the aspects of our lives which we love.

Sometimes a change in perspective is all that’s needed. Sometimes it doesn’t need a massive change but one tiny change right at the heart of things.

Learning to listen to the wisdom of your own heart (you know that tiny voice that you can barely hear amongst the chatter of the other voices in your head, that tiny voice that says ‘leave’ or “I don’t want’ this). It takes practice to listen to this voice and real courage to act on it.

I’m so grateful to the group who came together this year, for really affirming to me that real change is possible. I’m really excited as I’m going to be running these workshops as weekends at Braziers Park retreat centre, in Oxfordshire during 2014.

10-12 Jan
21-23 March
11-13 July
26-28 Sept.

I’ve a feeling these workshops will be even better as people will have stepped outside their routines. Magical things can happen if you have the right time and space. It’s a great way to make new friends and connections too. I’m also going to be writing up the exercises we do in each workshop as a blog so that we can create a wider circle. If you join me on Twitter: SusanEarl@helpmerelax or sign up at my website: http://www.helpmetorelax.com then I can keep you posted.  This is a beautiful course which is very close to my heart and I really hope that you can be involved in some way.

As Rumi tells us ‘Allow your heart to be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love’. The rest will follow.
Susiex

Hi I’m Susan…

15 Feb

…and welcome to the helpmetorelax blog. I’ll be posting up thoughts on how to relax and deal with all the stuff that lifes throws at us. And I’ll be posting up sound files I’ve recorded that will help you get into a good place. Let me know what you think anytime…..