Hack Your Job

We’ve all been there- set off for the office with a clear plan for the day ahead, a list of things to accomplish, only to arrive back home 9-10 hours later with only a few ticked off. Half the day we can’t even recall what we did the other half we spent zoning out in meetings and firefighting the onslaught of e-mails, WhatsApp notifications and Insta likes pinging into our consciousness.

Most of this is attributed to working on Autopilot and getting ourselves into productivity-sucking habits. Ive pulled together a few handy tips, tricks and mindful methods that can be used to help yourself towards a work life that is a little easier and far more productive.

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walking kev

Walking mindfully is a fantastic way of incorporating mindful practice when there just isn’t time to set aside for formal practice in your schedule.


 

Here’s some steps to get your started:

  1. Start by becoming aware of your posture and the sensation of standing. Feel your feet on the floor, grounded.
  2. Pause and take a conscious breath in and out
  3. If possible, walk slowly so that you can feel the sensation of the striking of your heel on the ground all the way through to your toes lifting up
  4. Notice the shifting of the weight across your body before taking the next step.  And repeat.

Optional: You can move on to focusing on other areas of the body, perhaps feeling your clothes swishing around or the sensations in your calves, knees and arms as they swing.

When out and about I like to take in my surroundings. I’ll establish presence first, focusing on my footsteps to feel grounded before shifting my focus to external things like street art, architecture, trees, sounds of the bustling city and feeling the breeze.

Tip: If you feel self-conscious walking without an obvious purpose or if you just fancy having a go why not take a camera and practice some mindful photography whilst you’re at it.


 

Here’s some things I spotted on my latest trip to Portishead on a British beach-y October day:

flower close

mindful walkdead plant 2

lighthouse

Have a great time out and about. As always I love hearing about what you get up to.

 

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dandelion vase

Photo taken from Kate Walters’ Eat Knit and DIY blog

As another year is nearing a close and it seems all my friends are getting married, promoted, buying a house, getting the cutest dogs. I’m feeling that in these life goals I’ve definitely…. flatlined!

The narrative of ‘I should’ is, to take Trump’s phrasing, “yuuuuuuge” and can be a big old hindrance to moving on past other people’s success noise and becoming effective at working towards creating your own success story.

When mulling over last week’s theme of loving kindess I recalled the traditional Sufi story of dandelions that was shared during my MBSR Mindfulness course. The story encourages us to embrace radial acceptance and learn to live with and even love the dandelions that may spring up before us. 

 


 

emma dandelion

Learn to Love Dandelions:

A young man named Nasreddin planted a flower garden, but when the flowers came up so did a great crop of dandelions amongst them.

Wishing to eliminate the unwanted guests, Nasreddin consulted with gardeners far and wide to rid the dandelions but none of their solutions worked.

Finally, at his wits end, Nasreddin travelled to the palace to seek the wisdom of the Royal Gardener. But alas, after hearing many suggestions Nasreddin had already tried all of the methods suggested by the kind old man. Silently they sat together for a good long while.

At last, the gardener looked at Nasreddin and said “Well then, the only thing I can suggest is that you learn to love them.”


 

What the Royal Gardener was suggesting was radial acceptance, that we should acknowledge the present reality rather than waste energy in fighting it. Now I’m not saying give up on your dreams and accept everything (I need me that house with the blue door!!) but to quieten the judgments and beliefs of how things ‘should be’ and instead focus on being effective and do what’s right.

quieten judgements

I know, I know…it’s easier said than done but radial acceptance can apply to literally anything. I read a great anecdote in The Mindfulness Bible by Dr Patrizia Collard about a woman who had terrible eczema and hated the time and effort it took to apply the various topical creams. When she stepped back and looked at her situation with acceptance in mind she decided to start applying her creams as a mindful practice, becoming fully present during the experience. For the woman, something she hated doing each day became a new part of her self-care regime and she no longer saw applying cream to her eczema as a burden but more of a personal treat.

The main photo used for this post is from the Eat Knit and DIY from Krista Walters. She has learned to love the dandelion gifts given to her from her daughter and has created beautiful DIY vases to hold them.

” Most people think they are weeds.  To my daughter, they are beautiful little flowers that she picks for me everywhere we go.  She presents them to me with such  pride.  She tells me in her little girl voice that she picked them for me because she loves me.”  – Kate, EatKnitDIY

To tie all these themes of loving kindness and radial acceptance up with a bow I’ll just leave this beautiful passage by Rumi here. This passage is one of my absolute favourites and I hope you enjoy reading too:

 

Guesthouse

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breathing space 2

The 3 Step Breathing Space gives us a chance to step out of ‘autopilot’ and see what’s really going on. It allows a moment to pause when thoughts are threatening to spiral and provides room for a little reminder that every moment – good or bad- will pass.

The best thing about this is it can be done sitting down, standing up, jogging…wherever and whenever you like!

Imagine the shape of an hourglass; wide at the top, narrow in the middle and wide and the bottom. These 3 steps below follow that same pattern when focusing your awareness.

Just Breathe writing


STEP 1. BECOME AWARE OF ‘WHAT’S GOING ON NOW’

 Wide Awareness – 1 min

Close your eyes (if you’re in a place this is possible) and ask yourself these three questions:

  • What am I thinking about right now?  

For me this can look like “I need to remember to call my gran… and book that table for tonight…but what if I can’t leave work on time …” etc.

  •  How am I feeling right now?

I’m talking adjectives here – “I’m feeling…stressed, excited, calm, afraid, angry…

  •  What physical sensations do I feel in my body right now?

With different emotions we experience different sensations in our body. Notice these –  where are they? how strong are they? Do they sting or throb? When under pressure and stressed I notice my stomach knot up and have a huge pulsing headache between my eyes.  Equally, when excited/anxious I feel jittery with a racing heart beat.

In this step you are opening your awareness to yourself, where you are right now and how you’re feeling.


STEP 2. BECOME AWARE OF YOUR BREATH

 Focused Awareness – 1 min

Direct your full attention towards your breath by focusing on the physical sensations caused by breathing. Focus on the movement of your stomach, expanding out on each breath in and contracting on each breath out. This is a way to bring your attention to the present moment.

If you feel your mind wandering it’s OK,  just bring it back again to your breath and belly.

Note: Your mind is like your muscles- the more you exercise them at the gym the better you get at lifting heavier weights. Meditation is like a gym for the mind.  The more you do it the stronger and better your mind becomes at focusing.

This step is helpful in grounding your mind, bringing it back to the present.


STEP 3. EXPAND YOUR AWARENESS

Wide Awareness – 1 min

Imagine your outline and with each breath picture the air filling up to the edges, into your fingertips and right down to your toes.

When you are ready to bring the practice to a close keep expanding your awareness outwards beyond the body, notice your surroundings, become aware of the temperature, smells and sounds of your environment before opening your eyes.

This part allows you to feel a part of the present –  you have a place in the world, you are here, you are strong and ready to take on the rest of the day.

Let me know how you get on with the 3 Step Breathing Space and any anecdotes of any odd places you’ve found yourself practicing it in the comments below!

Enjoy!

 

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heart

I’d never be the person that would describe myself as easily angered or one to hold a grudge.  As a self-confessed people-pleaser I tend to have a smiley persona, keen to encourage warmth and kindness from others as I expect back in return. I guess recently with moving to a new city,  I’ve become extra sensitive to noticing my surroundings and other people.

When I’ve taken time to watch the world with compassion in mind I’ve noticed a real quickness to berate others or get worked up openly and explosively.

Last week I had a pretty hectic, jaw-to-the-floor experience that prompted me to write a post on Metta Meditation, the Loving- Kindness practice.

It was cold, wet and gloomy last Wednesday and the day started off as usual. I got in my car and after checking my mirrors many times I pulled out of the drive. I did not, hands up, see a car pelting round a corner towards me. Thankfully there was no actual contact nor damage and all that was needed was a quick foot on the brake. What followed however was a woman storming out of her driver’s seat, raging up to my window to scream and call me every name under the sun.  It was a honest mistake and I was not expecting quite the onslaught of abuse.

Obviously this was quite unnerving and had I not been aware of the Three Step Breathing Space and Loving Kindness Meditation I probably would have got really upset at the confrontation. Instead however I felt so much empathy, something had obviously happened that day to make her fuse blow so quickly and she was so blinkered to other people’s worth. I almost wanted, weirdly, to hug her and give her a tea (?!) and tell her that it was OK so that she could get on with the rest of her day calmly without having had me mess it up.

Since this incident I have seen so much more of the same; overhearing people openly criticising others, yelling obscenities through their windscreen at pedestrians and having nasty temperaments with service staff. It seems even the smallest of mishaps are bringing about huge catastrophic reactions from others.

This seems like a whole lot of unnecessary stress where there a far more crazy things occurring than a person crossing the road too slowly.

metta meditation wriing

I’ve found the Loving-Kindness practice a great way to reduce my stress by becoming aware of others’ being and experience empathy and compassion for those who are not just the ones I love.

A little history on the who what where :

Loving-Kindness meditation came about because of the Buddha’s response to a group of monks who were scared. The monks had gone to a remote forest to meditate however when they got there, they started hearing strange noises, smelling terrible things and seeing scary spirits. They fled the forest and asked the Buddah for help.

The Buddha taught them Loving Kindness and told them to go back to the forest and develop Loving Kindness for these scary spirits. The monks returned to the forest and began to practice this meditation. Soon the spirits became as kind and friendly to the monks as the monks were being to the spirits. The monks stayed a long time in the forest, living peacefully with the spirits.

This meditation is now fronted By Emma Seppälä at Stanford University and has benefits of increasing our:

  • Compassion
  • empathy
  • social connections
  • emotional intelligence

It can even help curb our self-criticism and bias towards others.

 

Metta Meditation photo

How-to: Loving-Kindness Meditation

I like to be seated whilst doing this 15 minute practice and to use a guided soundtrack. I like Emma’s here however do have a look on YouTube for your favourite.

In the practice you will give and receive loving kindness by silently repeating phrases whilst picturing yourself and others. The words are really lovely and uplifting and follow the lines of:  

“May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain.”

“May your life be filled with happiness, health, and well-being.”

Listen to the 15 minute guide here.

Also , check out this Ted Talk from Emma Seppälä on how we can breathe for happiness!

 

I really hope you have a little chance to try Loving-Kindness and see how you feel after! I remember doing this for the first time on my 8-week course and we all felt it was a really freeing experience wishing compassion to even those who may have done us wrong.

Do share your experience below and let me know how you get on :)

 

 

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