Category Archives: Mindfulness

Sadness matters. How to embrace your tears.

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Sadness. The “blue creature” that’s inside your head and makes you notice gloomy things. Something that makes you emotional, nostalgic and down. Shoulder-length hair, round glasses, a sweater… here we go. That’s Sadness character in the Pixar’s movie “Inside Out”, speaking (and crying) with the voice of Phyllis Smith. I love how fairy tales can simplify and depict complex concepts in a way that is amusing, fun to watch and has a grain (or two) of truth.

Sometimes we think sadness is not welcome. It takes our power away and makes us feel miserable… It can take away our pleasures and cause us to be lonely… It can make us cry instead of enjoying our day. But should we really distrust sadness, hide it and treat it as a guest who comes uninvited and stays for too long? Do we really (as numerous self-help books suggest) need to strive for joy and think positively most of the time? I am not so sure.

Sadness can mess up many things, right? We are bombarded with pictures of happy people everywhere. Celebrities with perfect smiles (and lives, seemingly); success stories to hold onto (when we’ve just seen end results of someone’s achievements); pictures on Facebook that show only the best moments of someone’s life; self-help sections in book stores that lead you to believe that you must feel upbeat all the time to achieve fulfilment of personal and professional goals; job offers that accentuate traits such as being outgoing and bubbly… because you need to emanate happiness in order to attract customers to a brand, right? Well, that sounds a bit unreal to me.

We all experience all kinds of emotions. Sometimes at the same time. It may be easy to think that to keep up with all our obligations, commitments and activities, we need loads of positive energy all the time. However, life is not as sweet as a movie. Why struggle to be happy all the time?

Sadness has many benefits. Our tears are cleansing both our emotions and our eyes.

Forcing yourself to stay constantly “upbeat and positive” in your job can lead to frustration or even a breakdown, because it is an unattainable ideal. Everyone has bad days at some point, so why not feel them instead of trying to hide them? People actually connect with you when you are having a bad day. Sometimes even more than when you are emanating with happiness… Practiced. People like to show compassion to other human beings.

Feeling down always tells us something. Like pain. Physical pain is an indication that something is not going right in our organism. If you kill the pain, you kill the symptoms. The causes of it might still be there. Same with sadness. If we try to hide it under a fake smile, under “I’m alright” or under tons of work/entertainment, it will not automatically disappear. Well, it may, for a short time. But it may still be there when you check next time. There is a Zen practice of “looking deeply” that helps recognise the exact emotions we are feeling and what they point at. It is a really useful practice.

Sadness can sometimes bring fear, but running away from it doesn’t help. Fear is an elaborated fantasy of what may go wrong. Only embracing your sadness and trying to understand it can help shine light on what is really going on inside. This can bring marvellous results. Otherwise this unexplored emotional terrain might be scary.

Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels. (Goya)

 

Goya – The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (picture from Wikipedia)

Featured image photo credit: Sadness via photopin (license)

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“Sometimes”. About the dream we keep holding on to, in spite of the rain.

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Sometimes clarity just doesn’t come. It’s obscured by clouds, by dreams, by fantasies. Obscured by magical thinking of “that something” which will wake us up from a dream and make us feel special… Whereas all we want is to make peace with ourselves and feel “our own creative spark” that we didn’t feel before. Sometimes that’s all.

Sometimes life brings you flowers. And sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s not the reason to not wake up every day happy. It’s not the reason to stay down. A flower is waiting for you right where you are. If you just manage to discover it.

Sometimes even compassion is not enough. You can get angry by not understanding something and nothing will help. Getting angry is healthy if you channel it the right way. It can cleanse your fears.

Where am I going with all this? To the point of nowhere. To stir you up a little bit, to make you find out where your own “sometimes” lies, that you’ve forgotten about, that you aspire to… Where is your magic “tomorrow” where everything’s gonna be alright and the spell will last? There is no such place. Yet we do this all the time. We create the whole worlds of illusions to dive into, like a swimming pool on a fairy island. You can have one too. But it’s good to know that you’re in a tale, a cartoon. And when this episode ends, you will remain right where you were, in the greyish shape of your reality. Grey is beautiful though. It’s a neutral state that allows you to notice all other colours; it’s a perfect background to all emotions. It’s the world that will last.

I guess you know now what your fantasy world is, but please be assured that the world of “normality” is so much more gratifying in the end. Fantasies are amazing but they are exactly as they are – fantasies. If only we could notice them sooner.

That’s where Zen comes in. It helps us recognize the “mind chatter” from the presence of our being that is available to us all the time no matter what storms are raging or what creations we are led to believe. It’s sustainable. It’s connected to your breath. It takes you on a journey that is real. Mind can trick you and bring you to a lot of unusual places. But at the end of the day the place is one – Here and Now.

I might end up with a flashy conclusion or a catchy phrase, but no. I’ll end up with a space. A space for your thoughts. Here you can write your own “sometimes”. If you dare to listen to your fantasy. It can tell you the truth of what you’re missing.

 

MY FANTASY: ________________________

 

Good luck,

Anna

 

 

photo credit: Mystischer Koloss via photopin (license)

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Scared of Making a Wrong Choice? How to Make a Choice Among Endless Possibilities

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Have you ever had enough and thought something like ‘If only making this choice was easier?’ This article might shed some light on how to make right choices when you’re overwhelmed by data and possibilities. Here are some of the ways (among loads) of how to deal with the influx of information from here and there and everywhere, and this, and that… Stop that! 

There is a lot to choose from. Everywhere. Literally. Instead of reading this post you could choose a million different things (online), or another few thousand offline (the numbers do not correspond to reality ;). I know that feeling. Having some time to spare and scratching your head over all these things you could possibly do. And that’s just a decision of how to spend your evening.

How about making bigger decisions? Where to live, who to hang out with regularly, what interests to pursue, what career decisions to make, not to mention romance-related decisions… If only it was easier, right?

Not exactly.

It’s not easy, and it’s not difficult either. It’s what you make of it. You can spend the whole evening thinking what to do and eventually spending the evening thinking… (yeah, it’s happened to me, I confess…) or, you can choose something randomly, ask a friend, throw a coin into the air… Maybe there is some better way of making decisions during this constant influx of information, possibilities, options, things to do, read & think about. It’s called Informational Age, but I guess that means what it means – instead of overwhelming you with choice, it’s supposed to give you all the information you need to make the right choice. At least in theory.

We are sometimes confused if we have too much choice. There is a book called ‘The Paradox of Choice – Why More is Less’ by Barry Schwartz, a psychologist, saying that the more choice we have (as consumers), the more anxious we are…And it’s true that if we have loads of choice, we might not know what to do and end up not choosing what we want. Or even if we do, there is this fear of not making the best choice… Have you ever had it? I have.

My options of how not to get lost in the abundance of possible (and impossible) choices are the following:

- mindfulness. I hope you don’t get impatient by me using this word quite often. I do it only because… it works. As a busy skeptic in her head all the time (before I started practicing mindfulness), I can say it brings gigantic results in the long run if practiced regularly. So if you don’t know what to choose, start breathing. In… and out. At your own pace. NOT thinking about the choice you’re making. Just allow your body to rest and relax into whatever comes to you. You might discover many different things while doing this. I’m not gonna tell you what they would be – only you can find out. Everybody has their own means to do it. For me, it clarifies my choices in a significant way. You can find out more about it here. I hope it helps you too.

- go for a walk instead. It works for me in terms of shopping. If I’m undecided about buying something, that means I’m not 100% sure (because when you know you need /want something, you know it). In this case, walking (especially in nature) helps. I would suggest a park or a quiet street. It may help you make the decision and, maybe even you would find that you don’t need to buy anything after all. It happened to me many times. There is so much consumerism anyways and sometimes we get influenced by adverts and juicy displays. We do that. They know it. And it’s ok as long as you’re conscious of it.

- doing one thing at a time. Multitasking is overrated. So if you want to do many things at the same time (to avoid making the wrong choice), please try to focus on just one thing. Sometimes even a random choice of one activity/thing to do helps your attention to not drift but stick to it and eventually you can enjoy it more than if you were doing several things at once.

- this one is a ‘freak’ option, and it works sometimes :) If you’re stuck between choices, how about choosing neither of them, but something completely different? You’re going against your ego then, that is trying to win your internal battle with itself by making the best choice possible. By circumventing its ways, you may choose  something new. And you might like it.

The above mentioned ways apply mainly to small choices that wouldn’t make a life-changing difference, however, you can use some of them for big decisions. I wouldn’t suggest flipping a coin when deciding whether or not to marry someone, for instance, but I would definitely suggest mindfulness in making a decision concerning your career. After all, your ‘inner self’ knows already what you want to be doing, so if you could only listen to it beneath all these distractions… It would be different, right? So… why not do it? Like, …now? :) (after reading this article)?

Making a choice doesn’t have to be scary. And even if your choice isn’t perfect, you can change it by making another choice. There is always a way to thrive in the abundance of information coming from all directions. If you trust your internal compass (intuition), you are likely to feel more secure while doing it. And it’s likely to pay off in the long run.

 
photo credit: Sweet One via photopin cc

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10 Simple Steps of How to be Mindful in a busy digital world of Internet and smartphones

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10 simple to do steps in order to stay mindful in the digital world. The endless flow of information, deadlines, distractions and things to do can easily make you rush all the time, but there are things you can do to help yourself feel better and be more relaxed, whatever you do.

The world of screens, pixels and deadlines can be debilitating to us sometimes, not to mention our eyes. There is a difference between working calmly on a task (not multitasking) and rushing in a queue of never-ending projects and things to do next. Next, next, next… If I only finish this… When I do that, then… I’ve got 15 minutes, I can’t talk right now… Stop. Stop and breathe. This might be the only mindful moment within your day. Learn to appreciate it.

Yes, modern pace of living requires a lot of attention, dedication and time. Yet there is only a limited number of hours in a day. Unless you want to work at night overtime, but then you need to sleep sometimes… It’s very easy to fall into a vortex of doing, without really being. But what if we stop for a moment and really get our attention back to the present? Only then can we fully live. There are simple steps to do that and here they are:

1. One of the most basic things to do when you work on your computer a lot is to take regular breaks. And by regular I mean – really regular, let’s say every 45 minutes. This is for your eyes to rest (you still want to be able to see the number of a bus when you’re 65, right?), but it’s also to rest your mind. In order to do this, you can set up an alarm clock, to make sure you really do this. It’s so easy to get caught on the Internet, because there are millions of things that are really, truly interesting.

2. Take time for yourself. Schedule time off. This is pretty self explanatory, but it’s also too easy to catch yourself surfing the net on your day off, without going anywhere. We’ve all been there. Off time means what it means – you switch the off button. Only from time to time. The world will still be alright when you turn it on again (let’s hope so).

3. When you receive a message, it’s tempting to reply immediately, hit the button and then it’s gone. Sometimes we might have cringe-worthy moments, or a little guilt lurking from a shadow: ‘did I really say that?’ Once it’s posted, it’s there and there’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you can delete it, sometimes not. Even if you delete it, someone might have already seen it. Instead, take 2-3 deep breaths before replying, concentrating on the sound and feeling of your breathing. This will help you a lot in formulating a meaningful, mindful answer. Something you really want to say. Not just something on the spur of the moment.

4. When you have a long to-do list, instead of worrying about deadlines and the plan of your day, how about coming back to your feelings to assess whether what you are doing right now is important, useful, your priority? We know very well how to spend way too much time on something we didn’t really want to do. This link, that link… Even when all of them are interesting, it’s good to ask yourself: is this nourishing me? You will then be able to choose wisely, as (not to state the obvious) your time is limited.

5. I cannot stress how important it is to properly rest. Remembering to sleep enough number of hours and having some quiet time from time to time can do wonders. It really can.

6. Walks in nature. :) Oh yes. These are my favourite ones. It’s really good. The smell of fresh air, the look of the trees, the touch of the grass on your feet (you can walk barefoot in summer, yay!)… It all relaxes your body, leaving your mind in a pleasant state of calm. This is not the time to worry or plan things. This is just the time to walk. And looking at green relaxes your eyes, which is an additional bonus if you spend a long time in front of a computer.

7. Do nothing. Really. From time to time. No pressure, no plan, no ideas. Just be.

8. In order to not become completely digitalised, or a cyborg, I would advise you to find some non-digital hobby. So that you don’t stare at the screen in your free time. Something that involves other people (can be group games, hitchhiking, a local knitting group, gardening, or anything else that would make you feel good and be fun for you to do). Additionally, manual activities take the pressure off your mind and induce a more relaxed state, in which your subconscious may bring you ideas you were scratching your head over before, just like that – out of the blue. While you are making a bracelet, water your flowers or make a plane model, your brain is actively processing what happened earlier and preparing answers for you – just like you need them. Useful, huh?

9. Meet people. Instead of chatting on Facebook. I have nothing against Facebook, in fact, it can be a great way of connecting with people. I mean, instead of feeling lazy and chatting, make an effort sometimes to meet that person in real life and exchange your ideas live. You will feel the difference. Especially if you don’t see each other that often. You might see that person from a completely new perspective. Because, there is a limit to what we share online…

10. Last but not least… Have a pet :) My friend’s guinea pig always de-stresses her after a busy day at work. You cannot not smile when looking at a small cute creature who adores you and is waiting to be fed and cuddled. It’s so rewarding. And you can have a pretty good contact with an animal. It’s healing too. You can also tell it a secret and it won’t tell anyone… At least not in your language… ;) It’s really invigorating to have a little friend at home.

This list is obviously not exhaustive. If you come up with other ways of staying mindful in an increasingly fast, digitally-based life, let me know in the comments!

Breathe in, breathe out… Stay calm.

And have a nice morning/evening/day. :)

 

photo credit: lipemesquita via photopin cc

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A Short Guide to Mindful Eating

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Mindful eating is a practice of savouring every bite of your meal, in the same way you cherish every day if you live by the carpe diem maxim.

In an era when there are so many overweight people, it might be a good idea to focus on what you are eating, instead of watching TV or reading at the same time. Because we think we are multitasking, whereas in practice we dissolve our energy and do not even notice what we are eating, which can lead us to actually eat more than our body needs. If we practice this for a prolonged time, that can lead to some additional kilograms… Why put so much stress on ourselves? Wouldn’t cherishing every bite in silence bring us better results? After all, it would be nice to have a break in our tight schedule, to enjoy the moment and slow down for a minute.

As Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn puts it,

When we can slow down and really enjoy our food, our life and our health, we take on a much deeper quality.

So, I suggest you do the following next time you have lunch, dinner, or any other meal. It can also apply for snacks, fruit, and tea:

- find a comfortable place to eat

- place your food in front of you and look at it for a couple of seconds, enjoying its texture, colour, shape, temperature,   vapour over a hot tea, or anything else you find special about what you are consuming. Settle into this moment

- breathe in and out

- slow down your thinking and focus on your breath

- take the first bite/sip. Focus on the texture of it in your mouth, on the flavour and on the feeling of eating/drinking. This is the only thing that interests you now. Feel the sensation of swallowing each piece/sip and how it makes you warm inside

- keep eating/drinking like this. If you get distracted by other thoughts, that’s ok. In this case, come back to your flavour and cherish it once more

- when you’re done, take a few deep breaths and acknowledge the experience, how relaxing it was

- you can now come back to your duties and enjoy the day :)

I hope that helps. It’s a lovely practice of being here and now. I am mindfully eating pieces of Green & Black’s Organic chocolate while resting my eyes from the screen, and it is a truly pleasant experience. You can do it too.

If you would like to get to know more about it, there is a book called Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Living by Thich Nhat Hahn.

Love,

Anna

photo credit: Jiuck via photopin cc

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How to make the grass greener on our side.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/allisonkilla/4011479540

Success is a journey not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.

- Arthur Ashe

I’ve heard this saying many, many times… Are we truly aware of what it means to really enjoy the journey?

Take this situation: we are planning our career for years, taking courses, getting experience, burning the midnight oil, to ‘make it’ one day. As Thich Nhat Hahn has said, we know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. It all comes down to this observation: We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living… (Peace Is Every Step). Do we have to be that way?

I know it’s easy to forget about all this. We all get busy in our jobs, interests, friendships, family commitments, things to do, etc., that sometimes it is easy to forget that in ten years time (or thirty years time!) we would be wishing that today came back. Sooner or later, this is gonna happen, as we are not getting any younger…

Time is the most precious resource that we have. So, let’s use it wisely. Let’s be here and now, instead of giving people around us vacant stares and thinking about something else all the time. They say that grass is always greener on the other side… The same with future, it seems better than the present time… But if you really cross that fence, you may realise that the grass on the other side is exactly the same as yours, or, you may realise it is greener, but it is also artificial, made of plastic, what you didn’t see from a distance, and you cannot actually lay on it or walk a dog on ;)

Things change. Nothing – a job, a home, an age, a group of friends – is forever. Appreciate what you have. You may not have it tomorrow.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/allisonkilla/4011479540

 

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Peace & mindfulness quote

If we live our present moment mindfully, we will know what to do and what not to do, and we will try to do things in the direction of peace.

- Thich Nhat Hahn, Peace Is Every Step

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Meditation is easy, really.

Meditation is not a difficult task. It is a way to lead you to your long-lost home.
- Soen Shaku

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My advice – no resolutions this year.

The New Year. How many times have you asked yourself – what am I going to achieve this year, what my plans and resolutions are?

My plan this year:

NO RESOLUTIONS.

Only dreams to realise in time – the best, most waited for ones. Rather a do-it-now plan for the things you wanted to do most. If you do that, everything else will fall into place. Planning and goal-setting is good, but it all comes down to what you are doing NOW. So, no television (unless this is your goal :), no other distractions. Focus on what you want the most and it will come to you (but keep working on it too, it helps ;).

Moreover, something about taking things for granted. There is nothing more saddening than not appreciating a thing while it lasts, and then regret and wishing it came back after it’s gone. Many years from now you will regret the things you didn’t do, the unread books, the people around you that you didn’t appreciate or even notice… By any means, cherish what you have this year, because you can never be sure how long it will last. That simple truth has made me a lot more aware of what’s happening around me. I sincerely recommend it.

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

- Vincent van Gogh

What are your thoughts & feelings about the idea of resolutions?

xx

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The Fear of Missing Our Youth

Something quite important has been said here. So, ENJOY YOUR PRESENT DAY :)

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