Mindfulness

Life Lessons from a Hoover

Life Lessons from a Hoover

My apartment came with a hoover. I didn’t really give it much thought. It appeared to have most of the parts missing and I assumed it to be a broken down thing which I had to make the best of.

It had no wheels on it and no nozzles, extensions or attachments. Hoovering involved dragging it around and crawling around on my hands and knees to reach everywhere with the small nozzle. It meant that, perhaps, I hoovered less than if the task was easier but at no point did I get frustrated with this – I just accepted that was what I had to do to clean my apartment.

Each time I used it lately I thought to myself that soon it would need emptying – but so long as it kept functioning I kept using it. Today, it stopped working and started making a loud painful noise.

This annoyed me, I was mid way through cleaning and did not want the hassle of having to empty it.

Nonetheless the moment had come where I had to do it. Being the non-practical, clumsy person that I am, I anticipated that this was going to be messy and perhaps it would never go back together again!

It opened easily….and there was a liner which, of course, was completely covered in dust. I removed the lining – cue explosion of dust everywhere. Underneath the lining, in the drum, was all of my hoovered up mess but I was surprised to see some bigger things inside it….they were too big to have fit through the hose and I wasn’t sure what they were.

Inside the hoover drum….covered in all the dirt and mess……were all the brand new, still packaged accessories that came with it. Wheels, attachments, nozzles – all the things that make hoovering easier.

It was a good representation of my life and how I approach it. Not to mention how much easier things could be if I do things differently.

Right there…..inside of the hoover….all along….had been just the tools I needed to make the job easier and yet I had never thought to look inside it.

I accepted that things were damaged and made the task harder for myself without question….and yet it wasn’t even damaged.

I used those damaged things until the point of break down despite being aware that at any moment the break down was due and the longer I left it the messier it would get.

Turns out the thing is a brand new, powerful hoover suitable for cleaning wet and dry mess up so long as you use the right attachments each time….the instruction manual was right there on the lid of it all along – I just never read it.

Even if life did come with an instruction manual – I don’t suppose I would have read that yet either!

Moments of realisation are good….even if it takes sitting in your apartment covered in an explosion of dust after an hour of crawling around on your hands and knees hoovering.

Now to absorb it and apply it to the rest of life……….

Some Science Behind Why Changing Your Thinking Might Not Be Easy

Some Science Behind Why Changing Your Thinking Might Not Be Easy

The web is full of feel good pictures about taking back control of your life. They serve as good reminders to keep striving for the life you want. Sometimes though they minimize the difficulty of actually going about it…they fill with promises of how easy it is if we “just” change our thinking or push ourselves outside of our comfort zones.

It’s not just pictures of course; other media, people around us and even ourselves can minimize the hard work it takes to overcome our misery, low self-esteem and other issues which muddy our potential and keep us stuck in a life we do not find forfilling.

So what does science say?

There’s a period of our lives, up until we are around 18 months old, where our fresh brains are developing and adjusting to the world. During that crucial time the areas of our brain must learn to communicate with each other in order to make sense of the world around us – they are called our neural networks.

How those neural networks learn to communicate depends on our experiences with our caregivers to provide us with food, warmth, safety and security.

If that provision is experienced as reliable then our brains adapt those neural networks into a ‘learning’ network, however, if the provision is experienced as unreliable then our brains adapt those neural networks into a ‘survival’ network.

Those neural networks form the basis for our experience of the world and our approach to it. Our lives throughout the rest of our childhood reinforce or counteract that initial neural network communication pattern.

Not as Simple As That

It’s not as simple as that of course, our responses to life now are not solely based on our life up until we were 18 months old. Neither are they a direct result of our childhood experiences – there’s a whole range of biological, social, inherent and environmental influences that effect how we experience life.

Nonetheless though, research has demonstrated this neural network development which shapes our response to the world. Imagine how different an emergency response team and a research & development team would react to a given task…

But Not Impossible!

It doesn’t mean that you cannot change your life or achieve the life you dream of having. Research has also shown that it IS possible to change those neural networks in your brain – it’s called neuroplasticity.

It does mean that it might take you a bit longer than other’s who developed more of a ‘learning’ network.

Mindfulness is one of the keys to this. Through increased awareness you can become more aware of your ’emergency responses’ and learn to adapt it into more of a ‘learning response’.

So next time you see a picture or hear someone say how easy it is to change your life and you feel like a failure….just remember that it’s not always that easy….be kind to yourself.

 

Mindfulness Summed up in a Strawberry!

Mindfulness Summed up in a Strawberry!

The following story originates from a taoist parable and sums up mindfulness in a nutshell (or a strawberry!).

A man is being chased through a jungle by a tiger. He runs as fast as he can with the tiger hot on his heels. Soon enough he reaches the end of a cliff, he looks around and the tiger is nearly upon him.

He looks down – it is too far to jump. He climbs over the edge and hangs on to a vine to stop himself from falling.

He looks below him and sees another tiger waiting for him to fall. Above him, the other tiger has caught up and is looking over the edge – he cannot climb back up or it will get him.

As he hangs there – caught between two tigers – some rats come along and start chewing on the vine he is clinging too. In time they will chew through the vine and he will fall. The tiger at the bottom is still waiting for him. He tries to shoo the rats away but he cannot because if he moves too much he will break the vine himself.

He looks over and notices a juicy strawberry next to him. He picks the strawberry and eats it – delighting in it’s juicyness and taste….

The first tiger can be seen as our past. The tiger at the bottom can be seen as our future. The rats can be seen as the every day stresses and pressures that threaten our present circumstances and may force us to fall into our scary unknown future.

In those moments we can choose to worry about the things outside of our control. Or we can look around us and notice the strawberries within our reach….

5 things you may experience after an abusive relationship

5 things you may experience after an abusive relationship

If you’ve recently got out of an abusive relationship, first of all, well done! It’s such a hard thing to do and no matter how you feel inside, try and take a minute to recognize the amazing, brave act you did for yourself by getting out of it.

Unfortunately, the hard work doesn’t stop here. It can feel like you got your life back but it’s been smashed up into a million pieces and retrieved from a dirty toilet.

Here’s 5 things you may experience as you move forward with your life and some tips that might help:

1. Feeling worse instead of better

As you move through life without abuse it can sometimes appear like you feel worse instead of better.  Before you got away from your situation you lived under extreme pressures and life became about survival. Now that you don’t have to live that way anymore, those maladaptive coping mechanisms can’t sustain themselves.

This can mean that no matter how much you want to carry on the day to day things that you used to manage to do – sometimes you suddenly get flooded with overwhelming feelings that you haven’t had for a long time.

It can make you feel like you therefore deserved or needed to live under the abusive situation from the past because seemingly you can’t cope with real life – but this not true.

Recovering from abuse takes a lot of time and is a difficult transition. Not coping sometimes might be a part of that transition.

Try, as best you can, to keep going. Staying in a routine is really helpful – it stops you from being swallowed up into the pit of memories, feelings and despair about the past.

But if you fall sometimes, try to reassure yourself that it’s okay. It doesn’t mean you deserved any of the past and it doesn’t mean that you are a failure. It just means you are learning to live life again.

2. Numbness and Confusion

Part of living with abuse can entail having your feelings totally invalidated on a repeated basis, as well as being convinced by the person that the anger and acts done to you were in fact caused by you.

This means that you might have had to learn to switch off your feelings. Most of the time you might feel like you don’t have any feelings at all, other times it might feel like you have a great big ball of something inside you and you want to cry about it – but you don’t know how.

Another aspect can be that you are really not sure what to make of everything that has happened to you. Part of you, by virtue of the fact that you got away, thinks that what happened was not acceptable anymore. But another part of you, could be influenced by the abuse you received and can make you wonder if you are as bad and wrong as you were made to feel.

If you struggle with these, it might be a good idea to some professional help. Try to fight against the part of you that feels ashamed and bad, try to rise above the fear of being judged. Part of you might be scared to feel again because it would mean feeling all of the reasons why you had to switch them off in the first place.

Even if you feel that you don’t deserve it, or it wasn’t bad enough to warrant that level of help, try to reach out to a professional body for some help.

3. Nightmares and Flashbacks

Nightmares and flashbacks can be intensely difficult to cope with. They take you back to those moments that you don’t want to go back too. They can stop you from wanting to go to sleep, cause you to be exhausted and make you avoid certain situations for fear of having a flashback.

You can try to think of a moment in your life that was good. A time where you felt safe and warm. See if you can get a picture of that moment in your mind – remember the smells, the sounds, the feelings.

When you wake up from a nightmare or have a flashback – try to remember that good moment and take yourself back there. Also try to remind yourself that the memories are not happening anymore – they are vivid and seem real – but they are not. Now you are safe – you survived.

As you start to process the past and feel more secure they can decrease in frequency. Getting professional help as described above can also help.

4. Disconnection and Trust

Probably by the time you have got out, your relationships with friends and family have been affected. It wasn’t possible for you to see them, talk to them and maybe not any kind of relationship at all.

This can mean that sometimes you feel like you are an observer of life but not a part of it. Sometimes it can even feel like you are an observer of your own life too and it may even feel sometimes like it’s a real effort to stay in the world – like if you don’t try really hard you will float away into that dreamy place you had to take your mind and never return again.

Depending on the extent of the past, you might also feel totally disconnected from your body, not even able to recognize when you are sick or in pain – because you had to be that way to survive.

It can also mean that you feel deeply alone yet despite yearning for human connection you have lost all trust in people. Worse still, is that you might not have any trust in yourself. You don’t trust yourself to connect with the right people, you are wary of everyone and especially the people who are nice to you because that is something you are not sure of anymore – what is their real motive?

At this point, it can be easy to get drawn into another abusive relationship – because at least it is something you are comfortable with. But, if you can manage to resist this tendency and be with the discomfort of being around people that are nice to you – it might save you another lifetime of pain and suffering.

Focusing on rebuilding your connection with yourself and learning to trust yourself again will help you to become more empowered. Connection and trust begins on the inside.

No one deserves to be treated without care and respect. Everyone is worthy of love and belonging – including you.

5. Well Meaning People

Not everyone is going to understand what you’ve been through. You might come across people sometimes that make you think you “just need to forget about it and get on with your life.” But you don’t need to feel bad or guilty for struggling to do that – it takes time.

Sometimes it’s because if they were to recognize your pain they would also have to recognize their own pain. Sometimes it’s born from ignorance but whatever the reason – try not to let them get to you.

Healing takes time and whilst you do have to rebuild your life, you can’t just flick a switch and pretend the past didn’t happen. Sometimes the only way out is through – you can’t go around the outside, underneath or jump over it – you’ve got to walk through it – through the pain, shame and misery to be able to come out the other side and make a life for yourself.

 Never Give Up!

Above all else – no matter how you feel – you are strong because you got free in the end. Hold onto that notion. No matter how hard it gets…keep going….you are precious.

Reframing Love

Reframing Love

Sometimes you look back and all you see is negative. The actions that were proclaimed to be done with love but hurt you beyond comprehension. All you see is disconnection, dysfunction and toxicity.

But what if you look back through a different lens…

What if you see that even in some of your darkest moments gifts of love were given to you?

  • The neighbour, who fed you and asked you to complete little tasks for her. What if she asked you to do those tasks, not because she needed you too, but because she saw that it was the only way you could connect with people.
  • The employers, who facilitated an education for you that would open up doors and possibilities that you couldn’t even imagine at the time.
  • The friend, who gave you her sofa and her time when you had no one else. Who giggled with you and together you created sparkles to distract from the perceived darkness of the world.
  • The friend, who included you in her weekend family routine despite your awkwardness and demonstrated how family could be.
  • The people, who quite possibly saved you from death when (you believed) there was no one else and no other options.
  • The women, who shared mutually raw, vulnerable, drunken stories with you on a Saturday night.

And what if, those gifts of love were not given to you because you were special, or neglected, or damaged.

What if they were not given to you because they want or expect something back in return. They were not given because you worked extra hard for them.

What if they were actually given to you despite your boundless, chaotic and sometimes toxic behaviour, because gifts of love are part of the nature of being a human?

And what if, all humans have the potential to give love and to give hurt?

What if, the responsibility you have going forward, is not to pay them back or sacrifice yourself to show your appreciation to them but to simply pay those gifts forward?

To be with someone in their awkwardness, their chaos, their ugliness and to love them, as best you can – within boundaries and limits that fit your own personal circumstances – just as people did and do for you….

To recognize, that sometimes people will see you as hurting them but it’s not because you are not doing enough for them – it’s because they have to dig a little bit deeper and the best thing you can do is take some steps back from them.

To realize that you, like everyone else, are a worthy receiver of love gifts…despite your imperfections, skills and abilities. You are worthy simply because you are human.

A Story About a Caterpillar …….

A Story About a Caterpillar   …….

She was a caterpillar, colourful and spiky. She was only born with some of her spikes and colours.

As she interacted with other caterpillar’s she absorbed some of their colours. Those colour’s would stain her for different lengths of time.

Sometimes the other caterpillar’s around her hurt her with their own spikes. The wound’s would try to heal and they developed into spikes.

The other caterpillar’s would also help her train her spikes; cutting, filing, ripping, sharpening, etc

She was not aware that her ever changing colours and spikes were the nature of being a caterpillar – the more she tried to suppress it the more spikes grew on her.

As her awareness grew about herself she noticed more of her spikes and colours. Some of them she liked, some of them she disliked.

She realised that sometimes her spikes had hurt other caterpillar’s and her colours had stained them too.

She did not grow up around many butterflies and for a long time did not even know of their existence.

When she first found out about butterflies she did not believe that she could become one but she did want change. Some of her spikes were restrictive and painful. Some of her colours were not how she wanted to be seen.

Frantically, she set about trying to find help:

  • She tried to take on other caterpillar’s colours that she liked but this was not enough and they did not stain for long.
  • She tried to find a caterpillar to protect her so that she could remove some of her spikes without exposing too much of her vulnerabilities. This did not work because it dulled her own colours too much.
  • Some caterpillar’s tried to encourage her to remove some of the spikes, gently and slowly, and surround herself with less spiky caterpillar’s, she tried sometimes but she found this scary and kept running away. She did not want to be seen as a weak caterpillar.

Through that process she started to believe that maybe she could become a butterfly one day.

She found herself around some butterflies. She wanted to be like them and hoped they could transform her. But this could not work either because she was not them.

She wanted to become a butterfly, even though she didn’t know how. She didn’t always like the suggestions from the butterflies of how to transform because it sounded uncomfortable and scary.

Eventually, she realised that no one could transform her except herself. She became more open to the lessons from the butterflies. She accepted that the process was going to take time and that it was going to be difficult.

She started to build herself a cocoon, a safe place in which she could take off her spikes and allow the underlying wounds to heal. A place in which she could look at her colours and see which ones she wanted to enhance and which ones she wanted to fade.

She’s still there, in her cocoon….sometimes the process is painful and she’s tempted to give up and go back to being a spiky, colourful caterpillar.

But she stays in there, because she knows that deep down inside every caterpillar is the potential to become a butterfly.

One day she will get there.

(Image used from http://www.curiositiesbydickens.com/stylish-critter-weird/)

Think meditation is too fluffy? Have some science…

Think meditation is too fluffy? Have some science…

A lecture by Profession Mark Williams about recent experiments into how our minds work and how meditation can help.

Including;

  • Don’t think of a pink elephant, how suppression can only last so long
  • Why you laugh more at cartoons when you hold a pen lengthways in your mouth
  • How mindfulness can help you distinguish between real and ‘what if’ scenarios

Some really interesting and relevant experiments and he has a lovely storytelling voice.

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