Category Archives: Buddhism

Compassion therapy in action – an Eggs Benedict Cumberbatch meditation 

I feel sorry for people called Benedict because, when someone offers them eggs – followed by their moniker – they may not know if they’re being offered the specific dish or a more generic yolk/albumen-based delicacy. 

‘Eggs, Benedict?’

‘Eggs Benedict?’

One way to avoid confusion would be to repeat the word Benedict – if the person is offering the specific dish. 

‘Eggs Benedict, Benedict?’

Anyway. 

This is part of my compassion therapy. 

It’s as far as I can take compassion for now. 

It’s a start isn’t it? 

Only I don’t actually know anyone called Benedict. 

Except Benedict Cumberbatch – whose full name has a smaller than expected six syllables! 

And I’ve never actually eaten Eggs Benedict.

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Zen and the art of moustache maintenance: 6 ways to keep calm in Movember

The third trimester of Movember approaches apace: moustaches across the world are turning reasonable-looking men into creeps.

And another Movember-based blog is written by an itchy participant.

Growing a moustache for a whole month poses more physical and psychological dangers than you may think. (The actual number of dangers is six – as I wrote earlier in Movember.)

To counter these apparent dangers, I offer a helpful – and spiritual – guide to moustache growing.

As many of my loyal readers know, I’m a fan of the ancient Buddhist practice of mindfulness meditation.

This is a useful practice to help maintain a healthy level of sanity and calm. You basically just try (and keep failing) to concentrate on your breath as you sit quietly.

Now, there are several attitudes that underpin the practice of mindfulness meditation.

And, strangely enough, you can use these attitudes to help you relish the third trimester of Movember.

Here’s how:

1. Non-judging
It’s easy to fall into the trap of judging your moustache. Comments such as these are common during Movember:

‘It has major gaps in it that mean I look like a freak.’

‘It’s really ginger – and my hair has never been ginger. How unfair is that?’
‘It makes me look like someone on the Sex Offenders’ Register.’

Much better not to look in the mirror, so you’re not tempted to complain about your appearance during the month.

2. Patience
Growing a moustache doesn’t happen overnight – it’s not like a Botox jab or teeth-whitening procedure.
In fact for most of us, nothing really grows for some time.
If you didn’t practise patience you could become annoyed with people constantly asking:
‘I thought you were doing Movember this year.’

3. Trust

Peter Mandelson relaxing next to a mirror with his moustache.

Peter Mandelson relaxing next to a mirror with his moustache.

Trusting that your partner won’t finish your relationship on the grounds that you look like you’re on the Sex Offenders’ Register is vital if you’re going to relax into Movember.

4. Non-striving
Dousing hair-growing lotion on your top lip does not speed growth. Don’t strive for this result.

5. Acceptance
Accepting whatever grows – or doesn’t grow – is your only option during Movember, unless you want to invest in a top lip toupee. You know the right answer here.

6. Letting go

Einstein kept his moustache after the end of Movember. You don't have to.

Einstein kept his moustache after the end of Movember. You don’t have to.

And when you reach midnight on 30 November, you can watch the bristles disappear down the plug-hole without an ounce of regret.

Feeling all relaxed and in tune with humanity now?  You can sponsor my moustache here. Thank you!

You can get an email alert whenever I publish a new post. If you’re on a mobile you can sign up below. If you’re on a computer, sign up at the top right-hand of the page.

And you can follow me @simlington on Twitter
Copyright simlington 2014

 

Happiness and mindfulness: How to train yourself to be happy

by Simon Henry
@simlington

I’m starting this post with this assumption:

We all want to be happy.

So I’m excluding masochists.

Then again, if masochists get pleasure from being unhappy, presumably they’re happy being unhappy – and therefore just like everyone else. (Actually wanting to be happy – just taking a circuitous route.)

Who knows?

This line of argument is making me unhappy, so let’s move on.

Something that troubles me is that we humans frequently do things that make us happy in the very short term but ultimately make us miserable – or dead – in the medium or longer term.

Let’s take some examples.

Gluttons are happy while the extra pancake – dripping with syrup, Nutella and dulce de leche – hits their taste buds.

Smokers are delirious when a waft of fumes from their first cigarette of the day hits their lungs.

People with short tempers feel much better when they’re shouting at – or hitting – the apparent cause of their anger.

As most of us know, binge eating, smoking and verbal and physical assault have bad consequences.

I don’t want people with weight problems, nicotine addictions or anger management issues to feel like I’m picking on them.

Some of us watch the X Factor while injecting heroin and wearing jeggings.

Ahem.

None of us is perfect!

But we don’t have to put up with these less-than-optimal ways of living. We really don’t. But how?

Mindfulness lets you see what is really going on at any given time – it lets you see the truth and you don’t have to hide away from it.

You can be mindful of the urge to eat that plate of sugary heaven before you stuff it down your gob and continue on your uncomfortable journey to obesity and early death.

You can be mindful of the urge to suck poisonous chemicals into your lungs before actually sparking up the cigarette that will ultimately lead to further cigarettes – and an early and painful death.

You can be mindful of the urge to attack the person who pushed in the queue at the garage before an attack that leads to your conviction for GBH (or serious injuries to yourself if the pusher-in is a karate black belt).

Stopping thoughtless (or mindless) behaviour takes some effort – but it’s worth it.

In order to stop yourself before you do self-defeating, dangerous and silly things, you can train your mind to be aware of what’s going on in the present moment through Mindfulness Meditation.

And once you’re fully trained up, you’re no longer a robot who’s been programmed to act in a particular way – you’re a mindful human being who has a choice of how to act in any set of circumstances.

And guess what?

This makes you happier – because having choices, feeling in control and not dying of lung cancer or languishing in jail are all ways of improving your happiness scores.

You’ll find there are lots of things to choose from for your Mindfulness Meditation Training Course. Here are some things you could choose to be aware of right now:

Thoughts
Sounds
Sensations in the body
Your breath
Smells
Sights

And your awareness can move from one to the other. If you find someone has just farted in the room you’re sitting in, for example, you may want to be less aware of smells and more aware of how your body feels, standing up very quickly and leaving the infected area as soon as possible.

Just choose something to be aware of and see how long you can stay with this awareness.

And when you find your mind has wandered off to something else, just bring it back to whatever you wanted to be aware of.

You should do this even if you were aware of something bad (Nigel Farage on the radio) and your mind wandered to something good (Les Dawson). Actually in this case we’ll take pity on you, let you turn the radio off and allow your thoughts to linger on Dawson, the little Lancastrian legend.

This idea of being aware of what’s going on in the present moment sounds pretty simple.

It’s not.

But it is useful, because it starts helping you to see what’s going on in your mind, rather than being taken down paths you perhaps don’t want to travel.

And the happiness you get from knowing you’re not killing yourself – or likely to kill someone else – is enduring and positive.

I’m new to thing mindfulness thing – having only been doing it for a couple of years.

The best experts I’ve come across are:

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Danny Penman
Mark Williams
Pema Chodron

They’re all excellent in their own ways. Pick one at random, read about them and find out what they advise.

Let’s all be a bit happier. Eat less, smoke less, take less heroin, wear jeggings less frequently – and murder less. It all makes so much sense.

You can get an email alert whenever I publish a new post. If you’re on a mobile you can sign up below. If you’re on a computer, sign up at the top right-hand of the page.

And you can follow me @simlington on Twitter

Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014

Mindfulness and depression: Can meditation really help when it strikes?

by Simon Henry @simlington

Depressing subject, I know.

But even if you don’t suffer from depression right now, you may in the future.

And I bet you know someone – or probably several people – who are affected.

If so, this blog may give you an idea of what can happen when depression strikes.

And – who knows – you may even want to share it.

Ride it out

Sometimes depression hits you like a thump in the stomach.

Sometimes it’s sneakier and slower, strangling you degree by tiny degree.

Whichever method of attack it uses, sickening despair, hopelessness and bleakness are the results of its victory.

And I’ve found you just have to ride it out the best way you can.

Because it does subside – in its own time, even if that’s a depressingly long time sometimes.

Mindfulness and depression

I’ve been wondering if anything has changed in the way I deal with depression since I started trying to be more mindful.

I have certainly become more aware of the things that make it worse!

– People saying ‘Cheer up’ or ‘Just think about disabled people or starving people’ is pretty unhelpful.

– So is the offer of alcohol or cigarettes, both of which I used to think were useful in the battle but which I now see as pointless addictions.

– Being with other people is tortuous, especially if they’re loud or jolly.

– My favourite music sounds like fingernails down a blackboard, reading makes me want to set fire to the book. TV is worse than either.

– And being expected to ‘snap out of it’ sounds as ridiculous to my ears as telling a Manchester City supporter to suddenly support Manchester United.

So a solitary spell away from humanity is an extremely attractive option when a bout of depression hits.

Here’s a quick reminder about what mindfulness actually is before I give you a sneak inside my brain.

Mindfulness: A reminder

Mindfulness practice is simply about choosing one thing to concentrate on – like you breath (very popular) or your bum hole (less popular, I imagine) – and trying to be conscious of that one thing for a certain amount of time.

Very quickly you realise your mind shoots off all over the place. Often these places are pretty unhelpful ones from the past or the future (regrets, worries, etc).

The practice is about recognising that your mind has wandered from what you were trying to concentrate on.

Then you don’t criticise yourself for letting your mind wander but rather you gently guide your mind back to where you intended it to be.

So, what about being mindful of your depression when it strikes?

Here’s how being mindful felt when my latest bout hit.

Instead of fighting against my feelings of hopelessness, bleakness and misery I just tried to accept them.

Instead of being angry or upset that I wasn’t feeling happy and sociable, I just tried to accept that the depression was my reality for now and that I was tearful and wanted to be alone.

Instead of denying my feelings, I just accepted them as real at that moment, knowing they would not remain the same forever – nothing ever stays the same. (That’s a good thing to keep in mind, even if you don’t really feel it in the midst of a depressive episode.)

And basically I repeated to myself: “I am utterly miserable and thoroughly unhappy at this moment.”

As always, when I try to meditate, my mind went off at tangents all the time.

I think some people who write about mindfulness make it appear quite easy to keep your mind on the object of your meditation.

It isn’t easy at all.

Maybe it is for people who’ve meditated for tens of thousands of hours.

But if you’re new to it like I am, if you can concentrate on something for a few seconds you’re doing well.

I mean it.

And all you do when you realise your mind has gone off somewhere else is not to get angry with yourself or call yourself useless or even worse give up and pour yourself a whiskey.

The trick is to keep going.

It is hard. Our brains are unruly beasts and it takes time, I’m told, to tame and train them. Worth it, I think.

And in any case, the meditation itself is good – and interesting.

And despite the mind wandering off you do realise it’s wandered and you can bring it back to the thing you want to meditate on.

And in the case of depression, I found it was actually a relief just to accept my situation.

It’s exhausting, fighting all the time, denying how you feel, pretending to be fine, doing things that make you feel worse.

Just giving in to how you actually feel, accepting your situation, letting the tears flow and the horrible thoughts go through your mind – with full awareness that they are thoughts and no more – is actually a relief.

And meditating on the depression felt like I was allowing myself a huge space to be mindful of it rather than squeezing it away inside and denying it any room to breathe.

Sometimes when I allow myself the room to actually feel the depression big fat tears drop from my eyes. Sometimes they don’t.

I notice tension in my back, neck and shoulders – and simply by becoming aware of this can actually help reduce the tightness and physical pain.

And I notice the difference between the actual depression and the wishing I wasn’t depressed.

Almost perversely, once you truly accept your situation and your inability to do much about it, you do feel a bit better.

You’re no longer wishing things were different – and feeling angry, resentful, helpless, jealous and all the other stuff you feel when life’s not going according to what you think of as ‘fair’.

And it does wax and wane – even though in the middle of a depressive episode it can feel like it’s forever, being aware of how you’re feeling and actually turning towards your feelings does have a positive effect.

(Incidentally, I never got on with anti- depressants. And I’m only writing about my personal experience.)

But I hope this is useful if you’re wondering about taking up mindfulness or think it could help someone you know.

I know there is some evidence that mindfulness is as effective as anti- depressants for recurrent depression.

And I can see why mindfulness in general is becoming increasingly recognised as a potentially useful treatment for many conditions – both ‘mental’ and ‘physical’.

I’m no expert – I’m just trying to use mindfulness to make my life better, then writing about some of my experience in the hope that it may help other people who may be suffering.

The best experts I’ve come across are:

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Danny Penman
Mark Williams
Pema Chodron

They are all brilliant.

Sorry this post had no laughs and giggles in it – but that’s what depression does.

And I’m pretty mindful my brand of ‘humour’ will be back next time.

If you enjoyed this, you may like a recent post, How Mindfulness can make us all a bit happier

Or have a squiz round the rest of the site – there’s quite a bit in here about how to be a bit happier.

You can get an email alert whenever I publish a new post. If you’re on a mobile you can sign up below. If you’re on a computer, sign up at the top right-hand of the page.

And you can follow me @simlington on Twitter

Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014

 

Four things you can do to feel a bit happier even if you’re a bit mental like me

by Simon Henry @simlington

Writing a blog on your birthday? Are you mental?
Well, as it happens, yes. A bit.

I have a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder, chronic depression and anxiety disorder.

Physically, I have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia (pain all over the place.)
So you could say I have some ‘issues’ that may affect my level of bliss on this earth.

But having these conditions don’t mean I can’t have many moments of calm.
And it doesn’t mean I can’t see the joy in life.
It does mean, though, that I have to work at it.

If you’re suffering from any, some, or all of these things – or even if you just get a bit peeved from time to time – here’s the Henry Birthday Recipe To Feeling A Bit Better.

1. Being in awe is good for you.

Lego

LEGO is awesome

I know ‘awesome’ is an overused word since the Lego movie.

But there really is some awesome stuff all around you.

You just have to take a bit of time to look, hear, feel, smell …

Awesome things I like to stare at or think about include:
– Ants carrying leaves and other ant stuff that’s several times bigger and heavier than they are.

– Cats jumping on to walls that are several times higher than they are.

– The blue sky, especially if there are some green leaves in front of it to provide a bit of contrast.

– The feel of a cotton shirt against my body (especially if it’s from somewhere good like Gap).

– The sound of the cats crunching on their food.

– The smell of Miller’s gin – even though I don’t touch the stuff.

You get my point. Awesome is absolutely everywhere – we just have to decide to look for it.
And once you do, you can’t stop.

The world is just full of awesome stuff waiting to make you smile or gasp.

2. Let’s get physical

Before you do anything else, watch this clip from Olivia Newton John’s Let’s Get Physical (3 mins 43 secs). It’s utterly dreadful – a mix of  mid-70s porno and early-80s breakfast TV fitness sessions.

(How can I pinpoint porno to a particular part of the 1970s? There’s surely another blog in that one.)

Anyway, when I was a lot younger, I used to sit around all day, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and watching TV. I know this sounds like bliss to a lot of people but stay with me.

I would do this all day without getting any exercise at all.

Then I’d wonder why I couldn’t sleep at night and felt generally terrible about myself.

A bit of advice: if you possibly can, walk – even if it’s up and down the road.

Some might say I’ve taken my love of walking to extremes. My favourite walk is now a 26-mile excruciatingly difficult walk in the Yorkshire Dales – the Three Peaks. I’m doing it tomorrow – as a birthday treat. I warned you at the start I’m mental.

For the more mundane days when I’m not allowed to spend 10 hours surrounded by sheep and grass, I encourage myself to walk with the help of technology.

I’ve downloaded the Pedometer++ app on my iPhone. You tell it how many steps you want to do in a day.

Then it shows you whether you’ve hit your target with a simple red (bad), orange (neither good nor bad) and green (good) colour-coded graph.

A pedometer can encourage you to get off your fat arse and do some walking.

A pedometer can encourage you to get off your fat arse and do some walking.

3. Do something for other people or for the world.

You could try to take some kittens for a walk. Good luck with that.

You could try to take some kittens for a walk. Good luck with that.

I’ve started giving blood.

I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But you do get one afterwards. And unlimited Club or Penguin biscuits, too.

And the tiny inconvenience of having your blood let is far ourweighed by the sense of wellbeing you get afterwards. (Unless you faint or die, but I’m told the risk is minscule.)

If, like me, you can tend to feel a bit cast adrift from the rest of the world, like you don’t really belong or fit in, it quite literally connect you to the rest of the human race.

After all, your blood ends up pumping round someone else’s body! Wow. That’s a bit awesome. (See 1 – I knew this blog had a plan to it.)

Don’t underestimate this one for lifting your spirits.

And if you can’t give blood, you could hold a door open for someone, smile at someone on the bus, or chat to someone in a queue at the Post Office.

I know human beings can be really, really annoying.

I mean, I wouldn’t fancy being stuck in a train with a load of Mormons – and don’t get me started on right-wing Christians in general.

But small things that connect you to the rest of the human race really can make you a bit happier. Go on, have a go.

4. Train your mind to stop it being quite so annoying

This is scientifically verifiable.

This is scientifically verifiable.

I’ve already written some blogs about a new thing called ‘mindfulness’.

Actually, that’s stretching the meaning of the word ‘new’ as it’s over 2,500 years old.

Let me just summarise what it is – and why I think you’d be mental not to try it, even if you don’t have a diagnosis.

a. Start by being aware of what is going on in your mind.

You’ll find quite a lot of it is not really welcome, like thoughts about a kid at school you hated 20 or 30 years ago, or the thought of getting cancer or dying.

b. Do some exercises to start being more aware of what is going on in said mind.

This is just like exercising your legs to firm up the muscles. You can train to become more aware of what is going on. And just think – you don’t have to go to the gym and smell all that sweat.

c. If you are aware of what is going on – whether that is your body tensing against pain or stress, or your brain going into meltdown years ago – you can do something about it.

d. That something is to accept what is happening and then to consciously anchor yourself in the present moment by meditating.

A lot of people meditate on the breath, but you could meditate on your right nostril, your left nipple or your central bum hole.

If you’re thinking about what is happening right now in your physical body or brain, you cannot possibly worry about the future or the past.

And the more you practise being in the present, the more you become aware of how little time you actually spend here.

And you also realise how much time you spend pointlessly worrying about things you can’t change.

Then you realise it’s actually quite nice concentrating on the present – and you do actually feel better when you spend more time in the here and now.

It doesn’t work instantly – in my case it has taken the best part of two years for it to start having an impact.

But it’s worth the wait. If you like your fixes quick, this ain’t it. But show a bit of patience, eh?

Why not have a go at any or all of these?

I’m off to meditate on how much my feet are going to hurt, how awesome the sheep will look and whether I’ll need a blood transfusion after the Three Peaks.

If you enjoyed this, you may like a recent post, How Mindfulness can make us all a bit happier

Or have a squiz round the rest of the site – there’s quite a bit in here about how to be a bit happier.

You can get an email alert whenever I publish a new post. If you’re on a mobile you can sign up below. If you’re on a computer, sign up at the top right-hand of the page.

And you can follow me @simlington on Twitter

Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014

Why mindfulness can help your battles with depression, anxiety and pain

When you’re in the present moment – and by that I mean concentrating your mind on what’s going on right now – you simply cannot ruminate on the past or worry about the future.
Try it – concentrate on your breath going in and out of your body, concentrate on your feet as you walk along, concentrate on how your eyes feel.
Just concentrate on anything that is happening right now in this present moment.
Pick a sense, an area of your body. Anything. And see how it feels right now.
If you can worry or think at the same time, you’re a genius. Because no-one else can do both at the same time.
I guarantee during this experiment you will get distracted and start thinking – but then you won’t be experiencing the present moment any more. You’ll be planning, worrying or thinking.
And once you realise you’ve moved from the present moment, just go back to what you were concentrating on before you got hijacked by your thoughts.
This is mindfulness practice – and I’ll now tell you why it’s fabulous respite if you suffer from depression, anxiety, physical pain or other debilitating conditions that make your life a misery.
Being 100% aware of your physical pain or how utterly depressed you are makes you realise these things are always changing.
It just gets you to realise that saying ‘I’m depressed’ or ‘My back is killing’ is actually inaccurate.
This description may be true in some moments (obviously more moments than you would like).
But it’s not accurate for other moments when you’re not actually depressed or in awful pain.
During these other moments you could be angry, happy, riveted, bored, resentful, furious, delighted, in pain elsewhere in your body.
But you’re not actually depressed, anxious or in pain in those moments. You’re not depressed all the time. The same goes for anxiety. The same goes for acute pain in a particular part of your body.
So mindfulness is really just a method of revealing to your brain that labels are often unhelpful because they freeze things in time – when actually our feelings, emotions and physical sensations are always changing.
Even the way we feel about our loved ones is always changing if you take a bit of time to reflect on this.
Mindfulness is nothing more and nothing less than training your mind to see the world as it is in this present moment – without overlaying your present reality with assumptions about who you are and what you’re suffering from.
Nothing is permanent.
And thankfully this goes for the bad stuff as well as the good stuff.
That’s why mindfulness can unstick depression, anxiety and physical pain. It makes you realise that none of these things are true all the time – and that we have lots of other things going on.
The more you’re aware of what’s going on in the present moment, the more you realise the range of moods and bodily sensations you actually experience. And the less likely you are to label yourself as permanently and always 100% 24/7 having a specific pain in a specific area or thinking a particular thought that makes you a particular kind of angry, worried or resentful.
Things are changing all the time, and to label yourself as x, y or z ignores a huge amount of your experience.
Why not give it a go?
Training your mind takes a few minutes a day – and it’s an amazing experience to realise you’re not as one-dimensional as you thought.
How mindfulness can make us all a bit happier

How mindfulness can make us all a bit happier

by Simon Henry @simlington

Happiness is one of those things that increases the more you share it.

When you make other people happy, you get happier too.

Unlike nits, political opinions or holiday photos, sharing happiness has no victims.

Tell a joke, give a present, call someone out of the blue. These are simple ways to make someone else happier.

(Unless the joke’s really offensive to the listener, you’re re-gifting something really rubbish, or you call the wrong number.)

If any of the above apply to you, you probably need more specialist help than I can offer.

‘Share and Enjoy’

This is a song from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so the concept must be sound.

So, I’m going to share a way for you to enjoy things more and be a bit happier. Then, when you’re happier, I’ll feel happier too.

This guy seems pretty happy. Though I'm not sure he understands English.

This guy seems pretty happy. Though I’m not sure he understands English.

And you’ll feel so happy, you’ll want to share it with others. And when they’re happier, you’ll feel happier – and so I’ll feel happier.

A pyramid scheme of joy with no innocent victims – just everyone feeling a bit happier.

Try it and share it. Who knows where it could end?

Mindfulness the feline way

An easy, cheap and simple way to make yourself a bit happier is through mindfulness.

So what is mindfulness? Does it hurt? And aren’t our minds already full – of passwords, quotes from The Simpsons and other 21st century stuff?

'To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.'

Homer: ‘To alcohol. The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.’

The next time you watch a cat murdering a mouse, you’ll see its whole attention is fixed on the job in hand.

It isn’t regretting the bird that escaped its clutches yesterday. And it’s not worrying about being knocked over tomorrow.

All it cares about is getting maximum value from torturing this mouse in this present moment.

The past and the future are irrelevant.

There is a suspicion the Grumpy Cat's demeanour is a ploy to make money. The cat may actually quite happy inside

There is a suspicion the Grumpy Cat’s demeanour is a ploy to make money. The cat may actually be quite happy inside

And apart from Grumpy Cat, you don’t see a sad cat.

I’m not even sure Grumpy Cat is sad – he’s a millionaire and probably gets fed sirloin steaks and lean chicken.

Mindfulness for humans

As humans, we spend much of our time anywhere but in the present moment.

Things from my distant past and non-existent future that I waste time on include:

– Failing my grade 5 double bass exam. (This happened in 1987 and had no impact whatsoever on my life.)

– What I’d do if I found someone threatening to jump off a cliff. (I don’t live near any cliffs.)

There are thousands more but I won’t bore you. I’ll save them for my psychiatrist.

You will have your own examples of ridiculous ‘mithering’. (Making a fuss, moaning. 17th century origins, Northern England.)

Mindfulness teaches you to keep your mind in the present moment.

This means you can appreciate what’s going on right now instead of drifting off to regrets about the past or worries about the future.

It means if things are going well you can appreciate them fully – and feel even more smug than you were before.

If they’re not going well, you can clearly see what’s wrong – and actually do something positive to change things for the better.

So how can you start being more mindful?

Find a bit of peace and quiet, close your eyes and concentrate on your breath going in and out. Don’t force the breath – just let it go in and out by itself.

And notice where you can feel the breath – your belly may go in and out, perhaps you feel it in your nostrils, or your ribs.

If you can’t feel it anywhere you may be dead, so you’d better call a doctor. 

This sounds really easy doesn’t it?

But I guarantee after about 30 seconds, your mind will wander to a worry, or a memory or something else that’s not happening right now.

When you realise you’re not actually thinking about your breath, just escort your mind back to the breath. You’re not being stupid or doing it wrong.

It happens to everyone. The mind is like an untrained dog – it’ll sniff around all over the place unless you give it some lessons. You don’t want your mind going where a dog’s nose goes, now do you?

Alternatively, you might just fall asleep. (This is what the cat does after it’s tortured and killed the mouse.)

Do this mindfulness practice every day for 10 or 15 minutes and you should feel happier, more contented and calmer. And you’ll find yourself naturally appreciating the present moment even when you’re not doing the meditation.

It may take a few months or years – and even if nothing appears to happen, the quarter of an hour you give yourself each day is time that’s just yours. What a lovely present to give yourself.

Here are some lovely experts to help you

Jon Kabat-Zin is one of the world’s top experts. A wonderful introduction to the subject.

Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman have written a book called Mindfulness for Health that can help you if you’re stressed or even if you’re in physical pain.

Pema Chodron is a very kind Buddhist nun who just wants to make the world a happier place. Her talks aren’t religious at all. If they were I’d run a mile.

I’d recommend getting them on Audible – the audio versions of their books have exercises that can help to keep you awake while you’re trying to meditate.

And here are some extra free mantras – your reward for reading all the way down here.

Mantras should be as silly as possible

Mantras should be as silly as possible

But they can hold deep truths

But they can hold deep truths

You don't have to be mad to do mindfulness ...

You don’t have to be mad to do mindfulness …

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Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014