Why being kind to yourself is really important

self kindness

Kindness. It’s something we often hear in relation to other people isn’t it? Be kind to others.  Have compassion for those in greater need than yourself. Offer kindness to those around you.

But when we start thinking about the kindness and compassion we offer ourselves, we often discover we’re pretty low down on our own list of priorities

Why do we put ourselves last?

Continue reading “Why being kind to yourself is really important”

What I’ve learnt from my mindfulness training so far…

Quite a while ago I blogged about starting a mindfulness course with the hope to become a teacher of mindfulness.

I found a course run by the Mindfulness Association  which runs ethical mindfulness training which was important

The course is in three parts; the actual ‘mindfulness’ bit which was four weekends, teacher training skills and a five day teaching retreat. The main body of the first part of the course is run in Scarborough which gave the added bonus of training by the sea. So win win really! The course is secular, but is taught by two fabulous women, one who is a Buddhist Nun and the wisdom and compassion that came from them both had a massive impact on me.

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Samye Yorkshire ; Buddhist Centre in Scarborough where I have completed my training

Oh how naive I was when I started the course. Swaggering into the Holiday Inn where the foundation weekend was held thinking ‘I know all about mindfulness and I am just coming to this so I can get onto the Mindfulness Teachers list’. Cue a year later having had my eyes opened beyond measure to how blind I was to the depths of mindfulness.

I had already done some mindfulness training which to be honest changed my life. Before I I came to mindfulness I suffered with depression, anxiety, I impulsively spent money, and I lived in a chaotic whirlwind of emotions. Having completed an eight week mindfulness course I started practicing the techniques I’d learnt and started seeing the benefits almost instantly; I felt calmer, clearer headed and started learning to live in the present. I found it so life changing I wanted to help others come to mindfulness.

Back to the Holiday Inn…another intensive mindfulness course that would be the first step on the pathway to teaching others. The first weekend covered many basics I already knew; living in the present, meditation and awareness. Nothing too new. Then weekend two came along and oh boy…compassion.

Now compassion is something I have in spades usually. For others. Ask me to be compassionate to myself and then we start to have a problem, but a big part of this course was about self compassion. A lot of self compassion. This course was where I realised I really didn’t love myself. I wasn’t even sure liking myself was even part of the  equation, and it hurt. It really hurt. I pushed against it, I felt blocked in trying to do the exercises. I rebelled against the silent practice and went to sit with the seagulls. I cried in front of a lot of almost strangers. Two weekends went by where compassion were a big part of the work we were doing. Compassion to self and others is a big part of mindfulness , as it should be, to be able to be kind to yourself and to others, even those you really don’t have much time for is a great gift, but it’s not easy.

In between weekends we had to practice the different practices we were learning, read books on mindfulness, meditate and generally open ourselves up the mindfulness journey we had started. I could do this for many areas; demonstrating mindful movement in the practice groups I run, reading more and trying to get a regular meditation practice in place, but somehow I skirted around compassion, finding it too hard to contemplate.

I loved the other work, the acceptance, the mindful movement, the meditation practices, the observing of thoughts, and even though it’s a work in progress I have started to make peace with myself. Weekend four was this last weekend. We pulled together everything we’d been learning and practicing, and suddenly something shifted. I felt ready to start being kind to myself. After all why don’t I deserve that? There’s something fundamental in most of us that feel being kind to ourselves is indulgent but it’s absolutely crucial to our wellbeing. Without compassion to ourselves and to others how can we bring out the best in ourselves and others?

Ironically I now feel ready to have a full mindful practice. I will talk more in another post about the changes that I have already put in place this week to find joy in the present moment.

Are there any parts of mindfulness you are particularly interested in? What have you struggled most with?

Looking forward to my teaching skills weekends starting in June…watch this space!

How to have a mindful Christmas

So the tinsel is up, the turkey is thawing out and the sherry is being poured, but how do you manage not to throttle Aunty Bertha when she tells you that you’ve put on weight for the tenth Christmas in a row, or avoid the tense atmosphere between your divorced Mum and Dad who only come together once a year ‘for the kids’?

Christmas is a funny time of year, all the advertising and a lot of the social media content we see point to a great family Christmas, all around the table, laughing and joking and having a whale of a time but for a lot of people Christmas can be a minefield of interpreting social nuances and avoiding the family member who weeps uncontrollably when you ask them how they are (that has been me on occasion at Christmas I have to say…or how about the time I ate so many biscuits I got awful indigestion and had to lie down and miss Christmas dinner? I fully admit I am one of the relatives you need to plan for!)

On a serious note, if you are worrying about how to cope this Christmas, use some of these mindful tips to help you through the next few days

1. Get on YouTube and find a three minute breathing space meditation. If you search ‘three minute breathing space meditation’ lots will come up and that’s a real quick space to take some time out when you think you’ll explode if anyone asks you where your boyfriend (that you split up with three months ago) is

2. Get some fresh air- taking  a walk either on your own or with others who can bare a bit of silence will give you a chance to get mindful; feel the cold air on your skin, hear the birds singing, look round and see the sights in your neighbourhood, or the place you’re visiting, hear the noise of cars in the distance and just experience being in the moment.

3. Give yourself and others compassion – it can be hard when we’re with our nearest and dearest because often they’ve known us the longest of anyone and know our weak spots, and the things that can send us from 0-60 on the rage-ometer, but actually being kind to yourself,  nourishing yourself with something other than Yule log, or roast potatoes, taking time out to do something you love such as reading or knitting, will help bring a sense of calm of peace to the festivities. Add in some compassion for those around you and things will start to feel a whole lot better

4. Rather than being desperate to get home, or get through the boredom of the Queen’s speech that Dad loves to watch, revel in the moment, the glorious being together as a family, or with your partner, or even the delicious alone time with the cat, away from the pressures of work. Stop worrying about how you’re going to tidy everything up, or what’s waiting for you on your return to the office and find pleasure on the small things; the worst Christmas cracker joke  or that Fools and Horses episode you love the most that’s on EVERY year.

5. Break out of old habits and encourage others to do the same – if you’ve always had Christmas dinner on the dot of two, what about having it in the evening, or changing it up for a buffet? How about going to a different sisters for lunch this year? Instead 0f a tree, what about decorated branches in a  big vase. Changing it up helps to break habits which changes neural pathways and is good for getting you out of a rut. Things will feel newer and exciting and might change people’s old patterns of behaviours as well, and get them out of their comfort zones

if you give any of these a try, or have your own mindful tips to add let me know, and above all have a peaceful, and mindful festive season 💜💝

The gentle of art of balance

You might have noticed it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Whilst I would love to say it’s because I’ve been making my own cheese, decluttering, sipping coffee on a veranda whilst living a simple and minimal life, I sadly cannot claim any of these things.

I have spent the last few weeks hospital visiting, working two jobs, trying to be a good wife, good daughter, sister, auntie, friend, volunteer, part of the community etc. etc. The list goes on. You know how it goes. Goodness knows how Mums cope. I only have to deal with two over excited dogs, and two rather superior cats.  Each day blends into the next…wake…shower…eat..work…home…TV…sleep. This is not mindful living, simple living or minimalism. In fact I feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

So I need to re-set my seesaw and get some balance back. What does that even mean? I guess balance means different things to different people. To me it’s feeling calm, having enough time to achieve what I want to , feeling a sense of peace and a sense of achievement

I am thinking about this a lot…I think sometimes when we get to busy parts of our life e.g. working two jobs to pay extra bills, working hard, having a difficult time with health etc…the balance is tipped as you desperately tread the water trying to restore balance, and actually perhaps we’re working too hard to restore the balance to equal measures. As someone who practices mindfulness it is remarkably easy to forget all the tools I can use to help. So I am going to bring some of them in, and maybe they will help you too.

Mindful walking – I have to walk the dogs everyday, so I am going to aim for a bit of mindful walking. Mindful walking means different things to different people, but to me, its about taking in all the surroundings, bird song, the crisp smell of autumn, feeling the ground beneath my feet, taking some deep breaths, and it helps bring me some perspective on life. Even that half an hour a day makes life feel less rushed and gives me that peace that I find in balance.

Being compassionate to yourself – One of the things I’m really bad at, and pretty much many of us struggle with is being kind to ourselves and doing nice things for ourselves; a bath, a sneaky hours read, curled up with our pets, or our kids, a trip to the cinema, a face mask, a massage, a quiet coffee…anything that makes you feel good and feel that you’re being kind to yourself.

The final one I can recommend that I also need to use is acceptance. Acceptance is a wonderful thing, and should be easy but find it hard to accept things as they are sometimes. So what is there to accept in the case of balance? I need to accept life is tough this year. I have family and good friends who are seriously unwell and I want to be there for them.  I have to work two jobs to pay for two sets of house bills until we have sold one of them and moved into our new place. So I accept life it tough, but that it’s hopefully short term. Actually saying to you I accept it’s tough makes me feel better already. Like I am giving myself a bit of a permit to sit in my PJs and eat ice cream some days, or not to have to accept every invitation that’s offered me, or that it’s OK we can’t go on holidays or have big nights out right now. (Can you feel the deep sigh I’ve just exhaled – feeling calmer already)

So that’s it…three simple solutions, mindful walking, being kind to myself and accepting things as it is…Who’s going to try it with me? I’ll let you know how I get on