Wednesday 20 December 2017

Take a Mental Detox

Our bodies are amazing creations so please indulge me whilst I talk about my recent detox again. Innately the body knows how to nourish itself, expel waste and stay healthy. So, why do I, or any of us, need to interfere with nature and take steps to detox? Innocently, probably through a lack of knowledge, we are already interfering with our natural balance. Consuming too much sugar, too much caffeine and excessive amounts of convenient processed food. Conversely, not providing enough calcium, iron and other essential vitamins and nutrients.

Physically we can overload our bodies with bad inputs, the wrong quantities or other poor eating habits. Crash and fad diets only work in the short term. We just need to learn how to calm down and gently nourish our bodies. The aim of a good programme should be to form better nutritional habits that assist the body rather than hindering it.

Psychologically, we have the same innate wisdom that is present physiologically. Our minds and mental well-being are the same. Whilst all thoughts come from the power of mind, we can innocently hold on to unhealthy ones. Likewise, we can allow our minds to race with so many thoughts that we have no clarity or space for new insight. Finally, we have all had those moments where the efforts we make to force a thought fail. The classic example is trying too hard to find one's keys. Just as our physical bodies have the wisdom required to not just survive but thrive, so too our minds. Old thoughts are automatically cleared away to allow the introduction of new ones. The nuggets of truth will always be absorbed for use later on and as they say, time is the healer of the past.

We all have access to an infinite source of wisdom. So detox from your unhelpful habits and learn to live more naturally. Our minds are just waiting for us to leave them alone long enough to do their jobs.

Saturday 18 November 2017

The Crazy Lesson from Quinoa for Better Relationships

What do you find strange? There are lots of things we encounter in life that are unusual to us. However most things are, by definition, normal. This post is a little different so humour me while I go in a little different direction. 

Currently, I am doing an extreme detox programme. The ideas are to encourage nutrient absorption, cleanse the body of toxins and allow the body to heal itself. The way to achieve optimal nutrition, and avoid digestion issues, focuses on the foods we combine in a single meal. All the typical dishes I've grown up with, I am told are poor combinations of the basic food groups. For example, shepherd's pie is out as it combines protein and carbs. Burgers in a bun for the same reason. Even a hearty jacket potato with baked beans is ruled out.

With that said and the scene set, I am in my kitchen clearing up after a meal of quinoa salad and there is left over quinoa. I'm thinking when I will eat it but all I can think of it a list of things it can't be eaten with. I say myself, this is crazy. But then caught myself and realised, everything seems crazy when it's unfamiliar. To my fellow English, tea is drunk with milk, unusual in America. Jewish dietary laws exclude milk and meat products together, another knock against the poor cheeseburger. How are my nutritionists food combining rules any different from the myriad of other rules, beliefs and laws that are foreign and unknown to me? Principally they are not.

Each culture, society and community has its standards and normality. Whether it is another religion, nationality or scientific specialty, it has the things it knows and holds true. This hold true even more so for every unique person. The person next to me may seem crazy to me but it's likely I am to them. When we have the clarity to see that we all have different obviouses, the other person changes from frustrating to fascinating.

In every relationship, the individuals are likely to in some area be different to each other. These can either present as weird challenges or interesting opportunities. It is part of being human to switch between these constantly. Which you see at any moment is an indication of your mental state, rather than a reflection of the other person.

In conclusion, when you catch yourself thinking that your wife, boss, friend or co-worker is crazy, perhaps pause and get curious about whether the temporary insanity lies with you.

Monday 21 August 2017

A Seat With a View

I'm sitting on a long train journey to Edinburugh looking out of the window in a rear facing seat. As my wife and I look out the window she observed that we were watching everything in reverse, whilst the couple opposite us were seeing it forwards. Different perspectives on the same scene. I would refer to it as we are looking at the past, where we have already been. Whereas the forward facing passengers are looking at the future, at where we are going.

We were wondering what the analogy is and what lesson this experience could show us. My next thought is that both views are looking in the wrong direction. Both observations are looking out of the side of the train. Neither are exactly where we have been or where we are going but more importantly they are not where we are, now. All of us are only ever located in the present. In the time, space and mental state of the now. A brief, short place that is constantly changing. That is the place that we live our lives in and have all of our experiences.

We can look to the past and future but we will never be there. The past is just the thoughts we are rembering about. Whereas the future is merely projected thoughts about what may happen.

To conclude, I hope you are able to take away the gift of the present. My richest experiences have been when I've been fully experiencing that moment. Not worried about the future or focussed on capturing the moment for social media. Not reliving old photos or reading the stories of others lives. Rather, being aware and taking note of everything that right now has to offer. Just me and the moment.

On that note, I guess it is time to stop writing and for us to enjoy the rest of our journey. 

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Thought is the Spice of Life

Today I received some devastating news. The nature of my situation is very personal and the specifics are not essential to the point I am making. We all experience life through the prism of the same principles even though the details differ. I personally learn a lot when I can recognise patterns. Possibly, even more, when the pattern is the only thing that I identify with.

Today's phone call was the culmination of a long period of waiting and today was the day to finally hear the outcome. Despite the life-changing impact, the result would have I have been fairly calm during the waiting period allowing life to continue as normal. There have been moments of sadness and hopelessness but these have passed and there have been times of positivity and anticipation. On the whole, I have not had that much thought about the outcome. The result was delayed but in my situation, the outcome was probably determined almost straight away. There was some action to be done but the most powerful was simply praying and trusting that G-d's plan for me matched up to my version of it.

Today, however, I started the day with a feeling of foreboding. I felt very uneasy but I knew that only the actual result would determine the direction my life would take from this point on. However, I still had a small part that felt hopeful. Whilst more conscious that the news was imminent I was still largely productive at work till the call finally came in at 15:00.

The lady was very pleasant and time slowed down as she got the point of revealing the news. As soon as she told me that it was the bad news I had been suspecting all day, I felt a huge grief and pain. After a call to my wife to share the news I had to return to work and continue till the end of the day. My best friend was not available immediately and called back later. Taking his call made it all flood back. Now hours later, writing this part brings me back to tears again.

So what is it about my experience that I think you the reader will benefit from. It's that I can see clearly that my feelings came from the things that were in my thoughts. Last week I was sharing the understanding of our innately healthy nature and the effect that has on our experience of life with a group of school children. A number in the group said that if situation X happens you have to feel Y. They argued that it was the external factor that causes the internal reaction. A strict cause and effect relationship that we are victims of. This is a commonly held misconception. One that certain empirical evidence seems to support.

That logic about the outside determining the inside would mean that 1) all people in my position would feel the same and 2) I would feel consistently during the waiting period. Whilst the exact same system governs the way our experience is formed, we all have unique variables that are used to write our different life stories. A natural ebb and flow of mood and feeling occurs for each of us and is normal. I'd even say that is what gives life its spice of enjoyment.

So if it is not the outside factors that control us, what is it? Whenever I thought about the possibility of failure, I had sad feelings. If instead it was a hopeful thought, I felt reassured of success. It was these transitory thoughts that made my experience different from my wife's. And it was these changing thoughts that moved me between states. The first important step is understanding that it is our own thoughts and these alone that create our feelings. External factors may seem to be the cause of our thinking at times but careful analysis reveals that despite my pain intensifying as I heard the news, it was my thoughts about the implications and the finality they represented to me that actually caused the feeling of sorrow. To illustrate this in another way, the same feeling came back to me when I spoke to my best friend. The news was not present in the same way at that time but the feeling was as strong. I am convinced that it was my thoughts returning to the result that caused the emotion.

To be clear, an understanding of our innate health does not stop feelings and I'm not advocating changing one's thoughts. I am merely pointing out how the system that we all experience life through works. On the contrary, the second point I wish to make is that thoughts naturally come and go. We are connected to a wellspring of new thought. All that is required to have a new thought is to release one's grip of the old one. As you do this the conveyor belt of thoughts brings a new one.

Whilst speaking to my wife the conversation moved to plan B. This could be seen as a coping mechanism but I can tell you that the feeling I had whilst we discussed an alternative future was not a fake one built on top of suppressed feelings. In that moment I had moved on to focus on something else. I was entertaining thoughts of hope and I was feeling them. Neither of us made the switch in topic. It came organically. Left to its own devices the source of all thoughts is a pure energy. There is no need to try to change a thought. To create a new one or analysis the current one.

That said, today was generally a sad day. I stayed with and held on to the thoughts of loss for the rest of the day. I wasn't ready to move on and I found more of those thoughts came to me. However, this was not a problem for me. I knew that the low state would pass on its own. No intervention was required and it meant nothing about my future mood.

In conclusion, I hope you can see that it was only my thoughts about the news that created my feelings and that I was able to rely on the assurance that new thoughts constantly arrive without any action required from me.

Thursday 9 March 2017

How to not Lose Your Head

Following on from my last blog post about difficult people, I want to share another story with you about an individual that had to deal with a difficult person. Whilst this story goes to extremes, I feel you may be able to relate to some of the underlying patterns. The things that also cause you and I to lose our ways.

Harry was a powerful CEO. He was the trusted right-hand man of the company's chairman. Mark was the company's finance director. Harry was a tough leader and all the employees feared him and submitted to his orders. Actually, Mark was the exception, which really annoyed Harry and made him feel undermined. Everywhere Harry went, Mark seemed to be. He would arrive at work and Mark would be coming out of the lift Harry was entering. He would go for lunch and Mark would be at the same restaurant. Even when Harry went to parent's evening at his kids' school, Mark was there about his kids. Harry hated Mark and extended his hatred to the whole finance department. Harry was known to have a short fuse. It was on his advice that the chairman instantly dismissed his long-standing PA of over 25 years. What had she done wrong? All she did was refuse to wear high heels to a deliver a presentation to the board.

One day, Harry received the news that the Financial Times would be writing a feature about him. This information made him feel on top of the world. As he left his office however, the mere site of Mark caused him to become enraged. Harry saw his presence as a personal insult and decided to take a drastic step; he was going to get him sacked. The chairman would need to authorise this so Harry went to convince him. On arrival, the chairman also needed help and asked Harry for advice. Harry's head was so full of his rage and hatred of Mark that he was unable to really hear what the chairman wanted. It was something about rewarding someone and Harry's ego and clouded thinking could only imagine that the chairman wanted to bestow honour on him. Harry had described his own ideal reward package. It involved a lavish trip on the chairman's personal jet and the individual's name being used for the next product line. When Harry is done giving over all the details, the chairman tells him to make it all happen ... for MARK. Mark had devised a legal scheme to drastically reduce the firm's tax liability so the chairman was indebted to him. This was the final straw and a furious Harry vows to not just terminate Mark, but to get rid of all of the finance staff.

There is more to the story but these are the key parts I wish to highlight. To conclude the story, Harry's bad decisions mean it is actually him that gets hung out to dry. If you know the biblical story of Esther read on the Jewish holiday of Purim, you may see the parallels to my story. If not, do not worry, the point here is to give a dramatic illustration of what a failure to understand the nature of our experience can lead to.

Not judging you if you have, but I myself have never sacked anyone because of a personality conflict. However, I do feel wronged by that guy swerves between lanes cutting me up in traffic. Who does he think he is? I find myself trying to teach him a lesson by catching up to him and doing the same. Or better, getting in front again by outsmarting him rather than just driving fast. Whilst driving at 50 mph on a 30 limit road am I really making good decisions? Did Mr Swerve really set out to upset me personally? Underneath my thinking, I am just experiencing the same pattern as Harry had towards Mark. Harry was not aware that his own thinking was creating a reality about how Mark's only reason to exist was to cause problems for Harry. More objectively looking at the situation, Mark was innocently doing his job, which had to include approving expense claims of even the CEO, but his financial decisions were not directed personally to Harry, or anyone. I encounter many types of drivers on the road each time I am behind the wheel but seeing another driver as an idiot is far more a reflection of my state of mind than it is about how well they are driving. If I fall for the trap of arrogance and take their driving style personally I am having a bad day. I don't know nor does it matter if they are too. Catching this fact alone usually creates an instant change from me seeing them as idiots into people requiring compassion, and lots of distance.

Harry also failed to realise that he was working on the incorrect premise that outside circumstances determined his feelings. I sometimes believe that I am a much nicer person when the sun is shining on the weekend than when it is raining on a work day. This is only valid if I believe it to be. I only need to look at my life and know that this is not true. Harry was on an emotional roller-coaster ride. Highs from the exclusive party and lows from encountering Mark. He felt that he had no choice and spiralled out of control. If only he had been aware that he was on the ride. He could have let the emotions pass and move on to the next one. Life is more like a sushi conveyor, you can choose which items to take.

The final lesson I take from Harry is that he accidentally gave honour to Mark. When I am about to miss a deadline, I find myself so caught up in excuses, blame and hiding it that I fail to do anything productive. The more we fill our heads with things and hold on to them the less we can access our wisdom. Whilst I am not advocating sabotage, I feel that given mental clarity, Harry could easily have found a way to undermine the chairman's efforts to honour Mark.

In conclusion, don't be like Harry. Know that thoughts come and go. Realise that being offended is just a barometer on your level of consciousness. Finally, keep your mind free to allow your innate wisdom to come out.

Sunday 26 February 2017

The Monkey Puzzle: Difficult People Explained

Do you struggle with difficult people? The ones that get things so hopelessly wrong it is almost as if they are actually trying to wind you up or ridicule you? What makes someone else completely unable or unwilling to get the most simple things?

I have recently discovered a brilliantly insightful children's book called Monkey Puzzle, written by Julia Donaldson. In the book, a lost baby monkey is looking for his mum. A friendly butterfly attempts to help reunite the baby monkey. At each step, the monkey gives an adjective to describe his mum and the butterfly makes seemingly absurd suggestions, much to the monkey's annoyance. At first, the monkey says "bigger than me" and the butterfly takes him to an elephant. Next, the monkey says his mum's "tail coils around trees" and the butterfly thinks his mum is a snake!

At the end of the story, the baby monkey get very upset when the butterfly suggests the elephant is his mum for a second time. In anger, he says that "none of these creatures look like me". The butterfly says that the baby monkey never said that it's parents look like it and are also monkeys. The baby monkey is confused since to him, that was assumed and didn't need to be said. However, the butterfly explains that his young are caterpillars and look nothing like the parent butterflies.

During the search, the baby monkey got increasingly frustrated by the ludicrous suggestions from the butterfly. The monkey was viewing the butterfly as being difficult. The butterfly however was able to stay calm and finally hear the key to finding monkey's mum. On encountering the rest of the monkey family the butterfly could easily have got angry that the baby had withheld the most crucial piece of information. Instead, he neutrally explained that the monkey and butterfly come from different species and have different reproductive processes. Throughout, the butterfly remained curious and in the end revealed that during the story both sides had been innocently playing out the separate realities that they both lived in. The thoughts that occurred to the monkey were not the same as the thoughts of the butterfly. They were in different worlds until the 'looking alike' bridge connected them. At this point, they were able to work together effectively.

So, this is a cute kids story about talking animals. How does this help you and me to cope, understand and most importantly be unaffected by difficult people? The lesson from the story is that different individuals have different ideas about what is obvious. It seems annoying when people state the obvious. Just as bad when they ask obvious questions. However, in truth it allows for greater human connection. If I share something with you that you already know, it is not a bad thing. If you ask me something that I expect you to know, providing you with the answer is just ensuring we are both on the same page. If someone is not getting you and you think they are being difficult, what would happen if you assumed they were innocently just experiencing a different version of the world. Get curious about them. While explaining things that are obvious to you, the other person will sense your genuineness and not take offence. Ask them some open questions to find out how they see things. What is the worst that can happen? On the contrary, you will be surprised by what you learn.

Let me leave you with this: When you think someone is being 'difficult' change yourself by assuming they are innocent. This will make it natural and fun to get curious about what is different to them. Finally, do not assume anything is also obvious to them. We all have different obviouses.

Thursday 2 February 2017

Are you having a Groundhog Day?

Today is Groundhog Day. How many of us have had the repetitive experience of Phil Connors (Bill Murray) in the classic film Groundhog Day?

For those unfamiliar with the film, allow me to give a summary. Otherwise feel free to skip this paragraph. In the film, Phil wakes up each day to the same day, 2 February also known as Groundhog Day. The same song on the radio, the same people, the same events. He's stuck in a cycle. He reacts angrily and becomes hedonistic, especially when he realises there are no consequences to his actions. He descends to the point where he kidnaps Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog) and kills them both but still wakes up to the same day. Suddenly, Phil has a shift and starts along another approach. Instead of fighting his experience, he embraces the opportunities and uses them to learn new skills, to correct wrongs and make the town a better place.

What happened to cynical and self-centered Phil Connors? You'd find it hard to argue that his circumstances changed, after all, the whole premise of the film is that everything external is constant. I was recently discussing the effect of conditioning from repeated exposure to the same events. We see something like this with the increase of Phil's violence and anger over time. Each day he gets more and more frustrated with what he cannot change. This fails to explain the sudden change that Phil undergoes. If this was getting used to being stuck, I'd expect a gradual change.

So how would I explain the fact that Phil one day saw a homeless guy needlessly die and changes his whole focus to taking the steps needed to save him? He let go of previous thoughts and became able to have a new thought. The plight of the homeless guys was always there yet now Phil was more present and was open to seeing him. Throughout the film, Phil's mind is the only things that he can control. His state of mind fluctuates and his thoughts vary.

So back to real life and my original question. In my own life, I sometimes have Groundhog days. I'm woken up at the same time, by the same radio station on my radio alarm clock. (Perhaps radio alarms clocks are a bad thing!) Whilst it is not the same exact song, the theme and presenters narrative is familiar. I face the same internal struggle to get myself ready in time to get to work. I go to the same job, doing the same work, with the same people. Even outside of work, it's the same routine, same friends and social activities. It's all repetition. Even when I try to make the most of my surroundings, either constructively or destructively, little appears to change.

How do I break the cycle? It all starts with a change in Thought. The situation does not have to change for my experience to change. Worse still, the circumstances can be different but my experience of life no different. It is only my thoughts and consciousness that determine how I perceive the world around me. When I am in a lower state of mind, the world seems like a battle to overcome and everything is stale. However in higher states life is full of opportunities and I am entertained by the details, whether they are fresh or repeated. Who doesn't enjoy when they hear their favourite classic song on the radio?

So, when I recognise that it is me that can change, things seem different. Being in a Groundhog Day is less important or relevant.

Saturday 28 January 2017

Mind! Keep out of the way - my thoughts on speaking at Mind.Simplified

It is crazy o'clock on a Sunday morning yet I'm dressed and out on a Northern line train, somewhere south of Edgware, heading to my debut talk at a conference. Surprisingly, I am feeling excited and quite psyched up, so I decide to broadcast a Facebook live. I switch it on and say a couple of things like good morning and I move on to give a taster of what I'm going to talk about. But I go blank. I dry up and have absolutely no words. I pause and nothing comes to me. I can hear the tumbleweed blowing past. Completely panicked I stop recording.

Now I'm worried. It's about 3 hours before I need to speak, on a stage, in front of about 150 people. I'm awake way too early in the morning for any day of the week, especially a Sunday.  I can feel the nerves taking hold of my stomach and I don't even have a script as I am deliberately going for a spontaneous presentation style. I start frantically scribbling. Argh! Help.

Actually, that's not quite how it went last Sunday. Somehow as the anxiety was growing, I was able to, almost from a slight distance, observe the situation and see it for what it was. It was a perfect example of how the 3 Principles of Mind, Thought and Consciousness play out constantly in our lives. I had my starting example and a great teachable experience to share at the conference.

So what was the conference and why was I speaking at it? The conference was called Mind.Simplified and I was one of the speakers and organisers. It was my graduation and the final stage of my journey on the One Thought Institute to qualify as a Three Principles Practitioner. Over the last year, I have been learning how to share glimpses of clarity from my personal life with others. One core concept is that we all have tremendous innate wisdom that allows us to know everything we need and do amazing things. In light of this, I aimed to use my speech as a practical demonstration of how we can access this intelligence in real life. In keeping with this objective, I avoided too much planning of what I would say. I had a few ideas and writing the summary was a good frame of reference but that is how I got to my slightly panicked situation on the tube.

So what did I see and what is the general lesson we can all learn from my experience. Our brains are like a bowl at an unlimited salad bar. At any one time, there is a limit to what the bowl can hold. If we go up for more with things left in the bowl, there is less we can take and the flavours may carry over. By eating everything or throwing away the waste, we are able to make a fresh start.

Salad bowl

Similarly, the buffet of thoughts constantly come and go through our minds. However, if we hold on to and / or multiply specific thoughts they take up space in the bowl of our brains. The more residue the less new thoughts and the higher the risk of contamination. The best way to keep our thoughts flowing freely is to keep our mind clear.

I was able to see that I was doing and dwelling on a lot of thinking; that I was tired, nervous, unprepared and probably going to embarrass myself. All of this was filling me up and there was little room to recognise the insightful thoughts. When I paused, the understanding that I have been exploring in depth over the last year, worked itself on me. I saw the concepts behind my experience and their impact diminished. Just as when you get scared watching a horror movie and all it takes is to catch sight of the cinema setting for the fear to lose its impact. No action was needed.

In fact, the truth is that when we have thoughts that we don't want and we try to get rid of them, the efforts we make increase our focus on them and they got stronger. All that needs to be done is recognise the flowing nature of thought and let our minds do their natural thing.

If we keep out of our minds way, new thought will come along.

As this is my first post, I'd love to hear your comments. I hope this post was relatable and useful. I am very open to all feedback that can help me ensure that future posts are better understood and more relatable. Thank you for reading.