Mindfulness

Understanding how our unconscious brain controls our lives

NatureMuch of the dysfunction that runs in families is caused not by a lack of knowledge or education but by a lack of awareness. A conscious person is able to maintain a certain level of awareness in their daily life. There will always be lapses but where there is no awareness (mindfulness) you relate to other people through the conditioning of your mind.

Our unconscious brains consist of primitive instinctual behaviour and information that we cannot access. The unconscious brain is far more powerful than the conscious brain but it can contain loops of behaviour that are not particularly good – such as smoking or over-eating. We need to identify these undesirable behaviours and break the repeating pattern. The only really effective way of doing this is to access the unconscious brain and change the belief/pattern. This can be done through hypnotherapy, meditation and regular (daily) journaling. Just listening to someone or reading a self-help book would be ineffective because the instructions would only be observed by the conscious brain.

One of its main objectives of the unconscious mind is the survival of our physical body. It will fight anything that appears to be a threat to that survival. It also handles all of our basic physical functions (breathing, heart rate, immune system, etc).

The unconscious does not process negatives. It absorbs pictures rather than words. So if you say, “I’m not going to eat any more doughnuts,” the unconscious generates a picture of you eating doughnuts.” We have to switch the picture from the negative to the positive. It is better to tell your unconscious, “I’m going to enjoy eating more salads.”

To protect us, the unconscious stays alert and tries to learn lessons from each experience.  For example, if you had a bad experience giving a talk, your unconscious may choose to lump all of your learning experiences into the “I’m not good enough” category. It will signal you with sweaty palms and anxiety whenever you attempt to do it again. But if you do well in, say organising a cake sale at the local school, your unconscious will remember that “organising cake sales equals success” and you’ll feel positive and energised whenever the opportunity to organise a cake sale comes up.

If you are not consciously aware of the patterns in your behaviour you find yourself in the grip of emotional/mental reactive patterns and beliefs that you observed from your parents (mainly before the age of six) and the surrounding area that you grew up in.

These patterns usually go back countless generations into the distant past. However, if you can identify these behavioural patterns and become aware of these mental, emotional, and behavioural patterns you can make a choice about how to respond to people and situations. If you can connect with your soul (or Self) you can form deeper relationships.

The unconscious is very complicated but even just understanding the basics will help you harness its power.

Read more here on how to introduce more mindfulness into your day. I find that just making myself stop every now and again, and think about what I am doing and why helps me to keep connected with the present moment. Hopefully, this practice can help you too.


Mindfulness and making contact with a moment in time

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is not about creating emptiness, nor is it about producing thoughts. It is about stopping to make contact with the moment, the ever-shifting experience that we are having at any moment in time, and to observe our relationship to that experience.

If you walk in the woods listening to birdsong, you become aware that you are also breathing and having bodily sensations, such as feeling the breeze on your skin. You become aware of objects in your field of vision besides the trees, that there are sounds around you other than the birdsong, that there are thoughts that keep calling you away or making judgments about what you are doing.

Mindfulness means, just as you are about to turn a corner and change direction, you halt your movement and observe, for example, the intention to change direction that is already within you. Saying to yourself ‘I’m going to change direction’ rather than doing it without even noticing.

Mindfulness means making a little space every now and again to see ourselves doing something. You may think that you don’t need to do this in order to change direction. And that is true. However, it may be useful at other times in our lives as it teaches us to be more present in the moment and aware of our surroundings.


Listen to your soul

Nature Speaks

I create a bit of space every day when I can sit in silence and allow myself to hear my own thoughts.

In this busy, connected world, with notifications, advertising, and everyone having a voice, I feel it’s important to learn the difference between someone else’s voice and opinion, and my own.

To do this I sit in silence for at least five minutes every day, preferably outdoors. No television, no radio, no phone, no noise, just a notepad for making notes afterwards. I get into a comfortable spot and allow myself to sit in silence. I take a few deep breaths and allow my thoughts to flow.

In creating the space for my intuition to be heard, I’m creating space for the guidance to flow.

If there’s a situation that I’m concerned about or a decision to be made that worries me, I allow my mind to go to the situation and simply allow my thoughts to drift. And, I listen. I don’t question what comes up; I just listen and give my inner voice permission and space to speak to me.

A health problem became my focus most recently. As I sat on the seat in silence, I allowed myself to drift into thought. I pictured the ‘healthy me’ that I ideally wanted to attain. It became very clear what I needed to do to remedy the problem. When I got up from my seat it was clear the food I needed to cut out, and the exercise path I needed to restart. The answer came from my body itself. I listened to my instincts, I listened to my intuition, and I found the right path.


The Sacredness of the Wild

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Dear Human,

Can you feel the spiritual value of the Nature around you? Do you revere the sacredness of the wild that is in your bones, and in places that we must protect for their own sake? As you walk in Nature do you take notice of the physicality of things, knowing that all physical things also have their spiritual dimension? Do you touch the world as you pass by, appreciating its solidity and presence?

That stile over the stone wall – don’t climb it too quickly. Lay a hand on the stone and feel its texture, feel its edges – are they smooth or sharp? Experience for a moment the coldness of the stone. Stop by a tree, stroke its bark and recognise it as another living being. Run your hand over the moss on the fallen down tree and feel how it is still wet from the early morning rain. Gently touch the petals of the primrose flower and feel their softness.

Mindfulness through touch.


Finding the right balance

Balancing Stones

Sometimes we have to let things fall down so that we can rebuild them the way we want.

BY JANE REDFERN JONES

I hold a large rock in my hand and make tiny adjustments which I imagine are barely discernible to anyone watching.

The rocks will collapse and I will start again.

Life is like that. We build our lives up and sometimes everything will come tumbling down all around us.

Sometimes it will fall down on its own, other times we have to knock it down ourselves in order to rebuild it in the way we want it to be.

It is all experience. The most valuable lessons in life come when we fall down.

As I place rock upon rock I am constantly in awe at the stillness, let alone possibility, of such precarious formations, amidst sometimes very turbulent conditions. This reflects our own potential to maintain a still-point amidst the variety of challenges we each face throughout our lives.

All things are difficult before they become easy.

What is fundamental about the sculptures is their simplicity, with the stones balanced together to create a seemingly impossible composition. The improbable equipoise creates a sense of wonder in the onlooker and gives the sculpture a magical presence, a paradox of fragility and solidity. Just like life.

The stones seem to lock onto each other and stay in place as soon as that precarious yet unmistakable point of balance has been found within them.

The stones decide when they are in perfect alignment with each other and the solar system. The stones reach the point of harmony with each other and the planet. The only thing holding one precarious stone on another is gravity, that incredible force that forms the stars, which shaped the earth, and which holds things together – or causes them to fall down when they are out of alignment.

There is something beautifully simple about deciding to balance stones. Being a grown up in the modern world is so often characterised by planning ahead and the pressure to succeed. An activity like stone balancing is is just on the right side of pointless and therein lies its beauty. The simple decision to do nothing else for an hour other than balancing stones in a river is to surrender to absolute freedom. We can return to the wild abandon of our childhood and open ourselves up to the abundance of the universe.

I stop planning, I stop trying to achieve.

The present moment is all I have.


I am not alone

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Woodlands and forests are ideal places to go back to nature and to refresh the soul.

JANE REDFERN JONES

I stand amongst the trees and soak up the peaceful atmosphere. I breathe in the woodland smells, deeply inhaling the smell of humus emanating from the woodland floor. I watch beams of light flicker through the canopy of branches overhead. I place my hands on a beech tree and feel the smooth bark. I feel the moss bounce softly underneath my feet.

An old bench seems to beckon me to sit quietly for a few minutes. I look and listen for signs of life - a wren is flitting about close to the ground, a pygmy shrew scratches and searches for food. I hear the distant tapping of a woodpecker

I place my hand on my heart. I can feel it beating and notice how my chest rises and falls with every breath. I think of all the heartbeats doing the same thing in these woods, in the whole country, in the world. I feel the shared experience.

I am not alone.

 


Dazzled and delighted by life

Nov17

BY JANE REDFERN JONES

The Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, “Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.”

I set out early this morning, before dawn.

Walking through the woods I had not a care in the world. The sound made by my boots, the rhythm of my heartbeat and breathing, and the regular pace of my footsteps all filled my mind with soothing input from my senses. At times I was assailed by thoughts about challenges I faced in the week ahead, but when this happened I just opened my awareness more widely to the present moment: my walking, the sounds around me, and the glints of light as the sun rose behind the trees. Then the thoughts would disappear, only to return and disappear again, no more solid than a leaf floating on the wind or the mist hanging over the river below.

If I feel overwhelmed by this world I call home, I open my mind to all that is here: the magnificent trees, the purity of the air and the sound of the wind.

With each in breath I feel that I am taking the whole woodland into myself. With each outbreath my body and soul dissolve into it.

I feel relaxed and totally, absolutely at home.


See ordinary things

Mindfulness Meditation

BY JANE REDFERN JONES

You walked along the path and you stopped. There was something special – the light perhaps? After the rain the sun appeared and the land looked brightly illuminated against the dark storm cloud sky. Or was it the smell of petrichor, the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil? Or the dark wet bark on the trees all around you?

You notice the minor detail of a flower head and some leaves that someone has placed on a fallen down tree.  The dandelion head strangely anchors your attention. You wonder why is it there and who put it there? And now you are present to all the rest of this banal, ordinary moment. You become aware of the scent rising up from the young wild garlic leaves crushed beneath your feet, and the dog barking in the distance.

There is nothing special about this moment that touches you, and makes your body and mind still.  You don’t need beauty or strangeness to stop the flow of your movements, thoughts, and plans.  You stopped because this moment is unique. Never again will you see exactly what you are seeing now. Because never again will you experience exactly what you are experiencing now. This is it. You’ve stopped because you realise what matters most. You are living this little bit of life. How can you take this for granted so often? You forget that life is a miracle, that every moment is a gift, snatched from night, darkness, the stars. How can you forget that? Find joy in small moments.

Never forget to live. Look up and see everything around you as if you were a newborn, as though you never before had seen what you are seeing now. Just be aware that we are here, alive.

“It never failed to amaze me how the most ordinary day could be catapulted into the extraordinary in the blink of an eye.”  Jodi Picoult.


Using mindfulness to focus on ourselves

Mindfulness_within

BY JANE REDFERN JONES

When I feel upset or worried I remind myself that I must not look elsewhere (a glass of wine, food, other people) to free and soothe myself. On the contrary, I should observe what is happening inside me. What is this emotion that inhibits me? Which way is it pushing me? This may seem simple, but of course, it isn’t. Our emotions are as inescapable as our thoughts. In other words, they don’t appear as subjective phenomena but as obvious facts – indisputable reality. So I shouldn’t try either to change what I feel or to console or calm myself. I must just be present to it. I must breathe properly and not try to do anything other than focus on my breathing and observe what’s happening inside me.

We can use mindfulness to focus on ourselves as well as the world around us.

Mindfulness is different from relaxation because it runs counter to our natural tendency to retain what is pleasant and reject what is unpleasant. In mindfulness, we notice negative and painful feelings and simply allow them to be there. Instead of trying to get rid of unhappiness and worry, we start by accepting their presence.

Allowing sadness or worry to be there means observing how we feel, but not necessarily believing what sadness is telling us, “I’m not worthy, life isn’t worth living”.

People who are anxious or depressed don’t like being told to start by allowing their feelings to be there because they are used to always trying to do the opposite. They find it frightening and fear becoming overwhelmed. They hope that getting a prescription from the doctor will take their pain away. This isn’t what happens.

Think of your negative emotions as being like animals or people you want to calm down. The more we try to drive them away, lock them up, sedate them, or tie them down the more they fight back and can hurt us.

Likewise, if pain is chased away or sedated it just returns another time.

So it’s better if we make space around our emotions and allow them to just be. This also allows us to observe them. Ask yourself ‘how do they make me feel? What thoughts do they lead to?’ This way, we are not inside the emotion, but noticing and experiencing it so that we are less dominated by it. Sometimes this in itself is enough to calm us and enable us to decide what to do.

The habit of calm, curious introspection begins in moments of calm and rest.

Observe your feelings several times a day, between doing other things. Instead of rushing from one thing to the next and feeling stressed,  take time to feel what is happening inside yourself, and gently connect more with your emotional state.

“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” Hermann Hesse.


A billion years in the palm of my hand: Gratitude Stones

Rockhand

By Jane Redfern Jones

Where did this strange stone come from, all pockmarked with little craters? Did it fall from the moon, or maybe from a star like you and me?

This stone sitting in the palm of my hand could be anything from several million to a few billion years old. That’s hard for me to comprehend. Our time here on this earth is so short in comparison. It seems crazy to be worrying about the past or the future. It reminds me that it is not time that we should worry about, but that the ‘Now’ is the most precious thing.

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” Eckhart Tolle.

Stone Meditation

We may think that we are only made of our bones, organs, blood, and muscles but we must remember that we also have our consciousness, emotions and many other things.

I will often choose a special stone to help me return to my breathing and body and connect with the world around me.

Gratitude stones are so simple yet so effective. I find they help me enormously. They are a simple way to remind ourselves to be grateful for what we have in our life.

Stone meditation is very simple and can be done anywhere anytime (to meditate is simply to think about something).

You may want to assign certain qualities to your stone such as gratitude, love, compassion, joy. The stone could also represent a loved one such as a mother, father, sibling or anyone close to you. Holding our stone we can send our love to that person as we breathe in and out three times.

The idea is that you put the stone in your pocket or bag and through the day you keep finding it there and do a little meditation. When you do it reminds you to be grateful for all you have in your life. I find that it serves as a reminder to keep my spiritual focus.

We have such busy lives it’s easy to forget how good our lives are and how lucky we are.

Any stone will do and it doesn’t have to have any writing on it. I collect stones from special places that have happy memories.

Pop your stone in your pocket with a quick ‘thank you’.

Alternatively, try putting it on your bedside table, so that you see it before you go to sleep at night and when you wake up.

Each time you see it or feel it in your pocket, pick it up and say a quick thank you for all you have, for someone special, and for the good things you experienced that day.

Don’t forget about your stone. Aim to use it every day. It will help you stay focused on the spiritual aspects of your life. After using it for a while you might find that you don’t even need to feel or see the stone because it becomes such an integral part of your day to be grateful for what you have.

A positive attitude can change our behaviour and thinking in a way that can bring peace to our lives.

So go out in your garden, down to the river or beach and find yourself a stone. Choose one that isn’t too big – ideally, it should sit in the palm of your hand.

If you would like me to send you a stone...

If you’d like one of my stones, message me with your email address, a short paragraph about yourself, and how much you’d like to give for it (including postage) and I’ll set up a Paypal transaction. I’ll choose the stone which I am most drawn to for you. I’ll put the word ‘gratitude’ on it unless you tell me you’d like something different (just simple words such as ‘love’, thank-you, or someone’s name). I’ll also add a little note.

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