A Lesson in Mindfulness

Have a good start to your week by watching this clip by Louie Schwartzberg, an award-winning Cinematographer, Director and Producer.

This TEDxSF talk and short film on Gratitude and Happiness includes Brother David Steindl-Rast’s spoken words, Gary Malkin’s musical compositions and Louie’s cinematography making this a stunningly beautiful piece, reminding us of the precious gift of life, and the beauty all around us.

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It’s Fractal Universe… So what?

“What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is like that which is below, to  accomplish the miracles of one thing.” ~ Hermes

finger moon Benoit Mandelbrot came up with the idea that in geometry there was a different set of rules, another level of complexity which we now know as fractal geometry. Fractal geometry is a design which has self similar properties. Like Russian dolls, going from the smallest to the largest, each mirrored in the next level up.

Once Mandelbrot switched on our awareness to fractals, they were suddenly everywhere in the natural world and they have always been there, hidden in plain sight. Now designers, having become aware of the beauty and intricate wisdom which abounds in nature, are basing their own work on nature’s design.

The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling. ~ Robert M. Pirsig

What isn’t so well known I believe is that the systems and processes of the universe are fractal in nature too. A lot of technology humankind has invented is really a reflection of an leaf fractalinternal process or a process that occurs naturally in our environment.

The language computers use is the same code that switches our genes on or off, it’s binary. Nanotechnology is really just a reflection of the way viruses work. Carl Sagan hinted that our planet may actually be just a small particle within a much bigger particle and so on. In fact we may even be a conduit for the universe itself.

Your outer world is a merciless reflection of your inner world

Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world, and I don’t just mean in some ‘Law of Attraction’ kind of way. Scientists now believe that we can’t pack anymore neurons into our heads to make us more effective, so the internet has arisen to form a collective brain on the outside. All the time, we are evolving outwards to contribute to the universe by becoming more connected and collaborative.

Before Mandelbrot discovered fractals, we worked within the limits of Euclidean geometry. We’ll call this ‘old geometry’, think triangles and squares and the rules that govern them. Fractal geometry is a whole higher level of complexity. Mandelbrot transformed our knowledge of the world and showed us a higher level of complexity. People didn’t agree with him at first, he had to compete for his new ideas and theories to be accepted before being allowed to take their place within the knowledge base we accept as true today.

Although fractals were always out there and within us, we didn’t see them until we knew what to look for and where. Nature works at the fractal level of complexity if left alone and it’s very efficient. We’re also a part of nature contrary to our ego’s opinion and many of the people who run the world today.

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. ~ Albert Einstein

When I first entered the jungles of Borneo it seemed a scary chaotic place. As I learned from and worked alongside native Ibans, the jungle eventually became a veritable cornucopia of food and beauty. I had trhappy skyfaceansformed and when I did my outer world changed immediately.

A finger pointing in just the right place changed the landscape for me. Where previously I had seen danger I now saw potential.

If you’re looking for answers to some of life’s questions or are at a crossroads in life and are looking for some new direction, know the solutions are already out there in the Universe.

The life you think you’re looking for will probably appear right before your eyes, when you begin to ask the right questions. As Bruce Lee said:

It is like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.

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If in Doubt…SOAR!

There are always going to be challenges in life when you may not be certain about what 037your next step should be and as well there should be. It’s not the easy path that necessarily leads to a personally fulfilling life. We shouldn’t want life to be easier, but relish the challenge and grateful for the opportunity to grow. If you haven’t got a challenge, go out and find one because otherwise the universe will find one for you. And you might not enjoy that one so much.

You don’t develop mental toughness and emotional fitness when life’s easy. The first Noble Truth that Buddha talked about was that ‘life is pain’. At times it is, but suffering is optional. It’s our mental and emotional responses to challenges that make the difference. When the famous boxer, Muhammad Ali, faced the challenge of having his bike stolen, he responded by learning a new skill and honing that skill to such an extent that ultimately the missing bike became inconsequential.

If you are in a period in life when you have doubts, are frustrated, unhappy or disillusioned; the strategies and qualities outlined below are good tools to develop:

Solutions Focussed: We believe that people are afraid of change, but that’s not quite true. People change all the time to stay in the same place. If, for instance, you’re having a hard time at work and begin to feel frustrated, angry and eventually depressed, instead of doing something useful you may just try to escape the feelings temporarily.  You might SOARchoose to feel better by buying a bottle of wine, kicking the cat off and slumping into your favourite chair to begin watching endless soap operas on TV.

These are all symptomatic solutions that don’t actually solve anything. The relief you feel is temporary and always has a negative side effect. You’ll become unhealthier, your best friend, the cat, may leave so you become lonely, you become less motivated to change anything because time and opportunities have passed you by and you begin to feel more powerless.

You’ll always know when it’s time to reach for the next level in life because you will feel

comfortably uncomfortable in your comfort zone.

Feelings of frustration, boredom and apathy begin to set in. Life becomes very much like a continuous re-run of the same dramas that you waste time watching on TV. It’s tedious and stressful but you become comfortable with this level pain. It’s deadly and is a one way ticket to an unfulfilled life.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” -Arthur Ashe

Open up to the experience: Most of the time we try to avoid painful feelings triggered by a negative event.  We have all these feelings rushing around our body and we don’t like them. We tend to chase immediate relief by resisting the feelings and ignoring the lesson. We build defenses so we won’t have to feel this way or that.

The counter intuitive thing to do is to employ what I call the ‘E-mind’ or enlightened mind.  Embrace what’s happening but take a step back mentally and become the observer of all these thoughts, feelings and inner self talk without attaching any meaning. Lessons are repeated until they are learnt. So rather than rush in to fix life half halfheartedly, allow yourself time to truly  feel the experience and learn what’s really going on, explore the whole experience. Similarly, if you’re helping a friend through a hard time, just sit with them and let them fully experience their emotions. Just be present with them and don’t make the mistake of trying to jump in there and solve their problems for them. (Listen up men!)

The only reason why most people have not realized the inner realities is, they believe things that they do not know” ~ Sadhguru

Adapt: Challenges persist today because of the human inclination to adopt a state of denial in the face of adversity. So many of the systems we operate within society today are delusional. It’s natural when things are not working to blame this or that reason. But unless we accept reality, we will not be able to move towards solutions.

Life does go wrong and nobody is happy all the time. So always be willing to ask the difficult questions, face the truth and work from there.

Charles Darwin, the first person to write on the subject of evolution as we know it today, said it was not the strongest or most intelligent who are successful, it is the ones who are most adaptable. Bruce Lee said ‘Be like water’, and water doesn’t resist, it moves around, itrough sea accepts the barriers and its own limitations then works with them. Water doesn’t pretend they’re not there.

 ‘Research on people with ‘true grit’ is nothing short of astonishing. Having determination and perseverance is a higher prediction of success than intellect or raw talent.  Perseverance and passion matter at least as much, if not more than other cognitive qualities.’

Resilience: There is nothing more inspiring than to hear of somebody overcoming challenges. Nearly all the great movies throughout history have been about people who’ve stayed the course, overcome challenges and transformed themselves in the process. It’s true that we’re all a product of our childhoods and environments, but we don’t need to remain victims of circumstances.

Resilience is often described as the ultimate art of living. It’s recently been the subject of lots of research and so far this has revealed that at the heart of resilience are a belief in oneself and also a belief in something larger than oneself.

Resilient people are defined by their adversities and succeed as result of their challenges. They don’t become resilient by standing still or staying on the ground when they’ve experienced a setback. They keep moving down the corridor of life, opening doors and searching for the answers. They look at bad times as a temporary thing which is not pervasive throughout their lives.

How much resilience is due to genetics is not really known and people do seem to differ in their inborn ability to handle life’s stresses. But resilience is a set of behaviours which can be learnt. A good start is to look back over hard times in the past and realise you’ve already shown resilience because you’re still here.

Then ask yourself what strengths you used that enabled you to pick yourself up and carry on. Having a great purpose is a big help. Also; lots of training on your talent imbues a sense of self mastery. That you believe that just by being alive you’re worth something, you matter and you can contribute to others.

lincoln “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

                                                                                                                     ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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NAMASTE: A Salutation to your Wellbeing…

I find mnemonics great for condnamasteensing bucket loads of knowledge into bite sized chunks which I can absorb easily and remember. They’re also useful as accelerated learning tools for clients.

I was doing some research on the use of positive psychology and mindfulness skills for helping to enhance wellbeing within a programme I’m developing and came up with the mnemonic: Namaste. The great thing about these mindfulness tools is that they’re always available to us to use. You just need to look for the opportunity to use them. Enduring happiness is best thought of as something you do, not as a label for someone’s overall personality. It’s formed over time and with effort, rather than something you purchase off the shelf.

A lot of the tools following have been shown, in research, to have increased wellbeing six months and even a year later after first being used. So if you’re in the mood for increasing your levels of happiness, add these as behaviours to your repertoire.


Nurture Self then Others: Learning to nurture yourself first has been found to help in all sorts of ways. Practicing self compassion makes you nicer to be with as a partner because you’re less needy, you’re also more motivated to try new challenges because the thought of failure doesn’t scare you as much. If you’re a carer, you’re less likely to suffer burnout.

Compassion for self means that you’re less likely to suffer from self -esteem issues due to the continual bombardment of negative marketing messages in society today. Like putting the emergency oxygen mask on in a plane, it’s important to learn to nurture yourself first before turning your attention towards others. So give yourself a hug, jump in the bath, light some candles and pamper yourself.

Acceptance of reality: Acceptance of what is, including the ups and downs, the negative emotions and the transient nature of life; liberates us from egoic fear, delusion and the attachments to that which doesn’t last forever.

Acceptance of negative emotions for instance, has been found to lead to fundamental solutions and valued action being pursued as opposed to escaping into avoidant behaviours.

Acceptance of reality involves a continual search for the truth of every situation and then accepting that truth until another ‘truth’ comes along. So is it the red pill or the blue pill for you?

Mindfulness: Probably well known to those familiar with the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness is the ability of focussing intently on whatever task, object or lesson is at hand. Meditating on and connecting with the purpose of becoming the observer of your thoughts and feelings, allows you to respond more effectively to life.

Mindfulness expert John Kabat-Zin once described mindfulness as the paying attention to the present moment, while letting go of judgement, as if our lives depended on it. Which one could argue is true because ‘now’ is the only moment you have in which you can feel anything. Mindfulness helps us to deal with emotions in a healthy way and also trains us to focus our minds on the task at hand for longer.

016Acts of Random Kindness: This particular behaviour has quite a few benefits. Firstly and very importantly it gets you out of your own head forcing you to be present. In order for you to decide who, what and how to help, you have to look around.

Then you have to use empathy, another valuable tool, and decide how best to help someone by seeing their situation from their perspective. By doing this you increase the sense of connection between people. We need to develop a more collaborative, connected world community which allows everybody to be able to contribute.

That’s not some fluffy whim, it’s evolution at work. Without it, we’re doomed to follow the individualistic path of competition and capitalistic destruction. Look around, how can you make a difference today?

Savouring MomenIMAG0062ts: My partner, Emma, told me that Thich Nhat Hahn takes an hour to drink a cup of tea. That’s some savouring. Savouring allows us to appreciate the richness life offers us within each moment. Our consumer society has tried to integrate built-in obsolescence into our lives by making us rush everything we do.

It’s tiring and not very satisfying. Savouring moments is a revolutionary act of disobedience which includes stopping and savouring instead of moving continually like locusts, devouring more and more experiences but not really appreciating life. 

Three Good Things: At the end of the day, especially if you’ve judged a day as being bad, get some positive perspective into the mix. On the very worst of days there is always something to be grateful for. Your challenges will have taught you a lesson, even if it’s that you need to develop equanimity in the face of obstacles. It’s a great task to do with a partner because its been suggested that those couples who celebrate each others achievements, stay together.

Engage meaningfully: Mindfulness means loving what you’re doing now. Engaging yourself meaningfully is to go do what you love to do, usually with the purpose of making a difference. Making things better is much better than consuming things on so many levels.

007In positive psychology one of the key components to happiness is to be engaged in an activity that has intrinsic reward. In the workplace the word ‘flow’ is often used to describe that state which engenders a feeling of timelessness and satisfaction. Other terms include the ‘Zen‘ state or the ‘peak performance’ zone in sport. What’s interesting is that these states can easily arise from pushing yourself to try new experiences and learn new things, stepping outside your comfort zone. There’s no need to draw up life lists or plan big adventures in order to be happy.

Getting out in nature on a regular basis, being social, mastering a new skill and serving others, have all shown to engender feelings of wellbeing.

Find things you love to do and uncover a purpose for doing them. Once you know what your purpose is, follow it with all the passion you can muster.


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