Mindfulness for Depression

This week has been extremely stressful. Work has been very busy and I’ve felt under a lot of pressure. The week started on Monday with a client complaining about me and asking for me to be removed from their account and ended on Friday with a conference call with the three directors of the company and a member of my team, where I got well and truly bollocked.

I have been referred to a Mindfulness Course with CBT through the Suffolk Wellbeing service, which is designed to help people with recurring depression to avoid relapse. The course is every Friday between 6 and 8pm, so my bosses agreed that I could finish work at 5.30. Unfortunately two of the Directors asked me to do something at the last minute and I didn’t finish until 5.45 and what with getting stuck in traffic, I ended up arriving thirty minutes late.

The facilitator asked us to introduce ourselves to the person sitting next to us. The lady sitting next to me and I just looked at each other and then I said abruptly,

“So what’s yer name then?”

In a strong accent she said, “Shall I go first then?” which I heard as “Shaggal Guffirst.”

I blinked. What sort of name as Shaggal? I thought I must have misheard.

“Sorry, can you say that again?”

Again I heard, “Shaggal Guffirst.”

“Shaggal?” I said incredulously. As soon as the words left my lips I felt that I made a faux pas. The lady looked at me.

“SHALL I GO FIRST THEN?” she said slowly and loudly, as if talking to a child.

I laughed out loud and apologised. She seemed unamused.

***

The facilitator talked about the seven principles of mindfulness: non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go. He explained the importance of being present and aware of everything and looking at everything as if for the first time.

“We’ll be starting with an eating meditation,” he said, picking up a bowl and a spoon.

“Did he just say eating meditation?” I thought, thinking I must have misheard again. My head was still in  a spin from the rush to arrive on time.

To my delight, it turned out that it was an eating meditation. I saw him dropping small things into the bowl, which I hoped was chocolate but which looked more like raisins. He then went around the room using the spoon to drop one or two raisins into everyone’s hands. Being mindful brought my awareness to my inner dialogue.

“Oh crap. Is that raisins? I hate raisins.”

“I wonder if I have to eat it.”

“Think about it with a beginner’s mind, as if you’ve never seen or tried a raisin before.”

“Oh crap, he’s put two in my hand. I’m going to have to eat two.”

I wondered if eating the raisin mindfully with a beginner’s mind might mean that I did like raisins after all.

The facilitator asked us to really look at the raisins. To squeeze them, to hold them up to the light, to look at the creases, to listen them, to squeeze them next to our ears. I was amazed to hear a distinct sound as I did so.

We then placed them on our bottom lip for a few moments and noticed the sensations, before placing them in our mouths, moving them around our lips and our gums with our tongue and then finally slowly chewing and swallowing.

I have to admit, it was a very profound experience. I have read a lot of stuff about eating consciously and this brought it to a new level. I didn’t think I could enjoy my food unless I was stuffing it in my face and this exercise proved otherwise.

We moved on to a body scan meditation and it was difficult for me to be non-judging and have a beginner’s mind. I have meditated for years and I was slightly scornful of what I considered to be a “secular” form of meditation. There was a part of me however, that was very impressed that the NHS was funding a mindfulness meditation course and I felt that maybe there’s hope for the world yet. Apparently studies have proven that taking part in such a course can significantly reduce the chance of a relapse into depression.

I reminded myself of non-judging and beginner’s mind and started the meditation with that attitude. A couple of times I felt bored and wondered how on earth I would last for half an hour. I kept bringing myself back to the breath and back to the meditation. The meditation lasted for well over half an hour and I was pleasantly surprised to note that actually the time passed really quickly and when we finished, I felt extremely relaxed.

I’ve got a feeling that this mindfulness course will benefit me tremendously. It’s an eight-week course. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Overcoming Loneliness

For some time now I have battled with loneliness. I thought the answer was to increase my social life and make new friends. Although this helped, it only alleviated the problem temporarily. I had to learn to be comfortable in my own skin. I recently discovered that loneliness is less to do with being disconnected from others and more to do with being disconnected from one’s self.

Earlier this year I read and completed “Calling in the One – 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of your Life”, by Katherine Woodward Thomas. Of course the old adage came up that no-one will love you until you love yourself. This is something that everyone parrots and let’s face it, we all know that. The question is how do we learn to love ourselves? That seems to be where I get stuck.

Thomas quotes American poet Marianne Moore, “The best cure for loneliness is solitude.” Thomas goes on to say, “many of us who have come to know solitude have done so with great reluctance and resistance.” We dread being alone and instead we drug ourselves with distractions and addictions to food, TV, internet, games, sex, alcohol and more. Thomas reports that after practicing solitude for a while, “one day the loneliness was gone. In its place was a sense of peace and stillness. She continues, “I wasn’t thrilled to be single and alone but ultimately I was OK with it, because I was OK with me.”

Thomas suggests taking between 5 and 15 minutes every day just sitting in stillness; with no TV, no book, no journal, no phone or anything. On top of this she suggests spending down days or time with the TV, phone and internet switched off for a day or a few hours and pass the time in solitude, walking, reading, writing, meditating, playing soft music, doing light exercise or playing with pets. Now I have to admit to having some resistance to these exercises. I reasoned with myself that as I spent time in meditation most days it was unnecessary to sit in stillness on top of that. I spend half an hour in the car without the radio on and counted that as my down time. Deep down I knew that my resistance to solitude indicated that it was exactly what I needed but still I put it off.

It seems the universe had other ideas and a few weeks later I found myself without my laptop for a week. My laptop, which doubles as my TV and radio, had gone to be repaired. During the week it wasn’t so bad as I was working and commuting to London and I didn’t have much time to get bored or lonely. However as I got the train home on Friday, the weekend loomed over me like a big, black cloud.

I spent Saturday morning with my Grandma and Auntie and then returned home to my empty flat. I was exhausted from my week of commuting so I went to bed for a nap. When I awoke I felt terrible. I was incredibly tired, depressed and lonely. I had a date planned for the evening but I cancelled it as I couldn’t face it. I lay in bed for 45 minutes with thoughts chasing around my head. Eventually I began sobbing. I was at the depths of despair. Then I smiled through my tears as I remembered Lee Harris’s April energy forecast. Harris recounts a time a few years ago when he was so depressed that he was suicidal and what kept him from committing the act was the certainty that after the darkness comes the light. He had experienced low times before and they had always preceded something great. He had never been as low as this before and he was curious to see what was coming next.

As I tasted the salt of my tears on my lips, I remembered that salt water is used to cleanse negative energy. I had the option of a date and I’d also been invited out by friends, and I was lonely. Nevertheless I wanted to be alone. I decided it was time to face my fear of loneliness and “invite it in for tea” as Thomas suggests.

I got up, dried my tears and cooked a healthy dinner. I burned incense and took a cleansing sea salt bath. I spent the evening reading, “The Way of the Essenes. Christ’s Hidden Life Remembered.” As serendipity would have it I read about Simon, the lead character, coming face to face with solitude and dealing with his inner demons.  I enjoyed a lovely, peaceful evening. The next morning I awoke feeling a little apprehensive about another day of solitude ahead but as I got up and starting preparing my breakfast I felt my anxiety slipping away. I spent the day reading, writing and meditating. I did break my solitude a couple of times to check my emails and Facebook on my phone and I also called a dear friend.

Usually in such circumstances I would have turned to food or alcohol for comfort however the most I overate was a couple of handfuls of Pringles and no alcohol passed my lips except for a glass of wine on Friday evening.

The result of my time in solitude was that I felt amazing. I was refreshed and rejuvenated and I had an amazing inner peace. At 4pm on Sunday I was actually disappointed that my weekend of solitude was coming to an end. The weekend was a blessing and I intend to create more opportunities for solitude in my life.

The Key to Internet Dating for Men

Internet dating can be soul destroying. I’ve been on many dates where I don’t fancy him or he doesn’t fancy me or neither of us fancies each other. Many times I’ve felt like throwing in the towel. I have loads of friends that have met their soul mates online. So what’s the secret to successful internet dating?

I spent five years internet dating before I went to Egypt, without success. Since my return to the UK I have taken it up again and I am really enjoying the whole experience. I’m unsure if it’s me that’s changed or the men. I suspect it’s the former and the fact that being three years older and wiser has improved my choice of men. I used to have many men asking propositioning me for sex, but then maybe that’s because I used to have a cleavage shot as a profile picture.

Four years on as I view men’s profiles and read their emails, I am shocked and dismayed at some of the school boy errors a lot of men are making and therefore shooting themselves in the foot. I feel compelled to write this article from a women’s point of view to give you chaps some tips.

Your Profile

Keep this positive and upbeat. Use examples, if you say your adventurous back it up with an example. Avoid negativity, bitterness and talking about ex-partners. All these things are a big turn off. I am shocked by the number of guys who put themselves down in their profile. It’s important for you to love yourself before someone else can love you. Some guys angrily rant about bad dating experiences or ex-partners. It’s generally best to avoid talking about exes, even if it’s in a positive way. Talking about an ex in your profile indicates that you still need to get over them.

For example this would be a foolish thing to write,

“I’m now ready to start dating again, despite that fact that my bitch ex-wife shagged my best friend and then fleeced me in the divorce.”

Bad grammar is also a big turn off.

Your Photo

Always put a photo on your profile, even if you believe you are ugly. Someone will find you handsome and will fancy you. I only look at profiles with pictures and most women are the same. A lot of the guys I go for are just average looking but they win me over with interesting profiles.

Stay away from partially nude and topless photos, unless you want to give the impression that you’re a player and only after one thing. These kinds of photos are occasionally acceptable in the right circumstances, for example if you’re on the beach.

George, a skinny, pale guy, had a picture of himself wearing a pair of jeans and without a shirt, with the caption: The Shark. Snake69. Fit as f*ck if you like to no me. Oh, the irony. A classic example of a bad photo and terrible grammar.

Emailing

Avoid copy and paste. Write about something that you’ve read in the lady’s profile to give the email a personal touch. Again bad grammar is a no no.

Build rapport by mirroring and matching in the email. Look for words that the person uses and use the same words in your mail. You can also match the style and grammar of the other person. This is one occasion when bad grammar would be acceptable.

Women like decisive men. After three of four emails I would recommend asking the woman out for a coffee. A coffee date is an ideal way to meet someone without pressure and see if there’s a spark between you. It’s always better to meet up sooner rather than later.

Keep Positive

It’s easy to become disheartened when you have a bad date or you only receive a few replies. Keep in mind the bigger picture and remember that it will be worth it when you begin that special relationship. You feel as though many women are ignoring your emails. Women generally receive a lot more emails than men, as men are still the hunters, even in these modern times. I have received over 1000 emails in the last few months and I am unable to read them all, let alone reply to them.

The Date

Always travel to meet the woman in her home town if you can and if she is comfortable with it. If you only have limited knowledge of the area, do some research and find somewhere special to meet your date. As with emailing build rapport by mirroring and matching both words and body language.

Date as many women as you can to give you the best chance of finding the right one. Be completely honest with your dates about this and understand they may want to do the same. As John Gray would say, “Date around, don’t sleep around.”

I really hope this information helps men to improve their internet dating skills. Remember there are always plenty more fish in the sea and there is someone for everyone. As I said earlier, I have many friends that met their partners online. It is my wish that everyone could be in a relationship with their soul mate. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.

The Key to Life

Well I have to admit I’ve been pretty rubbish at keeping this blog updated. On the plus side, so far 2012 has been fabulous. I have been eating generally more healthily, I have taken up running, I’ve been on loads of great dates and I’m feeling really relaxed and happy.

I’m really enjoying living in Ipswich and I am finally learning to chill out, be present, trust and surrender. I believe these things are the key to life. I’ve stopped stressing about what I should be doing and started doing what I want to do, without feeling guilty. I am also to start to get the hang of manifesting. In the last few months I have manifest two amazing friends, a flat, a car, various amounts of unexpected sums of money up to £400 and my £25,000 of debt has magically disappeared.

I used to get my knickers in a twist that I should be meditating, become a vegan, be exercising, do yoga, spend time in nature, cut out sugar and so on. I often felt overwhelmed by all the information about spirituality and all the material I read about spiritual practices that I should be doing. Now I read what I want, if and when I want to read it. I have found certain practices that work for me such as gratitude, ho’oponopono, Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success (particularly the law of intention), the Power of Now, tithing and meditation. I release the need to feel that I have to practice them and I practice them if and when I want to. I find that I want to practice them most days and I can see and feel the results in my life.

Learning to love myself in 2012

My intention for 2012 is learn to love and care about myself. My first step is to stop eating crap and start eating healthily by increasing my intake of raw fruit and vegetables and decreasing my intake of white flour, sugar and meat.
On the menu today:

Breakfast
Tea with milk
Oatibix oat flakes
Alpro soya yoghurt
Pumpkin seeds
Melon

Snack
Decaffeinated coffee
Banana

Lunch
Scrambled Egg
Seeded wholemeal Toast
Baked Beans
Redbush tea

Snack
Learning to Love Myself Sugar Free Chocolate Truffles

Dinner
Learning to Love Myself Cheese and Vegetable Bake

Reflections on the day
I felt a bit low earlier as I was lonely and worried about finding work and how I will manage financially, so I prayed and thought about what could help me feel better. I repeated the Ho’oponopono prayer a few times and said a gratitude prayer, as I know they have helped me before. To be honest, I didn’t expect them to help but I soon felt much better and felt motivated to cook a healthy dinner.
Gratitude Prayer – Every day I make it a habit to pray and give thanks for all the fantastic things in my life. This enables me to focus on the good, rather than the negative. This raises my vibration and attracts abundance into my life.
My breakfast cereal (oatibix oatflakes) contains sugar as does Alpro Soya yoghurt, so I intend to replace these with a sugar free alternative.
I could have eaten more raw fruit and vegetables by replacing the truffles with fruit, such as clementines, and saving the truffles as an end of day treat. I could also have had a salad with my dinner and drunk a lot more water.
No food is forbidden. It is my experience that as soon as I food is forbidden I eat it like there’s no tomorrow. 😀
My intentions for the rest of the day and tomorrow are:
1) To watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – part one
2) To watch some comedy. I believe that watching comedy is a good way to raise your vibration
3) To meditate for 30 minutes before I go to bed
4) To play something uplifting and positive as I go to sleep, so that it permeates my unconscious mind
5) To wake up and practice yoga and meditation
6) To practice the Ho’oponopono prayer, gratitude prayer and read my intentions list
7) To go for a walk in nature
8) To update this blog
9) To find case studies for my life coaching qualification

And so it is. And so it shall be.