Mindfulness and Thoughts

By Helen Williams and Kristine Enger

As you know, Mindful ME consultants focus on mindfulness as an approach to truly living with meaningful, authentic, present moment awareness.  This means learning to notice and practice awareness of our thoughts rather than being controlled or lost by them.

Recently Helen and Kristine sat down to chat about how this approach enhances wellbeing and changes our experience of fear and anxiety within our daily lives.

HELEN: I’ve noticed a sharp increase in people wanting to engage in conversations about mindfulness and particularly in relation to the way we experience our thoughts.  How have you experienced this in your work lately and why do you think we are noticing this growing awareness towards mindfulness?

KRISTINE: Yes – I’ve noticed it too – I’m having more and more conversations where people are becoming more aware of their thinking, which indicates an expansion of awareness. When our awareness expands, we start to see and experience life from a more elevated perspective, with more depth of feeling. The more aware we become, we also begin to notice how often we are stuck in unhelpful, repetitive thought patterns, which we then want to end, preferably immediately! That usually begins a conversation around non-judgement and self-acceptance.

HELEN:

Yes, I agree. So many people look for ways of dealing with their unhelpful, repetitive thinking patterns and discover that practicing mindfulness is a wonderful way of working with this in a loving and safe way. The difficult thoughts that we start to notice can sometimes be a bit daunting and it can be helpful to chat with an experienced practitioner about them.

KRISTINE:

Yes, having support while exploring our relationships with thoughts is so helpful – otherwise it can be easy to fall into self-shaming and anxiety around try to “get rid of them”. I usually gently help my clients see that thinking is beyond our control. Thinking will forever be the backdrop of our lives, constantly streaming through us. There is literally no escape from thought, because there is not supposed to be – and that is ok! Judging ourselves for the pesky thoughts that we might have, makes no sense. It is more helpful to remember that the majority of the thoughts we think in a single day are actually not true, and not become so attached to them.

HELEN:

Yes – I guess the question is then – what are thoughts and why do we have them?

KRISTINE:

Thoughts are just unrealised, completely neutral, potential. Not “good” or “bad”. When we give energy to them, over and over again, and they swirl around in our heads, trapped. As human beings we don’t understand how our thinking mind works. One teacher called thinking ‘the missing link’ between formless and form. It would be helpful for us as humans to redefine our relationship to thought as a creative, streaming, helpful force, at least be open to the possibility. Then, with clarity and space, we can choose our relationship with them. Again this is where talking with someone who understands this can really help – and why it is so important that this is done in a safe, honest and kind way.

Kristine and Helen are both mindfulness teachers and consultants, based in Dubai, who support individuals learning and applying mindfulness practice in their lives. You can book an individual session with Kristine or Helen by emailing info@mindfulme.me to learn more about your thinking mind or attend one of our workshops. Contact us for more info. 

On Breathing

by Kristine Enger

Most of us take our breath for granted. In fact, we don’t pay too much attention to our breathing at all. Our breath is of no real concern, we breathe and that’s it.

As children, we played games trying to hold our breaths to see what would happen next, before the life force energy, seemingly all by itself, would draw the next breath on our behalf, overriding our best efforts.

Or as we explore, for a minute or two, a different universe underwater, before we rise to the surface and triumphantly, with what seems like a roar, fill our lungs with life again. How sweet the breath feels in that moment!

As humans, we endlessly search. We even travel to faraway lands, seek out gurus and teachers; for meaning, for answers, for our purpose, for the Divine.

As we breathe, could what we seek be hidden within the energy of the breath of life? The breath is, after all, how our human life began and how it eventually one day will end.

To connect to our breathing through focused attention can come off to a shaky start. Staccato at best, making strange sounds, feeling stuck in places. Alien and bizarre. We can even get panicky with such attention to our breath. Why is it that what gives us life feels so strange and unfamiliar?

Through practice, as our breath begins to soften, becoming clearer and less restricted, we can become aware that we are breathing in not just life, but also inspiration, ideas, forming insights about our burning questions. Connecting to our innermost wisdom, as our breath flows evermore sweetly, peaceful and loving. It can even feel as if we are drawing in creation itself, as it moves through us.  In and out, in and out.

We breathe creation, creation breathes us, as the breath intelligently, safely takes us from moment to moment, creating each moment anew. Becoming one with the breath, we have a say in how the next moment unfolds. What our response will be. We can connect, direct and create life in this way. Moment by moment. Breath by breath.

 

On Anxiety

by Kristine Enger

Do you remember that naughty cousin you had growing up, who came to stay for the summer holidays and who teased and tormented you endlessly? Who did his very best to trip you up and scare the living daylights out of you, and when he eventually left you breathed a sigh of relief? Let us for now call him Anxiety. He randomly and unannounced turns up in our lives by breaking down the front door to our carefully arranged lives, upsetting us, and leaving us with a dry mouth, thundering heart, shaky legs or worse. Desperate for relief, we long for normalcy. Will the naughty cousin slip away if we refuse to feed him and give him shelter? Plainly ignore him?

We then start looking for ways to get rid of Anxiety. Then a thought comes to mind; isn’t anxiety really ‘just life’ as our grandmothers told us? A circumstance to be endured? We hope (bank on even) that her ‘this too shall pass’ magic formula will work this time, as we somehow scramble on in mental and physical anguish, our central nervous system in over-drive.

Another thought: is anxiety really such a bad thing?  Doesn’t it sharpen our senses, we reason, keeping us on high alert as we pull off that presentation flawlessly, nail the interview, or give a performance of a lifetime?

Someone might tell us that we bring ourselves into this state of fragility because we need to literally shake things up in our life. That it is an opportunity to choose a different path, to stop and pause to figure out what it is that is lurking away just under the surface. Could it be that the avoidance tactics will keep us in a state of anxiety until we stop to have a look?

Perhaps it is a calling from our soul to stop resisting, to stop judging and accept life as it presents in this moment? Didn’t some wise person tell us that this is where we will find peace?

Could a state of anxiety be the moment before, between the old and the new?That excited nervous anticipation of ‘maybe this time’?

Could it be all of the above?

As we grow and become more aware, we may start to realise that it is not something outside of ourselves, for instance, a family member, a partner, a circumstance or life itself that makes us feel a certain way, but in fact, our thinking about the person or event. Some would go as far as to say that we are indeed living in the feeling of our own thinking. Anxious feelings equal anxious thoughts and anxious thoughts equal anxious feelings.

There is a saying: “it’s all in your head”, or “you live in your head”. Are we the ones scaring the living daylights out of ourselves through our thinking? Can the anxious turmoil simply be attributed to habitual thinking that appears real to us in its manifestation?

Could it be us – and not the world?

 

If you would like to book a private session to speak with Kristine about anxiety or to learn about mindfulness contact us here.

The Simplicity of Mindfulness Practice

By Helen Williams

Mindfulness helps us to pay attention to our thoughts, to the impulses that come from them.

In our daily lives we are learning to notice what our thoughts are creating. For example, when we become aware that our work is difficult we can notice our thinking becomes “I’m going to stop now because this is too hard” and if we just observe that thought is becomes, “Oh my thinking is pushing me to stop what I’m doing because it’s hard”.  We don’t have to obey the impulse to stop working. We can simply notice that is what our thinking is doing, take some steady mindful breaths and quietly, with awareness, make a choice about following the impulse, or not.

A few moments of focussed quiet awareness can be all it takes for us to choose to continue to push through, mastering a difficult moment instead of giving in to it.

It’s like learning to disobey ourselves!! It’s such a simple act of clarity, insight and freedom! Have you ever stopped to see it like that? You are not your thoughts.  You don’t have to obey the voice of self-sabotage, of taking the easy way out.  Instead, harness the power of inner awareness and disobey your thoughts!

Wonderful outcomes can occur from the simplicity of this insight.

Snorkeling and Mindfulness of Thoughts

by Cindy Stocken

The water is warm and clear. As I float in the rhythmic Omani waves I breath slowly and deliberately through the snorkel. The fish flitter around me as the light shines through the water creating patterns on the rocks. This is a moment of peace. There are so many fish here. I could see a few from above but when I dip my head below the movement of life astounds me. Life of all shapes, colours and sizes swim, float and grow in the reef.

The current of the water creates a swell like breath – inhale and exhale. Fish and plants (and I) surrender to it and are moved by it. The fish themselves remind me of thoughts. This feels like a mindfulness meditation. Just instead of watching my thoughts without judgement, I am watching fish. Big, small, colourful, interesting, some that move in schools, and little boxy ones that look like they could puff up into balls of spikes when frightened (my thoughts do this often!). Really unusual fish have me enthralled for a little longer and I follow them a bit and then, as they duck beneath a rock or I find another fish, I return to the swell of the waves and breath. Much like thoughts.

I don’t know the names or even the species of the fish so my brain occupies itself by saying “blue one, stripey one, lots of small red ones, really big green one, black boxy one”. Even when it does recognise a fish it knows it doesn’t know enough to create a story and simply moves on. I watch with open curiosity as they eat, engage, and as they, just as curiously, approach and check out this large bug-eyed creature that I am. This is how a mindfulness of thoughts practice can look – just watching and observing without getting attached – just watching your thoughts swim and float. Feeling your emotions as the warm and cool currents. Seeing the core beliefs as the coral and rocks that your thoughts feed on and seek shelter in. Not trying to change anything but just witnessing. Knowing that this life and movement is always happening even when you are above the waterline and cannot see it.