Evolving

It is fast approaching the end of 2016, and so much has changed in my life! I have a beautiful little boy called Thomas who is almost 18 months old already. It’s true – he has been the birth of all the changes and while I do miss my previous life, this new, evolved life is incredible.

Becoming a mother has been the most challenging thing in my life. It requires surrendering the person you think you are before baby, and, in my opinion, choosing to become the person your child wills you to be.

I have struggled. I have really struggled to be patient, to be kind, and to be mindful!  As a Mindfulness facilitator and coach, as well as Yoga teacher I feel a huge responsibility to ‘live my practice’.  It is so important to me to be kind and patient. So when I find myself lashing out at my (ever supportive and loving) husband Matt; or feeling so full of rage when Thomas is fighting to go to sleep, the guilt sets in.

In Buddhism they speak of the second arrow. That feeling that comes out of a feeling. In mindfulness we use the acronym HIFAWIF to investigate this. How do I Feel About What I’m Feeling. When I ask myself this – GUILT is the answer. And then I repeat using Guilt and the answer is RAGE. And I repeat AGAIN and the answer is GUILT! Stuck in a washing machine.

So to break down my own feelings:
Primary feeling: Anger directed at husband or child
HIFAWIF – Guilt
HIFAWIF – rage
HIFAWIF – guilt
HIFAWIF – more rage!
And as I continue in this way something incredible is revealed.  That rage becomes fear, and it’s a fear of failure. It’s a fear of not being good enough. Not doing justice to my family.

The reality is that we cannot be perfect all the time. Some days are better than others.  When I found myself having more bad days than good I opted to seek medical help and chose to use anti-depressants for a period. You can read more about this in up-coming posts.

One thing my exploration with Mindfulness has taught me is to remember to be kind to MYSELF.  Learning to acknowledge and allow the feelings with which I struggle (rage, guilt, fear) to be felt is, for me, the first step.

And so it is that we begin to evolve in our practice of life – one step a time.

New Beginings

I have been very busy over the last year and a half watching and learning from my new biggest teacher – my son Thomas.

I am slowly catching my breath.  This blog is to offer insights through my own experience of Mindfulness, Yoga, parenting and adventuring.  I plan to write at least every week and look forward to hearing your honest comments and even your own insights and experiences.

I will also be sharing my up-coming retreats and courses here – so watch this space!

Lizard, Ape, Dog

Our three brains!

As some of you will know I was recently at the Budhhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo on a five day retreat with Rob Nairn and Lucy Draper-Clarke. The retreat was titled “Taming the Wayward Mind” and focused on Mindfulness training, Compassion and Insight training.  You may wonder why use the term ‘training’? Imagine your mind is a muscle. It has become set in it’s usual habits, maybe a little sluggish and over fed. The training we do on retreat or in meditation (and yes even in Yoga) is like taking your mind to the gym and giving it green juice every morning instead of coffee. Offering it a new, alternative way of being so that it can perhaps start creating NEW habits that are healthier and lead to less suffering.

One of the Compassion sessions we had with Lucy explored our three brains corresponding with three ’emotional’ systems. I found it really useful to start to understand these in relation to the thoughts and feelings that often arise during meditation (and even when I’m stuck in traffic or involved in an argument).

Threat, Drive, Soothing

If you believe in evolution you will recognise that we still have part of our reptilian selves embedded in our brains. Surrounding this is a more mammalian brain in the limbic region and then towards the neo-cortex region is our primate brain. No – I’m not suggesting we have 3 separate brains and are all aliens! We have different regions within our brains that have evolved for different functions and have lead us to the magnificent creatures we are today! 

We can correlate these three different areas of our brains with three emotional regulation systems. Namely: Threat – Reptilian; Drive – Primate/Neocortex; Soothing – Mammalian/Limbic.

In our Western world we tend to focus more on training the Drive (Primate) and Threat (Reptilian) systems due to circumstance and often social pressures. This leaves our mammalian brains under-developed and our Soothing system unfamiliar.

So how do we start to balance things out? Both our threat and drive systems are essential to our way of life and we can’t just shut them down.  The way to balance things out is to nurture your Soothing system. Find ways that help you feel more grounded, contented and cared for.

Yoga, for example, is well known for producing Oxytocin in the body – the hormone related to our soothing system.  Going for walks on the beach with bare-feet, gardening, sitting quietly somewhere and enjoying a warm cup of tea – all these types of activities help to improve and strengthen our Soothing systems.

It’s important though to understand that smashing a bag of biscuits in your face is NOT part of this soothing system (I’m speaking from experience here…). It’s activities which are healthy, caring and kind to our bodies and minds which strengthen this system.

For further reading and info:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triune_brain
http://www.threes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2472:humans-have-three-brains&catid=70:science&Itemid=52
http://www.danroberts.com/compassion-and-mental-wellbeing