The way we think and feel moment by moment has a huge influence over the results we experience. Use this simple, easy to remember strategy to keep feeling at your best when you need it most.

superman

I am very excited to bring you the first in a brand new video series: “The Life Happens Little Lessons”. These are short, snappy personal growth and development tips and insights to keep you firmly on the path of success and happiness.

In today’s video I’ll share with you a simply and easy to apply strategy to get you back into a resourceful frame of mind for those times when life wants to see what you’re made of! We all face daily challenges; its what we do about them that ultimately determines our results.

Warm wishes,

signature

Share the love! If you’ve enjoyed this post please tweet it, like it and / or leave a comment below. Thank you

Radio-microphone-440x360It was recently interviewed on Shoreditch radio by a good friend, Edward Nelson, about my journey into the personal growth world and, more specifically, what it has taught me about living a purpose centred life.

I was honoured to have been asked to be a guest and it was an experience that I enjoyed immensely. This was my first radio interview and I was a little nervous, but delighted to get to talk about my story and the impact it has had on my life and work.

So this edition of Life Happens LIVE is a departure from the normal format. It is simply a conversation in which you will learn:

  • What diamonds, horse manure and nail polish have to do with the way we experience life
  • Why your inner wisdom is like a faint flute playing against the din of a big brass band
  • How to cultivate a space for listening to your authentic self
  • Why you are already an enlightened being
  • Why it took a personal crisis for me to embark on my own journey of self discovery

I would love to hear your comments, questions and feedback on the interview. If any of the topics we covered resonate with you, please drop a line in the comments section below.

“Do not confuse peace of mind with spaced-out insensitivity. A truly peaceful mind is very sensitive, very aware.” – Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama)

peace of mind

We all want peace of mind. But how do you cultivate peace of mind in midst of a hectic day? In this post I’ll give you some strategies for remaining calm and centred, even when the world around you seems to be in a spin.

The busier and more chaotic our lives get the more likely we are to let our unconscious mind do all our thinking for us. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that we will experience an ‘outside-in’ version of the world, i.e. we mistakenly believe that it is what is happening to us on the outside that is responsible for how we feel on the inside.

When life is hectic and it feels as though we have a million things to do it can genuinely feel as though the world is racing and that we have our work cut out to keep up with it. Of course the truth is that the world is going at exactly the same speed it has always been traveling at. The only variable that changes from moment to moment is the quality and speed at which we rattle through our thoughts, giving us the perception that we are living in either fast time or slow time.

Have you ever been on a train that is sat stationary at the platform and felt as though you were already moving because the train next to you started to pull away? Well, that is how we often experience our thinking. The reality is that we are just human beings having thoughts in a relatively still world, but those thoughts can create the illusion that we are being swept away in the fast moving current of our busy lives.

So, one of the things I will often recommend to clients is that they build moments of peacefulness into their routine. There are two reasons for this. The first is that there are undeniable benefits to health and wellbeing that accompany the act of deliberate relaxation, particularly if their busy lives feel stressful to them. The second is that by taking time to enjoy a moment of peace, it becomes a lot easier to see the link between thought and feeling, which inevitably creates a doorway to a deeper and wiser level of understanding.

We might think that in order to keep on top of our immense ‘to do’ list we have to throw all of our focus and energy into keeping those plates spinning, but often the effect of that is just to become overwhelmed and less resourceful. The feeling of overwhelm is not so much caused by the length of your ‘to do’ list or the number of spinning plates you have on the go, but by what you are afraid it might mean if you don’t keep up.

That fear is just a thought that feels real.

That is not to say that whether you complete your tasks or not doesn’t have consequences, but by definition, at this moment in time, those consequences are only imagined possible outcomes that have not taken place in reality. The fact is we can never know ahead of time how anything will really pan out, so all we can do is bring our best selves to the table to give ourselves the greatest chances of success. But it is hard to be our best, most resourceful selves all the time we are held captive to the imagined pressure of our own busyness.

A great antidote to the stress of hectic living is to practice a regular relaxation routine, such as meditation or guided visualisation. However, I know the reason many busy people do not indulge in these kinds of activities, even though they would love to, is the belief that it requires an investment of yet more of their time and energy. They are likely to say:

“Meditation! Seriously? Have you seen my life? Just when do you think I’m going to get the time to meditate. Nice idea, but dream on!”

So, to make the benefits mediation more accessible to exceptionally busy people I’d like to make a distinction between the act of meditation and the meditative state.

The act of meditation does require you to take a few moments out of your day, to sit quietly and remain peacefully still, just breathing and connecting to a higher level of consciousness. Over time and with practice your ability to let go of your stressful thoughts and to just experience the present moment becomes easier and more effortless. This alone is a wonderful way to refresh your senses and gain a renewed healthy perspective on your current situation. The paradox is that by investing the time into de-stressing and reconnecting to your innate wellbeing you actually become far more resourceful and are able to operate more efficiently in the time you have remaining. In other words, you will get more done in less time to a higher standard.

I’m reminded of a quote. I don’t remember it verbatim or who it is attributed to (possibly Gandhi), but it goes:

“I have such a lot to accomplish today I’m going to have to meditate for twice as long.”

It is important to remember, though, that the purpose of meditating is not simply to engage in the ACT of meditation; it is to experience the meditative state. We all naturally fluctuated in our levels of awareness throughout the day and the meditative state is just a heightened level of awareness that you can access any place, anytime, anywhere; even smack bang in the middle of your busy day. It is not necessary for you to adopt the lotus position and you certainly don’t have to hum!

If you can take 20 to 30 minutes each day to sit and meditate or be guided through a relaxing visualisation (sign up for the free ecourse for audio to help you do this) then I would absolutely recommend that you do that, but if you can’t, or simply don’t want to, then you can still experience the benefits of the meditative state while you go about your daily activities. All you need to do is draw your awareness to your senses and to become mindful of whatever it is you happen to be doing at the time; to just get really present.

There are a couple of strategies that I want to share with you to help you have greater peace of mind in the midst of a chaotic schedule.

1. Mindfulness

The best way I can describe mindfulness is that it is what happens when all of your senses get really curious about what you are doing.

So let’s say that you are typing at your computer. The first step would be to pause and to take a slow deep breath, clear you head and let your body release any tension it may have a been feeling. Then, you would start to become aware of what you are aware ofl with each of your senses, such as the weight of your body pressing down into the chair, the feel of your clothes on your skin, the temperature of the air, your fingertips on the keyboard, everything you can see in your primary and peripheral vision, all of the sounds you can hear, both obvious and subtle…

The more you simply notice and experience whatever happens to be in your sensory reality, in that moment, the more grounded in the present you will become. It is fascinating that any feelings of stress or anxiety are likely to naturally dissipate as the frame of mind that was keeping them alive gives way to the peace of the Now. It is also amazing how much more ‘task focus’ you are able to bring as you resume your work with a clear head and comfortable body.

2. ‘The Only Thing in the World’

Once you are more centred and grounded in the present, the second strategy is one that I call ‘The only thing in the world’. The premise of this is that you set yourself the intention that whatever it is you are about to do, you are going to do it like it really, REALLY matters and that it is the only thing in the world that needs your attention in that very moment.

So again, if you are typing, you would continue to be quietly mindful of your sensory experience whilst allowing your creative mind to effortlessly focus on the best, most appropriate words to type in order to convey your message perfectly. In that moment nobody wants anything, nobody expects anything from you and there is nothing whatsoever for you do except to type like it really matters.

If the thought of focusing on just one task to the exclusion of every other task that has also made it to number one on your priority list freaks you out, then it is good to remind yourself that no matter what happens you can only physically do one thing at a time anyway. As soon as you’re done with whatever is front you, the next thing you turn to will become the only thing in the world that needs your attention. The key is to just continue being mindful of the present moment.

If you think you will need a bit of practice trying out these strategies, a fun time to do it is when you are washing up. The next time you are about to do the dishes take a deep breath, relax your body and get present with all of your senses. Then meticulously clean each of those dishes like it is the most important thing in the world. I also suspect that your unconscious will accept this as a beautiful metaphor for cleansing the mind.
——————————————————————————–
HOMEWORK
——————————————————————————–

Think about your schedule for the next week decide ahead of time where and when you will have the intention of being mindful and present as you go about your work.

As you experiment with these strategies, please do come and tell me what your observations have been at the Life Happens Facebook page.
Take great care. Namaste.

signature

“Don’t let a mad world tell you that success is anything other than a successful present moment.” – Eckhart Tolle

beginningWhen I moved to London several years ago I didn’t really know the place at all. I’d visited a few times with my family for the odd touristy day out but still didn’t know my way around. So when it came to living and working here I knew I had quite a bit of learning to do.

I remember one day arriving at Waterloo Station wondering how to get to Aldermanbury, where I was due to start a new job. I had a vague idea but wasn’t sure about the quickest or most effective means of getting there. So I did what I thought was quite a sensible thing to do (particularly for a man). I asked someone! I approached a smart-suited, professional looking chap in the belief that he was probably a city worker and therefore bound to be able to help.

“Excuse me,” I said, “I’m not from around here. Please can you tell me the best or quickest way to get to Aldermanbury?”

He looked thoughtfully up into the air and pondered for what seemed like an age, and then replied, “Well to be honest with you, I wouldn’t start from here”.

“Thanks,” I thought, “what a rubbish piece of advice!”

The reason that little encounter has always stuck with me is because I think it’s a perfect metaphor for how many people go about trying to achieve a better life for themselves. They may have an idea of where it is they want to get to, but find it hard to take a step in the right direction because they resist the notion of having to start from where they are.

I’ve come to realise over the years that people can only experience dissatisfaction with their life when they believe that their situation should be different to how it actually is. I’ve noticed it with just about every client I’ve ever work with and I’ve certainly experienced it multiple times in my own life. Whilst I’ve helped a ton people work through an array of diverse and unique issues, the conversation that takes place time and time again is the one that invites us to accept reality just the way it is right now, before figuring out what to do next.

What we call ‘the stress of life’ rarely has anything to do with what’s actually going on, and has everything do with our thoughts and interpretations of what’s going on. As Human Beings we don’t ever get to experience the ‘real world’, we only get to experience our own thinking.

If we are unhappy with where we are right now, the cause of the feeling will be rooted in the thought that there is some other place we’d rather be. Or, if we are feeling stuck, that can only be due to the thought that there is a direction we are supposed to be heading in, otherwise there would be no reason to be unstuck.

When we contrast this with the way human experience really works, the only place we can ever get to is right here, right now. Thinking that we are supposed to be anywhere other than right here, right now can literally drive us bonkers.

The most stressful strategy we can adopt for motivating ourselves to change our situation (and don’t worry if you’ve been doing this, most of us have at one time or another) is to direct our emotional energy toward hating the way things are. We convince ourselves that if we can just muster up a strong enough loathing for our current landscape then we will be compelled to take massive action and finally break free from everything that has been holding us back.

There are a few reasons why this is a crappy way of doing things. Not least that it seldom works!
How many times have you heard people complain about how bad some aspect of their life is and yet months, if not years, later absolutely nothing has changed? Over time they just got used to feeling bad; they habituated into their negativity, which not only set them on a path of blaming and complaining, it also shut them off to the kind of inspired thinking they would have needed to turn their ‘right here, right now’ into something better.

In my experience there are three kinds of thought that can cause us to feel dissatisfied with where we are at:

1 – Thoughts about expectation

2 – Thoughts about purpose

3 – Thoughts along the lines of, “Anything would be better than this”

Thoughts about expectation are where we cast judgement on ourselves for how we are currently doing compared to a story we’ve been sold. All of our lives we’ve had the bar set for us by our parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, advertisers, glossy mags, even OURSELVES, with regards to the standards and accomplishments we should have reached by this point in our lives. It is where we measure the distance between who we think we are versus who think we should be and then allow the size of the gap (or chasm in some cases) to proportionately dictate how anxious we should be feeling.

Thoughts about purpose are when we get the idea into our heads that we are wasting our lives by not doing the things we would rather be doing to make a positive difference in the world and to make our lives count. It is where we feel that our circumstances and outside influences are preventing us from living our ‘true north’, leaving us stewing in frustration and resentment. The most common reason why this becomes a lingering issue for people is that they make ‘living their purpose’ dependant on a specific set of criteria having to be met.

If you ever wanted to feel really frustrated with your life then I absolutely recommend setting it up in such a way that you cannot be truly happy until you have enough money, energy, creativity, opportunity, support or freedom to do live it out in the specific way you’ve always imagined.

Thoughts that resemble “Anything would be better than this” are what crop up we are not connected to a purpose or direction and have no idea what it is that we want. What we do know, though, is that we’re not having fun right now and attribute that to whatever is happening on the outside. “I’m not happy and, although I’m not entirely sure why that is, it must have something to do with my job, or my boss, or my partner, or my location, so I want to change it all. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to change it to; I just know I’ll be happier when it’s different”. The phrase that springs to mind here is – It doesn’t matter where you go, there you’ll be.

Whenever we think these kinds of thoughts we feel stress. But the only stressful element to it is the thought itself. If nothing changed in our situation other than we were suddenly unable to think those kinds of thoughts, we would simply be people living the lives we’ve got. No comparison, no judgement, no stress.

What I know won’t work is to ask to you not to think those thoughts. As far as I can tell you don’t control that (at least not without years of meditative training); it’s just what the mind does. The smartest and kindest thing you can do to move towards the life you want, is to start by accepting and valuing your currently reality exactly the way it is. Right here, right now is the only place you’ll ever need to get to.

The starting point for any journey will never not be where you already are. As we travel through life we learn that no matter how far we get, we never leave the present. We never leave and yet we are constantly arriving.
To live with the thought that your life is not supposed to be exactly the way it is right now is to be disconnected from the most integral part of the route map of your journey; the beginning.

How do I know you are exactly where you are supposed to be? Because you’re not anywhere else.

So what is the stress-free formula for turning ‘right here, right now’ into a place you would love to hang out? Let’s take a look as I explain your homework for this session.

 

——————————————————————————–
HOMEWORK
——————————————————————————–

There is a big difference between how you show up in the world when you are trying to prove the circumstances of your life are holding you back and how you show up when you are coming from a place of inspired service. Service in this context simply means giving your best self to the world in this very moment.

There are three ingredients that help things along nicely:

1- Knowledge of how you would like to feel if ‘right here, right now’ were already the happy place you want it to be.

2- An understanding of how you would think and behave differently with that feeling as your guide. How would you treat yourself and how would you interact with others.

3- Patience.

I invite you to take each of these ingredients and add them into the mix of your life straight away.

The instant you “assume the feeling of the wish fulfilled” and operate from that space, the present moment has a habit of transforming in the most wonderful ways.

Initially you’ll notice that nothing has changed and yet everything is different. Over time, with patience, you’ll realise that not only can you peacefully go after whatever it is you want to create in your life, but you can also stay happy, regardless of how the scenery changes along the way.
Take great care. Namaste.

signature

“Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be.” – Eckhart Tolle

nowWhat do you think of when you think about your future? And when you do think about it, which I’m sure you do from time to time, how you feel? Do you feel happy, excited, and joyous? Or do you feel uninspired, a bit nervous, or even scared?

The reason I ask is because, to an overwhelming degree, it has been my experience that when people don’t feel good about their future the reason for that is two fold. 1) They reflect on their negative memories and feelings from the past and anticipate that it is those memories and feelings that will determine the quality of their experience in the future, and 2) They then create uninspiring or scary pictures in their mind’s eye of just how bad they think the future is going to be for them.

On the other hand when people do feel good about their life ahead that also comes down to two factors. They create compelling movies in their mind of them experiencing their lives in ways that fill them with joy and, more importantly, they are genuinely bought into the realisation that the past does not equal the future.

I’ve yet to meet a living soul who hasn’t had to encounter painful events in their life, or had to overcome difficulties, or deal with the frustration of things not turning out the way they had hoped. I’m convinced that if you were to walk up to any stranger in the street and say to them “I’m really sorry to hear about your problems”, they’d look at you with an amazed expression and say “How did you know?”

So if everybody’s history is littered with memories of the challenges they’ve faced, how is it that some get to anticipate their future more positively than others? It is because the way you feel about your future at any given moment has less to do with what you’ve actually been through in the past and more to do with the quality of the thoughts you’re having in the present about what the past and future means to you.

I have met with and coached many people who have been frightened about what they think their future had in store for them, and in every case the starting point for turning it all around has been one remarkably simple realisation.

People are never scared of what they think they are scared of, they are only scared of what they think.

Here’s why. The relationship between reality (the one that actually happens) and the reality that we make-up in our minds has been one that has confused us since the moment our brains became evolved enough to ponder such meaty topic as the past and future. Somewhere along the line we got it into our heads that the act of thinking a thought makes it true. That’s why when you imagine yourself suffering in the future, say, failing at important tasks, being unhappy in your career, or not achieving what you want out of life, you start to get an uneasy feeling right away. The nervous system takes what ever you think about – past, present or future – and acts on it as if it’s a factual event taking place right now. Of course the problem with this is that most people tend not to challenge the things they feel to be fact, so left unchecked those thoughts get free reign of the imagination and monopolise they way you feel about life.

In those moments when you think about the future it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it has already been determined in accordance with the kind of thoughts you are having about it. But the future doesn’t exist, it never has. All you have is this very moment, now. The future can never arrive because it is not coming from anywhere. What you think of as the future is just a clear empty space into which the Now can evolve, and that empty space is pure potentiality. So the question is not, “What do I want to have happen in the future?” it’s, “What do I want this very moment to evolve into?” and “How do I want it to keep evolving so that this very moment is the best kind of moment I could hope to experience?”.

I’m guessing you’ve already noticed this in your own life, that it is so much easier to make decisions and take action at the times when you can actually be there to make a decision or take some action. It’s always in the present moment. So often we spend time evaluating decisions from the past or anticipating decisions we might need to make in the future, but when it all comes down to it, it only ever happened, or will happen, in the Now. As Erkart Tolle said, “Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be.”

So, if you ever get a bad feeling about the future and you then realise that the future doesn’t actually exist, that just leaves you as a person quietly thinking a thought in the present moment – Nothing more, nothing less. Every thought you’ve ever had took place in the present moment, and a thought, in and of itself, is absolutely harmless. It’s only when you breathe life into it by responding as if it represents actual reality that it can have the potential to cause you suffering.

After a while most people are able to see, or at least understand the idea that the future is not what we usually think of it as being in our heads. After all, intellectually we know that the future hasn’t happened yet, so how could we possibly know how things are really going to turn out? What can be more of a mind bender though is the idea that the past doesn’t exist either. That one really catches people out! “But surely the past must exist, we’ve been through it haven’t we? We’ve had the physical experience of it and can remember it clearly.” That may be true, but when all of those things in ‘the past’ happened, when did they actually take place? In the present moment. There has been no disconnect between that present moment and the one you are experiencing right now. You didn’t leave it behind, you brought it with you!

Right now you may be thinking that I’ve lost the plot, or you might even be wondering, “So what? Why is this significant?” Well the reason that it is significant is because when we believe that our past still somehow exists, it also encourages us to believe that all the hurt and pain we’ve experienced also still exists, but is out of our reach; crystallized in time gone by. If we think that pain still exists in the past but we can’t reach it, then we become more inclined to feel held ransom to it effects.

But even when you think about the past and get that realistic sense that its echo lingers on and that it is following you around, that isn’t the past. That is just a process of thought that is taking place in the present moment. It is nothing more than electricity jumping between neurons in your brain, in the Now. It’s not the past that hurts; it is what you do in the present moment to make a mental reconstruction of old painful experiences that allows the same old feelings to stay with you.

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t think that we have a past or a future, just that we need be clear that the past and future are just concepts that can only exist when we think about them in the present moment. When you live in the knowledge that everything you’ll get to experience in your entire lifetime happens in the continuation of the now, that’s when you can make some real quality decisions about what you want you life to be about. Not later, right here in this very moment.

One of my all time heroes Byron Katie said “Isn’t the past kind? It’s always over.” What she meant by that is the very instant an event takes place it’s already gone, and can only live on as a memory trace in the mind. So if someone was to come and slap me around the face, while that’s not one of my favourite experiences, almost immediately it’s over. Sure, I’ll make an instant creation of it in my mind and replay it like its happening again and again; I may even take some further action, but the point is that what ever I do or feel next is only related to my thoughts in the present moment about what I remember taking place. It’s not what happened to me that determines the quality of how I feel, but what I do with it inside. Which brings me onto one of the most important lessons I believe anyone can learn if they are seeking true happiness and peace in their life.

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional – but you have to provide that yourself.

We all have to go through painful events – that’s just part of life. We fall on hard times, we lose people close to us, we get betrayed, and we find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the pain that is associated with those events needs to be dealt in what ever way is appropriate, because it creates change for us. The way we clear a space for ourselves to adapt to the change is to feel things like sadness, anger, disappointment, frustration… but those emotions are only designed to be temporary states that serve their purpose. Once we’ve processed those raw emotions, then we can re-stabilise and get on with the rest of our lives. The reason suffering is optional is because it requires you to have to build a bigger story about why everything is so terrible and to imagine wider unpleasant consequences. The lingering emotions are no longer to do with the actual events themselves, but a response to the quality of thoughts you’ve added into the mix yourself to spice things up a bit.

I remember about six months after my mum died I was feeling pretty sorry for myself about all the things that I’d lose out on because she isn’t around anymore. My kids would never get to know their Grandmother, she won’t see me getting married, Christmas will never be the same again, etc… But I realised that the major cause of my bad feeling at that time wasn’t that my mum had died, but that I was allowing myself to create unpleasant life like scenarios in my imagination that gave me compelling reasons for why it was necessary to be even more upset. When I was willing let go of my suffering and the story about what it all meant, that just left me with the sadness that she is gone. The sadness I could do something with; it allowed me just to grieve, which is all I really needed to do.

The wonderful thing about knowing that your life only ever happens in the present moment is that it opens you up to this perpetual opportunity of choosing how you want to feel. Regardless of what you’ve thought about your past or future up until now, the only questions you need to answer are “So how do I want to be feeling about my life right now?” and “What would I love to do next?”


Homework


So that’s your homework for today. If the past is gone and the future is just a clear open space of pure potentiality, what do you need to be doing or planning for in this very moment to make Now evolve into something amazing?

And I’ll leave you with this quote from the French writer Antoine de Saint Exupéry:

“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it”


Take great care. Namaste.

signature