The power of thoughts…..

You may consider a thought about something is nothing important. Something transitory and fleeting and in many ways, this is true. Thoughts are impermanent but their effects on our entire wellbeing can be quite extraordinary. The power a simple thought has can be found in our reaction to it.

When we begin to identify and react to our thoughts, we allow ourselves to become what we believe to be true. ‘I am positive. I am rubbish at this. I can do this. Nobody wants to be with me. I am worthwhile.’ The list goes on. How many thoughts do you have during the course of a day that you would say are useful and positive?

You can think about anything you like. You can choose what to believe, what to feel and what to say. You are in charge of how you react to yourself and the world around you. When you are aware of this, it becomes so much easier to see that there is a choice when it comes to how we feel. We can choose which thoughts to react to and those we ignore.

Emotions are a constructive tool we can use when it comes to changing how we feel. Instead of reacting to emotions without an awareness of why we are experiencing them, we can effectively learn to watch our negative thoughts without reacting to them.

A lot of stress and anxiety can be managed simply through becoming aware of our emotional ‘triggers’. Only you can know what they are. Is it a thought or a feeling? An event perhaps? It could be anything.

What you need to remember is that the thought or feeling itself is just what it is. Your reaction (or non reaction) to it is the key point that will either create a good or a bad day.

And we all want to have a good day. It is easier than you might think….

Just be aware of your thoughts and the choices you have…..:)

Feel good and be happy….

Developing Mindfulness and Staying Grounded

This is all about practice. Like everything else in life, it doesn’t always come easy but it does become easier with time. Mindfulness is a way of being. There are no set rules to becoming mindful and aware but you can begin this process by directing your attention towards simple things such as your breathing. This is probably the easiest way to ground yourself and ease yourself into a relaxed frame of mind.

We tend to lose our sense of grounding when we become emotionally stressed and by that stage, it is usually too late to act. It will be harder to come back to grounding if you do not train yourself to look for the warning signs – for instance, snapping at people without any real need to, feeling ‘worked up’ for no reason, having a knot in your stomach that stops you from eating, breathing too quickly (the body has gone into flight or fight mode as it is perceiving a threat of some kind is imminent) and racing thoughts which are usually very negative.

If we are very used to brooding and obsessing over problems, there will be a strong chance that we end up blowing things out of proportion. When we become lost in a maze of thoughts, there is something we can do to help alleviate the feelings of emotional discomfort. By focusing on the breath, we immediately divert attention from thoughts and thinking and into the body. As soon as you do this, you stop the endless cycle of repetitive thoughts. Aligning your attention with the breath is the only way to bring yourself to a centre of calmness.

You then become aware and mindful of the present moment. That is all you ever have to deal with and can deal with. Doing a thousand things at once is possible if you are very organised but if you have a thousand thoughts zooming around your mind creating varying degrees of emotional anxiety with no purpose or resolution, you experience levels of stress that you cannot deal with. Focusing on your breathing releases you from the prison of emotional anxiety and the thoughts that are related to them.

I would say that with practice, you can begin the process of becoming more mindful over time. You will have good days and bad days but the important thing to remember is that you are moving forward. It is a process that takes a lot of time and perseverance and sometimes you feel like it is pointless trying when you are having a difficult time.

Don’t let the bad times get you down! Everything you go through is an experience – it is how you learn from it and how you react to these changes that shape your future.

© Christina McDonald 2014.

Emotional Healing through Conscious Awareness.

If you have been on a ‘mental spin cycle’ as I would call it, you know exactly what I’m talking about when you cannot get your brain to switch off. Endless thoughts that carry on endlessly without ceasing. When life has become too difficult, when stress has taken over, it is very easy to lose perspective.

What I discovered years ago was that you can make this cycle stop simply by being aware of what is going through your mind. Through awareness, you stop identifying with these thoughts. You no longer lose yourself in the ‘drama’ as it were. They are just thoughts and they will only have a say if you let them.

Take a deep breath:

Focusing on your breathing is the best way to centre and ground yourself when you feel emotionally anxious. When you bring your attention to something as simple as your breathing, you are directing attention away from your mind and into your body, into the present moment. Within this moment, is where your attention should be.

Don’t react to negative thoughts:

Allow yourself to become aware of your thoughts, just allow them to be as they are. You may perhaps feel anxious within yourself but just let those feelings exist within you. They will subside eventually when you stop reacting to them. When you react to negative thoughts, you give them more sway and one negative thought leads to another and then another and so the cycle continues. You can stop it simply by being aware of what is going on in your mind.

Don’t over-analyse:

Brooding, obsessing and mulling over thoughts endlessly diverts your attention from what you should be doing and robs you of energy. When you do this repeatedly, you will feel incapable of focusing on anything else. Your work and your relationships will suffer needlessly in the end. Stop thinking for a while and just be.

Emotions are transitory:

Feelings and emotions change constantly. Like throwing a pebble into a lake, they are like ripples in consciousness. They are fleeting and if we react to them, we are reacting to a naturally impermanent state and making it into a permanent one instead. Watch emotions and feelings come and go as they always do but remember they are ephemeral…

© Christina McDonald 2014.

Living Consciously in a Stressful and Chaotic City Centre…

Living in today’s world means living in a way that requires us to be aware of not just ourselves but of other people’s feelings and needs. One of the problems that society is facing today is that nobody has time. Everybody is in a hurry and nobody can wait. The philosophy of ‘me, me me’ is consuming every aspect of being human. Yes, we are all busy and we all have problems, stresses and issues to deal with – who doesn’t? Is there anytime to live when we are all trying so desperately hard to survive?

When you learn to become self-aware, you realise that the world does not simply revolve around you. An awareness of how your thoughts, words and actions affect other people becomes second nature after a while. You begin living life from a different perspective which allows you to interact with the people around you consciously (with awareness). It isn’t as hard as it sounds. Just be considerate and understand that other people (yourself included) matter.

Living in a busy and stressful city centre, it is all too easy to see how the effects of stress can make people act angrily and irrationally. Emotion and tiredness takes over and logical reasoning flies out the window. Before you know it, you see people swearing, criticising others, beeping their horn as loudly as possibly at other car drivers, shouting at contractors for not doing their job properly…I’m sure there are many others instances you can think of. The joys of running in the rat race….

I would rather run in the human race. I don’t know what the difference between the two is sometimes. There is so much anger and hatred in society that it makes me question what motivates people to carry on like that. I am happy in myself but it saddens me to see so many people who are unhappy, stressed and miserable. Life is far too short to be anything but happy. I know it is not so simple sometimes but we can at least smile at others when we are having a bad day….it would be a start.

Friends and family are important, spending good quality time with the people we love is something that matters and none of us do it enough. Lets not forget that we should extend that love and care to the people who surround us. A moment in which we say ‘thank you’ to someone who holds a door open, a smile that brightens a stranger’s day, making cheerful small talk with the cashier in the shop…all these little things give people the incentive to keep going. There is nothing worse than feeling that nobody has the time to care and nothing that makes you despair more.

We can all make time if we really want to. It is the little things that make such a big difference in the end. Make sure the little things are a smile and not a frown….

© Christina McDonald 2014

The Natural World and the Responsibility of Freedom

The natural world is depicted as something that is outside of our own everyday reality and significance when it is anything but. As beautiful and wondrous as it is, we still are so unaware of the beauty that exists all around us in the natural world. We can learn all about it if we like. In books, from television, newspapers and magazines. That is not the same as experiencing it though.

Of course, information is everywhere. There is no fact we cannot find if we need it. The technological age has enabled us to acquire information at astounding rates. This is the age of communication. When it comes to individualism and following intuition however, I am sorry to say we are nowhere near where we should be. It is having a devastating impact on not just our own lives but on the natural world for the following reasons….

We are living in a utopia. A Garden of Eden. Things could not really be better. Planet earth is in our care while we have it and we have the freedom to do with it as we choose. Freedom. That is a word that invites a great deal of responsibility for our actions. We all want freedom but do we actually know what to do with the freedom we have been given in life?

Nobody has sat us down and said – ‘Hey guys, this is your planet. Take good care of it or else there will be consequences. There is no scolding parent chastising humanity to behave and to do the right thing. That kind of thing is left to our better judgement. We are more concerned about preserving our being in the afterlife rather than take care of the life we have in the here and now. Sound crazy? Just a little. The problem is – if we are not told what to do, will we actually do the right thing – or anything at all for that matter?

The one thing I have noticed as the years have gone by is that nobody can be bothered to do the right thing anymore. We always have to be told to act ethically and responsibly without actually feeling the need to do so ourselves. Is it always necessary to be told ‘clean this up, recycle, do this, do that?’ In our individual bid to do what we want (in other words, to have the freedom we want), would we actually ever do anything? Scary thought perhaps. If we didn’t have jobs, families and goals, would we just sit down on the sofa and watch constant reruns of ‘Everybody loves Raymond’ and eat junk food? Maybe, maybe not.

Where does interest come into all of this? It is normal to have interests and hobbies of course. The problem is – we all have to make money to survive. If your hobby doesn’t pay, you end up working in a job you don’t actually like or appreciate. Eventually, you can’t be bothered. You don’t do things right, you stop caring, you make mistakes…you just stop trying in the end. You aren’t doing what you feel you need to be doing so why bother?

Sound familiar? Perhaps the psychology of all this is very simple. If we don’t have the freedom to pursue our creative and intellectual needs, we end up stagnating. We become lazy. We stop growing. Money and the need to survive becomes the only saviour we depend on. Let’s face it – it isn’t much to look forward to. What are we actually contributing to the betterment of humanity if we are not being true to ourselves? We are part of nature, part of the earth. If we are not being true to who we are, then we are being untrue to nature…and consequently destroying the natural world.

Pretty simple when you think about it. If we believed that we could live on this earth and be ourselves, I think we would try and do more. There is an apathy within many of us that I believe stems from our inability to live a life according to our truest and deepest needs. Money comes first and life comes after. It should be life first and money as a means to an end only. Our love of having more will not create a desire to do more. In fact, it will probably encourage us to do much less than what we are already doing.

When we have everything we need, we become lazy. Apathetic. Detached perhaps from the reality of everyday life and the struggles it brings. When you are struggling to survive, you actually learn to appreciate everything you have in life and how difficult it is in fact to obtain the essentials. Food, water and shelter are actually the most fundamental of blessings and they are all we need to live on this earth in harmony with the natural world. Our conflicts come from wanting more and more. When will it ever be enough?

Having everything is still not enough for some people. There is always that constant and persistent lack that comes from within which, on a very basic level, is a blinkered view of the abundance of blessings we actually have right now. The ability to breathe, think, feel, see, walk…what else can you think of that gives you that feeling of contentment, joy and happiness? There is no material possession you can obtain outside of yourself that will give you a lasting feeling of peace and contentment. If you can buy it, you can lose it, break it, have it stolen..you name it…why would you centre your entire happiness and feelings of contentment around that?

The environment of our planet reflects our emotional and mental environmental state. If we have toxic thoughts (such as anger and hatred towards others), that will have a negative effect on the world around us. There is no way we can create a harmonious external environment when the environment in our own mind is in turmoil – it just will not happen! We need to be in touch with ourselves on the very deepest levels of consciousness to ensure we are dwelling in a state of peace and equanimity. Every feeling you have, every thought and every action you take in life will influence someone else and something either in a positive or negative way.

Plants grow and flowers blossom. So do human beings…if we allow the process to happen through our continued awareness of ourselves.

© Christina McDonald 2014

Apathy and the environment…is it too little too late?

Feeling slightly annoyed this morning and a little bit fed-up…

At least the sun is shining!

As I was having a cup of coffee still bleary eyed this morning, I heard a story being discussed on the news in regards to a UN report describing an urgent need to treble our use of renewable energy or face a massive and dramatic increase in dangerous levels of global warming. Not good news – at all. Living in Central London, I have become fed-up recently of breathing in so much cigarette smoke, smelling pollution and feeling as though my chest is getting tighter by the minute when I’m going to buy a loaf of bread. It has got worse in recent years and I have been here nearly a decade now.

That isn’t the only thing I’m annoyed with though.

My husband recently bought an ‘e-go’ electric bike which I think is brilliant. I wish everyone thought the same. Hopefully some people do. As he has had a lot of health problems and enjoys cycling, it seems to work better for him as a way of getting around the city. It isn’t as hard on his body and he has more energy to do other things. Not only that, there are no carbon emissions and he isn’t putting an extra strain on the environment and people’s health.

Sensible yes? You would think.

He came home and told me that a car driver had slowed down, rolled down his window and literally laughed at the fact he was riding the bike. It looked ‘gay’ apparently. ‘You need number plates for that mate!’ Ah no, it is classified as a bicycle. As long as it meets the EAPC rules, it doesn’t need to be registered and taxed. It doesn’t go more than 15 mph and he has a licence anyway (even though he doesn’t need it in this instance). This guy didn’t even know what it was! My partner explained exactly what it was and why it was good to use. Blank expression in response. If that is the case, how are we going to change our collective attitude towards global warming then? That is depressing and quite unbelievable.

If this is the kind of prejudice and hostility you meet when you are actually trying to improve not just your own life, but the life of other people around you, I am deeply concerned for the environmental future of the planet. We need to wake up and smell the fossil fuels. It is reaching crisis point as scientists are pointing out. Do we even have the time we need to sort this? If by ‘time’, we mean reforming people’s attitudes towards alternative energy, that is going to be a challenge and a half considering the level of severity. A lot more needs to be done to get it into people’s heads that we need to change the way we live in order to survive.

Instead of starting wars with other countries and hating and killing each other, why not (maybe) start dealing with real problems? Slagging someone off on the street on a busy Saturday afternoon for riding an electric bike is doing nobody any favours.

Being an individual doesn’t mean standing out from the crowd as a celebrity. Of course, as a nation, we are all so obsessed with that one and doing selfies is so important isn’t it? The perfect picture. (Don’t get me started on that one either). Being an individual means making a choice that exempts you from what is regarded as ‘the norm’. Here’s another picture – soon we won’t be able to breathe and eat properly if we don’t wake up soon. If you want to do something different in life, be prepared to feel very alone, even if it is the right thing to do.

(Apparently). Rant over.

© Christina McDonald 2014.

Here are the EAPC rules:
Sources:
https://www.gov.uk/electric-bike-rules

BBC News
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27007486

Nurture Nature….

I have never walked so much recently being on holiday. My energy levels were bouncing and I attribute that to a surge in my Vitamin D levels. Going for a long relaxing walk on a sunny beach makes it apparent that everything around us is living and alive. I couldn’t help but wonder what life would be like without the things that really count – health, happiness and of course, good health.

The world we live in sustains us with life. You might think that is an obvious statement to make. It is just that but it is one that we take for granted. We have everything we could possibly need. Food, water and the ability to live because these fragile factors sit delicately in a harmonic balance.

If that equilibrium is disturbed, it can cause many problems. Being a ‘foodie’ isn’t just about enjoying and appreciating the taste of good food. It requires us to adequately note where and how the food we eat is sourced and how it has been treated.

Who hasn’t just gone into the supermarket feeling exhausted after a long day at work and just taken the first thing of the shelf without reading the label? My confession – I stand guilty as charged. Ease and convenience has made a lot of people compromise the quality of what they eat. In today’s rapidly changing and volatile world, we cannot afford to do this lightly anymore.

Looking around shops and supermarkets, many products we see are geared up to seducing our senses. (I love it-I am a pleasure junkie). Anything that excites our receptors to pleasure is used to appeal to our emotional sensibilities over perhaps more practical and healthy options.

The anticipation of pleasure plays an important role when it comes to influencing what we buy. Brightly coloured packaging, (and of course, not forgetting how much sex sells for instance), these techniques are cleverly used to promote sales of countless products in the market today. Like moths to a flame, we take the bait willingly and perhaps very carelessly.

Take palm oil for instance. If you look at the back of some supermarket products, you will see that palm oil is used as an ingredient. This is extremely destructive on the environment and many of the world’s natural habitats are being exterminated as a consequence (like orangutans for example). We should ignore this at our peril. Out of sight, out of mind will not protect us from the very real danger of the natural world being completely destroyed.

Deforestation, flooding, exploitation of immigrant workers employed on illegal palm oil plantations (to name but a few) .. but it’s all relative…right? If it’s not on our doorstep, we tend to not think or worry about it. But hey, if the packaging is cool and it looks good, who cares….

Again, mass consumerism ensures there is always supply and demand. If there is money to be made, that usually overrides the collective good. Looking through life through a microcosm isolates you from the whole. ‘My demands and needs are all that matters’. We don’t think of the greater good, just our own good.

If we don’t make conscious and ethical decisions in regards to how our food is sourced, we end up with the bleak prospect of destroying the natural habitats of animals not to mention, our own health in the end. We must think how our actions affect other people and the environment.

Our innate selfishness ensures our individual survival but potentially at the cost of the collective wellbeing of the planet if the choices we make create a negative impact on the rest of the world. If that is the case, as a collective species, we could be well on the way to destruction….

According to Richard Dawkins, we act within our own interests and only in the interests of others if it ensures our own survival. Altruism, therefore is part of some kind of default response in an attempt to further our own interests.

I feel that is a poor outlook….I really hope not. I would like to think that people do things for others simply for the joy of doing so and not hoping for anything in return. There is much to be gained in life by acting and loving unconditionally. I think we are too afraid to do so as there is always that doubt that if we show kindness and generosity to someone, they may see it as a weakness and take full advantage. Yes…possibly, but maybe not….

Basically, if you compare humanity’s relationship to nature, (like all relationships), if we don’t nurture them properly, they will not grow and thrive in the way they should. If we abuse people, relationships become destructive and suffer as a consequence.

Why would our relationship with nature be any different? We are all dependent on each other and the earth is dependent on us. Look after the natural world and it will look after you in turn….guaranteed!

© Christina McDonald 2014