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What are you searching for?

I would wager that everyone is searching for some sort of meaning in their life. There are probably as many ways of doing this as their are people in the world. Many are probably not even aware but everyone is motivated to do things that they think will make them happy. Even bad things. Because doing things that are unskilful (I prefer that to bad) can sometimes distract us from being with feelings, thoughts or emotions that may be painful or uncomfortable. Drinking or taking drugs is a prime example of this.

You see when I look at my life it has been pretty hard (by Western standards anyway). I was in an abusive marriage for 15 years and the abuse continued afterwards too, I am still single at the age of 53 having had my hopes dashed many a time, my eldest son is a homeless heroin addict and I have no idea where he is right now, I used to have a business and lost a lot of money in the crash of 2008 and had to sell my house to pay off some debts so I have no financial security (if anyone ever does), my ex husband died in 2014 so I am now my sons’ only parent, among other things. I am now consciously creating my life. I live in a beautiful area, I have enough money (for now) and some savings so I am richer than many in the world. But it’s not about material wealth for me, it’s about the riches within.

I would probably not have chosen this path if I had know differently when I was younger but all the hardships and good times have led me to where I am now. When my marriage became intolerable in 2001 I was so scared the only thing I could think of to do was to pray. I don’t believe in God in the Christian authoritarian sense but by praying – I didn’t really know who I was praying too – I found the strength within me to get out. It wasn’t easy by any means and I had 3 young children to think about too. What it did give me though, was faith, faith in something higher.

I have been studying Buddhism since 2007 and what I have learned from the Buddha’s teachings has helped me through many a difficult time since. I have learned not to take things so personally. Everyone is on their own journey and doing the best they can with the tools they have at their disposal. I was brought up in a Christian environment and now it all makes sense. I can see the meaning and symbolism instead of taking it all literally. I no longer want to be bound by the label of a ‘religion.’ Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist and Jesus wasn’t a Christian but we can learn from the examples they set. What I do like about Buddhism is that it recognises that everyone has the potential to become a Buddha.

We are all divine, spiritual beings. Human beings. The more we can let go and allow ourselves to be the more our divine nature shows through. We don’t need ‘fixing’, we don’t even need to search for anything. I now choose to radiate love, starting with love for myself. Love is the highest vibration. It is not weak, it takes strength to love. That’s why it’s hard sometimes, especially when we have been upset by someone else’s actions.See my previous post on forgiveness.

It is a paradox that when we reach enlightenment, we will realise that we were enlightened all along. I sometimes get glimpses of it in my meditation, that sense of pure love and light and peace with the world. That’s when I am reminded I can stop searching, I already have it within me. Of course I forget but one thing I always remember is to have faith.

Love to you all you amazing beings. Choose love, always.

Forgiveness…

… can be very hard but if we don’t we are the ones that suffer. Take a moment to think about a time when someone did something that upset you and you haven’t forgiven them. How does it feel? You see the think is if you are holding onto that resentment it hurts you, not them. Forgiving is not the same as forgetting or condoning someone’s actions. Rather it is recognising that they probably didn’t upset you intentionally and they are suffering too. Even if they did mean to hurt you it is because of their conditioning and chances are someone has hurt them.

I remember several years ago seeing one of the mothers of the children who was murdered by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley – the moors murderers – in the 1960s on the news. This was over 30 years later she was still wanting revenge. I know what happened is probably the worst thing that can happen to a parent but she was the only one who was suffering.

Around the same time there was a bomb in Northern Ireland and amongst those who were killed was a 3 year old boy. His father, who had lost his only son, was being interviewed on the news. The interviewer asked him if he wanted to get back at the IRA for what they had done. His reply was, ‘No, because two wrongs don’t make a right.’ You see he knew that holding onto hate would only make him suffer even more than he was already.

I know I sometimes set high standards for myself that I fail to reach so I have to learn to forgive myself. I look to the example of the Dalai Lama and his attitude towards the Chinese. It is possible but if we still find it too hard to forgive others we can start by forgiving ourselves…

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What are your triggers?

One of the joys of meditating and mindfulness is that you get to know yourself better. It’s not always easy because we have to face the dark side too! As we start to live more mindfully we become more aware of our thoughts and feelings and start to act on them less (hopefully!). We also start to notice patterns and how particular situations can trigger a strong reaction and leave us feeling hurt, upset or angry. We are only human and it can be dangerous to suppress these feelings because they will only resurface at a later date. However we can choose how we respond.

So what to do? As I try to live more ethically I always try to respond with love; firstly to myself and then to the person who may have done something that upset me. It’s usually the ones closest to us, our family and friends, who push our buttons the most anyway. It’s not easy because my first thoughts are usually to start blaming them for how they have acted. I try to remember that everyone is doing their best and it’s not personal even though it may feel like it. Everyone is a result of their conditions and if something upsets me I can look back and see how similar situations have provoked the same reaction. However I know that if I do respond skilfully in a loving way I will feel better about myself and I’m creating a better world for those around me too. If someone does something that hurts us the chances are they are hurting too so don’t they deserve love too? We all do. I still allow myself to feel what I’m feeling and by acknowledging the negative emotions it takes the power away from them.

Here’s to creating a more loving world one step at a time. Compassion is a radical act. The people or situations we have difficulty with can be our biggest teachers. Look at how the Dalai Lama responds to the way his people have been treated by the Chinese. What a wonderful example.

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Meditating with crystals

I have been using crystals for over 10 years now. I have also been meditating for almost as long and yet it was only today I thought of combining the two so I appreciate this is not a new idea. It’s just a new experience for me.

I am by no means an expert on crystals – I just know they work. I don’t even know the names of them (apart from rose quartz) let alone their qualities. I bought the ones in the picture above yesterday and have forgotten the names of them already.

The person who first introduced me to crystals told me choose the one(s) I liked and trust they were what I needed. And really that’s all you need to know. Pick up whatever you are drawn to and they will provide the healing you need.

I’ve had a difficult few weeks dealing with hurt and emotional pain. I was away in January visiting a friend and my meditation practice had slipped. So yesterday I went crystal shopping. The blue heart is to help with communication and protecting my aura. The others are for grounding. I definitely needed that as I am very good at spending too much time in my head and overthinking things. I walked around all day yesterday with the crystals in my pocket and felt their effects immediately.

So today when I sat down to meditate I was still very much in my head. Then I thought why don’t I hold the grounding crystals. I realise I may be preaching to the converted here but sometimes we overlook the most simple ideas.

The result? Difficult to describe sometimes but definitely miles better than before. My third eye is open again after having been shut for a few weeks now. I had completely forgotten about it and how much better it feels to have the chakras open again. I would just add though that I wouldn’t expect this kind of thing to happen all the time. It happens to me quite a lot but only recently because I have built up a depth of practice. It’s like paying into a bank account – of course it’s best to keep it topped up regularly – but if you miss a few payments the reserves are there already.

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The Demise of Bubble Buddhism

I see similar happening in the UK too, the end of McMindfulness. Reality isn’t always pretty…

Engage!

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We are about to see the demise of Bubble Buddhism in North America. It’s a long time coming, and it’s too bad that it takes the onset of a fascist dictatorship and a constitutional crisis to provoke it.

Bubble Buddhism is about to be completely discredited. The next time your beloved Teachersays “just relax”, “ultimately, everything is empty”, “don’t worry about phenomena, it’s all impermanent anyway”, he (she) will soundlike a total idiot. It just won’t work anymore. You won’t get the soothing hit of oxytocin and serotonin that you used to get from him (or ‘her’, but most likely ‘him’). Or you might get that hit, but then you’ll glance at your iPhone for a second and realize that your once safe and secure ‘relative’ world is shit getting flushed down the toilet. You toocannot escape this political catastrophe and it’s devastating effects. Not this time.

Or you might…

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The power of being vulnerable 

The more you give the more you get back. It’s scary opening our heart sometimes but I urge you to try it. If you have the courage to be vulnerable, especially if you’re in a leadership role, you empower others. 

I arrived in India 2 days ago to do a yoga course and didn’t know a soul. I hadn’t slept for about 30 hours or had much to eat due to the fact that airlines don’t seem to understand the concept that you can be coeliac and vegetarian. Added to that there are currency problems in India and I had very little cash. I reached out to the group that had been set up for our course. It was a heartfelt and emotional post but it has received the biggest response out of any other in the group. I have connected with so many people since because I can simply introduce myself as ‘the crazy woman who wrote that post!’ Not that anyone has said I’m crazy they’ve all been very kind. The chances are most of them were feeling the same way and by opening up I’ve given them permission to do so too. 

So if you’re a leader in a school or elsewhere do you have the courage to be vulnerable? It’s a lot easier, albeit a lot more painful, to erect barriers around ourselves. But just imagine how your organisation could be transformed if you dropped them. 

Helen Pengelly is a coach who is passionate about helping school leaders create coaching and mindfulness cultures. Visit http://www.happyteachers.co.uk for more information about how she can help. 

Managing your emotions 

So December is here and it’s almost ‘that’ time of year again. The season of goodwill. And also the time of most relationship break ups. Not to be too doom and gloom about it! Work is usually stressful too whatever your job; excited children who want to do anything but schoolwork, dealing with extra orders, Christmas parties etc. So how do you take care of yourself through all of this? Without managing our emotions effectively we can easily go into reactive mode which only makes the situation worse. All well and good you say but my partner’s nagging me, my boss is putting pressure on me and the kids – well don’t even mention them!

When I started teaching I thought I had to be something I’m not. To be strict and scary so the kids would be perfectly behaved. After all we had been told in our teacher training that how we show up in the classroom would affect the kids too. All well and good and perfectly true but we weren’t given the tools to put it into practice. 

Over the years as I’ve been meditating and practising mindfulness I’ve learned strategies to help me ‘stay in the gap’ between receiving some stimulus and responding to it. Also I’ve learned to stop taking things personally. It’s never personal. That’s not to say I don’t get angry if someone cuts me up at a roundabout or feel excited when I’m going on holiday. I probably feel it even more. I know I can choose though, not to act on my feelings (mostly!). 

You’ve probably heard the expression ‘count to 10 before responding ‘ but it’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment. By having a regular mindfulness practice though we become more integrated and that practice becomes part of our daily lives. In fact we can choose to make our whole life our practice. We can notice moment by moment what is going on in our thoughts, emotions and in our physical body too. Become interested and curious and soon you will start to notice your patterns. It can be fun too. You start to take yourself less seriously and think ‘Oh that old thing again!’ 

Life is short and none of us know how long we’ve got. Live for the moment and have a wonderful festive season. 

If you are interested in coaching please comment below or send me a message via the ‘contact us’ page. 

Making good habits fun

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Good habits don’t have to be boring. The picture above is my ‘choices’ bag. I returned from a retreat in October and I wanted to find a more creative way to stay  ‘in the gap.’ This is the space between something happening and responding to it. Most of the time we react without thinking about it. I have been meditating and practising mindfulness for over 10 years now and one of the downsides is that I am very aware of my bad habits! I am learning to be kinder to myself and instead of beating myself up replacing them with better ones. It is much harder to stay with our experience when we are upset or bored so we find something to distract us – usually something addictive like social media, alcohol, cigarettes etc.

In my choices bag are coloured cards. On the yellow different meditations, the pink different forms of exercise, the blue different writing activities and the green different inspiring ideas of something to read. I keep it by my bed and I pick out one of each colour as soon as I wake up. I am not one for a day to day routine so this works for me because I love stationery and I don’t know what I am going to choose it makes each day’s activities different. It can be hard to stay motivated when you are working at home. Another reason it works is that of course I have only put on the cards things I enjoy doing. There is no point me putting going to the gym on a pink card because that will never happen so I have doing yoga, going for a walk or bike ride or swim.

Sometimes they don’t all happen so I have to remember to be kind to myself as life gets in the way. However in less than three weeks I have established a daily writing habit, something I was struggling to do before.  If you struggle to get motivated please feel free to contact me about coaching.

Thank you for reading and have fun today!

 

The true cost of not taking care of your staff

While I worked as a supply teacher for 10 years on and off I became aware that more teachers were going off sick for longer. Many schools now have trouble recruiting and retaining staff. It is not unusual now for teachers to leave in the middle of the academic year – something that never used to happen. A BBC News report tells us that each school in the UK spends £168 a year on average on each pupil for extra staffing and this can be as much as over £500. According an NAHT report schools can spend as much as £10,000 on agency fees to recruit teachers.

However there is a simple solution. By investing in your staff’s well being your school can save thousands of pounds. A primary school in London gave coaching to all their staff and they all stayed – no one resigned last year. Another in Bristol recognised the benefits of coaching and created a coaching culture in their school. Their following two OFSTED inspections were outstanding. We are waiting with bated breath for the result of the next one.

Last year I was facilitating a workshop when teachers reported back that they had the 3 minute breathing space I taught and they were sleeping better within a few days. So if only one of your teachers has a better night’s sleep and has one fewer absence our mindfulness course has paid for itself. I know finances in schools are tight but can you really afford not to?