Is The Meditative State Our Natural State?

The benefits of meditation and, the new buzzword, mindfulness are widely available, plus, the psychology and neuroscience community are finally getting round to scientifically proving it’s benefits.

However, this post will not describe or display those benefits in that way. I’m not interested in the proof before I try these things, I like discovering things for myself.

My intention for this post is to suspend your beliefs enough to give it go, to understand the simple yet deeper sense of what a meditative state is like and to share my experiences of ‘getting into the meditative state’.

My first attempt of getting into a meditative state was through hypnosis (hypnotherapists out there may disagree on the difference between meditation and hypnosis, so what I’m referring to is a deeper state of calm), it was whilst listening to a CD that helps with social anxiety disorder.

I didn’t really understand how or if it would work for me, but I gave it a go. I remember vividly lying on my bed with a portable music player next to my head, and playing it over and over. I don’t think I ever got into the spirit of it, I just ended up feeling drowsy and sometimes fell asleep.

I think I was hoping it would magically cure me, so I felt a bit disappointed with the results, but I didn’t give up…

Then I got my first taste of hypnosis not only with a live practitioner, but with none other than Richard Bandler, the co creator of NLP, who studied under the great hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson.

Not only that, I was sat on stage with him in front of 299 people at a live event. What was I thinking?

The opportunity came a couple of days earlier when Bandler asked the audience to put their issues on a piece of paper and in a suggestion box, then he’d pick one at random to work with the person live on stage.

So, he picked me!

…and it totally caught me off guard.

I remember him reading out my request over the sound system, his voice booming “Could you please help me with my social anxiety?”.

I froze.

Then gingerly put my hand up. It was like I had left my body for a moment. I began to calm down and had a dialog with him from my near front row seat.

He got me up on stage and  the next thing I know, I was feeling very relaxed, he told me to close my eyes and relax. I dipped my head slightly forward and felt that meditative state I’m talking about. It was like my thoughts had been turned down in volume, a wave of peace came over me.

He asked me to visualise all of the negative events I experienced in the past, turn the images black and white and move them into the distance. It felt effortless, as if it was happening automatically, maybe it was, I don’t know.

I heard him telling a story to the audience, my eyes were still closed but I was still fully aware of my surroundings. If I wanted to, I could have opened my eyes at any moment, It was just very comfortable having my eyes closed.

“Welcome back” Bandler said. He brought me out of the trance-like state and I felt very comfortable in my own skin, it was fantastic facing the audience without feeling tremendous amounts of anxiety flood my senses. He wished me farewell, the audience applauding in the background, I felt awesome! I was just about to walk off of the stage and Bandler grabbed my wrist, “Hold on a minute, why don’t you say something to the audience before you go?”

I turned around and face the audience calmly and said “Are you all having a good time?”

“YES!” They said, and gave me a huge applause. It was such a wonderful feeling of peace (I wish I could see this footage to see what I looked like).

That was another brief encounter of that deeper feeling of innate peace.

Since then I continually looked for ways to feel better. I wasn’t purposefully searching for peace of mind, I stumbled across it.

Around 2 years ago I began looking into all things spiritual to explore meditation and other eastern philosophies. (Previous to that the world spiritual really turned me off, all I could think of was hippies, incense, long beards and sitting cross legged in silence. The whole idea of spirituality put me off, but as I began to look deeper, I realised that I didn’t have to be anyone other than myself, I could be spiritual and not act stereotypically spiritual.)

I started testing out meditation at my support groups and it was wonderful seeing people leave feeling a lot calmer.

I started using it for brainstorming and finding my deeper purpose. I have reached wonderful, deeply peaceful state of mind by simply allowing myself to have a couple of hours to myself, a timer, some calming mediation music (through headphones) and some paper and a pen to write with.

It’s like ideas seem to come out of nowhere when you are that calm, ideas that you simply couldn’t access when your mind is busy.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”

Albert Einstein

I had the most beautiful insights into my life and how I can help others. I had huge insights into my potential that at one moment felt amazing, then the intellect seemed to say “You can’t do that, it’s not possible” and I had that scared feeling as if I was a child again.

Over the past 18 months, I have seen the meditative state of mind as a magic wand that settles me down, if my thinking is all over the place, I know that if I calm down my mind, all will become clear. The funny thing is, my wound up mind can trick me into not slowing down, then the cycle of busy-mindedness continues. 

The reason I have seen it as a magic wand, is because I know at a deeper level, where my experience comes from. The Inside Out. It’s never the event, person or circumstance that’s making me anxious. (I know it appears that way, but we always have to interpret what happens to us before it can have an affect on us).

So since looking in this inside out direction (of which I often forget, but it’s still there in the background, always) I know not to take my negative thoughts too seriously, and that I am much more OK with not being OK as I used to.

And the bottom line is…

…I know that my wellbeing (the meditative state I’ve been talking about) is there underneath all of the negative crap that goes on, so I am always ok, and not fundamentally broken as I thought I once was.

Michael Neill says it like this…

“The meditative state of mind is the closest thing to a “magic wand” that I have come across in 25 years of exploring the human potential. It heals the body. It is the gateway to our deeper wisdom. It opens us up to a world of deeper feelings. It gives us glimpses into the nature of the universe.

Most people who understand its power have learned to access it through discipline and practice over time. But when you recognize it as our natural state, there is nothing you need to do. It is not only where you are sitting right now. It is the one who is doing the sitting.” 

Thanks for reading this post,

Please leave your comments below.

 

Open up and be vulnerable, it’s not about you! (Or don’t judge a book by its cover)

I was on a training course today and got there an hour early, so I decide sit down on the sofa and habitually start browsing on my iPad.

About 20 minutes later, an attractive looking woman came and sat down opposite me, I was thinking of saying hello, but then I stopped myself, just incase I didn’t know what to say next (sound familiar?).

From what I overheard, she was either giving an interview or receiving an interview. By this point all sorts of thoughts were going through my mind, I projected my anxieties onto her mentally, worrying about whether she was nervous, then I imagined asking her if she worked here or if she was going to an interview, but I didn’t. I just glued my eyes to my iPad. It’s easier to hide behind an iPad that open up, isn’t it?

I heard her sigh briefly then take a deep breath in, indicating that she was possibly nervous.

Then she left to do whatever she was doing.

Wasted opportunity to make a meaningful connection with another human being? Maybe, who knows?

One thing I did notice was that I didn’t have the inner postmortem analysis going on in my mind afterwards. In the past I would stew over this, feel guilty, feel like crap and equate the whole event to being a useless person. Silly huh? It felt so painfully real at the time, that’s all I can say.

Then I thought to myself, I missed out on that opportunity to connect, because of my judgement about that person. Ok, so it wasn’t a negative judgement, it was positive, however, that stopped me in my tracks.

Does that mean attractive, “beautiful people” feel rejected as us normal, regular, “average lookers” feel intimidated by them? (sorry, I’m judging myself by my own standards, you may be beautiful too, beauty is in the eye of the beholder they say).

I then flipped the coin and thought about this wonderful video of Dustin Hoffman sharing his experience of dressing as a woman for a film role (Tootsie), my description won’t do it justice, so please watch it below and then read on…

…What do you think? Makes you think doesn’t it?

Ask yourself, how many times have you missed out on a conversation because of the person’s appearance?

Were they overweight?

Were they underweight?

Were they old?

Were they young?

Were they covered in piercings? Tattoos? Scars?

Did they have blue hair?

Did they practise a religion different to your own?

I used to live amongst a large Hasidic Jewish community in London, and I made up in my own mind that ‘they’ didn’t want to talk to me because I’m not Jewish, even though I had urges to strike up conversations.

Then that belief was shattered one day when a young Jewish man started chatting with me on a bus, he was travelling from Belgium to visit relatives. We just talked, human being to human being. It was nice. But it was a stupid belief anyway, it was my ‘stuff’ that was stopping me from a potentially wonderful connection.

My closing message to you is the same as the title…

Open up and be vulnerable, it’s not about you! (Or don’t judge a book by its cover).

Love to you,
Steve

4 Top Reasons Why You Should Read James Altucher’s Blog

I have been reading James Altucher’s blog for around 18 months now, and I can honestly say that my life improved has because of it.

Here’s my top 4 reasons why you should read James’ blog too…

Reason #1

James is so wonderfully candid. He’s had a lot of crap in his life so far and he shares it all, no holds barred. His honesty had an amazing effect on me, I had a mental sigh of relief and that gave me permission to be myself fully, f%ckups and all! He’s such a breath of fresh air compared to the polished, word-prefect, slick, faked-tanned personal development guru of yesteryear, who never seem to make mistakes.

James is just being himself and sharing the things he’s found useful.

I love that.

In the past, because I was so painfully shy, I thought I had to be the opposite (outrageously confident and extremely extroverted) to be loved and accepted in society. I looked up to the to the gurus of personal developmental at the time, in a way that I felt that I had to be just like them to be happy and successful in life.

Reason #2

It’s like it was written just for me!

Ok, I know that’s not a reason for you to read James’ blog…

However, if you’re into personal development, business, tech, geeky-ness, entrepreneurship, mental health & wellbeing, health or just how to generally feel better, then you should check it out.

Reason #3

You can ask him literally anything, and many of his reader’s questions get answered live on his podcast! www.jamesaltucher.com/ask-altucher

How awesome is that?

Reason #4

You’ll laugh and learn at the same time.

Reading James’ blog is a real pleasure in that it’s incredibly practical, yet so lighthearted and funny. Even the posts with a more serious theme, he makes the topic easier to digest.

James is a fantastic storyteller, and those stories are mainly about his own weird and wonderful experiences in life.

So head on over to James Altucher’s Blog now and check it out. (Make sure you get on his free insider’s list too).

James Altucher Blogwww.jamesaltucher.com

 

Why Is Mental Illness a Stigma Even In Our Modern Society?…

This is a topic that has been on my mind since I’ve been in the mental health sphere, starting with my own self diagnosis back in 2001.

Firstly, let’s look into what stigma means…

a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. “the stigma of mental disorder” 

So why do people feel disgraced regarding people diagnosed with mental illness?

I think it’s because of deeply ingrained beliefs we all have about mental illness.

Crazy.

Nutter.

Schizo.

Mental.

Not right in the head…

The list goes on, people use these phrases without thinking about the real consequences. So saying these derogatory terms becomes acceptable to a point.

Not for one minute do I feel offended if people say these terms, a lot of the time it’s innocently done, but when does it cross the line?

I think that line is crossed when someone with a diagnosis of a mental illness is treated like a second class citizen.

Again, it’s normally innocently done, it’s a lot to do with fear, the fear of the unknown, not knowing what to say, not knowing how the person who’s unwell will react. However, how would you feel if you were unwell and people didn’t send you a card?

That’s what happens a lot of the time if you have a mental health issues.

No cards.

No flowers.

No “How are you”.

Nothing.

Sad isn’t it?

Mental health needs to be as much as priority as physical heath. People need to wake up the importance of this, your mindset is EVERYTHING. On the most basic level, stress isn’t good for you and it affects you physically as well as mentally. Stress affects the musculoskeletal system, the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, need I go on? It affects the WHOLE BODY.

So… The Burning Question…
Why Is Mental Illness a Stigma Even In Our Modern Society?

I think stigma exists because mental illness is still very much misunderstood by the majority of the general population. People need educating about the facts of mental illness. (Link: Time To Change Website)

All is not lost, I feel it’s getting better for sure. I guess it takes time. If you look back to the 70’s, and how much things have changed from the blatant racism, sexism and homophobia that was the general norm in those days (I look back and cringe and some of the TV shows that were on during that era).

My hope for the future is that the younger generations will be more aware of mental illness in a way that it’s normal to talk about those things if you need to… and the rate of mental illness will drop dramatically when the shame and taboo around the subject has been lifted.

I’d like to see a astronomically higher focus on prevention and education around the topic, and I’d also like the phrase Mental Illness eradicated all together.

I think the key is to really focus on MENTAL HEALTH (not illness) for everyone.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your view…

 

 

3 Of My Favourite Inspirational Quotes That Will Make You Rethink Reality As You Know It

Quote A)

Perception is projection

It took me a good 5 years on my personal development journey to really understand this quote.

Before I share my thoughts on this quote, let’s break down the key words…

perception

The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
“the normal limits to human perception”

projection

the presentation of an image on a surface, especially a cinema screen.
“quality illustrations for overhead projection”

(psychological projection)

Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others.

So from the above descriptions, you can deduce that our reality (perception) is based on what is going on in our minds (projection). Therefore, the way I see it, is that we are literally projecting what is going on in our minds (through the power of thought) outwards into the world. This was huge for me, putting into words what I felt when I first got this wouldn’t do it justice. It was a real sense of relief, and self forgiveness in the ways that I had behaved before. I had always felt that the world was against me, but I was innocently mistaken.

Also, It makes me think of the times I mistook deep empathy for psychological projection. One example was going through a phase of thinking that people had social anxiety disorder if they acted in a certain way. I felt real empathy for them and tried to help, but it backfired. Later on I realised that I was projecting my insecurities on my view of them.

Quote B)

what you resist persists

Having suffered with crippling shyness for a large portion of my life, this quote really hit home big time. Knowing that, when I felt fearful of a social situation, the more I resisted it by avoidance or mental resistance (getting into the spirit of things), the more the anxiety and feelings of tension would persist.

The times I re-remember this understanding, I can shift into a state of letting go, as my view of the situation as being scary, is just a projection of my thinking. By resisting it, it just gets worse.

Try it, the next time you are feeling tension around doing something new, different or anxiety provoking, just think of this quote “What you resist, persists”.

Quote C)

If the only thing people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world (2)

This quote gives me great comfort knowing that there is no need to be afraid of my experience. What power and freedom we all would experience if we got the deeper meaning behind this quote.

The way I see it is that most of what we fear in our day to day lives is really not important, albeit at times very visceral and frightening, we are afraid of what is going on in our own minds rather that what’s going on in the outside world.

Therefore having the power and insight to be ok with not feeling ok at times is a real gift.

Quiz Time!

Who was it who said quotes A, B and C, please share and/or comment below…

What’s So Funny About Mental illness? Ruby Wax

I absolutely adore this wonderful women. She’s so candid about her mental breakdown and her mental illness, to the point that she makes you laugh in a way that normalises the whole topic.

…Which is the way it should be. The taboo of talking about ‘mental illness’ still exists as we don’t won’t to be judged by others.

I recommend that you watch this short talk. It’s an absolute delight to watch, as well as being informative.

I hope Ruby continues sharing her message of in the way that she does, as she’s having a huge impact in people opening up about these issues, and not feeling so alone.

I love you Ruby, thank you for all you do x.

Panic Attacks Are Your Friend – With Dr Bill Pettit

In this snippet from an interview with U.S. Psychiatrist Dr Bill Pettit, he shares how panic attacks are our inbuilt warning system. Armed with this knowledge, how you can simply reduce the duration of a panic attack and eliminate them all together by understanding the nature of the system and what’s creating our experience.

Enjoy! and Please share, you never know who it may help.

 

Slow Down, It’s Not A Race!…

…Is what I’ve said to myself over and over today.

My mood has been somewhat low-ish today and I know exactly why. I’ve wound up my brain so much, by chronic indecision and lack of focus on one thing at a time, that I became overwhelmed quite early on.

My inner wisdom kept saying ‘slow down and all will become clear’ but I ignored it over and over, to my detriment.

I knew with certainty that if I did slow down, I would be able to see things more clearly and move forward with my workload more effectively. It’s worked like clockwork every time, but still, a lot of the time I ignore it.

Why?

Because 1) I think if I speed up mentally and dive into my workload I’ll get more done. 2) I think I’m wasting time if I stop doing my work to slow my mind down.

It’s like an inner battle of ego Vs wisdom. Not like good and evil, they’re just different functions within our minds.

Finally, after many hours of beating myself up amongst aimless ‘busywork’, I finally forced myself to do an 8 minute guided meditation. Naturally I felt a bit agitated at first as my busy mind continued to spin, but after about 2-3 minutes the dust began to settle and I felt that beautiful and familiar sense of calm.

As soon as I started to settle, I wondered to myself “why didn’t I do this hours ago?”

Lesson learned for today:

Life is not a race, we all have 24 hours per day. Use it wisely!

And Sloooow Dowwwn

How One Little Thought Can Stop You In Your Tracks

I’ve just had a nice two and a half mile walk from Soho to Paddington (in London). When I arrived I was debating whether to go and use the toilet in a pub or the train station. Gratefully, I have a higher level of awareness of my Automatic Negative Thoughts (aka ANTs) nowadays, so that I can either shrug or laugh off some of the things that happen inside my brain (On the flip side, when my mood is low I’m usually taking them far too seriously).

On this occasion I approached the pub, took a look through the window, and shiftily walked past. The thought said in so many words “you’d better not go in there, you’ll have to order drink and sit on your own, only losers do that”. All of that happened in a split second, in the form of a feeling, then I walked towards Burger King to use their facilities (No need to speak to anyone, aaaah, what a relief).

Just after the thought blocked me, I saw the funny side of it, and didn’t think any more of it until I wrote this. In the past, because I had associations in my brain with avoiding social situations and being a chronic failure of epic proportions, the thought of “being a loser” would play like a broken record and nag at me over and over, which reinforced it and made it worse. At those points of my life, I just felt like I was no good and that I had something wrong with my brain, which is understandable as I saw my whole world through this negative filter.

When You Think Anxiously, You Feel Anxious

Simple isn’t it? Everything we feel, begins with a thought. I believe so anyway, and I’m sure neuroscience backs this up, I’ll let you look at one up.

One thing I did read was that around 95% of our thinking happens behind the scenes. Meaning that we’re not aware of what we are thinking consciously most of the time.

We JUST FEEL anxious

We JUST FEEL eating a huge cheeseburger

We JUST FEEL like punching someone

Because anxiety feels like it JUST HAPPENS, we search forever for the cause of the anxiety, or we say “why is this happening to me, I don’t deserve this”. Which of course is 100% understandable and can be very frightening on occasion, and knowing that “It’s just your thinking” is about as useful as knowing “it’s just gravity” when you’ve just jumped out of a plane at 10,000 feet. You will feel those feelings, and those feelings trump rational thought every time.

When you have a panic attack, for example, you can feel like you’re going to die, so it can feel more serious than it actually is. However, as wonderfully explained by Dr Bill Pettit, a U.S. Psychiatrist in a conversation I had with him last year, he said something along the lines of (I’m paraphrasing but I remember the content well…) “When you have a panic attack, it doesn’t just happen, I can guarantee that you’ve been stewing over something previously and the panic attack is a warning system to say that your mind is overloaded with worry”.

So next time you have a thought or feeling that stops you from doing something you want to do. Just be aware, and hopefully you can see the humour in it.

My love to you.
Steve

P.S. Update: In this new post, I have added the video snippet where Dr Bill Pettit shares his wisdom about panic attacks (Click here)

Should ‘Mental Health’ Be Taught In Schools?

I read an article this morning about things that need to be improved in mental health, and one of those was to teach mental health in schools.

My first reaction was “will they focus on the health or the illness though?”

Then I felt, if done correctly it could really benefit children learning more about their emotional wellbeing. If I’d have had more awareness of how I could get help for my crippling shyness as a child, then perhaps things would be different now? Who knows?

What I do know is that I felt that most of my teachers didn’t understand me, or weren’t approachable / friendly enough. (Or perhaps I didn’t like being shouted at).

Mental Health Vs Physical Health

I’ve heard people say that if children learn about physical health in schools, then they must learn about mental health too. However, learning about physical health at school didn’t really help me, I was still overweight.

To what extent does the responsibility lay on the school vs the parents to support the child in a way that they grow up to become healthy, grounded and well rounded adults?

I’m a strong believer that we create our perceptions from the inside out (plenty of evidence to back that up) and that everyone, including teachers and parents, have their own biases in regards to how their perceive the outside world. So their best intentions to help their child may be overshadowed by habits and unconscious cues that would still not help the child in the intended manner. Even with the best training on ‘how to’ help the children, the teacher will have to put their own ego and baggage aside to a whole new level.

I think there’s no question mental health should be part of schools and life in general, but I think the school system is outdated and needs to be overhauled anyway (perhaps I’ll write about that in another blog post?)

What do you think about this topic? I’d love to hear your thoughts…