Hello from Inverurie

Hi everyone, just me.

I hope all of you are doing very well and trying to let go of the year that has passed. It has been a very challenging year for all of us and we have all been affected by this very different way of living.

I have moved and sold and set up a new life in Inverurie, in the north of Scotland and its a wonderful and very happy place for us all. I do continue to practice and have ran a pilot led class for the locals and it was well received.

I now follow my passion for helping those in need and practice as a careers adviser, but mindfulness plays a big part in this to.

I hope that you all continue to value some of the free content I have available. I hope to spend time producing more and may offer more on line classes later in the year.

In the meantime, look after you and practice as often as you can. Its a wonderful rewarding skill to develop.

All the best for now

David

How to zoom mindfully

Join us online for regular mindfulness practice group sessions hosted by Zoom. Getting started is easy and the participation fee is minimum – with all profits during lockdown going to charity.  

What happens 

We practice mindful meditations and exercises in small, supportive group sessions. These meditation sessions are open to any age, ability and current stress levels. You are in your own home so meditations can be personal and you have all the benefit from having others with you if you choose. 

We share:  

  • guided mindfulness meditations and exercises led by a qualified mindfulness practitioner 
  • practice reflection at the end, if you choose to – and that’s it. 

If you think zoom mindfulness might be for you, but you’re not sure of are having difficulty signing up, get in touch or a leave a comment below. 

Getting the most from mindfulness with zoom 

  • Create an account – they’re free and it lets you adjust your settings just the way you want them.
  • Let others in the house know that you’re meditating and you’d prefer not to be disturbed.
  • Try not to worry if you are disturbed – these are difficult times and not everything is going to be perfect 
  • Mute your mic and turn off your camera when practice begins, that way you can be confident that you won’t disturb anyone else and you can give the practice your full attention 
  • Turn your camera and mic back on at the end of practice and join us for reflection and a general check-in – we’re here to help each other. 

Mindfulness in 2020 | My top 10 resolutions for a mindful new year

The lovely paté and brie glow I seem to have acquired over Christmas is now slowly fading; along with late-starts in the morning and the abundance of tiny chocolate treats throughout the day. 2020 has arrived and is desperate for our attention. So, in this brief but welcomed first weekend in January, I find myself making plans for the year ahead. Here are my observations – those things I have decided I want with me as I leap bravely into this new decade. 

I’ve called my want list ‘resolutions’ because it seems the right thing to do. But they are simply the hopes that inspire me most, I hope they make you feel good too.

#1 Retreats, more and more mindful retreats 

Outside of mindful retreat venue
Mindful morning retreats held at the Xavier Centre, Carfin.

I ran my very first series of mindful morning retreats in 2019, the last of which was on the 18th of December, just as the holiday period approached. To bring together a group of people who want to practice meditation in a shared space, sometimes indoors, sometimes outdoors, is really what Mindfulness Practice is all about for me. I want to continue these for as long as I can and the first of these is already setup for you. If you want to come along, book here

#2 Public speaking and big group mindfulness 

Presenting at the Practical Mindset event in Hamilton last year.

On a slightly larger scale, I had the opportunity to lead a mindful practice session with a group of 50 delegates at the Practical Mindset event last year. It took place during our beautiful long summer in the picturesque setting of Chatelherault Country Park. I got so much from the event, the chance to share my thoughts on mindfulness practice and its place in the development of mental health services, self-care and recovery. I’m looking forward to more of this in 2020, starting with a mindful workshop at the Career Development Institute’s conference in Glasgow this month. I know I have much to contribute in this area as the coordinator of the Coalition of Schools Educating Mindfully COSEM in Scotland

#3 Greater access to MBSR CPD training

I want to find more ways to bring certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction MBSR training to those who are practising with me on a regular basis. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really not, and if you work in health or social care, gaining the MBSR CPD credits is definitely worthwhile. If I’m already talking you round (well that was easy) let me tell you more about it right here

#4 More audio meditations for your convenience 

Free audio recordings of mindfulness meditations for you to follow at home.

Guided meditation is such a luxury when you’ve had a difficult day or your morning feels a little less glorious than you would like. Your feedback on the audio available from my site has been really positive and all of that positivity simply makes me want to do more. 

#5 Help those working with vulnerable young people 

I gained some experience last year that I am so very grateful for, as I got to work directly with young people. These clients were looking not only for mental health support but for some careers guidance and coaching too. It really was an ideal job, and I got so much out of it, it will be difficult to top this year. I did, however, get a very real insight into just how demanding that kind of work can be and as a result, I have increased respect and admiration for those of you who work directly with children, young people and those with additional support needs on a daily basis. I’ll be bidding for contracts across the country specifically looking to support staff in these areas with their everyday stressors. 

#6 Work the circuits 

Apologies, that was an attempt at a gym reference, only I don’t really do anything at the gym *except meditate, so probably messed it up a little. So, my contract with NL Leisure is up for review. I would love to offer a one-hour weekly mindfulness meditation class in every gym in the country, but it’s just not that straight forward. I’ll be spending more time this year talking to wellbeing and procurement professionals in gyms in your local area to find ways of bringing weekly mindful meditation classes to our gyms. If you live in North Lanarkshire you can sign up to weekly mindful meditation classes right here.

#7 More reading recommendations 

One thing I know I’ll never tire of is reading, and reading about mindfulness practice is my passion. I’m looking forward to sharing with you more of the pieces that I recommend for your bookshelf, kindle or just a quick excerpt here and there for you to read on the train. 

#8 Managing my anxiety and depression  

Mindfulness meditation is now the number one recommended therapy for the treatment of depression according to NICE. And I can vouch for its success. I suffer from depression and anxiety. While recovering from a prolonged period of depression in 2010, I discovered mindfulness meditation and began using it, along with many other forms of support, to aid my recovery. Mindfulness meditation continues to be a daily source of happiness and mental strength for me, during good and bad days. I will continue to share some of my own personal experience of recovery and I would love to hear more about your experiences too. 

#9 New materials fit for a new decade 

It’s with great pleasure that we are working again with the fabulous graphic designer Suzie Black. She’s helped build the Mindfulness Practice brand and we’re delighted to be in cahoots with her on some new materials for the events ahead – watch this space. 

#10 More family time, of course 

My number one priority, Therese and little Milo are getting more involved with Mindfulness Practice this year. Expect to see them at events and you may even hear from Therese sometimes on our social and web content. With their continued support and encouragement, I know I can embrace everything this year has to offer with acceptance and joy. 

That’s all from me, I wish you all a very happy and healthy year ahead and leave you with these beautiful words from a very moving poem by the renowned poet Mary Oliver.

The stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, 
and there was a new voice 
which you slowly 
recognized as your own, 
that kept you company 
as you strode deeper and deeper 
into the world, 
determined to do 
the only thing you could do- 
determined to save 
the only life you could save. 

from the poem The Journey by Mary Oliver

Stress

We all know this word very well with the modern demands that continuously chap at our doors. I want to talk about it today, reflecting on my own journey with stress, but also sharing some insights, revelations and my appreciation for stress….YES…i did say appreciation.

We all experiences stress, from the minute we wake up and I strongly believe that we see stress as the enemy, the overwhelming companion. At times, we find that we feel that we just struggle, with the emotional rollercoaster, the tension and the thoughts associated with stress. Some of us will be very aware of adrenaline and cortisol.

Firstly cortisol, we need it, it wakes us up, keeps us going.

Think of cortisol as nature’s built-in alarm system. It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation, and fear.

Your adrenal glands — triangle-shaped organs at the top of your kidneys — make cortisol.

It’s best known for helping fuel your body’s “fight-or-flight” instinct in a crisis, but cortisol plays an important role in a number of things your body does. For example, it:

  • Manages how your body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
  • Keeps inflammation down
  • Regulates your blood pressure
  • Increases your blood sugar (glucose)
  • Controls your sleep/wake cycle
  • Boosts energy so you can handle stress and restores balance afterward

How Does It Work?

Your hypothalamus and pituitary gland — both located in your brain — can sense if your blood contains the right level of cortisol. If the level is too low, your brain adjusts the amount of hormones it makes. Your adrenal glands pick up on these signals. Then, they fine-tune the amount of cortisol they release.

Cortisol receptors — which are in most cells in your body — receive and use the hormone in different ways. Your needs will differ from day to day. For instance, when your body is on high alert, cortisol can alter or shut down functions that get in the way. These might include your digestive or reproductive systems, your immune system, or even your growth processes. So is it really one of the bad guys?? This remains a debate for some of us.

What about adrenaline?

When a stressful situation occurs and your heart begins to race, your hands begin to sweat, and you start looking for an escape, you have experienced a textbook case of fight-or-flight response. This response stems from the hormone adrenaline. Also called epinephrine, this hormone is a crucial part of the body’s fight-or-flight response, but over-exposure can be damaging to health. Because of this, adrenaline is a hormone worth understanding.

Adrenaline is produced in the medulla in the adrenal glands as well as some of the central nervous system’s neurons. Within a couple of minutes during a stressful situation, adrenaline is quickly released into the blood, sending impulses to organs to create a specific response.

What is the function of adrenaline?

Adrenaline triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response. This reaction causes air passages to dilate to provide the muscles with the oxygen they need to either fight danger or flee. Adrenaline also triggers the blood vessels to contract to re-direct blood toward major muscle groups, including the heart and lungs. The body’s ability to feel pain also decreases as a result of adrenaline, which is why you can continue running from or fighting danger even when injured. Adrenaline causes a noticeable increase in strength and performance, as well as heightened awareness, in stressful times. After the stress has subsided, adrenaline’s effect can last for up to an hour.

Problems associated with adrenaline

Adrenaline is an important part of your body’s ability to survive, but sometimes the body will release the hormone when it is under stress but not facing real danger. This can create feelings of dizziness, light-headedness, and vision changes. Also, adrenaline causes a release of glucose, which a fight-or-flight response would use. When no danger is present, that extra energy has no use, and this can leave the person feeling restless and irritable. Excessively high levels of the hormone due to stress without real danger can cause heart damage, insomnia, and a jittery, nervous feeling.

Where does mindfulness fit it in all this?

As we become skilled with mindfulness, we bring our awareness, to the body, our breathing, but most importantly in my opinion, our thoughts

As we begin to take on our demands, Before mindfulness I personally, started to fear them, underestimating my ability to cope, producing negative self talk, empowering my stress response and ultimately feeding the process.

As a result of mindfulness, I began noticing that I was getting caught up with my stream of thoughts, processing them, producing the powerful emotions and reactions. With practiced mindfulness. I recognise stress beginning, some times in the body but more often so, in the process of my own thinking.

Today, I become aware of my thoughts at meta level, observing them, using my breathing or body as my anchor and moving on. Sometimes, I even miss the thoughts and notice tension beginning in areas of my body, so mitigate this. I have developed a trap, per say, at each stress hurdle. Overall, I still feel stress, its byproducts, but more so, I am aware of this natural process. With mindfulness I have been able to reduce my response, improve my emotional reasoning and ultimately appreciate stress. It acts as my cue, to stop in that moment and just let things be and bring my focus else where.

Through training, non-judgement and patience, I now appreciate stress. Is lets me know so much more about who I am and when its time to find acceptance and calm, through technique.

I recommend practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation Daily, up to 3 times in the beginning, to become aware of the tension in the body, but also to build the skill of relaxation. It took me 3 months to get there, but I proved this was possible. I also bring awareness to the breath each time my mind gets caught up with thoughts, worrys and preoccupations. With practice, mindfulness can have a profound affect with the stress response, and one day, maybe you will appreciate these natural processes to. Relaxation and healthy well-being are skills, make time for yourself, to just simply be and see what unfolds for you.

7 quick meditations for busy lives

Start here if you are new to mindfulness or looking for some quick meditation ideas. Know that your focus on self-care and mental wellbeing is just as important as looking after your physical well-being. Next time you are counting steps or logging meals, take a minute to breathe in. And breathe out. And ease down into relaxation.

Becoming aware of your thoughts

I found that relaxation was something I had to learn. And for me, that started with noticing when tension would first appear. The following quick meditations are designed around the points in the day when a 60-second grounding technique can go unnoticed. Once you start to feel the benefits of relaxation you become aware of when you need it most. These quick stress management exercises can fit into your day and there is no equipment needed.

Busy mums and dads. Back to back meetings. Wrong side of the bed. Don’t let a bad day get the better of you. A common technique I have adopted from the practice of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is to break your day up into thirds. This can help you gain control after an awful morning, restart your evening and find lots of little opportunities for quick mediations.

Morning meditations

These are two different meditations both perfect for busy mornings. Both can be practiced in the shower or simply while washing your face. The idea is to observe your mega morning thoughts; the ones that make you feel like you have lived an entire day before even leaving the house, sometimes before leaving the bed. By listening to your thoughts you become an observer. The aim is not to control them; just to listen and let go.

Mindful Cleansing

In the shower, or standing at the wash hand basin, let the water start to flow and try to tune into the sound it makes as it rushes from the faucet or showerhead. Notice the change in pitch as the water hits your skin and the ceramic bath or sink. Let your morning brain activate; we are natural thinkers so it’s perfectly normal for your mind to present all of the day’s potential problems to you as you listen to the water’s changing pitch and speed.

Be kind to yourself; acknowledge your thoughts and notice when this happens. Take care to inhale and on the exhale, bring your mind back to the sound of the water; rushing from the shower head; changing tone and pace as it completes it short journey down the plughole. Take three slow cleansing breaths and turn the water off.

Well done; have a great day!

Mindful Drying

This is a really simple but effective practice. It takes no longer than the time it takes to dry yourself after a shower or in the few minutes sitting on the bed before you start to get dressed. It incorporates some self-massage techniques into your routine that I promise you will continue to use because this is a fantastically easy way to practice self-care.

As well as providing a great start to your day, this type of mindful practice is also perfect post-workout or post-workday when your body might be carrying tension and stress.

Using your own hand, begin by massaging your neck from the center to your ear and from center to your shoulder switching hands to cover both sides of your neck and both shoulders.

Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Inhale and exhale. Now move to the arm, working down one arm from the shoulder to the elbow, wrist, palm of your hand and fingers. Now massage the second arm, acknowledging the thoughts that enter and leave and using the out breath to come back to the body and the sensations you feel.

Feel any tension leave that part of your body as you exhale and notice any feelings of satisfaction or gratitude as you ease down into relaxation.

It is only natural that your thoughts return to the activities and challenges that today brought. Be mindful of these thoughts; notice and listen, but each time you move to another part of the body try to refocus on that massaging sensation and what is feels like. Feel any tension in the arms and hands, legs and feet and of course shoulders. Gently massage, one hand at a time, feeling the warmth the movement brings.

When you’re ready to open your eyes, take three deep breaths. Breath slowly and fill your stomach. Hold the breath and exhale slowly.

Well done. You listened to your thoughts but didn’t let them control you. This time was all yours and you gave yourself some self-care in the form of a mindful massage.

Mindful Eating

This has to be one of my favourites. But first let us cast the image of the raisin and our first experience of this practice out of our minds. There is so much to explore with this practice.

As you sit down, notice the sensation of smell and how the food conjures thoughts of the taste and the hunger. Using cereal as an example, pick up the table spoon, feel its temperature in your hand, its smoothness or texture. Notice how the spoon slides effortlessly into the cereal bowl and the noise this makes. Bring the spoon to your mouth and take that first mouthful.

If your mind wanders, notice this and return to the texture and taste of the cereal in your mouth. How your tongue activates those senses of taste and the thoughts associated. Now bring your attention to how that cereal got here, from the packet or box, from the store you bought it from. As you chew, think about how it got delivered to the store, how it was made in the factory, all the way back to the beginning of the wheat or rice being grown. Perhaps even the plants being planted or seeds sown. I find that I get lost in this imagination while eating and it helps ground and calm my mind. Fantastic!

Mindfulness of Touch

Find a comfortable seat at home and remove your shoes/slippers. Just sit in the seat as you would and begin scanning your sense of touch. Perhaps the sensations of your feet touching the floor. Maybe you begin with the back of your head or neck touching the sofa. See where your brain wants to go next, the back touching the sofa, your clothes resting against your shoulders or knees. Perhaps even your socks on your feet. When you notice your thoughts wandering, with kindness and without judgement, bring your focus back to the last sensation of touch. dont try and control the order of the sensing, just let it come automatically. Repeat this for 10 mins. Another self care start to ease the mind and promote awareness of a moment between body and mind.

Awakening the Breathe

Begin this exercise first thing in the morning or perhaps for at lunch. Start by taking in 5 long deep breathes. Controlling the breathing and bring focus to that control. Keep the breathing long and deep, into the chest. Observing the expansion and contraction. Repeat this for 2 minutes. On the emergence of the next out breathe, bring the focus of the breathing down to the stomach, noticing the sensations of the rising and falling stomach. Repeat this for 2 minutes. As the next out breath comes round, place the imagnation on the whole body breathing. As you breathe in the air comes in through the lungs, down into the stomach, legs and feet. As you breathe out, imagine all that air coming out of the feet, back up the legs, up through the stomach and lungs. Repeat for 2 minutes. Now return the focus back to the breathing down to the stomach, repeat for two minutes. Now return to the breathing at the chest for 2 minutes. Taking your time and bring yourself back to where you are, sitting, lying down at home, on the train or even in the office. Enjoy.

Morning Awakening.

As the Alarm awakes you, reset it today for just 10 minutes later. Just today. Take your time. While you lie in bed, notice the warmth and comfort and how it makes you feel. Really take your time. Listen to the birds outside. The kids in the other room. The cars passing in the street. Now bring something positive to the front of you mind. Something positive you will do today. For yourself. Help others? Maybe its that favourite song. Favourite walk. That hot bath. Calling a friend or family member. Helping a colleague.

When you have decided, cast your mind forward to that positive moment. What will it feel like? How will you feel? Smile ( even fake ones work you know). Now let alarm go off and start your day….ahhh…..ready?

Mountain Pose

To start this exercise, find a quiet room at home. Begin by standing feet, hip width apart. Bend the knees slightly, no locked joints please. Pull in your pelvic floor and core. Notice how this strenghts the back and posture. Place both arms by your side palms resting against the side of each leg. Now start by taking in a nice slow deep breathe and at the same time, Raise the arms, allowing the breathe to control the speed, up above the head until the palms meet each other. No breathe out slowly, lowering the arms back down to the legs. See if you can notice the slight pause between the end and beginning of each breathe. Repeat this process for 15 breathes. Enjoy

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honourably. He or she may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.

Be grateful for whomever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

Jalal Al-Din Rumi (1207-1273)

Mindful Tip

Mindfulness Tip of the Day : The knee hug. Begin in a relaxed and comfortable position lying on your bed or yoga mat. Support your neck with a pillow.

Bend your legs and bring them into your chest. Hold them but avoid pulling them. Keep your spine long pressing each vertebra onto the floor. Avoid hunching your shoulders up. If you struggle to hold your legs, hold them behind your knees. Pay attention to the breathing and hold for as long as you wish. When you are ready to finish, gently return your legs to the floor one at a time and relax on the bed or floor.   Explore and enjoy #mindfulness #yoga #positioning #spine #knee #shoulder #hugs

Mindfulness Tip

Mindfulness tip of the day. Grounding. Notice five things that you can see. Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see. Pick something that you don’t normally notice, like a shadow or a small crack in the concrete. Notice four things that you can feel. Bring awareness to four things that you are currently feeling, like the texture of your clothes, the feeling of the breeze on your skin, or the smooth surface of a table you are resting your hands on. Notice three things you can hear. Take a moment to listen, and note three things that you hear in the background. This can be the chirp of a bird, the hum of the refrigerator, or the faint sounds of traffic from a nearby road. Notice two things you can smell. Bring your awareness to smells that you usually filter out, whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant. Perhaps the breeze is carrying a whiff of pine trees if you’re outside, or the smell of a fast food restaurant across the street. Notice one thing you can taste Explore and Enjoy.

Day In Mindfulness

Its 6 am, the Alarm goes off, my 3 and half year old is up. “Daddy!!” he bellows. The same first words every day. I get up and quickly tend to my son and sort my wife with a cuppa. I find that my panicked mind awakes like a plane engine. So quickly jump into a mountain pose while the kettle boils. I hear and accept my mind and move my attention to my breathing and that wonderful gap between breathes. The noise breaks, it almost deflates.The engine slows down…

Off I go with breakfast for everyone and switch to a small mindful movement while I walk upstairs to our bedroom. I notice my urge to pick up the phone and ignore it. I am ready for a mindful breakfast.

The first spoonful clatters gently off the bowl and I am lifting my arm with a crunchy fruity loaded spoonful. The sensations on my tongue are electric. I notice my thoughts starting to think about the sweetness of blueberry’s and the crunch of cornflakes. I slosh the lot around in my mouth, chew and swallow. Noticing my throat really activate and feel the coldness of the milk hit my stomach. Each mouthful gets more intense, with flavour and I feel my energy levels gently rise. I can really get lost in this. All the while my son is chatting away and my wife is lazing. I notice my mind think about my business, things to be done, concepts to create. I move to my tea and same again, tune right in. The feeling of the cup hitting my lips, the taste and temperature. Fascinating and awakening.

Next we all get ready, my wife heads out and my son is on the tv catching up on thomas and friends. I switch back to my tasks in hand, organising a few things and prepping mys sons bag for nursery. Next he’s dropped off and I am on my way to training for my business. I kick into mindful seating and notice the comfort of the car seat and my ability to switch to my bodily sensations as I drive.

The panic mind steps in again, forcing me to worry about nausea in the course room. I gently and kindly accept this thought for what it is….just…a….thought, and move back to my legs in the car chair and the sensations. I unpack the car and head into the class. I felt totally fine today and really enjoyed learning new ideas and concepts. Met some great people to and generated a business lead or two….

I got home and headed to our kitchen for some lunch, employing mindfulness of eating once more. A baked potato with cheese, got lost in the tastes and sensations. My sense of smell was also very active during this small feast. I was thinking of the contacts and new leads so far, the work I still needed to do and plan and a few other things. I was aware at this point in the day that my mind was quite full and I needed some me time. I got the trainers on and mindfully walked. My first sensation was noticing my heel peel from the ground as my foot lifted and then I made my way up to my knees and thighs. On each step I was conscious of the balance we do for a split second per step, its amazing how the human body knows how to do this. I then was aware of the breeze on my face and slight discomfort in my left knee. My mind was still now and again wandering to work related tasks. I simply, and with no judgement returned to the mindfulness of walking and in particular could really sense the Achilles tendons as I lifted my foot. Something I had never noticed before.

I am blessed with the luck of being very near a grotto, which is so peaceful and at this time of year the trees are in full swing and buzzing. I often left my walking sensations to focus in on my hearing and found it fascinating and relaxing. Before long 30 mins had passed and I had done a round trip back to home. I felt calm, relaxed and refreshed. I then worked on my site and made a start on this article and here we are as I type. I can feel my fingers hit the keyboard and my thoughts producing these words. Tonight will be time to reflect and learn, today has been brilliant.