It seems to be the latest buzzword: mindfulness. Interestingly for me, this makes me think of a mind full of things, which in fact is polar opposite to what you are trying to achieve. I’m not sure ‘mindfulness’ was necessarily the best choice of words but the intent behind it is definitely sound.
Mindfulness basically means paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, as well as to the world around you. It means being aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. I’d rather call it presence. But regardless of what we call it, it is a path to mental harmony and wellbeing.
Let’s face it – it is incredibly easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. There’s chores to do, money to earn, children to raise. The to-do list is never complete. And when there is space, we fill it with Facebook or Instagram or SnapChat or some other meaningless distraction. Do we actually know how we are? How we are feeling?
Our fast paced technological lives make it easy for us to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living 'in our heads'. We become more caught up with thoughts as opposed to emotions and behaviour.
The most important aspect of mindfulness/presence is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. Human minds are easily distracted, habitually examining past events and trying to anticipate the future – so the more we can bring our minds to the tactile body sensations of the here and now, the more presence we can attain.
Why does this impact on wellbeing? The more aware of the present moment we are, the more we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted. In fact research has shown that mindfulness lights up parts of our brains that aren’t normally activated when we’re mindlessly running on autopilot.
Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness. We often fail to notice the good things about our lives, fail to hear what our bodies are telling us, or poison ourselves with toxic self-criticism.
Mindfulness/presence encourages you to observe your emotions, to hang out with them, to never avoid them or suppress them or run from them. It makes self-destructive behaviour eminently avoidable. It helps us recognise and step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events.
There are many good resources on the net to help you to achieve mindfulness/presence. I like things to be very simple so here’s my ABC:
A is for Awareness and Attention (how am I feeling right now?)
B is for Body, Breath and Being (how well am I listening to my depth right now?)
C is for Conscious Choice (acting from presence and truth)
Mindfulness/presence is not about having the last App, or adding extra stuff to the already full to-do list. It’s a way of being. Of living. A choice, not a chore. I invite you to try it if you haven't already.
Boundaries are part of self care. They are healthy, normal and necessary. [Doreen Virtue]
We've all experienced having someone crash our personal space. Our response depends on both our personal history and on the nature of the crashing in. We may feel anything from slightly disgruntled all the way through to traumatised and abused.
Someone who has been loved and nurtured throughout their childhood will know in the cells of their body what is right and what is wrong. They will have a strong container and boundaries will come naturally to them. They will be confident with their personal space, will feel that they have a right to it and will have a history of it being respected.
So if you unconsciously crash their space, you will get a gentle swat to back off as if you've been an annoying fly. It is not necessarily a big deal - your timing may just be off.
However, for someone who has been emotionally, physically or sexually abused as a child, the picture is very, very different. Their natural boundaries were violated and they do not know what a safe container feels like. They are apologetic about their personal space and feel inadequate, incomplete, unworthy, tainted. Most importantly they often feel selfish if they try and set boundaries - maybe through some deep seated belief that they are bad and must be available for all and sundry to take advantage of - to make up for the fact that they are alive.
Defining boundaries is not selfish in any way, shape or form. It is a basic human need and part of your health and well-being.
My sense is the shame of early violation makes it very, very difficult to claim your power, to claim your personal space, and take authority about what you will and will not accept as part of your life's experiences. Defining boundaries is not simple. It doesn't work if you just state them. You have to own them in the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual realms: only then will others necessarily get the message.
A good way to start is to take a blank piece of paper. Draw a stick person to represent you and draw a big bubble around you. Within the bubble, name and write down all the things/experiences you welcome in your life. In a different colour pen (a colour that does not resonate with you), name and write down all the things/experiences you do not welcome at all in your life. Pin this somewhere you can see daily - especially in areas where interactions with others happen (maybe near the front door or near the landline if you still use one).
So now you're on your way to owning your boundaries from a mental place - what about from a physical place? Here's a really good exercise to try with a close friend or partner (someone you feel safe with). Stand either in the middle of a room or in the garden and ask your helper to stand opposite you - with approximately 12 feet between you. Bring your awareness into your body as much as you are able and ask your helper to slowly walk towards you. Notice when your body reacts to their presence - is it far away or close? Where do you start to feel impinged upon? Then get your helper to walk clockwise around you - again starting about 12 feet away. Which direction makes the hairs on the back of your neck go up? When they are on your right hand side or your left? When they are behind you? Play around and notice what you notice. This is great training on physical boundaries. Then swap over - and as you move towards your helper, notice when you feel their boundaries are uncomfortable or being encroached. See if it matches with their sense. Dialogue. See what you learn about each other's space.
So what about emotional boundaries? A key thing here it to learn how to be clear about the difference between your emotions and the emotions of others around you. We can be emotional sponges - and not know where we end and someone else begins. We can be emotionally drained after spending time with some people. We can suppress emotions we feel are 'bad' and only allow out the ones we label as 'good'. True emotion is energy in motion - e-motion. Allowing yourself to feel the wide range of emotions, without filtering or judging yourself is a great first step. It's helpful to identify them and learn to express them: own them (I feel sad, I feel angry, I feel disappointed). And when you feel overwhelmed by emotions, yours or others, find the movement to move them through - go striding through the forest, dance, shake, run, jog, go to the gym. Don't let them get stuck. And if you don't know where you end and another person begins - go and spend some time alone. Find you edges again, your own centre of equilibrium. Trees are great companions for this.
And finally, a few things about spiritual boundaries. These are your core values and what make up your central belief system. You may be in a beginning place with this or as an adept - however, I'd always recommend coming back to check what they are, whether they've changed, what holds you together and makes you tick. The clearer you are in this area, the more obvious it will be when an external event/person/decision is in line with your spiritual boundaries or not.
If we don't set boundaries, we can feel used and mistreated. Resentment grows. Passive aggressiveness seeps out. We repeat the cycles we ourselves were violated by. Boundaries are about respect: respect of self, respect of others, respect of life itself.
We’re at a key turning point, a revolution if you like, for dementia right now. It’s a good time to make sure you are up to speed with the latest advice. Diet is key and there are many resources online to ensure you are eating the optimum anti-inflammatory foods. Here is a recent one from Harvard
How can craniosacral therapy make a difference?
Trials with craniosacral therapy are showing promising results for working with inflammation and dementia and one of the reasons why is that craniosacral therapy sessions encourages the flow of CSF.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a clear, colourless liquid that bathes the brain and spinal cord. We know that it is incredibly important to our health and well-being but it is still surrounded in mystery. There are some startling facts: in middle age, the flow of CSF is half that of a normal adult. And as people reach 60 +, doctors can see on a MRI that their brains start to shrink. Also when people have senile dementia, their flow of CSF is 75% less!
In a recent podcast, Michael Morgan, used a great analogy for this deterioration in CSF flow: imagine a river flowing freely where over time the water table lowers until eventually it dries up. What you are left with is sludge (amyloid plaques). This creates a situation where more and more toxins form so the million dollar question is – if we can find a way to increase the flow of CSF to near normal levels, would the sludge wash away?
What I do know for sure is that this amazing fluid, in direct contact with our brain and spinal cord, that we continually make and replace, holds some mysteries that science has not yet unlocked. And there are many exciting revolutionary findings just around the corner...