Mindful Monkey.

How millions of trees brought a broken landscape back to life…

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Trees

So often the news is about people being horrid to each other and the planet. While stories of people doing the right thing goes unreported. Perhaps that’s just the way the news system filters things. So it was great to read this uplifting account in the Guardian. The whole piece well worth a read; here is a summary:

Twenty-five years ago, the Midlands villages of Moira, Donisthorpe and Overseal overlooked a gruesome landscape. The communities were surrounded by opencast mines, old clay quarries, spoil heaps, derelict coal workings, polluted waterways and all the other ecological wreckage of heavy industry.

The air smelt and tasted unpleasant and the land was poisoned. There were next to no trees, not many jobs and little wildlife. Following the closure of the pits, people were deserting the area for Midlands cities such as Birmingham, Derby and Leicester. The future looked bleak.

Today, a pastoral renaissance is taking place. Around dozens of former mining and industrial communities, in what was the broken heart of the old Midlands coalfield, a vast, splendid forest of native oak, ash and birch trees is emerging, attracting cyclists, walkers, birdwatchers, canoeists, campers and horse-riders.

Britain’s trees have come under increasing attack from exotic diseases, and the grants for planting woodland are drying up, so the 200 sq miles of the National Forest come as a welcome good news story. The new woodland in the Midlands is proving that large-scale tree planting is not just good value for money, but can also have immense social, economic and ecological benefits.

In this one corner of the Midlands, more than 8.5m trees have been planted in 25 years, hundreds of miles of footpath have been created and 500 abandoned industrial sites have been transformed. The landscape and ecology of semi-derelict Britain has been revived and rewilded with trees”. Read the rest of the article

Source: How millions of trees brought a broken landscape back to life | Environment | The Guardian


Mindfulness courses in Leicestershire

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Those nice people at West Leicestershire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group have enabled me to deliver mindfulness courses around Leicestershire during 2016 and 2017.

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I am doing this in partnership with Go-Getta CIC, a social enterprise established in 2012 that works with communities to improve outcomes for young people and vulnerable adults.

Mindful MentoringThe 10 week mindfulness course is combined with additional support to form Mindful Mentoring which aims to help individuals achieve improved outcomes around their emotional wellbeing and mental health

Each course will run on Sunday afternoons over a period of 10 weeks. The first course is now up and running in Hinckley. The next course starts in Charnwood. There will be a taster session on 2.10.16. Then in January 2017 the course will be running in Coalville.

If you would like to refer someone you are working with (or want to refer yourself) then contact:
Jit Singh
Project Manager
Mindful Mentoring
Email: info@go-getta.org.uk


Psychoactive Substances Act Postponed Indefinitely

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This new legislation (which was due to come into force on April 6th) has been postponed indefinitely.

Home Office have now announced that

“the commencement date for the legislation would no longer be 6th April 2016.” And

“a new date for commencement has yet to be confirmed.”

This seems like a bit of a mystery. Perhaps the volume of criticism led to a rethink? It has been argued that the law will be difficult to enforce.

Source: Psychoactive Substances Act Postponed Indefinitely



Attending to your own health and mental well being

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It seems that not a week goes by without another piece of research on mindfulness in the news (actually there are many more each month, these are just the tip of the iceberg).

One study with 16 to 17 year old sixth formers, suggests that school-based mindfulness may improve attention and reduce self critical thinking. In teenagers! Sounds pretty good to me.

The researcher in this study who happens to be the supervisor on my MSc research has also done a previous study which showed that Mindfulness improved school grades and reduced stress in school students.

More generally, another study by the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital found that Meditative practices could reduce the need for healthcare services by just under a half.

So, here is yet more evidence that mindfulness helps with physical and mental health. Given the way things are going with health services, and in particular Mental Health Services, it would seem like a really good idea to take control of your own health: being kind to others, doing some exercise, eating mindfully and doing some mindfulness practice seems to be the way forward. Of course reading about it is nice, but actually doing some practice is the way to get the benefits. If you can get to Leicester then sign up for our course that starts on the 20th of March.


“You’re not hallucinating, MPs really did pass crazy bad drug law” says New Scientist

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You’re not hallucinating, MPs really did pass crazy bad drug law

These are not my words but the headline of an article in New Scientist. I’ve been tracking the discussion around the new ‘Psychoactive Substances Bill‘ for a while. The disquiet around this legislation has been mostly expressed in more measured tones, so this, coming from a scientific publication stood out.

Since Mephedrone (MCAT, Meow, Bubble) there was a  ‘leap frogging’ between new drugs (NPS) and the law, and it was evident that each time a set of designer drugs got banned, a new set appeared. And each new set of drugs seemed more hazardous than the last. Things seemed to be getting progressively worse.

So the government decided that a ‘ban everything’ approach would solve the problem. There are two potential issues with this approach. Firstly if you say everything psychoactive is illegal, you immediately need to start creating exceptions. So it starts with Alcohol, Caffeine and Tobacco, but then where will it end? Secondly how do you police this? There is no evidence that making a drugs illegal makes them go away; but there is evidence that criminalising substances creates unintended consequences, most notably more crime.

This reminds me of the saying (often mistakenly attributed to Einstein, but of unknown origin) that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Consider this: We know the safety profile of Cannabis, it has been around for a long time and there are no known cases of overdose or physical harm. There is a worldwide trend towards decriminalising it and it is being researched for a range of medical uses. While at the same time the latest synthetic cannabinoids (helpfully produced for us in China) are creating merry hell in prisons, amongst homeless people and other vulnerable populations. Are you beginning to see a possible solution?

Source: You’re not hallucinating, MPs really did pass crazy bad drug law | New Scientist


The Smart Bubble

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1-20150905_173741You might have noticed that we have a tendency to bat away praise or complements we receive. On the other hand taking to heart anything that seems like a criticism, and while getting distracted by our feelings of hurt, actually missing the useful information that was contained in the feedback.

Surely this is the wrong way round? Of course criticism is difficult and we are trained to be defensive and try to protect ourselves. Perhaps there is a better way: The Smart Bubble is a visualisation is designed to help us more skilfully handle feedback. One might say it is a structured way of learning to manage feedback mindfully.

This visualisation is inspired by the (much more complicated and rather brilliant) ‘Strategy for Responding to Criticism’ by Steve and Connirea Andreas.

The recording below was made at a recent workshop with some young people. It starts with brief explanation that sets things up and follows with a guided imagery. The whole thing is just 13 minutes long.


Mindfulness for Health & Well-Being – The 10 Week Course

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Research into the benefits of mindfulness is growing exponentially. A recent report: “Mindful Nation UK” (Report by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) October 2015) recommends mindfulness as a major contributor to health and wellbeing:

We have been impressed by the quality and range of evidence for the benefits of mindfulness and believe it has the potential to help many people to better health and flourishing. On a number of issues ranging from improving mental health and boosting productivity and creativity in the economy through to helping people with long-term conditions such as diabetes and obesity, mindfulness appears to have an impact.

Although there are many excellent books, articles and resources on mindfulness, there is no substitute for participating in a course where you get the chance to practice and learn mindfulness.

We are running our next 10 Week Mindfulness Course in Leicester starting on 20th March 2016. It runs for 6 fortnightly Sunday afternoons, over 10 weeks. What better way to spend the afternoon? A ‘mind spa’ to help you recharge those batteries, and much more than that: learn how to utilise mindfulness to enrich your life.

The venue, Phoenix Arts Centre is located in Leicester’s cultural quarter with convenient parking.

Here are some of the comments from participants on our last 10 Week Course:

How often does a course change your life? This one will.

This has been a great insight into mindfulness practice which I’ll take forward into my life

The course was delivered with compassion… and enthusiasm. The facilitation was of a superb standard. A huge thanks… for making the course both informative and enjoyable

This course has been a great journey to open the doors of mindfulness.

Mindfulness helps me in every aspect of my life, from child care to work…

What a fantastic course, I felt calmer and lighter afterwards, and more balanced. Thank you… for a truly uplifting experience with a peaceful connecting energy within the group

In case you are new to mindfulness here are some things to consider:

Mindfulness although often experienced as calming, steadying and relaxing isn’t primarily about relaxation. Among other things it is about attentional training, strengthening emotional and meta-cognitive skills, that enable us to act in more choiceful, wiser ways.


Learning to listen to the body

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Arial view of nice trees

Everywhere we look, it seems that dieting is endemic. If you happen to ask a dieter what they would like to eat, the answer is an inventory of what they have had during the last day or so.

As they try to work out the answer to your question, they tally up what they have been eating. It seems as if they have lost touch with the most important source of information – the messages from the body in answer to the questions: “are you hungry?” “what do you feel like eating?”

Using ‘will power’ and tallying up calories leads people to think about food all the time except when they are eating. Can you see how the other way round, eating with awareness, would be more helpful?

It is as if we are losing touch with the messages coming from the body: about hunger or fullness. There is an innate wisdom of the body which is telling us when to eat, what to eat and when to stop. We need to get back in touch with this.

Mindfulness offers us a way to learn to listen to our inner wisdom. There is growing research that supports mindful eating as a way forward.

Food is very commonly a way of managing emotions. If you are not so sure about this, stop and think for a few moments about how you eat, particularly sweet things. And sometimes this seems to have a compulsivity which looks very similar to drugs. Of course this should come as no surprise, because the psychological mechanisms are the same.

Increasing the ability to listen to our emotions and manage them more skilfully is one of the key benefits of mindfulness practice. As well as the formal mindfulness practices, one of the things we can do is to practise mindful eating once a day. Don’t expect this to be easy! Start with something simple like a cup of tea or eating an apple or a biscuit and build up from there. This will help to develop the skills needed to tune into the feedback that shows us the way. Not will power, but utilising the gentle wisdom of our body to tell us what feels right.


A Choice

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Rocks sea and fluffy clouds and cool sky

We might try to look away but we keep coming back to our tears and sorrow at how things are, so we sit with this for a while. As we look at the state of the world, we can be shocked by the cruelty, or inspired by the kindness we see. So, are human beings good or bad?

I think we have to choose. We are at a choice point in human history. Do we wise up and act in ‘skilful’ ways, or do we not.

Clearly, this is not an abstract question: it is a matter of survival. If we choose ‘unskilful’ ways, then we are all undone. If we wise up then there is a world to win.

I wish I knew how we as a species will choose compassion for each other and the planet we live on. How do we get a ‘critical mass’ for a shift towards a way of being and living that puts us in harmony with each other?

I just hope that there are enough of us, in different ways, trying to find another way. Perhaps a good place to look is the simple wisdom in everyone: that harming other living beings feels wrong, and compassion feels like the right thing to do.


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