Mindful Monkey.

Mindfulness & Somatic Based Approaches: An Experiential Workshop

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I will be facilitating a workshop at Leicester University on the 11th and 12th of April 2018.

This workshop is part of the course for the 2015 (Foundation Degree in Drug and Alcohol Counselling and Treatment) Distance Learning students. As there are a few spare spaces we are making it available to other students and graduates of the course (free of charge).

This will be a strongly experiential workshop. The first day will mainly focus on mindfulness practice interspersed with some discussion. The second day will build on this to develop skills in using mindfulness and embodied approaches in counselling (particpants need to attend both days).

Numbers are limited so you will need to book a place. If you would like to attend then please email Shehzad on sam99@le.ac.uk.


Mindfulness & Somatic Based Approaches: An Experiential Workshop

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10-20150215_114818 (1024x576)

I will be facilitating this workshop at Leicester University on the 3rd and 4th of April 2017.

It is part of the Foundation Degree course for the 2014 intake. As there are a few spare spaces so we are making it available to other students and graduates of the Foundation Degree in Drug and Alcohol Counselling and Treatment.

This will be a strongly experiential workshop. The first day will mainly focus on mindfulness practice interspersed with some discussion. The second day will build on this to develop skills in using mindfulness and embodied approaches in counselling (particpants need to attend both days).

The course is open (and free) to graduates and current students on the Foundation Degree in Drug and Alcohol Counselling and Treatment. Places are limited and you need to book a place. If you would like to attend then please email the course director of the Foundation Degree, Tony Priest on agp6@le.ac.uk.


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.


What to do with a Gut Feeling: A Question of the Signal to Noise Ratio?

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Do you think the importance of emotions is down played? We hear phrases like “… oh you’re just being emotional”. Reasoning is often put forward as superior faculty for dealing with our experiences. This position argues that we should disregard emotions as somehow ‘soft’ or ‘fuzzy’ and rely on reasoning and intellect.

Yet most of us also suspect that our emotions are important. For example most people know that it is not wise to ignore our feelings about something and that using a ‘gut feeling’ can be a good way of deciding or knowing things.

So how do we resolve this seeming conflict? In recent years there has here has been a revolution in thinking about the brain; the importance of emotions in how we think and process things is seen as central to how the brain works. The ground breaking research of Damasio and Panksepp has helped to create the field of study called Affective Neuroscience.

For now let’s look specifically at what we call ‘gut feeling’. How good is the information it provides us? Can we really trust a gut feeling? Is it reliable? Most of us would not ignore a gut feeling – yet we also know that it may not be infallible.

Let’s start with the idea that the information being provided by our emotions is important, relevant and accurate. However, problems arise with errors in the reading of them. The signal is being incorrectly deciphered, a bit like taking a reading from you electricity meter and calculating your gas bill from that. As you can imagine that would lead to an unhelpful outcome.
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So what we are saying is the emotions are a key part of our wisdom, the feeling tone in our body provides essential signals which make up our ‘emotional guidance system’, our ‘emotional intelligence’. So the ‘gut feeling’ about something is a very important message, it provides essential information. So how do we decipher and use this inner guidance wisely?

The ‘knee jerk’ reactions to our feelings will not usually be the most helpful way to respond. For instance it is common that when feeling afraid or angry people will ‘lash out’ against the person (or situation) that appears to be the cause of these feelings. I guess you can see that this is usually not the most helpful or wise thing to do. So how do we use the information better?

Firstly we don’t react to it ‘automatically’. To have the important mental skills to be with an experience, the difficult feeling, and not have the knee jerk reaction, but rather be able to ‘hold’ and contain the feeling, listen to it, without either becoming overwhelmed or cutting off from it. This gives us an opportunity to hear its deeper meaning, which is usually more helpful and is trying to guide us in important ways.

Understanding all this conceptually is not easy, yet with a few weeks of regular Mindfulness practice most people start to see it happening in their lives, in their reactions to things. Old habitual knee jerk reactions are not triggered off immediately, and somehow ‘space’ appears around things in a way that allows wiser more helpful responses.

Perhaps one way of understanding this is in terms of ‘signal to noise ratio’. When there is a lot of noise the important signal is obscured. As the intensity of the inner ‘noise’ is reduced, the important signal becomes clearer; we can ‘hear’ it better. The Mindfulness practice helps us strengthen these skills and this becomes the doorway to our healing and growth.

You can now get all the Guided Mindfulness recordings you need to get going with your practice here.

Or you can come on the Mindfulness 10 week course starting on the 21st of September.

 


What can the placebo effect tell us about the mind-body connection?

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No one knows exactly how the placebo effect works! The more one considers this fascinating phenomenon, the more intriguing it becomes.

We know that if someone is given a tablet that has no active chemical in it but believes it to be an active substance, a certain number of people show a response (as if it were an active substance).  So a sugar pill can in effect work as an analgesic if the person taking it were to believe it is a pain killer. What is now even more puzzling is the efficacy of the placebo is further enhanced by a number of factors such as:

  • The colour of a tablet
  • The size
  • Two are better than one
  • The price (the more expensive, the more effective it is)
  • The trust and quality of relationship with the prescriber
  • If given as an injection (placebo here being just sterilised water for injections) rather than a tablet taken orally…

It would appear healing is more complicated than we thought. Of course there will be times when we need conventional medical interventions. In many situations, however, wouldn’t it be useful if we were to believe we are getting better, and then be on the way to being healed? This could have so many important implications for our day to day well-being. There are a number of chronic conditions around that could be helped. Think of psoriasis & eczema, IBS, insomnia or many other problems. If psychology and our mind can play a part in recovery and well-being then perhaps we should use it more often.

I leave you with this thought: What if stress, worry and striving are not nearly as effective in terms of getting things done as being in a flow state? Mindfulness, Guided Imagery and Relaxation skills may all help.  When calm you get things done even better; and you may well enjoy the process of getting things done. In difficult times is this an idea more important than ever?


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