Mindful Monkey.

Taking things into your own hands

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Recently there was a series of 3 shows on BBC Radio 4 which are a great example of how the media can really do it’s job: informing people about important things, Priceless! The time would be well spent listening to these very well informed shows.

Link to Inside Health Podcast – 12 August – Conflicted Health Part 1: Are conflicts of interest in medicine out of control and undermining public trust, or an over-hyped concern? Dr Mark Porter investigates the hidden influences driving your doctor.

Link to Inside Health Podcast – 19 August – Conflicted Health Part 2: Dr Mark Porter examines the hidden conflicts of interest that may affect how your GP or specialist treats you. He discovers that the advice patient groups give you is also not immune to the influences of organisations such as pharmaceutical companies.

Link to Inside Health Podcast – 26 August – Conflicted Health Part 3: Dr Mark Porter examines how powerful lobbying groups like the food and alcohol industries steer public health policy in the direction that suits them most.

(Another excellent source is a book called “Bad Pharma: How Medicine is Broken, and How We Can Fix It” By a doctor and science writer, Ben Goldacre.)

For me the powerful lesson behind all this is that the priorities of the ‘Health Industry’ often may not be entirely about our welfare.

And that instead of putting all our trust in them we might do well to take our health and wellbeing into our own hands as much as possible. How?

Some regular exercise, mindfulness practice, eating mindfully, compassion for ourselves and others: there is plenty of evidence that these things actually do work and there are no side effects, other than making the world a better place for others as well.

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.


Venue update for the Mindfulness for Health and Wellbeing – 10 week course

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Demand of the course was greater than anticipated so we have changed the venue to a more spacious one. The new course location is:

The Woodhouse Room
4th Floor
Charles Wilson Building
University of Leicester

The Woodhouse Room is located on the 4th Floor accessible via lifts and is a lovely room overlooking Victoria Park.

There will be free onsite parking during the course. Come in via Entrance 1 (near sports centre) then drive round and park on campus. Charles Wilson is the tall building in the centre of the campus. If asked at the gate then tell them you are on a course in the Charles Wilson building.

This link takes you to a map of the university  (In the menu on the top left click on Charles Wilson).

There are a few places left so if you were thinking about coming then sign up soon.

Look forward to seeing you soon

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