Have a Laugh! Yes, Seriously, have a Laugh!

‘Success is about a happy life; happy life is just a string of happy moments; most people don’t allow happy moments because they are so busy getting a happy life.’ Ester & Jerry Hicks

I have a confession to make; since I have been writing, reading and attending online courses on all things happiness and law of attraction, I have come to the realisation that I have taken the pursuit of law of attraction a bit too seriously. Sometimes I forget to enjoy the little moments, like when my daughter comes running to me or my cats want a little stroke or even just going out and enjoying the sunshine in the garden. Sometimes I am too absorbed in my self-improvement, too goal orientated, too attached to my smart phone or thinking of what my next life goals should be that I am not really paying attention to little moments of happiness right in front of me.

So I have decided to have a ‘joyous week’ where I focus my attention on enjoying the little things in life; enjoying time I spend with family, listening to my favorite music, playing with my cats, even reading a trashy magazine or two and watching some quality TV that I really enjoy.

Day 1-2

The pursuit of happiness can really be very stressful and more that, what I have realised is that, it is very thought consuming. By focusing on joyous week, I have realised the amount of time I spend thinking about what I can do next to be happy; rather than just BE happy. My starting point is being mindful of my thoughts where I remind myself to enjoy the moment, whatever it may bring.  No one better to bring this message home to me than my 2 year old daughter, who constantly lives in the moment. She laughs when she is happy; plays when she wants to; she cries when she is sad; and genuinely cheers up the next moment if the circumstances warrant it. So the first few days, I focused on trying to live like my 2 year old; laugh when something is funny, even it is it silly in adult terms and learn the art of playing. The highlight of one of the days was definitely painting with water colours, paint brushes, sponges and hands, messy but loads of fun.

Day 3-5

Relaxing came a bit more naturally as the week went on, but I was having to ask myself hard questions such as is my weekly meditation practice taking life too seriously or can I incorporate it into my joyous week?! After some thought, I decided to carry on with my meditation, but goal of my meditation has been to purely relax, rather than visualise my future goals.

Day 4-7

I had few days of work stress and once I left work, physically walked out the building, I was trying very hard to leave my work thoughts behind and even if I couldn’t think of something cheerful, I tried to be calm and think of something else other than work! One thing that has helped me with taking my mind off work was my music and listening to it on my way home on the commute really helped me to do this.

Some of the highlights of the last few days of my joyous week included watching my favourite episodes of the Mindy Project and the Big Bang Theory and let myself have a laugh out loud laughs. I also had the pleasure of going shopping which used to be one of my old time favourite past time, but often ridden with guilt for buying one too many purchases, but difference now is that I try and do this mindfully; I only buy things which I need or really really like, not just because something is on sale or I could use next summer (given its autumn now!).

My final day in my focus week was a Sunday and I had the pleasure of spending more time with my husband, daughter,  my parents and of course my cats. It has been really nice to actually sit around the home and do virtually nothing. I cannot think of one productive thing we did together, but being together, having conversations, eating some food and just generally spending time together was the perfect end to joyous week.

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EVIDENCE THAT MINDFULNESS KEEPS YOUR BRAIN YOUNG AND HEALTHY

Great article on meditation and its effects on the brain and the surprising fact for me is that you can impact your brain structure with just 8 weeks of meditation practice.

bmindfulblog

The Washington Post : Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain

Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, was one of the first scientists to take the anecdotal claims about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and test them in brain scans. What she found surprised her — that meditating can literally change your brain. She explains:

Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, was one of the first scientists to take the anecdotal claims about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and test them in brain scans. What she found surprised her — that meditating can literally change your brain. She explains:

Mindfulness Meditation – the Washington Post

Q: Why did you start looking at meditation and mindfulness and the brain?

Lazar: A friend and I were training for the Boston marathon. I…

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Science of Meditation

‘The more modern science and the ancient science of mind come together and work together, the more our knowledge will be expanded. Then eventually we can educate humanity on the importance of our inner world, our mind, in order to promote peaceful families, a peaceful society and a peaceful world.’ – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Meditation and Mindfulness seems to be the buzz word at the moment whether it is in the media, every wellness magazine or at your local yoga class. The number of people practicing meditation is increasing exponentially, and I am no exception. It has not been an easy journey and it has taken me over 5 years to get the hang of it, but I am happy to say I am a regular meditator. In principle meditation is easy; close your eyes breathe and focus on quietening your mind. In reality, it can be really hard to get to that state where your mind is completely relaxed, but it is worth the effort.

There are many benefits associated with meditation and it is well documented in the psychotherapy world, and it is also increasingly being encouraged in the corporate world to promote overall wellness and productivity of employees. I work at a large bank and we have a monthly meditation sessions running across quite a few sites across the UK. For me this is not just an indication of the popularity of meditation, but an indication of the vast benefits of meditation.

Defining Meditation

Origins of meditation is often thought of as arising from ancient Eastern traditions including Buddhist and Hindu practices, but there are also evidence of meditative techniques in the west as far back as 20 BC. The best way to describe meditation is as state of thoughtless awareness. There are varieties of meditation techniques and practices, although some inevitably does involve sitting crossed legged and chatting, others most often involves sitting comfortably and focusing on breathing, and they do all have a common goal; to slow down, and eventually, stop the constant stream of cluttered thoughts and activities of our mind so you are left with pure awareness of the current moment, the NOW. For those who are more spiritually inclined, this is the point where you are often thought to connect with your higher self or the universe.

Neuroscience of Meditation

There have been several studies into the benefits of meditation, as far back as 1950’s and gaining more momentum in the last few decades as branches of science such as positive psychology have been established. There are clear evidence that long term meditation changes the structure of the brain including noticeable thicker cortex in areas processing attention, introspection (observation of one’s mental state) and sensory processing.

A study by Holzel et al., (2011) showed that meditation lead to increased brain tissue in the hippocampus, which is associated with learning and memory, as well as reduction in the amygdala, region connected with stress and anxiety.

Modern technology such as functional MRI scans have shown that meditative states have impact on our brain waves including reduction of beta waves (thinking state) which means that our brains stop processing information as actively as they normally would, therefore becoming more relaxed mentally and physically.

Other studies have also shown that people who mediated regularly had stronger activation of the brain that is associated with empathy and therefore leading more compassion.

one beautiful asian woman naked sitting with petal flowers in silhouette studio isolated on white background

 

Wellness and Meditation

The list of benefits arising from continuous practice of mediation is vast and I have picked out a few that stood out for me:

  • Boosts your immune system – studies have even shown that mediation type relaxation can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence and help in reducing infections.
  • Increase physical healing – known to help in post-operative healing.
  • Emotional Balance – i.e. Meditation can make you happier by increasing positive emotions and reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Helps to build better relationships – by building compassion and increasing emotional wellbeing.
  • Increases focus by improving attention and increasing memory.

Meditation and Law of Attraction

Meditation can be a really useful tool in the manifestation process of the law of attraction. When you want to attract something in your life that you desire, meditative state is perhaps the best point to connect with the universe at a subconscious level. A lot of ‘new thought’ thinkers point to ‘theta’ waves as the key to the optimal brain state where you can manifest your desires. Theta state is the deep relaxation light sleep stage often used in hypnosis to reach the trance-like state. If you can control this state, then you have heighten ability to focus and concentrate, giving you the ability to re-programme your thinking by visualisation and re-affirming your desires.

Tips for Meditation

  1. Start with choosing the right time and convenient place; perhaps early mornings and somewhere really quite and comfortable
  2. Make sure you are sitting comfortably – spine straight and feet firmly on the ground is sufficient. You don’t have to sit crossed legged if it is not comfortable!
  3. Start with the breath – Breathing deeply slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind and is an ideal way to begin practice
  4. Meditate with Purpose – meditation is an active process and focusing your attention on single point can help; perhaps meditating to be more compassionate or meditating for general wellbeing
  5. Notice your frustrations – don’t simply try and ignore it as it is more likely to become a larger thought; so notice and then let go by focusing on your breath or the sounds around you.
  6. Small steps in the right direction can go a long way – some people click to meditation like ‘duck to water’ but others may take a longer journey to a get to a point where they can confidently say they can meditate. The key is to keep practicing; even if it is just for few minutes a day.
  7. Experiment – try different types of meditation practices; perhaps a read a book on meditation; download a meditation app or attend a local class! Different methods work for different people.

‘Quite the mind, and the soul will speak’ – Ma Jaya Bhagavati

Hardest lesson of all… Patience…

  
I have recently become a hot yoga junkie and over the weekend one of the things my yoga teacher said struck a chord with me. I was in the middle of the Fixed Firm pose ( you sit on your knees, compressing the knee joints) which is often my most difficult pose, one that always find it difficult to practice, let alone master, so at this point I often give up and sit down. At this point, my yoga teacher said ‘ you have built up resistance over 30 years in your knees and it may take couple of years for your knees to let it go, so be patient, if you don’t get it immediately’.  That’s when it stuck me; our minds are the same, we have build up years of habits and certain level of resistance to change, but once we made up our minds to change, we expect results almost immediately. When results don’t know up immediately we get disheartened and give up. 

Nowadays I try to challenge myself  when I am at the point of giving up; when what I desire doesn’t happen, even though I am doing all the positive thinking in the world and using all the tools that I know of, I think to myself,’patience’.

At the very least, next time I do yoga, I am going to give the Fixed Firm pose a real go and be patient with myself if I can’t master it; it will come to me over time. On the same basis, I know I can manifest what I want in my life, but I shouldn’t expect a neat timetable. Somethings show up in my life a lot quickly than others. The things that are slow to show up often means that there in a mental block in my subconscious, it’s just going to take a little bit of time to get around the block! 

“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to to keep a good attitude while waiting” – Joyce Meyer 

 

Law of Attraction – Back to Basics

Law of attraction is the notion that we live in an energy based universe and universe works on the basis of ‘like attracts like’ and therefore working of our inner mind or our sub-conscious (energy we project out) has a direct impact on the working of the universe (energy we receive back). So if our thoughts, feelings and general attitudes are positive, i.e. we are sending out positive vibes to the universe, we will attract more positive experiences in our life. This also works vice versa, i.e. you send out negative vibes and you attract more negative experiences.

A universe that responds to our thoughts may sound far-fetched but some of the recent scientific discoveries in quantum physics and cosmology are by far stranger. The double slit experiment in particle physics tells us that at a sub-atomic level, the act of observation makes the particles behave differently (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc – DR Quantum’s version of the experiment).  While in cosmology, Cosmologists have theorised that 95% of the universe is made up of dark energy and dark matter which by far has stranger properties that matter, which is the only thing we know a little about (http://hubblesite.org/hubble_discoveries/dark_energy/de-what_is_dark_energy.php).

Although, phenomenon like double slit experiment or dark energy does not necessarily prove the existence of a universe which is influenced by our sub-conscious mind, but it has certainly encouraged me to be more opened minded as there is a lot of things in the universe that we do not understand yet.

With an open mind if we accept that the law of attraction exists, then we must accept that we are creating our own reality. I don’t mean that in a metaphorical ‘motivational-quote’ kind of a way, but in a literal way. If our thoughts are influencing the universe (by default that means the environment around us), then we are creating the circumstances in our life with our thoughts, intentionally or not. Welcome to your own personal Matrix world!

Law of Attraction – Mind Tools

There are many leading thought experts and facilitators out there who devise new tools and techniques to harness this knowledge so that as individuals and as a society we can live a life for the better. Here are some of the techniques used:

  • Creative visualisation – This essentially focuses our minds to create picture of our ideal future and imagine living it at the present moment.
  • Living life though Gratitude – being thankful for what you have and by doing so attracting more situations and circumstances that we will have to be grateful for.
  • Affirmation statements – stating exactly what you want in life but using present tense so your inner mind knows exactly what you want
  • Mirror work – what does a mirror do? It reflects; a bit like the Law Of universe. So mirror work essentially an opportunity to work on yourself and your thoughts in front of a mirror.
  • Practicing Mindfulness – Being aware of our thoughts and feelings (without judgement) is the first step in understanding and controlling our minds. By practicing mindfulness you get to know your thought patterns and so that any negative patterns can be changed.
  • Practicing Meditation – Similar to mindfulness, practicing mediation, we are able to quieten our minds and able to observe our thoughts. Additionally in a meditative state, we are more likely to access our sub-conscious mind and therefore able to influence our thoughts at a deeper level.

Law of Attraction – Resistance is Futile

There are loads of reasons why many people feel that law of attraction tools don’t work; or law of attraction does not work entirely. The problem is that if you think law of attraction doesn’t exist, well then the chances are that all the circumstances that show up in your life will convince you that it doesn’t exist. So to a certain extent, a leap of faith is needed; hence why law of attraction is often thought of as a spiritual practice.

Another pitfall is that your thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes must be aligned to what you are trying to attract in your life. For example, you are trying to attract wealth in your life, but in the back of your mind you think money is the root of all evil, so it is very likely you will not succeed, after all you don’t want evil in your life do you?! This is where psychology techniques come into play to have self-awareness; know yourself and know what feels right and what doesn’t.  When you want to attract something that you fully believe in then it will come naturally, it will not be a struggle.

The classic reason why law of attraction doesn’t work for people is fear. We as human being are driven and to some extent protected by fear; it comes to us as naturally as love does. Problem is when you are fearful that you are not going to get what you desire more than the love you feel for your desire then it is likely that the fear will win out. You will not get what your heart desires. Let go of that fear, especially in the manifesting process; believe you will get what you want and believe it with your whole heart and mind.

As a Practitioner of law of attraction for many years (some intentionally and some unintentionally!), knowing the law and applying it are two different things. I still suffer from resistance when I am trying to attract things I want in my life, but it is getting easier to work out what my resistance is. It does take time for you to work out what you really want and sometimes it feels like it takes time for the universe to deliver your want and you know what, that is okay! Time gives you that chance to reflect and really work out what you want.  Sometimes it turns out that something that you wanted for a long time is not something that you actually needed. So that’s where the saying come from; ‘be careful what you wish for’; because your wishes do come true!

Love vs Fear

“There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt. It’s true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.”Elisabeth Kubler-Ross 

It took me a long time to accept the fact that there are only two basic emotions, love and fear, and everything else is a variation on those emotions. It seems too simplistic, after all emotions are the most complicated notion for any human mind to get around. However, the more I sit down and think about it and notice my own emotions, every single emotion that I have felt, driver for it would come from a place of love or a place of fear. One of the more negative emotions I tend to feel is boredom, but surely being bored doesn’t necessarily mean I am being fearful?! Actually it properly does. My boredom properly comes from a place of guilt (I should be doing something worthwhile, but I am not) and fear of emptiness and therefore leading to more negative feelings.

Fear is important for us and for our survival, otherwise what is stopping us from jumping over a cliff for the shear thrill of it or know why we need to get out of the way of a speeding car heading towards us?! We humans have a negative set point and this has served us well in the fight for survival, but in pursuit of happiness and health, negative set point can have detrimental effect. Fear based emotions trigger release of the stress hormone, cortisol, which increases the activity of the heart (heart pounding when you are anxious is an example of this) and this helps us to get ready for any danger heading our way. However when we live in a constant state of fear or stress the high levels of cortisol can damage the heart, contribute to obesity, and weaken the immune system therefore adversely affecting our health and consequently our happiness.

Love on the other hand, is not just a fluffy happy emotion; it helps us feel more socially connected and has proven health benefits as time and time again experiments has shown that people who display more positive emotions has numerous health benefits over those who constantly display negative emotions. But more than just health benefits and the general increased happiness, love and positive emotions are fundamental to our spiritual being. Love and compassion is the central theme in many of world religions and philosophies and when we feel connected to a higher being it is often described as a feeling love, rather than a feeling of fear. Even at a basic biological point of view, without love, there is no procreation and there is no us!

Love is also a powerful tool when you are working with the law of attraction as when you are surrounded by the feeling love, you are emitting a strong attractive energy into the universe. So your emotions of love will be matched by the universal energy to bring you more circumstances and opportunities of love.

One of the things that really stood out for me in viewing love from a spiritual point of view, is a scene from the movie Interstellar, (2014 Christopher Nolan Sci-fi movie), the conversation between the main character Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey) and Dr Brand (played by Anne Hathaway):

Dr Brand: That makes me want to follow my heart. Maybe we spend too much time trying to figure all of this out without it

Cooper: You’re a scientist Brand

Dr Brand: So listen to me when I say love isn’t something we invented, it is observable; powerful. It has to mean something… Maybe it means more; something we can’t yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artefact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. I am drawn across the universe to someone I haven’t seen in a decade who is probably dead. Love is something we are capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it yet.

Neuroplasticity

Brilliant… Complexity put simply on the subject of how brain pathways change

Toni Jackson

This is a very simplified, easy to understand explanation of the theory of neuroplasticity.  The basic idea is that our brains continue to change and grow as we do; and that through repeatedly focusing on a new thought or behaviour, we can change the neuro pathways in our brains.

Toni Jackson is a compassionate, creative and experienced Counsellor and Psychotherapist in Perth, Fremantle and Mundaring, Western Australia. She has worked over the past 20 years in the areas of women and adolescent mental health and wellbeing, counselling adults, adolescents, children and families from many different backgrounds. Toni uses counselling, psychotherapy, art therapy (such as drawing, painting, sand play, clay modelling and sewing), mindfulness and cognitive behaviour therapy to support her clients’ unique needs. Toni specialises in working with women who are experiencing anxiety, stress or depression; and young people struggling with anxiety, self esteem or self identity.
Toni’s qualifications…

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