A Survival Course years ago, Mindfulness, Lock-Down, Survival, and asking us to Lean In

A Survival Course years ago, Mindfulness, Lock-Down, Survival, and asking us to Lean In

Rules Learnt whilst “locked down” with a tough, but mindful Teacher on a Survival Course

He took us boys down the rugged coast for a week without food. Maybe 80 kilometers. He taught us along the way about life and spirituality without saying much.

Rule 1 – Live Mindfully

The foundational survival rule is to live mindfully -fully satisfied in the moment, fully aware, full of compassion for yourself and others and therefore with acceptance and without judgement.

Any other way, any other thought, will lead to a waste of precious energy and resources.

In other words, do not make too much of an issue of your circumstances. Acceptance is good.

Rule 2 – Keep to routines

As far as is possible en where possible, keep to your normal routine.

Rule 3 – The Third Day

If your survival course is a week long, by Wednesday you will experience the lowest point psychologically and physically. You will feel bad in all respects. But this point comes to everyone in a unique way, so we just say that you will have your “third day” when you really feel miserable- from that point onwards, however, things should improve.

Rule 4 – Drink a lot of water

You can survive a week without food, but not water. Within a short time your stomach will shrink and you will not be hungry – believe it or not. However, since you are not really on a survival course, keep on eating. This is just an illustration of your endless capabilities.

Rule 5 – Keep Energy Bars in the bottom of your Back Pack

That is what the assistants on the real survival course did.

Lesson learned.

Keep a little bit of the difference somewhere.

Rule 6 – Always under all circumstances maintain good Hygiene

As a barest minimum, brush your teeth regularly. Look neat.

Rule 7 – This is where you meet Your God

Open yourself up to it. Do not fight the spiritual awakening. Accept it. Sitting in the veld or in the garden helps. Or just in the sun in your room. Mindfully aware and without the normal clutter of civilization.

Rule 8 – Light and darkness are one

Accept each in an equal manner with equanimity. Night follows day. It serves no purpose to fight the night. Accept it and learn from it. Then there will be a daybreak.

Rule 9 – Take everything Step by Step

He took us without food down a rugged coast. Rugged. Along the rocks. Fording rivers. Finding paths far above the high tide. Running before the tide. Roughing it badly. Sleeping in hollows.

There is only one way to do this, and that is step by step.

Rule 10 – Lean in

This is another fundamental rule, there is no turning around. There is no escape route. Back is bad, forward may be better.

There is only leaning into the future.

Rule 11 – Respect Nature

Have you noticed how nature just continues on its journey even though we are locked down in home shelter? There is irony here and a lesson to be learnt.

Respect nature and her abundance of resources. We do not have a right to it, only the privilege. We must respect nature.

Rule 12 – Work Together

It was tough learning how to work together with boys you do not know. We came from a lot of places. Thrown together. A rough mix.

It was made tougher because we did not know how to survive. The teacher did not help, but he did talk about the Rules (excluding 5), not calling them rules, but discussing the themes.

Otherwise he just pointed forward, asking us to Lean In.

Mindfulness & the Art of Getting Better and Better

Mindfulness & the Art of Getting Better and Better

Always a Decade of Hope and Resilience, being Mindful

The decade will always be with and about Hope and Resilience. This is 1. because we believe in the power of finding joy in the present (being mindful), and 2. because up to the outer edges of this decade and beyond are immense opportunities. In short, we have time, if we stay safe now. You can read that post HERE.

Mindfulness, Uncertainty and Covid-19

In this post, which you can read HERE, we wrote that “…we must have a clear knowledge that we are robust enough and have the resilience to survive this and thrive. We must know this on a personal level and as a common humanity.

How we think about this virus is extremely important. We must know that we are robust and resilient enough to survive if we follow the basic advice of washing hands, not touching our faces and lowering our expectations- what we have, where we are, for now, is good enough.

Dr Émile Coué – an aware and compassionate man ahead of his time

Dr Émile Coué

How we think about how we are now, is extremely important. Dr Émile Coué, French pharmacist and psychologist, (about whom you can read more on the Wikipedia Page HERE) “…when asked whether or not he thought of himself as a healer, … often stated that ‘I have never cured anyone in my life. All I do is show people how they can cure themselves.’

Coué believed in the effects of medication. But he also believed that our mental state is able to affect and even amplify the action of these medications. By consciously using autosuggestion, he observed that his patients could cure themselves more efficiently by replacing their ‘thought of illness” with a new “thought of cure’ “. (Wikipedia)

Coué’s mantra was “Every day in every way, I am getting better and better.

Mindfulness and getting Better and Better

Modern research and approaches support Dr Coué. Dr Mariki Smith writes in her mindfulness course, Six Steps to the Joy of Nowness, (you can learn more about that HERE) in the chapter on Compasssion:

“Self-judgement, or criticising the self, is something we all do. For some reason we use it as a way to motivate ourselves. But … research shows that it doesn’t work.

If I “attack” myself with words like “you’re useless… you will get nowhere in life…” I am tapping into my reptile brain. My brain recognises that there is a fight which it experiences as dangerous, and as a result releases cortisol and adrenaline. When I am in fight-or-flight mode, I put my body in constant stress. My body then tries to protect itself, shuts down, and I become depressed. This kind of motivation obviously doesn’t work.

On the other hand, mammal babies are very dependent on their parents, and have to stay close to them to be safe. We are programmed to respond to a gentle voice and soft touch. If I recognise my negative self-talk, and I change to motivating myself from the mammal-brain, If I receive compassion from myself and others, I release oxytocin and opiates, which are the good-feel hormones.”

The Mindful Way to Healing

Have pro-active compassion with yourself and with others. Be nice to yourself. If you feel unwell stay nice to yourself. Tell yourself often that you are getting(feeling/being…) better (stronger…) and better (…) every day.

Do it often, every time you wash your hands.

Be nice to other people. I they feel unwell, stay nice to them. Tell them often how well they are doing. Teach them the Coué mantra and how to use it.

Teach others that a simple self-compassion exercise such as this has immense benefits.

Do not stop using prescribed Medication.

Every time we are truly mindful, we nourish the precious intention to care for ourselves and for other people.” (Teasdale, Williams and Segal).

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama

Mindful Guidance

Mindfulness is difficult, not because it is hard, but because it is elusive.” (Dr Stephen Hayes, Get out of your mind and into your life, the New Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, New Harbinger Publications)

Mindfulness requires guidance in the beginning. Other than the resources here at fsmindfulness.co.za, there are resources on our learning platform HERE.

Our short sweet experiential course on Breathing Mindfully, which you can find HERE, is free for the time being.

Stay safe, trust the journey…

When we Need to Silence our Self-Judgment

When we Need to Silence our Self-Judgment

When we start living in our “minds” instead of our lives because of buzzy-ness, we judge our inner world as good or bad, right or wrong… We then start to avoid spending quiet leisure time on our own because the sense of emptiness may be so intense that it is just too painful to be in our own company. But, as spending quiet time is one of the most important ways (aside from physical exercise and connection with others) to deal with stress – according to the Centre for Studies on Human Stress – we might as well learn how to do that. It is good to keep in mind that we are bigger than our emotions and thoughts. They don’t fill us, they travel through us.

One way to silence self-judgement according to Tara Brach, an American psychologist is moving from head, to heart, to heart-space.

1. Moving from the Head

When you spend quiet time with yourself driving, trying to get to sleep or standing in a queue, the first step will be to become aware of any critical and judgmental thoughts. Then, make it your intention to unhook from these judging thoughts. Without believing or identifying with these thoughts, shift your attention to your senses (what do you see, hear or smell) or your breathing. Remind yourself that they’re just thoughts…Open up to your heart

2. Open-up to your Heart

What feelings are you experiencing…? Can you give them names? Shame… guilt… anxiety… anger or sadness? Maybe there are feelings of being overwhelmed, fragile or fatigue. How do you experience this feeling in your body? What are you unwilling to feel? Try to connect with this feeling, and to allow this while softening your heart a little.

3. Open to your heart-space

Put your hand on your heart, while saying kind words to yourself in this moment. “It ‘s okay, I am there for you.” Decide in what way you can take good self-care in this moment. Decide to enter these next few steps of walking through this difficulty with self-compassion and loving kindness

Our heartspace is the ocean – it includes the waves – the vulnerability, the thoughts and all the different experiences that move through us. If we remember that we’re the ocean. We will not be afraid of the waves. It’s okay that they are here… This belongs…”

– Tara Brach

Mariki Smith (PhD Psychology)

On Mindfulness and Art Therapy

On Mindfulness and Art Therapy

by Jan Joubert

As I sit here to write this blog, I first suspend my thoughts and ruminations about my to-do list and I drop down into my body, I become aware of my somatic experience in this moment, I listen to my emotions and notice what I feel. I hear myself. Yes there’s some stress, beneath this, subtle fears. Noticing this, I accept this is my experience in this moment. This is who I am, now, this is what I have to offer this blank page. 

And then, my mind prattles for a bit about how I should approach writing this article, theories I could describe or postulations I could make, skeptical thoughts about myself or creating. So, I follow this process again, feeling the familiar fear of being good enough or safely abundant enough to create. I recognize under that is a desire for self-protection, a need for safety and having acknowledged this too, I validate that this is a risk that I’m taking, yes, being creative is essentialy a leap of faith. 

And like any relationally focussed family therapist would recommend, I feel that fear, I stay with it, I hold it, I witness it and thus, I console myself by acknowledging and validating it (yes it is scary to write something that will go public), as well as comforting myself with some compassion and empathy. A simple combination of faithful affirmations, self-compassion and critical thinking (I am good enough to write, yes it can be scary, I will survive this) is my antidote. 

Having moved through the self protective layers of my ego and thoughts connected to emotions, I step into the opportunity to create.  

Do you notice how the focus of my meditation was not to push my mind into stillness but the opposite? 

Do you notice how my relationship with creativity challenged me to face my fears? 

Art is as much a reflection of our psyche as thought is a (complexified) reflection of emotions, and of course, all of this can be felt through somatic reflection too. I will explain. In the above experience there are two modes of self present. The witness, which notices whatever happens, and the content of whatever happens or is witnessed. The witness stays an (ineffible) subjective experience. Then there’s the content, which for me today was some fears of the future and of being brave enough to let go enough to create. This content is felt in the body, is witnessed in the patterns of thought, and is equally present in whatever we create. Ranging from intentional art-making to unintentional creative choices, such as what we choose to wear on any given day, my world is an ever-present reflection of what I feel. 

There is a thoroughly studied relationship between the unconscious content of our minds and hearts and our spontaneously creative choices. These are of course connected to relevant emotions, memories and behaviors. 

Our feelings tend to appear in those choices as as metaphors, and this tends to click in when we describe what we’re doing or feel and hear the metaphors in our language. Think of how with children, we see their emotions acted out in play.

While I’ve made an effort to describe a subjective series of mindfulness related events, sometimes it is much easier for others to see this, or for yourself to see it more clearly, when it is expressed in a creative form, and art-making, especially when spontaneous and not pre-meditated, always produces metaphors that helps us see exactly how we really feel. Additionally, art acts as a container for our emotions that we can put them into, and a space for processing what we feel. Ask any child to put how they feel into an artwork and you’ll see it happen. 

As an art therapist, I work with my clients and their artworks and often help them sink deeper into feeling things that are just out of sight. Emotional content that they can’t witness on their own, that the ego bars them from seeing out of a denial that comes as a result of self-preservation. 

That is therapy, processing things, to release them, to free us from their grasp on our lives, broadening our consciousness. Often I find that when fears are too great the witness sticks to thought as a safe harbour and a persons emotions becomes acted out rather than taken charge of. The Art, and therapists training, helps these parts of self in shadow to be revealed and I frequently train clients in mindfulness to help them sit-with what they feel. 

The essence of art-making is playful joy, witnessing people’s varying degrees of hesitation to step into that is witness a microcosm of how they relate to that through (often unconscious) choices they make in their lives, and always, regardless of the artists technical skill or creative accomplishments, brings these up. 

To expand your mindfulness practice and come to know yourself more deeply, you must confront your Shadow. So make art. Yes, ANY art will do. 

Jan Joubert is an art therapist with a post-baccalaureate Diploma in art therapy. He lives in North-Western Canada. Here is more about the diploma. He can be reached here

Jan Joubert

Life – a mushroom full of possibility

Life – a mushroom full of possibility

by Rolyn du Plessis

Dr. Daniel Siegel, founder of the Mindsight Instititute, in his book ‘The Mindful Therapist,’ writes: ‘Health in many ways can be seen as bathing in a wide-open pool of possibility.’ Mindfulness, he writes, allows us to navigate into the ‘plane of open awareness’ – a space free of prejudice and judgement, of habituated ways of thinking and doing. A space where anything might happen.

Recently I was making a vegetarian shepherd’s pie. My 5-year old daughter asked me if she could help me chop up the vegetables and I gave her the task of slicing up the mushrooms. I demonstrated to her what I had in mind: that she cut them into quarters. As she started cutting and singing as she worked, her uncluttered and creative being probably allowed her to see a multitude of other ways in which the mushrooms might be chopped. She said: ‘Could I cut them any way I like?’ I noticed an immediate ‘no’ rise up inside of me. A part of me definitely wanting the mushrooms to be cut into quarters. As that first, habituated ‘no’ dissipated, a more present and playful part of me contested: ‘Is there really just one right way to cut a mushroom?’ ‘You can cut them any way you like,’ I said. She cut them into halves, some straight and some diagonal. She cut them into small bits and large bits, into rings and slices. She even made a doughnut-shaped mushroom by cutting out the stem and making a hole in the top part! In that moment I became her student –experiencing first-hand what it looks like when one is bathed in a wide-open pool of possibility and suddenly understanding how one can express one’s own authentic being through a task as simple as cutting a mushroom.

I am reminded of the Chinese fable, as told by Jack Kornfield in his book ‘After the Ecstacy, the Laundry,’ in which a young man was observing a sage at the village well:

‘The old man was lowering a wooden bucket on a rope and pulling water up slowly, hand over hand. The youth disappeared and returned with a pulley. He approached the old man and showed him how the device worked. “See, you put your rope around the wheel and draw up the water by crancking the handle.” The old man resisted. “If I use a device like this, my mind will think itself clever. With a cunning mind I will no longer put my heart into what I am doing. Soon my wrists alone will do the work. If my heart and whole body are not in my work, my work will become joyless. When my work is joyless, how do you think the water will taste?”’

It is no wonder that the practice of mindfulness is, for the most part, an unlearning process. It is the practice of noticing when we leave the open plane of awareness, seeing ourselves getting stuck in all the habituated, ‘right’ ways of doing and thinking. It is realising when we have forsaken a whole heart and a whole body in favour of a cunning mind. It is letting go of the rigid ideas about what life should or should not be – letting go into the direct experience of life itself, as it arises moment to moment.

Edward Espe Brown, in his book ‘The Tassajara Bread Book,’ tells this story about mindfulness in his kitchen: (it seems an apt conclusion to this initial post)

‘When I first started cooking at Tassajara, I had a problem. I couldn’t get my biscuits to come out the way they were supposed to. I’d follow a recipe and try variations, but nothing worked. the biscuits just didn’t measure up.

Growing up I had made two kinds of biscuits. One was from Bisquick and the other from Pillsbury. For the one from Bisquick you added milk in the mix and then blobbed the dough in spoonfuls onto the pan – you didn’t even need to roll them out. The biscuits from Pillsbury came in kind of a cardboard can. You rapped the can on the corner of the counter and it popped open. Then you twisted the can open more, put the pre-made biscuits on a pan, and baked them. I really liked those Pillsbury biscuits. Isn’t that what biscuits should taste like? Mine weren’t coming out right.

It’s wonderful and amazing the ideas we get about what biscuits should taste like, or what a life should look like. Compared to what? Canned biscuits from Pillsbury? People who ate my biscuits would extol their virtues, eating one after another, but to me these perfectly good biscuits just weren’t right. Finally one day came a shifting-into-place, an awakening. “Not right” compared to what? Oh, my word, I’d been trying to make canned Pillsbury biscuits! Then came an exquisite moment of actually tasting my biscuits without comparing them to some previously hidden standard. They were wheaty, flaky, buttery, sunny, earthy, real. They were incomparably alive – in fact, much more satisfying than any memory.

These occasions can be so stunning, so liberating, these moments when you realise your life is just fine as it is, thank you. Only the insidious comparison to a beautifully prepared, beautifully packaged product made it seem insufficient. Trying to produce a biscuit – a life – with no dirty bowls, no messy feelings – was so frustrating. Then savouring, actually tasting the present moment of experience – how much more complex and multifaceted. How unfathomable.’



By Beth Mackay

I have been thinking a lot about stillness recently and the benefits of it. And how important it is to create moments of silence for yourself. Why you might ask. Because it is only in stillness that you can hear the beating of your heart. It is only in silence that you can become aware of your truth. It is only in silence that you can become aware of what needs to change and what is not serving you anymore. It is only once we create opportunity for stillness that we become aware of our exhaustion, of how tired our bodies are, of our emotions and thought life. You need to pause and step out of autopilot.
What does it mean to live on autopilot? The literal meaning of autopilot is a device that steers a ship, plane, or spacecraft by itself, without a person. We often live on autopilot – never pausing to reflect on how we are feeling or what we are doing. We are busy, distracted, or both. Being on autopilot has its benefits for mundane activities, such as driving or doing laundry. The problem arises when we are on autopilot during times where we need to make important decisions or when we are interacting with our friends, colleagues and family. Autopilot robs us from experiencing moments of joy and connection as we are not present for our lives.
When we press the brakes, autopilot turns off. A pause is more that slowing down; it is creating space to start paying attention. You can start to reflect on your life. What is happening right now? How do I feel? Is this serving me? Am I enjoying what I am doing? Why do I feel so stressed? What can I do differently? You can start making better choices, as you are paying attention to your life. You are not mindlessly making decisions or repeating patterns that do not serve you, as a pause gives you clarity to listen, pay attention and wisdom. Living mindfully gives you the opportunity to make decisions that will serve you, that will challenge you, that will help you grow. Autopilot has a way of keeping you stuck in the same old routines, habits and patterns.
Mindfulness helps you wake up to your life. It however takes courage to listen to your body, heart and soul. You will need to lean into the uncomfortable, as silence and awareness has a way to bring all the uncomfortable to the surface. The intense sadness and loneliness that you have concealed under all your busyness. The unhappiness that you are experiencing in your work and relationships. The self-doubt, the self-loathing, the guilt, the pain – the messy parts that you have been running away from. May we be brave enough to listen. The kindest thing you can do for yourself is to pause and step out of autopilot. In this way we will be able to take better care of ourselves.
May we all find moments of silence in our busy lives, may we all make this a priority, as the alternative is not really living.
In the words of Rumi, “Listen to silence, it has so much to say”.

3 Essential steps to heal fear and step into your true self

3 Essential steps to heal fear and step into your true self

By Madeleine Eames

I will never forget the moment in Grade 11 Chemistry class when my lab partner accidently knocked against my face, scraping away the carefully applied makeup and messing up my face. He laughed and went on with our experiment.

I felt exposed, revealed and ashamed. He had uncovered a piece of the real me that I meticulously tried to hide every morning before leaving the house.

I was good at ‘putting on a face’. I was always nice, helpful and strived for perfection in everything I did and the world supported it and rewarded me for it. Until I couldn’t anymore.

Even as I began drinking and partying way past acceptable hours, I kept a smile on my face.

Even as I sunk into the depths of an eating disorder, I kept a smile on my face. I didn’t know how to be otherwise. But I did know that if I kept up an outside appearance of everything being perfect, then it was. Until it wasn’t.

Nothing seemed to be right. I wasn’t thin enough, I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t fit enough, I wasn’t enough. But my mask presented something very different.

Then began the never-ending search for ‘if only…’. If only I was thin like the girl sitting in front of me, or the one in the movies, then I would be happy. If only I knew what I wanted to do with my life, then I would be happy.

My small self searched and searched for the answer outside. The next diet, the next life goal, the next plan. She dyed her hair, dying to be liked and approved of, and accepted by an outside world that kept wanting more, and telling her that she needed more.

Do you know that feeling? Looking for approval from some unnamed source?

I dieted, binged, purged and kept a secret behind my smile. I was completely disconnected from my body and lived in a world of ‘shoulds’ to the point where these thoughts had actually distorted what I saw in the mirror.

I strived to look like the stars on the front cover of Tiger Beat magazine, and if you are my age you will remember that magazine at the check-out stand. Back then there was only really one teen girl magazine.

All of this effort and energy wanting to be someone I saw outside of myself brought me farther from who I really was as a struggling teenager and solidified a false self. All it got me was isolation, fear, and not one ounce of the happiness it had promised me. In fact, it just gave me more reasons to hide and cover up and tell the worried people around me that I was ok. Their feelings became more important than my own.

Of course this was all I knew at the time. I didn’t realize that I felt the real me was defective and needed to be hidden. My false self gave me a project: me. This was a diversion from all the feelings of guilt and shame, self-doubt and confusion that I felt were unmanageable. I was unmanageable.

In truth, my false self took control masterfully. She got in, cleaned things up and focussed on what she could control, the scale, when the world seemed out of control. I didn’t know what I would do after highschool, I wasn’t sure what to focus on to gain clarity and confidence.

My parents didn’t talk about feelings, let alone feel and show them. Naturally this was from their own upbringing.

My mom came from England and as an artist in a middle-class conservative household, I’m sure she also learned early that is survive was to stifle her expression and creativity. My father as an only child to older parents became a mathematician who strictly stuck to numbers until my mother passed away in 2010 at which time I think every feeling, every anxiety he ever had exploded to the surface for the last 7 years of his life.

As I look back I can see how subconsciously I was struggling to be myself in a world that told me that I wasn’t ok. I wasn’t enough just as I was and there wasn’t really any evidence to contradict it. The natural step for the small self is to sidestep herself, and abdicate her true self for a world that rewarded appearance.

And so began the massive self-improvement search that we call life. I moved through university with an incredible amount of anxiety, but learned how to help others without truly connecting with myself.

I ended up with a huge tool box of skills for how to improve defected selves that need to be fixed and live a happy life. I taught so many techniques and programs and found relief in all of them myself- albeit temporary.

I was constantly learning, moving, riding one challenge after another. But I was unsettled and each stage wasn’t enough. My small self was desperately escaping criticism by moving, excelling and being nice.

The perfection that I strived for was nothing compared to the pressure young girls experience today through social media. In retrospect, what if I had just sat, for a minute with my anxiety, and knew that anxiety was ok, that it was natural and human and I didn’t have to fight against it so fiercely?

I became exhausted from time to time with yet another program that lost it’s magic. Until one day I finally a thought came to me that said “What if there is nothing wrong with me”, “What if everything is in fact, ok?” “What if I don’t actually need to improve anything?”

My practice of mindfulness and yoga had brought me to a place where I could calm my body and mind just long enough to see that this might be true.

I didn’t explore this idea, work on it, or try to expand it. I just accepted it as a possibility.

I asked “Who knows that?” “Who is watching that?”.

I see now that it was my true self, my real self. Not the one I had made up in Grade 11 as a mask I put on. Not the one that needed effort to improve, to reach goals to be good and acceptable, the small self that yearned to feel good enough.

The true self didn’t need to be searched for. She was already here waiting to be allowed and embraced. She didn’t need anything as she already knew she was enough just as she is.

All the times I had read ‘embrace your authentic self’, ‘you are enough’, ‘be in the present moment’ now made sense. Before it just made me try harder to get somewhere. All the self-help and improvement schemes seemed like a game, because it was the small self trying to improve herself. The true self already knew.

She saw all the ways I hid parts of myself, made myself small and invisible physically and emotionally, and abdicated to others.

As I look back from where I am now, I can see 2 major misunderstandings that almost killed me.

They sound very simple, but in practice are life changing. They can also be difficult to unhook from. My mindfulness practice allowed me the space to make these discoveries.

They are this:

  1. Not all your thoughts are true. In fact, if you pause and notice, many are negative and repetitive themes repeating what ‘should’ be. The false self ‘shoulds’, the true self knows. If you are believing what ‘should’ be instead of what is right now, you are not truly living.
  2. Feelings are to be felt and then they can pass. Any healing involves feeling. Like a pin going in, it hurts coming out! Feelings are energy and sometimes they need to hang around for a while until they are seen and felt. We feel them in our bodies.

In order to truly embrace our true self, we need to see where the small self shows up in anxiety, avoidance and being out of integrity with ourselves.

How do we do this? We can begin by seeing our cracks, our vulnerabilities and where we tense and contract against life in our breath, body and thoughts. These are the doorways to freedom from the small self.

Here are 3 places to start with mindfulness:

Breath: Deep belly breathing is great, but it can be helpful to see where in your day you hold your breath or your breath becomes shallow. What might be there? Try staying present to see what happens in the cracks.

Body: Muscle relaxation is essential for health, but again.. where and when do your muscles tighten and resist? Is it with certain people, places or in certain roles? What would come up if you relaxed into those cracks?

Thoughts: Positive thoughts are great and necessary to feel good, but where do you get worried thoughts? Where do you get worried and fearful? Notice if you ruminate about what others think of you, achieving your goals or any other area of your life. Fearful thoughts are from the small self trying to keep you safe and unhurt. Remind yourself that you are safe and there is no real danger.

It is ok to feel anxious. It’s ok to have conflict. It is a part of life that we don’t need to be rescued from or rescue our children from.

When we can hold ourselves in a warm embrace of love and self-compassion, we hold our cracks, our imperfections and our sadness as well. We can accept the whole perfect package that we were born to be before the world told us who to be.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.”

Marianne Williamson

Our cracks, the places where we get anxious and hide, are filled with gold. Notice the places you hide and move slowly, carefully and lovingly towards them. The unbelievable truth is that you are far more powerful and limitless than you will ever know.

Love and acceptance are not out there. There’s nowhere to go. They are in you.

When we see and embrace our cracks, we see the light.

Worth is what you are. You are already enough.

Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

Brene Brown


Madeleine Eames, MSW, RYT can be found at mindfullivingnow.com

Madeleine is a therapist and yoga teacher dedicated to healing fear and living from truth. Watch her free videos on ‘The Truth About Anxiety’ here. Her online course From Fear to Freedom helps people accept and move through the anxiety that keeps them small. Stay tuned for “From Fear to Love: Reclaim the True Self” course coming out soon!

The Truth About Anxiety: https://mindfullivingnow.mykajabi.com/truth-about-anxiety

From Fear to Freedom: https://mindfullivingnow.mykajabi.com/from-fear-to-freedom

Managing challenging relationships from your true self: the relationship triangle, mindfulness and mediation

Managing challenging relationships from your true self: the relationship triangle, mindfulness and mediation

By Dr Mariki Smith (Counseling Psychologist) and Dirk Joubert (Mediator and Attorney)

The Relationship Triangle

Relationships can become complicated, whether in family or workplace. This is especially true when we are only aware of the myths we start to live by as life happens to us, and not of our inner world.
Often our identity, roles and values may be called into question when we become overwhelmed by an experience that cannot be contained by our understanding of ourselves and our world.
The myths we live by decrease our window of tolerance.
By applying the so-called victim-triangle, mediation and psychotherapy help us to manage our inner and outer worlds better, to shed the myths, and increase our window of tolerance.
Eric Berne (Games People Play, 1964) conceptualized the Victim Trap with Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor roles. Dianne Zimberoff (Breaking Free from the Victim Trap, 1989), refers to the victim triangle, and we still find wisdom in the graphical representation of the triangle proposed by Stephen Karpman (Transactional Analysis Bulletin, 7, no. 26, April1968), which he referred to as the Drama Triangle.
Ken Cloke and Clare Fowler (clarefowler.com), senior mediators in the USA, refer to the victim or drama triangle as the communication triangle in a mediation setting.
We prefer the use of the term “relationship triangle” on the basis that “drama” and “victim” may be emotionally loaded, and “communication” may be a bit strict.

Roles in the Relationship Triangle

In the relationship triangle, we may unconsciously play the role of the hero (rescuer), the victim (the innocent princess- yes you too….), or the villain (persecutor/ dragon).
The concept of a triangle suggests that parties are locked into and stuck in often very dynamic co-dependent relationship equations, instead of being In Presence, especially in stressful relationships. We may even unconsciously become addicted to one of the roles or a dynamic set of them.
The victim or communication triangle may be dynamic: The innocent princess may be the princess in one moment, and the dragon in another, depending on where she perceives the prince “is”. If he deviates from her pre-determined scenarios, she is either the dragon to violently get him back on track, or she is the princess who must be rescued, playing on his willingness to be the rescuer hero.

Hero Breaking Free

By becoming aware that we tend to play the hero (rescuer) in relationships, we may want to go back to where it all started – e.g. having too much responsibility as a child because of a dysfunctional family. Although helping people is a wonderful trait, playing the hero constantly may be harmful to the other person, as well as the hero self. The rescuer tends to take responsibility for others’ happiness by giving temporary relief, creating dependency instead of empowering the other person. When we become present, instead of playing the hero, we can rather focus on being the coach. A coach does not want to fix, but rather supports and empowers others to create the life they most want.

Dragon Breaking Free

When we become aware that we tend to play the villain/dragon/persecutor, we may observe thoughts of blaming ourselves or others. Our harsh self-judgment makes us feel worthless, so we tend to point out the mistakes of others. We may become aware that others experience us as dictating or bullying. In becoming present, the dragon could rather focus on being the challenger, who brings healthy pressure to the group or relationship to support the other(s) in facing and dealing with their lives. The challenger does not blame or criticise, but rather gives others the necessary push to leave their comfort zone, and enter new possibilities.

Victim Breaking Free

Most often, we may become aware of playing the victim/helpless princess (which is different from being victimized). We may observe thoughts and feelings of helplessness, self-pity, excuses, guilt, blaming instead of taking responsibility and complaining. Guilt, helplessness and low self-esteem all work together in a vicious cycle to keep us in the victim role. When we allow ourselves to be in the present, we can shift our focus to rather become the creator. Being a creator, we take responsibility for ourselves, stop complaining and rather plan the next few steps, or learn to accept our circumstances.

Mindful Awareness

It may be meaningful to sometimes pause, becoming mindful of our role, the thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations that teach us whether we are acting from our centre, our true self, or not.

Mediation and the Roles People live out

In a mediation setting, the challenge facing the mediator is to get the princess, prince and dragon out of the roles into the present, and into their true self. Only then is a lasting resolution possible.
Any agreement between parties embedded in one of these roles, will deepen and enforce the role into the future by agreement as ‘t were, so that the resolution, if any, at best will end up to be superficial and of short duration.

Getting mediating parties to who they really are

Clare Fowler suggests that the mediator will assist parties to find their true-self by asking questions, such as the following:
She will typically ask the “victim”, “what contributions have you made in the past to resolve the conflict?” The “victim” is forced to go back and examine a time when she had power and could effectively make decisions. You want her to know she is involved in a conversation.
The question for the dragon is, “what do you suggest can be done in the future?” and “what contributions would you like to make to resolve the conflict?” This assist creative thought and help the dragon to perceive a future in which she is not the dragon.
To the hero she poses the question: “can you describe what contribution has the other party made towards resolving the conflict?” In this manner two things are achieved: the other parties are empowered and the amount of power that hero may have is normalised.
In mediation the triangle is a tool to identify where parties come from so that the mediator can take them to a place where they see themselves more realistically in relation to the other party.
These examples enforce the idea of the holistic nature of conflict – we seem to be at loggerheads, breaking apart, but in reality we are co-dependant. Upon resolution of the conflict we will be either on a path where the old conflicts simmer or on a new path if the old conflicts were shed during mediation
How we resolve our conflicts therefor is crucial. Mediation is probably best suited to arrive at a new path. Mindfulness can play substantial role in the process. One way would be for the client to practice the following mindfulness exercise:


• Find a quiet place. Sit up straight but relaxed, feel your feet on the floor and put your hands on your lap. Close your eyes and imagine a picture of a difficult situation in a relationship you are facing at this moment.
• Become aware of your thoughts (or lack of it), feelings (whether pleasant or unpleasant) and your bodily sensations. Try to do this without trying to change anything. No judgement.
• Try to determine according to your thoughts and feelings, and your tendency how to react on them, whether you might play the part of the innocent princess (victim), the hero (rescuer), dragon (persecutor) or just being your true self in this situation.
• Acknowledge your feelings and needs, by allowing them, feeling them without reacting or supressing them.
• While having compassion, acceptance and grace for yourself, focus on your breathing. With each inbreath, focus on acceptance of this difficult situation. With each outbreath, focus on finding your true centre, and what your experienced intuition is telling you about managing the situation.
• After the exercise, write down a few notes on your next steps in becoming your true self.

Contact us at admin@fsmindfulness.co.za

One of the biggest traps of mindfulness…

By Madeleine Eames – Access the original blog here at Madeleine’s mindfulness site, Mindfullivingnow

courtesy Madeleine Eames

You may have felt the benefits of mindfulness, a pause, a break, a sense of control, reduced anxiety or stress.. the list is endless.

But what about when it makes us feel worse? What’s happening there? First, there’s nothing wrong with you.

You are not the exception, the anomaly for who mindfulness won’t work for. This is really normal, at least at first.

Think about when you start to slow down and notice the cascade of thoughts (often negative and repetitive, thanks to our reptilian brain), our feelings (the negative ones seem to shout louder), and our reactions (sometimes not in our best interests, or that of others) and our pain, be it physical or emotional. How could this possible make you feel better, you ask?

In fact, it’s a bit counter-intuitive to focus on things that feel bad, isn’t it?

ONLY if you are trapped in self-judgement.

It’s easy to understand how one can slip from the positive outcomes of mindfulness—understanding and accepting oneself—and accidentally fall into the trap of self-judgment. But taking notice of one’s flaws, emotions, or upsetting feelings isn’t the same as judging them. When we attach a harsh judgment to an already difficult thought or feeling, we’re just adding salt to an already painful wound.

“When individuals criticize themselves and their feelings, thoughts, and emotions, they experience higher levels of suffering,” recent research notes. “Such self-criticism, far from being helpful in getting rid of negative moods and beliefs, exacerbates the very same negative thoughts and emotions that they are experiencing.”  (‘The more you judge the worse you feel. A judgemental attitude towards one’s inner experience predicts depression and anxiety’, Science Direct).

It’s super important to notice HOW you are relating to yourself. Can you sit and notice the judgements as they come up?

We are wired to judge for survival. However, survival does not equal happiness. We are so busy in survival, we rarely get a chance to choose a different response.

Most of our day is spent in the past.. past memories, past routines, past reactions, past thoughts, past judgements. We see our life through the past.

The present moment offers us so much more than that. The present moment, if we can breathe and open to it, is immensely generous.

See your judgements and how they keep you small. CAUTION: DON’T JUDGE YOUR JUDGEMENTS!  Smile and notice them like catching a fish: gotcha!

This allows clarity to focus on what is truly important here. See how this moment opens endless opportunities to respond or be, beyond your past thoughts and reactions.

I like how Oprah starts every single meeting with 3 sentences: “What is our intention? What’s important? What matters?”

Can we bring that into our lives, and see through our habitual judgements that are all based in the past and move into a loving acceptance of what is right now?

Life gave me a good example this morning. My 12 year old wakes up like a bear coming out of hibernation, including the growls. As we drove to school, I asked him questions bravely, hoping for a shred of interaction before we said goodbye. I noticed my anger, my shallow breath and tight chest, my thoughts (how difficult is it to make eye contact, after all I do for you, many children didn’t even get breakfast this morning, walk to school next time… on and on). I breathed a little deeper, opening up to what was present, noticed my dear son, the rain outside, considered all the options this moment was so generously offering me, saw his suffering without engaging with it because I know how that goes. Nowhere. What matters? What’s important here?

“Goodbye. I love you. Have a great day.” I said.  Door slammed. I smiled. I felt good about my behaviour.

Let go of judgements to stop acting from the past. Take a different route from a place of compassion and what feels good for you.  Here you step into the present, the unknown, ever-changing, unlimited possibility.

What truly matters? Being right, or feeling good?

The original blog appeared at Mindfullivingnow

In Mediation, Mindful Meditation is Good

In Mediation, Mindful Meditation is Good

on the beat of Chris Rea

By Dirk Joubert

How another party’s position may become your advantage in mediation or conflict resolution.

This is not the ordinary position. The ordinary position is mostly that the other party is in my way.

How the other party’s position becomes advantageous to me, is a story of Mediation.

It is intensely human and it requires that parties embrace ambiguities.

This is the true golden thread through conflict. This is the extraordinary position.

Holistic Awareness and Reflection

The golden thread is found in having an holistic awareness of one’s own position and that of the other party.

To acquire this understanding one is required to develop an awareness of one-self and the other party, and the ability to reflect.

These qualities are dormant within us. As a result we all have the talent to be aware and reflect. Sometimes we must be told that these qualities are indeed defined and can be recognised and developed.

Benefits of Mindful Meditation

One of the ways to develop awareness is to practice mindfulness. Extensive research into mindfulness has shown the beneficial effects of mindful meditation.

It has shown that mindful meditation leads to less “use” of the amygdala, our flight and fight center, and an increase in activity in our pre-frontal cortex.

Mindful meditation therefore strengthens the ability to respond rather to react. Mindful meditation holds the ability to respond with kindness in its heart.

Resolving conflict in Families and Businesses

Mindful meditation, therefore, can be very useful in mediation, or in resolving conflict, especially in close-knit situations such as businesses and families where persons in conflict have to spend long periods in the presence of each other.

The ability to stand back mentally and not jump into fights, is a learned response to conflict via mindful meditation and is a crucial element in resolving conflict.

It makes sense therefore to suggest to persons in conflict or possible conflict as a result of fixed structures such as an employment relationship, to practice mindful meditation.

Andante, Six Steps to becoming more Mindful

Our Andante, Six steps to becoming Mindful online course which is available in live work sessions or online here at 360smartly.com is an easy and interesting way to start your journey towards mindfulness and less conflict in your private and public life.