Posts In: Mindfulness

Dealing with addiction is a lifetime process and mindfulness can us help to non-identify with cravings so that they may pass more quickly. This article was orginally featured on Living Sober by Mrs D.

Living Sober is a community website designed to support people who wish to free themselves from the clutches of alcohol. Living Sober is not for profit, nor is it concerned with alcohol reform or public policy. It is about self-education and empowerment, based firmly around the concept of community.

Mrs D is the name Lotta Dann gave herself when she began anonymously blogging her way sober. Lotta Dann is a wife, mother, journalist, writer, and sober alcoholic. Lotta’s blog ‘Mrs D Is Going Without’ began in late 2011 as a series of private letters hidden in a corner of the internet, but is now a hugely popular site that receives thousands of visitors every day. Lotta discovered in blogging for herself that openly and honestly writing about her addiction was a hugely powerful tool. Furthermore, the community of support that built up around her blog became hugely beneficial to her recovery process.

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Dealing with Grief

January 5, 2016
grief mindfulness

How we deal with grief is unique to each of us.  Here’s my story of my own experience with grief and how mindfulness helped me to manage this difficult period. Grief, gratitude, mindfulness and purpose can lead to transformation.

Four days before the start of 2014 I received an unexpected call from my father’s partner. She called to say she had rushed my dad to hospital with severe gastroenteritis. She told me he now only had a few hours left to live! Dad was in Palmerston north hospital and I was in Kuratau on the South Western shores of Lake Taupo, two and a half hours away from Palmerston North. It seemed like some bad taste joke or a call for attention. Dad had been gardening with his grandchildren only a few weeks prior.

Dad held on to his life long enough for my brother and I to make it to his bedside to watch him struggle with disbelief and pain in his eyes as he took his last few breaths.

As a life coach and mindfulness teacher I have helped many people cope with the overwhelming sadness and disorientation that comes with grief. My mindfulness teachings were really put to the test when coping with my own experience.

Below is a list of what helped me the most:

1. I approached my grief with kindness and curiosity and dismissed the popular notion that grief was something I had to rise above or get over. The experience of grief is similar to that of love in that it is totally unique to every person and every situation. It is also a completely natural part of being human.

2. After dad died I noticed my breathing had become very shallow so I had to consciously remind myself to breathe deeply. Shallow breathing keeps our flight or fight response triggered and makes it difficult to sleep, digest food properly, relax or react wisely (as well as impacting our health). I would pause for a moment and check in with my breath then I would inhale deeply and feel my tummy and lungs expand. I would notice the subtle pause at the end of the inhale and the delicious release on the exhale. I repeated this as often as I needed.

3. I spent a lot of time journaling. My mind wouldn’t stop but by writing down my seemly endless thoughts I felt a sense of relief and I also gained valuable insights by rereading what I had written. I also wrote down all of the things I should have told my dad but never managed to. That felt really good.

4. I found mindful walking helped to ground me in the present moment, and balance my emotions. I would walk consciously engaging all of my senses. I was fully aware of each step I took and I focused my attention on all that I could see, hear and feel as I walked and walked. When I noticed my mind had gone back to its usual ruminating I would gently, non-judgementally return my focus to my walking. Slowly my mind and body would unwind and I would find a sense of ease.

5. Through desperation rather than wisdom I became courageous enough to let others see my vulnerability and to let them know what I needed, and how they could help. This was one of the most challenging of all the mindful teachings to follow when I was feeling so raw emotionally but it helped immensely. It also worked a lot better than expecting people to intuitively know exactly what I needed and exactly when I needed it and being disappointed or angry when they didn’t!

This article written by Cheryl Strawbridge was originally featured in Good magazine

Facing Change

January 4, 2016
mindfulness letting go

The only constant in life is change. Change can be fun and exciting. But it can also be stressful and overwhelming.

As much as we might try to control the world around us, life happens, and things change. And ultimately, the only thing we can truly control … is how we RESPOND.

Face change head on with mindfulness

Mindfulness helps you to RESPOND rather than REACT to change. It helps you cultivate the space to choose your response, so you can behave in ways you’re proud of (rather than in ways you later regret!).

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Victor Frankl (Psychiatrist and holocaust survivor).

Sigh and Smile

One of the simplest things you can do when faced with a challenging change is to SIGH and SMILE! Simply take a big sigh out, and then turn the corners of your mouth into a grin. Your sigh out will naturally be followed a deep inhale which will refresh your system. And your smile will send a message to the brain that things are going well and promote the production of feel good hormones – helping you cope with the challenging situation at hand.

Let it RAIN

mindfulness RAIN technique

R.A.I.N is another simple and easy to remember mindfulness tool you can use if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed by change.

R – Recognise what you’re experiencing

A – Allow the experience to just be;

I – Investigate with compassion;

N – Non-identify with the emotion.

Recognise what you’re experiencing

When faced with change it can be tempting to bury your head in the sand and ignore it, to resist the change and think ‘why me?’, or to get angry. The first step is to give your full attention to what you’re experiencing. To notice how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, and how the change is impacting you. You might like to name what you’re feeling as ‘anger’ or ‘sadness’.

Allow the experience to just be

Once you’re aware of how the change affecting you, allow your feelings to be: just as they are. Allow what is happening to happen, and how you’re feeling to be OK. Being present with what ‘is’ rather than what ‘should be’ or ‘could be’.

Need help? Try this Noticing Thoughts Exercise

Investigate with kindness and compassion

Step three is to turn inward and investigate what’s going on inside you. If you’re feeling anxious about the change, how does this feel in your body? Does your chest feel tight, is your breathing shallow? Are your palms sweaty? Approach this investigation with compassion and kindness towards yourself. Remember you’re a human with human feelings and it’s OK to feel the way you’re feeling.

Non-identify with the experience

In the final step of R.A.I.N, you remember that you are not your thoughts, your feelings or your emotions. You are not your mind. And you are not your circumstances. You might be FEELING angry, or worried, or sad as a result of the changing circumstances. But YOU are not anger, worry or sadness. And just like the change you’re currently experiencing, so to your feelings will soon change.

“You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”
– Pema Chodron

You can take your time to explore the R.A.I.N technique as a daily meditation practice, or you can use it to gain perspective when you’re in the midst of challenging changes (like stressful travel issues!).

This article written by Cheryl Strawbridge and Emily Mason originally featured in Nadia Magazine