Be Mindful of your Thoughts…

Well, good evening, Internet. Seems like a while since I last posted – yes, I know it was only last week, but having a lot on your plate will do that to you. Also, the aim was to put this up last night, and then I felt so ill I couldn’t see straight, so I went to bed and stayed there. I still feel kinda rough, but at least the word isn’t one massive blur any more.

With this in mind (ha!), we had a talk on Mindfulness earlier in the week, which left me a little baffled and a little more intrigued.

I should add here, I am not pretending to be a fully-fledged Mindfulness practitioner, only an interested party, but a bit of background for those of you unfamiliar – Mindfulness is a form of therapy which enables the client to ‘live in the moment.’ It grounds, and centres, and basically gives a person more control over their emotions and actions. It’s been shown to be useful in anger management, stress, anxiety and chronic pain.

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The confusing thing about it, in my view, is that it’s essentially meditation, and it uses meditation extensively, but it doesn’t call itself meditation – don’t ask me why. But there are quite a few different types of ‘practice’ that don’t necessarily involve sitting down quietly, like breathing space and mindful movement and yoga. Our lecturer made us do a short BodyScan, which is essentially sitting or lying still with your eyes closed and mentally moving up your body, becoming aware of the sensations in every part of it. It’s a weird experience (not least because I’ve worked out I’m almost totally dissociated from most of my left side – creeeeeepy), but it’s also a hell of a lot more focused than most of the other meditation methods I’ve tried. ‘Clear your mind and relax’ isn’t really my MO – it’s like ‘Lie back and think of England’ (what for, arsehole, I’ve lived there most of my life). Which is the point of Mindful Meditation, in the end – you don’t try and clear your mind. Your thoughts enter your head, they stay there, and you accept them. You exist somewhere between ‘being’ and ‘doing.’

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“Yeah, alright then,” I said at the time. But I thought it was kind of cool, and it’s a really good way of bringing myself in when I feel like I’m flying in a hundred different directions at once. So, I thought to get my head around it, I’d get Rafferty to give me a hand with what Kabat-Zinn (the founder of Mindfulness) calls ‘The Seven Attitudinal Foundations of Mindfulness Practice.’ I think these are the closest things Mindfulness has to a ‘How To’ manual, and (no offense meant) they make a lot more sense than a lot of meditation books do.

I feel like I should have dressed him up as a Jedi for this, it’s very ‘Feel the Force, Luke,’ but I didn’t have any brown wool, so Rafferty is his usual self.

(Next time, b*tches…)

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Non Judging essentially means not hating the thoughts going through your head, or not being hard on yourself for having them. You’re worried about your presentation, even though you’ve done it a hundred times before? Okay, that’s fine. Not speaking for anyone else, but when I have bad thoughts sometimes, I still hate myself for having them, because rationally I know they’re wrong. The non-judgemental attitude is designed to train you to accept those thoughts as ‘okay.’

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Trust is the one I have the most conflicts about. The thing about Trust is it’s supposed to mean trusting yourself and your own thoughts and feelings as real and valid. It sounds a lot like instincts and ‘going with the flow’ – something that psychology, unfortunately, likes to train out of us. It’s probably the one bit of beef I have with my own field – we never go off gut instinct. In fact it was one of the first things my A-Level tutor taught us. Thing is, we have instincts and feelings for a reason; we shouldn’t just ignore them because they don’t have any any scientific basis. So, search your feelings, my young padawan…

(I’m a nerd, shuddup)

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This is not the point I start singing, never fear. This essentially means letting things be as they are. The whole idea of Mindfulness is to live in the moment, and this is perhaps the best tool for doing this. It’s also, from personal experience, probably the heardest, which leads nicely into the next one…

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Be patient with yourself. I think this applies to a lot of areas in life. Mindfulness practice doesn’t come overnight, but neither does anything. Accept the frustration and just keep going.

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Why they call this ‘Beginner’s Mind,’ I don’t know…but essentially, this means not taking the ordinary stuff for granted. I think of it as retaining a childlike sense of wonder. Part of living in the moment is finding the beauty in it. I’ll admit, I found a bit of that in the walk I took while taking these pictures. We certainly caught the best of the weather.

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I think this is the root of the whole practice. If anyone’s ever come across something called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), it’s kind of the same principle: to change your behaviour, you must accept it in the first place. So, in the same vein as ‘non-judging,’ accept thoughts and feelings for what they are. Almost like the exposure therapies you get in some practices of CBT, one gets used to feeling things like anxiety and thus gets better at processing them.

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I think Rafferty was a bit tired after schlepping up hill and down dale, posing for however many shots! Non-striving means almost what it says on the tin – letting things happen in their own time and not worrying about ‘not being where I should be.’ That said, it sounds like a good excuse for procrastination – do not use it as such, this is not what it says on the tin.

If anyone’s interested, these were the people giving the talk, and they have some free Mindfulness practices recorded. My personal favourites are the three-minute breathing spaces and some of the movement practices because I tend to get restless when I sit still for long periods of time.

Anyway, Rafferty and I are going to sit down for a nice cup of tea and some dissertation planning. Stay awesome, everyone!

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Meditating person

All pictures of Rafferty are mine, ask if you want to reuse them 🙂

 

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Driven to Distraction

Joy of joys, I passed my driving test on the third try last week. Considering some of the ridiculous driving you see out on the roads in this day and age, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’d be easier.

I do get asked, occasionally, “So, if you’ve got dyspraxia, how can you drive?” Same way everyone else does, mate; one foot on the gas, two eyes on the road. Oh, yeah, and a pair of these on my hands.

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There’s a very interesting book about the anatomical and cultural constructs of left and right – Right Hand Left Hand by Chris McManus. Left and right – working out which is which, anyway – are an issue for a lot of people. I’ll bet there’s a lot of times you’ve had to think twice about left and right. It’s a spatial thing.

Dyspraxia’s the same; it’s not just motor co-ordination, it’s spatial awareness as well. I can’t follow spoken instructions for the life of me, or give them out – I need a map. I navigate by landmarks, not left and right. The amount of times I hit the kerb trying to parallel park or do a turn in the road is outstanding.  An old instructor of mine seemed to think it was a given that I would know where my wheels were based on the angle of the steering wheel while I was learning how to reverse – erm, no. And even if I could, I’m more interested in not hitting that nice BMW than I am in working out where my wheels are pointing.

It’s also how I failed my first test; I though I had a good foot or so between the wall and the car – my examiner informed me afterwards, very succinctly, that it was only a few inches. Add the fact I missed a sign for a hairpin turn and took it at around 35 miles per hour, and you get a big fat fail.

(Second test wasn’t as exciting – just a car in a blind spot that I forgot to check. Irritating but ultimately boring. I call it ‘foiled by the invisible car’).

But the biggest struggle for me isn’t clutch control or steering, it’s having to work out left and right on the go. I require at lest a couple of seconds to remember which is which. I was pulling out of a car park on the day of my test; my instructor told me to turn left. I very calmly flipped the indicator to the right and then got confused when she said, “No, left.” It took me a full 10 seconds to work out I was going the wrong way. God help me if I ever try driving in Europe, or the US. I mean, driving on the left can be complicated enough, then flip the car around AND all the traffic signals and I think it would end very badly. Hence the L and R inked on my hands. It’s not cheating, it’s a safety net. I checked it at least three or four times on my test. Sometimes it’s not so bad and I don’t have to think as much. Then there are days like that.

This is not to say I’m not a good driver. I’m a very good driver, actually. I may be a bit shoddy on the clutch every now and again but I think ahead, I plan, I observe (most of the time, hehe). And I passed my test within a year of taking my first, so I must be doing something right. I’m looking forward to getting out there as a licensed driver with my own wheels, learning how to drive properly. But the L and R aren’t going away any time soon, I think. It’s a useful strategy – even more so now that I can drive without supervision.  There’s not always going to be someone in the passenger seat to tell me I’m turning the wrong way.

But still.

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On a different note, the mountains outside my window looked like an alien planet the other day.

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I really love wintertime in the countryside.

Stay awesome everybody.

 

NOTE: All pictures are for once mine, please don’t reproduce without permission =D

Moonshine Morning

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Or: the day the Sun and Moon became as one.

No, I don’t mean that literally, obviously. But the solar eclipse visible in Northern Europe and the Arctic circle last Friday really did resemble a moon – a shining crescent in midmorning. Completely surreal.

I admit I screwed up with this post – it lay abandoned in my drafts folder while my Friday night plans crumbled about my ears (private stuff) and I only just found it again. So.

I’ve heard eclipses described as someone turning down a dimmer switch on the world. I suppose it is, but very very slowly – you wouldn’t notice it happening until it happened. It essentially became twilight at 9:30 in the morning. And ye gods, it was FREEZING; because the moon is blocking the sun, it reduces its light AND heat. I was so glad I packed that extra pair of gloves for the schelp over to Western Park.

Unfortunately I only got pictures of the first half because my camera battery obligingly died. But the ones I did get were certainly worth it.

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A friend of mine described the maximum stage of the eclipse (seen above) as, ‘Seeing the Cheshire Cat grinning down from the sky.’ I think I see where he’s coming from:

Credit for this image goes to http://juliewight.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/cheshire-cat-wallpaper.png

All my picture needs is some creepy eyes.

I don’t remember the 1998 eclipse very well – I think either I couldn’t work out the pinhole camera or mum dragged me inside because I insisted on looking at the sun with my naked eyes (I was five, do excuse me). Either way, it didn’t make much of an impression. This one, however, certainly did, and I feel privileged to have witnessed it firsthand.

Are you sitting comfortably?

I hope so – I’m not. I hate racing bikes, but I think that’s a story for tomorrow.

Anyway. Erm, Introductions. Fellow bloggers of the interweb – firstly, hello, and welcome. My name is Hannah, I’m very very British, and I’d style myself as a polymath if my knowledge base wasn’t more of a rickety shelf of trivia than a well-stocked library. I’m first and foremost a horse-rider, but when I’m not doing that I’m a knitter, a writer, a bit of a gym rat, a follower of some really insane logic pathways, a consumate bookworm and a bit of a nerd.

Here you can expect to find…well, I don’t know right now. There’s a lot of things up here in my head: books, photographs, headcanons, thoughts and feelings on current events. I’m not sure I’ll ever be done sorting through it but I hope to unearth some gems along the way. Possibly some dragons too, but I’m making no promises. Erebor this isn’t.

Saying this, I have a few ground rules:

  1. Be respectful. I accept constructive criticism, but a simple ‘you suck’ is neither constructive nor criticism – you’re just being a douchebag (term used gender neutrally).
  2. On a related note, this is a tolerant blog. Queer-bashing, transphobia, sexism, racism, ablesim, and any other form of discrimination I can’t rattle off from the top of my head is not welcome here. Period. If you catch me doing one of those things – I assure you, it’s not deliberate, and please tell me; I’m still trying to learn the ropes.
  3. Have fun!

I am working this out as I go, so do bear with me while I find my feet. And lastly, don’t be afraid to say hello!

And I repeat: Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.