Early October, I will be co-hosting a special city retreat at the Centre of Mindfulness:Awaken Your Potential. This 2-day immersive experience will combine mindfulness, coaching and conscious movement practices to support you into living a more fulfilling and purposeful life.
For this city retreat, I have partnered with lovely and talented colleague Anne Gélébart.Anne is a certified life and leadership coach atAngel Coaching Int.passionate about uncovering people’s potential. In these powerful 2 days we’ll explore your purpose, clarify your vision and support you to assert your values and what you are committed to. We’ll uncover limiting beliefs & conditioned tendencies that may limit your potential. You will learn many tools & practices to work with these and build resilience in challenging situations. We can guarantee that you will leave this retreat inspired, empowered and with increased clarity on how to align your actions with your vision.
We have an early bird offer until the end of the month so make sure you register in time. Readherefor more details and registration.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you are” – Carl Jung
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Delphine Petit, kraamzorg (maternity care nurse at Aide Maman Amsterdam. Read her interview of me below.
Can you please tell us who you are and what exactly is a Doula and Mindfulness.
Firstly, thank you Delphine for this opportunity to highlight the work I do, which I feel very passionate about.
My name is Marjorie Lumet. I am originally from France and have been living in Amsterdam for 12 years with my South African partner and my girls who are now 5 and 9. I am a mindfulness coach, mindful birthing & parenting trainer and doula.
A doula is someone who supports the birthing woman and her partner physically and emotionally during the process of giving birth. This can be at times very hands-on: massage and acupressure for pain relief or relaxation, supporting with positions, breathing techniques and general comfort, facilitating and guiding partner support. Emotional support is also key in this intense moment, encouraging words, cheerleading, reassurance. A doula’s role is to support the birthing woman and her partner to feel safe and remain centred and calm. This also entails creating a peaceful environment in the birthing room. A doula does her best to ensure the mother’s wishes are respected as much as possible.
Birth is a very intimate and special moment in a couple’s life so the role of the doula is to be of service, to observe what is needed, give support where required and hold space when desirable. Research shows that continuous support from a doula shortens the length of labour and very significantly reduces the need for pain medication and for medical interventions, such as administering Pitocin or cesarean birth.
Usually, a doula’s role begins before birth with prenatal preparation sessions during which the birthing couple share their concerns and wishes around birth. A doula provides information and resources so that the birthing couple can understand their options and make informed choices.
A doula is also sometimes skilled to give a birth preparation course. This is my case where I train couples in mindfulness skills which are of great support in birth and well beyond.
Mindfulness is present moment awareness with a non-judging and curious attitude. Paying attention in this way is deeply transformative. It allows us to open up to our full potential which is often limited by stress and unhelpful mental beliefs & behavioural patterns. Cultivating mindfulness allows us to develop another way of looking at ourselves and the world around us, a more positive, open and kinder way. Instead of spending considerable amounts of energy replaying the past, stressing or worrying about the future, our work, relationships and all the things we need to get done, we are able to gather our attention to fully enjoy the moments of our life as they unfold. Through non-reactive observing, we respond consciously to stress and difficulties that arise rather than react automatically. Over time we liberate ourselves from a lot of unnecessary stress and release unhelpful beliefs or habits we’ve developed over the years. We begin to make space for what really matters and supports us to thrive. Mindfulness supports us towards more well-being, joy and harmony in our lives as we live them.
And it is not just me saying all this, mindfulness is very widespread nowadays because the need is huge. There is an extensive body of research demonstrating the many benefits of mindfulness on physical and mental health as well as emotional resilience
That said, you can probably imagine that inviting the practice of mindfulness into your life before becoming a parent is of immense support. It’s more than just a good idea to “sort yourself out” before becoming full-time responsible for a cute being that is totally dependent and fused with you.
Parenting is very much about being in the present moment, paying attention to our children. Children thrive on compassionate attention. It is a solid foundation for them to develop on. However, if a person doesn’t relate to themselves with kind presence, it will be very difficult for them to bring this compassionate attention into their parenting.
Additionally, becoming a parent is probably one of life’s biggest transformations. As joyful as it may be, this rapid change also comes with its fair share of stress. And stress and pregnancy isn’t a good combination as we know. Learning mindfulness in pregnancy allows to reduce stress, to slow down, relax and tune into the amazing pregnant body that is transforming rapidly as well as honour its needs.
Last but certainly not least, mindfulness is an invaluable skill in birth itself. Birth is all about remaining centred and breathing through intensity as well as relaxing as much as possible in between contractions. Our conditioned reactivity to pain, which usually consists in ignoring it, pushing it away or fighting it isn’t helpful obviously in birth. The mindfulness skills couples learn support them to be with discomfort, to relax into the pain. To keep attention focused on the body and breath rather than get caught up in emotional reactivity or fearful thoughts. We do a few series of pain practices together (holding ice cubes) and use a variety of techniques to work more skilfully with the fear or pain that may arise in birth. These techniques include mindfulness, focused attention, breathing and sounding, touch & massage, visualisation and positioning. In childbirth the pain is part of a transformative process allowing a child to be born. The less we fight it, the less pain we actually experience and the more we support birth to unfold optimally.
I teach private individual courses but also group courses based on the “Mindful Birthing” program developed by Nancy Bardacke, an American mid-wife and mindfulness teacher who has been a pioneer in bringing mindfulness skills to expecting families.
How did you come up with the idea of working especially with mothers?
Through my own experience really. Becoming a mother, propelled my journey into mindfulness. Before being a mindfulness coach, I worked in the corporate world for 15 years in media agencies. When I became a Mom the corporate environment I was in, including the rhythm and structure, just didn’t fit with my needs, values and concerns in my new Mom life. I felt frustrated. I was always running trying to keep up with my life rather than living it, enjoying it.
For a long time, I lacked purpose in my job but I felt this more strongly when I became a Mom. I questioned increasingly what my contribution to the world was and how was I shaping the future. And becoming a mom was a radical life change of course. I found myself wanting to spend more time with my daughter, slowing down to enjoy her and watch her grow rather than outsourcing that as much as I was to childcare. I wanted to be healthy and happy and juggling motherhood and a demanding corporate job I didn’t feel passionate about wasn’t delivering on that. So, in my desperation I discovered mindfulness. I attended an 8-week course and was so inspired that halfway through the course I decided to train as a teacher so I could share these skills with my environment.
I now know through my clients that my own journey of adjusting to motherhood is certainly not isolated but shared by most women. There’s a name for it ‘matrescence’, the process of becoming a mother, encompassing all the many physical, psychological and emotional changes after birth. New parents often feel inadequate, insecure, guilty as if they aren’t doing anything right. I feel passionate about equipping mothers with solid mindfulness skills and guide them through this transition from pregnancy to early parenting. To encourage them as they enter this nurturing role to nurture themselves too. Many of us haven’t learned this and our modern environment often depletes rather than nurtures with its distractions and hectic pace at times. Dad’s obviously go through an immense shift too and the more connected couples are, the better equipped they are to grow together and support one another.
I love working with pregnant and new Moms for all these reasons but I don’t work with them exclusively. I also cater to students, plenty of men and women with or without families, high-achieving professionals suffering from stress-related complaints or wanting to bring about positive transformation in their lives. I love having that diversity and I feel it helps me keep an open mind. Plus, I get to witness how the skills I teach are precious for anyone regardless of their life situation.
Can you tell us what a family can expect from your sessions? How do you work?
I give a lot of different courses and workshops but I’ll focus on my offering to expecting parents.
I work both in a group and individual setting.
The gold standard mindful birth preparation course is the 8-week course that combines mindfulness and childbirth education. In this course, couples learn in depth the practice of mindfulness and also have a solid birth preparation course including attention to early parenting.
I facilitate this in a group setting and sessions last 2,5 hours. Each session offers a combination of mindfulness meditation, childbirth theory & education and group sharing and questions. The body needs to move so we always have time for stretching, I integrate movement practices, combining prenatal yoga postures and Qi Gong. Sometimes we do specific birth practices that can be quite hands-on, for instance birth positions and partner support where we use touch, massage and acupressure points. In a group setting, group reflections are also important to the learning process and create a sense of community.
I also offer shorter courses and workshops to cater to different needs, a 5-week course as well as a series of 3x workshops to prepare together for birth.
For private sessions I come to the family’s home and adjust the course content to their specific needs. I can also offer a pregnancy relaxation massage.
My group courses are mostly in English but individual courses can be in French. And I also speak pretty fluent Dutch and Italian which is handy to know
What is “Nouvelles Mamans “?
Nouvelles Mamans’ is a community aimed at making the journey into parenthood just a little bit smoother through offering support, connection and information to new and expecting parents. We host regular events always around a specific theme relevant to pregnancy, birth or early parenting. There is some knowledge sharing around the theme and plenty of space to share stories, concerns and experiences in a warm, informal and non-judgmental setting.
The events we host are in English and French language depending on attendees. We cater to French families as well as a larger expat audience. Starting a family away from home, in a different culture and system can be disorientating, isolating and challenging at times so I believe the power of community is important. Dutchies are very welcome of course too and we’ve had the pleasure of having quite a few locals attend. We love having babies, kids and partners so the whole family is warmly welcomed.
I launched this initiative earlier this year in January. A group of birth workers offer their regular support as well. We are a team of 4 at the moment and have expertise in different areas: mindfulness, yoga, massage, Chinese medicine, dance and have in common a holistic approach.
On top of our professional experience, we are all mothers and have experienced what it is like giving birth and raising our kids in the Netherlands. We share our personal experiences where relevant and offer professional support and information where needed and possible. Finally, most of us have quite an international background but we have a French connection in common, hence our name
Why the name “Experience Mindfulness”?
That’s a great question which no one has ever asked me before so thank you for bringing it up.
I believe it sums up the essence of Mindfulness. Mindfulness or presence if you will is not something that can really be cognitively explained. You could read 100 books on it and yet not fully grasp it. We tend to get so stuck in our heads and forget that there are other ways to know. It is something that needs to be experienced directly, it is a felt sense of the experience of being alive. When you experience mindfulness, practice it, feel it, understand how it is impacting your body and mind, then you can go beyond the concept.
In mindfulness we move from thinking to feeling which is all about experiencing what is. We pay attention to our senses, to sensations in the body, we connect to our whole being. The body is an anchor to our awareness, always available, always giving signals.
Bringing more present moment awareness in our lives may sound simple but it is not easy, this process requires commitment and regular practice or experience !
Can you tell us what makes you Happy?
Every morning, I spend about an hour practicing mindfulness and yoga or Qi Gong. sometimes I go running and then meditate. I enjoy this morning ritual and it helps me start the day with positive energy. If I skip it, I really feel the difference.
My kids make me happy, although sometimes they really irritate me too of course
But what I really enjoy is when we have quality time. I notice that this is facilitated by having nothing on the agenda, just unstructured play or connection time. I try to make room for a short moment of real connection every day with both of them, mostly following their agenda.
Being in nature is also a great source of happiness, nature calms and energizes me. I am definitely an outdoors person and I really need my daily walk in the park.
Traveling and backpacking, learning new languages and discovering new cultures used to be a passion of mine, nowadays I enjoy our family holidays. My partner is South African and I love visiting there. The nature is so grand and wild, these big open spaces help me feel free and even more alive if that makes sense.
And my work makes me happy. For years my work was not a source of joy or even satisfaction. Now I love what I do I allow my curiosity and intuition to guide me as I further develop my skills, they are my new “boss”, it is so liberating! I enjoy guiding and coaching clients. I witness sometimes amazing transformation which is very inspiring and rewarding.
Certainly a lot has changed in the world and in our own lives in the past months. Our work and work spaces, our mobility and shopping experiences, our relationships, social life and habits around fitness and entertainment have all shifted dramatically.
And when our world is shifted upside down, when the ground seems to be disappearing underneath our feet, it can be scary, disorientating and challenging. That said, these challenges also offer clarity on what is important and possibility for growth and expansion. With all our habits transformed, there has been this incredible opportunity to move out of our comfort zone (hum despite being mostly in the comfort of our home, strange paradox), shift out of automatic pilot and create new habits. So as we carefully take steps towards moving outwards again, what new habits have you consciously created that you want to hold onto? Or maybe you’ve not consciously created habits but have been busy binge-watching Netflix, that’s ok, no judgment here, really? That said it is never too late to invite the reflection in: what new habits do I want to invite into my life and nurture? Make intentions, write it down, remind yourself daily, whatever helps you keep these in focus!
Personally, I’ve taken on some new habits that I want to nurture: practicing yoga and meditation every morning, daily walks, gardening, spending more time cooking nourishing meals. I even started running again. I am really not a disciplined person and my motivation comes not from pushing myself but because I’ve experienced how great I feel when I do these things and notice the difference when I don’t. Now and again I get caught up in less helpful habits especially when I am tired: mindlessly browsing social media, spending too much time on the computer without breaks or comfort eating – all of which makes me feel more tired. As long as this is occasional it is ok for me but I do less and less of it as it is everything but nourishing. Make sure that the habits you choose or things you actually really enjoy and make you feel great, joyful and alive rather than things you feel you should do. Whatever brings joy and vitality to your day will be more likely to stick.
“Just being sentient and in a body with the sun coming up is a state of rapture.” – Rumi
To all the mothers bringing new life into the world right now this is an awareness of breathing and body practice to support your well-being. Now more than ever is the time to trust in your amazing body, inner wisdom and strength, and ability to birth freely and nurture your child. It has always been there but the noise of the world and the dominance of the patriarchy sometimes make it difficult to see and feel. Sending you love and well wishes.
It is been 2 weeks of working from home and home-schooling and I have to say I am starting to become somewhat adjusted to, even comfortable in this new normal. I know I am not alone in this as many around me have expressed the same, sometimes we need more time, it is a process! The capacity for human adaptability never ceases to amaze me, this just goes to prove how we are capable of so much more than we bring ourselves to believe we are sometimes.
Also collectively, it is amazing how we can all press on the pause button in the face of a global health threat, albeit an invisible one. Why we haven’t been able to do this yet in the face of climate change, an immensely bigger threat, also keeps me busy. I suppose it is because this disruption is less immediate, more gradual and our systems are reactive and better equipped to deal with short-term threats.
Anyway, narrowing the lens and transitioning from the macro to the micro, coming back to little me. The first week of this situation was a major adjustment for me, as for most of us. I didn’t dwell in fear and went straight into acceptance as there clearly wasn’t any other option that would serve me well. I didn’t really think over things much and activated doing mode to take the necessary actions to adjust to these changes.
I digitalised my mindfulness and mindful birthing courses despite having major resistance with switching to online, there just wasn’t any alternative.
I was brutally aware that this situation of uncertainty, this threat to our health and life as we know it would bring about a lot of suffering. Plenty of fear, anxiety and worry around falling ill or losing loved ones, isolation and loneliness, depression, financial insecurity, etc. I immediately felt the urge to help. I thought “How can I be of service?” “What is this situation asking for me”, “What do I feel called to do?”. I felt ignited with purpose.
I also felt somehow immediately excited about the opportunities that come with such a shift. This situation is like a forced retreat, we are cut off from external distractions, invited to pause, reflect, slow down, do and appreciate things differently. This space to reflect has the potential to bring us in touch with what really matters, to connect to ourselves, our loved ones, our families, to heal ourselves and our relationships. To rethink how we live. To live in the moment, to recognize the sacredness of each moment, because more than ever we don’t know what the future will bring (we actually never did know but now we are reminded of this!). There is an opportunity for us to awaken, to live from our hearts, because that is where peace resides. To come into being. The practice of mindfulness and self-compassion are powerful tools to do just that.
I started weekly mindfulness and self-compassion meditations to support others to stay grounded, loving, peaceful and in the moment in these times. These sessions are donation-based, every Thursday evening. You can join us by registering on Facebook or send me an email.
As a mother, mindful birthing teacher and doula, I also feel passionate about supporting expecting and new parents. Being pregnant, giving birth and becoming a parent can be scary at the best of times but is particularly challenging right now. I have set up weekly meetups with a group of mothers & doulas to support expecting and new parents in this vulnerable phase. Please join usor pass this on to new families.
Finally, I’ve been really busy taking care of my kids, creating a home-schooling schedule, supporting them in their work, but also making sure to balance that with having fun, playing, connecting and safeguarding their well-being.
We are thankfully blessed with health and all doing well. But it has not been easy repurposing the work I do to online AND offering extra support sessions to support my community’s well-being (which means working more than I usually do) AND juggling this with home-schooling and motherhood. I am sure any parent, working or not, suddenly finding themselves in a position of home-schooling can concur. My partner is a lawyer and has continued with his hectic work schedule at home so he’s been on conference calls incessantly and the care of the children has fallen mostly under my responsibility.
The first week of this situation I was in survival mode, busy with everyone but myself. At the end of the week I was useless and completely wired adjusting to these big changes. I had a good cry on the Sunday, to release all the tension and adrenaline in my body caused by the stress of the situation and all these new responsibilities I had taken on. After that, all I could do was sleep for the rest of the day.
I realised if I was to stay sane, healthy and in a place where I could meaningfully support my family and others, I’d better take care of myself more seriously. Of course, I am aware that taking care of myself is important as I am in care roles, as a mother and mindfulness coach so I do make space every day for the practice of mindfulness in some form or another. However, I realised that what I am already doing wasn’t going to be enough to carry me through these times. I needed self-care more than ever if I am going to be a center of peace and sanity: RADICAL SELF-CARE.
So I asked myself what does radical self-care look like? This last week has been the process of exploring what that means for me and what that looks like and here is how far I’ve come.
–Negotiating with my partner to have 2×1 hours slots to myself in the day, one in the morning and one after lunch. And he often takes over from 19h to put the kids in bed as I have mostly evening courses.
–Starting each morning with a walk in my nearby Vondelpark, coming back for a long sitting meditation, sometimes followed by journaling if time allows.
–During the day, taking time for breaks and nourishing activities with and without the kids – regularly checking in with myself “how am I feeling, what is it I need right now?”.
–I’ve been dancing and singing more throughout the day, with and without my girls
–Taking time to cook nourishing food, also with boosting the immune system top of mind
–Stretching and doing yoga throughout the day with my girls often joining in
–Going out to play for a couple of hours with the girls every day
–Having max a couple of hours where I am really available for / working with the kids and the rest of the time encouraging them to work independently
–Family quiet time after lunch where we spend 30 minutes to an hour reading
–Doing something relaxing and/or creative every day with the girls, I took my painting material out again after years of being in the boxes
–Not checking in with the news unless there’s something I feel I need to know or understand, asking my partner who is a serial news watcher if I missed anything of importance.
–Ending the day with some reading or listening to something inspiring, practicing a body scan meditation, sometimes self-massage, lighting candles, soft music, bath, gratitude practice.
–Going to bed no later than 22h and making sure that I switch off my devices by 20h
I’ve been practicing what I preach more than ever and I am starting to feel wonderfully peaceful. I have less time to myself and somehow, I feel like I have more space. How bizarre? I’ve been even more connected to my body and how I am feeling than usual and connecting more to my children. Not having external pressures and all sorts of social and kid’s activities is very relaxing I find. Of course, I miss giving courses in person and human contact. But I must say I am feeling more peaceful than I have in a while and I can give this gift to my children and others.
FINDING MY TRIBE
My partner is an introvert and talking about emotions, feelings isn’t his cup of tea. Reflecting around both the challenges and opportunities that this time brings on an individual and collective level which I find fascinating, really isn’t his thing either. His idea of winding down after a busy work day is watching news and TV shows and action or thriller movies, as well as thankfully the occasional comedy show. The saying that men and women are from different planets really resonates in my home. I know I am not alone in this. But I did feel a bit lonely being at home and not having anyone I could connect meaningfully with when I really needed to more than usual. So there is probably some work to do around my relationship and this situation is forcing me and many of us to be confronted with that fact. I see that as a much needed opportunity. In need of immediate support, the other question was “How can I build meaningful connection in these times?”, “Who can carry me so that I can care for my family and hold space for others?”
So I started looking for support, looking for my tribe in this new online reality. I found support in so many places, many of which were unexpected. Firstly, the courses I host create a collective learning community so definitely the deep sharing there has been precious. I’ve attended a women circle which was a healing experience and intend to continue looking for this sacred feminine connection. I have been doing online dance and yoga sessions. My doula community has been a huge source of nourishment and meaningful exchanges. I’ve also been strengthening the bonds with my community of mindfulness trainers. I’ve had chats with the neighbours and many friends far and near. Lots of Whatsapp exchanges and hilarious videos shared. With one group of friends we’ve been sending one another our funny dance videos. I’ve been connected to my family more than in the past and I’ve initiated weekly zoom reunions (my parents are divorced so this frequency of ‘seeing’ one another is completely new for them).
I’ve been receiving tons of inspiration to stay healthy physically and mentally in these times as I am sure you all have. Wisdom and support is exploding from everywhere. And actually it is a bit overwhelming just how much inspiration is out there. Staying on top of it all can be stressful in itself. Too much input even wise is just too much. So even if there are tons of resources that I want to tune in to now, I have decided to tune in to something no more than 30 minutes a day and to do my best to choose wisely amongst this wellness offering overload. On the weekend if there is space and will I allow for more time for this.
I really value just being with myself and with my family. I realise that there is as much depth within me than there is breadth out there. It does feel good to hear things that resonate with my own experience or the occasional new insight, new way of looking at a situation. So this tuning in supports me in my own process but it is a fine line between support and overwhelm.
So these are some of my reflections from 2 weeks of this ‘social distancing’ or ‘pausing and staying within’ situation. Ready for week 3!
I’d love to hear what radical self-care and finding your tribe looks like for you so please send me a message or join our sessions.
Spring is in the Air! A week back we had the Spring Equinox. With the Corona pandemic continuing to spread physically and also invading our psyche you may not be feeling particularly cheerful, light and in sync with Spring season.
That said, it is a blessing that this situation is happening in this season for those of us in the Northern hemisphere. We can use the energy of Spring to support our own energy. To begin with we can take in some sunshine, vitamin D raises our serotonin production, boosting our mood and energy, which we can use right now more than ever.
And we get to witness nature awakening in all its glory. In the past few days, it is incredible to observe how nature everywhere is blossoming. Yes certainly it is Spring you may say but it is much more than just that. Nature has been having a pause from human activity and if we go outdoors or even just hear the glimpses of good news for the planet here and there, we can begin to see how beneficial that is. It seems like mother Nature is trying to give us a message.
Everything is so much calmer. If I look at my small little corner of the world in Amsterdam, there are barely any cars on the Overtoom or noisy scooters, minimal trams, no planes flying above our heads. How amazingly restful is that? There is less noise, less busyness, we can breathe in the streets instead of smelling car fumes. This makes it easier to see and feel, to connect with our senses. And connecting with the senses is exactly what is needed right now to get out of our heads and into our bodies. In my closeby Vondelpark, nature is blooming, flowers and buds are popping up everywhere, the smell of flowers is pungent, there are more birds than I have ever seen in the past. I’ve noticed a couple of species of birds I had never seen before and their song seems louder than ever. Nature is shining bright and being nourished by this break in human activity. The air quality in Amsterdam and in many places on the planet has improved. The water quality is improving, look at the canals in Venice, the return of the fish and even some dolphins! Who knows, what may happen to the Amsterdam canals. The Earth can finally breathe, rejuvenate, have a restorative, regenerative break and reclaim its space. Can we do the same? We are having a break, like it or not, so we might as well make the most of it where we can. Take a deep breath and slow down, we may use this time to recharge our batteries after perhaps a lot of unnecessary busyness and to explore what brings us balance and joy day by day in these trying times.
Maybe we can learn to fully appreciate the beauty of nature around us and understand the importance of taking care of it. It seems like our planet is trying to give us a message. I know this may feel far-fetched for some but I believe our planet is a conscious self-sustaining organism. I like to refer to her as Mother Earth because she is really. She is our home, a massive womb providing its many children with everything they need to flourish. Children who sometimes take, take, take and always want more. Who forget to give back and be thankful. “Our house is on fire” says Greta. Yes Mother Earth is putting her foot down and asking us to wake up. To stop rushing head down in excessive doing, the excessive greed and consumerism, the competitiveness, more speed, more efficiency, faster, harder, etc. the need for always more, heightened experiences, more entertainment, the relentless striving for the next thing, etc.
We need to explore different ways of living for our own survival. We’ve known that for a while now but now we have a window of opportunity to reflect. The Earth is showing us what is needs! It needs us to slow down and do things differently. Can we hear that message or are we too focused on our own suffering?
We need to slow down for our well-being, our relentless striving and craving for more is only causing suffering. True contentment isn’t linked to our external circumstances but can only be found within and in the present moment. Life isn’t better in the future, right now is the only moment we have to live! Our very challenge is to find happiness right here in the moment, in the midst of adversity.
“Our psychological well-being may depend on being able to find some place in nature where we can go and just hear the sounds of the world, without the sounds of human activity, of airplanes, cars and machines” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
The time has come to nurture our planet. To nurture ourselves and each other. To find a way to live in harmony with one another and our Mother Earth. Peace begins within. If we can be at peace with ourselves, we can create a peaceful environment around us, harmonious relationships. And begin to respect all life, everyone and everything around us is sacred. We are all interconnected, living miracles.
Nature has its own intelligence and so do we. We need to pause to listen. When this external world quiets we can not only hear nature but we can hear ourselves. We’re caught up in systems and structures that are not in sync with the natural world but with these on pause there is an incredible, exciting opportunity to listen within. To create our own rhythm, our own environment, to get in touch with what it is that we really need, what actually really matters. We can get in touch with our own deep intelligence and inner knowing. For our well-being, we can intuitively feel we need to be aligned with nature. When our natural rhythms are not in sync with nature we experience stress and disease.
We have never been separate from the Natural world. We are nature. We are one interconnected whole. If we are hurting our planet, directly or indirectly, we are of course hurting ourselves. Unfortunately, most of us are unwillingly hurting our planet because the choices we are given as consumers are a large majority of non-sustainable products. Having 30 brands of shampoo, shower gel and sugary fizzy drinks to choose from for instance is largely unnecessary. How there can even be a luxury industry when so much of the world is living in poverty is insane in the first place.
Our whole value system is flawed. We privilege profit, material possessions and excessive doing over being, people and planet. If we do not bring being and doing in harmony, as well as make profit in ways that actually benefit the people and planet, we are doomed as a species. If how we spend our time is about making money in a system that doesn’t contribute to our well-being or our environment then we are probably doing more harm than good willingly or not. We may be well-intentioned but misaligned. Instead of starting a new project or initiative because there is an opportunity to make money we should ask how can I serve? A lot of the multi-million dollar industries out there are simply useless and don’t add any value in terms of human or planetary well-being, in fact just the opposite.
Enough ranting, but you get it… We are being called collectively to evolve. It begins with us. From inside out. What choices will we make today for ourselves and others? How can we be a center of peace, sanity and well-being right now? When we are at peace, we can begin to place our energy in serving others with the gift of who we are and our unique skills. When we are suffering and self-absorbed a lot of inner work is needed, our task is first healing our own mind and body before we can contribute in a meaningful way.
And let’s not underestimate the importance of being connected to Nature for our own healing. We can find solace in Nature. Can we let ourselves be inhabited with Spring energy? If you are blessed with the freedom to go outdoors, take time for plenty of mindful walks in nature and savour it with all your senses. This will help calm and ground you in these uncertain times.
Spring represents a new beginning, the return of the light, a fertility reset. “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” (Lao-Tzu). Spring is a good time to reflect and reset which is what we are being called to do right now in the current circumstances. As you watch everything grow, also notice what arises in you moment by moment. See if you can let your experience be your teacher.
Spring is also a time of expansion, of getting out of your comfort zone and into creativity. What wants to grow in you and what can be let gone of so you can move towards expansion rather than be contracted in fear or worry. Changing our habits and routines dramatically as has been the case in the past weeks, brings with it a lot of opportunity to do things differently. To let the new in whether it be starting a new project, hobby or decluttering your home. So get in sync with Spring and let your heart sing even in the midst of intensity! (and singing, releasing your jaw and making your voice heard, is certainly deeply healing too right now!).
Strange times aren’t they? There has been such a sudden shift in life as usual and many of us are still in the midst of processing, making sense of what is going on and adjusting to these new parameters of working remotely, closed schools and social distancing.
Yesterday on Day 1 of the NL Lockdown I facilitated my first ever mindfulness session on Zoom. It was an amazing experience, the experiences shared were deeply touching and insightful. I am very grateful for the opportunity to hold space and guide communities through the process of mindfulness especially right now. I went into this online format with some resistance certainly. And on the other hand, I felt ignited with purpose knowing that staying connected, mindful and grounded is more important than ever.These times are challenging in many ways, a significant rise in disease & death is certainly no light territory, many face financial hardship or even collapse. And … these times are also fascinating in so many ways. I’m sure you hear enough about the concerns in the media and we cannot ignore or dismiss the bad. However, my mission in this post is to help you focus on the good and the lessons that we can learn collectively in this time of transition.
We are forced to surrender our illusion of control and reminded how vulnerable we are. The only power we really have is to choose how we relate to this situation. The rise of solidarity, community and connection, random acts of kindness is moving. Awareness and deep learnings come from pausing and these give us immense clarity on what it is that really matters : enjoying good health, well-being and feeling connected. LOVE is at the core of our humanity, this is what makes us feel alive and happy. We all want to be healthy, happy, peaceful and be loved and many of us have lost the roadmap to experience this in modern life. We need to find our way and mindfulness can provide us with focus and direction to cultivate a supportive mindset.
With every change comes opportunity. With chaos comes creativity. Any major transformation comes with its challenges and is also a huge opportunity for growth and healing.
Resisting the situation by denying it, not taking it seriously, numbing, indifference, fighting, resisting, judging, complaining, being a victim or a bully, getting caught up in fear or anxiety isn’t helpful. We may experience these emotional reactions at times, understandably with the overwhelm of the situation, but it is also quite intuitive to see how these reactions are simply not helpful and causing more suffering. These are stress reactions and stress and anxiety supress our immune systems making us more vulnerable to disease.
“To diminish the suffering of pain, we need to make a crucial distinction between the pain of pain, and the pain we create by our thoughts about the pain. Fear, anger, guilt, loneliness and helplessness are all mental and emotional responses that can intensify pain” – Howard Cutler
The mindful attitudes can serve as a compass to find the good in the midst of obstacles big or small. They can help reframe our perspective and navigate turbulent times.
Beginner’s mind – We are being faced with uncertainty. Our minds don’t do well with uncertainty. Uncertainty brings fear. The more we are afraid, the more we need to exert control over our environment.
“We want things to be clear, so we can maintain our illusions of safety. Certainty breeds tremendous smugness. “– Gunilla Norris
When we learn to become comfortable with not knowing, our minds open, becomes more perceptive, we see with fresh eyes. This expansive state brings us into our creativity.
Non-Judging – We are constantly formulating judgment about ourselves or others. This is deeply harmful, unnecessary and limits us in many ways. In this situation, while there has been huge displays of solidarity, there has also been “othering”, racism, judging of cultural approaches and ways of handling the situation. Everyone has an opinion on everything it seems. Some don’t feel threatened personally by the situation and disregard completely national guidelines continuing to hug, kiss and shake hands defiantly for instance. It is our collective responsibility to protect the most vulnerable. These are not only the elderly but also a much larger group, those already battling with disease, cancer, cardiovascular, auto-immune diseases, etc. I found out in the last days that a few of my friends are asthmatic, have chronic bronchitis or have contracted serious lung disease in the past, I had no idea until now. Not everyone enjoys the same level of health. We are all invited to realise how interconnected we are and to practice caring for the most vulnerable. This is not a time to be self-absorbed but to wake up to our unity. The actions of one impacts the whole. “It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us” – Jackie Mutcheson
Trust – Trusting in ourselves and trusting life. Trusting in our resilience. Trusting that even if we don’t have a clue somehow things will work out. Something good will come out of all this. Trusting others. The current atmosphere of social distancing can bring mistrust, with others potentially being “infected” Other aren’t the enemy. When we get trapped in fear, there can be no trust and no empathy.
Taking time to listen within, to our intuition, to what we are being called to do. How can we serve? This is a time that is inviting us to be more internally focused and less reliant on the external world for guidance. There is opportunity for us to create our own structure, tune into our own rhythm, listen to our needs, follow our curiosity. What is it you need? Surrounding ourselves with positivity is important in these times, reading or watching news headlines multiple times a day probably isn’t serving you and just creating more anxiety. How much information do you really need? Notice what triggers your stress response vs what grows your trust. Make sure you are privileging the latter. There is much to discover if we can apply curiosity and see this as an opportunity to discover something new!
Patience – This situation is temporary and invites us to slow down and look inwards. Can we take this moment for self-exploration, stay curious rather than become impatient? This moment will pass just like everything else in life will. Life is impermanent. Being in a rush creates restlessness and unhappiness. We are only here for a short while, what are we sprinting for? As best we can, trying to appreciate the unfolding moment and what is here to learn in difficulty rather than wanting to be somewhere else. Beauty can come from the darkest and deepest places if we just are patient and remain strong“no mud, no lotus”- Thich Nhat Hanh
Non-Striving – in modern life, we are often in a striving mode. We are most often trying to get somewhere. This creates in us, a state of unbalance, of relentless striving and struggling for the next thing. We can become very absorbed in how we should be, what we should be able to do, what we should achieve, etc. rather than just allowing ourselves to be as we are. We are being forced into BEING and presence, taking things day by day. Mindfulness invites us to be present with what is and embrace things as they are, with all their imperfections. To try and be as content as you can now, because now is effectively the only moment you have to live.
Acceptance – Acceptance is clear seeing. It is allowing the situations to be as it is because that is the reality. It is not about passive resignation but simply recognising that fighting what is, is not only draining but a lost battle. Acceptance of things as they are brings with it a certain peace. We can focus our energy on being with what is and creating from there rather than resisting it which is completely wasted energy and potential.
Letting Go – Once we accept what is, we can surrender to it. This situation is calling for us to surrender. And when we do, it can feel quite liberating. Many experience this slowing down as a relief to an extent, a chance to reset and recharge. The pace of life is quite hectic and pausing can be deeply nourishing. Often we don’t allow ourselves to slow down because we feel guilty, that we shouldn’t take it too easy, we compare ourselves to others and their achievements or we try to meet or even exceed other’s expectations. Being given the permission to slow down is a gift. Also knowing that we are not alone in this can release feelings of guilt or fear of missing out. We are all in the same boat (albeit some may have a more comfortable seat).
More than anything this situation calls for kindness and compassion to ourselves and everyone. It is a time to connect to your heart and practice radical self-care. The more you care for yourself, the more you can be there for others. I need to keep reminding myself of this too personally. I have a burning desire to be of service for others, my family but if I don’t have enough personal space that becomes challenging.
Even if we practice social distancing, we can smile and greet people in the street. I’ve had more people pause and smile back at me today than in a long time. I’ve also spoken to more of my neighbours than I have in the last year. This situation is connecting people in new ways. Many of us are spending more time with our family. Sometimes this may be online if they are far or vulnerable. And some elderly or younger single people may be feeling on the contrary very lonely and isolated which is a recipe for depression. Plenty of online support groups and communities are popping up here and there to support those who are alone and in need of support. Many companies are offering their services free to support working at home and kids out of schools. Tonight at 20h we clapped for 3 minutes to celebrate the amazing work done by caregivers to look after our sick, the sacrifices they are making, the risks they are taking, the importance and vitality of their work _ their dedication is simply amazing.
It is beautiful to witness how this crisis is bringing out the best in many of us. What an amazing opportunity for us to evolve collectively.
“Whatever you frequently think and ponder upon, that will become the inclination of your mind” – The Buddha
We all have this incredible capacity to use our mind to become self-aware as humans yet it is often underutilised unless consciously cultivated. The core qualities of mindfulness, non-judging and kindness among others, are essential pillars to become better versions of ourselves, more fulfilled and shape a brighter future in which we understand and nurture the interconnectedness of everything.
I hope these mindful attitudes can help you focus on the good and find the hidden gems in this situation. I’ll be facilitating many sessions online in the coming days and sharing more recordings to do what I can within my community to support people in staying mindful, compassionate and positive. Please stay tuned on my website, Instagram or Facebook.
Hope to see you there. I’d love to hear how you are experiencing this, what you find challenging as well as what the lessons learned are for you so far.
A couple of days ago, I witnessed the first minutes of life of a beautiful baby boy and very proud baby parents of 2.
My client gave birth all on her own with her husband at her side at home in the bath. It wasn’t the plan, she was going to go to the birthing center at Olvg with a midwife and me by her side. But birth is certainly not an event that can be planned.
The birth was fast, amazing, empowering and the baby was born 20 minutes after the midwife and I received the call to come, we both missed it! This mom went from 1cm of dilation to having her baby in less than 3 hours.
The midwife checked her on early labour at 1cm and said it could take weeks. I spoke to her then, she was having very mild contractions. I offered to come but it wasn’t necessary at the time, she told me that she’d call when she needed me.
And yes from early labour to baby born, it can take weeks but I had the feeling she would birth very fast, I knew somehow. She was ready, trusting. I went to sleep and dreamt that I had to rush to a birth, a baby was about to be born. I was woken up by their call to come quickly and I was there 30 min later, not quite quick enough…
After reflection, it was just right. For this mother to witness her power and to birth her baby on her own. Her first birth had been traumatic at many levels and for her to experience this blissful water birth in the comfort of her home and trust her amazing body was certainly deeply healing and empowering.
She was proud and didn’t feel alone or isolated as the first time around. She felt trusting and grounded and used much of what we practiced together. She said it was the best birth she could imagine and that our time together made it possible. Well, that’s not entirely true – trusting her body and innate ability to birth her baby made it possible. The work we did together supported her to move from fear to trust and that shift is what it is all about it and so powerful!
Long post but filled with amazement and gratitude and a wish to share
Earlier this week, I closed another rewarding 8-week MBSR journey with a beautiful group of people. It was my last mindfulness session for the year and the last meditation practice I guided was a loving kindness practice. I recorded it during our session and wanted to share it with you. (please note that as this is a live recording with a large group in the room, the sound quality isn’t perfect, there is some background noise but I am ok with imperfect, hope you are too?).
With the holiday season approaching, often connected to peace, joy and shared moments with loved ones, don’t you agree it is the perfect opportunity to nurture and spread some love and kindness?
Why practice Loving-Kindness?
If you are unfamiliar with this practice, below is a bit more context:
Loving-Kindness is originally a Buddhist practice (sometimes referred to as metta-meditation). It involves mentally sending kindness and warmth towards others by silently repeating traditional phrases (or mantras).
Loving Kindness is one of the most direct routes to happiness. It is a powerful practice in dispelling negative emotions such as anxiety and depression. It encourages us to be less self-absorbed. Furthermore, it actually makes us more inclined to react positively to others (there is plenty of research to support this).
How do you practice Loving-Kindness?
In this practice, we begin by sending compassion to ourselves. Developing self-compassion is an essential first step to allow us in turn to become a more compassionate person. After that, we can express this compassion increasingly outwardly.
If we feel inadequate or insecure, we harm ourselves by beating ourselves up. Furthermore, we also tend to harm others around us, either by taking out our anger, irritation or frustrations on them. Sometimes by needing or expecting them to love us in ways that we are not able to love ourselves. On the other hand, if we suppress our feelings, we keep ourselves from really, truly connecting with others in a meaningful way as we are too absorbed with our own ill-being.
Mindfulness and self-compassion can free us from past painful and self-limiting beliefs. Learning to open our heart to the loving-kindness within us and in the world around us will eventually help us live more freely and fearlessly.
“We cannot achieve world peace without first achieving peace within ourselves … inner peace. In an atmosphere of hatred, anger, competition and violence no lasting peace can be achieved. These negative and destructive forces must be overcome by compassion, love and altruism which are the essential teachings of the Buddha.” – Dalia Lama
Here’s a special blog post I put together for Lorna from Wilson’s Workouts about reducing stress during the festive season
Is the end of year stress getting to you? Well you are certainly not alone.
On one hand, December is a very busy time of year with all the festivities and family reunions involving plenty of preparation, extra planning and shopping in what is for many of us an already pretty busy schedule.
On the other, the lower amount of natural sunlight can significantly impact our mood, sleep and energy levels. Many of us can find ourselves experiencing winter blues, feeling more lethargic and down overall.
This combination can leave us feeling run down and stressed. The good news is that there is a lot we can do to nurture ourselves and preserve our well-being in the midst of Winter.
Firstly, some acceptance of the reality that our environment affects us profoundly and we don’t have quite the same energy in winter than we may do the rest of the year is key. Winter is a season to slow down so getting more rest and adjusting your schedule to your energy level where possible may be wise and leave you feeling healthier and happier. Not overdoing it, letting go of whatever isn’t crucial or serving our well-being can help in any time of year but especially now, giving yourself the gift of imperfection ?
Starting your day without rushing or checking your phone but instead taking time for some gentle stretching and/or a few minutes of mindful breathing can support you to start the day with clarity and vitality
To preserve your energy and clarity throughout the day, try to insert restorative breaks every now and then whether it be breathing, stretching, walking. Make sure you plan these in as it so easy to get caught up in being busy, neglect our basic needs and go over our boundaries.
Going for a brisk or mindful walk (ideally in nature) is guaranteed to recharge your batteries and combat the winter blues by maximizing your natural light intake. Spending time outdoors and walking increases serotonin production, reduces anxiety and supports better sleep.
Whenever you feel you are getting wound up or overthinking, this 3-step breathing space practice is only 3 minutes and it is a powerful way to give yourself a vitality boost and step away from stress.
When our mood is low and we experience stress, we have a tendency to engage more easily in negative thinking and self-criticism, often variations of feeling insecure or inadequate in some way. While this is pretty common it certainly isn’t helpful and actually makes it harder for us to deal with what is stressing us in the first place. Countering this natural tendency with some self-compassion can work wonders. When you notice you are stressed, pause, acknowledge how you feel and ask yourself “how can I be kind to myself in this situation?”. It is not easy at first and requires a conscious commitment but if you can practice this for a few weeks you could actually transform stressful situations into a self-care moment and in doing so boost your performance, confidence and resilience.
Finally closing the day with a gratitude practice can reframe your thinking, give you a mood boost and facilitate a peaceful, restorative sleep. Most of us have a natural tendency to focus more on what doesn’t go right and focusing on that actually makes it grow so doing the opposite can bring radical transformation. Just writing down 5 things you feel grateful for every night and leaving space for feelings of gratitude to emerge is one of the healthiest habits for well-being. You’re actually inviting more of what you feel grateful for in your life to emerge!
And as this is a celebratory time, you may want to take some time to also celebrate yourself. It is easy to get caught up in all the things we don’t do right or haven’t yet achieved but how about shifting that and taking time to acknowledge all the little things that have gone right and in particular what you feel proud of or have achieved, no matter how small. In this end of year also taking time to reflect on all this has its own significance as we transition into a bright new year. Celebrating actually rewires our brain.
All the warmest wishes for this festive season, may it be mindful, peaceful, bright and restorative!