Forgiveness and love

During C19, the various restriction and lockdowns I have seen more and more cases of conflict, argument and ruptured or severed relationships. The relationships have been both personal and professions. It is as though some people are running out of that magic glue that stick families, friends and communities together. For many of us tolerance is in short supply and we feel at the end of our fuse.

This week someone asked “This Covid is driving me mad, I feel so frustrated, how can I stop feeling so angry about everything and everybody”. I had a think and suggested that to overcome the negative feelings that they were hold about others, and also hold about them self needed forgiveness. The response was rolled eyes a tut and “you always say that but, how do you do it?” My response was… 

…Forgiveness is the application of love over retribution.

Retribution is the punishment that we inflict, or would like to inflict, on another person for what we see as their wrong doing. This wrong doing we may believe is against us or against other people that we may identify with or see as vulnerable and needing our support.

It can sound very hippy to talk about love. Perhaps it is easier to think about the two simple and fundamental forces of nature. They are attraction and repulsion. Things are either drawn together or they are pushed apart. At a psychological and emotional level these are simply love, the energy that pulls us together and hate, the energy that pushes us apart.

When we exercise love we have cooperation and tolerance. We work with each other to get things right and resolve our problems. When we exercise hate we find reasons not to cooperate with each other and we become intolerant. We are not prepared to work with the other person or people to find solutions. In short love creates peace and harmony and hate creates strife and disharmony.

In both love and hate there is a spectrum of feeling from mild to severe. We may simply like someone and fee that they are a nice person through to we might feel passionately and emotionally connected with acts of love. Or, we may simply dislike someone and avoid their company through to active feelings of revulsion, anger and even acts of violence or hurt towards that person. In both cases of love and hate the deep feelings may be real or virtual. It is easier imagining killing someone than actually doing it. Though it is probably nicer to make love that just imagine it.

In the Buddhist Cannon the philosophy is that thoughts come before things. That as a thought is the precursor of an action then, to think of feel something is no different to doing it. In quantum physics, the Intention Experiment, suggests that our feelings towards other can affect them directly which would make sense of prayer and the consistent belief that forgiveness is good for both the object of the forgiveness and the forgiver.

The nature of emotion is that once someone is lodged in our emotional mind we will use our natural ability rumination to feed and build our feelings. It properly doesn’t surprise you that your emotional memory is visual. It the case of love you can picture the person that you care about and can imagine all the good things that you could be doing together. In hatred you can visualise the person that hate and can imagine, or replay all the bad things that they have done. You may even fantasise on how you would meter out the punishment that you feel that they deserve.

In neuropsychology we know that positive feelings lead to the excretion of positive endorphins in the brain and negative feeling to negative stress related endorphins. 

In short we know that those of us who can let go and forgive with a dollop of goodwill and love are getter positive brains and bodies are likely to live longer and suffer less illness. Those who hold negative feelings and hatred end up with negative brains have shorter and sicker lives. There will always be the story of the miserable old bugger who live to be a hundred and used their negative hatred to keep going, “he stayed alive just to spite his enemies”, that sort of thing. Though, overall happy feelings equal happy brain, eg=qualms happy body and happy life.

When looking at who you might like to forgive right now there will be people who recently pressed your button. If you look a little deeper you might need to go back to your early years to clean out your negative cupboard in your head. This is what we call ‘Step One’ and is my resource for this episode.

For give who you can and avoid holding negative emotion. IN the end the only person that it damages is you.

Take care

Sean x

The Colours Of You!

In modern psychology we tend to look at people from three aspects. These are thinking or cognition, feeling or emotion and behaviour or doing. In the Ayurvedic system people are seen to have eight aspects or facets, that are denoted by the chakras or colours of the spectrum, red to violet plus magenta. This blog is an audit of these different faces or colours of you and a chance to consider each part of yourself and decide what you might need or like to do about each or all of them.

The one gift that Covid has given us is the opportunity for self reflection. For many of us life is generally so busy that we have little time to think about ourselves or our wellbeing. Those people that get involved in mindfulness learn to take some time to observe themselves and the world around them and are subsequently more likely to be attentive to their own needs as well as the needs of others. 

When looking at these colour, or facets of your self, you may find that some are more important to you than others. In fact some may have no importance at all. The magic of being a human being is that we have all of these colours within us. If you think of them as lights then the colours that are working strongest will shine with the brightest light while those that are not used so much will be a dim light. As these colours mix we can see that although we are all composed of the same facets they are mixed in such a way that we have individuality. In the Ayurvedic systems when all of the lights are shining at their brightest so that we are full of light we would be described as ‘enlightened’. 

Because some facets or colours shine brighter and are more natural for us to access the Rishis, or scientists, developed the eight paths of Yoga one for each colour. Yoga means to yoke or gather together. All yogic paths are designed to lead, eventually, to the same place of enlightenment. The yogas are Karma Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Raja Yoga, Tantra Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga.

What are the colours of you?

So here are some questions to ponder and decide which colours are strongest in yourself. It is important to remember that you can develop any, or all, of the facets or colours of you, at any time if you wish to. When you look at yourself in this way there may be things that you can see that you need to change or develop. It may be that you need help to do this from a teacher, coaches, therapists and so on. 

During lockdown and covid restrictions paying attention to our needs on every level or facet of ourself is very important.

Red – Physical – Karma Yoga

Your Red world is about what you do and how you act. Karma is the consequence of how you have acted. Karma is neither good nor bad just simply the consequence. The counterpart to Karma is Dharma. Dharma is to do the right thing or to act in the right way. Those that act Dharmically do not create so many negative Karmas. Related to the body, the greatest Karma that we all have to face is how have we treated our body? What we eat, how we exercise, how we work and so on will all take a toll on our body and in the end will dictate how we live, how long we live and how we will die. For the Karma Yogi their body is the temple of their soul that they treat with great respect and gratitude. Related to our body are other bodies. How do you treat you own body, how do you treat other people’s bodies, how do you treat the environment and the world around you? These are all aspects of the Red facet.

Self Audit

  • Are you fit, are you healthy?
  • What exercise do you do?
  • Do you eat a good diet?
  • Do you look after your immediate environment?
  • Do you consider the wider environment of the world?
  • Do you care for other people’s physical wellbeing?
  • Do you physically bully or intimidate other people?
  • What do you need to change in your red facet to improve your body and your behaviour?

Orange – Social – Hatha Yoga

Your orange world is about vital energy. Red bodies live in groups that we call families, communities, societies, cultures, nations or even the whole of humanity. What holds people together is the ‘glue’ energy. Orange energy is called bio-energy, prana, chi. Ki and so on. When that energy is in tune we have harmony. When the energy goes out of tune we have conflict and problems. The balance of energy starts within us and then moves out to others. Hatha Yoga is the balancing of personal internal energies. Ha and Tha is positive and negative, symbolised by sun and moon, also described as yin and yang or Purusha and Prakritti. Hatha Yoga is the balance of energies. In our families, communities and society we need a balance of social energies to create collective harmony, wellbeing and happiness.

Self Audit

  • When and how do you come together with your family and friends?
  • Do you have enough friend time?
  • Do you have enough family time?
  • What do you do to ensure the happiness of those around you?
  • What do you expect from those around you to make you happy?
  • What do you give to those around you that need your support at this time?
  • How could you help them?
  • What do you need to change in your orange facet to feel more connected with those around you?

Yellow – Experience/Intellect – Jnana Yoga 

The magic of the intellect is its ability to discriminate. If you present the yellow facet with a list of pros it will instantly come up with a list of cons and visa versa. The intellect is the tool of perception unlike the blue conceptual world of thought. Yellow is external observation and blue is internal construction. 

Jñāna yoga, also known as Jnanamarga, is one of the several spiritual paths in Hinduism, which emphasises the “path of knowledge”, also known as the “path of self-realisation”. It is one of the three classical paths for moksha [is a word used in many disciplines to denote enlightenment]. The other two are karma yoga and Bhakti yoga. Wikipedia

In the everyday sense the Yellow world of experience is all about having fun. It is okay going out for a good Orange social jolly but unless you have a good flowing Yellow facet to your personality it may not be that much fun.

Self Audit

  • Is you life fun?
  • When did you last have fun?
  • What were you doing?
  • When did you last have a new experience or go somewhere completely new?
  • What are you reading at the moment?
  • What are you studying at the moment?
  • If you could go anywhere and do anything where and what would it be?

Green – Emotion – Power – Service – Bhakti Yoga

The Green facet is about self power, self esteem and self worth. When you can go to the mirror look yourself in the eyes and say ‘I love you”, and mean it, your Green esteem is shining. This should not be mistaken with arrogance that is when we expect other people to tell us that they love us and that over all we feel that we are better than them. Green is about the ego and how I see me. The interesting fact is that some peoples egos are so large that they can include other people within them. Mother Theresa of Calcutta had an ego that was so big she could include all the poor of Calcutta within it and treat them as if they were herself. That is Bhakti Yoga the Yoga of Service. The obvious famous ones are people such as Gandhi, though they are everywhere all around us doing what they can to help others. When the ego goes the other way it becomes self serving and egotistical, demanding attention, needing to be showered with admiration. This is a problem exhibited by many celebrities and politicians.  

The Green facet for us includes money and power but also the power of emotion. The Matriarch may dominate the family but it is mostly through positive power of green love. Often when we look at love we are looking at Greenness and the easy sharing of emotions.

Self audit

  • Do you have self confidence and self esteem?
  • Do you like yourself?
  • If yes what is that you like and why?
  • If not, why not and what can you do to make this better?
  • How do you know that you are loved?
  • Do you feel loved?
  • How do show someone that you love them?
  • Who do you include in your ego bubble?
  • Who would you look after as though they were yourself?
  • What can you do to increase your sense of self esteem?

Blue – cognition – thinking – organisation – status – Mantra Yoga

The Blue world is the internalisation of the Yellow world. Yellow is built of Percepts and the Blue is built of Concepts. Precepts are what we perceive out there as our experience. Concepts are what we internalise as our thoughts and our memories. Internalisation requires ordering and organising. The mind can be like a filing cabinet. If you have a good Blue facet you will be able to recall events going back many years you will be able to order your thoughts and feelings and present them in a calm and logical way that may baffle those that are more emotional.

The Blue world likes status and position. The honours system was designed to fulfil this Blue need for status and position. For Green the currency is power but for the Blue it is status. When someone calls you and says ‘this is Mr Sean Orford’ they are claiming a simple title and not simple being Sean Orford. If the handle could be bigger than Mr perhaps, Doctor, Director, Manager, Duke, Lord, Lady it would maybe gain more status. When someone asks you ‘Who are you’ we normally respond by giving them a list of what we do and from this list they will give us status. The important point here is that we give ourselves and other people status, not by who they are but by what they do.

Self Audit

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • What roles do you play in life?
  • Do you feel that what you do gives you status in your own eyes?
  • Do you feel that what you do gives you status in the eyes of others?
  • Would you like more status?
  • What would give you more status?
  • How could you do this?

Indigo – Intuition – Meaning – Raja Yoga

For any one of us to feel right and a sense of wellbeing our Indigo facet needs to be at least functioning and preferably shining. Indigo is meaning. What is it all about? Up to this point our different facets are concerned with questions of ‘what’ and ‘how’. When we get to Indigo the question changes to ‘Why?’ Why do you get out of bed in the morning? Why do you go to work? In fact, why do you do anything? When life has meaning we are motivated towards doing things. When the meaning has gone we become depressed or even suicidal, ‘what is the point?’ The currency on the Indigo world is intuition. It is that sense of knowing without needing to know why, you just know. That knowing can include the reason why you are alive or your life purpose.

This intuitive facet is introspective. It can be reached and developed in practices such as mindful meditation. Unlike the previous facets that are often active and even noisy Indigo is often silent. This is a knowing silence in which you can hear the answer to your questions and your problems. The self audit at this level maybe a bit challenging and often creates the need to talk about our deep intuitive feelings and thoughts.

Self Audit

  • Why do you get out of bed in the morning?
  • What is the purpose and meaning of life?
  • What is the purpose and meaning of your life?
  • What do you believe happens when you die?
  • Does the answer to the above question affect how you act or live?
  • Do you meditate?
  • Would you like to learn to meditate?
  • What could you do to create more calm, tranquility and silence in your life?

Violet – Imagination – Creativity – Tantra Yoga

Let me start by saying that when most people hear the word Tantra their first thought is sex! Well, the word Tantra in Sanskrit simply means to weave together or to become as one. The sexual act is a good way of understanding how two people could weave together to become as one. Imagine if a family, society, community, culture, nation, group of nations, or even the whole of humanity could become Tantric and be as one. There would be no wars, no starving, no prejudice, no unhappiness. When I say ‘if we all look after each other we will all be okay’ I am describing this Tantric relationship.

Imagination is the key. In modern psychology we use phrases such as ‘what you think about you bring about’ or ‘what you feel you create’. What we really mean is ‘what you imagine you will create’. When we wake in the morning we will imagine the day ahead, we will see it in pictures on the screen in our mind. These pictures create a forward memory that we then go and play out. The Violet facet is the script writer of our life. When faced with a problem we can imagine ourself overcoming it or we can imagine ourself failing. The image creates the action and the outcome.

Self Audit

Project forward to your birthday ten years from now. Someone is reading out a speech about your life and your achievements. The speech that they read is your forward memory, it is your imagination in action, it is your script. Write that speech now so that the speech says exactly what you would want to hear then, now go and live your life and create what you want it to be.

Magenta – Fantasy – Doesn’t exist

We all dream and we all daydream. None of the dreams are real. The dreams that do become real are really the images of the Violet facet. A Magenta dream is just a fantasy. It may be a good light fantasy or a dark negative fantasy. The whole point is that it is not real it doesn’t exist. Yet, we have the ability to take these fantasies and play with them in our mind and feed them and develop them so that they feel so real that the dominate and overwhelm our lives.

The vast, vast, majority of anxiety is nothing more than a Magenta fantasy.  Our worries and fears about what other people may think about us, how they see us, that they are talking about us, that the plane will crash, the bus will be late, we won’t get the job, we will all…. fill in the blank. Once this Magenta facet becomes activated it has no limits from monsters under the bed to every conspiracy theory you have ever heard. Obviously, some rumours (Orange) will have a basis in truth and some report (Yellow) will be true. However much of what we hear on the news and read on social media is Magenta and needs to be taken with a pinch of salt unless it is backed by research or facts (Blue).

We all have this Magenta fantasy facet, It is really good for informal stress management and you walk away from the boss who has just told you off and you replay the conversation in your head but use Magenta to change it so that you told him where to go and exactly what you thought about him.

Self Audit

  • Keep a daydream and a night dream diary and enjoy what you are dreaming about?
  • If your dreams becomes dark, negative or violent you might be holding unresolved issues and need some psychotherapy.
  • Become an active dreamer or day dreamer and create the fantasies that make you happy and enjoy them.
  • Write a book. Many ideas for books began as a daydream or a fantasy.

During this time, we have a rare chance to examine ourselves in ways we have not been able to before and may never be able to again. Many of us have time and that is when the mind wanders. All the different facets of ourself that we have looked at in this block could do with some attention, some more than others. Take the time that you have to do a bit of positive self examination and develop the bits of you that could do with some attention.

Be whole and be happy.

Take care

Sean x

How to work on your mental health

I am worried, here we go again, another lockdown.

The feeling that there will be light at the end of the tunnel is disappearing to a dot on the horizon. My first reaction is that gut wrenching frustration of ‘oh no’, followed by flat depressive feelings. I know how devastating this is going to be for so many people that I have been talking to online. There is a philosophical oracle called the ‘I Ching’ that makes suggestions on the best course of action that you should take. A common phrase in the Ching is ‘it favours you to have somewhere to go’. This means to me that we each need a goal or a destination, a meaning or a purpose to life. This is what seems to be missing right now. In lockdown with continued restrictions and closures it can be hard to see a future. If we feel that there is nowhere to go, that there is no future, then there is no meaning and it can easily become ‘what is the point?’

Because I know how my mind works and how easy it is for the negative monkey in my head, that I call Eric, to come out and throw negative bananas at me, I am vigilante and at times like this and I do my best to not give Eric any head space. It is the living reality of…

…thoughts become things.

I know that once I start to ruminate on the negative it will grow and get even bigger in my mind. Once the rumination begins I am lost so I either, don’t let it happen or I nip it in the bud as soon as possible.

Mind control

It was hard for me to realise that I was responsible for my mind and for what I was thinking or feeling. Now I know how real this is. Either we are on autopilot and simply accepting and reacting to what we are told by media or other people or we are mindfully observant and respond to events in ways that serve us well. This is the living reality of…

…it is not what happens that is important,
it is how we respond to it that really matters.

You have a choice

How are you reacting or responding to the news of more restrictions?

First time around we faced without knowing what it would be like. We played with ideas of working though box sets and taking training, learning to cook or catching up on that pile of books that need to be read. First time around we were naive this time we have knowledge. For those on furlough what will you do.

Let’s get real

Okay, so have a look at the first lockdown. What went well and what didn’t? What do you need to do this time around to make it better?

When life loses its meaning and we lose our motivation the best thing that we can do is make a plan. In the non lockdown world the days of the week have a meaning that is mainly dictated by what we would do on those days. Most of us would work all week which made Sunday a good day to sit around and do very little, take it easy and not feel the need to do anything. The problem is when everyday becomes a Sunday it can feel like there is never anything to do.

Let’s make a plan

Think of it like this, every morning the universe gives you a time cheque, you now have twenty four hours. How will you spend this free windfall? How will you invest your today. What you do will dictate just how you will feel at the end of today. How you feel at the end of today, when you go to sleep will dictate how you will feel tomorrow when you wake up. How about you make a plan?

Either get some paper, or use your device, and set out a calendar of your week. First entries need to be about sleep, exercise and food.

1: Set your alarm – set your sleep pattern
The first thing that tends to go astray is our sleep pattern. It can be easy to think what is the point in getting out of bed. Then your sleep pattern slips and you are awake until the early hours and getting up at lunchtime. Decide on the best time to get up that is pretty similar to your normal regime, count back eight hours from there, that is your bed time. Don’t take phones, tablets and computers or televisions into the bedroom. Your bedroom is your sleep room. We now know that if you are sleeping for less than seven hours this could be due to worry or stress, feeling anxious and if you are sleeping for more than nine hours this could be due to low mood or depression. Either way exercise can help.

2: Move your body
Go for a walk. Go a bit further each day. Decide on your step count, make sure that you do at least that. At least three times a week, but preferably 30 minutes each day, raise you heart rate. If you can run or dance even better. Find an exercise dvd or check out youtube online to see what resources they have. We know that if you raise your heart rate for at least twenty minutes your brain will release happy hormones and you will feel good.

3: What is going in your mouth and when are you doing it?
So many people put on weight in the last lockdown.

The joke is ‘are you doing the lockdown 5k?’. That is not the 5k race it is the 5k of weight that you can put on if you are not careful. One problem that we have identified with people who do manage their steps each day is that they then often feel justified in eating whatever they want. Sadly it doesn’t work that way. Weight is like a bank account. If you deposit more calories than you spend the balance just keeps on growing. It is so important that we all maintain regular meal times and avoid snacking. We now know that when you eat carbohydrates your brain secretes serotonin, the happy hormone, and you feel better. So when you are craving those carbs you are really self medicating to make yourself feel better.

So, the deal is that to survive another lockdown we all need to get organised, plan what we going to do and create a purpose and meaning to each day. In the next podcast I want to look at the seven levels of our human egos and personalities that need to be tended to maintain our sanity.

Take care and get that weekly diary sorted.

Sean x

We can’t change history

What is done is done.

During lockdown and the COVID restrictions I have been listening to the themes that people have been sharing with me. I have noticed that time to ruminate has, for many, been time to go over old, raw and unhealed wounds. This reliving of unresolved past events can easily poison the present and become the seeds of depression and future anxiety. We say that the devil finds work for idle hands. I say the idle mind find space for negative rumination. In Covid many of us have had too much time to think. Unless you are able to mindfully control your thoughts and feelings the monkey in your head will go bonkers and throw negative bananas at your thoughts and feelings.

I see this being played out across the board by various people from around the world.  It becomes so easy to criticise and blame for past events. From racial discrimination, through to the Holocaust, bad Covid decisions, to current failing relationships. We can never change what has happened and we cannot change what will happen, we can only change what is happening right now.

I understand that many groups of people feel, and rightly so, that they and their ancestors have been badly done to by previous generations. This is real and requires both that we acknowledge what has taken place as a real part of human history. But it would be wrong for us now to grab a German teenager off the streets of Berlin and blame them for the Nazis misdeeds, the Holocaust and the Second World War. They may be the right race but they are out of that time, it is nothing to do with them.

Equally we cannot blame a teenager in the streets of London for the misdeeds of ancestors building the British Empire. The Common Wealth Organisation went some way to normalising these negative events as did the United Nations after the Second World War. Yes we need to learn from history but we do not need to keep reliving it.

I realise that this works both ways and that the deniers of bad events are also responsible for keeping the past alive in the current human awareness in the moment. Through the development of human kind there have been bad and wrong things done by one group to another. This was not only the European Empires it was equally local groups. The atrocities that stick out most is the way that the whole of Africa was mistreated by the European Empires, the abuse suffered by Native American Indians, the Aborigines and Maoris. But it goes on today in every case of ethnic cleansing that has taken place on every continent from Yugoslavian right up to the present day, Myanmar and the ethnic ‘re-education’ of Muslims in China. Even the Celts in the UK would have a case for reclaiming the whole of England as their land that was token from them by the past conquest of the Angles and the Danes.

The same attitudes still prevail in smaller groups and communities. As a Londoner I am aware of the antipathy between those born south or north of the River Thames, or those from West or East London. The same thing is true in family groups whether they are extended or nuclear.

Whatever the group that we are looking at, when we allow the unresolved issues of the past to intervene in the present we are lost. This is where vendetta and the holding of grudges develops and may last for so many generations that we forget why or how it began and why we don’t like a particular group of people we just know that we don’t like them.

With Covid and the governmental decisions there will probably be recriminations for many years to come about who should of done what and who is to blame. The arguments have already begun and are partisan as we seek to blame whoever we can for the current state of things. When Trump describes Covid as the Chinese disease he may be talking from some inner knowledge that we do not know. Equally it could be that the pandemic could have originated in any particular country. It often suits the human mind to have something or someone to blame for how we are feeling for what is happening to us.

When we look in the ‘Now’ the past has gone, we cannot change history. We also cannot or live in the future it has yet to be. However, we can play a large part in what happens next. This is called creativity… thoughts become things. However if we are to create a future, positive or negative, we can only do so by starting to own the now. It is the thoughts, feelings, actions and attitudes that we manifest in the now that will create what happens tomorrow. Today we plant the seed and in the future we can reap the crop. The harvest will either be luscious and abundant or weak and failed depending on where we planted the seeds and how we tended to the crop while it was growing.

This is true on every level of human experience. We do have some control over the pollution of the planet and my favourite topic is our over use of single use plastics. We also have control over the air quality and what we are breathing in and is Eds favourite topic ‘get out of your car and onto your bike’. We can blame whoever we want for the state of the planet, we can only act in the now to make it different. We can blame whoever we want for the mistreatment of one human group by another, we can only act in the now to make that different in the future and value each other. We can blame who we want for the state of our families or how we are feeling. We can only act in the now to put it right.

Live in the present, be here now. In the end that is all that we have. As soon as you read this it has become the past. Living in moment requires precise concentration. The last breath that you took was your past and the next breath that you take will become your future. It is only the breath that you are taking right at this moment that is your now.

As my resource for this weeks Podcast I have chosen Elkhart Tolle ‘The Power Of Now’. This is a fascinating read that goes some way to explaining that all we have is in the present moment.

Take care, be happy in your present, let the past go and stop worrying about what will happen next.

Sean x

Tell me something good

After lasts weeks blog I have been talking with a team, in one of the units, about being positive. The team was in a meeting and collectively realised how negative they were all beginning to sound. We were discussing potential production rates, and what would happen if the Covid restrictions were extended and if the staff would be too stretched to achieve the new  targets. Then the horrors that were awaiting them through the exporting of products after Brexit. All in all everyone was pretty negative and flat. There was not even enough energy to see this as a fight or a battle that could be won. It was as though the team were suffering battle fatigue and had already given up.

I started talking about Captain Tom saying that his life philosophy has been to expect tomorrow to be better than today. When we went over our conversations it was clear that the team was expecting the worst of tomorrow not the best. Tom had developed his way of looking forward to a positive future to overcome his negative experiences of being at war in the jungle when fighting the Japanese troops in the Far East. I was saying that if we were being realistic about our situation then we should realise that Tom had spent six years fighting a war and managed to stay positive and here we were a few months into Covid and were potentially giving up.

I started talking a bit about neuroplasticity and how our attitudes were effecting our brains. My point being that if we were like this now how would we be by the middle of next year? We started to look at how the production teams had survived and maintained production despite the lockdown and furlough. The conversation began to lighten as the focus moved from the negative to the positive and we started to look not at what we had lost but to what we had gained. This attitude of positive expectation is the core of modern mindful psychology. The phrase that…

…thoughts become things…

…is the same thing really. It is the expectation that…

…what you think about you will bring about.

Now, it does not matter whether or not our thoughts and feelings about tomorrow are positive or negative we are all, through our expectations, creating our future experience. Tom has it right, expect the positive and the chances are it will happen. The second thing to realise is that…

…it is not what happens it is how we experience it that is important.

The common phrase in this team in the past has always been…

…we don’t have problems we only have learning opportunities

The problem in the moment was that the problems were becoming catastrophes and no longer learning opportunities.

These are things that we have spoken about before in the podcast. In this situation we were beyond the theory, this situation was live action. How could we change this flagging team into a positive and motivated force?

I started by getting them talking about gratitude and the positive connection to being thankful for the situation. To think about people, things and life that relate to a positive expectation of what is to come. As people began to share positive experiences we decided that the best game to play, that would focus us on to a positive mindset, was ‘tell me something good’. We each had to state a positive experience of Covid during lockdown and furlough. This is some of what we came up with.

Time to think and meditate

On consideration there was the realisation that people did actually have more time to think and plan and get there heads in order. I have been running a mindfulness meditation group In this plant for years that meets once a month. Lockdown had got many of them practicing on a daily basis. The positive was  they all felt the benefit and felt committed to continued practice.

Time to communicate

Even online there was a recognition that people were taking more time to check each other out. A couple of the team had been tested Covid positive and although they were not hospitalised, and came through it okay, the experience had scared the whole workforce. The positive is that people are now going out of their way to check each other out whether online or face to face.


There was a lot of talk about relationships and getting to know their families again. There was a strong realisation that the need to work had overtaken the need to maintain relationships in the family. This group is all male and a big realisation was that they needed to take more time to get to know their kids. The positive is that being at home for longer periods of time and helping with school work, playing and talking has created much stronger father and child bonds.


Being at home and being available to talk over the garden fence with neighbours was a new kind of bonding that was a common experience. Going for a daily walk has enabled them to get to know people in their road. The positive is that they all had stories of how their community was helping each other out by getting shopping, making sure the prescriptions were delivered and checking that each other were okay.


Everyone in the group described learning something new. There was a lot of gratitude for the internet and YouTube for learning and skill development as those diy jobs that had been hanging around for years suddenly had been or were being done. Including decorating. One guy said that he and his wife would, by the end of Covid, have redecorated the entire house. The positive here was that many of the team had used, and were using, the extra time that Covid has provided positivity.


Virtually everybody said that they had read a book for the first time in years. There was a surprised realisation in how much you can get out of reading a book. One had joined an  online book club that meets once a month to discuss their experience of that months read. The positive is that reading not only gives us insights and ideas as well as entertainment but it also helps to ward off dementia as we keep our brains active.

Weight and fitness

This split two ways. There were those that had been running and exercising and those that had turned to the biscuit tin for comfort. The positive here is that there is a collective awareness of the need to be more aware of food, drink and exercise. It will be interesting to see of the commitments made that day which ones will be maintained. I will check it out.

Difficult decisions

Covid has made people think about difficult issues. Some of those in the team had lost family members and friends to Covid and it had made them think and plan. There was that sense of the need to get your house in order because none us now if we will get ‘it’ or not and what the effect on us will be. The positive in this was to be thankful for what you have right now because we do not know when it will end.

We have and will learn so much from this Covid experience. Our choice is do we focus on the positive learning or the negative? If we follow Captain Tom’s example we need to look at the positive of what will happen tomorrow and do what we can to make it happen.

Take care, stay positive and tell me something good…

Sean x

Happiness is not a destinations, it is a journey

For most of us this year we have been in some sort of restrictive lockdown due to Covid 19. And now, it’s looking like we are now heading for another six months. That means for us it is looking likely birthday celebrations will have to take on a different form and who knows what Christmas will look like. The world has changed and shows no signs of returning to normal just yet. Six months takes us to March 2021, that seems a long time away and will mean that we will have been in restriction for a year.

In my virtual online consulting room I have seen the toll that the Covid restrictions have taken on our mental health so far. So, I want us to get our head around the idea that happiness and a state of sanity is not something that we will bump into when this is all over. We can have booth happiness and sanity right now if we choose to. It might even be a shock that you do have a choice.

Thoughts become things

If we decide that the world is insane and unhappy then we are right and that is what we will see all around us. Most of the people I am talking with desperately want the world to be normal again and they want themselves to be normal again. The idea that normal does exist is true but our normal is what we are living right now. What we are experiencing maybe a new normal but it’s our normal and the only one we can have at this time.

At the end of this journey of Covid restrictions we may well find happier times but if we just sit back and wait to the journeys end, we are going to have a horrible time.

Happiness is not a destination it is a journey

We are told, through advertising, the media, and general expectation, that to have certain things, or to look a certain way, will make us feel good and create our happiness. This assumes that ‘normal’ and ‘happiness’ are actual states that can be achieved in this wonderful future when we have whatever it is that we want.  I am not so sure that it is that way. Why don’t we accept where things are up to now and decide how we can make the journey to the end of Covid restrictions?

For us all life has many challenges.  There will always be things to come to terms with, situations to overcome. These Covid restriction are just this. They are a challenge or will we make them into a problem? The American concept that ‘we don’t have problems we only have opportunities’ takes us forward with hope.  It tells us that problems are solvable and we can overcome them.

When life’s challenges are simply seen as problems, or insurmountable obstacles, we can easily become victims and as victims we become stuck miserable and unhappy.

I suspect happiness and being ‘normal’ is being able to see life’s difficulties as challenges and not problems. For me good mindful attitudes allow us to see our life as a journey and and not a destination. That enables us to realise that all that we ever need to do is enjoy the journey, live in the moment and arrive at the journeys end with a smile.

I wonder what it was like for those people who endured six years of war with the continual hope that it would all be over by Christmas, yet it rolled on one year after another. I am in awe of people like ‘Captain Tom’ who are able to remain positive despite the problems of life and of old age.

Once we learn to see happiness as the journey and not the goal, positivity is always available to us.  It may be that we need to ask for help, it may be that we need to do some work but we can have it right now. In so many ways the world is what we make it.

Be happy and work how to enjoy your time throughout the Covid restrictions

Take care and be safe

Sean x

Are you what you do?

I have often been aware that we define ourselves by the roles that we play. If we ask someone who they are they will normally reply with a list of things that they do. “I am a teacher”, “I am a…., fill in the blank. Try it yourself. How do you describe yourself to others? Who are you?

Normally this way of defining ourselves is not a problem and only becomes an issues when we are forced to change things such as in redundancy, or retirement. Most women have a changing experience of self when the last child is born, the last child goes to school or the last child leaves home. At each stage the answer to the question ‘who am I?’, changes.

Well Covid and lockdown put a new slant on this issue. I am aware of people who have been out of the workplace for prolonged periods of time are having the who am I crisis. It becomes clear that many people value themselves through their relationships with others. Walking into the workplace and having people acknowledge them and be interested in what they were doing at the weekend can give people a sense of value. As those relationships have been peeled away so has the sense of identity.

Some people have managed to maintain a sense of self through online interactions. Though, over the last few months people are now telling me that it is not the same and they are craving real, actual contact with other people.

We may not be aware of it but up to ten percent of communication is in pheromones. That is we smell each other. Dogs, obviously have a much better sense of smell than we do but we can smell such emotions as acceptance, fear, love, attraction, rejection, hatred and so on. This sense is subtle and is happening below our general awareness but it it is an important part of our relationships.

The other thing that we are missing is the nuance of gesture and body language. When we can only see someone’s head and shoulders we are not aware of their finger drumming or twiddling. We cannot see there feet moving or the knee going up and down.

Someone said to me that, in the beginning, they were really impressed with Zoom and Skype but as time has gone on they now see people as rather 2d rather than 3D, it all seems flat. The feeling was that not only are the videos becoming flat but the relationships were becoming flat as well. One person said that when they were meeting face to face they could cut a meeting short, go and have a coffee together, or even look at other things. Online they felt trapped into staring into the screen and being conscious of if they looked away it would be rude. Also the fact that the person was in a time slot in their diary they felt that they would be rude or disrespectful if they did not make the meeting last for all of the allotted time. They were then struggling for things to say or talk about.

So I have been experimenting with people to see if they can change their experience.

  1. Move the camera further away so that you are not just looking at the head and shoulders and can see more of each other?
  2. Why sit down at all? You could have a meeting standing up and get even more of a body shot in.
  3. Try not using the camera for a change and focus on each other’s voices.
  4. Agree to have sometime in the meeting, beginning or end, just shooting the breeze talking about family etc.
  5. If using just audio use your phone and put the headphones in and go for a walk. It can be quite stimulating getting out into the open air as you talk.
  6. What about moving outdoors for a video call in the garden?
  7. Agree ahead of time to stop the meeting when all that needs to be covered has been done.
  8. Add some low level background music.
  9. Maybe, don’t always sit in the same place, allow the background to change.
  10. Perhaps don’t always wear the same clothes.

If we are going to be using online for sometime to come we need to find ways of keeping it fresh and vital.

In the world of psychological medicine it has become accepted that behind the Corona virus will follow a wave of depression and possibly other mental health issues. We are about to go into the dark months when mood tend to drop anyway. We need to do all that we can to keep our own mood up and support those around us.

Take care, stay positive and look after each other.


Self help and politics

The last couple of weeks have been reflective for me. First we were away which was a nice break but secondly at the end of last week I tested positive for Covid. Thankfully i have not been too poorly with it, i struggled most with the 10 days of isolation. Anyway my thoughts have been exercised by feedback from a regular listener saying that they had decided to leave the podcast because we had become too political. It made me think a lot and question what we are doing here. I searched ‘politics’ and good old Wiki came back with…

Politics is the way that people living in groups make decisions. Politics is about making agreements between people so that they can live together in groups such as tribes, cities, or countries.’

This is a good description for me that shows politics with a small ‘p’ not party Politics with a big ‘P’. In this sense self help comes from the decisions that we make individually on how we think, feel and behave so that we can overcome our problems and lead happier and more fulfilling lives. The same process happens with groups of people from families to societies. I do not see a difference between self help and group help what I see is a process of growing awareness and waking up.

There is no difference between individual decisions and collective decisions. Those decisions will either help us or not.

The process of self help often begins in a sleepy vague sate of self awareness with ‘I have a problem’. At this stage the individual will take very little responsibility for what is happening for them. Often they will seek others to blame and also try to find others who will make it right for them. These outside agencies that are either creating or solving the problems and known as ‘Them’. “You’ll never guess what they have done now?” “You think that they would help us?” While we hang on to concepts of ‘them’ and ‘they’ and do not help our selves we cannot  change our situation.

Self help is about taking personal responsibility and doing something about our situation ourself. We will often need help from therapists and teachers, we might need training and courses, develop skills and techniques that will enable us to get  through our problems. Eventually we can become, what I call, a ‘self starter’.

Self help is a process of increasing our awareness or consciousness. In the first instance the process is very egocentric, as it should be, and we learn about ourself what has happened to us and how we have become the way that we are. As awareness of our self increases we also develop awareness of others and the needs of others. For many this creates a desire to help and to be of help. The vast majority of therapist trained to help others because they too had been through their own issues and having gone through the ego-centred phase they realised that they could help others.

The more aware or awake people become the more they are effected by what is going on around them. That might mean in their relationships, family, company, school, society, nation or even the world. With an increased awareness comes the desire to do something about it, whatever the ‘it’ is.

When someone avoids the news they are hunkering down in their own bubble and excluding the wider picture. If we are to be awake and informed members of humanity we need to be informed. That does not mean inundated with negativity. We need to discriminate so that we can see a balance of both the good and the bad going on around us. Discrimination is a fundamental characteristic of self help.

As you probably know I have had to work through many personal issues in a variety of settings and on the way I became a therapist. I have worked in the private and the public sector in mental health and the prison service. My role have often been as a advocate for service users and for staff. In my work and my own development there came a point where it was no longer enough to attend to myself and I was driven to attend to the needs of others. This is an ongoing process for me.

When I work with individuals we often begin working at the ego level and then open it out, with growing awareness, to include other people and a wider understanding of the issues. In organisations I often start with a team and open their attitudes and understanding of their place in the organisation.

We are group animals that are, as much as we might not want to accept it, dependent on each other. Humanity only works, at any level, when we work together. For me when I see people working to unity I rejoice and when I see people working to fracture what we have, I get sad. I am forever saying…

…if we all look after each other we will all be okay.

I guess what I am saying is that the podcast and my work is political but with a small ‘p’. The madness of politics with a big ‘P’ I am not interested in other than I observe with amazement and sometimes despair. 

If you take the path of self help and self development there will come a point when you will be effected by things and driven to do something about it. If enough of us can wake up enough we might just save humanity and even the planet. But does that sound too political?

Take care, be happy, help your self and where you can help other people.

Sean x 


Heading Off The Winter Blues

We all go down in the dark winter months. Some people crash and develop what we call SAD, seasonal affected disorder, and need to take medication. Around this time of year many SAD sufferers will be starting to take St John’s Wart, a natural antidepressant, to build their system up before the clocks go back we and begin the dark months. There is a difference between the normal drop, often known as ‘The Winter Blues’ and depression. In the main SAD is a physiological thing, the result of chemical changes in our system in relationship to the drop in sunlight, the resulting reduction in levels of vitamin D and the subsequent drop in Serotonin, the wellbeing hormone, in the brain. While depression may have a physiological basis it is mainly a reactive condition. That means that the changes in our system may have been brought about through our experiences, events or a trauma. Whereas SAD only happens in the dark months depression can happen at nay time in the year.

What happens when we get SAD and depressed at the same time?

I am concerned. For months I have been talking with people that are having negative emotional responses to Covid, fear of death, fear of other dying, the lockdown and cabin fever, Irritability with partners and family, reduction in wages and money fears, redundancy fears, lack of exercise, increased weight, boredom, increased drug and alcohol consumption, not being able to go on holiday, straight frustrated anger that we can do nothing about out situation… the list becomes endless. I see helplessness and hopelessness.

My concern is that coming out of lockdown, assuming that we do not go back into lockdown, with a second wave of infection, we will walk right into the winter blues. That is a double whammy. I expect to see a big spike in depression and depression related issues such as substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide. To survive this winter we all need to be aware of our own problems, aware of the problems being faced by those around use and, where we can do something about it. We really are in the position…

…if we all look after each other we will all be okay!

If you are currently taking antidepressants ensure that you have good stocks and do not run out. You should never come off antidepressants in the dark months any way. Please do not drop your medications without referring to your doctor and ensure that you have a good support mechanism in place.

All of us will experience a drop in serotonin this winter which, due to Covid may feel more severe than usual. For me therapeutically the worst months are November, after the world seems to have suddenly gone dark, and then if it have been a bad dark winter February when the second wave of depression begins. January and February are also known as divorce season for solicitors which is, I suspect, partly due to the winter blues and partly due to that fact that people have been forced to be together for long periods of time. This year the effects of Covid could make this even greater. We know that in lockdown domestic violence has increased. This is normally seen as the violent man though this is not always that case. Men due suffer from domestic violence as well. The stats also tell us that reported violence from children to parents has increased by 14%.

The Monday nearest to January 20th, in 2021 it will be 18th, is known as Blue Monday and is often seen as the most depressing day of the year. This can be reactive to both Christmas and New Year, that are not always the happiest time, to the financial burden that it have left us to sort out. This year we can clearly add the winter blues and Covid.

So what can we do? – Number one is we need to start right now. The trick is keeping the positive endorphins in the brain flowing. These are my suggestions for now until the end of March 2021.

1: Check your weight. If you have put weight on during lockdown it will only get worse in the dark months. We all hit the carbs in the winter because they make our brain secrete serotonin. There are other ways of getting more serotonin, see below. But you may need to ask yourself, do you need to diet?

2: Move your body. We are told that we should be doing 10,000 steps a day. Actually this should really be more like 15 – 20,000 a day. A smart watch, a smartphone or a pedometer will enable you to keep track of your daily steps. Moving your body burns calories, reducing blood pressure, improves circulation, strengthens your heart and looks after your brain.

3: Exercise. Walking is good. Power walking is better. Most of us will also need to do some exercise. When you raise your heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes your brain responds by send out a deluge of positive hormones and endorphins into your system. This vastly increases your health but it also improves your mood and feelings of wellbeing. I prefer to run and cycle. For some it is the gym or an exercise class for other it maybe a dance. Whatever it is do it. But like everything listen to your body and if you have pre-existing conditions talk to your doctor before you begin an exercise regime. During lockdown many people walked or cycled to work to avoid public transport, perhaps we could carry this on. Remember there is never the wrong weather only the wrong clothing.

4: Start a hobby. Get engaged in something. This is the positive alternative to sitting down like a couch potato watching the TV. It doesn’t matter what hobby you take up as long as it interests you. Could be reading, knitting, doing your family tree, local history, carving, painting the list is endless.

5: Have some fun. Just like exercise and carbohydrates laughing makes your brain secrete serotonin. Watching a funny film, going to a comedy show, playing games doing anything just for the fun of it. You will feel so much better
6: Communication. Lots of people have shut down in lockdown and gone a little inside themselves. This can be a sign of mid depression. Talking to others and sharing what you are feeling and general ideas opens you mind, stimulates your brain and improves your relationships.

My resource for this podcast was the Couch to 5K app. You can tell when people are using it. They have headphones in and are listing to the coach in their ear. They are stopping and walking for a while and then of they go again and you can see the relief on their face when the coach tells them that it is now time to cool down and just walk. I have seen some big people doing the app during lockdown and I have nothing but praise for them, ‘well done’. This a fabulous app that enables you to really run. I have seen people who have said that they could never run taking on 5 and 10K races with a smile.

So, look, the past months have been tough and it is not over yet. It will always last longer than we want it to. We do have choices. We do not have to drop into the pit of depression and winter blues. To get the best effect from these ideas this winter ‘Now’ would be a good time to begin.

Take care, be happy and enjoy whatever is left of the summer and, enjoy the winter as well.

Sean x

Losing the lockdown pounds – Time to Detox

So, how much weight have you put on in lockdown? I am looking at about 16 pounds mainly around the belly. My diets hasn’t really changed that much perhaps a bit more snacking and a glass of wine. My main problem has been being sedentary. Working from home has a lot going for it but when you are out in the world you move your body and that is what we are designed to do. We are built to be hunter gatherers. Going out into the bush and getting our food and supplies on a daily basis burns a lot of calories. You never see an over weight hunter gatherer.

5:2 Dieting

Along with moving as we gathered and hunted would have come the days when there was plenty and we could all pig out and the day when there was not so much to eat so we would nuts drink water to fill us up. MIchael Moslem’s 5:2 diet imitates the pattern of lots followed by lean. The science has shown that regular periods or either fasting or low calories kicks the body into fat burning mode. Our problem today is a never ending supply of food, lack of body movement and sugar.

Sugar occurs naturally in most of the plants that we eat. Our move to refine it to the white powder and then put it into everything from boiled sweets to pasta sauces creates weight gain and diabetic diseases. Also psychologically sugar spikes can create spikes and drops in mood and energy. I am sure that in lockdown many people have experienced increased irritability and moodiness. This is partly due to cabin fever and partly due to over eating the wrong foods and lack of body movement.

14,000 steps a day

With gym regimes we can easily believe that HIIT, weights and running are the ways to get fit. Well, actually, hunter gatherers hardly ever ran. They would only run to get away from something or to catch something. The trick is that they are always moving. This could be walking, jogging or simply moving around the home doing things, they do not spend hour sat down staring at a screen. The idea that we need to be doing 10,000 steps a day has become a sort of standard. Some personal trainers tell that the idea has back fired because people can develop the belief that if that have done their 10,000 steps that are now entitled to the next Mars Bar. Exercise wisdom says that we should be taking at least 14,000 steps a day and preferably more. Hunter gatherers walk between 15 and 18km per day which takes it around 24,000 steps depending on your stride.  

Get up and move

For those of us stuck in a chair for most of the day we need to get up whenever we can. Both FItBit and Apple watches remind you to stand up every hour. It is good just walking around the desk for a couple of minutes. When I was in the NHS every hour I would walk down the corridor to the waiting room to eat the next patient. In lock down the screens rolls from on to another. So unless I actively do something I could be sat there for hours.

Different desk set ups 

The alternative to the static low level desk is the rise and fall desk. By simply pressing a button the desk will rise to enable you to work standing up. All the time that you are working standing up the weight transfer from one foot to another as you maintain your balance burns calories and strengthens your core. The same effect comes from using a Pilates ball as a seat instead of a chair. While working at your computer and sitting on a ball your core and back muscles are exercised as the ball moves and you maintain your balance. The movements are small but the effects are great. I have to add the proviso of you need to check with your doctor if you have any underlying issues before climbing on the ball.

What to do next

As we come out of lockdown check your weight and decide what exercise, body movement, regime would work for you. Over all just get moving. Next is the diet. How have your eating habits changed over lockdown? Get rid of all the bad stuff and start to eat well along side your new body movement regime.

5:2 Diet and 800 calorie Diet

I have used both of these eating patterns at different times and I have seen lost of people and clients use them. When used along side a body movement programme they are amazingly effective. It is worth checking them both out. 


Many people around the world will do a yearly or twice yearly detox. I have put the detox programme that I use up as a my resource of this weeks podcast. It is a 13 day exclusion detox. Each day you take out certain categories of food to get done to one day on fruit juice, one day on just honey water and lemon, then one day on fruit juice then a daily re-inclusion of food groups back up to your normal diet. Most people will lose between 5 and 6 pounds in detox. This type of exclusion detox is particularly useful when you wish to stop smoking or drinking etc.

I shall be doing 21 days of the 800 calorie diet in September and an annual detox in October. With that and and my body movement regime that includes walking, running and yoga. I will reclaim my beach body.  


I cannot leave this blog without mentioning Mindfulness. The mindful ability to focus in to the present is so incredibly helpful when attempting any behaviour change, weight adjustment or exercise regime. Check out the mindfulness toolkit on the site.

I know that once I have finished I will go down one size from a 32 waist to a 30 waist. The next trick will be maintaining my resolve through Christmas and if we get really unlucky and go into a second lockdown.

Take care, stay fit and be happy.

Sean x