Mindful decision making

Recently I’ve had a few difficult decisions to make. I’ve found myself running different scenarios through my mind trying to work out which outcome would be better. There are times when this is pretty easy. Some likely outcomes are way better than others and that makes the decision making pretty straightforward. Yoga class or washing up? You can probably guess which one I choose... simple! The problem comes when the result is completely and utterly unpredictable. Neither outcome is necessarily ‘better’ .. they both have pros and cons. There are so many variables and so many different possibilities that the whole picture becomes a muddle. How then do we choose which path to take? 


This is often when it is natural to get a bit anxious. I have been there myself and I see it in my clients frequently. What happens if I make the wrong decision? How do I know the implications of that decision when there are so many variables? Frequently when we are in this place we become ‘stuck’ and our unease increases. In fact I have seen many clients with acute anxiety triggered by the uncertainty they feel around difficult decisions. 


This is where I think we are often missing the point. What if we have been barking up the wrong tree and looking for the solution in the wrong place? What if the decision making process were the real problem? What if the problem were nowhere near as great as the anxiety it generated? 


Often what we tend to do when we feel like this is delve deeper into our conscious ‘problem solving mind’ to desperately fix the problem and find an answer. After all we don’t want to feel anxious. It’s uncomfortable. Ironically the more we try (and fail) to find the ‘right’ answer we find ourselves diving deeper into confusion. More possibilities and unanswerable questions arise. The anxiety increases and our sanity goes down the plug hole!


So I wonder .. what if we were to accept the inherent uncertainty of where we are in life right now? That is not to say that the situation is ok but rather that it just ‘is what it’ is right now. It is also not to say that the difficulty will remain because the reality is we just don’t know. If we knew what the future held we’d all be lottery winners for starters!


Ironically by embracing the uncertainty and allowing it to be here right now, we shift into a different part of our mind. The process of letting go allows our conscious problem solving mind to rest and our unconscious mind to open and process the wider picture. It is from this place that we often have ‘light bulb’ moments and access our most valuable insights. Think Newton’s sudden realisation about gravity whilst relaxing under a tree. 


For me as I let go of needing to find the ‘right answer’ I realised there was no such thing. Either outcome would be fine. More importantly I realised that by accepting the uncertainty of life I was better resourced to deal with its many twists and turns. 


As we let go of the need to find a solution we can come back to the here and now with a deeper sense of presence. Life really is right NOW and the answer is most likely here too. We just need to accept that problem solving isn’t necessarily going to help us find it. 

Kate Delaney
It's happening! Mindful Camino ...

So this little idea has been bubbling away for a while and the time has finally come to do something about it.

On the 1st of September I fly to Biarritz to walk the Camino de Santiago - Frances Route. It’s one of the worlds most famous walking trails and it stretches 791km from St Jean Pied de la Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I do realise this sounds completely nuts (!)

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I’m doing it for a few reasons:

1) I want to take mindfulness out on the move and show that we can be mindful literally ANYWHERE! We don’t need to just sit at home in lotus position meditating, we can be present and fully awake in our lives wherever we go!

2) I really want to raise some funds for two important charities:

Lyme Disease Action who raise awareness about this horrible disease (which had a profound impact on my life).

 
 

The Mindfulness in Schools Project because I believe that children need to learn this stuff. In this crazy busy world with smartphones and technology bombarding us everywhere we look we need to give children the tools to decompress!

3) And last but not least .. It’s a huge challenge and I want to see if I’ve got it in me to do it …

If you’re interested in supporting me I’d be so grateful! These are not massive charities and I’m hopeful that whatever we can raise will make a real difference to people’s lives.

Here are a couple of links to the charity fundraising pages:

Thank you for your support. I’m excited to get going and share the journey with you :)

More soon!

Kate x

Kate DelaneyComment
Wish you were somewhere else?

I’ve been in Bournemouth for a few days and it’s been pretty grey and rainy here. It’s on days like this that it’s easy to dream about other places, warmer climates, tropical seas, a hammock swimming on a sandy Caribbean beach. After all there it’s a rich and beautiful world out there.

The interesting thing is that in following these thoughts, however tantalising, I am ignoring the inherent problem at their core. Essentially in dreaming of being somewhere different I am connecting with a dissatisfaction with ‘what is’. I am essentially saying that this moment, today isn’t good enough for me. I am seeking, through daydreams, to somehow improve this moment. Perhaps our hope and aspiration for something ‘better’ is a pursuit that will rarely give what we seek. So much of time is spent pursuing those perfect moments that we don’t see the ones that are here right now.

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The funny thing is that as I took a moment to wake up to this fact it occurred to me that there were some beautiful moments right in the here now that I was completely missing. I caught the eye of a little girl with pigtails who immediately gave me the most gorgeous goofy grin. Raindrops splashed into puddles and I watched the ripples catch the light as they became a kaleidoscope of patterns and colours. The tea I was drinking actually tasted really good. I just hadn’t noticed! These small moments were perfect enough in themselves; perfectly imperfect.

Hope and aspiration are feelings that evoke strong emotions. They can give us focus and purpose. I guess the challenge is that the goal sometimes detracts from the reality of life, which is always in the here and now. In my coaching work it is all about goals and the direction of travel towards the dream. However, I wonder what the potential is for us if we can discover that the dream may already be here, today in this very moment. In this way we are not seeking for a future moment to rescue us from our feelings today. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t have dreams and goals, but I guess we just need to remember that old cliche of enjoying the journey whilst heading towards the destination.

I’m wondering what would happen if next time I felt discontented, bored or whistful I just brought myself back to the moment. Perhaps there is more in the here and now than the mind can imagine elsewhere. The Buddha summed this up eloquently in a single sentence:

‘When we realise nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to us’
— Buddha


Kate Delaney
One word that can change our relationship to mental health

As a clinical hypnotherapist and mindfulness coach people often come to me with a range of mental health issues. Fears/phobias, anxiety and depression are always top of the list. Often my clients believe that the problem has been there so long that it is unlikely to go away. From my experience this is not the case and the irony is that the greatest problem is not the problem itself but the clients' relationship to the problem.

Let me explain. Andrew came to see me the other day with a fear of public speaking. He blushed and felt his heart beating fast whenever he spoke. It became so bad that he started avoiding any situations that involved him speaking to more than one other person. Over time he started to avoid more and more situations and he felt ashamed and inadequate at his inability to overcome the fear.

Andrew was worried that the fear would inhibit his career and hold him back in other aspects of his life. As a result he became fearful of the fear. He didn’t want it (who would?!). BUT (and this is key) the fact that Andrew was so keen to not have the fear meant he actually became more and more aware of its existence.

If right now I said to you I don’t want you under any circumstances to imagine an elephant floating through the sky from a hot air baloon .. what’s the first image comes into your mind? The mind doesn’t understand the negative - it will go where we tell it not to, whether we like it or not. If we fight the mind it will always win! It’s the same with fear. The more we don’t want fear to be there, the more we notice it. The saying “what resists persists” couldn’t be more true when it comes to mental health.

 
Acceptance and mental health
 

So what’s the answer? Acceptance is a word that always brings up a mixed response, but let me explain. Accepting a problem is not resigning yourself to it. If we find ourselves in quicksand and we resist and fight it, we will sink deeper. Equally if we give up and resign ourselves to the fact that we are there forever we wouldn’t bother to call for help or find a way out. If however we can accept where we are in that moment we are able to remain calm and composed and find a way to exit the sand to safety (word has it that this is lying down and rolling out of the sand BTW!).

So when it comes to mental health, step number one is always acceptance. Without this we are stuck, trapped and in a state of perpetual resistance. Acceptance is not saying it is OK. It’s not. But right now in this moment the problem is here whether we like it or not. Accepting what is here right now is actually the opposite of resignation or giving up. We are not losing hope but making peace with whatever is already here today. We are freeing ourselves from the fight. When we do this we can approach the problem from a calm clear place. We are back in control and it is from this place we can find a way forward.

Sharing stuff

Today I was approached by an organisation in North Carolina called The Art of Living Retreat Center. They run wellness programs and asked whether I would share some of the work they do. It’s become quite normal in this internet world to approach other companies to ask them to share your stuff in the hope of optimising your online visibility. I guess that’s just business but I also just really like the idea of sharing! Sharing for the sake of sharing!

Forgetting about business and all that I will try to share links to cool sites and resources that I think could be helpful. As it happens their site is pretty cool and I think definitely worth sharing :)

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Kate DelaneyLife is Now
Isn't it ironic? Learnings from a bike ride that went a bit wrong...

The last fortnight has been a bit of an interesting one for me. The Sunday before last life was ticking along as usual but I was preoccupied. I had some big decisions to make, where to live, what to do next, and I started to feel quite overwhelmed!

Exercise is often my “go to place” at this point so I decided to take myself off for a bike ride. Aware of the irony, as a mindfulness teacher, I knew I wasn’t being mindful. My mind was on loop! I wasn’t appreciating my surroundings I was just “thinking”….What decision would be the right one?! I couldn’t find a solution to the problem and so (suddenly realising the irony of the situation) I stopped. I allowed myself to experience the moment more intensely and I just focused on riding. Within only a few minutes of just experiencing the ride, the wind against my skin, the smell of the spring blossom, the beautiful colours all around, my mind started to settle. I then quite unexpectedly had an “epiphany”. It didn’t come from conscious thought, it was just a realisation. I realised that I was trying to think myself out of a state of mind”. It wasn’t the “problem” that was the problem it was the state of mind that was the issue. The choice didn’t matter. It would all be OK whichever decision I made. The unpleasant feeling that I wanted “gone” wasn’t caused by the problem itself but rather the way I was approaching it. This came as such a relief to me and I was somewhat amused by the fact that I needed to reach my own “crisis” to fully remind myself that this mindfulness stuff that I teach every day, actually works!

 
Mindful learnings from a fated bike ride
 

Unfortunately (and again somewhat ironically) I then hit a hidden tree root and catapulted over the handlebars and landed on my head. I blacked out and on coming round found myself surrounded by worried strangers and the most unbelievable pain in my head. My helmet had come off in the accident (possibly the chin strap was too loose) and I was struggling to talk properly. A trip to A&E later I was told I had concussion and it may take some time before I was able to function normally. The beautiful irony of all this was that now I was pretty much “unable to think” and so the whole “thinking crisis” that had led me to take the bike ride in the first place had a rather unlikely resolution.

There is more to this story but for now I just wanted to share my experience of circular thinking. The learning for me has remained. That whenever we get ourselves into a state or “worry” we may be looking for the solution in the wrong place. I hope I never become a complacent mindfulness teacher but this accident certainly reminded me that I need to practice what I preach :D

See you soon!

Kate x

And this too shall pass

If you are experiencing sadness, whether it be grief through loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship or some other loss in your life you may have heard the expression "And this too shall pass". 

It offers comfort in that whatever emotional pain you are feeling time can slowly heal. However it was only recently that I discovered its origin in an ancient Persian proverb.

It tells the story of a powerful King who summoned his wise men and asked them to create him a ring that would bring him joy when he was sad. After deliberation the sages gave him a simple ring with the words "this too will pass" etched on it. The ring had the desired effect to make him happy when he was sad but whenever he was happy the ring would also make him sad. It became a curse because "this too will pass" applied to his state of "happiness" as well.

 
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This proverb is a beautiful reminder about the transience of the human condition and our quest for "happiness". In Buddhist philosophy it is considered impossible to maintain a state of "happiness" because a happy event is invariably followed by a sad one and vice versa. In fact the very nature of "happiness" and "sadness" is that one cannot exist without the other. It is the contrast that defines their existence. However, beyond happiness and sadness there is peace. This is not an emotion but a state of being. It has no opposite. When we experience peace, happiness and sadness are simply observed as transient emotions. They are defined by their impermanence. A beautiful metaphor for this is that our true state can be compared to a mountain. We are peaceful and grounded. Our emotions are like the weather and the seasons. Storms may pass, the mountain may be covered in snow or bathed in brilliant sunlight but all these things eventually will pass. In the end the mountain is just the mountain - the stillness underneath the storm.   

Whilst it can be so tempting to yearn for happiness or to believe that certain situations/objects/people can make us happy we are actually caught in an illusion; a quest for the impossible. Peace is not dependent on time. It is here right now as we know our true selves as the being beyond our emotions.