Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn:

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.

I was first introduced to Mindfulness in 2009, when I decided to take a module on Positive Psychology. By that time, few people talked or knew about mindfulness. No one was running or competing to be the best mindfulness meditation teacher and the researchers who were investigating it were on it because they had experienced the benefits of mindfulness for themselves in the first place.

So much has changed. To be totally honest with you, Mindfulness didn’t create much of an impact on me when I was introduced to it – it was a concept easy to embrace and understand at that point in time, living in Lisboa. Little I knew though that a couple of years later I would be conducting experimental research on it as a disguised way to help myself cope with stress and anxiety or that I would even be today teaching it to students and communities in my second language.

For the last 6 years, I have been doing research on Mindfulness, three of them in the UK. My results have shown that mindfulness meditation can not only reduce momentary stress and anxiety, but it can also contribute to a better society by reducing personal prejudiced beliefs and biased reactions. I confess that I particularly love this last aspect!

I deeply believe that Mindfulness can be life-enhancing when embraced at the right time. It can be a powerful tool for both personal and social change. As such, I decided to make a totally FREE mindfulness meditation online workshop for beginners, based on the several workshops I have been leading face-to-face over the last couple of years. My aim is to reach those who can’t travel or attend my classes but still want to learn and know how to start practising mindfulness meditation in their day-to-day life.

Here are some of the benefits you may experience after attending the workshop:

  • lower levels of stress and anxiety
  • greater awareness of your own thinking pattern
  • increased emotion management skills

And there are a lot more which I will share with you in the workshop! If this is something you are definitely interested in, you can book your place for free here.

**UPDATE** You can now watch my introduction to mindfulness meditation on YouTube.

As a final note, I would also like to remember that I do a free meditation class every other week on Youtube – you just have to subscribe to my channel in order not to miss any of them.

Addiction Recovery: The Critical Day 3

Last year, I went public here about my food addiction.

Since then I recovered at least twice from it and relapsed three times. Right now, I’m recovering from my third relapse and it’s Day 4. In a nutshell, uncertainty and the fail of another “almost relationship” led me here – well, actually, my ancient unhealthy mechanisms to deal with emotional pain drove me here.

In each relapse and recovery I learn something more. When looking back, this time I noticed that Day 3 is a very critical day and it’s usually the day I jeopardise all my recovery efforts. Day 3 is the day my body starts to kick out all the toxins. The result is an intense and paralysing headache, body aches, light sensitivity and nausea. And what do I (usually) do about pain? I eat (crap).

So yesterday my food cravings went up 200%. I could only think of gummy bears, Big Macs, french fries loaded with ketchup, chocolate cookies, donuts, and so on. I wanted to put everything in my mouth and spend the rest of the evening eating, so I would be distracted from the physical pain I was going through.

But suddenly I remembered the time I spent on the retreat doing my coaching certification. For one week, we did raw food fusion at every single meal. On the third day, I got the same reactions I was having yesterday: a paralysing headache, body aches, light sensitivity and nausea. It then struck me: the physical pain was part of the recovery process and in order to continue I had to be with it. If I gave up to the sweet taste of a whole box of donuts, I wouldn’t be able to reach the following step on my recovery journey and I would be back to stage zero.

Hence, instead of numbing the physical sickness with food, I did what I had done before when I was at the retreat: I laid down, I took the fetal position, closed my eyes and tried to fell asleep. In the next day, I was totally fine and the intense cravings were completely gone. This is exactly how I feel today – I have been thinking way less about food and my body feels much healthier on the inside, so I’m glad I managed to go beyond the Critical Day 3.

Making a Pause in Our Spiritual Life: is That Possible?

Today a friend texted me the following:

I am making a pause in my spiritual life. I need to put my mind in place. I need that.

And I replied back:

Whatever you decide to do for yourself, I support you.

I would not change a word I said but I started to think about the meaning behind her words. She didn’t really mean what she said; she actually just wanted to run away from her anxious thoughts which she clearly identifies with her spiritual life. Moreover, I don’t think we can hit the pause button when we are talking about something that is part of being human.

Here are some of the things I think she was actually trying to say:

I am exhausted of thinking.

I am tired of only seeing problems and no solutions.

I want to get rid of my sensitivity.

I want my suffering to end.

I don’t want to feel, think or do anything.

I want stillness, peace, quietness.

Being spiritual or embracing spirituality has nothing to do with anxiety and turmoil. I would say it’s almost the opposite – you observe your feelings, thoughts and behaviours, but you don’t engage directly with them. You inquire them with curiosity. What are they trying to tell you? What are they trying to teach you? And you do this from a very safe place – from the observer’s point of view, the one who has enough distance to see the bigger picture and the light at the end of the tunnel.

This time I will let my friend figure it out by herself, which gives me a weird sense of self-control as I am choosing not to engage with her drama and not lecturing her on what I think spirituality is about. She knows I support any decision she makes towards the best version of herself and that’s enough.

 

The 2 Psychological Barriers That Prevent You From Changing

We are gladly waiting for Spring time to come. I think this post is actually somehow influenced by the energy that Spring brings with it, an energy that propels us to clean ourselves from Winter’s excesses and renew or change all that has been weighing us down and stopping us from being our best selves.

From the coaching work I’ve done with incredible people and reflecting upon my own experience as a human being, I have noticed that there as essentially two issues that we need to “clean”, “get rid of” or make ourselves aware of, in order to make all the changes we need to happen. These are:

  • conscious or unconscious fear of change, and
  • uninspiring goals

I talk about each of these barriers to change in more depth in the video below. Hopefully you will get some useful tips as well to unblock your path to change.

 

No One Is Bulletproof: We Are All Humans

I remember the year 2011 as the beginning of a process that I could no longer deny. I started to be bombarded with painful situations and events that now I see were meant to wake me up – they were supposed to be that intense because, if they weren’t, I would not start peeling off all the masks that needed to fall down.

However, I also remember how I tried to pick up my life’s broken pieces in 2013, when I turned to mindfulness as a way to cope with my personal stress. It was very easy for me to dive into Buddhism and its teachings mostly. Until today I keep my loyalty to that body of knowledge, preferring it to the western psychology literature.

But the Truth is that mindfulness didn’t solve any of my struggles at that time. Instead I started to judge myself really hard for not being able to be mindful and for not being able to stop reacting so drastically to life. I felt like an impostor – and somewhere down the line I refused to teach mindfulness to anyone, because one of my masks was to be perfect in whatever I did.

I kept doing research on the topic and reading all the available papers at that time, maybe moved by that feeling of lack of perfection in mastering mindfulness. Though I only started to initially grasp what mindfulness meant when I finally delivered my master’s thesis. I thought “such a hazardous time and now it’s gone”. It was the end of my “academic learning” and the beginning of my “self learning” in what regards mindfulness.

I kept judging myself and feeling guilty for a little longer though. I would learn so much about mindfulness in the months to come. Meanwhile I moved to the UK, I attended a big international conference on mindfulness in Italy, I witnessed the egos’ battles in academia, and then I got another burnout crisis. I thought “I must still be doing something wrong… why can’t I just be mindful and stop getting so drained by what happens to me?”.

It’s not that I was doing something wrong; I was reacting to life from a level of consciousness that didn’t allow me to understand what mindfulness was all about. I had been trying so hard to “achieve” mindfulness throughout the years that I let myself get blinded by the idea that mindfulness was about being balanced all the time, a pure state of inner stillness, calm and peace. I was still reacting to life… instead of responding to it mindfully… and I was also feeling frustrated for not reaching that inner stillness, calm and peace that everyone talked about.

But Mindfulness it’s not that! Sometimes even the blue sky gets grey: that does not mean that the sky stopped being blue, it just means that grey clouds exist and sometimes they show up. Thus mindfulness will never take away your negative emotions and your negative experiences. Mindfulness will simply allow you to become the witness of your human experience, and thus to become more compassionate toward yourself, and more consciously alert in the moment.

Mindfulness is about accepting what there is, without pretending that you are a super-human… without the assumption that you can be “perfectly zen” all the time. Your nature can be zen, just like the sky is blue, but sometimes you will also feel anger, sadness and confusion, because you will be distracted and focusing on the grey clouds. Mindfulness  is about being human and accepting both life’s ups and downs – that’s what I hadn’t accepted in all those years.

And you know what… no one is bulletproof. Recognising this is to be humble enough to know that you are in a continuous learning experience and therefore you will make mistakes – you will learn from them and you will keep journeying. Of course there will be grey clouds, but as long as you keep yourself in the moment and fill yourself with the needed courage to face whatever gift life brings you, be it in the form of a bad or good experience, the sky will clear again. It always does.

The 7 Mindful Attitudes: #1 Non-doing

I’m not going anywhere. And I’m not doing anything.

I simply just gave up of this constant feeling of having to be striving and making things happen. I have been utterly tired and I finally understand why: I kept myself busy doing whatever I thought it was needed to change or fix reality, according to what my mind would pour out.

I would chase people to make things work, I would beg for a little bit of love and a little bit of respect… I would always be doing something to keep me away of the experience of sitting with myself in silence and realise what actually needed my attention. I would be doing anything you can imagine, even washing the dishes all over again, just to avoid the experience of having to deal with what really matters.

And, of course, the more I did – the more I strived for something to happen -, the less I would achieve. Things would just get stuck and frustration would be building up inside me. If I had put so much effort into make it happen, then why the hell it didn’t? Or most important, why did it go wrong?

Thus I withdraw from this craving of being able to control reality enough in order to achieve the results I secretly wait for. Instead I will just be.

I will just be here, observing whatever arises. I will take action only when the present moment asks for it, because that’s all there is… this moment and in this moment I don’t need to go or do anything. I am too tired to keep pursuing. For now, I just need to allow life to happen, because lately I have been always living in the future and always in the fast forward mode.