Uncategorised Archives - East Cheshire Hospice

Virtual Christmas Tree Collection Campaign

It may be the wrong time of year for Christmas trees, but it is still the season of goodwill towards East Cheshire Hospice.

The latest to help the Hospice during the Covid-19 crisis are organisers of its Christmas tree collection.

Their fundraising campaign needs your involvement – through donations and creativity!

The organisers are sending their Christmas tree collection logo – newly-named as Firgus after a Facebook vote – on a virtual holiday.

His month-long journey is just starting, with Firgus sending postcards back each week, starting this Friday.

Luke Brightmore, Digital Marketing Assistant at the Hospice, said: “The more donations the further Firgus travels, though it’s a fun trip so his destinations won’t reflect the real cost of such a holiday.

“We’ll put a postcard on our website each Friday showing where he’s reached before moving on.”

Alongside the virtual journey, there is a competition for the best interpretation of ‘What Your Christmas Tree Does in Summer?’

The theme is based on Olaf from Frozen, a snowman who dreams of a summer holiday.

Drawings, paintings or pictures – any format is accepted – can be emailed to echtrees@echospice.org.uk. The top three will receive Christmas-themed prizes.

Richard Raymond, co-organiser of the Christmas tree collection with Pete Chapman, said: “There’s been some fantastic fundraising for NHS charities but that money won’t go to the Hospice.

“Our message is really ‘Don’t forget our Hospice’  which keeps its door open and maintains services  for our community during this pandemic.

“The Hospice has its Now More than Ever appeal and we wondered how we can help. We thought  the tree holiday is something we could do to tap into all our Christmas tree customers.

“It’s a bit of fun and will hopefully capture the imagination, including on social media, and in some ways it’s our take on a virtual Christmas tree collection.

“The competition may be a photograph of dad in his trunks and shades sitting in a deckchair alongside a Christmas tree with a beer in hand.

“Or, it could be a child dressing up as a Christmas tree with a star on their head and a few baubles dotted across the body.

“Basically, anything goes and there are no rules. One of our supporters said it’d give them something to do in these strange times and fundamentally we’re helping the Hospice. ”

Pete Chapman (left) and Richard Raymond, co-organisers of the East Cheshire Hospice Christmas Tree Collection, with their own slant on a Christmas tree summer trip and their tree logo.

Hospice Counselling Continues

Therapists at East Cheshire Hospice are working remotely as Covid-19 presents new challenges.

The Hospice’s counselling services have continued during lockdown, providing vital help to families facing added issues around bereavement.

Restrictions on the number of mourners attending funerals have made things even harder for the bereaved. So too social distancing at such a tragic time.

Such worries are typical topics of conversation during sessions with highly-skilled counsellors who continue to work during the pandemic.

Children’s counsellor Jane Burton said: “We’re still active and although I can’t see children and families face-to-face because of the restrictions, we’re now doing things in a different way using the likes of Zoom or the telephone.

“I’ve noticed that the restrictions around funerals are highlighting the ceremonial aspect of going to say goodbye to someone.

“Restrictions on mourners mean families are having to make difficult decisions about those who can’t go and how to prioritise?

“If someone has a large family and only a tiny number of people can attend it has implications for everybody.

“In addition, bereaved families might normally call on relatives and friends to be with them to share in their grief but that’s another restriction because they can’t do that physically.

“They can’t have a chat over a cup of tea or give someone a hug.”

East Cheshire Hospice Children’s counsellor Jane Burton.

Children across East Cheshire are eligible for help, even without a Hospice association.

Jane said: “We support children who’ve been bereaved or are have a close family member with a life-limiting illness. Questions I’m asked are ‘how and when do I speak to my child?’ That can be because children of different ages understand death in different ways.

“I’m keen to promote the importance of talking to  children about death and dying as a general concept. Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of this with extra layers of things people must think about and which weren’t a consideration before.”

The Hospice has streamlined services during the coronavirus crisis with Jane’s colleagues Fay Mitchell and Helen Wilkinson still working.

Fay is an art therapist as part of the outpatient services which are currently suspended on site, while Helen Wilkinson runs the adult bereavement counselling service.

The Hospice website has various community resource information, including downloadable children’s books explaining  Covid-19 and supporting a child when someone they love is ill and has a poor prognosis. Visit eastcheshirehospice.org.uk/communityresources/.

Mindfulness Blog: Part 9

Mindfulness – A blog by East Cheshire Hospice’s Lindsay Dobson

So last time I talked about stress – well this time I’d like to change direction completely and talk about focusing on gratitude.

First let me tell you a little about the science behind all this.  So, I’ve mentioned before that what we focus on we grow. But neuroscience has shown us this is literally true!!

There have been lots of studies done on this, but two of the most well know are, one on taxi drivers in London, brain scans showed the area of their brains to do with sense of direction and finding their way, where larger than the average persons.  Another is one where scientist rewarded mice for noticing smells and other mice for noticing sounds – and when they looked at their brains to see which parts were larger and better developed, yep, you guessed it! The ones rewarded for smells had better development in the areas associated with smell recognition and the ones rewarded for sounds, the sound areas where better developed!!

So, we now know, that when you focus your attention on something that area of your brain grows and develops.  So, if we focus constantly on our stress – and I have been guilty of this!! Guess what our stress receptors grow!! But if we focus on the things that bring us joy, that we are grateful for – then those parts of the brain will grow and develop instead.

So, whilst I don’t advocate ignoring your stress and distress – as I’ve explored in the previous little bite size bit – I absolutely think we should acknowledge, allow and sit kindly with those feelings.  I also think we need to set time aside to notice and give thanks for those things we love and are grateful for.

Lots of studies have been done on this, and they all show that when we show gratitude, we feel better!!  Not just the person we show gratitude too, but us, for giving it!!

Have you ever met one of those people, who **** has happened too, lots of it!! And yet they have a smile, and a way in the world that is so peaceful and humble and grateful?  Some of the most inspiring people I know are like that – when you hear of the things they have lived through its humbling to see the joy they still find in life and the belief they have in the world and those of us in it!!  So often they are also the people who just keep giving of themselves, rather than feeling bitter and hard done to, they exude a peace and love everywhere they go. I aspire to be like that! But for those of us mere mortals it’s something we must practice and there are times when that is most definitely harder than others!!

They way to do that? Well again its find what works for you – it might be as simple as starting and finishing your day with a thank you for those things your grateful for. It might be keeping a gratitude journal and finding at least one thing or three or more, that you are grateful for each day or that moved you, or for which you felt love!  It might be remembering that the work you do, brings peace to someone and doing whatever you are doing as an act of great love, whether it’s changing a bed, or holding a hand, or writing a letter ! I practice acts of kindness with my children, we have a little pack of suggestions and each day we choose one and do it, they don’t have to be large – one was drawing a bit thank you rainbow on the wall, another is we give a picture or a biscuit to a delivery driver, ring someone to say hi, to take a picture of all the things we find beautiful today, to pick up a bit of rubbish… but whatever it is we do it with joy – we pick up the rubbish and talk about how beautiful the world is and how we want to protect it by putting this rubbish in the bin.  Does it mean my children are like mini saints – erm no definitely not!  Does it mean if we do this, we will suddenly be saintly all the time – sadly not! But it does mean that each time we do, we take our attention to something of beauty, of something that inspires us to feel love or compassion or to feel gratitude and each time we do that, we strengthen that pathway in our brain, meaning that if we do it little and often enough, we start to feel a little bit better about the world and ourselves J

Don’t be too harsh on yourself though on those days when you just cannot find any sunshine within the clouds, be gentle, rest if you can and try again tomorrow.

If that grey day continues for too many, talk to someone, ask for help as not being able to find even the smallest of small things to be grateful for can be a sign we need a little support – which is also very very human , and gives someone the opportunity to help you with love and do something kind for you and them J

Viktor Frankl wrote one of my fav books (I have a lot of fab books!) man’s search for meaning.  Whilst living through the horror of concentration camps, he noticed that those who found meaning and showed human kindness through the ordeal, did better emotionally in the long run.  When I start to feel overwhelmed with my own troubles, I remind myself that if those who lived through that horror could find meaning and joy in life, then so can I, but that its ok to also have times when that’s hard to do, and in those times, just keep trying to act from a place of compassion for myself and others and keep taking the next step, so that one day I can see what I learned from the suffering and make some sense of it.

“The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him?

No, thank you,’ he will think. ‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

One day perhaps we will all look back at this time, and whatever role we played through it and feel this is one of the things of which we are most proud!

Lindsay x

Mindfulness Blog: Part 8

Mindfulness – A blog by East Cheshire Hospice’s Lindsay Dobson

Today I want to explore Stress, I imagine we are all feeling it one some way right now, but those on the front line especially!

Stress is an amazing thing – really!  It’s amazing how our body can shortcut all our logic when faced with danger, how it can redirect our energy into survival .  It allows our body to switch from digesting food, thinking about everything and anything, learning, relaxing, into full on animal survival.  Blood pumps faster, energy is taken from digestion and reproduction into muscles and brain is focused on the threat, time slows down as our brain processes that threat faster than usual.  So we can run, or fight or freeze and escape that life threatening danger !!

Amazing!

The problem is, our brain has not adapted from this, and it cant tell the difference between a threat like a tiger chasing us or a bus driving straight towards us, and the thoughts about these things, or the stresses we face daily!

Right now for instance, we face a life threatening virus, but non of those stress responses really help us with this! Because we cant fight it or run from it the way we can a tiger!  But our body still thinks it needs to be in that stress response. The problem is, our bodies are not designed to keep that up for more than a short time!! If we do we enter a second stage of stress, where the body now has to carefully balance, immediate survival with long term survival! Now it needs to divert some energy back into digestion as we need to eat to survive long term! Yes when being chased by the tiger, its not important – if the tiger catches us it will digest our dinner for us! But now we need to digest, and rest and get on with life, but the brain cant quite switch off the stress response, because its still registering a threat.

So our energy and our health are impacted, maybe we feel sick, or we overeat or we have no appetite! Sleep becomes difficult because we have hormones being released into the body to keep us alert to danger and awake!  And yet we need to sleep!  I could go on with a big list as to why stress long term is not good for us! But the big one right now, is we know it impacts our immune system!!  And we need that right now as that’s our best defence against a virus!!

So this bite size bit of mindfulness is about how important it is to look after you!!  Trust me I know only too well how easy it is to say I don’t have time – and sadly sometimes we just don’t!! But self care can look radically different for all of us! If we can find the time, then take it!! Every damn second you can! To do what relaxes you – because when the rest and digest part of our brain is on, it naturally lowers the stress response!!  Helping our body’s immune system – relaxations, yoga nidra, long bubble baths, a walk, yoga, cuddling your child or pet, reading a beautiful book, a long lovely nap!  Whatever it is – if you can, then do it!!  Your helping not just you, but all those you love and care for, as when you fill up your cup, you have more to share with others!

And Talk about it it!!  Offload to someone, talk about how it feels and whats happened – we are tribal creatures and in those stone age days we would have faced a threat, and then sat around the camp fire and told our stories of it.

But when you cant do those things?  Well sometimes its about turning towards how we feel.  So humanly what we might do is, deny the stress, or pack away the difficult scary feeling, to get on with our day. But this actually takes energy to do!!  So taking a few moments to just sit down with the feeling can help us discharge it a little.

I have two ways I do this;

They both start with just sitting for a moment, taking a few deep breaths, feeling my feet on the floor, my bum on the chair

Then the first one is give my feeling whatever it is, fear, grief, anger, I give it a character and I imagine what it looks like, moves like, sounds like and I invite it to sit with me.  Sometimes I have a chat with it, ask it about why its feeling the way its feeling, sometimes i just observe and watch, sometimes I offer a hand and just hold its hand and sit with it.  When I can I try to befriend it, but if I cant I just accept its there and observe.

The second is I notice how I feel, where I feel it in my body, and I observe and watch and be with that feeling and emotion in me for as long as I can tolerate.  I just let it be, I stop fighting or hiding it, and just allow it to be there for a while

Its almost like I make and agreement with it, your there, I feel you, but for a lot of my day I cant face you, I need to get on with all the things I need to do, but at this time, in this place, I will sit with you, I will let you out, so that maybe the rest of the time you will give me some peace!

Does it make our fear go away, no, but it can help us face our feelings and hold them gently rather than stuff then down so they impact our health or suddenly burst out and overwhelm us at surprising moments!!

We would not tell those we care for to ignore their physical symptoms and yet so often we do tell ourselves to ignore how we feel .  So just as we would tell one we care for to notice where the pain is and then do what needs to be done to help with it, we can do that with ourselves, notice our pain, fear, grief and tend to it.  Just as we would our patients or loved ones.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,

 

Lindsay x

Mindfulness Blog: Part 7

Mindfulness – A blog by East Cheshire Hospice’s Lindsay Dobson

Today I’d like to explore the analogy that our thoughts can be like traffic.  Sometimes the roads are clear and everything flows beautifully, other times maybe its like a traffic jam in there, everything feels stuck and heavy, but more often than not, perhaps its more like a busy motorway, thoughts zooming by.

I like to imagine that rather than being in that flow of traffic, I’m at the side of the road, watching it flow past me.  If a shiny car distracts me, I just notice and come back to letting the traffic just pass me by.  We might find that, without even noticing we have jumped on a bus and started on a journey….. that’s fine, we can gently notice and jump back off again.

You see, our thoughts are really nothing more than a momentary electric impulse, our neurons in our brain fire off, it takes less than a second (the car flashing past) and yet, for many of us, that thought of feeling can stay with us for a lot longer!!  Why?  Well speaking for myself, its usually because I hold on to it, I’ve jumped on that bus and I’m off on that journey!!  But if I remember that I don’t need to stay on this journey (especially if its a stressful one I’m not enjoying!), I can jump off . How do I do that, for me its coming back to my breath, or it might be focusing on a physical sensation, doing something energetic, a walk, a run, something to just help me take my mind away from where its gone.  The more we practice , the better we will get at jumping off the thought bus, by just noticing we are on it!!

If you like visual meditations, you can use this to help you practice.  Sit, stand, lie down, however you prefer to practice. Breath in, breath out.

What is the traffic of your mind like now?

Just notice it, watch it.

Don’t try to change it, allow it to be as it is.

Imagine you are sat at the side of the road, just watching the traffic of your mind flow on past.

If you find yourself on a vehicle going for a drive, just jump off,… come back to the side of the road

You can use any picture you like, sometimes I like to imagine my mind as the clear blue sky, the sky, the calm is always there…….but sometimes storm clouds hide it from my view.  My thoughts are the clouds.  So imagine that im lying back cloud watching, not trying to change them, I cant push them away faster than nature will allow, so I sit back and watch them pass by.  Eventually the blue sky will return.

Sometimes I’m sat on a rock in the middle of stream, and my thoughts are the leaves passing by, my thoughts float by and continue down the stream….

Maybe your thoughts are a cinema screen, they play out in front of you, but your not an actor on the screen, your an observer sat watching the drama.

Or maybe your thoughts are sound, a radio, playing in the background, again your listening, observing, rather than the radio presenter.

Maybe your mind is the weather, you can take a moment to see what the weather of your mind is like today, to stand at the window of your mind and watch it play out.

You possibly see a theme here? We are practising anything that lets you take a step back, from the thoughts and feelings. We are definitely not trying to stop them being there, we are just finding a way to step back and let nature and your mind take its own course. Why? Because it takes some of the energy and stress out of it, instead of being carried away with the stream of emotion, we can imagine we are standing calm, whilst the storm continues around us, but we are steadfast, strong and calm.

The more we practice this, the better we get at noticing when we are being carried off by a thought or feeling and are able to stop and come back to being the calm in the storm, rather than the storm itself! Sometimes will be easier than others!!  I’ve been practising this stuff pretty much constantly for over a decade and I’m certainly nowhere near perfect, the more I have to juggle the harder it is! But, I also know that all those years of practice have most definitely helped me maintain some semblance of calm at very difficult times.

I can only imagine right now, how much it may feel like a storm is raging all around, and how much for each other, and those in your care, you need to be the calm place.  But if we push away that we are also feeling it can come back to bite us.  This way we notice and acknowledge it, we just try to find a way of standing strong and calm whilst we allow that to happen.

I will leave you with the words from a meta meditation often used in Buddhist practices

May we all be healthy and strong

May we all be safe and protected

May we all be filled with love and kindness

May we all live with free and easy hearts

Lindsay x

Mindfulness Blog: Part 6

Mindfulness – A blog by East Cheshire Hospice’s Lindsay Dobson

This time round, Id like to explore the idea we don’t have to be seated to be mindful or meditating.

In fact, when I am very distressed moving is sometimes where i find the most comfort.  On my yoga mat, going into sensing my body, rather than thinking, allowing myself to feel my grief or anger, but constantly bringing my mind back to the feel of my body, when it starts to wander into thoughts.  Walking in nature is another way I love to find peace, to feel my body as it moves starting at the ground, feel of my sole on the floor, how it touches the floor, when the weight moves into my other foot, seeing how far up my body I can sense that having an impact.  Walking slowly slowly, trying to observe as much as I can about how my body walks.

When working, we don’t have the luxury of always being able to stop and breath, so to be able to breath and focus on the tasks at hand can be useful.  Ever done something, something you know you can do, only to find your minds talking a million to one at you and your shakier than normal?

I was once asked to do a yoga demonstration at the yoga show in London.  I used to do a lot of yoga dance and was chosen because when I moved it was graceful and effortless (I want to add it was before kids and exhaustion!), however on the stage all I could do was, see the people with cameras, hear snatches of conversation, hear my own mind worrying about what I was doing….. needles to say I nearly fell of the stage, one of my teachers laughed and asked what on earth I was doing!!  I had to take a moment to regroup, to breath, and to drop my awareness down in my body, to phase out all else, except my breath and my body.  To choose where I put my awareness, so it worked for me, not against me.  I’ve no idea how it went but it felt good.

Sometimes this comes naturally, and sometimes it takes practice.  I remember on one of my little girls admissions, I was told the paramedics were held up with an RTA, I was in the middle of nowhere and despite her oxygen levels being very low it took nearly an hr for that ambulance to arrive,  It took a lot of focus, to will myself to focus on the task at hand, to keep her breathing until help arrived, but I knew that the other option, was to delve into my thoughts of what if and worry and catastrophise, and prob be of no use to me or her , or the paramedics when they arrived.  So I focused on my breathing, I focused on the tasks I needed to do to get us safely into the next moment, and the next and whenever my mind wandered to where the **** is that ambulance, I brought it back to what I could control, to breathing. When help arrived was out of my control, what I did until then, how I allowed my emotions and thoughts to spiral was under my control!  Sometimes we need to let go of that things outside of our control, and bring our whole focus on to those bits that are.

The more we practice a skill, the easier it is to use under even those circumstances (I wont lie it wasn’t easy but it did definitely help!)

So my suggestion this time round is to find a form of movement you enjoy, yoga, walking, running, brushing your teeth, having a shower, whatever it is – and whilst you do it, drop your mind into your body, experience, notice as much about that movement as you can, both the good and the less comfortable.  It can be as brief as walking down the corridor on the ward, or as long as an hours exercise outside.  And your mind will definitely wander at some point, notice it has, bring it back to the feel of your body doing what its doing and every time you do , the ability to call it back, to choose your focus will be strengthened , then when you need it, its there.  On those days when worries and fears start to overwhelm you, you can drop into your body, sense your body and how it feels and give your space some breathing space and your body a chance to relax and let go of some of the stress.

Take gentle care

Lindsay x

Mindfulness Blog: Part 5

Mindfulness – A blog by East Cheshire Hospice’s Lindsay Dobson

In today bite size piece of mindfulness, Id like to explore reaction vs responding.

Its good to react, we need to react quickly in some situations, reaction is our natural immediate impulse. So if we step into the road and a bus is coming towards us, our reaction is to get out the way quick, and thank goodness it is!!!

Responding however, is a more thoughtful, its when we take the time to think about what we want to do next, so definitely not as useful in the bus scenario!!  But what if its a distressed person yelling at you??  Our reaction may be to shout back, or run away, or freeze – all normal human reactions to someone yelling at you – brought about by our stress response.  However they might not be as useful in this scenario as being able to take a moment, to remember this person is very upset, confused, perhaps feeling very alone and scared and its not personal,…and then responding from a place of calm compassion.

How do we do this?  Well sometimes it will just come naturally, but other times, when we are already stressed, maybe we have dealt with a lot of difficult things already today.  for me maybe the kids already destroyed one room, spent all morning fighting and are now tipping all the food on the floor to ‘experiment’- I need a moment to be able to find a calm space to respond to, to be able to see this from their point of view, they are bored, they have very little space to do what five year olds need to do, which is move, explore burn off energy added to that, they are stressed and worried and their impulse control is very slim!  However by this point so might mine be!!  My reaction is to yell, threaten, possibly even cry!

So

I stop… I feel my feet on the floor – maybe I even take a moment to notice my body, how tense it is,

I notice my breath

I allow my exhale to lengthen and my body to relax a little

Im in a better place to respond now!

To empathise, to calmly put in place the boundary about not using all our very hard to find shopping as an experiment, but that maybe we could go out into the yard and use some ingredients I give them to cook something up

(yes if your wondering this has happened on more than one occasion!)

For you it might be a patient, who is scared and alone, facing their death and in pain, their impulse control is very low and they start to yell at you for some tiny thing that is not even your fault!!   You naturally may want to tell them to shut up, to point out, that you are in fact risking your own health and life to care for them , to cry, to yell at someone else whose fault it it was!!  All normal human responses.  And prob for the most part what you do is respond calmly but then carry the tension with you for the rest of that day.

But if we stop.  Feel our feet on the floor, notice any tension in our body.  Feel our breath.  Take a moment to lengthen the exhale , let the tension go.

Then we can feel calmer, more empathetic or at least hold it together long enough to go take a breath of fresh air outside J

But we can actually start setting this up earlier in our day and week.  You see, our brain is designed to notice and remember stressful or dangerous, negative situations better than positive ones.  Its hardwired in from our cave man days, when to forget that that wriggling thing in the grass is a snake could be fatal – so we clock and remember the bad stuff!

We also have another handy cognitive ability that we need – which is autopilot. Ever drove to work and wondered how the heck you got there?  Washed the dishes and not noticed a second off it?  Its pretty useful ability as if we noticed everything of our day we would be overloaded, we need to switch off and use autopilot from time to time.  However when we do it without choosing it, we also miss the good stuff

Those two things combined mean we have a tendency to notice and collect negatives rather than positives.  Causing us more stress.

So my challenge to you , two fold .  Pick an everyday activity, eating  a snack (or a whole meal), brushing your teeth, washing the dishes ….. or anything else! And when you do it, really do it, notice all you can about it, when your mind wanders, gently bring it back to noticing all you can about the activity.  This trains our brain to stay focused when we want it to, and it trains us to notice we are on autopilot and either choose to be, or choose not to be.

The other part of this challenge is to notice the positives in your day, really notice them, make a mental or physical note of them, so we train the brain to pay attention to the good in this world not just the stressful.

I start every day (ok well almost everyday!) listing what I am grateful for.  Right now, its that Im at home with my children, the fact they can fight, and cry and literally climb walls and doors (and out windows!) means they are healthy and well  – mostly im grateful that we are all together and safe, that outside the window the sun shines and the world grows without me.  That adventures will be awaiting.  Yours may feel harder to come by, but even if you can only find one, it helps you feel that tiny bit less stressful.

And goodness knows, right now there is enough to be scared and stressful about in this world, to find one little bit of joy is something we all need.

I hope you find that bit of joy

With love Lindsay x

Mindfulness Blog: Part 4

Mindfulness – A blog by East Cheshire Hospice’s Lindsay Dobson

Today’s little exploration of mindfulness is about how we worry.

Lets start by just breathing,  Id like you to just notice your normal breath…

After doing that for a few breaths, Id like you to count, how many seconds you breath in for, how many you breath out for.  No right or wrong,  we will all be different (its interesting to notice how we will breath at different speeds at different times of day or activity also) and its no completion.  Just notice.  Once you have done this for a few breaths, as long as you can stay relaxed and its not a strain, add a second to the outbreath.  If thats comfortable and not a strain add another second to the out breath.  Just the out breath,  keep the in breath the same.  Keep doing this until you reach a point that feels like the out breath is comfortably longer than the in breath.  We don’t want to go so far as it being a strain though, as that takes away the benefits.  Breath like that for as long as you like before carrying on reading.

How do you feel now?  Hopefully nicely relaxed, because when our out breath is longer than the in breath, it sends a signal to our brain, that we can relax now, we are safe.

So from there, let me explore with you the idea we have two modes of mind (we actually have many, but these are the two I want to explore today J ) thinking and sensing.  They are a bit like a see saw in that when we are in thinking mode, and that is the one at the top of the see saw, sensing is less active and at the bottom, and vice versa, they can both be online and working at the same time but they do balance each other out.

So what are they, well thinking is the analytical part of your mind, the planning, working out, busy busy thoughts part of your brain.  Its the bit that talks to you – or it does me anyway, that incessant voice in my head telling me all about my day!

Sensing is the part we just used to to the breathing, its the part that knows how the keyboard feels under your fingertips, or the feel of sun on your skin.  Its how we notice our shoulders are tight, or the difference between grass or sand under our toes.  Its the physical feeling part of the body.

We can use this to our advantage, as the more we can drop into sensing the quieter the mind becomes as thinking is less active.

Whilst thinking can do wonderous and amazing things, it can also be the part we get stuck in when we are worrying and scared.   Its also the part that can be a bit of a nuisance when we are trying to sleep!!   Especially right now, when there is so much to worry about, but our sleep is so important!!

Let me take you through a scenario….

Your collegue from work walks past you in the street, you say hi.  She does not respond and just keeps walking….. What do you think?

Well we may all think many different things so lets look at two examples;

We think bloody hell, ignorant miss, what did I do to upset you!!!

We feel angry, upset (as perhaps deep down we are also worried we did to something to upset her and wondering what it was!)

We get tense in our body

We perhaps avoid her at work next time and act a little cool

So same thing happens, but this time we think, “oh gosh, is  she ok, she didn’t even seem to hear, I wonder what has happened and if she is alright?”

We feel compassion, concern for our friend

Our body softens

We go after her or we text her to see if she is ok

So same situation, but our mind makes up a very different story about it, dependent on many factors.  The thing is, its a great strategy to be able to fill in missing bits of information when we need to, but, the tricky bit is, sometimes we don’t even notice the information was missing, and presume that we are definitely right and it does not cross our mind, that it could be giving us false conclusions!

We can then easily get caught in over thinking mode – maybe it stays with us all day!!  What did I do to upset her, was it that time at work when i went on my break and didn’t tell her, what it x y z , has she heard about me moaning about her, and on and on and on, it might even start to catastophize – oh gosh works going to be awful now, she wont talk to me, what if everyone else takes her side……

When actually for all we know, her relatives just rang to say someone is sick and she  was preoccupied wondering about how she felt about that!!

By bedtime its become so hard to let go off, we find it hard to sleep!!

So one thing we can do is remember that our mind is not always right!!

The other is anything that takes us deeper into the sensing mode!

That might be anything, I love doing my yoga practice to help me do that, or a swim feeling the water on my skin, a walk allowing myself to really feel each step, and the sun on my face, wind in my hair – another lovely way, especially at bedtime is do a progressive muscle relaxation like Gill has on the wellbeing hub, or one of the yoga nidras Ive recorded.

Because the more we drop into our body and use sensing mode the quieter the mind becomes

Its very human right now, to find ourselves stuck in thinking and worrying mode, but the more we practice dropping down into sensing the more we strengthen that ability and the easier it gets.  Take gentle care and enjoy some time in sense mode today.

Mindfulness Blog: Part 3

Mindfulness – A blog by East Cheshire Hospice’s Lindsay Dobson

Sometimes our mind seems to have a will of its own. It’s like a monkey jumping from tree to tree, as it won’t stay focused on one thing, but swings uncontrollably through many emotions.

Now, at this time, for example we may feel many many things, fear, anger, sadness, frustration, how damn unfair it is, gratitude, love, compassion, loss, back to fear… and on and on it swings.

I know sometimes my frustration, stress, anger, fear can all become to feel a bit like an elephant that’s trampling all the little new growths of gratitude under its unstoppable feet!  Or my happiness feel like a butterfly that’s flitting around everywhere, smelling the flowers but so so fragile.

Right now, all that is so human, the world is scary, and there is so much grief and loss, and of course, I certainly know some people who seem to think none of this applies to them….. and when you are dealing with the very real consequences of that, how human to then feel incredibly angry !!!

But science has shown us, those emotions, like anger and fear, compromise our immune systems, and we all want that working at its best right now!!

But how do you stop and unstoppable elephant?

The answer is perhaps you can’t!

But how much energy to you expand trying?  The more we try to stop something, the more energy we give it.  Energy our immune system could be using!!

So, what can we do?

We can practice kindness with ourselves!

Do you ever watch wildlife documentaries?   Have you noticed how, in those, nobody interferes, they let nature unwind as its going to.  They don’t jump out and say run zebra run, that lion’s going to eat you!!!  And try to stop the lion.  They watch, observe, don’t judge and let nature run its course.

That is how we can be with our emotions.  Put another way, if it’s raining outside we don’t go out and shout at the storm to stop! (Well my kids might, but they just get wet! And it keeps on raining anyway!)  sometimes we do go dance in the rain, but sometimes we shelter inside and just wait for it to pass. Our emotions are a bit like that, some we might dance in others we just ride it out.

That way we don’t feed the emotion our energy.  As emotions are just energy in motion. So the more energy we give it by fighting it, the longer it may last!!

So, perhaps we can be like the wildlife presenter, we can watch with kindness and curiosity as our emotions unfold, observe them and don’t judge them.

Close your eyes

Notice your feet on the floor, the feel of them, the weight of them, how the ground is holding them safe

Let that awareness travel up your legs, slowly slowly, until it reaches your seat on the chair, again just pause, notice the weight of you on the seat, let the awareness travel to your belly, notice your belly as it moves with your breath.

After a few moments, just let your awareness be with how you feel right now, any thoughts, any feelings,….. be curious – what is it like, how does it feel in your body, what is your mind caught up in.  Try to be like that wildlife commentator, notice, but don’t judge, let nature take its course.

If it ever becomes too much, go back to feeling your breath, or your feet on the floor.  Take your time.  Take as long or as short as you need.

I like to think of it as if I’m a boat in a storm, I can’t stop the storm, shouting at it and fighting it will just tire me out. So I drop anchor into my feet and body and breath and ride it out.  Remembering it’s natural and normal to feel all these ways, especially right now.

Remember it’s ok to feel however you are feeling and it will pass.  We will ride out this storm and yes we will be changed by it, and we will need the support of each other afterwards to perhaps get our ship all fixed up again.  But for now, we can look after ourselves by being kind and gentle and riding out whatever emotions are rocking our boat.

“The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too”
― Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

There is peace, even in a storm.

Mindfulness Blog: Part 2

Mindfulness – A blog by East Cheshire Hospice’s Lindsay Dobson

Today I wanted to explore how we can train our mind.  We know that our mind can be changed – physically and literally, by what we choose to interact with and how we behave.  Like a road, the more we use it, the more ingrained it becomes.

So what we choose to focus on, can be important.  It’s very human and natural, and in fact biologically ingrained, for us to focus on threat and negatives.  Because as cave men, it was imperative that we did, if we forgot the time we trod on the snake, or where we went wrong on the path and wandered into the lions cave, we died!!  So we became wired to remember threat and negatives more than positives.  However, sometimes this does not serve us well, as what we focus on, we tend to see more off!!

Think of our minds as like a flashlight. What we focus on, we highlight and sometimes we can choose what we shine our light on, and other times, a loud bang for instance, means our flashlight flies over to that place without our conscious choice.   Sometimes it shines on something we would prefer it didn’t, and we can’t seem to bring it back!  And whatever the light is shone on we are more aware of.  So if it’s shining on the threats right now, we perhaps forget to see any of the gifts.

Another way to look at it, is our minds like a little puppy, its excited, it wanders around peeing on things, and it definitely has not yet learned to come back when we call it!!

But we can train our puppy mind.

How do you do that, well kinda like we would the puppy!  I would like to think, you wouldn’t train a puppy by shouting and threatening- because if you told it off everytime it came back to you, it would soon learn not to!!  Instead we treat it with kindness and compassion.  We understand that it needs to learn to come to call and stay when you want it to.  That it’s hard at first!  And we would patiently and consistently keep on trying!!

Kindness, consistency and joy are how e train puppies and minds!!  With treats often thrown in too J

So how does this apply to your mindfulness learning?

Well it means we need to be gentle and kind with ourselves when our mind wanders.  To understand it’s the nature of the mind to do that (in fact even in India when i was training with some of the world’s best yoga teachers, they would tell you, your mind never stops wandering, the practice is about noticing when it does and gently bringing it back to where you want it!) and to consistently and gently call it back when it gets distracted.  If we do this, then with time it will get better at sitting and staying where you ask it to (but even after over a decade of practice I would like to confess that there will be times your minds better at this than others.  Right now for instance there is so much going on that is scary, it takes a lot of kindness and compassion to sit and constantly call that mind back!)

The joy and the treat comes in by choosing the practices that feel good to you.  Mindfulness is not a one size fits all approach – some types of practice will work for some people, some times.  Give things a go, but pick that ones that feel good to you, that leave you feeling better and don’t increase your stress, that’s the treat and the joy.  If we pick a practice we don’t enjoy, naturally you won’t want to keep doing it.  So on our wellbeing page – there will be audio practices and meditations by different people, that do different things.  Use the ones that work for you J

Our brains however, do like to be given something to do, which is why we will use anchors – i.e. something for your mind to hold on to, to anchor it, like watching your breath, or a visualisation, or body scan.

With that in mind, my offering to you today, is a little practice you can adapt and use for as long or as short as you like

It’s using your breath and your hand.

It’s called finger breathing.  Very simply you will put out one hand, with the other hand you will use your finger to trace up one finger and down one finger – taking each finger at a time.  Sync your breath with this – so as you go up the finger you breath in, as you go down the finger breath out.

Lindsay