Category Archives: Articles

How To Confront Fear – Part One

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I was watching and listening to a video about blogging today when I realised that something wasn’t right.   Abnormally, I was struggling to concentrate, my notes weren’t really concise – I wasn’t paying true attention to the video and learning from it.  I was doing ‘just to do’ rather than because I wanted to.  I was so grateful when my lunch break came along. I went out to get some fresh air to try and work out what was going on.  And then I realised; I was feeling fear, I was scared.

What is fear?  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it is; an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger, or according to the wonderful Urban Dictionary; Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.

I think these two quotes are perfect for eachother as the former describes what it is, but the latter explains how it feels.  The real issue is that no matter what it is, fear causes havoc in our lives unless we can learn how to master and face it.  Think a moment about what you have missed out on because you were too afraid of… (insert here – common examples are; failure, not being good enough, rejection, embarassment, being judged).

In my fear today – I was afraid of multiple things at once; failure and looking like an idiot, of not being ready for what I was trying to do, of not being good enough, of jumping above my station.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot doEleanor Roosevelt

FEAR: also known under the acronym of False Evidence Appearing Real. 

In learning to confront fear, in Part One I ask you to ask yourself one question – is it based on truth? 

This is what I was afraid of: failure and looking like an idiot, of not being ready for what I was trying to do, of not being good enough, of jumping above my station.  For each one, take it – and ask yourself if it is really based on truth.  When you have an answer, keep probing until you feel the fear dissipate.

Could I fail?  Absolutely.  Many times, over and over.  What then?  I would learn from it and grow.  I would try again or do something different.

Would I look like an idiot if I failed?  Only idiots themselves would judge me that way – I’m doing a good thing here.

Am I ready for what I want to do?  No, I’ve got tons to learn, and do to reach where I want to be,  but each step is a step in the right direction.

Am I good enough?  You always have been and always will be perfect right now.

Am I jumping above my station?  No stations exist, you will become what you decide to become.  If you dream little, you’ll get little in return.  If you dream big – you’ll get there.  Simple equation.

Questioning and facing my fears relieved them of their duty.  I realise that they are there to protect us, but there is no real danger right now, in fact it would be more dangerous for my own sanity if I didn’t carry on doing what I absolutely love doing.  That would be disastrous.  Stay posted for How To Confront Fear – Part Two.

Start a huge, foolish project like Noah. It makes absolutely no difference what people think of you – Rumi

Lauren

Meet My Inspiration

20121028_164000“What drives you Lauren?”

“I don’t know really, it’s always been there.”

“But what pushes you to take risks, to really take action?”

“The Truth.  Once I know the Truth, I can’t go back.  Initially it’s just one lone thought, and I can push it down.  But then it will start to jump up and provoke me more and more, until the point when I cannot ignore it any longer.  It will drive me mental until I accept and act on it.

My fundamental driver is the Truth I learnt from what happened to my Mum.  She was only a few years older than I am now when everything was taken from her.  Now she can’t talk, walk or feed herself.  She can’t get on an aeroplane and go off to see the world.  She can’t tell me how she really feels or even hold a normal conversation.  She can’t just decide to go for a walk in nature.  And here I am, able to do anything I want – why wouldn’t I do it?”

My Mum lost almost everything 20 years ago.  Yet she is the happiest, most pure person I know.  It may seem to me and you that her pleasures are limited, but she enjoys each and every one of them.  Whether it’s watching the animals running around in the woods behind her home, seeing her two children and her grandchild grow, or a slice of chocolate cake.  She can barely do anything in life anymore, but she still has a drive for life – and her drive is me, my brother and my niece.  Even when she is in pain or feeling depressed, she beams a smile when I walk in the room, and barely ever complains about anything.

My Mum is my inspiration to do and want more.  Her presence makes me realise one of the fundamental Truths about being human, that in a few minutes, your world can be turned completely upside down. 

You may not be able to always control the negative, but most of the time you have the power to direct your life towards the positive.  So why wouldn’t you?  Will you wait for tragedy to force you to change?  Or will you wake up and realise all the opportunities you have right now, not in some imaginary futureright now.

I’ve just quit my day job because I have found my Truth in writing.  Now that I know this Truth, I cannot continue as before.  If I pushed my dream to the bottom of the list and didn’t pursue it now, I’d be constantly wondering “what if”.  My Mum’s presence has shown me that we only get one shot to make the most out of life and I choose to make it incredible by following my dreams.

Once you know your Truth about what you want or even what you don’t want – accept and act on it. The only time is Now.

Lauren

My Name Is Lauren

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My name is Lauren and I am an addict.

It’s been a tug of war all my life; I want it but I fear it, I love it but I hate it.

I’m here to say that it’s so strong now that I cannot resist any longer.

I wake up every day and need it, I drink it, I breathe it in, I smell it, I feel it, I am it. 

When I am away from it I miss it, when I am with it I am whole.

I am addicted, and if I try to walk away now, the taste of it will linger at the back of my tongue and taunt me every time I drink, the smell of it will hang around in certain corners of my room and I will breathe it in unbeknownst, the feel of it will be hidden between my sheets and awaken me from my rest.

Now I’ve found it, I can never let it go.

Nothing can come in the way of me and it.  It is me and it against the world.  Together we will conquer.

I cannot do things for the sake of doing anymore, when I am it I feel everything and time doesn’t exist, and when I am not it I feel numb and watch the seconds go by slowly.

I am not alive when it is not there, I am just walking towards death.

My name is Lauren and I am an addict and slave to writing and writing makes me an addict and slave to life.

I am life.

What are you addicted to?

Lauren

PD Challenge No.1. Exercise: For What Purpose?

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Day 14/30 of my Bikram Challenge, and double session no.2, as I got so engrossed in writing that I missed my class the day before. It always feels wrong to be setting an alarm on a weekend, especially a Sunday, and you can imagine my despair when I realised that the clock on my phone had magically jumped forward an hour and I would now have even less sleep before three hours of Bikram Yoga.

The first class started at 9am and despite my lack of sleep I was, as usual, on time and ready. But was I present?  It’s an achievement to even come to the class, to have the willpower to get out of a warm bed and make the journey (most of the time I have to travel over an hour!), but it doesn’t stop there.  Where your mind is will determine what you gain from any physical exercise.  He who is merely moving his limbs and sweating is getting a physical workout, but he who is also focused and present is achieving much more – a mental workout.

If you see exercise as just flailing your limbs around to work your body, it will quickly become boring and frustrating.  Your mind wanders onto what you’re going to eat later, what happened the day before, you may find yourself comparing your body to those around you… anything, anything to distract yourself from what you’re doing at the time with your body.  The goal is to bring your mind and body in sync in order to receive the mental benefits along with the physical.  With other styles of yoga I find it very easy to lose myself and become one with the practice, but unfortunately Bikram doesn’t have the same effect on me.

So here I am, in the room, but not in the room at all – mind wandering, just doing for the sake of doing.  I realise that I need to better understand why I am here in order to be able to focus and be truly present in the class.  So during my 30 minute break I get out my notepad, lay on my stomach on the mat and decide that I will get to the bottom of this.  I was seriously doubting why I had bothered starting this challenge, and I knew that to receive the full benefits of the exercise I needed to change the way I saw it.  I needed to feel motivated so this part of my day didn’t become a chore, something I do just because I said I would. I repeated one question:  ‘for what purpose?’  and my answers fell into two interlinked categories.  Once I had an answer, I repeated the question until I reached the core reason.

For what purpose is this challenge?

1) To achieve a goal. 2) As a topic for reflection on my blog.

For what purpose?

1) To grow. 2) To share my journey with others.

For what purpose?

1) To increase my confidence. 2) To show others that they can and must want to grow to get more out of life.

For what purpose?

1) To have more self-belief. 2) To contribute to the world.

For what purpose?

To know that I can achieve anything and fulfil my purpose – to help encourage people develop into the best they can be, and gain the most out of  their lives.

To receive the mental benefits of exercise you have to know what you are really doing it for.  By asking this one simple question: ‘for what purpose?’ I was able to reframe how I see every Bikram Yoga session.  Before, I was doubting why I was even bothering, but now I know that it is contributing to my personal development, to my belief that I can do anything I want to.  It isn’t enough just ‘to do’, there is no inherent meaning in actions.  Nothing has any meaning unless we assign it, and we can always, always change this if we want to.

If you are struggling to commit to exercise, or anything else, ask yourself ‘for what purpose?’ until you reach your core reason.  This reason will reframe the way you see the activity, putting it into a wider context.  Now, each time my mind wanders I can remind myself of my real purpose; Bikram can come to represent this, enabling me to fully reap the physical and mental benefits that are on offer.

Lauren

How to Eat Healthily: Change Your Mindset

IMG_0782I used to eat everything. I would eat until I could barely move. In restaurants I was the human garbage disposal, finishing everyone’s leftovers. My default quick meal after work was of the ‘ready’ variety, and fried chicken my treat for being really hungry, or really drunk. I would never say no to an all-you-can-eat buffet, and I would eat all that I could.

A couple of years ago, I started to change my attitude towards food and can confidently say that I now eat healthily, and genuinely enjoy it. I eat simple foods that I know are much better for me, I feel in control, and I get more out of the rest of my life as a direct result. How? I changed my mindset. Here is a little guide to how you can do the same:

  1. Desire health. You have to want to eat healthily. This is NOT the same as wanting some result of doing so. The benefits (fitter body, better skin, higher energy levels etc) that accompanied the changes in my eating habits were never my goal. They were a side-effect of the mindset adjustments I made. The reward cannot be some far-off in time change in body composition, healthiness needs to become it’s own reward for you, and that requires an adjustment in your concept of pleasure.
  2. Find pleasure in healthy foods. At a certain point I recognised that there is no absolute, but rather only relative pleasure. It is relative to the context of the experience (your first chocolate truffle is sublime but your hundredth nauseating). It is also relative to your taste, and contrary to common understanding, this is not an immutable part of your being; what you enjoy can change, and will change if you want it to. Look for pleasure in healthy foods, and you’ll find it.
  3. Slow is best, (sorry!). I never tried to force my behaviour in any way, so it wasn’t a struggle. Persistent changes in mindset can only occur gradually, so be comfortable with this being a potentially slow process. Once again, the desire must be to eat healthily, not to lose weight. Be patient with yourself.
  4. No denial. Eating well by denying yourself the things you really want cannot be a sustainable long-term behaviour. I don’t deny myself anything that I want. If you choose to try and eat healthily while your mind is not in accord with that goal, you will expend psychological effort fighting yourself. You can instead choose to spend that energy understanding your relationship with food in order to gain control of it.
  5. What are you eating? This may seem obvious, but there is really no excuse nowadays not to be aware of the content and nutritional value of your food. Read the label. Especially if you are eating unhealthily, know what’s in everything you eat. Again, don’t tell yourself you can’t have certain things based on this information, just be aware. Awareness is the foundation of change.
  6. Be present with your food. Eating should not be a mindless activity. Be completely present when you eat, be aware of every bite, every chew. Between mouthfuls (yes, there has to be a between!), notice the residual flavours in your mouth, think about what’s happening in your body when you eat, and why you’re eating that particular food.

Once you start eating healthily with the right mental approach, the behaviour will reinforce the mindset, and the mindset will continue to encourage the behaviour. This is a positive reinforcing cycle, which will lead to permanent change.

P.S. The first chocolate is the best. You’ll therefore get the most pleasure from having as many ‘first’ chocolates as you can. For me, this means having one, savouring it, and not having another straight away. I don’t deny myself another, but I wait. I know that I will get more pleasure from having the next in 10 minutes, an hour or even a day.

 (Guest post collaboration with Jason – someone I truly admire for his healthy attitude towards food. By spending time with him I am gradually changing how I eat and believe his wisdom can help others grow in this problematic area)

Lauren