Mindfulness teacher, Health Psychologist, lecturer, mother
Dr Elizabeth Sparkes is a Health Psychologist and Mindfulness teacher. She lectures at Coventry University and is the course director for the MSc Mindfulness and Compassion. Elizabeth has a PhD in pain psychology and also a keen interest in maternal health.
We have become accustomed to think in certain ways and often see things in fixed patterns. It's hard not to make assumptions and to stay in patterns of thoughts and behaviours. Situations and circumstances are often shaped by the way we think.
We get so lost in our emotions; they feel so physical and sometimes overwhelming. We take ourselves to so many places in our minds (lists, memories, worries, desires, planning) that we forget to be here, noticing the pleasure of now. Gratitude is one of the things that can change your life. That sounds very dramatic, but it's true.
What mindful parenting is not: superficial, lack of discipline, looking fabulous at all times, getting it right first time and every time, having children that meditate every day (but that's not a bad thing if it happens).
I hesitate in regards to listening to the news these days as it's so difficult to hear, but at the same time there is so much strength and pulling together going on too. There is so much distress around at the moment, it's important to rest back from it all now and then and take care of yourself.
Women feel far too much pressure to lose weight quickly after pregnancy and this is actually a time to enjoy a new baby and rejoice in a new adventure. Receiving comments on a daily basis about physical appearance is quite possibly feeding the need to be slim quickly after birth
Mindfulness is giving attention to the experiences happening now, internal bodily sensations and external every day experiences. Rather than always being caught up in a web or thoughts or rushing from one activity to the next, we start to experience pauses and gaps to allow for insight.
I was extremely naïve and I honestly thought it would be easier than it was. It's tough I wont deny it but from my limited experience, here are the key things that I did and learnt. I hope they help you too.
It's so easy to get consumed by things, stuff, and living in your head. This results in a missing out on the moment to moment experience of life. We can find ourselves clinging to thoughts, both good and bad. Being on autopilot, at home and at work, not stopping to take in the moments results in less ease.
I recently introduced mindfulness to a small group. What they found surprising was the fact that mindfulness isn't about sitting and picturing a beach scene and blocking out the 'bad stuff'. The sitting practice of meditation does often enable a sense of calm and restfulness, but this isn't always the case.
Yeah, you read that right - do nothing. It's not easy is it? What happens when we just sit quietly? Thoughts; I should be doing this or that, glimpses at past events and conversations, daydreaming about happy events, guilt for not doing something, anything - the list is endless. It's almost harder to sit still than it is to keep on doing. Isn't it?
Children are generally mindful, they live moment to moment quite easily, the key is to encourage them to maintain this skill. We are reading lots about supporting children in schools to be mindful, what about Toddlers?
Compassion is key when we consider pain, bringing kindness and understanding towards ourselves when experiencing pain can make a difference. Studies show time and time again the variance in pain experience when mindfulness and compassion are introduced.
What strikes me about these two men is that between them they run a tight ship, there are no blurred boundaries and they have huge hearts. Love isn't a soft emotion, compassion and love are strong courageous and determined.
Compassion is there, in all of us, we don't need to create it, just cultivate it. Engaging with compassion meditations is an excellent way to bring more your way. Just sitting and wishing those around you well, visualising others happiness as well as your own is the start of a greater experience of compassion.
There is a lot of coverage in the media about female fertility and this is just a gentle reminder to the media that men have some involvement too. It's a complex series of events taking place during conception and the men have a fair amount of responsibility too. Male age and health also impacts fertility.
Cultivating compassion isn't hard work; we are uncovering something that is present in all of us. Loving kindness meditation is one way to develop a compassionate practice, originating from Buddhist traditions it has been shown to slow respiratory rate in just ten minutes of practice.
We can all be a little more compassionate at work, with people around us, it makes life so much better. Compassion is catching, when you radiate it, it generally comes back to you. Its the compassion that can make all the difference. Life is richer with kindness.
19/11/2015 10:54 GMT
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