When the mind grips

mind's grip

This week, I’ve had a fly on the wall view into obsession, and the unrelenting grip of the mind.

You see, my mind is normally pretty calm, it gets a bit agitated from time to time, but for the most part we coexist quite peacefully.

People in my hostel? Not so much.

There was this guy who was obsessed with money; how much he made back home, how much he’d make working here in Bali, how his company isn’t nice enough to him, and how wronged he feels in general. He told me the same story a good three times, and seemed to share it with everyone he spoke to.

Even when he wasn’t talking about his money situation, he couldn’t listen and seemed incapable of asking questions. Round in his me-loop he went.

Then there was a woman who was obsessed with a guy she’d met a few days before. She spent quite literally her day waiting for him; not eating because she was going to eat with him, not going to the beach because she was waiting for, staying at a bar alone because she was waiting for him.

She spent the whole day on her phone texting him, trying to work out what he was doing (I don’t think he knew what he was doing!) and was gripped by this idea that she should be with him. All she could talk about was what she had gleaned of his logistics. And around in her me-loop she went.

And, whilst this doesn’t happen to me very often, I remember doing a weird diet while I was a t university and getting obsessed! It was one of those ones where you only had milkshakes, apart from a chocolatey bar you were allowed as a treat.

Oh my God did I get obsessed with those bars. What flavour would I have, when would I have it, was it ok to have all of them now and none later? My big mind that was used to discussing Aristotle and Nietzsche was now hooked on diet bars. I’m sure that was both thrilling and interesting for everyone around me! All I could think or talk about were these bars. And around in my me-loop I went.

I really don’t say any of this to criticise, but to draw attention to the churning of our minds, and how they can grip.

And, in being internally focused and gripped by this one thing, we miss life! We miss beautiful sunsets, we miss people we’d really get on with, we miss going to the beach, we miss experiences that don’t fit into our gripped idea of what the world should look like.

To me, the mind often feels more like a movement, more than a solid thing in its own right.

It’s a movement that constantly refers back to itself. It’s almost as if the mind senses it isn’t really a ‘thing’ and that’s what it’s constantly searching to discover what it is, and bring a situation back to itself.

Am I good enough? Am I loveable? Is it how I want it? Will he do what I want? Will I get I what I want? Do I even exist?

Once we’re gripped, it seems so real. So very real.

But seeing someone caught in their own grip is a great reminder that theirs isn’t real, neither is mine and neither is yours.

If you recognise what I’m talking about, and are happy to share, what’s your mind’s favourite hook? Is there a topic or a line that it often goes to?

Confession – I’m an attention whore

I was sitting on my bed minding my own business, when it suddenly dawned on me.

I am an attention whore.

Not in the sense that I will do anything for attention, but in the sense that I so often give my attention away when it’s not warranted, deserved or earned.

I wrap people up in my attention, hold them gently and nicely, and bring them out. Make them feel good, ask them questions they want to answer. And this is a very nice thing to do.

But it’s not always a good use of my attention, focus or resources. It means I give away arguably one of the most, if not the most, valuable resources I have – my attention – for a very low price.

That price can be as low as not feeling like the other person is uncomfortable, or not sitting in a potentially awkward silence.

And I’m guessing I’m not the only one who does this, perhaps you do too?

Do you give your attention away to people that you would really rather not focus on. Maybe you even give away your best, most present attention to people who have no way to appreciate the gift you’re giving them, and don’t do anything with it.

It might feel like we don’t get anything back when we do this, as if it’s some altruistic, saint-like move, but I think we do.

We get to feel less uncomfortable.

We get to avoid telling the truth.

We get to not make a scene.

We get to not sit there in absolute silence, or walk away, and be honest about what’s actually happening.

A small bit of payback, perhaps, but there’s always something in it for us or else we wouldn’t do it.

I've got a challenge

So, my challenge – and I’d like to invite you to join me – is to not give my attention to the lowest, most awkward bidder.

To save my attention for me, and things and people I actively want to spend it on.

And – this is the scariest and most exciting part – to be honest.

Bored of conversation? What might happened if we said as much?

Feel like you want to leave a situation? Why not give it a go?

Nothing coming back from your interlocutor? Sit in silence and you enjoy your own company.


Today’s date is so very neat. 17 02 2017. It’s a beautifully sunny day and it’s also my birthday.

I’ve had a mixed relationship with my birthday over the years. As a child it was far and away the most important day of the year to me, the only day I felt important, that I mattered. I expected the sun to shine, the bus to be on time, everyone to be super nice to me and to adorn me with gifts and throw wonderful parties for me. If anything didn’t meet my extremely high expectations for the day, I felt that I would have to wait another year for the next opportunity. What a weight.

After having children, I transferred the weight of birthday expectations to them and deemed it my personal responsibility to ensure that the sun would shine, their bus would be on time, and that they were the prince or princess for the day. More weight.

And then something changed. I began to find that my special day would inevitably not live up to my impossibly high expectations, in fact, it would usually get ruined and I’d find myself sulking in bed by 9pm with all the exciting plans and preparations in tatters.

The pendulum had uncomfortably swung the other way before eventually settling in another place entirely.

Today, I celebrate the birth of my physical form by loving my humaness. The date feels sacred to me, and very internal. I have no need or desire to shout it from the rooftops, and spending the day only with myself or close loved ones has become my norm.

I still love the 17th February, but I feel that the celebration is between me and the date and no one needs to pander to my whims or wants. I love to sit in the field of the anniversary of my birth and offer thanks to Life for affording me the opportunity to be here in these unusual times. I have realised that every day can be lovely, regardless of the date and I love that neither my birthday, nor anyone else’s carries any ballast for me.

I don’t even notice the getting older part anymore, except when the decade changes. It feels like a personal new year, between me and Life. I do still like it when it’s sunny though. That hasn’t changed.

How do you relate to your birthday? Has your relationship with it changed over the years?

I think, therefore I am not sure

Don't believe everything you think!Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be in charge of our thoughts? Imagine a life where every thought you had was supportive, constructive, kind, useful and in service to your greater good. How do our thoughts work, and how can we get them on our side?

About twenty years ago, I joined a group of people who organised workshops about emotional intelligence. This particular system had been going for at least 10 years when I came aboard, and here I was at my very first meeting, the newbie in a room of seasoned veterans. On this particular day, the group were very excited because the founder of the system was to be there. There was a lot of awe and reverence surrounding this man.

The only available seat in the room was right next to him, so being the newbie, and lacking awe or reverence, I plonked myself down next to The Big Man.

The session began and the group fired their questions at him. It transpired that the top man had a condition that was causing his thinking to be foggy and so he was slow to bring forth the answers to the questions.

However, because I was sitting next to him, as the answers were trying to find their way to him through his fog, I was picking them up. So as he ummed, aahed and struggled to find the answers, I jumped in with suggested answers. It was so unexpected. The irreverent newbie was speaking the thoughts of The Big Man.

This was my introduction to how thoughts work. The questions elicited answers. Any one of us had access to these answers. They literally moved around the room, knocking on doors until they were picked up.

The answers didn’t belong to a person, they belonged to the questions.

I picked them up because I didn’t know that I was supposed to leave the big questions to The Big Man.

And so began a curiosity with how thoughts work.

I noticed that there is a societal tendency to teach us what to think, rather than how to think. We each grew up within a context, circles within circles. When they are in accordance with each other the action of questioning rarely arises. So if we grew up with a family, a school and a society that held the same beliefs, we would have no reason to question whether our thoughts and beliefs were actually true. We wouldn’t even know that they were beliefs, we would just think that’s how the world was.

Thoughts have substance. They remind me of fish in the way that they swim around, going about their business until such a time that we catch one.

And like fish (and pretty much everything else) they tend to hang out with others of their own kind. The type of thoughts we ‘catch’ depends on the type of ‘bait’ we are using. It’s like the thoughts just hang out in the ethers until we call them to us using our vibration as bait.

When our vibration is higher, we have access to higher thought forms, when it’s lower, we’ll be trawling through shoals of less desirable thought forms. The art is in discerning which thoughts are useful and which can be thrown back into the water.

The trouble with the way thoughts interface with us, is that they tend to do it in a recognisable voice, usually our own. Because they tend to speak in a voice that we recognise, it’s like they have our password and get through our filter systems. If a person on the street told you that you were unworthy and undeserving of happiness, chances are that you wouldn’t believe them. But when the same thoughts seem to emanate from within, we don’t question them.

It’s actually very easy to change our relationship with thought. The first step is to simply notice that you think. The best way I know of to do this comes from Eckhart Tolles’ ‘The Power of Now’.

To do this exercise, simply close your eyes and sit for 1 minute like a cat waiting to pounce upon the mouse of thought. Every time a thought comes, notice it and then let it go and wait for the next one. The very act of bringing your attention to thought already interrupts its flow and causes there to be space between the thoughts.

As you get used to doing this, you’ll find that you begin to notice that you are experiencing thoughts even when you’re not doing the exercise. When I began doing this exercise, I quickly noticed that there were underlying thought patterns that I had literally based my life around that turned out not to be completely false. My underlying thought pattern was that I didn’t have space and I didn’t have time. I thought that my house was too small, and that I didn’t have enough time to focus on myself in any meaningful way.

Turns out that the truth was that my house was the size that it was, and that I had the same 24 hours in each day as absolutely everyone else. Who knew?!

There is undoubtedly violence in the world we live in, and I see no reason to add to it through self harming thoughts. I strongly urge you to question your thoughts, and to not believe everything you think!

Why inside out is so much more comfortable

Wear your spirit on the outside

When you were little and enthusiastically and freely offered yourself to the world the chances are that you frequently encountered rejection. “Mummy come and play with me” is often met with the many reasons why that’s not gonna happen. If you weren’t the cool, popular kid who always got picked first, it would be understandable if you had learnt that your presence is often not wanted.

You learnt to hide the parts of yourself that didn’t fit in. Trouble is, that part was often your spirit, the very essence of you. You learned to keep yourself in, to not risk rejection. Maybe you’d wait for others to take the lead, to stand on the edges until someone else began dancing and invited you in.

I get it. It’s totally understandable. The thing is though, it’s not your spirit that’s fragile. Your spirit is the strongest aspect of you, the one part of you that’s not temporary, that will be with you for at least your whole life. It’s the thing that’s been there since you were born, a constant, indestructible presence. It’s your ego, your little human-self, that gets hurt. Your spirit is just fine and dandy.

So why not make friends with it? Make best friends with it? Fall in love with it even? And allow others to enjoy it too. The way to begin to do this is so simple.

Wear your spirit on the outside.

Sit in it like it’s a comfy armchair. Let your body be within You, your spirit, rather than keeping You and your spirit within your little, fragile body. Fill the space with your spirit, let it run free. There’s plenty of room for you and everyone else to fill the space.

Try this.

Close your eyes and let yourself become aware of the part of you that has always been there. The same you as when you were a child, the same you as a decade ago. Breathe it out, let it fill the space around you, at least to an arm’s length. Then luxuriate in it and watch as your life gets better. It doesn’t take very long to do, and you can do it anywhere; on the train on your way to work, in bed before you get up, at your desk, in the park. Anywhere. Try doing it a couple of times a day for 2 minutes. It could be useful to set a reminder on your phone to help you  remember.

Living with your spirit on the outside will ensure that you are what it says on the packet. Those that resonate with you will be drawn to you, and those that don’t, won’t. It will bring a greater sense of your life being in alignment with you and that in turn will bring a greater sense of belonging. Putting your little human self in charge of your precious life is like expecting the secretary to do the boss’ job.

Just because you weren’t the fastest runner at school and your mum was busy with the laundry, doesn’t mean that there’s really no place for you on the planet.