What do you do when you fall down?

I think it is fair to say that on this journey of life we all get knocked down from time to time.  The question is, what do you do when you get knocked down?\r\n\r\nDo you choose to stay down? Complain and moan about the situation? Or do you get right back up again and keep on moving?\r\n\r\nCheck out this video showing Nicholi Rogatkin when he falls off his bike and down a 30 foot cliff. It’s impressive!\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n

Question: What do you do when you fall down? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Sahara Retreat

Saturday 4th - Wednesday 8th March 2017

Meditation Retreat\r\n\r\nThis is going to be the adventure of a lifetime. This is YOUR chance to switch off, unwind, relax and recharge! And all that you need to do is say “YES” and book your place.\r\n\r\nJoin us for 5 days in a secure and private camp in the Sahara Desert.  That’s 4 nights gazing up at the stars after the most beautiful sunsets.  That’s 4 mornings where you can watch in awe as the sun rises over the desert. If you are an early bird you will also be able to check the dunes for trails of the night’s activities.  And there’s more…\r\n\r\nOver the 5 days we will have plenty of time for relaxing as well as exploring.  We will have a range of workshops, in fact, if you have a skill you want to share, you can apply to lead a workshop.  Anyone that leads a workshop will be eligible to a reduced rate for the retreat.  If you fancy it, pop me an email and let’s see if it will work.  So far we have participants offering to lead meditation and qigong.  What could you add to the mix?\r\n\r\nIn the evening we will sit around the campfire, sing songs, tell stories or simply soak in the atmosphere.\r\n\r\nI am sure you have loads of questions and this should answer most of them…\r\n\r\nHow do I get to the camp?\r\nFly into Marrakech and we will transport you to the camp from there on the 4th March.  You will have a choice of travelling by camel or on foot for the last section to the camp (1.5 hours). Transport from Marrakech and back again is included in the cost, your flight is not.\r\n\r\nAre meals provided?\r\nYes, all meals are provided and we will do our best to cater for any special dietary requirements.  Get in touch before you book to make sure we can cater for you.\r\n\r\nWill I be safe?\r\nAbsolutely.  The camp is safe and secure (local guides staying with us) and when you book and when you arrive we will give you information on all matters related to safety and well being (spiders and the sun).  We do recommend bringing a personal first aid kit as we are in a remote area and you need to have some responsibility for your health and well being.  You MUST have your own travel insurance.\r\n\r\nWhat about snakes and scorpions?\r\nAgain, we will advise further on this when you reach camp but it is simple things like looking under your blankets before going to bed and tipping your shoes over before putting them on. By being reasonably cautious and following the advice given, the risk is really low. Reptiles are less active in the winter.\r\n\r\nIs there water?\r\nYeah, there is water but there is no running water and there are no showers.  Yip! You read that right, you will have to manage for a few days without the luxury of a shower, but sure, we will all be in the same boat (so to speak).\r\n\r\nAre there toilets?\r\nOh yes! Just outside the camp are cabins and the toilets are in those.\r\n\r\nWhat are the tents like?\r\nThe tents have beds and bedding in them.  They are basic and comfortable.  Tents will have beds for 2 – 6 people and if you are travelling with friends we can make sure you have a private tent.  The lone travellers will have to share for definite, single occupancy is not an option.\r\n\r\nWhat should I wear?\r\nAgain, we will send a list of what to bring when you book.  As a heads up, during the day it will get to about 25° but it will be cooler.  You MUST wear modest clothing (shoulder, belly and thighs must be covered) and then you can add layers in the evening.  Good walking shoes or sandals with thick soles, so that you can also walk on stones. A large cotton turban, the Moroccan Shesh (easily bought in Morocco). You also need very good and highly protective sun screen with a hydrating cream.\r\n\r\nHow much does it cost?\r\nThe cost is £450 and includes transport from Marrakech and back again, accommodation and meals. If you volunteer to lead a workshop or activity for the group then your place will only cost £375.\r\n\r\nRemember, you need to sort your own flights and a night in Marrakech before and after the retreat. We can book the extra nights for you and then you will get to spend more time with everyone else on the retreat.\r\n\r\nGot more questions?\r\nLet us know and we will then add them to this list.\r\n\r\nReady to book?\r\nHave a look at the video and then scroll down to book your place!\r\n\r\n

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Dealing With Reality – Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee and I were having dim sum, a traditional Chinese breakfast of meat-filled pastries, in a downtown Los Angeles restaurant after a lesson.  I seized on this opportunity to tell him that I was discouraged.  At forty-five, I felt I was too old and my body too stiff to achieve any real ability in Jeet Kune Do.\r\n\r\nBruce Lee\r\n“You will never learn anything new unless you are ready to accept yourself with your limitations,” Bruce answered.  “You must accept the fact that you are capable in some directions and limited in others, and you must develop your capabilities.”\r\n\r\n“But ten years ago I could easily kick over my head,” I said.  “Now I need an hour to limber up before I can do it.”\r\n\r\nBruce set his chopsticks down alongside his plate, clasped his hands lightly on his lap, and smiled at me.  “That was ten years ago, “ he said gently.  “So you are older today and your body has changed.  Everyone had physical limitations to overcome.”\r\n\r\n“That’s all very well for you to say,” I replied.  “If ever a man was born with natural ability as a martial artist, it is you.”\r\n\r\nBruce laughed.  “I’m going to tell you something very few people know.  I became a martial artist in spite of my limitations.”\r\n\r\nI was shocked.  In my view, Bruce was a perfect physical specimen and I said so.\r\n\r\n“You probably are not aware of it,” he said, “but my left leg is almost one inch shorter than the right.  That fact dictated the best stance for me – my right foot leading.  Then I found because the right leg was longer, I had an advantage with certain types of kicks, since the uneven stomp gave me greater impetus.”\r\n\r\n“And I wear contact lenses.  Since childhood I have been near-sighted, which meant that when I wasn’t wearing glasses, I had difficulty seeing an opponent when he wasn’t up close.  I originally started Wing-Chun because it is an ideal technique for close-in fighting.  I accepted my limitations for what they were and capitalized on them.  And that’s what you must learn to do.  You say you are unable to kick over your head without a long warm-up, but the real question is, is it really necessary to kick that high?  The fact is that, until recently, martial artists rarely kicked above knee height.  Head-high kicks are mostly for show.  So perfect you kicks at waist level and they will be so formidable you’ll never need to kick higher.”\r\n\r\n“Instead of trying to do everything well, do those things perfectly of which you are capable.  Although most expert martial artists have spent years mastering hundreds of techniques and movements, in a bout, or kumite, a champion may actually use only four or five techniques over and over again.  These are the techniques which he has perfected and which he knows he can depend on.”\r\n\r\nI protested.  “But the fact still remains that my real competition is the advancing years.”\r\n\r\n“Stop comparing yourself at forty-five with the man you were at twenty or thirty,” Bruce answered.  “the past is an illusion.  You must learn to live in the present and accept yourself for what you are now.  What you lack in flexibility and agility you must make up with knowledge and constant practice.”\r\n\r\nBy Joe Hyams\r\n\r\n(Taken from “Knowing Is Not Enough”, Fall 2000)

The Fine Art of Not Being Offended

\r\n\r\nThere is an ancient and well-kept secret to happiness which the Great Ones have known for centuries. They rarely talk about it, but they use it all the time, and it is fundamental to good mental health.\r\n\r\nOffend\r\n\r\nThe secret is called The Fine Art of Not Being Offended.\r\n\r\nIn order to truly be a master of this art, one must be able to see that every statement, action and reaction of another human being is the sum result of their total life experience to date. In other words, the majority of people in our world say and do what they do from their own set of fears, conclusions, defences and attempts to survive. Most of it, even when aimed directly at us, has nothing to do with us. Usually, it has more to do with all the other times, and in particular the first few times, that this person experienced a similar situation, usually when they were young.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nYes, this is psychodynamic. But let’s face it, we live in a world where psycho-dynamics are what make the world go round. An individual who wishes to live successfully in the world as a spiritual person really needs to understand that psychology is as spiritual as prayer. In fact, the word psychology literally means the study of the soul.\r\n\r\nAll of that said, almost nothing is personal.  Even with our closest loved ones, our beloved partners, our children and our friends. We are all swimming in the projections and filters of each other’s life experiences and often we are just the stand-ins, the chess pieces of life to which our loved ones have their own built-in reactions.\r\n\r\nThis is not to dehumanize life or take away the intimacy from our relationships, but mainly for us to know that almost every time we get offended, we are actually just in a misunderstanding. A true embodiment of this idea actually allows for more intimacy and less suffering throughout all of our relationships. When we know that we are just the ones who happen to be standing in the right place at the right psycho-dynamic time for someone to say or do what they are doing – we don’t have to take life personally. If it weren’t us, it would likely be someone else. This frees us to be a little more detached from the reactions of people around us.\r\n\r\nHow often do we react to a statement of another by being offended rather than seeing that the other might be hurting? In fact, every time we get offended, it is actually an opportunity to extend kindness to one who may be suffering – even if they themselves do not appear that way on the surface. All anger, all acting out, all harshness, all criticism, is in truth a form of suffering.\r\n\r\nWhen we provide no Velcro for it to stick, something changes in the world.\r\n\r\nWe do not even have to say a thing. In fact, it is usually better not to say a thing. People who are suffering on the inside, but not showing it on the outside are not usually keen on someone pointing out to them that they are suffering. We do not have to be our loved one’s therapists. We need only to understand the situation and move on. In the least, we ourselves experience less suffering and at best, we have a chance to make the world a better place.\r\n\r\nThis is also not to be confused with allowing ourselves to be hurt, neglected or taken advantage of. True compassion does not allow harm to ourselves either. But when we know that nothing is personal, a magical thing happens. Many of the seeming abusers of the world start to leave our lives. Once we are conscious, so-called abuse can only happen if we believe what the other is saying.\r\n\r\nWhen we know nothing is personal, we also do not end up feeling abused. we can say, ‘Thank you for sharing’, and move on. We are not hooked by what another does or says, since we know it is not about us. When we know that our inherent worth is not determined by what another says, does or believes, we can take the world a little less seriously. And if necessary, we can just walk away without creating more misery for ourselves or having to convince the other person that we are good and worthy people.\r\n\r\nThe greatest challenge of our world is to live a life of contentment, regardless of what other people do, say, think or believe. The fine art of not being offended is one of the many skills for being a practical mystic. Though it may take a lifetime of practise, it is truly one of the best kept secrets for living a happy life.\r\n\r\n

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Introduction to Mindfulness

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.\r\n\r\nMindfulness NI\r\n\r\nMindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in any given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.\r\n\r\nThis course will help you understand how Mindfulness came about, how it can improve you physically and mentally as well as showing your some simple techniques that you can easily apply to your new mindful life.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nResearch shows that Mindfulness can bring:\r\n

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  • Great insight
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  • Improved problem solving
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  • Better attention
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  • Less selfishness
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  • Less neurosis
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  • More acceptance
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  • Greater experience of “life”
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  • Less “beating ourselves up”
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  • Better mind-body integration
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Mindfulness is the way forward for dealing with depression and anxiety, and for general well-being. Ruby Wax

\r\nTell me more about your courses\r\n\r\nOur courses are focused on providing you with tools and insights that will enhance your life. We will challenge you to think differently and provide a safe space to share your ideas, thoughts and experiences with other curious individuals.\r\n\r\nWe will also provide you with optional homework if you are interested in further study and learning.\r\n\r\nShould I attend Introduction to Mindfulness?\r\n\r\nAbsolutely, you don’t need any previous experience. Mindfulness has roots within Buddhism but the practice of it is free from all religious beliefs therefore making it suitable for everyone.\r\n\r\nWhen and where?\r\n\r\nThe Introduction to Mindfulness is on Sunday 8th May 2016 from 10.00am – 4.00pm.  It will be held at Greenhill YMCA in Newcastle, County Down at the foot of the Mourne Mountains with stunning views over the Irish Sea.\r\n\r\n

Who do you think you are?

I have no idea who you think you are but I can tell you one thing for sure…

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You aren’t who you were yesterday and tomorrow you won’t be who you are today

\r\nStephen Brown\r\n\r\nI can think of plenty of times in my life where I have been worried about what people might think if they know of the mistakes, previous shortcomings, failures or things I have done wrong in my past.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIt has taken time for me to realise that it really doesn’t matter what people might think – they should take me for who I am and not who I was.  It also took me some time to to realise that worrying doesn’t solve anything.  In fact, looking back on my worries, I often conjured up situations that never ever arose – is that expecting the worst and not the best?\r\n\r\nToday, when I catch myself worrying about something, I tell myself to let it go and just deal with what happens.\r\n\r\nA few years ago I was running a course about fear, comfort zones and confidence – I felt well outside of my comfort zone even though I knew I had the skills and experience to run the course.  In the week before the course I could hear the negative voices in my head and they were dreaming up the wildest of scenarios that I could end up facing.  I could have allowed myself to get worked up about these but instead I told the voice to “SHUT UP”.\r\n\r\nNow you might think I am mad for talking to myself but I don’t care if you do.  The reality is we all talk to ourselves (often in times of stress or anxiety) but the trick is how we deal with it – for me, on that occasion, it was to tell the negative me to shut up.  So don’t knock it! Try it! It works!\r\n\r\nMy final, albeit brief thoughts on this are – you are you, you are not your past and you are not the things that you regret – keep your sight on the future and live in the present.\r\n\r\nEnjoy your life!

International Day of Happiness

Sometimes, Facebook is wonderful.  Without it I would have not known it was International Day of Happiness.  It’s not like I keep things like that in my diary. When I logged in this morning, from a sunny Donegal, I saw loads of people posting about International Day of Happiness; and while I was driving home I was thinking about it. Especially when I stopped to take in the views…\r\n\r\nInternational Day of HappinessIt got me thinking about whether or not there is a need for a day dedicated to happiness.  Surely every day should be dedicated to happiness?  I know I strive for happiness all the time; but I guess that isn’t the case with everyone.\r\n\r\nSometimes people get so bogged down in their worries about finances, work, relationships and so on, that they are unable to notice whether or not they are happy.  Sometimes people are so “busy” that they don’t even have time to reflect and know if they are happy. Sometimes people are in such despair that they believe there is no way they could or should be happy.\r\n\r\nHaving a day dedicated to happiness is probably a good thing.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with it although it would be great if there was no “need” for it. The International Day of Happiness is a prompt to take stock and reflect on how happy you are and maybe look at ways to be happier.  Happier every day.\r\n\r\nIt also got me thinking about what I do to maintain and increase my happiness.\r\n\r\nYears ago I kept reading and hearing people talking about using gratitude as tool for happiness.  I remember thinking that it seemed a bit too “wishy washy” for me.  I remember thinking, well if it works for you, well and good, but I won’t be doing it.  I definitely didn’t have anything positive to say about it and when people told me they practice being grateful every day I would have thoughts along the line of “fair play but I don’t see the need or value in it”.  To me it just seemed unnecessary.\r\n\r\nI mean, I wasn’t slating the idea or those that told me they did it.  I just didn’t see it as something that could benefit my well-being.  I would not be doing it.\r\n\r\nA few years ago I had a change of heart about it all.\r\n\r\nI was thinking about a journal I kept when working as a canoe guide in Minnesota, which I no longer have possession of. I wrote in that journal every night before bed and kept detailed notes on the day’s journey, what we were doing, eating and so on.  I remembered writing about all the good (and the bad) things that happened each day.  I loved writing in it.  The very act of writing in it made me happy.\r\n\r\nSo I decided that I would get back to writing about the good things in my days.  Writing a journal can be time consuming so there are times when I am better at it than others.  I particularly like to keep one when I am travelling or learning something new.  Yes, my notes from courses become part of my journal.\r\n\r\nMore often than not though, my journal is a list of things, people and moments, as opposed to the poetic and epic tales I told in that journal.\r\n\r\nI would spend at least 10 minutes every morning or evening and write down what was happening in my life.  Over time, this evolved in to writing what I am grateful for.\r\n\r\nNow I find it really easy to run up a fairly long list of things that I thankful for.  The process is great because it helps me realise that my life is pretty good and I have lots of reasons to be happy.  But, better than just realising it (and I don’t know how this happens) but the process of acknowledging what I am thankful for makes me happier anyway.\r\n\r\nOccasionally I don’t get to sit down and write what is in my head, but that doesn’t matter.  I can think about what I am grateful when I go to bed or wake in the morning.  Or like today, when I was driving through a beautiful Donegal valley. I was grateful for the opportunity to explore, to afford a van to drive, for my eyesight, for the stunning countryside that I was experiencing.  The list goes on.\r\n\r\nWriting down what I am grateful for is more rewarding and this is what I strive for every day.\r\n\r\nSo there you go, a sceptic turned accidental advocate recommends spending time every day to record what you are grateful for.  Give it a go.  Give it 100% attention and give it some time.  See what you think.  Start with writing down 3 things and see how fair it takes you.  I’d say that in a month from now you will be able to write a fairly long list too.\r\n

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”\r\nFrederick Koenig

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Question: What are you grateful for right now? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Joy of Worrying

I have yet to meet someone who enjoys worrying. Sure, there are people that seem to spend their whole life worrying but I doubt they find any joy in it.

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Mark Twain Quote

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Personally, I don’t like worrying. I have worked hard on myself to stop worrying. That doesn’t mean I don’t, but it means I worry less and I take action sooner. I got one of my biggest lessons about worry when I attended a course organised by Rolf and Awsa Beckman — the people that trained me as a Firewalking Instructor.

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The course was 5 days with Tolly Burkan and the minute I heard about it, I knew I had to go. Tolly is the man who is credited with bringing Firewalking to the modern world. A fascinating man, who has such a lot to share with the world. Indeed, if you ever have the opportunity to train with him, take it! I did and I learned so much about me.

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The course was called The Core Teaching and we participated in a variety of activities that were used as metaphors for learning. I signed up for the course with no idea what would be happening over the 5 days. I didn’t need to know, I already knew I would learn a lot from the experience. We actually never knew what we would be doing until the night before each day (at the earliest).

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During the first 4 days we participated in a sweat lodge, a Firewalk, a sky dive, a vision quest and much more. It was great, I loved it all. I was learning loads. Everything was honky dory. The sky dive didn’t even scare me (much) even though I have a love/hate relationship with heights. Actually, I can’t wait to do a solo jump when the right opportunity appears.

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On the final evening we sat down to be briefed about the final day. At this stage I thought we had done all the “big” challenges we were going to do. But, as Tolly began to chat about what we needed to do the next morning, my heart sank. Before he said it, I knew we were going to be abseiling into a cave. I was familiar with the activities that Tolly uses and the rappel/abseil is the one I did NOT want to do.

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I am reasonably experienced with abseiling. I have done it dozens of times since I was in my teens. It’s never been something that I enjoyed and now we were going to be doing it as part of a course that I had promised to give 100% to, 100% of the time. Not doing the abseil was not part of the equation.

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Remarkably, I did not dwell on what we would be doing the next day and instead, had a really comfortable nights sleep. The drive to the abseil site was grand too, I was not going to let the thoughts of what we would be doing get in the way of enjoying the scenery and company.

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Things started to change though when we entered the cave and began to get our harnesses on. I felt sick to my stomach and was full of dread. I could hear the voices in my head telling me about how much I hated abseiling and that it scared me. So, I kept telling myself that the experience would be easy, there was nothing to worry about and I could do it.

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That said, I still had to step away a few times and take deep breaths to calm myself. It was sort of working but the dread was still consuming me.

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We had arranged ourselves that I would be going fifth but as it approached my turn, I told the people behind me that I would go last. And that is when the lesson came.

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Rolf, began to laugh in the way that he does and went on to say in his big booming voice:

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“Wow, look at this! Stephen is so worried about this and loves that feeling so much that he is going to let everyone else go before him just so that he can stay in the feeling of worry for that bit longer. He really must love that feeling of worry because he is going to procrastinate for a while longer”.

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I can still hear his voice and laughter to this day and it makes me smile.

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He was right and I knew it. I was putting off what was inevitable. It was inevitable because there was no way that I wasn’t going to do it. So why was I putting it off? Why was I prolonging the worry, the dread and the fear?

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It was stupid! I knew it was stupid before he spoke. This is the stuff that I get people to think about in my own work and here was me doing exactly what I tell people to do.

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There is nothing wrong with worrying. It’s natural. But we definitely need to be aware of our worrying and stop it gripping us to an extent where is stops us from doing what we want to do or need to do.

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Question: Do you let worry rule your life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

What to do when someone says “thank you”

Do you know how you respond to someone thanking you?  Do you smile and nod?  Do you thank them back?  Do you shrug it off and say “no problem”? Do you feel embarrassed? Do you feel their thanks was unnecessary?\r\n\r\nThank you\r\n\r\nI am not sure when I observed how I reacted to someone thanking me but let’s just say it was a while ago.  I realised that I wasn’t very good at accepting their thanks and decided I would have to change it.  I was trying to get my life working the way I want it to.  Cut out all the “crap” and love the good.  Sorting out my response to a thank you was a good place to start.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nI wanted to have a “better” react to appreciation and praise.\r\n\r\nI often help people out when I can. That could be chatting through work problems, family or friend problems, social media issues, branding or whatever it is that someone needs some help with.\r\n\r\nAs expected, people thank me for that help.  In response to those thank-yous, I had caught myself saying things like, “awk sure you would do the same for me” or “if the shoe was on the other foot you would do the same”.\r\n\r\nWhile this is true, I feel it doesn’t really acknowledge the appreciation and thanks that was given. In many ways, my responses were almost dismissive…even though that was far from the intention!\r\n\r\nNow, when I receive a word of thanks or praise, I pause for a moment and make sure my reply is more along the lines of “your’e welcome, glad to be able to help”.\r\n\r\nYou see, for someone to trust me enough to help them means a lot; and even though I know they would do the same for me, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that they trust me and value my input and support.\r\n

Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.\r\nRalph Marston

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Question: How to you respond to someone thanking you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.