How to visualise during meditation

27/01/2016 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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Here is a photo taken on a recent sunny, frosty day…

 

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And here is another photo taken from the exact same spot…

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The only real difference between them is that in one, I decided to focus on the big picture. In the other, I zoomed into a tiny, beautiful detail.

Visualisation during meditation is exactly like that. We choose what to think about – focus on – in our mind’s eye. Then we close our eyes and reconstruct our chosen image in our mind.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes it can seem really hard. But if that’s the case, stick with it, as you are building up new ‘muscles’ in your mind. It gets easier with practice.

It helps a lot if you study a real image first…

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Notice all the tiny details that you can, then close your eyes and imagine them all over again. Pretty quickly, this process can feel calming and restful. This is the first gift of visualisation.

The second gift of visualisation is that you can use it to imagine things you’d like to have in your life. The rambling house in the country; the fulfilling work; the happy family….

Practise visualisation in meditation because it feels good, lowers your blood pressure, calms and revives you. Then, if you choose, practise visualisation with things you haven’t yet seen, but would like to. Imagine them as though they are as real and detailed as the images on this page. Allow meditative feelings of calm and happiness fill you as you do so.

In time, you will reduce the time you worry about what you don’t have, and increase the time you spend enjoying what you do have, which will encourage the good things to proliferate in your life, and increase your wellbeing, one meditative step at a time.

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Inscribing words that shine

28/10/2015 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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For the longest time, I have been meaning to write about my friend, the lettering artist Caroline Keevil. Caroline has a sensitive understanding of words, and a way of making their highest meaning shine out. Years ago, I asked her to inscribe ‘Dum vivimus vivamus’ – ‘while we live, let us live’ – on a panel, as a gift for my partner Steven. It hangs in our hall today: shining, vibrant, and emboldening. It has become our family motto, an encouraging reminder that even during challenging times, we can choose to live fully in the moment… we can view all of life as an adventure.

A few well chosen words, painted with intuitive choice of style and colour, can make a tremendous difference in anyone’s life. The power of a valuable affirmation is illuminated in such a way that a deeper light seems to shine through the words.

Then, a year ago, Steven asked Caroline to inscribe a haiku that I had written for him to celebrate our 25 years together. You can read about Caroline’s experience of creating this joyful work if you scroll down here. The beautiful piece brings me gratitude for the love, support and laughter that have sustained us through some pretty major adventures.

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Caroline’s work is rich and varied, reflecting the humour, hopes and dreams of her clients. My favourites are full of love and lightness, daring and courage. They have strength and sensitivity in equal measure. For a special present for someone you love,  I can’t think of anything nicer.

Here is one more example from Caroline’s gallery: Love is Enough, by William Morris.

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Bookmark your intention

10/04/2015 at 8:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Not so long ago, I was doing a lot of caring for others, and forgetting to care for myself. Therefore, I was running on empty: constantly tired; crabby. My caring for others had become a monster that went through the motions and denied my loved ones the true energy of compassion.

This went on for several days. Then, one morning, in that dreamy state between sleep and awakening, I saw a bookmark hovering in front of me. You know, the long, thin rectangular sort that you put in a proper card-and-paper book.

“Bookmark your intention for today,” said a wise teacher who was invisibly beside me. And at once I saw words appearing on the bookmark. I understood then that I was choosing a simple, uncomplicated intention for the day. My intention – far shorter than a typical ‘to-do’ list – was to help a particular relative in a specific way, and also to care for myself. That was all. Sure, there would be other activities in the day, but my intention was just those two things.

And with that knowledge, I stopped feeling tired and overwhelmed. The energy of life and compassion returned to me.

Additionally, I understood that each new morning benefits from a fresh bookmark, spelling out an intention for that particular day.

What is your intention for today? Keep it simple. There’s only room for a few well-chosen words on a bookmark.

Goodbye, Dr Nocebo

02/04/2014 at 7:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments
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Blossom believed blog

Easter, three years ago. My teenaged son, Tim, is still convalescing after a critical illness in Florida. We are now back in England, and he has caught a new chest infection. He goes to hospital where he is put on intravenous antibiotics. I stay with him. It’s not really possible to leave Tim on his own, because he has complex learning difficulties and other people don’t understand him.

So we are sitting in the hospital, day after day, and nothing much seems to be happening. Tim’s not getting worse, but he’s not getting better either. Some days I don’t even spot a doctor. Tim is scarcely eating, so I ask to see a nutritionist, but am told that all the paediatric ones are away. After a couple of days, an adult one materializes and gives me some food supplements. I am grateful for those, but surprised that I had to work so hard to get them. Surely this is the sort of thing that Tim’s doctor should pick up on?

To be fair, there are some very good nurses around, and a lovely school teacher. But apart from them, the atmosphere seems lacklustre. I can’t help comparing it with the medical team that saved Tim’s life in Florida. They seemed full of energy and a belief in their skills and medicine. They didn’t think Tim would pull through, but they did everything in their power to help him, and were thrilled when he made it.

Here, in contrast, it feels as though Tim has been somehow written off.

One morning a doctor comes into Tim’s ward. It wouldn’t be fair to give his real name, so I shall call him Doctor Nocebo.

Absolutely, the name is symbolic.

Nocebo effect: when a person in a position of authority, such as a doctor, leads a patient to believe that they are going to get worse. This negatively harnesses the patient’s own unconscious power to alter health outcomes. If the patient believes the doctor, the nocebo prediction can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The opposite of the nocebo effect is the better-known placebo effect: the body’s innate ability to heal itself when it believes it can. Drug trials have to take the placebo effect into account because a high percentage of people get better when they believe in an imaginary medicine.

Dr Nocebo is accompanied by a handful of medical students.

While they look on, he gives Tim a cursory examination. He notices Tim’s physical disabilities: his very pronounced spinal curvature, his tendency to lie still while he’s ill.

Then he turns to me and tells me, in graphic detail, how Tim will get more and more chest infections and they will become more and more frequent. And he will die – the implication is sooner rather than later.

As he talks, I feel faint. There is something inhuman about the way Dr Nocebo is delivering this news. It almost feels as though he is showing off his power in front of his students.

That evening, I go to a small parents’ bedroom near the ward. I get into bed. I lie there, in the dark, and worry about Tim’s slow rate of recovery.

And then it happens. I hear a voice: loudly, insistently, inside my mind.

“Suzanne,” it says. That’s all. But accompanying my name comes all sorts of information. It’s a full conversation, delivered in one word.

I realize straight away that I have fallen prey to the nocebo effect on my son’s behalf. I have been picturing Tim getting more and more poorly. I have believed Doctor Nocebo’s words.

I now have an urgent job to do. I must visualize my son well. And I must keep doing it.

The actual visualization comes with great ease. It is as if someone is leading me through it.

First I picture, in great detail, that I am standing in beautiful countryside. There are fruit trees in blossom all around. In front of me is a healing temple. I walk up 10 steps, and enter the temple. I go to the reception desk, and sign in. I am given a special healing disc to wear around my neck, over my heart.

I walk across the light and airy atrium, to the healing centre of the temple. There, I take a seat. In front of me is a shimmering space. I picture Tim in the space, receiving all the healing he requires. Before my eyes, he becomes well and strong.

I leave the temple, still wearing the disc.

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The next day, Tim’s dad Steven is the lucky one who gets to see Dr Nocebo. The doctor of doom duly gives Steven the same talk he gave me: your son will soon die, etc.

Steven, being the practical one, asks: “Yes, but what about exercise? Won’t that help?”

Steven is fully aware that Tim normally does lots of physiotherapy and yoga. Dr Nocebo just sees a pale and poorly disabled child. He has no idea that when Tim is well he can be pretty active. He can, for example, stand up on one leg, with support, and do the Tree position in yoga.

Take that, Dr Nocebo!

“Oh yes,” said Dr Nocebo, surprised. “Yes, that could help.”

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In my imagination, I return to the temple once a day. Each time, I first go to the reception desk. The healing disc I wear over my heart is checked. Each time it is black and smoky with negative energy. It feels polluted. So I hand it in and receive a new one. And then I go to the healing area in the centre of the temple, and picture Tim strong and well.

In real life, Tim does get better, and we leave hospital. But even at home, whenever I feel the need, I continue to visit the healing temple, in my imagination, on his behalf.

I notice, on my visits, that the healing discs aren’t getting so polluted. Then, on one visit, I am given a special, permanent healing disc to wear. People gather round to congratulate me. I realize that I have graduated to a new level. This new disc is gold and iridescent. It will stay naturally clean of negative pollution. However, I will still get it checked at the reception desk from time to time.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Soon after Tim’s encounter with Dr Nocebo, I realize that there is just one more thing to do: we need to change hospitals. So I arrange for Tim’s care to be transferred to a newer and better hospital. We don’t get to see the new consultant for 18 months though. There is no need. Despite his disabilities, Tim enjoys a period of excellent health.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Unfortunately, Dr Nocebo has many cousins, all equally negative and miserable. So if you happen to encounter one of them, remember this: when Dr (or Mr or Ms) Nocebo talks negative, it’s up to you to visualize positive.

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Who do you choose to be?

28/12/2013 at 6:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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MarshmallowI was waiting to buy some items in a local pharmacy. In front of me were two women. The one who had her purse out was elderly. The other was there to help her. The process was taking a while. I found myself studying the elderly woman. I noticed that her skin was a uniform, pale colour. I noticed that her legs in their tan-coloured tights were thin and lacked muscle tone. Her ankles were swollen. There seemed to be no sense of fire or animation about her. If I focused with my inner eye I could see the English rose she  used to be. But today she was child-like and obedient, simply doing what the carer instructed her to do. The carer used simple language, as if she was talking to a child. The older lady smiled sweetly, took money out of her purse, and passed it to the cashier.

Something about the scene unsettled me. The older lady was being spoken to as if she were simple, or senile. Perhaps she was. That was certainly the assumption. Yet it would have been so easy for the carer to choose her words differently. What if the carer spoke to the older woman as though she were a wise elder, a treasure house of  experiences? Would the older lady have been different as a result? I believe she would have been.

And what of the older lady herself? Was there a moment in her life when she began to say to herself: “I am old. I am not as able as I used to be.”  What if she had never said that – never believed it? What if she had decided to keep herself in tip-top shape with a few gentle stretches and a walk every day? What if she’d developed a taste for nutritious daily smoothies, or loaded her plate with fresh fruit and vegetables? What if she had, as Louise Hay (87 years old) recommends, gazed at herself in the mirror every morning and said: “I really, really love you.”

I read recently that our DNA is altered by our beliefs – i.e. the physical structure of your body and mine is altered by what we believe.  And these beliefs go very deep. An estimated 95% of these beliefs are unconscious. So it’s not really enough to keep telling ourselves to ‘think positive’ (although affirmations can be helpful). That approach is like trying to put a layer of sugar icing over a deep, deep ocean – it just won’t stick.

A better solution, it seems, is to access our unconscious. Luckily, there are many paths to this strange, deep place within the psyche.

Writing a journal, especially a dream journal, is one good path. It’s therapeutic to allow the intuitive insights to emerge, and listen to their wisdom.

Spending regular time in nature is also such a good idea. Most weeks, I spend a morning in the garden. Recently that involved digging up roots – elecampane and marshmallow (pictured above) – then shredding and drying them for herbal teas. The process helped me to connect with rich, dark earth; the stored up, vibrant, healing power of plants; and also my own roots.

And then, of course, there is meditation. The sort I share with others is what I sometimes call ‘Intuitive Meditation’. As a group, we enjoy the deep personal insights that emerge when we are sitting still, focusing on a single word that changes by the week.

But ultimately it’s not about following any method in order to achieve a result. Ultimately, it’s about having fun, and learning. On the deepest level, it’s about letting go of all outdated programming, and choosing to be ourselves.

The healing power of swimming

16/03/2013 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Exercise, Happiness, Inspiration, Uncategorized, Wellbeing | 5 Comments
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WaterA few days ago I went back to my local pool after a long absence. As I glided through the water, reflections of blue sky danced over the surface. I could feel myself relaxing, letting the water support me. And I remembered the joy of swimming.

We know that water can be kind to the human body: whatever the level of fitness, water provides a small but significant resistance that increases the overall benefit.

Less talked about, it does something equally interesting to the psyche: it connects us an earlier, more aquatic stage of life: the womb… and even, more distantly, our evolutionary past.

When I am in water, I feel different. The hard angular surfaces of modern life give way to a fluid world in which I feel safe, held, and simply more inclined to go with the flow. There is something inherently fun about the experience, and I feel zingy and cleansed.

As I swam, I started an internal chant, and this is how it went:

“I am beautiful… I am one… I am beautiful”… I am one…”

Each phrase corresponded to a swimming stroke. When I reached the end of the pool and turned around, the chant had become: “I am beautiful… I am two… I am beautiful… I am two…”

With each new length, the number went up. I was counting lengths, and throwing in an affirmation too.

And then I realized I was actually imagining myself at the age of one, two, and so on. Not only that, I was feeling the dominant emotions of that age, in connection with beauty and self-worth. As I continued to swim up and down the pool, the happy self-belief of young childhood gave way to the huge, wobbly uncertainty of my teens, and a growing feeling of confidence in adulthood. As I remembered sad times, it felt as though the water was washing the pain away.

Effectively, I was healing each stage of my life’s journey with the help of water, and affirmations. My adult self was sending love and support back through the years to all my younger selves who were still there, it seemed to me, in the memories held within my body. The process felt deeply restorative and I recommend it to you.

Next time you’re in the pool, you might like to affirm “I am beautiful… I am one” and so on, all the way through your teens, twenties – all the way up to your present age. You can spread the exercise over more than one swim session, if you choose. But when you have swum a length for every year you’ve lived, you can start all over again with a new word. “I am strong”, and “I am well” both have great healing potential. What affirmation would you choose?

Thankful, optimism, support

01/02/2013 at 5:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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purseThis is a special bag: a beaded evening purse; handed down through the generations of my family. My mother gave it to me one day last December.

I typed out a list of positive, uplifting words, and printed several copies on card, then cut them up and popped them in the bag. During the Solstice, I invited many people, upwards of 80, to take a word out of the bag and keep it with them as guidance for the year ahead.

During the Solstice get-togethers I drew a total of  three words for myself: ‘Thankful’, ‘Optimism’ and ‘Support’. I looked at them, felt their specialness, then put them down and forgot about them.

January came, with snows, then wind and rain. There were winter bugs in my household, which meant I didn’t get to the gym, or go walking, or swimming. I reduced my daily yoga… gradually, imperceptibly, I was putting my wellbeing on hold. This is never a good idea, I know. But still, it happened.

And then, just yesterday, I found my three words once more: ‘Thankful’, ‘Support’ and ‘Optimism’. I hugged them like old friends. How could I have forgotten them?  The truth is, I need those words every day. Each word is a tiny, effective dose of wellbeing.

If you would like me to draw a word for you out of the bag, just ask, and I’ll be happy to send you your own little dose of wellbeing.

This moment now

30/07/2012 at 10:25 am | Posted in Happiness, Meditation, Nature, Uncategorized, Wellbeing | 1 Comment
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This moment now is all we ever have, but it’s enough, because it’s everything.

Have a magical day.

We all have female intuition, whatever our gender

09/01/2012 at 12:04 pm | Posted in Healing, Intuition, Meditation, Wellbeing | 7 Comments
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The female aspect has been covered up, just a little, for centuries. Its time for it to shine.

Somewhere in the world, this very second, a baby girl has just been born. Her father is looking at her, and he is thinking: “Oh, it’s a girl.” A wave of disappointment is flowing through his energy field, and engulfing hers. On some fundamental level the little baby girl is aware of his disappointment. She is already making an adjustment to her own energy field. It is obviously wrong to be a girl, better to be the other, like her father. She must temper her femaleness. She must cover it up, just a little bit. After all, she needs to please this father of hers. She is dependent on him, and her mother.

Versions of this story are happening all over the world, right now. They were happening when you were a baby too… and for centuries before your birth. Does this matter? Big gulp: yes – in so many ways. Intuition is a major part of the story. We need to look at the female aspect of the psyche to find out more.

The yin and yang of it

Fundamentally, the female aspect receives, while the male aspect transmits. The female aspect is passive, while the male aspect is active.  The opposites are famously contained in the Chinese yin yang symbol, where yin is female, and yang is male. To be perfectly clear: we each contain both male and female aspects, whatever our gender, or indeed our sexuality… though clearly the proportions vary in each gender, and even in each individual.

Intuition works in the following way. We formulate a question (male aspect); we receive the answer intuitively (female aspect); we transmit the answer (male aspect).  It’s perfectly possible to be intuitive without the male aspect – to be simply open to the psychic sea that washes all around us; but we can get tired, drained and emerge with no useful answers. We need to formulate a question in order to get an answer, and we may need to transmit the answer to others.

Can you see signs of the compassionate sage (female aspect) in this king?

So intuition requires both female and male aspects, but cannot possibly exist without the female element. That’s basically why the phrase ‘a woman’s intuition’ never goes away. It’s also why professional psychics often say they received their gift from their mother’s mother – through the female line. The truth is though, just as we all have a female aspect, so we all have the ability to intuit.

To return to that baby girl, who’s just been born, somewhere in the world: if she grows up not valuing her female aspect, she will dampen down her intuition… she will devalue it. If, on the other hand, she makes a decision, deep within her, to love and value the girl that she is, she will thrive and so will others in the future who will receive the benefits of her intuitive, female gift.

If we all acknowledged the female aspect in each of us, here are some of the things that would happen:

We would less time talking and more time listening.

We would spend less time doing, and more time being.

We would respond to the many messages of our bodies, and enjoy healthier, happier, and indeed slimmer lives.

We would give our own children a nurturing space in which to grow, with safe boundaries.

We would most likely enjoy a far greater degree of world peace, and the planet’s natural resources would be sympathetically managed; there would be more forests.

Affirmations to restore the balance

Here are two daily affirmations: one for women, and one for men. I suggest that you follow a daily habit of meditating (if you don’t already) – just sitting quietly for 30 minutes. While you do that, repeat the following words silently, in your mind:

If you are female:

(In-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) the girl that I am… (in-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) the woman that I am…

If you are male:

(In-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) my female aspect… (in-breath) I love and accept… (out-breath) my male aspect…

Witness your body’s reaction as you do this: you may find your heart area feels warmer, and more relaxed. You may find the warmth spreading throughout your body. Simply witness what happens. By repeating this exercise daily for a while, you will receive ever more enriching insights and benefits.

You’ll find a quick guide to meditation here.

A note about the pictures: I found these ancient monarchs of Ireland while seeing in the New Year 2012 at Castle Ashford, Co. Mayo, a beautiful place with many layers of history. 

Postscript: In February 2012, the UK’s Daily Telegraph published an investigation which found that abortion of female babies in the UK is sadly commonplace: http://tgr.ph/xXd0ZO

Three Happy Moments Game

23/11/2011 at 8:17 pm | Posted in Happiness, Parenting, Uncategorized, Wellbeing | 1 Comment
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The unexpected fragrance of a flower as you pass by.

This is a great game to share with a child, partner or friend at the end of the day. And it’s guaranteed to make the toughest days seem better…

Simply take it in turns to share a first happy moment that happened during the day; then a second; then a third. Choose anything that comes to mind; they don’t have to follow chronological order. Here are some examples:

* seeing a tree with brightly coloured leaves, with the sun shining through them

* a letter containing good news

* thoughtful praise from a colleague

* sharing a laugh with a friend

* seeing your child’s face light up when you picked them up from school

* a blissful half-hour of meditation

* the unexpected fragrance of flowers as you walked by.

* a healthy work-out at the gym, or a yoga practice.

Over time, you get a very clear idea of the things that make you and your loved ones happy. And the more you focus on those, the more often those happy things happen. This is a win-win game.

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