One of the first things you will learn whilst working with me is the difference between fight, flight and freeze, and rest and relax. The first is a state of reaction and the second is a state of observation. One is a place of fear, frustration and anger, whilst the other is a place of creativity, flow-state and true potential. I help people to create a sense of awareness, of their own breath and to avoid the rabbit-hole of fear, frustration and anger. We work to increase their performance, their happiness and in return, life becomes a beautiful flow of experiences and awareness. It is the contrasting position between life playing your theme song as you bound along from experience to experience or you falling out of control toward the ground, trapped inside your own horror movie. Which experience lifts your mood?
It probably easier for me to give you an example of a real life typical situation that I encounter. A professional athlete came to see me after seeing me speak at a conference and then he followed me on social media. His initial approach was apprehensive, which is really quite typical, as many are unsure if they want to reach out, equally concerned to connect with the meditator who floats in cold water! We met over tea and discussed what was going on. “I have lost my f**ing mojo, in my sport and life too” - that was his opening line. He was struggling to play effectively, struggling to score and struggling to feel part of the team (work and home). So we chat a little more around whats going on in his mind, his body and his soul, how is he feeling. The following symptoms are present:
- poor and broken sleep - a very busy mind
- constant negative emotions. - constant voices of doubt
- tiredness - irritability
- loss of appetite. - decreased sexual libido
How are these symptoms manifesting into his life? He is not performing on the field, a fraction of a second out each time, which is a world away from his peak. In his sport a fraction is the difference between success and failure. He is not performing at home - emotionally, sexually and spiritually he is unavailable. He is slowly losing connection with himself, losing belief in himself and dark thoughts now circle his mind, a perfect storm is brewing. He feels like screaming in order to silence the noise in his head, but the screaming is just more noise, noise on top of noise, nothing is bringing any sense or peace. He wakes constantly throughout the night, compounding his negativity and driving his performance deeper underground. He watches as others perform, as they smile, laugh and move forward. He can’t understand where that feeling has gone to, did he lose something, has he been impacted by something he missed?
At thirty-three years of age he has lived a good life, a strong professional sporting career and survived all the stresses of life to get to this point. As I start to get him to slow the mind down a little, I share my story with him about the water vessel, which I believe we all carry with us in life. We all start off with a near empty vessel of water, the water signifies life's stresses. As we move through life, a little more water is added to our vessel, slowly filling it up. Some of us have a more challenging childhood, have experienced abuse, limited love, challenging parents, tragedy. These events add significant water to our vessels way too early. Many, thankfully, come from happy homes with happy memories and they can step into adult holding significant space within their vessel. This guy had a tough relationship with his mom, a tough period in school and a lack of support around him as a teenager. This gave rise to him pushing harder than most, building up a resistance to pain, which also translated successfully into professional sport. At seventeen he started to see a world ahead of him as a place without anyone to lean on, without support, it was him against the world. Every problem that came along was tackled hard, shoulder straight into it until he beat it to the ground, he then stood up and pushed ahead, always repeating this action.
Remember the water vessel, his was full. “We all need somebody to lean on, if there is a load that you have to bare, that you can’t carry, I am right up the road to share that load” - these are the lyrics from the beautiful song “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers, but they are also a profound statement. If we internalise, hold onto, or resist our emotions, we can continue for some time, but eventually our vessel is full, overflowing and even out of control. When you reach the point that your vessel is overflowing, then even the simplest of decisions become a drama, the simple tasks become tasking and flow-state is replaced with over-flow-state. The beautiful simplicity and reality about water filling your vessel is that you can also choose to empty the water out and create space. You can take time to seek help, find someone who can help you slow down, review why you are in over-flow state and gently start to empty some of the stresses away. As the levels drop, life becomes a calmer space and over-flow slips back into flow - normal service is resumed.
So what did we do? We spent 9 intensive sessions together. We worked on the issues of the past, we reviewed how they impacted his performance in the present and we turned these negative memories from traumatic tremors into normal memories, just like all the other memories of his past, all now gently swimming through the sub-conscience. The fear that holds you back today is always predicated on actual stresses in your past. When we come to terms with the past, the future will cease to be a concern and that only leaves you with one place to operate from - the present. Welcome to flow-state, welcome to a place of high performance, scoring goals and closing deals. It is also a fun, enjoyable and a childlike state, where life is colourful and engaging.
We reconnected him with peak performance, restorative sleep, a calm positive mind and a enjoyable home life. This is available to everyone who is willing to do the work, willing to be introspective, willing to work on themselves and to be vulnerable. We can sustain happiness by putting in the work, but we get what we tolerate, and if you continue to tolerate your current state, then it is yours to keep. The ancient East holds so many secrets to health and happiness, I am a student of these beautiful ideals and beliefs and I love to share them with those who want to find an alternate state of mind.
When you understand that fight, flight and freeze (Sympathetic Nervous System) will debilitate you and that the opposite state of mind (Parasympathetic State) will enhance you, you can also be then trained to avoid the traps. Rather than reacting, imagine learning how to slow down time, stepping into your own slow motion version of your life, simply sidestepping the negative emotions and staying on the path to success. It is all available to all those who want to find it. We can all be more mindful. We can enhance our mindset and meditation can help us all slow down the ever-increasing pace of life.
I was sitting here thinking how to close this blog and listening to Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust … The first two verses are so powerful in the context of my previous assertions I thought I would include them here:
I got my finger on the trigger
But I don't know who to trust
When I look into your eyes
There's just devils and dust
We're a long, long way from home, Bobbie
Home's a long, long way from us
I feel a dirty wind blowing
Devils and dust
I got God on my side
I'm just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear's a powerful thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It'll take your God filled soul
And fill it with devils and dust
If what you do to survive kills the things that you love (your happiness, your connection to you, your joy of life), then it is time to reach out your hand, time to seek help, time to be vulnerable and time to act. You can find local classes on mindfulness, connect to like minded people. There are some wonderful books discussing the connection between Western mindfulness and Buddhist philosophies - if you would like some recommendations, drop me a line. If you want to work with a teacher make sure they have walked the path, worked on themselves and trained with someone of integrity, credibility, compassion and love.
Remember, the show must go on, we must find our strength, our will to succeed and a deeper connection to life.