Oppression

Lake dry

Thirst momentary.

Throat dry

Yet still

I laugh.

Body weak

Yet still

I walk.

Smile

On dry lips.

non-copywrited shining lake

 

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Can a digital app turn my life around?

Why I’m using a digital Android application called Colornote to help me become more organised, less stressed and have more control.

 

Firstly it’s important to know that I am a huge procrastinator. I avoid and forget things. I often catastrophise when faced with something stressful. I can become absent minded and I wonder if this has become a trait of mine.  I have self-diagnosed myself, especially the younger me,  with Attention Deficit Disorder on numerous occasions.  Or at least when I type the symptoms in Google that’s one of the options!

I do know that leaving things to the last minute or missing opportunities isn’t helpful for me.   In the past I tried to write lists on bits of paper and  I even bought a special to do list pad from Wilko’s.  However it didn’t work for me although I know it works for many.  In my case the Wilko’s pad  gradually became submerged under newspapers, paperwork and unopened mail.  I found it six months later and noticed that I was only half way through a to do list.  I had no chance with a scrap of paper!

My organisation skills are one of the first things to slip if my mood becomes low or if I become overly anxious.  This decline in organisation and my ability to manage time effectively can lead to a negative spiraling of my mood.  

Hello digital !

Moving forward a few years and I’m in a slightly different state of mind and my Smartphone is now attached to me like an umbilical cord.  So hey ho, why not try again with digital?  I am trialing Colornote which is an Android App for note taking, to do lists and general organising.  It is free to use,  at least for the basics.

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The verdict

It feels like it’s working and I feel like I need it.  I’ve had a very productive day and I doubt that I would have written a blog post for a while without it, at least not yet.    I also feel very satisfied after I tick things off as I watch a little line appear through the task relegating it to the bottom of the list.

Managing the overwhelming feeling that comes with some of the tasks

Many of us have to manage our mental or emotional health.  We may be less robust in certain areas.   I have to guard against feeling overwhelmed with stress, at least I do presently.   The words to do list immediately send me into a Flight, Fright and Fight response, so I alternate my tasks and soften my approach.   I complete one stressful task and then move on to a comfortable buffer task, I see this as a recovery phase.   For instance a difficult phone call may be followed by ten minutes of guitar practice and even the washing up can feel therapeutic at times.  The app is aesthetically pleasing and user friendly.

It is early days but I’m really hoping that I stick with this app and that it helps to keep me on my toes.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has any  comments, maybe you feel the same way? Maybe you have some tips or questions?  An app you can recommend?  Maybe you feel the opposite ?

Please either leave a message on the blog, send us a tweet or a comment on Facebook. 

Many thanks XXX

Silence at Ampleforth Monastery – doing something out of the ordinary!

I recently did something quite out of the ordinary. I packed my bags and went off to stay in a Monastery to experience two days of silence!  It was a weekend of Mindful Meditation at Ampleforth Monastery in North Yorkshire.

‘Two days of silence, why would you want to do that..?’ some of my friends asked me, quite bemused at the idea.   ‘…because i can feel my head going on overdrive!’

A few year ago I took up Mindfulness Meditation in an attempt to be more present in my life, less anxious, to come out of auto-pilot and have more control over how I respond and react to things and basically to help manage my depression at the time.  It helped. However my practice had since lapsed, and like many of us who have learnt to spot the early warning signs of a dip, I knew it was time to do something about this.  The retreat came at a time when I needed it.   It provided a chance for a change of scenery, a break from my usual routine, an adventure and some meditation – hopefully these things would help give me the lift I was looking for.

When I arrived I was taken aback at the beauty of the Monastery and its surrounding grounds. The monastery filled me with awe as it has such presence. It grandly overlooks a  valley, which contains rugby grounds, trees, nice walks and green hills in the distance. Rumour has it that  ‘Hogwarts,’ the castle in Harry Potter was inspired by Ampleforth, which is also a public school as well as a monastery.  After having a quick look around  I felt absolutely giddy with excitement that this would be my home for the next few days.

Ampleforth

The retreat was both relaxing and challenging. My mind wandered to places I really didn’t want it to!  But hey, that’s what minds do – right?  Part of the practice involves noticing this and bringing the attention back to the focus of the meditation.   I tried to allow thoughts and feelings to come and go, observing them without getting too attached to them, like clouds passing through the sky.  The theory is that this then becomes easier in daily life, and it does help me.

I experienced some beautiful moments whilst at the retreat. In the evening I would look up at the sky and see so many stars twinkling back down at me.  I marvelled at the constellation of Orion, which I rarely see from my home in Leeds. The starry sky was so clear and bright and reminded me of stargazing in India which I had done many years previously when I felt much more carefree. It was a nice reminder.

The monks were very hospitable and welcomed us to drop into their worship, which is open to members of the public and I highly recommend!   Their singing is enchanting, mesmerizing and moving. It was like being on the front row of a free concert!

…and while I was there I felt time stand still just for a little while…a pause

Anyone can visit Ampleforth Monastery (As long as it’s not a special day.)  Members of the public can eat at the tearooms, stroll around the grounds, observe and take part in the worship (you don’t have to be religious – I’m not! ) and buy nice gifts at the shop  – it’s a beautiful place to go!

Resilience

Resilience is something of a constant on-off meditation. I’ve had to think about what resilience means? Being resilient makes me happy: I said recently to a friend:

“There is no such thing as adversity.”

Yes, I live from that more and more, a very resilient thought creating joy for me and others?

“There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way”

The Dalai Lama.

We have to be very mindful, because there is no belief system of absoluteness, in mindfulness, or Buddhism. If you have the neigbours from hell then move; conditions are important, but only as important as you make them.

I was a ‘depressive’/ ‘despairive’/despairer’, although I do not now have disabling or clinical depression, as I have basically recovered, my friends will be relieved to know. This recovery took me many years. In those years I despaired of ever healing and recovering. However apart from good friends, two things really helped me change my life, ‘gainst the ground-hog days we all suffer indeed:

Buddhist practices including meditation; there is contemplation to induce the practice of wisdom-compassion in your life, but at least 5 other practices. However.meditation alone will not change your life.

Therapy and counselling. I count them as the same difference as unlike certain therapist and counsellors, they argue over very little and the prime focus should be the clients needs to heal, not professional intellectual differences!

And my acquaintances too:  I mustn’t forget the latter for a very simple reason: every source of support is necessary to overcome the low self esteem behind mania and depression, or any other form of self-defined distress. Both are Jungian overcompensations for something denied and that something is low self esteem or more graphically self hatred.

I will say again one needs a massive support system to overcome even mild depression, moderate despair or the worst manic and suicidal despair depression.

We need to be extremely mindful, aware and kind to ourselves, and others in order to overcome the worst in ourselves and make the best of the rest of our lives. The only point about being mindfullly-aware is to develop the insights for you to be compassionate yourselves, and to others.

Despair depression and other mental ‘illnesses’ are deeply ground into being-karma, so the medicine must be strong, varied and penetrate to our unconscious depths. This allows integration of horrible and repressed demons, our worst fears and doubts and to overcome the fear of freedom from neurosis. But as I once discovered if we don’t watch it it can kill us. Neurosis and psychosis killed my dad and brother many years ago, and deep mental pain, anguish can make life not worth living. If we fully recognise these realities and talk to our friends, nurture friends who earn trust, then slowly we can recover with consistent practice of recovery techniques, invented or not, over time.

Mindfulness (being in the mo-ment, enjoying life, being efficient, being joyful, but not driven, etc.) also makes one very aware in ones home garden, bus or wherever of one body in a relaxed yoga like fashion. In fact just taking 5 percent reduction of my high speed mania, helped, or adding 5 per cent to lift myself from despair pits worked. Tis the middle way, not foolish ground-hog day overcompensation.

I cannot value therapy/counselling, Buddhist practices, or friends over and above one another. In a sense the telling thing is they are all friends, OK a professional listener was paid by me as an exception, but if you feel it is merely about the money, then be firm with your counsellor or therapist (search this website for more on talking listening treatments counselling and psychotherapy).

The Buddha said ”Do the wholesome. Do the wholesome always.”

Conclusions:  For people with disabling despair, depression anxiety-neurosis, psychosis, or people with distress,  it is important to look after yourself by asking for help (there’s a future blog of this title coming soon), by nurturing self insight/ self help, asking friends and therapists for help, but don’t be exploited by any unethical ‘friends’ or therapists .

Stick with the bad-weather friends, and genuine people – those who will stick by you in thick and thin. And who love you even for your faults, which they see as amusing and delightful and charming. Those who nurture you and love you.

You can recover. Indeed. It is totally true – even the worst cases can transform their lives to contentment happiness and a greater kindness.
You can change.
But you need self insight and to ask for help so sharing, and halving your problems.
You need to stop the Ground-hog Days of unconscious addictive karmas, and if you fall back into despair anxiety and mistakes; that’s OK there’s no such thing as failure only feedback.
Create a massive support network
Be happy,  that’s the only point of living after all, without harming others through anger, drugs, battles, resentments, verbal darts – in fact cultivate the opposite of these weeds of the mind. Please cultivate the lotuses and sunflowers of our lives. For the rest of our lives.

If you want to learn mindfulness for resilience, more humour and more joy and wisdom in your life, please leave a message on this post, or e-mail us at Leeds Wellbeing Web.

or google leeds buddhist centre or mindfulness or buddhist centres leeds u.k.

Enjoy your life, I lick the lid of life.

Milan Buddha Ghosh

Please Don’t Take Things To Heart

Image for Milan's post Nov 2014

We ‘depressives’ are prone to taking what others say too seriously. And if taking what they say too seriously flips us into depression, then it’s just not worth it.

Those who are prone to despair, for whatever reason, I give the short label ‘depressives’; I am not an advocate of psychiatry. It is just a convenient label.

I could call us ‘despairives’ but it doesn’t feel right, so I am stuck with the term depressive. By this term I mean all those who may be doctor-labelled depressives: acute, chronic, bipolar, those ”with some mood disorder”, as I have been labelled.

But back to the main point: it is simply not worth it to take what people say too seriously, whatever it is, if it triggers a period of gloom.

Why do I say this?

Well because most people who say whatever we don’t like, or can’t cope with or who say something hurtful actually mean the opposite. They want to help. The few that don’t should be ignored, because if we take on board their unhelpful, even cruel intentions, then we are fools who suffer periods of doom and gloom. And how many times have we had those dark periods triggered? Is it really worth it. No!

Having said all that, I do know it is not easy to not take offence sometimes. I also know these things people say that trigger our periods of despair can be skilfully ignored more often in future. They can, in fact be totally ignored at some point, when we have enough of the right insights, for our own character. In other words we do not have to suffer so much, and we can never again, be driven by what others say. Our happiness cannot in the end depend on others.

A part of these two latter healthier responses, not reactions of despair, is to own our part in the matter. It takes two to tango, karmically, and we don’t have to take the bait by swallowing whole, or in part, what others say. If we can own how we take offence, whether it is meant or not, we can do the opposite. We can respond in a way that is healthy, whether people mean offence or not, and most don’t! For instance, doctors: GP or psychiatrists may not have the understandings or sayings that help me, but I take their good intentions, and skilfully sidestep the un-useful content.

I have sidestepped the boulder of such triggers more and more over the years, because otherwise I realise I would have wasted more time in despair-land.

In tandem with this I have focussed more on the friends who can and do help me more, and persisted more in communicating with them, however difficult that enterprise of deep communication may be. I hope you will do this and thus be kinder to yourselves, and have more well-being in your life.

(See also “For Better Mental Health, Cultivate Friendship” on this blog)

Milan Buddha Ghosh

Leeds with hot weather, good for wellbeing? Or is it a double edged sword – take our poll!

It’s fabulous weather here in Leeds at the moment!  How does it affect your sense of wellbeing? Take our poll! 


leedsweatherjuly2013This amazingly beautiful weather can be a godsend but it can also act as a trigger and leave me feeling that I should be living a different life…

Over the last few days I have had an increased sense of relaxation and generally felt healthier and happier.   I’ve been eating more fruit and salads and my energy has increased.  I’ve been trying to harness this increase in energy and be more active – which has involved undertaking  a new morning ritual of a ‘Mini-run’  along with a spot of yoga, my own brand ( a few stretches in the flat! ).

However sunny days have also been known to trigger me into thinking that I should have my life more on track, more organised, more settled – just somehow different ! Perhaps perfect?  These thoughts come with the sense that if things were different that I could embrace the day in technicolor . In the past I have felt this acutely. A sunny day can sometimes bring sadness to the forefront.

Here’s a little poll to take part in, not to be taken too seriously – just a little bit of fun, and food for thought! 

Embracing the present regardless of problems… 

Living in the present, is something I strive for and practicing Mindfulness has helped me with this.  Noticing a beautiful flower, taking time to appreciate an exquisite fragrance and feeling the warm breeze on my skin can really help me appreciate the moment! (I even attempted wearing shorts yesterday, only to the nearby post box I hasten to add.)

Seasonal changes do influence my mood, being aware of this helps me remain objective and keeping a sense of stability is something I aim for.  I must admit I find this a much easier task in the sunnier months.  However at times, especially my younger self – has had the tendency to be a little bit too hyper with too much sun.  But  I do love the outdoor life  which seems so much easier to access in the sunshine.  I also adore the increased sense of community that comes with the summer months.

Vicky

The three R’s

…Reading, Writing and Arithmetic have always been and still are highly valued. Reading and writing have been pleasurable and therapeutic for me for many years. Contributors to Leeds Wellbeing Web and other re-blogs posted on the site, show this to be the case for many who have experienced mental illness.

Reading Dorothy Rowe’s work was one of the biggest factors in my recovery. I was lucky enough to attend events where she spoke, and I found her to be as clear, warm, compassionate and non-jargonistic in person as she appeared to be in her writing. Despite having physical health problems of long standing, following her talks she willingly engaged with individuals from the audience…even little ol’ me. I admired the way she coped with those in the audience, keen to identify themselves as mental health professionals, in opposition to her approach, she had answered them calmly and with clarity. Continue reading