A Mindful New Year…..

new yearWell we are a week into 2016, so we thought we would repost a great piece by our own mindfulness expert, Miranda Bevis. How many of us are still keeping to those new year’s resolutions? Should we even be trying – adding additional pressures to our already stressful days? 

In days gone by, as the old year departed, I would enthusiastically construct a huge list of New Year’s Resolutions. This was it! I was at last going to get in control! Become thin and fit and popular, well read, up to date with current affairs and so, so organized. And for the first few days, I’d get up early, go for a run, read improving books and eat improving food. Hoover under the sofa, tidy my sock drawer and open brown envelopes immediately.

If I’d managed to carry all these good intentions through, by now I would be lean and fit, living a life that worked like clockwork, fluent in a number of foreign languages, with an In tray that was always empty, and an Out smugly full. But happier? I’m not so sure.

Anyway, not surprisingly, I rarely got beyond week one with any of them; certainly they never made it to February. Very quickly, exhaustion, apathy and chocolate would take over, and I would be back where I started.

Why do we do this? I suspect it’s got something to do with wanting getting to grips with life, and to feel more in control. Perhaps coming from a feeling of not really being in control.

And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve aspects of our lives, perhaps we need to hold on to these goals lightly, and understand that even if we achieved them, it wouldn’t necessarily make us happy or help us to navigate the pitfalls of life.

The truth is that we just aren’t fully in control of our lives. Difficult things are always going to happen. Mindfulness offers the possibility of being “in control of not being in control”. It helps us embrace both the pleasant and the unpleasant, the joys and the tragedies of life with equanimity. It’s not about trying to change things, but simply learning to be OK with being exactly where we are.

So these days, there’s only one item on the list, and that is to do as much Mindfulness as I possibly can. Over and over to come back to the present, to the simple breath, to an awareness of what I’m doing , while I’m doing it.

And strangely, the more I practice, I find that some of the things on the original list begin to come more naturally. By developing a kindly awareness towards myself, it becomes much easier to give myself what I truly need.

Still not great with brown envelopes though.

Miranda Bevis Mindfulness GroupsMiranda is offering mindfulness taster sessions at The Terrace, Taunton in January 2016:


Taster Sessions:
Tuesday January 12th 6.30- 8.00pm
Wednesday January 13th 9.30- 11.00am
Cost £5

Eight week Mindfulness Courses
Starting Tuesday January 26th 6.30- 8.45pm
Starting Wednesday January 27th 9.15- 11.30am

Optional half day for both courses: Sunday 6th March See the Events page of The Terrace website for full details.

 

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Competition time! Win a free massage with Sarah Sellick…

competitionOur very first proper competition at The Terrace!! We are genuinely giving away a fabulous one hour massage with our new therapist Sarah Sellick. Sarah offers relaxation and remedial/deep tissue massage  here in Taunton and there is really no catch.

Sarah has run a successful business offering both relaxing and sports massage and reflexology from her home in Milverton since 2010, having originally studied under a Balinese master. She returned to live in UK where she continued with her studies to achieve her ITEC Level 3 Diploma in Massage and also learned the art of Reflexology.

She is currently offering a half hour massage at the special introductory price of £20 until the 14th November 2015, but if you win this prize you will have the treat of a full hour worth £45!

We are experimenting with Rafflecopter as a way to ensure the competition is run fairly, so follow the link below to find out how you can enter safely and easily (WordPress blogs don’t let us post the widget thing, but the link is quite safe). It is possible to enter more than once so increase your chances by taking up all the options. We would be really grateful if you could like our Facebook page and follow us on twitter, but you won’t get stuck on some spammy mailing list or anything. The closing date is 12am on the 27th October 2015.

The Terrace Competition  – win a free massage

We would also love to know which therapies you would like us to write more about on this blog, so one of the options is to comment on this post with any ideas you have for blog posts. Our post on the Bowen technique is one of our most popular ever for example.

So – do give it a go. We always love to hear from our followers and are happy to answer any questions you  might have.

Find out more about Sarah on our website at The Terrace, Taunton

Diet, health and well-being – it isn’t all about the nanny state….

3d61aa7a6c15e14210176777221f0045It is so easy to feel confused by all the health information in the press. Have you become almost blind to all the warnings or recommendations about what we should or shouldn’t eat, and the effect certain foods have on our health? Why, despite all the advice, and the threats, does Britain continue growing ever more overweight? Is it because we don’t like being ‘told’ to limit our intake by the government or NHS? Is it the pressure of advertising and the availability of so much choice?

We aren’t pious or sanctimonious about food here at The Terrace, but we do like to promote a healthy lifestyle that considers both mind and body – what we eat can affect our mood as well as our weight. To deprive ourselves of certain nutrients is as bad as over indulging in others (for example, there is some evidence that the B vitamins and magnesium have been shown to support our mental health) and we know that getting the balance between diet and exercise can seem like a nightmare. But it is so important to our overall well-being to find something that suits us, and ensures we don’t carry on until our physical health deteriorates and our lives are shortened.

b8422f4b-e7ef-4646-965c-25417b36ae87-620x372Sadly, the news today highlighted what can happen when we take things to extremes. Britain’s heaviest man, Carl Thompson, has died aged just 33. He weighed 65 stone and had been housebound for more than a year. It took a small crane and all the emergency services to remove his body from his flat, where he was cared for by visiting NHS carers. He has already had five heart attacks, and had been told he needed to lose 45 stone or die. He had cut down on his 10,000 calorie a day intake but was still existing on takeaways to the last. Reports told of how he had developed a difficult relationship with food from the age of three, when he used to raid kitchen cupboards, but no one had been able to find the root cause of what was, of course, a serious eating disorder.

Now we would not suggest our favourite recipe for delicious nettle soup or tabbouleh salad, or any other healthy eating plan should have been forced upon Carl. At some point he lost control of his eating and despite being increasingly disabled by his weight he could not stop. It is desperately sad, and we have to hope he got all the support available.  However, for most of us it is not too late to gradually change the way we think about food. Therapy can help, as can the support of peers who experience the same issues. A major breakthrough can take place when someone notices how their diet can affect their mood. The mental health charity Mind has a wonderful page that goes into diet and mood in a very accessible way, as does the Mental Health Foundation. They offer recipes, talk about  about eating the right fats (not no fat), drinking plenty of water and ensuring you take in protein as well as your five a day. Do take a look and see what we mean. No fuss, no ticking off and no draconian measures required.

If you do want to see  the sort of recipes we enjoy eating, with the ingredients we know can lift mood and aid digestion, take a look at our Pinterest page devoted to healthy foods. You don’t have to go all out for vegetarian foods, or drop things you enjoy completely but there is a world of delicious stuff out there many of us know little about. It may feel annoying to be told what to eat by the government, or doctors; but seeing Carl, and the horrors of his weight gain, isn’t it worth biting your lip and just taking those first few steps to get out of a cycle that can affect both mind and body?

Guest post: A Little Play (dough) Goes a Long Way

imagesHere at the The Terrace we are always keen to promote ways to relieve stress and aid our general feeling of well-being. Play therapy is something we usually think of in relation to supporting vulnerable children, but in this guest post, written today by Sarah Cruickshank, we can see there is value in play for adults too. Her suggestions are mindful, her practice thoughtful, yet not overthought. It reminds us of the new ‘craze’ for adult colouring in – something French women in particular have done for years to relieve stress and take the mind on flights of fancy, offering release from tension and refreshing the spirit…

Here I am sharing something that makes me happy and relaxes me and as I am (almost) 47 years old it’s going to be something unexpected –  playdough. Not just playing with it, but making it and then playing with it.

I love thinking about what colour it should be (what season are we in, how am I feeling today, what might I make with it?) How it should smell (do I just want the smell of dough or do I want to add lemon or peppermint or lavender?) Am I feeling sparkly enough to add glitter? Do I want to make two different colours and explore mixing them together?

Playing with playdough is very much about the process and not the end product. Sometimes I make intricate little flowers or quite detailed little sculptures, and sometimes I just roll and flatten and make worms. I really like plaiting two different colours together and then making balls and sausages again and again to watch the colours marble and eventually blend together to create a third colour. Sometimes I see how I can make a blob by pressing it between my finger and thumb again and again until I can almost see through it (like perfect filo pastry).

I never keep my creations, I always crush them when I’ve finished, the end product doesn’t really matter, it’s just the feeling of the dough and exploring where my mind and my hands take me on a particular day.

The great thing about playdough is that you have to take your time with it, you have to knead it and get it nice and warm and you can’t work with too big a bit at a time because otherwise it just doesn’t get to that nice warm, flexible consistency you need to really be able to work it.

I recently discovered the perfect recipe, which I share with you here. Cheap ingredients are the best:

1 cup flour

½ cup salt

2 tablespoons cream of tartar

1 tablespoon oil

1 Cup boiling water

1 tablespoon poster paint (you can use food colouring but paint gives a much more vibrant colour)

flavourings (lemon, peppermint essence, etc)

Glitter

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the liquid ingredients and mix well with a spoon. It will look really sloppy to start with, but keep going and it will magically turn into a ball in the bowl.

Knead the mixture well.

Play with it to your heart’s content.

The mixture will keep for a few days in an airtight container of a sealed plastic bag.

You don’t necessarily need a purpose in mind when you start, just play and see where the experience takes you. If you really find yourself wanting to keep something you’ve made, the dough will dry out quite quickly, but it will be brittle.

Most important of all… Have fun!

Sarah

Sarah

Our thanks to Sarah, a Nursery Practitioner and Freelance Writer on family and well-being . Find out more at her website http://www.alifemorelived.co.uk/.

On transformation and facing your fears – the role of mindfulness on the journey to peace

Butterfly metamorphosisMindfulness is something we are deeply committed to here at The Terrace, and have offered a number of blog posts highlighting the value of poetry in the promotion of stillness and being present in the moment.

So when we came across the poem reproduced here today, we just had to share it. Called Unconditional, it is by Jennifer Paine Welwood, a poet and therapist from California who works ‘to bring together psychological and spiritual work in the service of realizing and embodying our essential nature’. Find out more about her on her website.

When embarking on therapy of any kind there is a natural nervousness about the journey ahead. What feelings will surface? How do I acknowledge and deal with them? Will I be changed by the experience and if so how? As you embrace the enquiry into your deepest fears however, you may find the ‘jewels’ Jennifer describes in the poem and by doing so find real peace.

Unconditional

Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I gain the embrace of the universe;
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.
Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant jewel-like essence.
I bow to the one who has made it so,
Who has crafted this Master Game;
To play it is purest delight –
To honor its form, true devotion.

Sometimes it is really scary to be faced with feelings long suppressed, but to be transformed in a positive way is the aim of all therapy. Being mindful, and living in the present moment does not mean you don’t need the courage to face difficult issues, but as the poet suggests here, by doing so you may find a nugget of beauty in even the toughest challenge. Many of the inspirational quotes one sees on social media are based on this idea – that facing fears transforms them, and might transform you….

Miranda Bevis is offering mindfulness taster sessions at The Terrace on Tues 21st April 6.30pm – 8pm or
Weds 22nd April 9.30am – 11am and a new 8 week course starts Tues 5th May 6.30pm-8.45pm or from Weds 6th May 9.15am – 11.30am. Call us on 01823 338968 or see our website for more details.

More mindfulness practice: Jumping in puddles – cultivating a ‘beginner’s mind’

imagesMany of you will have read our mindfulness posts in the past, perhaps learning some tips to try, or some poetry to focus on as you work to stay in the present moment. It isn’t always easy to make the necessary space and time in our busy lives, but the medical profession has at last recognised that for many, the ever-increasing pace of 21st century life is impossible to maintain.

Our own Miranda Bevis, an expert mindfulness practitioner, runs regular workshops and courses to support anyone wanting to learn mindfulness techniques. She has also written widely on the subject, and she has shared the following piece with us. I found it deeply moving, remembering watching my own children experience the joy of something simple for the first time, and wanting to enjoy that feeling over and over again. As adults, Miranda points out, we rarely do this and. perhaps, need to get in touch with our inner child just a little more often……

When my kids were little, they were drawn, like magnets, to puddles. Many a walk ground to a halt as a puddle had to be inspected. Stood in. Jumped up and down in. Delighted in. But not just one puddle. Every single one they came across. Oblivious of cold and wind, for them, each puddle was a fresh and new excitement, and needed to be explored and reveled in.

At first I could delight in their happiness, their squeals of joy. But inevitably, my mind would stray and become bored. How many times do we have to do this? We’ve got to get on, let’s find some thing new. I’m afraid there were times when I gritted my teeth in frustration,

Small children are very good at being present. They can easily find magic in the mundane, and become completely absorbed in each moment. As we grow up, we tend to lose this. It’s easy to become bored and cynical. “Seen one, seen them all”. We want to move on and find new distractions. So, as I sit now, looking at my rain washed spring garden, at first sight, I am aware it’s beautiful. Of course it doesn’t change, after one minute, five minutes, ten minutes. But what can change is the way I perceive it. I might only appreciate the beauty for an instant, before I get used to it, and become distracted. Instead of staying with the experience of my senses, thoughts to crowd in. Of things that need doing, of plans for the garden. And masses of non-garden related thoughts. The garden, and it’s beauty “disappear” from my awareness.

What we aim to do in mindfulness, is to cultivate something called a “beginner’s mind”. That means learning to see things as if this was the first time we’d ever noticed them. You can practice it on anything; perhaps try with a flower. As best you can, let go of thoughts about the flower, and keep on coming back, over and over, to the experience of your eyes. Let go of any thoughts about being bored and wanting to move on to something else. Rather, keep on “refreshing the screen”… this flower, and this flower, and this flower, so that, in each instant there is a new and wonderful flower in front of you. Or go and splash in puddles if you must!

Miranda Bevis - 226x316 (1 of 1)Dr Miranda Bevis’s original training was in medicine, and she worked as a GP in Somerset, with a special interest in psychological problems. She gained a diploma in Psychodynamic Counselling, and now works as a senior counsellor and EMDR practitioner at the Somerset Counselling Centre in Taunton. She is also a British Wheel of Yoga teacher.

 

It’s official – hugging a tree is good for your health…..

CLF - Olmstead ParksHere at The Terrace we are always keen to promote green business and are committed to being as environmentally aware as possible. We monitor our carbon footprint and source any products we use from ethically sound companies.

But being environmentally aware is about more than the business. It is, literally, at the root of what we do and how we seek to support the well being of our clients. We regularly run mindfulness taster sessions and longer courses and other therapies are based on a stillness and calm that takes us deep within our selves.

So it was with great interest that we read yesterday that researchers at the University of Exeter have found that those living in parts of London populated with a greater number of trees take fewer antidepressants than those who survive away from leafy lined roads and parkland.

It was a simple piece of analysis – data was gathered on the number of antidepressant prescriptions issued across London in 2009-2010 and then compared to the number of trees on the streets in the same area.The places with higher tree densities had lower prescription rates and although some of this might be explained by the greater affluence of some of these areas, and the reduction in respiratory illness in areas where pollution is filtered via the greenery, there is little doubt that being in touch with the seasons and with nature through the life cycle of the trees has a calming influence.

This news reminded us of a wonderful poem by Mary Oliver. Called In Blackwater Woods the rich imagery the poet uses takes the trees and turns them into a life force, energising and reminding us of the power of nature to heal. It also, I think, stresses the limits of the mortal life and the connection we have with the natural cycle of the world we are lucky enough to live in.

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go, to let it go.

There is a sense here of literally clinging to the tree trunks as pillars of light and life. What do trees mean to you? Do you notice them as part of the landscape, or see in them the spirit of life itself? They are, after all, our very breath…..