Finding Freedom and Manifesting Miracles (Mind Body Spirit Festival article)

I was always fascinated by the subject of creating our reality. Despite being a grounded and scientific person by nature, there was something about those timeless stories such as Aladdin which spoke to me – the clear-minded, innocent archetype, whose wishes come true as if by magic. There’s a part of us all that lights up with these stories, that inner child aspect that never really went away. I don’t feel it was a coincidence that my first ever job was reviewing Aladdin for a newspaper – and now, well, here I am.

Despite so many books written on the subject of creating reality and the Law of Attraction and things like that, the miracles and manifestations that were promised were still quite rare. I mean the big ones, on subjects that actually matter to us; like finding your soulmate, becoming wealthy, spontaneous miracle healing – rather than just finding a 50p coin or feather on the pavement every now and then. Through my work, I’ve met a lot of people trying to follow these varied philosophies and I have also got to know several of the authors writing these books. I wasn’t impressed. Their results haven’t lived up to the hype and I think you know what I’m talking about.

Different approaches have come and gone like fads and people often end up feeling more miserable than before they had discovered these ideas! We all want the miracles instantly which is why the “three easy step” or quick fix approach to spirituality sell so well but rarely work. The human being is prone to procrastination and, dare I say, laziness at times.

So, first of all, we must do the work of clearing the sometimes ferocious storms of the overthinking mind. Lighthouse, my previous book and workshop series, was about the clearing required to make way for the next step.

As much as we’d all love to we can’t always jump to success in an instant. Practice and preparation is always needed. There was work to be done.

This next stage was a whole miracle in itself. I had gone through true emotional turmoil and I had come out the other end. It was a joy to help others navigate through the same “storms of the mind”. Of course, my journey still continues in this area.

First steps

Doing what I loved: I’ve facilitated hundreds of groups and talks, week in week out, demonstrating the effectiveness of my teachings. Along the way I attracted some very well known, house-hold name clients through word of mouth from others that I’ve helped. My work has been known as one of the best-kept success secrets amongst certain circles. I’ve had huge success in helping people to find peace wherever they are by helping them to realise that it is ok to not feel ok. I wrote all about this topic in my last book Lighthouse, but now there is more for me to do.

For the first time in a workshop setting I will be sharing my newest and most powerful process at the Mind Body Spirit Festival in my workshop – “Success with personal development approaches for a life that works”.

Authors like Neville Goddard appealed to me. There was something magical about his teachings and yet I couldn’t get his visualisation to work in the grand way that it had worked for him. Great teachers that I had met had predicted that I would – but as yet, it wasn’t happening. I had met very few people who it was working for. Something was up and I was determined to find out what that was.

…Then the miracles.

First, the process appeared. There is was in right front of me written on paper. I can hardly remember writing it down but there it was, written after returning from a retreat in Glastonbury that I was facilitating which had been particularly full of insights.

A few weeks after that a significant manifestation happened. In fact it was one of those huge manifestations that you read about and wonder if it’s really possible. But here it was, right in front of me, and in my life – hot-on-the-heels of the process I’d just developed and practiced daily. This was the evidence I was looking for.

So here I am, eager to share this process with you and I am so excited about the incredible peace of mind you’ll fine and that improvements that will occur in all areas of your life.

This “secret” process is what I will be sharing with you in my workshop. I’m still working on it and don’t plan to share it in its full form until the workshop later this year. I’ll see you there.

Michael presents this workshop at the BIRMINGHAM MIND BODY SPIRIT FESTIVAL on Friday November 2nd . To book your place click here.

What really works to change your life (Mind Body Spirit Festival article)

Bumper sticker spirituality

Every day hundreds of new “bumper stickers” pop up on Facebook or Instagram all about how to be happy and how to live your best life. They are often a list of pointers or steps, and the steps usually go something like this:

Be positive. Love yourself. Forgive everyone. Let go. Don’t worry. Be kind. Don’t judge. Accept yourself. Believe in yourself. Be present. The list goes on, followed by endless suggestions of how to do this.

All nice ideas but this approach isn’t working. There’s more self-help information out there than ever before – and yet people are not feeling better. They are not manifesting their dream lives. In fact, these messages tend to make people feel worse. I should know, having led over 600 workshops to-date, and worked with thousands of people in the process.

I’m not saying these approaches don’t mean well. But these lists just get people to try and force themselves into feeling a different way to how they feel – a resistance against where they are – and what you resist, persists. In other words, when you are told to feel a different way to how you are feeling, you end up more anchored-into the storm of unpleasant thoughts and emotions. The more you try to change them the worse you feel. It’s just yet more self-criticism – telling yourself you’re not doing it right – that if you don’t do what this list says, you’re failing in some way. This kind of spiritual perfectionism can make people stress out even more, wondering what’s wrong with them that they can’t seem to get to grips with living the seemingly simple teachings they’ve just read.

“Positive thinking” pressure

Some books or philosophies go even further – telling people that negative thinking is bad, wrong or even dangerous; that it can somehow get you to attract the negativity you’re focused on. Before they felt worried. Now they feel worried and frightened about what their worry may do to them. In many ways warning people of the power of thought is the worst thing you can tell someone when they are experiencing troubles – because it gets people to “try not to think negative thoughts” which makes them think even more negative thoughts. Try to not think of the Eiffel tower, and you’ll see what I mean.

But this idea that mind chatter thinking can powerfully create bad things is a false premise that can dispelled in an instant: There are people who worry every day of their lives, for example those on a steady diet of miserable news media… and nothing much happens to them. In the same way, there are others who think about fast cars and mansions and money. Again, nothing much happens to them. Thinking is not the power. Thinking, in fact, gets you nowhere. There’s something else to tap into when creating our reality. But more on that later, at my workshop Success with the Law of Attraction happening this November in Birmingham.

Self-acceptance – not self-improvement

“Become as little children” one of the great spiritual masters said. And yet children are not masters of positive thinking or personal development. They don’t follow those steps. Not at all. They are way beyond this approach: they realise the truth; that they are already personally developed. They don’t separate their thoughts and emotions into “positive” and “negative”,  they just go with the flow of wherever they are. As a result, they are masters of being themselves. This is the teaching to follow, rather than that never-ending quest to be better, to do things better, to be kinder, more loving, more positive, more present – which is well-intentioned but often self-hatred in disguise (and what so many personal development philosophies and teachers actually teach).

Teaching what works

I used to live in a state of fear and anxiety. My personal relationships weren’t working so well. I couldn’t escape from the emotional rollercoaster. For those of your who experience intense emotions, you know what I’m talking about. No amount of affirmations or special New Age healing technique worked for me. Through my job as a journalist, I got to meet, interview and in some cases get to know well some of the biggest at-the-time names in self-help. Some of them became good friends and remain friends. I was searching for a way to get out of my panic attacks, my depression, my overthinking… but even with all of this support around me, nothing was happening.

Through my work today, I’ve seen success in virtually every area of life. Body image, anxiety and depression. People feeling better about themselves. And yes, people manifesting money, fast cars and finding their soulmate. In my workshop on Friday 2nd November, I’ll be sharing something that really does work.

After speaking on-stage about finding freedom from fear and anxiety, I will be facilitating the main workshop – Success with the Law of Attraction – and it’s going to be be “next level”. It’s about dealing with those blocks or patterns that are in the way to creating the life we want. In May, for the first time I presented the Freedom Process™ in a sold-out workshop at the Mind Body Spirit festival in London. I was invited back to share it again in Birmingham. Book your tickets here: www.mindbodyspirit.co.uk/birmingham/workshops/michael-james/success-with-the-law-of-attraction

How to navigate your emotional storms (from Cygnus Review)

lighthouseblogYou know those intense emotional moments – like when you are feeling anxious or afraid about something, or pessimistic about the news, or dealing with a relationship issue – where so many approaches just don’t help you? Well that’s why I wrote my new book Lighthouse: Navigate the emotional storms of life and discover the power within you.

Three easy steps to a better life?

Be happy. Visualise what you want (not what you don’t want). Love yourself. Forgive everyone. “Just let go”. It all sounds good in theory – but these one-liners don’t help when you are in the middle of dealing with emotional storms. Trying to follow those “three steps” to create your life is challenging at the best of times but when swept up in a storm of difficult emotions and overthinking – it’s near impossible. On top of this, when you find yourself unable to follow those ideas you’ve read about, you pile on the self-hatred because “you can’t even do what the books say”.

In my own life, self development had become just another battering ram to use on myself as a way to say that “I’m just not good enough”. I felt bad… and then these books made me feel bad about feeling bad, warning me that if I didn’t feel good quickly then I’d manifest more unpleasantness.

The evolution of Life

This questionable teachings that say that you “shouldn’t be negative” only make people more negative, because what you resist, persists. Just like resistance training at the gym – the negative tension of thought has in fact has many benefits. In the theory of evolution, a species evolves through challenges. If you get rid of the challenge, you get rid of the potential for improvement. It’s the same with life. And so it’s less about trying to avoid the negative thinking or feeling states – which doesn’t work anyway –  and more about working with them. It’s more about gaining the benefits they are bringing to you.

You’re not the only one who has been struggling with applying the self-help theory you’ve read about. After facilitating well over 600 groups and workshops at venues as diverse as Mind Body Spirit Festival, HMP Brixton and The Healing Trust –  and meeting thousands of people from all walks of life there, I can tell you that the same struggles go on with person after person – and many of those steps don’t even work for the authors of those books. So you can be easier on yourself. Relax. And read on.

Relaxing out of mind chatter – and into your ideal life

You can’t think your way to what you want, despite how many times certain books say that you can. All the good in life comes when you sweep your mind clear of thoughts. That’s when the miracles of life start to happen. That’s when you can begin to discover the power within you.

My approach in this book is how to not think; how to relax- because thinking, I’ve found, is not the route to solutions – but the problem itself. Thoughts evolve us, yes – but then we want to find a way to step aside from thoughts, which become the biggest adversary we face. It’s about what to do when you’re in a storm of mind chatter… and then how to step aside from this.

What to do depends on your current mood

What mood you are in, right now, depends on what to do. For example trying to visualise a dream life doesn’t make you feel good and doesn’t have power, when you are mired in unhappiness. Trying to feel confident when you are in a strong current of self-criticism is useless too, and often makes people feel worse. In my book, there are 3 sections: Feeling Low, Feeling Uninspired and Feeling Good. It’s an open-at-random practical section specifically designed to soothe you no matter where you are, what’s going on or how you are feeling – and it works.

People who have attended my events (a weekly group in London’s Covent Garden that has been going for eight years, and numerous workshops around the country) have found a way to improve the quality of their lives using the easy-to-use techniques you will read about here. And perhaps best of all, people have found a way to more often let loose of that “inner critic” mind chatter and discover that sense of inner peace within, fully enjoying life at a whole new level.

Finding Love

romantic relationships“Where is my soulmate and how do I meet him/her?” is something I hear from people often. I have taught workshops focused on romantic relationships and what I discovered is that I couldn’t give people a roadmap to meet “the One” but what I could do is get them into that space where they feel better about themselves and their lives – and good things unfold as a result – including meeting a significant partner. And in the meantime – because these things happen in their own perfect time – I could help people enjoy their lives.

I remember presenting at a spiritual event sometime ago and overhearing one of those psychic readers responding to an anxious client, who kept on asking when she was going to meet her soulmate. His answer was: “You’ll meet him when you’ll meet him – that’s all I can say”. The client looked exasperated and no doubt wanted her money back, but I absolutely agree with this piece of common-sense advice. In fact it’s one of the most accurate answers to this question I’ve heard.

“You find love when you are not looking for it” says the popular phrase. And it’s true – if you are desperately searching for something, you can’t find what you’re looking for. It’s like when you look for lost keys – they’re nowhere – and then you stop looking or find a spare set and they show up, right in front of you. You find what you’re looking for when you are doing something else or have found another alternative; when you stop searching or longing or needing – you stop overthinking, in other words. It’s during these times of “flow” that good things tend to happen; including so-called chance meetings with a romantic partner.

Online and offline dating

There are more ways to look for love than ever before in recent history – and yet it sometimes seems that people are more single than ever before. Why is this? Because the relentless searching keeps people in their lower level mind where there are no results. You find what you’re after when you’re in your flow and getting on with your life, taking up a new interest etc.

I know people who have joined dozens of online dating sites, gone out to networking groups several times a week – and nothing. I’ve met people who stay in all the time – and nothing. I’ve also met people who stay in all the time and meet someone on that one time they do decide to socialise – and I’ve also met people who have met their partner online. So it’s not about location – it’s not about what you do or don’t do. It’s feeling – and timing. Once you relax and feel good, you will know if your path is joining a social group or a sports team for example, or finding a new pastime and socialising more.  To accomplish this, you want to do something to ease your desperation (if that’s where you are on the subject). But firstly you want to be gentle with yourself. It’s ok to feel the way you feel (we will get to that further on in this article).

Love happens when it happens

In those great epic love stories I know of, the couple “just met”. They can’t tell you exactly how or give you a secret formula – they met seemingly randomly in a way they couldn’t have planned. There are books written out there that try to get you to do manifest love like some sort of recipe – but I’ve not heard much success from that. Sure, you may be guided to do certain things from within. But following someone else’s personal recipe in one of those books is like following someone else’s SATNAV. It won’t help, and it may get you feeling more lost.

For example, if I told you all about the couple I know through my workshops who met at 12am in Tesco –  then some people would start hanging around in Tesco in the middle of the night. That’s not the point. It has nothing to do with a supermarket or any place or time. Simply, these two were individually called there, through intuition, and they met. You will be called, too. 

Being ok with where you are

The vast majority of modern music is about pain in relationships. Dating can be a battlefield of overthinking and emotions for people – and that’s why the music sells; as so many people relate to these feelings. Art and literature stretching back thousands of years from all cultures show the high intensity; the longing; the loneliness and the frustrations brought about by the search for intimate relationships.

So there’s no need to be ashamed about feeling low on the subject of love relationships, if that’s how you are feeling –  because clearly most people have had that experience. Romantic relationships can be a challenge, and you’re not the only one feeling this way. Right now in this moment, hundreds of thousands of people if not more are feeling this way too. You are not alone. Nothing has gone wrong.

A blessing in disguise

It may be frustrating to know that you can’t of yourself micromanage things to “make love happen” for you. But it’s also a relief. It’s an opportunity to surrender and to trust Life. It’s an opportunity to get on with other things. It’s an opportunity to learn about yourself and to be gentle with yourself. It’s an opportunity to meditate more and listen within rather than listening to that relentless parade of thoughts that lead you nowhere. And perhaps most of all, it’s an opportunity to learn how to love yourself more – which will help you in all areas of life, including with your relationship when it arrives at the perfect time.

See Michael at a live event: www.michaeljames.be/events/

Get the book: Lighthouse: Navigate the emotional storms of life and discover the power within you.

LIGHTHOUSE IN A STORM: Call back your power in challenging times

lighthouse3“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ― Viktor.E. Frankl

Sometimes the news media can be overwhelming. And when we hear about certain events, it seems there is little we can do, which can make us feel powerless. But these situations bring blessings in disguise – because they force us to instead go within and discover the source of our real power to make changes – the power within.

We are always guided from within. Behind the static-in-the-radio of thoughts, is accurate guidance. This is our intuitive sense; our gut feeling that knows just what to do at all times: where to go, what to do, what not to do. And it’s 100% reliable.  Just as the sun always shines behind the clouds, guidance always guides us behind the clouds of overthinking. All the time it communicates, through the language of instinct and intuition, this “birds eye view” which knows how to get us where we need to be, in the perfect time.

So many people have made the mind-chatter of thoughts their guide – and the mind-chatter is useless as a guide. So the important question is – how do I sync up with the guidance within?

Search without: Information overload

In this era of information overload, which information do we trust? Reading and re-reading the news, or social media, or comment pieces, or any one of the other billion or so articles of opinion rarely leads us to clarity – but instead deeper into fear and the complex maze of overthinking that goes along with it, where our sense of empowerment is clouded and we are cut off from hearing our inner knowing; the most important source of information we have.

Listen within: Meditation

You sync up with your inner knowing by focusing in a way that clears your mind. When the clouds of mind-chatter are cleared, guidance is revealed.

Meditation is a proven way to clear our mind of mind-chatter – and gets us in touch with the wisdom of our Real Self. When we listen within, we connect with our guidance which knows what to do. I recommend spending time each day in meditation – whatever your method is – giving you space to be attuned to this source of accurate information.

Meditation is simply finding a point of focus that doesn’t get you to go into thinking. It could be using a mantra over and over again (and preferably one in a another language, as words you don’t understand won’t activate thoughts). It could be focusing on your breath, in and out. Or a consistent sound. It doesn’t really matter what it is – just something that works for you by holding your attention and stopping you from going into the clouds of overthinking.

What to do to align with the times: Time for action

Many people on the spiritual path have heard all about spiritual theory in countless books or YouTube videos, trying to make meaning of it all; trying to work out about all the different laws of the Universe, and the dimensions, and how it all works. They’ve thought about spiritual concepts a lot. But this is about as useful as watching fitness DVDs and doing nothing else in an attempt to change your body. It may be the first step and it may be entertaining – but it’s not enough. Action is required. You want to find your “gym programme” and then do it – not just think about it; you want to find the practices that get you connected with the power within – and then do them. 

Focus on what makes you feel good

And if the news is scaring you and affecting your view of life – turn it off. Don’t use the excuse so many use, “I need to know what’s going on”. I used to work in a newsroom and trust me – it isn’t what’s going on, but a perception of what’s going on. Watch or read if you want to, or if you feel guided – but ask yourself “How is it making me feel?”. If engaging with it is not making you feel good and not getting you to love this amazing life – you may want to find a different activity to take part in – one which makes you feel better. And you feeling better is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, others and Life in general.

My essential guidebook LIGHTHOUSE: Navigate the emotional storms of life and discover the power within you is available through my website www.michaeljames.be/books

Standing tall in storms of emotion

colossusWhen you are in your self-confidence, if you don’t get the job it’s their loss. You accept the adventure and you feel all the more powerful because of it.

When you are disconnected from your self-confidence, it’s a different story. You feel like a loser. You feel not good enough. You feel pessimistic. They become the “bad guys”.

But the prospective employers have done nothing different – their behaviour was the same in both examples. It’s all you. It’s all about whether you are standing tall or collapsing. It’s all about what channel you are tuned to. And that’s all that’s ever going on. 

It’s like there’s two mirror images happening: one in which you are lost at sea, clinging to a mast, bedraggled and feeling finished – and the other you are standing tall and proud, like the Colossus, like God’s gift, a light unto the world, on top of a podium.

Very different perspectives – but both of these images are opposite sides of the same coin.

A champion in training

If you were to see a champion athlete moments after training you may see a wreck, rather than a hero. This is him working out. This is the making of the man. This is the creation of mastery. After he’d shifted his focus and taken time to relax, you’d see championship form again. Not in spite of but because of this training.

If you’ve had one of these dramatic collapses of your self-worth, it’s actually a good thing. You’ve been shown where you’ve got a weak muscle which needs attention, or it will only come up again. And so now it’s time to train, to prevent it being triggered again.

Ships in the harbour are safe, yes, but…

You are living life. And yes, there will be waves (storms of overthinking) and you may go under once in a while and that’s not a bad thing and there’s nothing wrong with clinging to the mast once in a while. In fact if you aren’t clinging to the mast sometimes, perhaps you’re not playing big enough; perhaps you’re still in your comfort zone? Perhaps you’re not pushing up the weights at the gym?

I remember doing a workshop and I asked the crowd “Who in the room is incredibly confident?” Just four people put their hands up and it was clear they were telling the truth; they seemed to have solid confidence. Then I asked those same few people “Who of you gets really, really insecure sometimes?” And all four hands stayed up – and each person seemed surprised that the others had their hand up.

This is what I know: I have met many powerhouses in terms of how they are living life. And I’ve never met a single person ever who doesn’t fit into this category of having both aspects within them – both the confident hero and the frightened child. It’s like trying to find a successful body builder who has never felt serious tension in his muscles. You won’t find one, ever. The opposite “shadow” feeling is what makes the other. The mast in stormy seas is the making of the Colossus.

The thought ambush

We all know that moment when the waves of fear or doubt threaten to take us under. Something triggers us and then the waves of thoughts seem to pounce on us and our immediate knee-jerk response is to go to war with them or run away. This approach rarely works, instead we get deeper into the storm of mind chatter.

In army manoeuvres, it’s interesting how you are taught to face and advance the ambush rather than run. Not fight it, but continue forward as if it’s not even there.

Advancing doesn’t mean fighting or resisting. It is more like ignoring, fully focused on the power that walks with you; the power of Reality; of your Real Self. It’s ignoring, but walking forward.

Walking forward with steadfastness

When you find yourself being taken over by these irritating (to say the least) thought forms, you want to firstly welcome them and secondly keep on going forward.

They are clouds. You are the Sun. They are nothing. You are solid. You have the power of Life walking through you and as you.

Running away gives fear thoughts power. Many people do this, they try to ignore something meaning “running away from it” meaning pushing against. This kind of “trying to ignore” is the opposite of ignoring – it’s denial – and brings on obsessing about the subject.

Walking forward anyway is authentic ignoring. Advancing means you don’t believe in the power of the thoughts. Retreating means you do. As we retreat, the fear gets more, not less. Retreating is resistance, in this context.

Stumbling… and then getting up again

However, we all need practice to master anything. That’s why the army have training sessions rather than going straight off to the front line. Life provides the training. And every time you fall, you become more focused, more resolute for the next time.

Stand tall and endure

This takes effort. Of course it does. Just like in a real-life ambush scenario, it would be “easier’ just to collapse and be taken by the enemy. But the price you’d pay would be massive; this tiny bit of effort is incredibly worthwhile and will save you the time having to get back on track again.

Standing tall initially takes more effort. But do it. Stand in your power. Hold on tight to the mast as the ship cuts through the waves of overthinking. Meditate. Stand tall like the Colossus, at first you may be standing tall and not feeling it – but soon enough the thrust of your Real Self will join you and you will be back on track, the wind will get behind your sales, the waves will leave you alone and you will be smiling again, left even better than before thanks to this “workout”.

LIGHTHOUSE: The making of a teacher

15032126_1850672188499045_220779219918766535_nWhen I first got into the world of Personal Development, it was less a choice and more like being shoved. I had tried everything to feel good and nothing was working – so out of total desperation I resigned myself to go into one of those Self Help sections in the local bookstore, hoping that no one I knew would see me there!

The first book I found was a revelation – and I thought I’d finally “got it” But my journey was just beginning.

When the student is ready

I bought book after book, reading the same kind of books I’m sure you, as someone interested in Mind Body Spirit, have read. Books about changing my thoughts and changing my life, books about loving myself and “being present” – and books about attracting everything I want in three easy steps.

But nothing worked. At first there was hope that this or that latest teaching would be the answer, but soon after I fell back into familiar patterns of anxiety and depression or simply a realisation that nothing much would change. I could slightly change, but my problems would still be there.

And so I studied like a pHD; they say when the student is ready the teacher appears, and teachers were appearing all over the place, up close and personal. Through my career as a journalist, which had manifested in direct response to my new-found-yet-at-the-time-still-limited understanding of how we create our reality , I was able to interview my favourite teachers. I was shown new worlds and new way of seeing things which went way beyond the theory. An adventure was unfolding which would lead to me “getting it” in a profound way.

Becoming a teacher

In my workshop at this year’s Mind Body Spirit Festival, I introduce work direct from my new book Lighthouse: Navigate the emotional storms of life and discover the power within you. This book is predominantly about how to practically deal with the stormier emotions of life like fear, anxiety and even depression. After all, being told to “be positive” is useless when you’re in a good mood and equally useless when you’re in a bad mood, so navigating these storms is vital to clear the way for successfully living your best life.  Using my methods, I’ve seen people with 15 years of anxiety going into consistent peace of mind (and no more anxiety) in several months of my sessions – and then onto success.

Nikki Slade, who is also presenting at this year’s festival, is a pioneer of voice work and kirtan leader who has written a generous foreword to my book.

Two well-known personal development teachers I know both separately referred to me and my approach as a Lighthouse; having known me and worked with me – and I’m not surprised; the author Esther Hicks (Abraham) had told me of my path as an author and teacher years before it unfolded when I used to meet up with her and her late husband Jerry – and validated the unique power of my work to soothe and shift emotion. This seems to be one of my skills, having battled my own demons, found my way out and then helped hundreds of others do the same. And I will share what I know in this workshop.

Getting personal

I remember meeting with the publishers Hay House about a previous book I was writing where, as I was leaving, one of the team commented: “I’ve spent two hours with you and I don’t know who you are – you’re a real enigma”. I smiled to myself as I walked out (who doesn’t like an air of mystery) – but as fascinated as I assumed she was by me, what she said hit home: I had kept my own life out of my writings. Until now, that is. Following her nudge, for the first time I have included my own personal story in this book, which shows how we can find peace no matter what the circumstance –  and paints a picture of how my own challenges have shaped my current life and helped create a book such as this.

The battle of trying to be positive

On my own journey, I got disillusioned with all the positive thinking books, and I couldn’t get to grips with what they said. Reading books that tell you that you ought to simply “be positive not negative” are great in theory, but not so much in real life – and hardly tell us something we don’t know. Books about the Law of Attraction can get you on a never-ending road to “attracting a better life tomorrow”. And that tomorrow never comes. I’ve seen people buy into this stuff, take workshop after workshop, on their way to “manifesting a dream life” only it never quite happens for them. The thing is, I’ve got to know several Great Big Huge proponents of this “three steps to success” formula and guess what… It doesn’t work for them either.

So what does work?

With my background as a current affairs journalist coupled with a natural interest in religion and spirituality, and a fascination with the bigger questions of life, I’ve been on the search for truth. And looking for something that actually worked to improve the quality of mine and other people’s lives. Not empty theory, not gimmicks… I wanted to find solutions: Can we affect our life experience?  Can we heal our bodies? Can we become more confident? Can we manifest our dream lives? How do we enjoy more loving and fulfilling relationships?  Can miracles happen? Can we overcome our thought habits and find peace of mind? And if we can, how do we do it?

So I researched, explored healing methods and meditation and started a study group, finding out what worked and what didn’t. My conscious searching began over fifteen years ago. And now, well over 500 workshops later, I’m confident in my method.

So – I’m going to make a statement of my findings to-date: I have little doubt about the extraordinary power we have within us. I have personally witnessed many powerful, you could say “miraculous” results in all areas of life – including physical healing – in myself and others. I’ve seen people move into their dream lifestyles and careers using the ideas I share. And I’ve seen people really starting to enjoy their lives more and get out of those miserable habits of depression and anxiety, and truly learn how to navigate the emotional storms of life.

This workshop will be a whole new experience for you.

Come and see me on Monday 1 May at 10:45am.

Dealing with worry and fearful overthinking (from Watkins Magazine)

IMG_7883When you go into worrisome or fearful thinking, things can get very bleak and the world seems to change: visuals may come into you mind of all the bad things that might happen. Your breath might become shallower and your body feel tense. Your mind races and the storm of thoughts begins.

This is simply what the mind (and then body-mind) does when you’re overthinking – everyone’s mind, not just yours. Before you know it, you are absolutely convincing yourself of nightmare scenarios. It can be shocking how detailed and negatively creative the mind’s projections can be. It’s all fiction, of course, but it seems so real.  And like being trapped in a spider’s web, the more you try to fight it, the more trapped in overthinking and fear you seem to become.

Dispelling fears

The feeling of worry or fear is a sure sign that you are not tuned in to You. You don’t feel like yourself during these times – and that’s because, in many ways, you’re not. You have temporarily disconnected from your clarity and are connecting with the static in the radio – not the radio broadcast itself. And that static plays all kinds of miserable, untruthful drama and judgement and projected worries. It really is like you are under a spell. And this article is all about how to break the spell; break the circuit in your overthinking.

Tuning into you

When you are fully “tuned in” – meaning when you are relaxed and centred –  you cannot worry. You haven’t got access to those relentlessly negative thoughts when you are tuned in. In an ideal world when the thoughts do start coming you want to ignore the content; that stream of worry thoughts that chatters on forever and will move from subject to subject.

But let’s get real: It’s not always that easy

All the above sounds good in theory. But theory and real life are very different. People read self help books and feel great but when a problem comes up it’s as if they hadn’t read them. That’s because theory on it’s own is useless – you need the muscles honed from practice to work with these ideas. When you are in the middle of an intense situation, all the best advice in the world can go out the window. It doesn’t matter how many positive thinking books you have read or how much you have worked on yourself or how many times you decide to “be mindful and observe your thoughts”, sometimes, despite all the “9 steps to stop worrying” books on your shelf –  you might get taken over by worry or fear. And that’s ok. 

I’ve worked with a lot of people who have the tendency to worry or go into fear and overthinking. This is partly what my book Lighthouse is all about. My effective solutions came from my years of research working with hundreds if not thousands of people – and from a very personal problem: because in my own life, I found it a challenge to deal with worry or fear and nothing had helped me. No books, teachers or therapists could reach me. I frequently went into panic or fear and couldn’t work my way out of these ferocious moods, which were totally ruining my life.

A personal experience 

I remember one of many fearful situations: I went into worry about a close friend of mine, in a situation I couldn’t do anything about. I was waiting for news. I hadn’t heard from him for days. Rather than going into a excitement of how he must be having a great time and be too busy to call me, you guessed it, I did the opposite.

I used to think there was something terribly wrong with my mind – but then I realised it’s the same for pretty much everyone: for some reason the overthinking mind tends to go into the negative and race with thoughts when we “disconnect” from our empowerment.

My stomach went tight and my mind raced with worst case scenarios. I convinced myself that all kinds of terrible things were going on and desperately tried to think my way out of this and try to find solutions. I felt so physically and mentally exhausted with it all I had to leave my place of work and go home and sit down, which hardly improved things, as I continued overthinking.

Worrying about worrying

I’d read a lot of “positive thinking” books which had got me scared about how I shouldn’t be worrying as it would block solutions or even negatively affect the situation, which frightened me and made me worry even more. But trying not to worry was useless – in fact it made it worse. Then I was worried about the negative affects of my worry, so I tried hard not to worry and to think of positive outcomes  – in order to positively influence the situation. Things just got worse, the negative voices and images in my mind got more ferocious. The pain that comes from worrying means you have stepped aside from truth and clarity – but knowing this doesn’t always make the experience any easier. Worry clouds your vision; it’s like being in “static in the radio” where you can’t see sense or hear your intuition. And it’s like being swept up in a cyclone of confusion and high emotion.

So you’re worrying. And it might not be your chosen state of being, but that’s where you are right now. You are where you are.

Fighting against thoughts doesn’t work

You want to look for something to appreciate but let’s be honest, if you are swept up in a drama (like I was) that can feel almost impossible. Trying to focus on other things just gets you to “try not to think of” what you’re currently obsessing about. And it will, more times than not, keep you stuck in your worry. Of course you would love to feel great right now- but that’s not an option. Trying to feel good, trying to change your mood, trying to do anything is resistance. And what you resist, persists.

Make peace with where you are

And so in a situation like this, the first thing to do is face where you are. And that means looking for the good in where you are; looking for the good in worrying.

You may be arguing with this point. But, I ask you, what is your suggestion? When you are caught up in a storm of overthinking like worry, you have two options. And one of them is not to stop worrying or to ‘be positive’. Your two options are: to worry and to fight against the worrying. Or, to worry and make peace with the worry.

“I should be worrying because I am. It’s normal to worry in this situation. It shows I care. Maybe my worry is necessary right now, in a way I can’t see right now…”

When you embrace worry, and see it as a normal feeling, it begins to leave you and you become clearminded. Things then start to happen.

This isn’t about “not doing anything”, but when you are caught up in worry you can’t think clearly and decide the right things to do, if anything does need to be done. This is about centring yourself so that solutions, both within and without, reveal themselves to you. And this is easier said than done and required practice.

Once you’ve made peace, now Life can help you

Once you’ve made peace, ideas for distractions and solutions will naturally appear.  Life will begin to help you out and find other things to get your attention. The path to where you want to be will open seemingly from out of nowhere. When you try to do it “your way” by continuing overthinking there are no gaps between thoughts; It’s like there’s a hardened shield of thoughts around you and Life cannot get in.

A relaxing outcome

I accepted that there was nothing I could do, which initially added to the worry, but then helped me make me peace with my situation. Experience had shown that when I find away to be ok, even just for a minute. Even if I’m in a really dramatic moment. If I can just slightly make friends with where I am, a space is formed where answers can come in.

I did the practice I shared earlier, “good things about where I am”. And then life began to help me out. A phone call came in from a friend, I saw an interesting  article on the internet, which was enough to fully get my attention (and take it from the fearful subject). I began to relax, and feel a little more naturally optimistic. (I hadn’t tried to be optimistic –  I just, as best as I could, settled into where I was.) From this state of peace, more optimistic ideas came in. Sometimes I went back into the fear again, but then I quickly came out of it. And I was certainly feeling a bit better; and a lot more relaxed. I felt like “me” again.

Within about 30 minutes, an email came in, and I got news of the friend I was worried about – the first time in five days. And all was well.

When the storm is over

Practicing meditation and other techniques day to day, when you are not in the grip of worry or fear, will recondition your mind to go there less – and stop these habits of worry before they get started. However, if you do go there again (and if you have been going there you probably will again), you now know what to do.

For further practical, effective solutions for dealing with low feelings – and moving into feeling good again – see the book Lighthouse – Navigate the emotional storms of life and discover the power within you. Out now in paperback.

Finding self-confidence

0-weu-d2-fe98c7939fd0bfd242be70d8ffa743abI first discovered I was going to be taking the stage to talk about Finding Self-Love (at last month’s Mind Body Spirit Festival in London- pictured here), just when I was coming through a storm of self-criticism. I’ve been teaching this stuff long enough to know better – but here I was, being tested. Rather than laugh at the irony (though I did that, too) – I immediately paid attention. In fact, the invitation itself snapped me out of whatever was bothering me. After all, Life clearly believed in me to be the best person to talk about self-love – and in a split second, I did too. I was “back”, so to speak.

And this is the thing: self-love or self-confidence is not a permanent state we get to and then stay there, but a state like a radio channel, which always exists, and we can tune in and out of. Nothing has gone wrong if we find ourselves temporarily “tuned out”, as I did. In fact, it is these deviations from connection which evolve us much like the tension of lifting weights at the gym evolves our body. I was the best person to take the stage and talk about self-love because of this moment of disconnection, not in spite of it; and also because I understand that it is in the less-that-self-confident moments that the most powerful states of self-confidence are created.

Practice, not perfection

I’m way past the point of condemning myself for “being human”. Even the great mystics of the past were allowed to mess up, and were open about this in their brilliant writings, so surely I’m allowed to. They understood what so much of the new age movement doesn’t – that the human journey is about stumbling, learning, evolving, and getting up again stronger. The mystic Teresa of Avila, for example, made it clear that the spiritual journey is about practice, not perfection – it’s not this “happy all the time” nonsense that the contemporary spirituality often professes. And trust me, I’ve seen a lot of fellow teachers off stage and let’s just say anyone can appear perfect for a brief talk or a 2-hour workshop, if that’s your intention.

Now there are some great teachers out there, don’t get me wrong – but you get my point. And here’s the thing (and they’d agree with me): changing your thoughts and changing your life is not like changing your socks – the human mind just doesn’t work like that. Those “Don’t worry be happy” quotes are fine when you’re happy – and downright infuriating and useless when you’re not. They didn’t work for me, and in the early days, I thought there was something wrong with me because this kind of bumper sticker spirituality wasn’t working. But then, several years ago, I began teaching groups and realised it was the same for almost everyone I met. Life – and humans – are not as simple as these “five easy steps”. It’s much more interesting than this, with way more depth.

Finding Love within

We are never looking for anything out there- we think we are but we’re not. What we are looking for is an internal shift – from the static of overthinking to the power of our Real Self. The answers really are within.  It may look like you need something out there, but that is part of the world’s training, to make you think you are not enough and you “need” something out there to complete you. The good news is, once you give yourself the quality you are looking for “out there” – then you attract that likeminded quality to you,  because you don’t get what you want, but what you are. When you find self-love, life will mirror back this self-confidence – which occurs as all your dreams coming true.

Confidence is everything

We all know that confidence is everything, right?  Talent is always good – but far more important than talent is how talented you feel you are. Everyone agrees with how important self-confidence or self-love is, but people often stop at that point, not doing what it takes to embody it and move this theory into practical change.  Who you really are is always in the state of self-confidence, so it’s less about building it up and more about revealing it.

We are all God’s gift- but do we know it?

People who feel they are “it” usually are, in some way or other. I’m not talking about delusion – like those guys you see on the X-Factor who are clearly not very good singers but seemingly think they are. In truth, they know they can’t sing. And that is why we are perceiving them as such.

Confidence and it’s counterpart: Insecurity 

When you begin to train yourself into feeling more self-confidence or self-love, you’re probably going to experience it’s opposite, as your lower self mind rears up for a challenge. Keep going anyway. If you fall, get up as quickly as you can (though it’s fine and perfect ok if you ‘stay down’ for a bit).

When you start something new – firstly, well done. And secondly, you’re going to get some obstacles, for two reasons:

  1. Think of riding a bike. If you didn’t begin, you would have no risk of falling off, which is kind of inevitable – so having some resistance to leaving your comfort zone is bound to happen
  2. You actually need these trials to strengthen the muscle.

Welcome the obstacles in – they are going to happen, don’t be surprised when they do. Just as you are not surprised when your muscles tense at a weight at the gym.

You may want to collapse on the ground when you face an obstacle, but think about it. A toddler falls of his bike and gets back up as quickly as possible. If he didn’t get back on pretty quick – he’d probably never back back on again. So you’ve got to be quick – stand up tall and walk in, even if you don’t feel like it. And guess what- you almost definitely won’t feel like it.

This is what I was talking about at the beginning of the article, my drop into self-criticism didn’t phase me, as I knew it was a “hardcore workout” to prepare me for life – and the making of the very talk on self-love I presented (which I was told was a great success). There is nothing wrong with going into self attack, it’s not “negative” – it’s what evolves us.

Once the neediness is burned off, all that is left is the most attractive state of all: self-confidence. The irony is that in this state of self-confidence, you need nothing to complete you because you already feel whole, complete and fulfilled. And that’s when you get everything.

Light in the Shadows (with Teal Swan)

original-2Finding Self-love, purpose and peace within the murky challenges of everyday living

When I first met Teal Swan back in 2014 we instantly connected.  I remember the moment clearly. In St James Park, London, we got talking and I found myself instantly at ease with her, saying way more than I’m used to on a first meeting. We shared a feeling of familiarity like old friends coming back together.

After that first meeting in the park, what followed was hours of conversation on Skype about the meaning of life and everything – including one of my favourite topics: Practical spirituality. We offered one another insights and helped one another through the challenges of everyday life – not knowing at the time how it was all one of those perfect synchronicities for building material for our workshop, Light in the Shadows, which we are presenting together at the Mind Body Spirit Festival this May.

When Mel Carlyle from Mind Body Spirit asked us to team up, it was an instant “yes” from both of us. By this point we had already discussed co-writing a book –  and this organisation, which I love, seemed the perfect place to make our debut together.

Years before we had met, both of us had always wanted to go to an event like the one we are going to present; one in which the speakers get real and share their insights about how to handle those “murky  challenges of everyday living” that everyone encounters. The relationship struggles, health worries, body image concerns and other fears. We will be sharing the ways we have mastered feeling good when things “out there” are proving difficult. It won’t be another of those “Five steps to get everything you want” – but something more authentic and helpful to this human experience.

Lighthouse in a storm

In my own life I’ve reached many lows. There was a time when it seemed like the darkness would never end. Finding a way out of this darkness is what has led me to be able to help others help themselves out of their personal hell. Someone who hasn’t been to the depths, without any knowledge of this emotional terrain, cannot guide those who have. They can simply offer a vacant “cheer up”, perhaps – but this is both annoying and totally useless to those lost in a tangle of thoughts.

Another benefit of these dark times is that these moments forged my best qualities and life experiences: The rags of life create the riches. Without the shadows, I wouldn’t have evolved so much. And it’s the same for everyone, of course.

The benefit of the shadows

Ferocious thoughts are needed for a phenomenal life just as heavy weights are needed to create great muscle. The thing is to leave thoughts be, to do their thing. We don’t analyse and go crazy at every detail of the heavy weights – we just lift them. Let the tension of the mind be. Leave those thoughts and feelings- they are not you. These shadows are nothing to do with who you are, they are just a machine, evolving you.

So if you are aware of what I’m talking about when I talk about ferocious emotional storms- good. You are an Olympian, not a regular amateur.

Depths of emotion

I was interested in Teal’s “Shadow Work” – an area of exploration I wasn’t so familiar with. And Teal appreciated my way of soothing people “like a lighthouse” wherever they were emotionally – and however life was for them. Both of us are teachers who are open with our own struggles – and both of us had also struggled with much of the personal development material out there in our own lives – and had seen others go through the same.

From my experience working with people, it seems everyone has their own personal hell – yet we often keep our own a secret. The illusory perfection of social media like Instagram and Facebook can beat us down – and being told to “be positive” or “just let go” is useless information and knocks us down further. Especially when we are in a low mood. But that’s what so many of the books we had read told us to do – and it was hard to do it. Myself and Teal both relate to the depths of human emotion and have found ourselves as guiding lights to many others, helping them out of their own personal storms.

Diving for treasure

We all know that feeling after a stormy time in life – we feel incredible after. Not only the relief that comes from it begin over, but we actually emerge better off: more evolved, in so many ways.

When we go into the shadows, it’s like a deep sea dive for treasure. It may feel harsh – but on our return to the surface, we are better, we have new insights – and perhaps we have been “nudged” to change our life in some positive way.

Michael and Teal collaborate

We started to get messages requesting that we combined our approaches. When we met in London last summer the timing was all wrong. So here it is, our first collaboration- and it’s happening live at the Mind Body Spirit Festival in London on May 2 2016: Light in the Shadows: Finding self love, purpose and peace within the murky challenges of everyday living. 

For the latest Mind Body Spirit Festival visit: www.mindbodyspirit.co.uk/events