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.

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 teachers I know (one of whom, Teal Swan, is also presenting a workshop at this year’s festival) 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. We met through my good friend (and her then-husband) Sarbdeep Swan and 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. Us three had a close relationship together which continued until their marriage ended a year or so later. But that’s another story.

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.

IMG_8358Years 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. 

A new paradigm in creating health

Healing Sanctuary MBSWhy healing is not about thinking

Mind and thinking are the obstacle, not the solution, when it comes to healing the body. Healing happens when you find a way to drop out of the mind, not drive further into it. And that is one of the things that has gone off-track in the contemporary spirituality movement, and why there are many books written about healing but fewer results. I’ll explore this here.

I have never seen anyone get well just by repeating over and over “My body is well, My body is well” or similar, such as trying to visualise a well body whilst being in the throws of illness. I am not saying this is a total waste of time- but in my experience, it just gets people even more focused on being ill by encouraging stressful overthinking, which is a huge contributor to illness. Every time they affirm “I am well” – or try to imagine being well- they feel more ill, not less.  It’s like “trying to be happy” when you’re in the depths of despair. It’s just too big a jump and there is an interim step or two to take first.

By ‘dropping out of the mind’, I mean the intellect – that constant stream of mind chatter which is the source of all of our problems. As we relax our way out of the mind, we connect with who we truly are, and the place where we have access to our dream life, which includes perfect health.

In truth, all healing has happened, now. And our job is not to “battle” anything or to heal anything – it is to tune ourselves into this place or “channel’ where we can reveal that healing. This is easier said than done and requires practice. But it is doable for everyone.

There is no such thing as an incurable illness

Dr Bernie Seigel, author of Love, Medicine and Miracles,  said “there is no incurable illnesses, only incurable people”. There has never been an illness that was 100% fatal to everyone it affected- not ever. So the term ‘incurable’ is a generalisation. With the internet, the great thing about this is we can go researching those people who came through it- and find out what they did. Rather than researching our symptoms and worrying ourselves- we can research healing success stories.

There is no one way to healing

What the people who successfully healed did is less about the specific actions they took or the particular healing approach – but that they found something that relaxed them and gave them peace of mind. Sometimes it takes very complicated things to influence our connection (which is what the feeling of relaxation and peace of mind indicates) – and sometimes it doesn’t. It all depends on the person- and that is why there is no one way to healing, physically speaking. For some it’s distracting with watching comedy movies. For others it’s acupuncture – or conventional medicine. It’s whatever causes you to relax; to drop out of the intellect and into the Real Self. Whatever causes you to “surrender” into the healing that is already here.

Why western medicine still gets results

The problem with “alternative” approaches is in the name. Alternative to what? This label implies there is a  “real” approach – namely medicine – out there. The thing is, conventional (allopathic) medicine has still got the power in the psyche of many people, and if this is the case, then alternative approaches will continue to be a second choice due to the unconscious consensus that “it doesn’t really work like medicine”. This is further emphasised with the name “complimentary” medicine – which disempowers these approaches further – by implying they are just a nice little addition to “real” medicine rather than having any power in themselves. If I’m honest, I’ve found this myself in the past when I’ve taken homeopathy etc, with Ibuprofin at the the ready “just in case it doesn’t work”. From the get-go my allegiance was with the medication and the other approaches are not given a chance. In other words, the alternative approach just wasn’t enough to soothe me out of worry and into confidence in the way that allopathic so often does. We trust conventional medicine more, and that’s my point. It’s the feeling of trust which is the power, rather than the individual actions.

For many, conventional medicine is all they can believe in. And that’s ok. For these people, they can’t let loose of putting conventional medicine at Number one, no matter how many Self-help books they’ve read about healing.

The success statistics for alternative healing are unsettling too – but remember that many people heal themselves and then just go back to their everyday life, so this doesn’t get reported. Plus, it has to be said that healing requires focus to let loose of thinking – which includes the beliefs of your culture and society that run deep.

Ultimately, as I said, it is less about what you do and more about how what you are doing makes you feel. Through meditation or similar, which gets you to listen to your intuition or inner guidance – you will discover the right path for you.

Denial

Another common mistake are those who turn a blind eye from their condition, terrified, but “putting on a brave face”. This is denial – pretending everything is ok when you know it’s not. It’s wishful thinking- and nothing good comes from this. Those people who cheerfully “give up conventional treatment” but are deep down terrified – forget about it. You really want to take the time to tune into you before making these kind of decisions.

‘Miracle’ healings do exist

I have seen what others would call miracles in healing. Not once – but a fair few times. And they have all happened when someone found a way to surrender; to let go; to “give up” if you will. But it was a “giving up” of thinking rather than a “giving up” of life. Surrender in this context means surrounding the mind chatter for something greater, not admitting defeat.

First steps: Make friends with where you are

The first step is to make peace with the condition, which sounds like the opposite thing you should do in a society that teaches us to “battle” illness. But the battle approach isn’t working. Going to war with a condition may give us a temporary surge of empowerment, but ultimately we will lose- as a battle against anything is a battle against Self. What we resist, persists. It may be understandable and even logical in why we would resist a condition we don’t want- but it just isn’t an effective tool in healing.

Good things about…

So your first step is to write down Good things about ___________ and write in whatever the health condition- or whatever unwanted situation in your life- is.

Your job is to find as many things as you can that are good, such as “This condition is evolving me to more wellness”, or as one client said to me “I met my husband through a retreat I went on to heal this condition”. This can be difficult, as our mind is so used to battling everything. But it really is true, that Love is the answer. And Love – and I’m including Self-Love in this too – is about finding the good in whatever we are focused on, not just the things we deem “good”. As we do this consistently we can let go of our struggles, conditions are given the space to transform, or we are guided to the perfect healing modalities for us, whatever they may be.

Healing Sanctuary

On Saturday April 30th as part of the Mind Body Spirit Festival in London, I will be presenting a free short talk and then a guided meditation. I look forward to seeing you there to explore these ideas further.

Being mindful: How less is more when it comes to meditation

51BHZz8H3sLI teach meditation wherever I go – it’s been a central part of my workshops since I started teaching. These days, you can’t go far in the new age without someone talking about something else: Mindfulness. 

This new approach to meditation has got its own teaching schools, accreditations, “best practice guides” and endless books and study manuals. There are 33 million results to the word on Google. It’s amazing to me how complex telling someone to “sit down and be quiet” (which is really all you need to know about meditation) – can get. But then again the mind can make a maze of complication out of absolutely everything- I should know, having over thought my way into addiction and severe depression in my teens and early twenties.

Meditation is about getting out of concepts, out of the mind and it’s stream of mind chatter- not further into it. The journey to Self-empowerment is about unlearning, not learning. And that’s where Mindfulness can go south.

I can normally identify the people who have studied Mindfulness at the beginning of my workshops: They think. A lot. They analyse, they are in their heads. Their minds are full, so to speak – there’s no question of that. Except that is the exact opposite effect mindfulness is supposed to create. 

‘Just be present’

The term Mindfulness is a bad translation of a Buddhist term- just as the approach itself can sometimes be a bad translation of Buddhism. It’s all about eating food slowly, observing thoughts, “being present”… It’s well intentioned – but, when misunderstood can be very dull and it doesn’t give you peace of mind- quite the opposite. It can become about thinking about everything in great detail, rather than reaching the state of ‘no thought’ that meditation is all about.

Being told to “just observe your thoughts and feelings without judgement” is absurd. How do you do this? That’s what I wanted to know, when I first heard this concept. Initially, I tried (and failed) to do this and thought I was missing something. Then I met everyone else who were having the same problem. Including certain mindful teaches themselves. Who can do that? The moment you “try to not judge” – you judge. That’s how the mind works. The thoughts avalanche in and, yes, your mind is seriously full, so to speak.

“Being present” is another of those catchphrases that is overused, totally impractical – and utterly useless. In fact, as soon as you try to be present – you’ve lost it. You are in your intellect and lost in overthinking. You go to war with yourself – and that signifies the tormented look on the faces of some of the Mindfulness people I’ve seen. It’s hard work – and it doesn’t work.

Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie are teachers who I respect, and are often quoted by this mindfulness movement- as they are great examples of what the Mindfulness people are trying to themselves achieve.  The thing is Eckhart and Byron didn’t do any of these mindfulness practices; they didn’t “try to be” mindful. And that’s an important point. Something happened to them – which awakened them to the mindful state. It wasn’t a technique that did it – but a perceptual shift; an instantaneous enlightenment. This is worth bearing in mind when you waste your time “trying to be” mindful.

From mindfulness to meditation

Rather than “simply observing your thoughts” – which gets you to chase each and every one and analyse it- you want to find a focal point, be that a mantra or a sound. You want to move your focus to that until you are dropped into your Real Self; that in-the-zone state that exists in a constant state of, yes, mindfulness, if you want to call it that.

Osho said that when you meditate, you become mindful, automatically. You can’t make it happen –  and starting with mindfulness without an authentic meditation practice doesn’t work so well, if at all. If you try to become mindful, it’s kind of like trying to sleep – it  doesn’t work. It makes you think more, not less. It makes you go a tiny bit crazy with thoughts.

So you lie down and sleep happens. It’s the same with meditation and mindfulness. It just happens.

Of course this is just my experience – for all I know there are hundreds of Mindfulness practitioners experiencing calmness of mind – but in my experience it can get overly-theoretical and impractical. But then again so much of spirituality can.

Osho went on to teach focal point meditation, just as I do, knowing that it drops you into mindfulness – or rather mind-emptiness (which is surely more like it).

Meditation doesn’t happen by reading about meditation. It’s really quite simple- and reading yet another book about meditation is often just another excuse to delay meditation, kind of like going on yet another gym induction rather than just getting on with it.

Perhaps it’s time to put the books down and stop over-studying.  Go to the gym. Get yourself a dynamic hobby. Sit down and meditate with a mantra or by focusing on a sound. Move your body- dance- or drop down and do 50 push ups, for example. Less is more when it comes to meditation, and your access point is to getting in your zone is to do something that gets you out of the mind, not further into it.

On the Edge of Adventure: A new way of looking at challenging times

Fascinating-lighthouseA good adventure story has it all – twists, turns, drama, excitement and triumph. One thing’s for sure – it’s not dull. And neither are these times we are living in.

Climbing Everest is an adventure – but if you are unprepared, I’m guessing it would be a nightmare. Same with these times. It’s the Everest of times – meaning these are great times to be living in if you “get it” and it can seem pretty unpleasant if you don’t.

Throughout history, there have been many times like this; and within each one, amidst the darkness, there have been great lights and great movements and moments – almost like parallel worlds going on.

So when the world seems a little temperamental to say the least – there are simultaneously great times to be had – blessings in disguise – when you know how to tune in.

Manifesting the best of times

Manifest means “reveal” – it doesn’t mean “create”. So many people use the word “manifest” as a way to try to fix things – but “trying to fix” just keeps things the same. Like a radio playing all kinds of stations, manifesting your ideal world is about tuning in rather than changing or fixing. And there’s a big difference. One way works – and the other doesn’t.

The world you want is here now. Not “when we sort this situation out” or “when everyone is peaceful” – it’s right now, awaiting you to tune in to it. 

Meditation is one of the best ways to tune into the channel that you want to experience – and thus experience the world you want. And there are many ways to meditate. I’m not talking about denial: It’s perfectly possible to watch one channel without denying another; it’s a matter of choice.

Accepting what’s happening

If your mind is spinning with fearful thoughts, from what you’ve just read in the newspaper or whatever, it can be very hard to “let go” into meditation. And that is why there’s a step to do first of all: Turning to face the situation, exactly as it is.

So let’s face what has happened in the world that you don’t feel good about – whatever it is that comes to mind. What has happened, has happened.

I’m not trying to hide from what’s going on – nor am I trying to trivialise disasters. But worrying about the state of the world doesn’t help the world. Never has and never will. When something is happening that you clearly have no control over – you have to turn within to control the only thing you really can control – which is your focus. And your focus determines your world.

The message in these times is about realising we cannot control everything. Or anything, in fact. That sounds scary to the “thinking” mind – and it is. But feel for the truth behind it, and it becomes a sanctuary; a blissful relief.

Things are getting big now, the stakes are getting higher – encouraging us to say “ok, I get it” and surrender. Surrendering doesn’t mean we “give in” – it means we realise our thinking mind is not capable of anything much – except ruining our experience of the game of life – and surrender that approach to living.

When we drop below the cloud cover of thinking, we reveal our Real Self mind; the source of right ideas, insights, a mind that communicates not in mind chatter but in instinct, intuition and knowing. We get clarity and see things clearly. This is the meaning of the times – to encourage us to become our Real Selves.

So. Firstly you want to face how you feel right now:

Good things about… feeling fear

I should be feeling fear because I am

I’m sure I’m not the only one – it’s a normal human reaction

This fear is evolving me to more fearlessness like a workout

This mood is sure to pass like all storms…

And you will find many more of your own.

Good things about… the world situation

People are coming together. Never before have people from so many different backgrounds come together. There is a golden age of peace hidden behind this facade of drama.

It’s forcing me to stay present and in this Now moment It’s waking me up to live my life fully. I feel more alive

It’s waking me up from pettiness and what just doesn’t matter…

You will find many more of your own. As you find ways to see the good in a situation, the situation loosens it’s grip on you and your perception shifts to a brighter and more accurate one.

Tune to your guidance

The most powerful thing we have is our inner guidance. In this era of information overload, which information do we trust? When we go within, we connect with our guidance which knows what to do. When we are tuned to it, we are in the right place at the right time and we know what to do.

Meditation gets us in touch with our guidance. I recommend spending time each day in meditation- whatever your method is – giving you space to be attuned to this source of accurate information.

What to do to align with the times

  • Turn off the news when you feel overwhelmed. The news is an opinion, and if you are not feeling good when watching it, it’s an “off” opinion.
  • Rather than “trying not to think about things” – which doesn’t work, because “what you resist, persists” – face whatever situation is on your mind (including your current mood) and try to look for something good in it. This will allow you to let go authentically, experience a shift in your perception – and you will be open to solutions and new insights.
  • Find a new positive interest or hobby – and choose one that is more dynamic than the pull of the current drama your mind is focused on.
  • Make meditation a daily habit
  • Physical exercise, too, is a great way to get out of thinking and into your natural instincts and intuition; your supreme inner guidance.