5 Tips from Monk Who Works at Google

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If you had an hour with a monk, what would you ask him?

That’s the dilemma I had this week, as I was interviewing Buddhist Monk, Gelong Thuben.

Thuben has an amazing bio. He’s just published a book called How to be Human with Ruby Wax and neuroscientist Ash Ranpura. He’s coached the actors from movie Dr. Strange in Meditation. And he’s taught meditation in companies like Google and LinkedIn and many more. He donates the money from his work to build monasteries and other similar projects.

I had a wonderful conversation with him and can’t wait to share the video! If you’re on our email list you’ll be able to watch it for free once it’s out - probably November 2018.

In the meantime, he’s some of Thubten’s insights and tips for us:

  1. Set the right intention in your meditation. Intention is everything. Why are you sitting down to meditate? What’s your motivation for reading this? If it’s just to benefit yourself, fine. But if you set the intention to benefit others too, you’ll find the whole process even more transformative. Part of the cause of all your sufferings is excessive focus on me, me, me. As we consider how our meditation practice can benefit others, the feel of the meditation changes, in a good way.

  2. You can be mindful in 5 seconds. Thubten teaches in lots of organisations and companies, all the time. He’s on a plane around three times a week to teach in yet another location. He started teaching meditation 20 years ago, before all this mindfulness hype. And he encourages staff to be mindful in their everyday lives. To connect with any one of their senses. Feel your feet on the floor. Enjoy one nourishing in and out breath. Look at the sky. It takes just a few seconds to be mindful in any one moment.

  3. Regular long-term meditation in companies changes the culture. Thubten gave a lovely example of a company he went into regularly. They said: ‘Thuben, we expected the meditation would just make us more focused. In reality, we’ve had a benefit we didn’t even expect. We blame each other less.’ This is the power of long-term training in mindfulness, kindfulness and meditation. A kinder culture with less blame and more support towards each other.

  4. Being funny is important! In Thubten’s recent time together with Ruby Wax, he realised the importance of humor in teaching meditation. Ruby’s use of humor helps to engage people, and they are then more willing to do the meditation practice too. Ruby finishes her stand-up shows with a bit of guided meditation, and everyone goes for it. It reminds me of another quote from another monk - make people laugh, and when their mouths are open, you can drop in some wisdom! Hahahaha! If you need a laugh, check out my mindful jokes page - and tell me if you know any other good ones!

  5. Retreat are not easy...but are transformative. Thubten has been on a 4-year retreat. And he was expecting it to be calm, relaxing and easy. But it wasn’t! He described it as facing his own mind with nowhere to escape. But it was transformative in a gradual, gentle way. There was no one big flash of insight. But he learnt so much about how minds work, and uses those insights in his work with others. So go on retreat if you can...even if it’s just for a day. Shorter retreats are less challenging. And if you read this blog regularly, you know what I’ll say - be kind to yourself, don’t force your body and mind to do things it doesn’t want to to do. Take a friendly approach and positive transformation will happen without your volition.

 

Conclusion

It was a great pleasure to spend time with Gelong Thubten. I felt his inner calm and presence resonated most with me. When you do long-term, compassionate-based meditation, it oozes out of your pores. Thuben has done that work and continues to share meditation not just with companies, but also schools, prision, addiction centres and more. You can download his app here and find out more about his work here:

www.mindfulness.samye.org

www.thubten.co.uk

If you’d like to watch that interview and more, make sure you join our mailing list.

Thanks for reading and be kindful out there dear friends!

We also work with organisations. Get in touch if you’d like a talk on mindfulness or other topics I write about in this blog.


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Top Brain Expert Shares Three Trainable Skills for a Healthy, Happy Brain

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This week I had the pleasure of interview the world-renowned psychiatrist and brain expert, Dr. Dan Siegel.

Three Mind States

He shared the three elements to a healthy brain: Focused Attention, Open Awareness and Kind intention. Part of a new book he has coming out, called Aware.

Here’s my interpretation of these three mind states.

Focused Attention

Focus! I think you know what it means. If you’re reading this, and your attention is able to stay here, you’re focused. You’re in the moment and you’re able to direct your attention to where you wish it to be.

You also have the ability to move the focus of your attention. Want to try an experiment? Move your attention away from this screen to the wall or window. Notice the different colours. How does that feel? What do you notice?

You’ve used the skill of moving your focused attention. As Dan would say: "Where attention goes, neural firing flows, and neural connection grows."

So as you practice directing and moving your attention conscious again and again, the better your brain gets at moving your attention from one place to another.

Open Awareness

This is a beautiful state of mind. In this state, you’re open to whatever comes into your awareness. So while you’re reading this, you’d also be able to notice your bodily posture, the other sounds in the room, your breathing, a fleeting thought. You can’t focus your attention on one thing in this state - it’s more of an open, receptive way of being.

Again, there are specific areas of your brain responsible for this kind of awareness. In this state of mind, you’re open to all sorts of different possibilities rather than being caught up in one state of mind. Open awareness gives you flexibility and choice. You notice other people rather than being caught up in one focus.

Kind Intention

I’m glad Dan included this, as this is why I use the term Kindfulness so often.

Intention is everything. What’s your intention in reading this blog?

Your intention could be to learn skills to develop yourself to help others, or your intention can be to find ways to criticise my work. The same action of reading, but the intention behind it is so different.

Reflect more deeply on your intention in reading this. Do you want to learn ways to be more kinder and caring towards yourself, so you can better serve others? Or do you feel inferior and are looking for ways to improve and fix yourself perhaps? Or if you’re honest, maybe you don’t even know why you’re reading this - you just find yourself here. Or maybe it’s just for fun!

Kindfulness Develops a Healthy Way of Being

For me, being kindful (aware and kind) is my deepest intention. Of course I’m not perfect at being kindful, but that’s what’s most important. Kindful to myself and others. Why? Three reasons:

  1. Being kindful to myself and others connects me with myself and others. I become part of a bigger whole. I go from me to we. Caring feels so good to both the giver and the receiver. And has scientifically-proven benefits too.

  2. Being kindful - kind and mindful - is a very healthy body and mind state to be in. Perhaps the most resilient of them all. I can thereby better serve others.

  3. Being kindful gives my life clarity and meaning. Many researchers say how a meaningful life is a happy life.

Perhaps this resonates with you. If so, you too can make being kindful your deepest intention and a way of life!

Here’s a talk I gave on Kindfulness in Berlin a while back, for you to enjoy to finish:


Enjoyed this? Try our Free Kindfulness Course today for 7 days, or book our full HD 8 week program with:

20 guided Kindful Meditations,
50 High- Definition Videos
200 students have completed the program
5 stars is the average rating!

Start Kindfulness today


Letting Go of Fear

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One of the scariest things I ever did was to become a school teacher for teenagers. I had just completed a masters degree in Chemical Engineering in a great university, and all my friends were getting jobs in big corporates, banks or doing PhDs. They thought I was going mad!

Additionally, I’m naturally not one to be in the limelight - usually I don’t jump up speak to large groups of people - I prefer to listen, engage, learn and have fun! Not have the responsibility to teach young, energetic kids.

I still remember the lesson I had to teach with my assessor. I was being observed by my teacher trainer. I was terrified! I had to teach a group of 30 rowdy, hyperactive teenagers physics - specifically about light and lasers.

I spent hours planning the lesson. I created special worksheets for students that struggled to understand English. I had special tasks for those that found the topic too easy too. I’d planned for everything...well, almost everything.

The lesson went quite well even though I was anxious, except at the end. I was so nervous, I demonstrated how to use the laser but left it switched on - pointing towards the class! Luckily it wasn’t too powerful and no one looked directly into it! Phew!

This story shows the problem with fear.

When we fear, we start to control too much. We become rigid. We plan excessively. In that rigidity, we’re not flexible to the needs of the moment and end up making mistakes. We fail at the very thing we feared most.

In this blog, I’m going to share with you what is fear, what causes fear, the effects of fear and some ways to let go of fear.

Understanding Fear

Fear arises when your ‘fight or flight’ system is switched on. It’s activated by a part of the brain called the amygdala. Your body goes into emergency mode. Your heart pumps faster. You feel sweaty and anxious. Your ability to digest food or fight diseases reduces.

But what causes your fight and flight system to be switched on in the first place? The answer - you feel threatened.

To go back to my earlier example, I felt threatened by the teacher trainer. I thought:

‘What if the class doesn’t listen to me?’

‘What if the class goes out of control?’

‘What if I mess up the lesson and the kids just go wild?’

They are all ‘what if’ statements and they are all followed by a negative statement...and unlikely to be true too!

Fear arises when you think ‘What if…’ followed by a negative statement.

But you can think positively too. And it’s just as true.

I could have thought:

‘What if the class enjoys my class and listens to me?’

‘What if the class loves learning about lasers and thinks it’s super cool!?’

‘What if my lesson goes really well and my teacher trainer loves what I do?’

That’s a powerful way of letting go of fear. Thinking ‘What if…’ followed by something positive, that’s just as likely as the negative.

 

Switching Perspectives when things go ‘wrong’

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BUT, I hear you say, what if the negative stuff does happen? What if your class really did get bored and didn’t listen to you?!

Well, that’s fine too. I’ll explain.

If my lesson did go wrong, is it such a big deal? I am training to teach after all! I’m not supposed to be perfect. Even if all my lessons went wrong, and I failed my teacher training program, that’s ok too! I’d never have to teach a hyperactive group of teenagers again.

(As it turned out, I did really well in my teacher training, and was certified by the world’s top university in education, and went on to teach for 10 years in one of the only schools in the country that offered philosophy and meditation to all children. So my fears were very much unnecessary!)

Letting go of fear is about understanding there’s no such thing as a bad outcome. Either things go according to your wishes and that’s great. Or things don’t go to plan, and you learn from the experience and move on.

At this point, people start citing examples like what if you’ve been raped or tortured or beaten up. How is that a good thing? Obviously, I’m not saying it’s a good thing. But I’m say there’s still space there to turn that very negative experience into something that can help others. I haven’t been through these experiences so I can’t speak for them, but you can go ahead and speak to such victims and you’ll find some who’ve turned that experience into an organisation or charity to help others out of such circumstances.

There’s nothing you need to fear. Whatever happens, it’s a learning experience for you.

Story: Who put that Big, Stinky Pile of Dung on my Doorstep?

One famous story by my buddy Ajahn Brahm is the story of the truckload of dung.

What would you do if one day you woke up, and a big truckload of shit was piled up outside your home? You didn’t order it. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t do anything to cause it. But there it is - huge, smelling and steaming away outside your home.

You could complain about it. That won’t help. You could shout at it. That’s just make you lose your voice. You could grab some of it, and show it to your friends. That would probably make your friends run away.

You know what the best thing to do with a truckload of dung is? Take a shovel, and dig it into your garden. Step by step, you can put all that shit deep into the ground. Eventually all that fresh shit will be deep in the earth.

Then, you plant a tree. Or maybe you already have a tree. Here in England, we used to have a lovely apple tree at the back of our garden. If I was in India, I’d plant a nice mango tree.

All that dung turns into nutritious, fresh compost. That compost nourishes your tree, and you end up with fresh, juicy, sweet, delicious mangoes! Do you like mangoes? I think everyone does.

You turned a situation that seemed frustrating or scary into something wonderful. Even more wonderful than if you hadn’t received that lovely big pile of shit outside your home! Who would have thought you would benefit from shit - but you do!

See fear in the same way, like that shit.

Take your fear and dig it into the ground so you can enjoy decades of juicy mangoes.

Discovering the Strange Effects of Fear

One of the effects of fear is excessive control.

Are you a control freak? Or a perfectionist? Are you constantly planning? Do you have a plan A, plan B, plan C, D, E, F and G?!

When you’re overcome with fear, you think control is the answer. If you’re scared your relationship isn’t going to work out, you try to do things perfectly to ensure nothing goes wrong. You try and control your partner to ensure everything ‘goes right’. But that’s no fun for you or your partner! Let go! Go with the flow...relax.

When you plan, things always go wrong. Haven’t you noticed that? 10 years ago, I was a Physics teacher in a school in south-west London. Now I run a Mindfulness teacher training company, an author and I run a Museum of Happiness! I would never have guessed that in a zillion years!

I don’t know what I’ll be doing in a few years time. Do you? So why bother planning in such detail? Plan a bit - okay. But plans are not plans - just guesses. Remember that.

The best plan - kindfulness. Which mean to be aware in each moment and be kind. That’s my plan. Be aware and be kind. To others and to myself.

Root Cause of Fear

We’ve already explored one big cause of fear - thinking negatively. Focusing on negative outcomes. And also not realising that there’s no such thing as a negative outcome - there’s just cause and effect. Things happen and you learn from them either way.

But what’s the root cause of fear?

It’s your sense of self. Me. I. My reputation. My experience. My body. ME ME ME!

Why are people so scared of giving a public talk? It’s because they are scared: what people will think of ME.

‘If I mess it up, what will they think of me?’

‘What does my partner think of me?’

‘What if my boss finds out I’m useless?’

The solution is to go from me to we.

Who cares about your reputation! Look at this image of the Dalai Lama - do you think he cares what people think of him? No! That’s how he relaxes.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. And i’m going to share with you some ways you can overcome your fears right away. You don’t need to buy anything else or study anything else. It’s all here. Open and free. So, here we go.

Conclusion: Ways to Let Go of Fear

1. Focus on the positive. What if + Something Positive.

See life in a positive light. Focusing on negative outcomes makes you feel scared. But focusing on positive outcomes makes you feel more at ease. Even if things don’t go according to your precious plans, it’ll all turn out fine if you make finding the positive a game. Simple, but it works!

2. Go from Me to We

The root of fear is the ‘me’. As long as there’s a separation of you and the world, there is space for fear to arise. So focus less on ‘me’ and more on ‘we’. I shared last week about the power of selflessness and the research that shows excessive focus on self is unhelpful at best, and can cause serious mental health issues at worst.

So, think we, not me. Ask ‘how can I help you?’ rather than ‘how can you help me?’
And above all, try and think less and try and be more.