Loving Your Sufferings: The Only Way Out is In

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Why was I suffering so much on such a ordinary day?

It was a cold and dreary day, but nothing too out of the ordinary for a winter's morning in London. I was teaching mindfulness to a group, as I’ve done countless times before.

The only difference was I hadn’t felt good for a few weeks. It was the depths of winter. I was less enthusiastic and cheerful and low on motivation. I had been feeling unwell. I was spending lots of time indoors, sleeping, to try and recharge.

The Suffering Began

Suddenly, as I began to speak in front of the group, my heart started racing like it’s never done before. Words wouldn’t come out of my mouth.  After struggling through about half a sentence, I told the group I didn’t feel so good, and let’s sit down and do a meditation together.

I told the group to stop, take a deep breath and relax. And I was closely following my own instructions. Within a few minutes, I was feeling better, and felt able to carry on speaking. Somehow I got through the session. But I had this newfound self awareness of my own state of body and mind each time I spoke. Fortunately, the group seemed quite happy, unaware of how challenging it had been for me.

I immediately had to teach another two groups. What would happen? Would my heart race again and make it difficult for me to speak? Fortunately not so much. The experience didn’t repeat itself that day. But I was certainly shaken by the experience.

Once I reached home, I didn’t want to stand in front of a group and teach again. I even seriously contemplated not teaching ever again! ‘Maybe I could be more of an organiser, and get others to teach?’, I thought. Maybe I could just write and hide behind computers and books.

But before long, I spotted what was happening. How I was running away from fear rather than facing up to it. Moving towards difficulties is what I’ve been teaching others for years. So I took a big spoon of my own medicine and mindfully and kindly decided to move towards my fear. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but in some ways I also felt I had no choice. If the choice is between being more open and loving, or more fearful and sad, is that really a choice?

Moving In Close

I decided to face another audience. I was hoping my challenge was a one off. But it wasn't. My racing heart and discomfort did return. Again and again. Each time I had the opportunity to teach in front of a group, I said yes. And each time I had to face up to that feeling of fear - of not knowing how it'd turn out. Of not knowing how my body and mind may react. Sometimes I felt fine and sometimes I had to turn my eyes away from the audience for a while to work through my inner feelings as I taught.

At first the feeling didn't stay isolated to teaching classes. I even began to feel some discomfort whilst speaking to a small group of people, even friends. But I'm pleased to say I didn't really shy away from any of these situations. I kept turning up and worked through the anxieties till they passed.

These were certainly moments of suffering. But reflecting back on them now, I’m grateful for them. Without such suffering, how could I possibly have any compassion for others going through high levels of stress or anxiety? How could I recommend others to face their fears if I’ve never faced my own fears? Of course I’d prefer to have not had suffering, but having had it, there’s many ways I can make great use of the experience.

How You Can Overcome Your Suffering and Fear

Here’s what I did and continue to do to help me overcome the suffering that visited me, based in what I’ve read to work scientifically. Perhaps some of these strategies will work for you too.

  1. Acknowledge this is normal. Take a kindful and friendly approach. Acknowledge that you are suffering and that suffering is not a sign of something wrong. Suffering means you’re a human being going through an experience every single human being goes through at different degrees. Do you really think you’re the only person who’s suffered like this? No. And this is what connects us all.

  2. Small opportunities to face your fear is the name of the game. In my case, I sought out small groups. I taught with others. I rebuild courage and a positive attitude.

  3. Challenge yourself regularly to rechallenge yourself. By challenging myself regularly, I went from a feeling of dreading to teach, to a feeling of not wanting to stop. I remember teaching passionately about wellbeing in a company and having to make a big effort to stop getting carried away!

  4. Build up your challenge. If you start feeling bored, it’s a good sign to give yourself a bigger challenge. Take time to consider what would be a good next little step in your journey, and go for it! Know that you’re treading a path many others have walked on before, and your journey will be able to help others.

In the psychological world, this is called exposure therapy and has been found to be very effective for many people. Next week, I’ll go through this again, explaining a bit more from the psychology and science perspective as to how and why it works so well.

I hope you find this helpful. Let us know in the comments if you’ve effectively used this approach to overcome your fears. Or do share any other thoughts. I love reading your comments!

If you’d like to learn more about my approach of combining mindfulness with kindness, consider my free 7 day course. Or my full 8 week program which is currently on sale - includes 60 mini daily videos and over 15 guided kindfulness audio meditations to try.

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

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9 Steps to Enjoy More Synchronicity in Your Life

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Last week I saw this striking piece of graffiti in Shoreditch. I don’t often stop to look or take photos, but there was something magical about the artwork - so I took my time and took the photo, waiting for an iconic London black cab to speed past. Do you like it?

The next day, whilst researching the benefits of working a 4 day week, I saw that very same location filmed by the BBC.

I smiled. I took it to mean I should try working a 4 day week once in a while, and put it down as a moment of synchronicity.

The people over at Oxford define synchronicity as:

“The simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection”

Carl Jung coined the concept, no less.

I love it when things happen through synchronicity. Recent examples include:

  • I messaged an old friend I haven’t messaged for months, and she happen to message me at exactly the same time.

  • I have a feeling that my assistant is going to watch a musical the very day I suggest it to her, and she’s booked it to see it that day. And we’ve never discussed musicals in the many years we’ve known each other.

  • Our Museum’s first address is at building number 42, and our new venue is called 42 acres, and we launch it exactly 42 days after we run our final major event in the previous venue. And it’s my 42nd year on planet earth too. Boom!

Why do I enjoy spotting such ‘coincidences’? Because when I spot them, they remind me of this quote, which is hanging outside our new venue:


“There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein

As a science student, I was taught that everything was random - coincidences happen due to chance. But living that way is so boring! Whether everything is random or has some sort of magic behind it, no one can ever prove one way or the other, no matter how much evidence they have. So, I choose to live my life as if magic does exist - as if the Universe is on my side.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed about synchronicity. The more often such events happen, the more I feel I’m living in line with my calling. When I’m feeling positive, when I’m spending time with positive friends that believe in the power of synchronicity, the more I notice such events.

I’ve shared similar experiences with my post on increasing luck in your life too.

Here’s my mindful tips for inviting more synchronicities into your life:

1. Look out for synchronicities today! Just be aware of so called ‘coincidences’ and rather than seeing them as a insignificant random occurances, consider them a moment of synchronicity and acknowledge them.

2. Act as if the Universe is on your side. Rather than considering yourself on your own, trying to navigate through the challenges in life, see if you can imagine that the Universe is giving you experiences to support and help you. To teach you. To make you smile. You could even try considering everything as significant in your life in some way.

3. When things seemingly go wrong, don’t jump to negative conclusions. Instead, look out for an unusual opportunity that may come out of such difficulties.

4. Take decisions based on synchronicities. This is a more tricky one, but play with it. For example, when I kept seeing the number 42, on buses, on number plates, I took it as a sign to work with an organisation called 42 Acres when they approached me. So rather than spending hours weighing up the pros and cons, I used synchronicity to help me make a decision.

5. Smile when synchronicity happens! For a while, I made the mistake of taking synchronicity for granted. ‘Oh well, just another synchronous event’ I thought. Bad idea! Then the synchronicity loses its magic. Instead, I now think ‘Yay! I wonder what other magical synchronicities are in store for me today?’ Having this fun, playful attitude is such a joyful way to live. (Here’s my smile meditation on insight timer app to help you rediscover your inner smile)

6. Spend time with other people who believe in synchronicity. I find this can really supercharge the amount of moments in which I spot magical, mysterious and fun synchronicities.

7. Practice awareness and kindness raising activities. Like mindfulness, kindfulness, other meditations, yoga, tai chi, qigoing and so on. These practices raise your level of awareness so you are better able to spot the magic of synchronicity more often.

8. Control and plan less. Control can be very boring. Planning every minute can be a chore. But when you go into a meeting, event or situation without a plan, you’re creating the space for magic to happen...as anything can happen. It’s more scary but it’s also more fun. Things are not really under your control anyway - that’s just an illusion. So why not let go and see where synchronicity takes you today? If you spot something, great. And if not, no worries either. Breathe and be patient. :)

9. Do acts of kindness for others. They make you feel good and they’ll make the receiver feel good too. This feel good attitude will lead to some lovely synchronicities.

BONUS TIP - Because the Universe is on your side today!

10. Practice Gratitude. Even just thinking about one think that you’re happy or grateful about that happened today as you drift to sleep could help you enjoy more magical moments of synchronicity in your life as you’ll have a more realistically positive outlook. Here’s how.

If you’d like to learn more about my approach of combining mindfulness with kindness, consider my free 7 day course. Or my full 8 week program which is currently on sale - includes 60 mini daily videos and over 15 guided kindfulness audio meditations to try.

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

Start Kindfulness today

How To Be Mindful With Zero Concentration


When I was first taught meditation, it was a type of meditation similar to what is called TM, or Transcendental Meditation. Have you heard of it?

My First Experience of Meditation

If I wanted to learn this meditation I was asked by the organisation to pay a month’s wages (or maybe it was a week’s wages...I can’t remember...I know it wasn’t much as I was a poor student!) and offer a white cloth to represent purity and some flowers to represent something else.

Anyway, in exchange for these gifts and payment, the teacher taught me meditation. I remember feeling quite embarrassed walking on the streets of London early on a Sunday morning with these seemingly odd gifts, to give to someone I didn’t even know.

After meeting the teacher one to one in a quiet room, I was given what I was told was a secret mantra. I eventually found out most people were given the same mantra. I was taught to repeat the word, the mantra, in my head repeatedly and to concentrate on it.

At first, it seemed to work really well! My mind calmed down and I felt better. But after many months, I got bored of repeating that word to be honest. The process felt too mechanical to me. And having read research by Dr. Herbert Benson in his book the Relaxation Response, I found it didn’t really matter what word was used. As long as you used any word and quietly repeated it for a while, your mind would calm down, your blood pressure would decrease and you’d enjoy some health benefits. My skepticism had returned.

Discovering Mindfulness

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Some years later, looking for research papers on meditation, I came across mindfulness meditation. In this meditation, I was again taught to concentrate, but this time often on my breath. My mind kept wandering but the teacher patiently kept teaching - don’t worry if your mind wanders, just gently bring it back...again and again. The ideal would be to be concentrated on the breathing...this was a bit better than the mantra meditation, but still didn’t feel quite right. Something was still missing for me. But I didn’t know what.

Exploring True Mindfulness Through Letting Go

Finally, I discovered another way to meditate, which I’ve enjoyed over the past few years. A meditation I refer to as Kindfulness. I believe this isn’t a new type of meditation, but is actually the meditation that the Buddha recommended, but has become lost in translation - literally.

The last part of the eightfold path in Buddhist meditation is called Samadhi. Most people translate the word to mean concentration, but that’s incorrect according to my teacher Ajahn Brahm. He considers it a gross mistaken translation by Rhys Davids more than a hundred years ago. Mindfulness is a great translation of Sati, but concentration, which implies effort rather than letting go, is a very unhelpful translation of Samadhi.

Samadhi actually means stillness. The mistranslation as concentration has caused a lot of suffering and a lot of headaches. There are even lots of monks and nuns getting ‘meditation headaches’ due to their efforts trying to concentrate on their breathing so much!

How To Practice Mindfulness Meditation Through Stillness


True meditation is about stillness, not concentration. Concentration implies effort and willpower. But willpower is very weak. Within seconds your mind wanders off….why? Because your poor mind gets tired and bored!

So what’s the alternative approach?

Letting go.

Just sit down and be. Rather than being the controller of your mind, be an observer of your mind. Watch how your mind gets all caught up and then set free again...like the waves in the ocean. Sometimes your mind may take you off for 10 or 15 minutes on a series of thoughts, and sometimes just for a few moments. Either way, it’s your chance to observe and learn how YOUR mind works - don’t worry about comparing yourself to others.

One forum responder put it beautifully:

“Starting out trying to concentrate is like trying to stop an avalanche with an umbrella. Better to step aside, let it go by and observe the still terrain after it has passed by.”

The writer was implying thoughts to be the avalanche and you to be the one choosing to try and stop the thoughts like an umbrella. Not a good plan!

So the idea is to be kind to your mind rather than the controller of your mind. When you give your mind the freedom to think whatever it wishes to think and stay as a witness of your thoughts, they gradually slow down because you stop interfering with your mind.

Right now I’m watching some beautiful clouds in the sky. I’m not blaming myself for any dark clouds. I’m not praising myself for any lovely white fluffy clouds. I’m just watching the clouds as they pass through the sky. Sometimes I get caught up and interested in the shape of a cloud. And sometimes I take more of a step back and notice the sky as a whole. And when I bring a kind, friendly attitude to sky, the experience is even more pleasurable. The awareness grows from not just intellectualising from my mind, but more from my heart.

It’s the same with your mind. The sky is your mind and the clouds are your thoughts. Sometimes you get caught up in the clouds and sometimes you step back and see the sky as a whole. What really matters is your attitude. Whenever you remember, bring a curious, kindly awareness to your mind and the thoughts that arise within them. You can’t really control what clouds come along, but you do have a bit of control with your attitude. Play with your attitude as and when you can.

Curiosity is the way.

Friendliness is the way.

Stillness is the way.

If you’d like to learn more about my approach of combining mindfulness with kindness, consider my free 7 day course. Or my full 8 week program which is currently on sale - includes 60 mini daily videos and over 15 guided kindfulness audio meditations to try.

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

Start Kindfulness today