Oh Crackers it’s Christmas!

Oh Crackers it’s Christmas!
Saturday 15th December 2018
10 am – 12 midday

Shelley Theatre,

Whether you are doing Christmas on your own or ‘they’ are coming – mindful attitudes, techniques and meditation can help soothe the ups and downs of this jolly holly season.

We will explore the premise that there is much peace and joy to be found when we can celebrate and make friends with things or ourselves, being ‘not particularly perfect’!

The workshop will include a rather delectable and relaxing Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Body Scan. Please feel free to bring a yoga mat/ blanket and pillow, so you can take a well deserved break, get comfy, cosy and ‘do it’ lying down!

During the course of 2019, these monthly workshops will include key elements of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Cognitive Therapy teaching models, as well as the Insight Meditation method used by world leading mindfulness teacher and clinical psychologist Tara Brach.

Lyn O’Donnell is The Mindful Delinquent. Imperfect, reluctant, renegade meditator, writer, teacher, coach and speaker.

Tickets – www.bit.ly/OhCrackersItsChristmas


Emotional Intelligence.

Oh my Gawd. The tension in the world is right up there at the moment. Polarised views, violent rhetoric and the inability to have a respectful discussion that leads to any resolution or understanding. I’m right – you’re wrong – go die. Essentially.

So what can we do about it? Do we have a personal responsibility to develop our emotional intelligence? Could this make a difference anyway?

I would like to propose yes, it will. And in any case, even though no outcome is guaranteed, the alternative is much worse.

So, I ain’t gonna lie. It’s a challenging and noble quest to be willing to look and inquire into the Self. Usually most of us on this journey had no choice but to change. Shit was not working. But guess what, shit ain’t working for anyone anymore.

It’s so much easier and immediately gratifying to blame and project all our unacknowledged crap onto others – especially if we feel we have the ‘moral’ high ground. And everyone thinks they have the moral high ground. Join up into a gang who think the same way – that’s ignorance squared.

I’m not saying Mindfulness Philosophy is the only or a definitive solution. Far from it. But it does offer A tried and tested cognitive method to get to know and care for ourselves better and the consequences of just that alone are good.

First we get to wake up and be aware; can’t change what you don’t see. Then, if we treat ourselves with non-judging kindness, there is the possibility to acknowledge our own shadow; those ‘not so nice’ parts of ourselves that reside within.

We realise ‘we ain’t so perfect’ and it is survivable to make mistakes, change our minds or admit we were wrong. Who knew! We can then take responsibility, adjust our beliefs and change our behaviour. It’s vital to take action, mindfulness is not passive.

Slowly we begin to ‘see Self in others and others in Self’, the foundation of empathy and understanding. It becomes less threatening to listen and try to understand where ‘other people’ are coming from. With an attitude of curiosity we can learn to examine and interrogate the ideas being put forward, rather than imply the person is a total twat for having them.

I think for most of us, we were never educated in how to have debates in a respectful manner. That certainly wasn’t the case in my childhood home. My dear old dad used to start foaming at the mouth when he heard the Tops of the Pops theme tune. If I said I liked Marc Bolan – oh the carnage.

It’s understandable that people get scared or angry in heated discussions – the same stress hormones kick off in a conflict, as they do when you’ve just opened the fridge and there’s a flesh eating zombie hiding in the cheese box.

I love listening to skilful respectful debate of ideas – take a listen to Michael Sandel the American philosopher – the man’s a master at exploring and discussing differing ideologies and the participants mostly follow his example.

I’m not talking about violent hateful speech here – I’ve decided to stop listening to what Trump says. But I am making an effort to listen to political views with which I don’t agree. At the very least I can get a better understanding of the logic behind those beliefs and usually I can find some common ground.

It’s more important than ever that we learn to do this – otherwise we start ‘othering’ groups of people – dehumanising them and they become easier to hurt….. and we all know where that one ends.

So I would say, yes absolutely, we do have a responsibility to develop our own emotional intelligence. If for no other reason than it’s cowardly, boring and vacuous just to point the finger all the time. There’s nowhere to go with hate speech, absolute certainty, the refusal to listen or change one’s mind. Save your breath. Just don’t be part of that ignorance.

Instead, in the words of the great Mahatma himself; let’s be the change. I hope we can do it in time.

Mindfulness – a philosophy for those ‘dog turd’ moments of life.

I’m not gonna lie – it was bad, real bad. There were times when I didn’t know if I’d get through it.

An evening autumn walk on the cliff-top path had seemed like such a good idea at the time, but at the end of my walk and back in my camper, IT hit my nostrils. The unmistakable noxious stench of dog shit.

I looked down in the dark and oh dear God, there was no mistake. Copious, glutinous, squidgy and smeared like bathroom grout into the chunky trademark treads of my Dr Marten Molly Black GLITTER Chunky Platforms. Brand new and never before worn. I need you to grasp the tragedy.

So we humans, in differing degrees, have three ways we react to adversity that has been ‘done unto us’ by another – aka some bastard did us over.

1. Hatred, blame and aversion. Up to and including plotting revenge of downfall of the perpetrator of the heinous deed. There is a special place in hell for dog owners that ‘allow the poop yet do not scoop’.

2. Denial. Jump to what is known as pre-mature enlightenment. It’s fine, really. Maybe the person’s mother just died. Be grateful for the fact you have shoes/boots. Anger is bad and spiritual people don’t feel that – right? No not really.

3. Or confusion. We freeze, go into shock and do nothing. In this case, my distressed DMs would still be sitting fucked and fermenting in the emergency Tesco carrier bag I pulled from the dash.

A common mistake us spiritual seekers make is to judge ‘anger’ as a bad thing. That’s because an awful lot of us experience care-givers expressing anger is a dangerous and damaging way. But it doesn’t have to be that.

Anger can be a perfectly and healthy body/emotional reaction to certain events and it can be healthily and respectfully expressed. Like all emotion it has some important information to give us – should I have spoken up about something, made a boundary, tell someone I’ve had enough and to go and do one. We serve no-one by being human door-mats.

When we deny our own anger, it becomes damaging and can fester; bursting out later to the wrong people, easier targets, or come out passively or we turn on the self.

As well as meditation, mindfulness philosophy offers an effective cognitive method to meet these Dog Turds of Life moments.

1. First arrow. Shit happens. That’s the pain. Suffering is our reaction to the event.

2. We notice our thoughts and body reactions and be kind and compassionate to ourselves.

3. We can do an Inquiry. Examine our thoughts beliefs around the heinous devilish event! Did the owner and doggy really have an agenda to fuck up my day? I doubt the turd had my name engraved on it. Mindful inquiry invites us to question own our own ‘part’ – what did I do that put me in a position for this to happen.

4. We can take wise action. Mindfulness is not about passivity.
Anger can mean speaking out in a way that let’s the other person know what they did or said impacted you and is not acceptable. We can make strong request for a change of behaviour. And we can be fierce and committed in our expression – without personally attacking the other. What we say is far more likely to be heard when we attack the action or the speech, rather than the individual’s birth mother.

Mindfulness and spiritually are not about being obsequious and ‘nice’. We don’t need to abandon ourselves and people please to avoid conflict – it never works. I know; I speak as a recovering former slithering people pleaser who once apologised to a builder who dropped a bucket of cement ……. on my face.

Anyway – the dog owner was long gone so no conversation was possible in this case. It was a two hour clean up involving expletives that would make a Navi blush, dollops of tiger balm shoved up my nostrils, a pair marigolds, two bottles of disinfectant and several miles of kitchen towel.

So how are things now? Well me and the boots may never fully recover to our former glittering glory. What has been seen cannot be unseen. We have been exposed to one of life’s darker truths. Dog Shit and Glitter don’t mix.

Mindfulness instead of anti-depressants?

Depression is a crippling condition which can leave us feeling utterly bereft and powerless. It is complex, chemical and emotional; deserves great care and attention and often professional help. At the same time, it is also a perfectly normal human response to certain causes and conditions, some of which we are aware and some not. We are not ‘wrong’ or ‘flawed’ to have it. Who knows, maybe the depression has something useful to tell us about our lives and skilful mindfulness practise will help us inquire into this.

Read More “Mindfulness instead of anti-depressants?”


Mindfulness and World Peace – really?

So, what has mindfulness got to do with doing our bit for a more peaceful world? Well, more than you might think actually.

As well as getting more okay in our skins and crucially, okay when we are not okay; mindfulness invites us to examine ourselves more deeply, in other words we have the opportunity develop some emotional intelligence.

In these current tumultuous times of ‘react first, worry about out the facts later’, I would like to propose this is vitally important if we are to avoid the catastrophes of the past.

It’s very easy, when we are not aware of the internal forces that drive us, to blame others for being ‘bad’. This can be subtle and happens on an individual level with family, friends and work colleagues. But it is also happening in wider society with deeply dark and dangerous consequences. Read More “J’Accuse!”

What’s wrong with us?

Half Woman – Half Lizard!

So why, when it’s not actually Armageddon and things are not that terrible, can we feel so dissatisfied, ill at ease, agitated or worse?

We mustn’t be too hard on ourselves – we have a hard wired evolutionary bias to focus on ‘what’s wrong’. For our future protection, bad experiences stay with us, the brain structure remembers. Pleasant experiences and positive mind states like optimism, gratitude and equilibrium are just not that useful in evolutionary terms.

Read More “What’s wrong with us?”