The Happy Starfish

Living Mindfully & Celebrating Health, Happiness & Peaceful Living


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Museum of Happiness

10959649_1581154305434716_5474220634923512723_nThere’s nothing quite like the first hot day of the year. There’s something about the sun beating down that makes strangers smile and nod as they pass, as though part of some great conspiracy, as they scurry to the park to eat their sandwiches. Sleeves rolled up, ties loosened, tights removed.

Despite the icy weather, it was the same atmosphere this weekend at the UK’s first pop-up Museum of Happiness. Spitalfields Market in London may have had sub-zero temperatures but the fuzzy warmth radiating from the cluster of gazebos could heat the chilliest of hearts.

My Mindfulness teacher, Shamash Alidina, co-created this event so I couldn’t resist visiting, not quite sure what to expect, but knowing it would be awesome – and it was. Small, but fabulously organised, it was well worth the trip. Where else can you dance at a silent disco, meditate on a beach via virtual reality, try origami, practice gratitude and get creative at the arts table.

When the sound of laughter drowns out the thrum of shoppers you know it’s been a success. Open until Monday 18th January – pop along if you can.

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Morris the Mindful Monkey

 

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Mindfulness is more than sitting in formal meditation, it’s being fully absorbed in the task in hand, not engaging with distracting thoughts. Yesterday I didn’t want to do a long meditation, I wanted to spend some quality time with my son so I got my creative on and we transformed a pair of his socks into Morris the Mindful Monkey. It’s hard not to be present when doing something expressive.

In today’s super-busy society hobbies can fall by the wayside, but hobbies are often where our minds quieten and our feelings of stress can dissipate. Finding the time to factor something you love into your day is not always easy. It can feel self-indulgent and encourage feelings of guilt, but by looking after our own emotional needs we are then better placed to help take care of family and friends.

When was the last time you did something just for fun?


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Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Course

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8 week Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy programme, based on the original programme devised by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

MBCT combines traditional cognitive behavioural therapy with mindfulness and meditation. MBCT enables the participant to recognise and step out of automatic cognitive processes that can trigger stress, anxiety and depression. Participants recognise that certain thoughts and feelings are mentally destructive and are taught to allow the mind to move from automatic thought patterns to conscious emotional processing.

Scientific research supports the effectiveness of mindfulness for reducing depressive relapses, reducing cravings for substances people are addicted to, combating stress and being an effective tool for managing chromic pain and health conditions.

The MBCT programme takes place over 8 weeks. There is a weekly course and practice is done outside of the class with the use of MP3’s for regular meditation and techniques to integrate mindfulness into daily routines. The course is a blend of experiential meditation and theory enabling participants to really explore and understand the mind/body connection and how our thoughts impact on every aspect of our wellbeing.

See what previous participants are saying here.

Our courses will run regularly at the Oxford Street Therapy Centre in Wellingborough, Northants. £160.00 each. A course manual, worksheets and MP3’s are provided.

Our current course is full. A new course will be starting on Monday 15th June at 10.00-11.30 am. Places are limited.

Contact us for further details or fill out the registration form to secure your place.

Week One

Automatic pilot

Doing and being mode

Week Two

Suspending judgements

Week Three

Staying present and dealing with stress

Week Four

Acceptance and allowing

Week Five

Exploring difficulty

Week Six

How can I best take care of myself?

Week Seven

Forgiveness

Week Eight

Practicing gratitude

Moving forward mindfully

 

This can also be taught via Skype or in a 1-to-1 coaching session.

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Zen tale – The businessman and the fisherman

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The businessman and the fisherman

A few years ago, a very rich businessman decides to take a vacation to a small tropical island in the South Pacific. He has worked hard all his life and has decided that now is the time to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He is excited about visiting the island because he’s heard that there is incredible fishing there. He loved fishing as a young boy, but hasn’t gone in years because he has been so busy working to save for his retirement.

So on the first day, he has his breakfast and heads to the beach. It’s around 9:30 am. There he spots a fisherman coming in with a large bucket full of fish!

‘How long did you fish for?’ he asks.

The fisherman looks at the businessman with a wide grin across his face and explains that the fishes for about three hours every day. The businessman then asks him why he returned so quickly.

‘Don’t worry,’ says the fisherman, ‘There’s still plenty of fish out there.’

Dumbfounded, the businessman asks the fisherman why he didn’t continue catching more fish. The fisherman patiently explains that what he caught is all he needs. ‘I’ll spend the rest of the day playing with my family, talking with my friends and maybe drinking a little wine. After that I’ll relax on the beach.’

Now the rich businessman figures he needs to teach this peasant fisherman a thing or two. So he explains to him that he should stay out all day and catch more fish. Then he could save up the extra money he makes and buy and even bigger boats to catch even more fish. The he could keep reinvesting his profits in even more boats and hire many other fisherman to work for him. If he works really hard, in 20 or 30 years he’ll be a very rich man indeed.

The businessman feels pleased that he’s helped teach this simple fellow how to become rich. Then the fisherman looks at the businessman with a puzzled look on his face and asks what he’ll do after he becomes very rich.

The businessman responds quickly You can spend time with your family, talk with your friends, and maybe drink a little wine. Or you could just relax on the beach.

The fishermen smiles ‘but that’s what I’m doing now.’


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Mental Health Awareness Week

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Count your blessings

Count? My mind is hazy. I cannot concentrate on the simplest of tasks.

Snap out of it

Snap? I have slept for twelve hours but still don’t have the energy to move.

A good meal will cheer you up

I told you I cannot eat. My throat is constricted, my stomach a mass of swirling emotions.

Turn that frown upside down 

I try. I really do, but my face feels like a grotesque mask.

If you can’t be bothered to help yourself

I am screaming for help, can’t you hear me? But the room is silent and you turn away.

 

 

It is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. Depression is not something you choose.

 

We have experience in teaching Mindfulness within the Mental Health field to sufferers and carers. 

Please contact us for more information.

 

 


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The simple life

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The simple life is the best. To live an uncomplicated, stress free life is something people often talk about, but if the simple life really is the best why aren’t we living it?

Realistically, there are not many of us who could go and live up a mountain, or deep within nature. We have friends, family, people we care about. We have careers that are necessary to pay for the homes we live in. We work hard, we want nice things, holidays, evenings out.

We get tired. We want entertaining. The days of standing around the piano singing are long gone, we stream movies, shop online, check social networking sites an inordinate amount of time.

We often eat in front of the tv, plates balanced on our laps, smartphone in hand, the tv on in the background.

The harder we work, the more we want to rewards ourselves with material possessions and holidays. The pleasure holidays and new purchases give us is often fleeting, leaving us dissatisfied, wanting more, so we work harder. We worry more. We overthink. We miss the present moment.

We put huge amounts of pressure on ourselves to have the ‘perfect life.’

Mindfulness enabled me to strip back my life, to step away from the drama, to break the endless loop of unhelpful thinking, to get back to basics and really appreciate what I have, right here, right now.

‘Life is simple but we insist on making it complicated.’

I don’t entirely agree with this quote. Life isn’t always, can’t by its very nature always simple, it can be wild, unpredictable and challenging, but the more fully present we are, the simpler life feels and the more contentment we have.

How complicated is your life?


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Grieving mindfully

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I have had a quiet few months. A bereavement before Christmas left me reeling, numb to life and questioning everything. I took a step back, I stopped teaching classes and blogging.

Loss is something we all experience within our lifetime, it is impossible to live, to love, without it; but I have found grief to be oddly isolating. There are no two people who experience grief in the same way and despite being reassured by people who have also experienced a loss ‘I know exactly how you feel,’ they don’t. No one can.

I turned to Mindfulness originally after acquiring a chronic health condition as a way to manage both my physical pain and my emotional distress without medication. Suffice to say it is, again, my practice that is allowing me to explore my feelings, to practice self-compassion and to let my experience be exactly what it is without judgement. By that I mean that I have allowed myself the time and space I feel I need without self-criticism. I knew that I would return to work when, and only when, I felt ready and I feel that time is now.

I return to teaching tomorrow. We have five fully booked classes scheduled in the next four days and I am curious to see how my teaching style has changed. I am not the same person I was, my self compassion has increased tenfold and I feel this will influence the teachings I pass on.

I will continue to grieve mindfully, to explore my feelings however uncomfortable they may be.

I will continue to live.