Meditation teacher training

“This is not a race, but a lifetime of inspired learning”. 

“This is not a race, but a lifetime of inspired learning” – these are words I regularly echo to students on the Chilled Out Child programme.

I believe in a multi-faceted and heart centred approach to health and wellbeing both at home and at work.  I believe there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to taking care of your mental, emotional (energetic) and physical health.  We are all unique human beings and therefore what works for one person may not necessarily work for another.

I have enjoyed and embraced a 20 year long journey studying many disciplines of holistic healing and am truly passionate about the benefits of yoga, meditation, mindfulness, emotional freedom techniques (tapping) and meridian psychotherapy.

One of my most exciting achievements and a project I am proud of, is the writing and teaching of the Chilled Out Child programme, which has evolved year on year.  This  programme has received international accreditation by one of the worlds most exciting and inclusive yoga institutions.

Joining the Chilled Out Child programme is an opportunity for personal growth and you will be gently supported you in your journey towards learning how to share meditation and mindfulness with children and teenagers.  This programme will also introduce you to an understanding of the energy body and how a simple therapy can evolve and transform energy body stress resulting in children (and adults) that are less anxious and able to be fully present in the moment.   The Chilled Out Child programme is fully mentored and my motto  in life is that “life should not be lived as if you are competing in a race, but lived in a way that you notice when to slow down and take care of yourself, regardless of the fact that everyone around you might be running the race and trying to drag you along with them”.  In a nutshell, if you need longer to complete your studies, that is absolutely fine.   This is not a race, it is a lifetime of inspired learning. 

You might be wondering what inspired me to write this programme.  I am a qualified Transformation meditation teacher, mindfulness facilitator, EFT Master Practitioner and Yoga Alliance International accredited yoga teacher for children and adults and in 2013, became increasingly concerned about the level of anxiety I was noticing in children.  This coincided with my own child working her way through the school system.  I was approached by one of the mums whose daughter attended my children’s yoga classes who insisted I needed to share mindfulness with more people by training adults to teach children and teenagers.   There seemed to be a number of children’s yoga teacher training courses around, but after extensive research, I felt that there was one important element missing in most training courses – meditation.  I decided to write the Chilled Out Child programme which is aimed at adults who wish to develop their own meditation practice and learn how to share anxiety management techniques and mindfulness with children and teenagers.  The programme now includes a section on EFT (tapping), as more parents are highlighting the difficulties their children are having with stress, anxiety, phobias, nightmares and reactions to various real or perceived trauma.

Learning how to share meditation techniques and inspire a mindful way of being in children and teenagers is particularly important for parents and school teachers who are in contact with children daily. The Foundations of Meditation modules are an ideal starting point for family life.  If you wish to share these life skills with children and teenagers in the community, you will enjoy the Bringing Meditation to the Wider Community modules which focuses on all the practicalities of teaching.

The programme is delivered as a mentored distance learning programme with lots of support from me.  In 2018, I will once again be running an “in person” training option from beautiful therapy rooms in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent and a truly unique yoga studio nestled in lovely gardens in South East London.

From the therapy rooms in Tunbridge Wells, I will also be offering Energy EFT and mindfulness coaching sessions for women, children and teens.

2018 is going to be a truly inspiring year. If you would like to know more about the Chilled Out Child programme or mindfulness coaching, please contact me here.

Exams, Life at School

Helping children conquer exam stress

We are fast approaching that time of year when everyone gets a bit anxious about sitting exams.  Children and teenagers feel anxious because, lets face it, how many of us really enjoy sitting an exam?  As parents, we become anxious and start worrying about whether our children and teens are preparing enough for their exams, as at the end of the day, we want them to do well and not feel stressed about learning.  Without realising it, we the parents, project our levels of anxiety onto our children and start making verbal statements or ask too many questions which create more anxiety.  It all becomes a bit of a vicious cycle, with everyone in the family feeling as if someone, or themselves are fit to burst with all the stress that floats around leading up to an during exam time.

Exam stress can affect all children of all ages and will influence how they approach an exam situation.  Depending on their approach and their anxiety levels, these unsettled moments will more than likely impact their exam performance.  There are some individuals who thrive on challenges and are less affected by the prospect of exams, whilst others struggle with their attention and memory, resulting in diminished problem solving and heightened levels of anxiety during exam time.

But, all is not lost, we as adults need to take a deep breath and share with our children how to feel relaxed by teaching them relaxation and correct breathing techniques, plus introduce some simple mindfulness techniques to help calm their nerves.   If we as parents can display calm, grounded and positive behaviours towards challenges, then by example, we are showing our children how to cope in potentially anxiety provoking exam situations.

Research has shown that children who participate in regular meditation sessions, cope better during exam time as they are able to call upon their inner calm and improved resilience to see them through.

In fact, teaching children to focus on the current moment or the “here and now” is essential to their long term mental health.  Consider how often as adults we worry about tomorrow and harbour regrets about yesterday.  If we had been taught mindfulness meditation when we were young, I am sure many of us would look back and feel grateful that we could reduce our anxiety by learning how to focus on the here and now and approach life in a more grounded way.

Unfortunately not all schools have the space in their curriculum to offer mindfulness as part of a child’s education and with a busy after curricular timetable, it can be difficult to persuade schools to add yet another activity to their schedule.

There is growing recognition worldwide that a well-rounded education must involve more than academics and a competitive sports programme.  It should include learning experiences and skills related to social and emotional literacy, including the practice of mindfulness and stress reduction breathing techniques.

Luckily, planting the seeds of mindful awareness in all spheres of your child’s life is easier than you think. Children have a natural tendency to notice the smaller details of life that we as adults tend not to notice anymore as we rush about our day.   You do not need to be an expert to start a mindful practice at home, just an open mind and a willingness to become more aware f how you and your family are interacting, or not, with the world around them.   Keep it simple, but commit to starting, even if for a mere minute a day.

Try this quick exercise with you children and teens (and any other members of the family too)

The one-minute pause
All you need to do is pause for one minute.  Literally stop what you are doing and just pause.    Individuals need to be encouraged to observe the beauty around them ie. A lovely tree, a moment in nature and natural open spaces, also notice how they are feeling, their breath, their bodies, emotions…. just pause and see what is happening with you and your relationship to the world around you in that short space of time.

You can time this minute and ring a bell when the minute is up.

When you teach children and teenagers stillness and introduce them to the concept of the one-minute pause, you are encouraging them to discard the “minds chatter’ and observe the world around them from a deeper place inside, even if for only a minute…

Try and do this yourself and with your children and teens a few times a day.

One of the best gifts you can give your children is the gift of calm and clarity during stressful moments in life.

As a busy parent, you owe it to yourself to develop and strengthen your own mindfulness practice so that you can share mindfulness with your children and help them manage the ebb and flow of life as you manage the intricacies of work/life balance.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.

 

Connecting to nature

Connecting to the cyclical nature of time through mandalas.

For the past few years, colouring pre-designed mandalas either using templates from colouring-in books or downloaded from the internet, has been hugely popular and has inspired many people to colour-in as a way of enjoying some mindful quiet time. Colouring-in is another way of promoting focus and concentration, encouraging the “here and now” and colouring mandalas is a great meditative experience for people of any age. Colouring mandalas helps you to slow down and reconnect to the cyclical nature of time, the rhythms of nature and the reality of change.

The world “mandala” is Sanskrit for circle, completion or sacred centre and for centuries Hindus and Buddhists have used mandalas as an aid for meditation.   Even in Western cultures, colouring mandalas has been used as a stress management and meditation tool. Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) a Swiss psychoanalyst was fascinated by mandalas as he found out that by colouring and drawing mandalas he could access the images and energy of his own unconscious mind.  He then decided to use this art form in his practice with his patients, to facilitate their process of inner reflection.

In its simplest form a mandala is a geometric pattern that is said to represent the universe.   The mandala represents a circle, the primal form of the universe and if you look carefully you can see mandala patterns everywhere.  Take a look in your garden, notice the patterns in the plants growing there.  Glance at the night sky, notice the moon (and the sun) are circular.  Our earth is round and looking microscopically at atoms and cells you will notice they also take on a rounded form.  Have you ever seen the cross section of tree trunks, really looked at flowers and even snowflakes if you are lucky enough to see enjoy an annual snow fall (we love the snow in this house).   All these things I have mentioned, have geometric patterns.  Next time you are out walking and there is water around, drop a pebble in the water and see how the circular water patterns naturally move from the centre outwards. When looking around us in nature, everything starts from a “growth point” and grows or moves outwards. Modern physics and mathematicians believe that everything has a “centre” or point from which everything emanates.  The Hindus call this point a “bindu”, which is a sacred point.

Today, find some time to be outside and see how many mandala patterns you can see in nature.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.

 

Mindful eating

Eating mindfully. Bringing fun to the dinner table.

The thought of sitting at the dinner table can conjure up all sort of emotions.  Some families use this time to re-connect and spend quality time together, whereas for some families, it can be a time of anxiety.  One anxiety inducing element to a family dinner is encouraging children to try new foods.   I heard of a child once who refused to eat anything but marmite sandwiches…apparently for a number of years.  You could try something new and turn the introduction of new foods into a “mindful game”.    If you research mindful eating you are bound to come across the “raisin exercise” which is used widely to teach people about mindful eating. But, you could use the mindful eating game to encourage your children to try new fruits (maybe even veggies, although that might be less successful).    Research has suggested that eating mindfully will help improve digestion,  regulating our appetite, allowing us to make better food choices and prevent us from over eating.

How do we go about eating mindfully?  In essence, to eat mindfully, we need to slow down and really taste, smell and feel the texture of our food avoiding the temptation to wolf our food down.  Fruit snacks are a good way to introduce mindful eating to children. It might be harder to ask younger children to sit quietly whilst you explain to them that they are going to try a mindfulness exercise or mindful eating game, so turn this exercise into a family event.   The best time to introduce mindful eating could be at the dinner table.   You could call this new game,  “guess what I am eating” or maybe you can think of a more interesting title.

Start by selecting some fruits (or other foods) which you place on a selection of covered small plates.   The first person selects a plate and when everyone else has their eyes closed, unveils what they need to eat and describe to the group.  The person doing the describing,  really needs to pay attention to the food and explain it in all its glorious detail to the rest of the family who need to guess what the food is.   The person who guesses correctly first, could be the next person to eat an item of food and explain it to the rest of the group who will again have their eyes closed.

Below are some tips for eating mindfully and really paying attention to every aspect of the food you are eating.

  • Is the food heavy or light?
  • Does the food  feel warm or cool?
  • Is the food smooth or rough?
  • What do you see?  In, other words describe what the food looks like in as much detail as possible.
  • Is the food one colour?
  • What can you tell the group about the shape and texture of the food?
  • You can delve deeper into where the food came from, how it grew (fruit,veggies etc), how it was processed before you were able to buy it, where you bought it from and so on.  By this stage your group might have guessed what the food is.
  • Bring your families attention to the smell of the food.  Some smells will be very subtle and much harder to describe.
  • How does the smell of the food make you feel?
  • Slowly bite and take one chew at a time noticing how the taste changes. Focus all your attention on your mouth, how do your teeth feel, how does your tongue feel?  What do you smell? How does the fruit feel in your hand/mouth etc.

Have the rest of the group guessed what food you are describing yet?

Once the group have guessed the food and before the next person has a turn describing the food for the group, everyone should taste the food that was being described and eat the piece of fruit or food of choice very slowly taking in all the smells, tastes and sensations. At first this will seem very odd as it may take quite a while to eat the food, which can make some people feel the exercise is a bit silly and raise a few laughs!   Compare notes.  Did the rest of the group taste and smell and feel the texture of the food the same way you described it?

Eating mindfully can seem very strange at first, as we have become accustomed to eating fast and for some eating on the run without even sitting at a table, has  become the norm.   Our modern lives seem to be eroding this precious family time, so with a bit of coaxing and taking a relaxed approach to this fun exercise, mealtimes could become fun again and an opportunity for families to slow down and reconnect.  You may even find that your children start eating different foods when they realise that after a bit of mindful eating, they do actually like them.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.

 

 

Chakras

Workshop: Exploring the Heart Chakra.

exploring-the-heart-chakra

In February 2017, join me on a journey to the centre of the heart chakra. Explore connecting with the breath, surrendering the ego, embracing generosity, allowing forgiveness and cultivating empathy towards yourself and others.

The workshop includes an introduction to the heart chakra and mindfulness, which is then followed by a gentle hatha yoga asana practice inspired by Tibetan Heart Yoga. The workshop ends with a loving kindness meditation.

Date: 11 February 2017.

Venue: Yoga Life Studio, Enterprise Centre, Eastbourne.

Time: 2pm – 4pm.

Investment: £25.00 per person.

For further information please complete the form below:

 

Connecting to nature

Cultivating an appreciation of life around us with mindful walking.

How often do you enjoy a country amble or a saunter along the beach?   Have you ever tried walking mindfully and really noticing how you feel when you walk, or noticed the environment around you?   When I think of mindful walking, I think of walking very slowly and paying attention to my breath and how my muscles feel in my body as I move through the movement of putting one step in front of the other, completely immersed in the art of “how I feel when I walk”.  You can extend this awareness to feeling the ground beneath your feet, you might also notice the breeze on your skin and some sounds in the local vicinity.

If you wish to practice a more formal form of mindful walking which involves walking slowly with awareness.  Then follow these steps below. After these steps, we shall look at simple ways to introduce mindful walking to younger family members.

  1. Start by becoming aware of how you are standing and aim to stand up straight with your back upright but not stiff.
  2. Ideally take your shoes off and feel your feet touching the ground and let your body weight distribute through your feet evenly.
  3. Before you start walking and to prevent your swinging arms from becoming a distraction, you can curl the thumb of your left hand into your palm and wrap your other fingers around it. Then place this “fist” on your abdomen just above your tummy button.   Place your right hand over and around the left hand.  You can place your right hand thumb in the space created by your left hand thumb and your index finger.  You should feel well balanced.   Try it and see if it works for you.
  4. To help you focus, drop your eyes slightly towards the ground just in front of you.
  5. Start  walking.  Feel your foot swing forward and feel your heel touch the ground, followed quickly the by the ball of your foot and finally your toes.  Keep moving forward in this way, one foot at a time.
  6. Walk at a steady pace and ensure it is slightly slower than your normal walking pace.  If you become distracted bring your awareness to each foot individually touching the ground and how that feels for you.

However, if you are going to introduce your children to mindful walking, you need to view your walk as an opportunity to walk a bit slower than normal and the chance to take note of everything going on around them – including how they feel.  Children, especially young ones will not embrace a slow more formal form of mindful walking.

As parents I am sure you can identify with the overwhelm of spending quite a bit of your time dashing from one place to another dragging your kids along with you.  Think about how often you collect the kids from school, race home quickly to fetch something, dash off to one of your children’s activities, dash home to quickly make dinner, race back to the venue to collect your child and possibly a second venue to collect your other child.   Most of this might be done with a  car, but you could also be walking or running!

This weekend, slow down and encourage your children to notice life around them.  Take a child friendly mindful walk, ideally somewhere in or near nature like a park, forest, field or if you are lucky enough to live near the sea, walk on the beach.

If you can, take off your shoes and feel the ground beneath your feet. If you can walk along the beach notice the grains of sand.  If you are walking on the grass, feel the grass between your toes. Notice the temperatures and textures of the ground beneath you. Extend your awareness and look at the texture of the ground, hear the sound of your footsteps as you walk and notice any smells in the air.  Feel the temperature of the air around you on your skin.  What do you see?  Cats, dogs, leaves, trees, flowers…litter? In colder countries if you are walking with your shoes on, notice how your feet are feeling inside you shoes. Reflect on how your body feels as you walk.  Do your muscles feel stiff, or is your body feeling fluid? Is your breathing deep or shallow?

To inspire children, you could introduce the game “I spy”.  For example, I spy something orange and crispy to the touch….. autumn leaves. Doing this makes a mindful walk a bit more fun and interactive for younger children and teaches them to pay attention to the world around them… without them even realising that you are cultivating within them an interest in slowing down to become more mindful.

The benefits of mindful walking are many.   By bringing more calm, clarity and connection into daily life, you will enjoy heightened awareness of yourself and life around you, better concentration (good for school and work) and enjoy an overall feeling of calm and peace, which is often missing in our lives.    If you are keen to develop your own meditation practice, mindful walking can enhance your practice, increase your mindfulness reducing your anxiety and stress levels and  lead to increased feelings of contentment and joy.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.

 

 

Connecting to nature, mindfulness, stress management

Mindfulness and the anxious child.

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychological problems among children of all ages. Anxiety triggers the psychological and physiological fear response even when a child is in a safe situation and this is where chronic anxiety becomes problematic. Taking time out in nature is one way to help reduce anxiety and encourage children to re-connect with nature.

If a child is constantly feeling anxious, the body is constantly releasing adrenaline and cortisol to counter the effects of heightened adrenaline. 

The body eventually becomes used to this heightened feeling of unease and this becomes a new set point – a new normal.   Learning to be more mindful helps increase awareness of the thoughts and bodily sensations that are part and parcel of this mental fear.  The benefit of this, is that we can learn to recognise when we are feeling fear over an event or situation which does not need to be feared, before the fear really takes a hold and we are totally caught up in our cycle of anxiety.

A direct route into the present moment is through our senses, which is why as parents we should look at different ways of bringing awareness to our senses whilst continuing with everyday life. Remember that when we are being mindful and are in the present moment, at that particular moment…feelings of anxiety are not at the forefront of our thoughts.

Keep it simple; when you next go for a walk, start by noticing sights, sounds and smells.

In the UK we are enjoying Autumn.  The leaves are a fantastic display of light to deep oranges and fiery reds.  It is a very beautiful season.  To connect with nature and inspire some mindfulness you could take a country walk and pay particular attention to sounds you year, the  sights you see and the smells you notice.

Sounds in the environment.   Ask children if they heard that sound (bird, aeroplane, car, insect etc.) and start a discussion about the noise they heard.  If it was a bee buzzing, you could talk about the importance job bees have in nature.  If it was a car sound, you could ask them what car they think it might have been?  You could turn this into an opportunity to play a game where they close their eyes and try and hear as many sounds around them as possible.

Sights all around.  Life tends to flash past us as we rush around.  Helping our children become more aware of their environment and “seeing more” not only enhances their life experience, but can also protect them from danger (ie. being more aware when crossing roads).   Children (and adults) tend to walk around mindlessly – either rushing or daydreaming.   In either “mode” we are not aware of our surroundings.  When you next take a walk, ask your child what they see (it could be flowers on the side of the road or in the park, beautiful trees, squirrels, insects – or it could be litter).  Either way, start a conversation around what they see around them.

What is that smell?   Admittedly some smells are not that great.  But if you are smelling pollution in the air, then it does give you an opportunity to talk to children about looking after the environment.  On the other hand, you could bring your child’s attention to the smell of any beautiful flowers you are walking past, or the smell of rain in the air.

When encouraging children to be more mindful, make a game of it and approach the mindful activity playfully.  Children may not want to be told that they are about to go out on a mindful walk and that the idea is that they pay attention to the world around them.  Cultivate their awareness in a gentle way so that they do not feel they are being observed or having to do something which reminds them of a school project.   Your child might not appear to be paying that much attention to sights, smells and sounds around them, but on a deeper level they are noticing and will be connecting with nature.  The more you walk outside and the more fun you make it, the more likely they are to take notice of life around them and may even point out things you are not seeing, hearing or smelling.

This week, before it gets too chilly out there, enjoy some walking in nature.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.

being-mindful-in-nature