Move over tiredness! The Vitality Seminar is on its way…

I am delighted to work again with my colleagues Claire Clerkin and Margaret Palmer: on Sat 27 Feb we are offering ‘The Vitality Seminar’ in Ballybay Wetlands Centre. Last year we co-presented 2 workshops – we really enjoyed working together and feedback from participants was very positive, so we decided to formalize our collaboration and offer a range of workshops in 2016 under the banner of ‘Natural Health Events’.
We had another topic lined up for February, but then it struck us that this is a great time of year to think about vitality! Winter is over (or nearly we hope!), days are getting longer and it’s the time of year for energy to rise again – we hope the ‘Vitality Seminar’ will do something to support this time of natural growth and new beginnings…
Vitality Poster - web

Please visit our Facebook page where we’ll be posting more detail over the next week or so. For more details or to make a booking you can contact any one of us, or book on line at http://vitalityseminar.eventbrite.com

Look forward to hearing from you!

 

From Stress to Resilience – living with ease in crazy times!

Have you ever had a moment – perhaps on a particularly bad day – that you’ve thought
‘This can’t be right! A human being was never meant to live like this!’
There’s a lot of truth in your bewildered observation; it may or may not be some consolation to know that the world’s leaders in trauma therapy are thinking along the same lines…

Because trauma and stress are rampant in our world today an enormous amount of work has been done, and helped along by new insights in brain science, there is a growing clarity about the brain-body mechanisms that lead to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and its many debilitating symptoms.

Naturally someone who had been through a horrific event – like a serious road traffic accident, a violent assault, or a natural disaster – will be deeply affected. However there’s a  worrying trend that many who have been through fairly minor events are being diagnosed with PTSD. An example might be someone who seemed to be functioning perfectly well is tail-ended on the way to work one morning, and their lives fall apart! Someone who would by no means be perceived as a ‘wimp’ may suffer years of sleep disturbance, chronic pain and inability to hold down a job – the result of a 5mile an hour collision!

So what has gone wrong when someone (as in the example above) appears to have so little resilience – how can a minor event have such devastating consequences? Leaders in the field of trauma therapy would say that the underlying problem is accumulated stress: stress responses that are meant to fire up, help us through a crisis, then disappear, have actually stacked up in the system. These accumulated stress responses mean that a person who appears to be functioning perfectly well might actually be living very close to their edge; due to the backlog of stress in their system, they were probably working really hard to ‘function perfectly well’. Sadly, it’s not going to take much to push them beyond their tipping point.

But coming back to your thought at the beginning
‘This ain’t right. Surely this isn’t how a human being is meant to live!’
One of the most fascinating lines of enquiry that the experts in trauma are following … is that indeed this isn’t right. While life has changed enormously since our human ancestors came down from the trees and started to live a two-legged life on the ground, our nervous systems have not actually changed very much. Our nervous systems are designed for a life of the hunter-gatherer – a life lived in tribes of about 50 to 150 people, where we knew everybody, everybody looked out for everybody else; we hardly ever met a stranger and crises – such as a visit from a man-eating tiger, or aggression from a neighbouring tribe – were intense but short lived. The important thing is that crises were spaced out – there was time for life (and our nervous systems) to get back to normal: life usually returned to a state of relative ease, before the next crisis.

So from this perspective, it seems that modern life itself is a ‘trauma’ for a species designed  for a much quieter, slower and generally less intense existence. Unless you’re living as a hermit, if you’re living in 2016, it’s quite likely that you have a background feeling that there’s always something else to sort – you’ve just negotiated one crisis and there’s another half dozen waiting! This is a recipe for accumulated stress, a recipe for living dangerously close to your tipping point – the edge of your resilience. But, please don’t despair – there’s a lot that you can do – just to understand how your nervous system and stress responses work is a great first step.

So, while the bad news is that trauma and accumulated stress are rampant in our society, the good news is that an amazing amount of work is being done to deepen our understanding and to discover ways to heal this modern epidemic.

If you are curious to learn more about the fascinating new developments in trauma therapy; or indeed if you yourself are suffering from what you feel are ‘stress related’ issues (difficulty with sleep, digestion, chronic pain, mood swings) why not think about joining
‘From Stress to Resilience’ a 6 week course starting on Wed 27th in The Be Well Clinic, Hill Street, Monaghan. The course will not only present some fascinating information about how trauma and stress mess us up, but also lots of ways in which we can reduce our own backlog of accumulated stress, thus restoring our capacity to live with resilience, connection and aliveness.

Topics will include:
How accumulated stress responses get locked into the body
How many physical, mental and emotional problems are caused by nervous system dysregulation
How to use yoga, mindfulness and a range of easy, enjoyable awareness exercises to work directly with the body and restore nervous system regulation
How presence and pleasure and key to restoring inner balance

If you’d like to hear more, do please come along to a free information session in Dochas, Park Street this Tues 26th at 8pm. Or just give me a call and I’ll be glad to answer your questions and share some more detail on the phone.

Contact: Mairead 086 8120332

What is Somatic Experiencing?

For the last 3 years I have been immersed in the study of Somatic Experiencing…it’s a body based approach to working with the symptoms of trauma and accumulated stress…in what’s being referred to as ‘the new traumatalogy’ Somatic Experiencing is one of the leading disciplines in a new and vibrant field.
However… around Monaghan and Cavan it probably isn’t widely known – as far as I know I’m the first around these parts to have earned the title ‘Somatic Experiencing Practitioner’ SEP! Intending to put this right and spread the word about this wonderful therapeutic approach it’s my plan to write a series of articles to explain its background and potential.
In the meantime, here’s and extract from an email I sent out to my network recently – may begin to put you in the picture…but as it says – there’s more to come

Somatic Experiencing, or SE is a way of  working with trauma and accumulated stress that’s based on latest knowledge of the brain and nervous system. Over the last couple of decades there has been a veritable explosion of new knowledge about the human brain and nervous system. This new knowledge has been the result of both new technologies (Cat scans, fMRI scanners etc) and an unprecedented wave of inter-disciplinary research involving neuroscience, neurobiology, psychophysiology, psychotherapy, attachment theory, sociology, anthropology, nutrition, functional medicine etc, etc…a new understanding is emerging on the many and inter-related influences on human well-being.

The main focus of Somatic Experiencing is the nervous system. I promise to not get too technical, but  feel I should at least introduce you the nervous system. It’s job is to regulate all our essential survival functions: breathing, heart rate, digestion, elimination, muscle tone, the rhythm of sleep/wakefulness, and stress responses. Given half a chance, the nervous system does this really well, helping us rise to the occasion in a crisis and settle back down to normal functioning when the crisis is over. However the nervous system can be overwhelmed by trauma or accumulated stress. Now bearing in mind that it regulates all our vital functions, it’s easy to appreciate how nervous system disturbances can have far-reaching consequences on our health and well-being: it can contribute to symptoms which range from problems with sleep, digestion, headaches, chronic muscle tension to full-blown syndromes such as IBS and ME. Somatic Experiencing Practitioners are trained to recognize signs of nervous system dysregulation and to work with the client in re-establishing the conditions which allow the nervous system to resume its normal function.

But I promised not to get technical – if you’re curious about the scope or SE (and I hope you are!), I intend to post a series of articles on my website explaining a bit more. As well as providing some background, I’ll offer some  easy self-help techniques you can use yourself to help your nervous system stay healthy and resilient.

For the moment, suffice it to say that SE has had a profound influence on me: in both my work and personal life I have felt it’s very positive impact.
I have thoroughly enjoyed being exposed to the many new and hopeful areas of research and practice with which SE is associated. But with study over for the moment, I am hoping now to immerse myself in spreading the word…At the risk of sounding like an evangelist, I feel this information is so important  that everybody needs to know! And  I have a bit of a strategy  for making it available in a way that will be easy for you to access. At the moment it’s a 3-pronged strategy that goes something like this:

1. From Stress to Resilience: a 6-week course
Understanding how our brain, body and nervous system work can be a powerful tool in mitigating the feelings of anxiety, tension that can be caused by trauma or accumulated stress. So, I’m offering this 6-week psycho-education programme based on the theoretical underpinnings of Somatic Experiencing. Blending fascinating input with nourishing practice, the course aims to be informative and deeply encouraging – offering tools for living with greater ease, connection and resilience.
Starting in the Be Well Clinic in Monaghan on Wed 27 Jan, 7 to 9pm Further details, see the attached flyer

  1. Somatic Experiencing: One-to-One Sessions
    Perhaps you are experiencing persistent symptoms of stress: digestive problems, issues with sleep, mood swings, chronic pain, and fatigue are frequently the result of trauma or accumulated stress. If you feel you need more than a course, why not contact me and I can explain how Somatic Experiencing works as a one-to- one therapy.  Tel: 086 8120332
  2. Articles to appear soon on www.ways-to-wellness.org
    You might not want to take one-to-one sessions or attend a course, but I’d still love you to know something about this material – I’m hope to start posting by the end of the month

 

Autumn classes ready to roll!

If you’re hoping to put self-care high on the agenda this Autumn, here are a few opportunities you might be interested in (and more to come…)

     Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction(MBSR) has been clinically proven to alleviate stress, anxiety, panic, depression and chronic pain. Studies suggest that meditation not only makes us healthier and more productive, but actually happier…maybe just what you’re looking for!

8-week course starting:
Wed 23 Sept ~ The Crocus Centre, Monaghan ~ 7.00 to 9.30pm 

    Yoga and Mindfulness
Working gently with body, breath and mind to cultivate physical ease, mental clarity and emotional resilience…taking good care of you!

10-week courses starting:
Thurs 17 September ~ Canal Stores, Clones ~ 6.00 and 7.30pm
Tues 22 Sept ~ The Crocus Centre, Monaghan ~ 7.00pm 

Details and Bookings: Call me on 086 8120332

From Stress to Resilience – and why cavemen didn’t get ulcers!

Have you ever had a moment – perhaps on a particularly bad day – that you’ve thought ‘This can’t be right! A human being was never meant to live like this!’ There’s a lot of truth in your bewildered observation; it may or may not be some consolation to know that the world’s leaders in trauma therapy are coming to the same conclusion!

Because trauma is rampant in our world today an enormous amount of work has been done, and helped along with new insights in brain science, a lot more is understood about the brain-body mechanisms that lead to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and it’s many debilitating symptoms.

Naturally someone who had been through a horrific event – like a serious road traffic accident, a violent assault, or a natural disaster – will experience after effects. The worrying thing is that many who have been through fairly minor events are being diagnosed with PTSD. An example might be someone who seemed to be functioning perfectly well is tail-ended on the way to work one morning, and their lives fall apart! Someone who would be no means be perceived as a ‘wimp’ may suffer years of sleep disturbance, chronic pain and inability to hold down a job – the result of a 5mile an hour collision!

So what has gone wrong when someone (as in the example above) appears to have so little resilience – how can a minor event have such devastating consequences? Leaders in the field of trauma therapy would say that the underlying problem is accumulated stress: stress responses that are meant to fire up, help us through crisis, then disappear, have actually stacked up in the system. These accumulated stress responses mean that a person who appears to be functioning perfectly well might actually be living very close to their tipping point; due to the backlog of stress in their system, they are working really hard to ‘function perfectly well’. Sadly, it’s not going to take much to push them beyond their tipping point.

The other possible reason for this apparent lack of resilience is developmental trauma – conditions in the person’s early life were not sufficient to lay down the basis of resilience and somehow they have not sufficient inner resources to roll with the punches.

If you want to learn more about the fascinating new developments in trauma therapy, why not investigate ‘From Stress to Resilience’ a new 6 week course starting in Monaghan Wellness Centre. While the bad news is that trauma and accumulated stress are so rampant in our society, the good news is that an amazing amount of work is being done to understand and to discover ways to heal this modern plague. Hence the course will not only present some fascinating information about how trauma messes us up, but also lots of ways in which we can reduce our own backlog of accumulated stress, thus restoring resilience and aliveness.

But coming back to your thought at the beginning ‘This ain’t right. Surely this isn’t how a human being is meant to live!’ One of the most fascinating lines of enquiry that the experts in trauma are following – is that indeed this isn’t right. While life has changed enormously since our human ancestors came down from the trees and started to live a two-legged live on the ground, our nervous systems have not actually changed very much. Our nervous systems are designed for a life of the hunter-gatherer – a life lived in tribes of about 50 to 150 people, where we knew everybody, everybody looked out for everybody else; we hardly ever met a stranger and crises – such as a visit from a man-eating tiger, or aggression from a neighbouring tribe – were intense but short lived. The important thing is that crises were spaced out – there was time for life (and our nervous systems) to get back to normal, to a state of relative ease, before the next crisis.

 So from this perspective, it seems that modern life itself is a ‘trauma’ for a species meant for a much quieter, slower existence. Unless you’re living as a hermit, you may well have the sense that there’s always something else – you’ve just sorted one crisis and there’s another half dozen waiting! This is a recipe for accumulated stress, a recipe for living dangerously close to your tipping point – the edge of your resilience. But, please don’t despair – there’s a lot that you can do –  just to understand how your nervous system and stress responses work is a great first step; and then practising yoga and mindfulness are great ways to restore order and resilience within your system, no matter how overworked and chaotic it has been.(Yoga in particular is recommended by leaders in the field of trauma and it is taught as an integral part of the recovery programmes in many of the world’s leading trauma treatment centres.)

If you’d like to hear more, do please come along to a free information session in Monaghan Wellness Centre on Wed 17 September at 7pm.

Details: Mairead Flynn 086 8120332

Thinking outside the ‘8-week’ box

After a mega-slump of energy around the New Year (anyone else feel that?) thankfully I bounced back and got the spurt I needed to put the show on the road once more!

Getting excited about new 8-week MBSR courses starting in Monaghan and Cavan over the next few weeks. But I’ve also been doing some thinking about other ways people can learn Mindfulness. The 8-week courses are of course tried and tested – there is no doubt that if participants make a reasonable commitment to the programme there is a lot to be gained. But not everyone can invest the time and energy  – and indeed the money – needed. So I thought it only fair to offer other options….

To begin with, between now and September I’m offering a number of one-day workshops – these will offer some general background and introduce the core practices of MBSR. For some it might be all they need – they may find the day is enough to launch them into a regular personal practice, they may enjoy the day as a welcome and nourishing respite from something they are currently struggling with, or indeed they might discover that it’s not quite what they’re looking for. For others, the one-day workshop will be a good opportunity to ‘dip in a toe’ and if they decide to commit to an 8-week course they will have a clear sense of what they are committing to.

I’m attaching a document with details of these workshops Ways to Wellness 2014
I do hope you have time to check it out.
You will also find details  of one-day workshops on Yoga and Mindfulness – these are intended for folks who have already done MBSR, but students of Yoga are welcome as well. Been thinking a lot lately about how Yoga has been somehow ‘upstaged’ in recent times by the tremendous popularity of Mindfulness. Of-course its not a competition, and I have nothing to gain from taking sides …. but I may be about to climb onto a soap box, so I think I’ll leave it for another post!
Watch this space…

Thank you YFNI!

I enjoyed my day in Belfast yesterday so much – I feel rather guilty – is one supposed to enjoy work so much? Did I work hard enough? It was a lovely day and thank you so much, both to those who did the work of organising and to those who were so graciously present. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
As promised, I am putting up rough outlines of the practices we shared – hoping these help to jog the memory of those who wish to remember. I hope also that if you do the practices again, you will have a living experience – once more, allowing each moment to be born afresh…..
Opening Practice ,   Midday,   Closing Practice
(Suggestion – after viewing any of these files, I suggest you press the back button to return to the page. If you press close, you leave the site –  I’ll have to find out how to sort this.)

That’s it – I hope I have up-loaded 3 files.
If you have any problem accessing these, please let me know  (maireadmflynn@gmail.com) and I can send to you by email.
If you have questions – I’ll be delighted to elucidate…in fact, I eagerly await your questions!

Warm wishes to all,
Mairead

PS: I hope you are remembering your ‘I am here’ mantra!

What’s the 8-week course about: Part 2 – Doing and Being

Last week in the course, we talked about ‘doing’ and ‘being’ – two different modes of mind.

You can probably guess – Yes, the ‘doing’ mode is when you’re just focused on getting the job done – it was on your to-do-list and whatever the cost, you’ll get it done today. Jon Kabat-Zinn tells the story of  man on one his courses who found himself at 10pm turning on the floodlights and going out to wash his car – it was on his list of things to do that day, and who cares that he had a heart attack couple of months ago – he was going to do it today!
On the other hand in ‘being’ mode, you also want to get the job done, but you stay tuned to how you are. If you realise that the to-do-list was a tad over ambitious you are willing to review your timescale- you are capable of stepping back and thinking ‘this might take a bit longer’ or ‘I might need some help with this’ or ‘I need a rest now and I’ll come back to it later with fresh energy’. There is also the possibility that you might enjoy the task rather than waiting for the satisfaction of completion!

Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with doing!  We all need deadlines at times to get the job done, and sometimes the deadline is not within our control. Problem is that we can become slaves to just getting things done. At the extreme end of ‘doing’ mode there is the tragedy that our lives might become reduced to just getting things done. A great book on this topic is ‘The Art of Effortless Living’ by Ingrid Bacci. In her opening paragraph she refers to our goal orientated society where we judge ourselves and others on our achievements:

Why is it that life often seems to be more like a treadmill than like a pathway to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? As we go about our daily lives, many of us are dogged by feelings of emotional and personal dissatisfaction. We have a nagging sense that there must be more to life than we are getting. We apply ourselves to reaching our goals, only to find that even the best achievements seem thin relative to the price we pay in the form of tension and stress….What keeps us travelling down a road whose rewards carry such a cost?

Her book describes a society in extreme ‘doing’ mode and she offers ways in which any of us can step off the treadmill and find a more human and satisfying way of ‘being’

You probably already know which mode you tend to inhabit, but here are a few pointers….

In doing mode, you  do things with effort and haste – the goal is to get things done
In being mode you are more likely to feel at ease and to take pleasure in whatever you are doing

In doing mode you are focused on the outer achievement- getting the job done is the priority
In being mode you are in touch with your inner experience, energy levels, tiredness, hunger – priority is to look after yourself

In doing mode you are driven by external pressures – what people / colleagues expect of you
In being mode you maintain your composure – your inner wisdom overriding external pressure

In doing mode, you are likely to multi-task – getting the job done is good; getting several jobs done is even better!
In being mode you do one thing at a time – whatever you choose to do deserves your full attention

In doing mode, you are living in the future – what’s next on the agenda once this is out of the way?
In being mode, you are in the present moment – in touch with what’s going on within and around you

This is all very well you say, but what if we all become mellow and relaxed, listen to our bodies, rest and all that stuff – when will we ever get things done? You may be surprised to hear that the link between effort and success is a very tenuous one!  I’m going to leave you with a further quote from Ingrid Bacci where she identifies to characteristics of effortless performance the kind that sets  apart the truly great musicians / sports people – what sets the truly high-achievers apart from the ‘no pain no gain’ brigade…

The 4 characteristics of effortless performance:

  • First, we focus more on how we feel inside than on the results we want to achieve
  • Second we keep our attention on maintaining inner calm and not giving way to anxiety
  • Third, we refuse to lose our composure in the face of external pressures
  • Fourth, we assume that performance is intimately connected with pleasure and keep our attention on finding enjoyment in what we are doing

Sounds a bit like doing mode….

More next week

Great day at Border Biz Camp!

Great day – met lots of lovely people, great energy, lots of good will. Even for a non-business person like me t’ was a very pleasant way to spend Saturday!

My own input went down well – the room was full – then why should I be surprised (I was very surprised!) Mindfulness just seems to draw a crowd! And a very nice crowd it was – folks were really receptive and engaged whole-heartedly in the short practice we did. We didn’t actually do the Breathing Space as I had planned – just a 10 minute sit with Mindfulness of Breath.

I did refer to a couple of websites and books and rather regretted that I didn’t have a couple of slides to flag up these references. So here they are:

www.mindfulnet.org – Enormous amount of resources about Mindfulness in different areas: health, education, business etc

www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk –  use of Mindfulness for chronic pain

‘Buddha’s Brain’ by Rick Hanson – great introduction to the neuroscience of meditation

‘Search Inside Yourself’ by Chade-Meng Tan – light-hearted intooduction to Google’s programme for Mindfulness-Based Emotional Intelligence programme.

And of course if you just google ‘Mindfulness’ you’ll find tons more!

I’m off now to France to spend a week doing a Yoga workshop with my teacher Peter Hersnack and 12 good friends from Ireland and UK – it’s a hard life!

Warm wishes,
Mairead

Breathing Space at Borderbizcamp…

I’m sort of looking forward to taking part in tomorrow’s borderbizcamp in Monaghan.
I say ‘sort of’ as I am a offering a 30 minute presentation on Mindfulness, and I’m feeling a tad nervous – very unusual  for me to share a platform with a whole host of business gurus!

However – I am also looking forward!
I’m intending to offer a short input on the background to the ‘Mindfulness’ movement – an amazing story of how an ancient contemplative practice has become mainstream and, starting with the medical world seems to have spread into every aspect of life, proving its worth in psychotherapy, education, sport, business – the list is endless! – I’ll then lead us in a 10 minute practice of seated meditation… not very long but enough, I hope, to give a flavour of just how relaxing, and reviving a little ‘inner’ time can be. 

I also hope to begin and end the session with a very simple practice called the ‘Three Stage Breathing Space
You can try that right now if you wish – obviously read one stage at a time, taking a minute or so to follow the instruction, then come back to the screen to read the next stage and follow that instruction – easy peasy! ENJOY!

STEP ONE: Stop whatever you are doing for a moment and take a quick check on how you are …like checking your internal weather….What thoughts have been around last couple of minutes? How is your mood? How is your body – any particular physical sensations? Bring a friendly curiosity to all of this and as far as possible just accept whatever you find….

STEP TWO: For the next minute or so, just watch the breath as it comes and goes – don’t try to do the breathing, don’t try to change or control it, simply let the breath happen, rather like waves washing a beach. If your mind wanders -and it probably will, simple come back to the breath. Have a sense that you have nothing else in the world to do but watch this breath, then this breath….

STEP THREE: Now gradually bring your attention to the whole body as you breath – having an awareness of the whole body, same time as you feel the breath coming and going. Then gradually be aware of where you are – immediate surroundings, sounds, time of day etc. Enjoy a moment of sensing your breathing body present in this place – a sense of being exactly where you are an how you are. And then, simply return to whatever you were doing before….

The ‘Breathing Space’ is a great way just to be where you are – you might ask the question Irish-style ‘sure where else would you be!’ Good question!

Looking forward to seeing you if you’re in Monaghan tomorrow…