mindfulness-parable

The three questions by Leo Tolstoy – 1885

It once occurred to a king, that if he always knew the right answer to three questions, he would never fail in anything;

What the right time to do something?

Who are the most important people be with?

What is the most important thing to do at all times?

He announced throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach the answer to the three questions.

Many people tried to provide the answers, but they all answered his questions differently. So still looking for the right answers to his questions, the King disguised himself as a simple peasant and decided to consult a hermit, widely known for his wisdom.

The hermit lived in a wood and when the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and carried on digging.
The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground he breathed heavily.

The King went up to the hermit and said: “I have come to ask your help with these three questions;

What the right time to do something?

Who are the most important people be with?

What is the most important thing to do at all times?

The hermit listened to the King, but didn’t answer the questions. He just carried on digging. “You are tired,” said the King, “let me take the spade and give you a hand.”

The hermit gave the spade to the hermit and sat down. Every now and then the King stopped digging and asked

“What the right time to do something?

Who are the most important people be with?

What is the most important thing to do at all times?”

The hermit finally spoke, “Here comes someone running, let’s see who it is.”

The King turned round, and saw a bearded man come running out of the wood. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood was flowing from under them. When he reached the King, he fell fainting on the ground moaning weakly. The King and the hermit unfastened the man’s clothing. There was a large wound in his stomach. The King washed it as best he could, and bandaged it with his handkerchief and with a towel the hermit had. But the blood would not stop flowing, and again and again the King  removed the bandage soaked with warm blood, and washed and rebandaged the wound.
When at last the blood ceased flowing, the man recovered a little and asked for something to drink. The King brought fresh water and gave it to himand then with the hermit’s help, he carried the wounded man into the hut and laid him on the bed. Lying on the bed the man closed his eyes and slept; but the King was so tired with all the work he had done, that he also fell asleep, so soundly that he slept all through the night.

In the morning the bearded man said to the King in a weak voice “Please forgive me!”

“I do not know you, what should I forgive you for?” said the King.

“You do not know me, but I know you. I am your enemy. I swore to take revenge on you because you killed my brother and seized his property. When I knew you had travelled alone to see the hermit, I decided to kill you on your way back. When you didn’t return for some time I came out from hiding to find you and kill you, but your bodyguards found me first and did this to me. I nearly bled to death but you have saved my life! If I live, I will be your most faithful slave. Please forgive me!”

The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy so easily and not only forgave him but said he would send his servants and his own physician to assist the man until he was completely healed.

The King left the wounded man and returned to look for the hermit. The hermit
was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been dug the day before.

The King approached him, and said:

“For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man.”

“Your questions have already been answered!” said the hermit.

“How?” asked the King.

“If you had not not dug those beds for me, but had gone on your way, that man would have attacked you on your way home and then you would have been deeply sorry that you hadn’t stayed longer with me. So, the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do help me was your most important business. Afterwards when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were helping him, as he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important person, and what you did for him was your most important business.

Remember then: there is only one time that is important and that is now.

It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most important person is the person you are with and the most important thing is to have compassion for the person you are with…”

Mindful listening

Listening mindfully

We are losing our ability to listen effectively. The world is now so noisy and moves at such a fast pace, that it can be very difficult to truly listen. We think faster, act faster, multi task and are less patient than ever before.

We are surrounded by a world of distractions. News feeds scream at us from every direction, each one having to get more and more sensationalised to penetrate our attention in a world of noise.

Even the act of listening can be difficult. The definition of listening is making meaning from sounds but we subconsciously filter sound depending on our expectations, beliefs, attitudes and intentions. What we ‘hear’ shapes our reality.

Conscious listening creates understanding and the lack of listening can lead to misunderstanding, frustration, loneliness and even conflict.

Mindful listening is a way of listening with good intent. Actively listening without judgement and a compassionate attitude.

Try the following mindful listening practice as a guide;

  • Cultivate an open attitude.
  • Focus your entire attention on the speaker and when your mind wanders keep returning it to the speaker.
  • Make time by putting away any physical distractions such as your phone.
  • Ask yourself if this the right time for this conversation? If you don’t have the time to truly focus, then it’s better that you ask to have the conversation at a time when you do.
  • Give the other person space, don’t interrupt or attempt to finish their sentences.
  • Don’t be afraid of silences. Silences give us time to think and will often encourage the other person to continue.
  • Don’t impose your opinions or tell them what to do. You may feel like you have the answer but it isn’t necessarily the right answer for them.
  • Try not to judge or presume.
  • Maintain an open mind.
  • Be compassionate. We all want to be happy and free from suffering, remember this.
  • And last of all, do not underestimate the value of just listening. You may feel as if you’re not doing anything to help when listening to a person who is distressed or upset, but being by that person’s side and truly taking the time to listen should never be underestimated. You are taking the time to walk by their side throughout their difficult journey.

Love & Light, The Happy Bee x

A breathing meditation for beginners

Mindfulness-nature

If you’re new to mindfulness or meditation, then a really good place to start can be with a breathing meditation exercise.

This type of meditation technique can be good for beginners as it can help to focus on something specific, rather than a more advanced meditation such as the Just sitting meditation which can trickier if you’re not used to a regular meditation practice. This type of single focus meditation can be a great place to start for mindfulness beginners.

The breath is always with us and doesn’t need to be forced or altered in any way, we can just notice the movement and the changes we experience in our body. Bringing our focus back to the body and away from our busy minds.

Notice as you inhale and then exhale, notice the feeling of the breath on your lips or nostrils and notice the sensation  on your chest and abdomen.

Notice that place of stillness at the end of an exhalation.

Try not to stop thinking or empty your mind, just notice your thoughts and keep returning your focus to your breath. Take care not judge yourself for having thoughts, they are completely natural and the most mindful moments can be in that split second after you realise your mind has wandered.

If you feel that you struggle to find the time to meditate, then try a 3 minute breathing meditation.

Even if a 3 minute meditation feels impossible, then a 3 breath meditation practise can provide just enough of a pause to make a difference.

Just breathe.

Love and light, The Happy Bee x

 

So much sky…

So much sky

On my first visit to Iceland, a few years ago, I was memorised by the sheer size of the sky. I stepped off the plane and couldn’t stop looking upwards. From horizon to horizon was a blue grey expanse. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen and even amongst the glaciers, the blue lagoon and the waterfalls, it was one of the most memorable things I experienced on that trip.

My current job involves a lot of driving, well I say driving, but what I mean is crawling along on one of the worse motorways in the UK. Last week I was travelling over the same bridge that I’d travelled over hundreds of times before, when I happened to glance upwards and there it was…the same sky.

It stopped me in my tracks as I realised that not once on all my commutes had I noticed it. Every day I’d drove back and forth over the same stretch of road and not once had I really seen it. The same sky stretched from horizon to horizon. I’d been oblivious to the wonder of nature above me, as I’d been too busy living in my mind and not noticing the world around me.

Look up people, look up.

Love & light, The Happy Bee x

Just sitting meditation sunset

Just sitting meditation

Can we allow ourselves to just be? To just do nothing without any goal or judgement?

I’ve mentioned before how I really struggled when I began to practise meditation several years ago as I thought I was a TERRIBLE failure. My mind wandered constantly and I was overcome with urges to get up and do something, anything rather than just nothing! It was only after years of study that I realised that that is exactly what our minds are supposed to do. Our brains are amazingly wonderful. They are more complex than any computer and orchestrate our multi-faceted, self healing, self mending human bodies. Human civilization has reached a point where it has been able to fly to the moon, connect across the globe via the world web wide and other far reaching scientific advances. Our brains are programmed to think and to plan. They are the machines that keep us safe, keep us alive from one moment to the next. Every one of us is a genius problem solver and survival of the fittest has ensured we are just that. Only our most problem solving ancestors would have survived, the ones who were able to recognise danger and plan and outwit. The ones who worked out the best routes to food and the best way to keep safe from predators.  We’re now left with a primeval brain in a modern world. We no longer need to run from sabre tooth tigers or spend every waking moment foraging for food but our brain doesn’t know this.

Our minds are so used to planning, doing and being active that so many of us find it hard not to. It feels like a human instinct for many of us and there’s a Buddhist saying that ‘a busy mind is a lazy mind’. Meaning it’s easy to keep going, to focus on our thoughts, think about our yesterdays and plan for our tomorrows and one of the greatest challenges of mindfulness can be to just do nothing. It can feel so unnatural, so self indulgent and a huge waste of time but I honestly believe that we need that space. We need time to unwind and to process the chaos and noise around us.

Reading this, your mind is probably already trying to solve this problem work out why you don’t have time to do nothing, preparing your excuses; you have kids, you have work, you have busy lives etc but it can just be a minute or two; the couple of minutes it takes waiting for the kettle to boil or five minutes waiting for your train. Just create a space, a moment in time where you just stop and notice. There is no need to go looking for anything or try and fix anything, instead just be. Notice your breathing, your body, and the sounds, sights and smells around you. And all of this without judgement. If a thought or sensation comes along then acknowledge it but don’t just on that thought train, just let it pass and return to being.

I try and incorporate a 10 minute nature ‘just sitting practice’ into my day. I sit on my garden bench and notice my garden, noticing the plants, the apple tree, the breeze on my face and the sky above me. There are often urges to criticise or yearn for something different; my fence needs usually needs painting, the grass is too long or I preferred it when the tree was in blossom but I just try and those thoughts go and return to the world around me. Throughout the year I notice as the garden changes, from one season to the next. Is there somewhere you could have a sitting space?  Even if you don’t have a garden, a balcony or even just from your window? Mindfulness and nature can bring real happiness.

A good place to start it with the breath. Just take 3 long slow breaths, with each out breath gradually slowly than the last. It’s a good way to bring our awareness from the mind and down to our body. Then begin to just notice. Notice without judgement and without trying to find anything. That’s all.

And remember mindfulness is known as mindfulness practice for a reason. None of us are perfect at it. There’s a Buddhist saying that meditation can never be wrong and can never be right. Each practice will be different, just like each day is different and each moment is different from the last.

Just notice.

Love & light, The Happy Bee x

Mindfulness-nature

Mindfulness and nature

I’ve been practising mindfulness for a few years but mindfulness only really started to make a huge positive impact on my life when I began to apply it to my everyday tasks rather than as separate more ‘formal’ practice. Although formal mindfulness practise or meditation obviously has it’s place, for me the real difference for me began when I started to approach everyday tasks in a mindful way. Using my senses to focus and experience on what it all around me without judgement. Whether it’s making a cup of tea mindfully, truly listening to someone in conversation or taking a mindful bath. I find that there is a direct link between the amount of my day I live mindfully and my levels of happiness, resilience and gratitude.

Azalea shrub - mindfulness and natureOne of my favourite things to do is experience nature in a mindful way and I wouldn’t say I’m an outdoorsy kind of person. Often it can be a short mindful walk even for just 5 or 10 minutes and it doesn’t have to be anywhere different, although a mindful trip to the beach or countryside can be very special. Using my senses to truly look around me, feel the wind on my face, and experience the world through my body and not my mind.

It’s easy to walk on by and be so occupied in our minds that we fail to notice the world around us whether it’s the smell of a summer rain storm or the beauty of this Azalea with it’s little happy bee 🙂

I’d love to know what tasks you approach in a mindful way 🙂

Love & light, The Happy Bee x

Lush Leeds spa - Sound Bath review

Lush Spa Sound Bath review

Lush Leeds spa review aka Disneyland for wellbeing seekersLush spa Leeds

I’m a huge fan of Lush spa treatments and although definitely not the cheapest, I believe they offer a truly holistic spa experience which is very hard to find elsewhere. I’ve only visited the Lush Spa in Leeds, so can’t comment on any other but at the Leeds Spa I’ve found an attention to detail which I only previously felt on my very first visit to Disneyland 🙂 I decided to try and break my ‘validation facial’ addiction by branching out and trying the Sound Bath. Lush describes the Sound Bath as ’striking a deep chord within’ and as I always aim to experience any spa treatment in the most mindful way possible, it sounded just perfect.

When arriving at the Lush Leeds Spa the Lush staff are always super friendly and appear almost as excited as I am that we’re there for a treatment! Once it’s treatment time you are greeted and Lush Leeds spaled down the stairs to the basement spa area. The spa is filled with beautiful vintage objects , reclaimed wood, fresh flowers and positive affirmations. A nice little extra is that the bathrooms are filled with Lush products for you to use before and after your treatment. As you take a seat at the huge farmhouse kitchen style table, the spa therapist talks you through your treatment. The Sound Bath began with the therapist telling me she had me a present. I found it difficult to contain my excitement as I was presented with a wooden box with swirling mist (chemistry classes would have been so much more interesting if they included how to add a magical mist to presents, instead of hours of reciting the periodic table in a musty classroom, maybe I just didn’t stick with it long enough). Anyway, inside the box contained a tiny 100% pure cacoa chocolate with an ‘eat me’ label and a tiny drink with a ‘drink me’ label. At this point I nearly self-combusted.

Lush treatment roomOn to the treatment which included a hot and cold stones facial massage, ear massage, a head massage (glad that oils weren’t used at this part), tunings forks applied to acupuncture points and ear candles. Now, I’ll be honest I was very initially very sceptical about ear candles and therefore weren’t something I’d tried before but the way that something about the way the therapist held them in place by cupping her hand on the side of my head with the warm glow that I could ‘see’ through my closed eyes that was especially meditative. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this treatment but it was probably the most immersive that I’ve tried so far. The sound track was probably my favourite so far but maybe I’m a little biased due to the welcome appearance of bees. Go, happy bee 🙂

Lush Sound BathEach treatment is ended in an individual way and with the Sound Bath I was treated to mint, lemon and agave tea served in a tea pot with the swirling magical mist and the quirky feature of a meditation bowl instead of a cup.

My verdict: If heaven was a place of earth then it would be a Lush Spa. I can highly recommend you save those pennies as it’s definitely an investment worth making. In my experience all Lush treatments live up to their names but I would say the Sound Bath was the most meditative I’ve tried so far. As we know spending money on experiences can bring more much happiness than material objects Isn’t it time we focussed on happiness not money? and in my opinion there isn’t a better wellbeing experience that a visit to a lush spa.

PS Off to buy a lottery ticket as next stop hopefully The Planets 🙂

Love & light, The Happy Bee x