Vajra Blue

Mindfulness and Compassion. Understanding trauma in young people.

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Living Mindfully: avoiding the pitfalls of life?

Orang peel

Isn’t it strange that in order to be happy we have to unremember a lot of what we already know?
Yet, I still don’t believe that sadness is our natural disposition. Because there is so much to be done. So many to help.
Maybe we aren’t meant to be happy in spite of all the sadness.
Maybe, it is a call for us to help others overcome it.
Kamand Kojouri

From the moment of our birth we start to develop our personality. The cloak of thoughts and behaviours that reflects the ways we have learnt with which to approach the world. The facade of habit that we have adopted to survive in our particular environment.

These traits are brought into existence by the feedback we receive from others in our life, the important others, the ones who set the limits to our world as we grow. The ones who might withhold their love.

As adolescents, we start the process of becoming ourselves, separate entities that are different from our family. We learn to think for ourself. We practice for the future by trying new things on for size; ideas, politics, relationships.

As adolescents we start the process of becoming ourselves,

This process of individuation involves the gradual emotional separation from our family of origin. We start to seek emotional support elsewhere. Our peer group becomes all important, helping us develop a greater sense of who we are, what makes sense to us, and how we want to live in the world. All in the name of getting ready to start our own family.

Nobody has ever had the “perfect childhood”, we are all exposed to adverse events no matter how protected we are. Life is unsatisfactory in many ways. Accidents happen, people and pets die, things and relationships break. All these events leave scars on our developing sense of self, some are obvious while some are more subtle and hidden. It is in this environment that we develop habitual ways of being, acting, and responding to events in our lives. Some of these habits are helpful and some are not.

We relive scenes from earlier acts in the story of our lives – and we may do so over and over again – only to discover that the scene we are unintentionally reenacting is from a completely unrelated play. We find ourselves responding to our boss as if he were our mother!

These quirks in our personality may never cause much harm, but few add to our happiness. When they are more severe, we may be left feeling misunderstood and miserable as things blow up in our faces again. When we have one of those “Oh no, not again” moments, it is often a sign that one of these action replays has kicked in, behaviours from our past that continue to haunt us.

If this keeps on happening it may be time to take a look beyond the superficial levels of our personality, to examine the underlying emotional and cognitive responses that drive us and that can be triggered automatically – usually when our mind believes we are under threat – and see what we can do to exorcise these ghosts from our machine.

Behaviours and beliefs from our past continue to haunt us.

When we are mindful, we pay attention to our experience in the present moment. We rest our attention on what is happening right here, right now.

It is all too easy to beat ourselves up when we get it wrong again, so it is important to be compassionate to ourselves. When we take a gentle, enquiring stance to uncovering what is happening we can avoid reinforcing our negative self-image.

The idea is to explore what is causing us difficulty – not to make things worse.

When we have another of those “it just happened again” episodes, we can take a few moments to observe our inner world. Stop for a moment, take a few slow, deep breaths and then consider the situation.

  • How did I feel?
    • Physical sensations.
    • Emotionally.
  • How do I feel?
  • What was I thinking?
  • What am I thinking?
  • What am I avoiding thinking?
  • What feelings am I avoiding?
  • What are my underlying beliefs?
    • I have to be right.
    • I am unloveable.
    • Big boys don’t cry.
  • What set this off?
    • What might I be reliving?
  • How did it go away?

This process requires a stance of careful exploration, one in which we do not settle for the first answer that comes to mind, but instead continue to ask ourselves what is happening, to get beyond the quick and easy answer to find the underlying thoughts, feelings and beliefs that triggered our responses.

A process of careful exploration.

This all takes time and repetition to make headway, for we need to slowly peel back the layers of habit that we have accrued over the years. It may be helpful to keep a daily journal of how we think and feel and to record the events of our day. It is just as important to record the things that go well as it is to record those that go awry.

When we find things coming up again and again, then it will be worth exploring in greater detail. We can do this in our journal,  or perhaps recruit a good friend to talk it over with. It may be something we could reflect on in meditation. If it a serious difficulty, talking it through with a psychologist, coach, or your spiritual advisor may be the better option.

Being mindful of our day-to-day experiences gives us the freedom to choose how we will respond under any circumstances, and allows us to leave our unhelpful habits and beliefs where they belong – in the past.






Mindfulness: Transforming our inner world.


To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake. Auguries of Innocence.


Don’t you just love them? We all have them and many of us are overwhelmed by them on a daily basis. A few years ago I was given some tickets to the theatre. It was a play that I had wanted to see for some time, so I caught the train into town with great excitement. I had high expectations for the evening and was going to have a great time.

Unfortunately my expectations were rather rudely challenged. I found myself sitting behind one of the pillars that helped to hold up the balcony. My view of the stage was limited, and I started to fret even before the curtain went up. I nearly allowed myself to ruin my evening before it had begun.

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Mindfulness: Authority bias and finding out who is really in charge? Changing our inner world.


A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting its shoes on,.

Attributed to Mark Twain

Mindfulness is becoming ever more popular and is in danger of being seen as a panacea for all the problems that trouble the human mind. Even when the practice is divorced from the other elements that form part of a spiritual path, it can be a useful tool for self management and helping to create greater contentment for our lives.

Practicing mindfulness can help us to work out exactly who is running the different aspects of our mental lives, and how this impacts upon our sense of fulfilment and happiness in what we do.

It can help us to avoid being fooled by the world and others.

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Mindfulness: karma in action.


Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Sir Isaac Newton.

My son recently introduced me to a YouTube channel which featured episodes labelled “Instant Karma”. There are a series of video clips showing people who are behaving badly getting their come uppence from the environment around them.

This “payback” element seems to fit with the common conception of karma. However this is not the whole story. On a simple level Karma can be seen as “If you behave badly/well then bad/good things will happen to you.” Such a world view would make a reasonable philosophy for living our lives.

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Mindfulness: a campaign for slow friendship.


Or should that read “who only knows your emoticon”?

If you find a wise person, Who points out your faults and corrects you,

You should follow such a sage,

As you would a revealer of treasures.

It is better, never worse,

To follow such a sage.

DHAMMAPADA (verse 76)

A few weeks ago I was sitting at a café in the centre of town, enjoying a few minutes peace with a long black when I noticed three people at the table next to me.

They arrived together and after ordering their drinks they continued to sit at the same table. For the twenty minutes that I was able to observe their interactions they did not speak to each other, instead they seemed to take it in turns to pick up their phone, tap away at the screen and then replace it on the table. Then the next person repeated the procedure. To all intents and purposes it appeared that they were talking to each other by text message. The art of small talk and conversation appeared to have died a death.

I belong to a spiritual community that has spread around the world over the last two and half thousand years. It entertains the idea of spiritual friendship as a force for good in people’s lives. Friendship is viewed as an important aspect of the spiritual journey.

When people with shared interests and goals meet to share their experiences with others it can provide an environment which acts as an aid to personal and community development. Allowing a free exchange of information and for each person to be of help to all the others.

This process takes no prisoners. Spiritual friendship is a fierce form of friendship. However, this is not the only form of friendship that matters. Friends are important to all of us in many different ways. They are our support network when times are bad and a source of joy when they are good.

This process takes no prisoners

We need to look after our friendships otherwise they can wither away and die, leaving us on our own and missing one of the necessary parts of being a human.

Human beings are often described as social animals, this means that we evolved to live in groups, and that much of our development towards consciousness appears to have been triggered by this.

Language, social behaviours, play all come from the way we mix as people and with the people in our world. Out of this comes the whole world of culture, art and science. We are driven to communicate almost from the moment of our birth. The evidence is that as newborn babies we start to communicate before we are an hour old.

The success of social media suggests that contact with other human beings is a thing that we all enjoy. But there is a huge difference between the friends we have online and those we see in the flesh.

One problem with social media is that the interactions we have with other people are impersonal and conducted via a keyboard or touchscreen.

We have no context in which to understand the messages that we receive.

We would do well to remember that according to linguistic research only about 7% of the information that we hear when we communicate using speech is in the words that are used, the majority of the meaning is in our body language, tone of voice, facial expression etc. indeed it is entirely possible that we can make the words that we choose to use mean the exact opposite of what they literally say purely by how we say them.

When we add the lack of context to this mix we can end up in some very interesting, and scary places. There is an aphorism widely used in neuroscience at the moment that says that “neurons that fire together wire together,” in other words, if we use different pathways in our brain a lot they tend to become much easier to set off, and can cause reactions that are semi automatic so that we can respond to both familiar and unfamiliar situations in ways that we would not usually intend.

Similarly if we practice using bits of our brain to excess we find that this can trigger an habitual response to events or situations in our lives. This means that we can have large and unexpected responses to minor triggers in our social environment.

A phenomenon called kindling can come into play in this situation. In much the same way that we can create a fire from a single spark by slowly adding larger pieces of combustible material to encourage the flames to grow, we can adversely affect our mental state by constantly rehearsing and adding small negative elements. If we have been having a bad day we might send texts to several of our friends telling them about it.

We find ourselves typing the same negative comments several times, each time we do this, it reinforces and deepens negative mental states contributing to increased levels of unhappiness. At an extreme it can worsen depression and anxiety and lead to dangerous states of mind.

Kindling can come into play.

When we meet a friend face to face, and discuss our worries, the situation is often very different. We may well tell a friend how awful we feel, and they may listen and sympathise, however, this conversation cannot persist for very long and we will inevitably move onto other topics of discussion.

Just being in the presence of someone we like can have a strong positive effect on our mood and well-being, and if we share our difficulties with them it is likely to be a helpful experience where we have a chance to explore our feelings and thoughts about the issue in much greater detail than would be possible if our contact is purely on social media.

One worrying piece of research suggests that people are considerably more likely to give negative feedback over social media than to make positive, constructive comments. The anonymity provided by the Internet, combined with the human tendency to pay more attention to the negative aspects of our environment (a necessary survival skill) means that there are people who feel safe to say things that they would not normally say in a face-to-face situation.

The result of this is that vulnerable people can be exposed to a great deal of negative feedback which will exacerbates their condition and can lead to activation of their fight or flight response, leading to a strengthening of the mood states.

There has been a lot of research into longevity and the human condition. Blue Zones, those areas where there are unexpectedly high numbers of men and women who are living healthily into extreme old age, have been much in the media over the last few years.

According to the research that has been carried out, one of the main contributing factors to the development of these pockets of healthy old people is regular social contact. This is an important contributory factor that plays a significant part in maintaining their physical and mental health, these are two important factors that contribute to a healthy and long life.

In this twenty-first century we all seem to be too busy to manage our time and environment to allow us to live a healthy life. Over the last 50 years or so there have been various movements harking back to the old days.

In the UK the campaign for real ale rebelled against the big brewers who were introducing homogenised keg beer, preferring to pay more money for a slowly made craftsman brewed product. There have been similar campaigns around the world directed at bread, and food in general.

A new campaign.

I am suggesting that we introduce a new campaign. It is time to spend more time socialising and in direct face-to-face contact with other people. So I would encourage you all to join the new campaign.


It is in our best interest to do so.


Mindfulness: living in the moment


When you correct your mind everything else will fall into place.
Lao Tzu.

A few years ago I went through a difficult period with stress and depression.  At this time my partner commissioned this brush painting for me. It shows a bamboo leaf falling, twisting in the air, full of life, while at the same time it is suspended in a single moment. A moment in which anything is possible, a moment that is full of possibility and in which nothing can be taken for granted.

It serves as a reminder that nothing lasts, that everything is transient, and that I need to do my best to stay in the present moment, open to new experiences and doing whatever I can to remain open to whatever opportunities and options come my way. It also reminds me that making predictions can be fraught with danger, after all a dragon might just fly down and eat the leaf.

This is also one of the reasons why I like rainbows, those fleeting, numinous phenomena that only exist in the eye of the beholder. A momentary experience of physics in action, something that is best when it is just experienced and enjoyed, not analysed.

This is what mindfulness is all about. Continue reading

Mindfulness and therapy: making space for thinking.


Sometimes a cigar, is just a cigar. Attributed to Sigmund Freud

Psychotherapy is a conversation. Albeit a highly specialised one that does not solely rely on words for meaning to be understood. The idea behind this exchange is to help the client, or patient, achieve a greater awareness of their inner life, and the impact that this has on their interaction with the world. When we understand the connections between our thoughts, emotions, and behaviour, we are in a better position to be able to change. Once we start to develop this kind of awareness, we can alter the way we live, and change our perceptions about our place in the world. Continue reading