Uncategorized · Videos

Taming our ox-mind

In this video, I share a personal experience of anxiety and connect with a common humanity of stress and suffering. I summarise important points from psychological research and highlight a contemplative story about the journey of a boy with his ox. I also offer an image of autumn that speaks of renewal and positive change.

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Flourishing in the face of anxiety

Sadly, few of us know what it is like to be in harmony with our minds. We are so often subject to our thoughts, feelings, and impulses. We get dragged around as if by an ox, when it is the ox that ought to be following us.

Thankfully, there are ways to ‘tame our ox-mind’ as we transition back to ordinary living. One is to separate unproductive worry from productive worry. In the case of someone who is returning to the office on a regular basis, unproductive worry focuses on the ‘what ifs’.

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Facing anxiety of the ‘new normal’

Have you recently noticed a nervousness in the air? Something you may not have been aware of before? We may feel tension in our bodies as we try to live in a ‘new normal’ world. There may be a tightness in our heads, chests and bellies as we return to our physical work buildings and meet our colleagues or go shopping again on a busy street or socialise more with our friends.

Research shows that even positive change can lead to anxiety, and it can take time to readjust to things we have not done for a while. Although feelings of post-lockdown anxiety are likely to pass, it’s important to take care of our mental health.

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The power of outstretched hands

Do you ever find yourself getting stuck in negativity after a challenging interaction? Or perhaps you’re not conscious of your inner dialogue but find that you dip in mood afterwards? I had the opportunity to face such demons head on with a kind hearted and wise man.

Like the open-armed statue of Francis of Assisi at Ards Friary in County Donegal, I’ve been able to let go over the last couple of weeks. I’ve let go of my plans, I’ve let go of my dreams, and I’ve let go of my stress for something much bigger and warmer.

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Giving voice to the elderly

Can we imagine feeling alone, unappreciated, forgotten, with the news of peers dying from Covid-19?

A new toolkit is being promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to help older people during the pandemic. Called Living with the Times, it contains five illustrated posters with key messages on how to maintain their wellbeing, while supporting those around them at the same time.

Poster four encourages older people to get help if they need it. It shows several colourful scenes with a person or group of people doing the following:

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Bombed-out and rebooted

I know I wasn’t alone in the shelled-out, disorientated state. The trauma of Covid-19 was clearly seen after a year of coping and doing what was necessary to keep my head above water. I had many psychological and spiritual tools to my belt – from meditating to running to spending time with family – but my strength and resilience was dwindling day by day. I wondered how long I could keep it up. I wondered how long I could survive.

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A happy, free heart

It was a time when I learned to love myself – that warm, expansive feeling in my chest that makes life meaningful.

I have just finished another eight-week programme, this time a Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) course with the Mindfulness Centre in Dublin. Based on the pioneering work of American psychologists Kristin Neff and Chris Gerber, it was a crash course of the heart that left me hungry for more. Each week we were presented with different meditative practices and workbook exercises that focused on the three factors of self-compassion: mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness. I offer you some of my learnings based on three stages of progress.

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