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The gift of “You” this Christmas

I let my eyes close. I can hear the rustling of foil. There’s a gentle tug on my scalp and the chill of dye cream touching my scalp. In the background I can hear the roar of hairdryers, slow atmospheric tunes, the rising and falling of voices and the gentle patter of rain on the window. Outside it’s getting dark and even with my eyes closed I sense the afternoon slipping away. I’m here in this moment and yet I’m also transported.

The many versions of me

I imagine a kaleidoscope of different versions of me. Shifting in and out of focus as my senses remind me of all the times I’ve sat, just like this. There’s 18 year old me. Off to Uni and having her hair dyed for the first time in a salon. Then there’s “first professional job” me. Anxiously hoping that a transformation on the outside will bolster her shaky confidence. Here’s “new mum” me. Breathing in big gulps as the enormity of her latest transition wreaks havoc to her sense of self. Trembling inside at the luxury of time alone. Faster and faster the images go by until, finally, I’m back here in this moment. Just as I am. Knowing with certainty that at my core I’ve never changed. No matter what has happened, there’s an essential “me” that’s always been here. Even when I couldn’t see her and doubted her.

Restoring your Unshakeable You

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost touch with who you really are? That somewhere underneath the busy-ness of life, you’ve forgotten? This time of year, things seem to speed up even more. We get drawn into the roles we’re supposed to play. Other peoples expectations, as well as our own, guide us to behave a certain way and race around to make things perfect. It can make us feel disconnected and wonder why it isn’t making us happy. Even the “fun” times feel like we’re going through the motions. “What’s wrong with you?” we might even demand of ourselves. Would you like to connect back to an unshakable sense of your true self? So that no matter what happens, you know that you’re anchored to that place…a place where there’s always joy available.

It starts with Awareness

You might not be feeling the frenzy yet. Perhaps it still feels a long way off. Or maybe for you there’s a big hole where Christmas should be because of loss and difficult times. Whatever your situation, you can choose how this festive season carries you through. What can you do if you don’t want to get sucked into the whirlwind? Or if you need to rediscover what it all means? The antidote to perfection is mindfulness. That quality of paying attention on purpose to exactly what is, without judgement.

The 3 Types of Awareness and How to Use Them

When I sat in the hairdressers chair, I was flexing my awareness muscles. Zooming in, zooming out, going backwards and forwards in time. Most importantly of all, I was in the driving seat. So often in our lives as we’re focused on endless “doing”, our attention isn’t under our conscious control. Our thoughts get directed by external stimuli and it feels like we are at the mercy of whatever happens. That free-fall of awareness leaves us breathless and disconnected. Dr Amishi Jha is a neuroscientist, professor of psychology at the University of Miami and author of the brilliant new book Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, which looks at the science of attention. So let’s explore the 3 types of awareness she describes and how we can use them to take back control: 1. The Spotlight This is our ability to shine a light on one thing. If I suggest that you pay attention right now to the bottom of your feet, chances are you’ll suddenly become aware of the sensations there. It’s also likely that before you read those words, you were completely unaware of those sensations. Just like having a torch to light the way in the dark, when we deeply focus on one thing everything else can be ignored and left in the dark. It’s a brilliant way to bring you back into this moment when you feel overwhelmed by a million things happening at once. 2. The Floodlight This is our ability to be aware of everything all at once. If I suggest that you try and notice everything in the space you’re in, the chances are you’ll experience zooming out. Suddenly you might notice the sounds around you, the light in the room, your body doing whatever it’s doing. I’m evolutionary terms, it’s this ability to be aware of our surroundings that helps us scan for danger and threat. So that even as we focus on something we can be aware of everything else. This floodlight of awareness can be really helpful if you find yourself stuck ruminating or worrying. You can zoom out and notice that those thoughts are there but you also have a body, with sensations, sounds it can hear and things you can see, smell and touch. The floodlight gives you perspective so you can reset obsessive focus. 3. The Juggler This is our ability to develop flexible awareness that can helpfully keep us connected to what’s important. In reality our minds are always filtering out what we notice. If we really noticed every piece of stimulus in our environment, both internal and external, we would explode! Instead our minds are always zooming in, zooming out and deciding what to prioritise. Often we’re doing this without paying attention to it. Ever find yourself half way through a task and then you bounce onto something else without realising? The trick to being connected to yourself, that real “you” that goes missing in modern lifeX is to stay aware of awareness itself. What that means is to notice what you’re noticing. What are you paying attention to right now? Are you reading this and completely zoomed in, unaware of your surroundings? Or are you also have paying attention to everything else going on in the background? Rather than letting the spotlight and the floodlight come and go without conscious control, you can practice being in the driving seat. Neither the spotlight nor the floodlight are inherently problematic. They are both useful and resourceful states. But, and here’s the kicker, only when they’re used at the right time for the right job.

Growing a Helpful Attention Muscle

If you close your eyes for a moment and just notice what you’re noticing, what are you aware of? Are you zooming in or zooming out? And which “you” is aware of what you’re noticing? Can you sense and connect to a deeper “you” that can observe what you’re paying attention to? That “you” is the real you that gets lost under the busy. It knows what you need. It connects you to all the external versions of “you” that you’ve been, that you are and that you will be. It’s the essence of you and it’s very powerful.

Build Your “You” Muscle

At its core, meditation is a way to train your attention. There are many ways you can begin and the good news you can’t be “bad” at it. Even if you notice that you’re mind is busy and won’t settle, you’re developing the ability to be aware of your awareness. Each time you close your eyes, you’re simply practicing noticing whatever is there. I have two simple ways I can help you: 1. A really simple way to start is my “Get Started Now!” Meditation Mini Course. It’s designed to give you the fundamentals of a practice in 5 short videos. “I just want to say that your techniques are amazing - you’re the first practitioner that’s enabled me to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into my daily life” Dr Esther Cole, Lifespan Psychology You can find out more here 2. The 21 Day Calm and Clarity Reset: This will guide you to build sustainable practices that will build you a flexible toolkit. This is also available as a gift voucher if you know someone who needs this in their life! You can find out more here I’d love to know how you get on if you give it a try. I’m here to support you and cheer you on every step of the way.

PLUS, You can always ask someone to gift Calm to you for Christmas! Check out the gift options here Whatever this festive season brings, I hope you can find peace, calm and joy. You deserve it. Take care Laura

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