Tag Archives: mindfulness

You are not your thoughts


As a parent I was quite shocked with the news of record teenage suicide numbers in one region in Victoria recently. How good are we as a society in looking after each other’s mental health in a satisfactory manner?

Many people feel depressed and think this is a permanent state and feel there is no way out, especially for those who experience strong negative emotions for the first time. Many people believe it is genetic and this makes them feel even powerless towards their strong self-denigrating thoughts. However from the meditation point of view most mental disorders arise from the mind.

Dr. Bruce Lipton in his eye opener best seller “The biology of belief” explains how our thoughts affect our body chemistry for better or for worse. He also shows how our thoughts activate or de-activate genes concluding that genetics does not determine who we are. He spent more than 20 years studying and teaching developmental and cellular biology to arrive to these conclusions.

Neuroscientists are also arriving at similar results on how the mind works. One of the greatest discoveries of neuroscience in the last decade is neuroplasticity: the ability the neural-network in the brain has to change in response to experience and training. This ‘re-wiring’ of the brain has been shown possible and has helped many people with chronic depression, anxiety and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) to not only find respite, but to cure themselves using mindfulness meditation.

Although many people think that meditation is some practice of reaching blissful states, which appears to be totally self-indulgent, that’s far from the truth.

Meditation is a practice of learning how to observe the world for what it is without the influence of our perceptions, or coloured glass lenses. And that includes observing our own habitual responses to what is happening around us. By doing that we learn that we can cultivate better inner qualities, such as unconditional compassion, openness to others, and inner peace, letting go of our mental negative addictive patterns. But to let go of these negative patterns we first need to be open and brave to come face to face with them. That takes a lot of courage.

One of the most difficult things to let go of when first coming to meditation is the thinking. Many people feel that if they let go of their thinking they would feel helpless. This is because we have identified ourselves so much with our thoughts and our ideas of who we are, and what the world is, that the feeling of letting go of that for a couple of minutes is one of fear or terror. And here we go back to an important question ‘who am I?’ and little by little we find out that we are not our thoughts.

Behind our obsessive thinking, however, there is just openness. By experiencing this openness in mindfulness we can find great relief, ‘we can start to taste enlightenment’, as Jack Kornfield writes.

This is very much in line with ancient Buddhist teachings of mind-training. Happiness can only be found through rigorous mind-training. Through those experiences we become present to our attachments to material and mental objects and we practice letting go of them. Little by little we feel lighter, being right becomes less and less important, and we start experiencing moments of true joy more often. And the inner peace that one finds, that joy and contentment, becomes a gift that is naturally shared with others.

Although mindfulness meditation is being used medically and psychologically with great success in depression, anxiety, anger, OCD and other addictive negative mind traits, its potential goes much further leading towards finding true inner peace and unconditional joy and happiness. The question is how far down the rabbit hole is one prepared to go?

Matthieu Ricard said : ’We should understand that mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness. Often we find ourselves in the pangs of torment from mental toxins such as hatred, obsessive desire, arrogance, nagging jealousy. Those are certainly not optimal ways of relating to our own experience or to others. We know we can experience genuine altruistic love and compassion, but couldn’t we do so more often, so that those states of mind become the normal way we relate to others? Hence the ideal of long-term transformation: becoming a better human being for one’s own well-being and that of others as well. These two go together.” (extract from ‘The mind’s own physician’, edited by Jon Kabat-Zinn).

with love,



Feng Shui and Awareness


I am just back from a 10-day vipassana retreat and as I arrived home I noticed a few things that normally would’ve bothered me, such as some people’s behaviours, weren’t bothering me any more.

What happens during silent meditation retreats is that we are practicing sharpening our awareness, constantly focusing on the present moment, taking mindfulness to a deeper and deeper level each day.

After ten days of practice I had become much more aware of my feelings, emotions and the whole environment around me. And my habitual responses, the ‘auto-pilot’, were less active than before. And arriving home I could notice my perception of my environment was also changed. I found areas that were cluttered incredibly out of place, for instance, and I was able to tidy them up.

The practice of mindfulness raises one’s awareness and little by little what was not apparent before becomes apparent, and what appears to be comfortable often shows itself as discomfort. Nothing really has changed in the outside world, but one’s perception of it has changed. And only then we may realise that we live with a lot of discomfort and are completely oblivious to it. We have shut down to our own suffering, and we don’t even know how miserable we actually are. We are living on the surface and missing out big time on what life is all about.

Well, and you maybe asking what vipassana retreats have to do with Feng Shui?

When I visit homes of people that are centred, and often these people have awareness sharpening practices (such as mindfulness or vipassana –insight- meditation), their homes are spiritually clean and physically very harmonious. They tend to have an intuitive understanding of positioning of furniture and objects; their home is de-cluttered, clean and exudes some peace and calm. Also independent of their financial situation they have chosen homes that are well positioned and beneficial for them from the Feng Shui physical and astrological points of view. Simple coincidence?

I don’t think so.

At the end of the day awareness is the best gift we can give ourselves, and the world. It is reflected in our attitudes towards work, towards our loved ones, towards our homes and towards life in general. It is reflected in the choices we make moment to moment (aka the snow flakes – yes exactly those that add up to the snow ball…).

In spiritual practice, just to clarify, we speak or right awareness or right mindfulness. Meaning that the type of awareness that leads to a more fulfilling life is not the awareness that a bank robber has while cracking the code of the safe (just in case you were wondering!), but awareness that arises coupled with correct understanding of the law that encompasses all natural phenomena (dhamma).

Just to give you a few examples.

I had a client who came back from a ten-day retreat and gave his entire wardrobe away because he realised he never liked any of those clothes.

Another client, living in a dark and damp apartment to save money, was given notice by the landlord two weeks after our consultation when the need to take better care of herself became clearer. She then moved into a much nicer apartment with lots of natural light and water views.

When we live a life without awareness it’s like our world is small and confined. We have less time, or no time, for others, and as Pema Chodron nicely puts it: ‘I remember the time when my life was the size of a postal stamp’. And our suffering is so intense we can hardly move, but for most of the time we pretend we are fine, although every step we take is taken out of fear.

That’s why is so important that we sharpen our awareness, starting with self-awareness. Behram Ghista my Teacher says: ‘the inner world is the world of causes, the outer world is the world of effects’. It’s ok to see healers and doctors about our physical and psychological discomforts, but anything they can gives us is never going to address the problem itself, because it will only be dealing with the symptoms.

At the end of the day, no one can come and save us from the mess we have entangled ourselves in. We have to do it ourselves, preferably with the guidance of a Teacher. And the earlier we start the better, because we will have a lot less knots to untie!

Our homes are just a reflection of our minds, both conscious and unconscious. When we choose a home to rent or to buy, often that reflects our understanding about ourselves and the world (as we perceive it). The more aware we become, the better the choices we are able to make, because we are letting go of those knots, and the better our homes will become.



We have become so far apart from who we truly are, busy chasing happiness out there, that as they say ‘we are so busy making a living, that we have forgotten how to make a life’.

Life is short and it’s very precious. We have no idea when we will leave this world. So it’s crucial that we go back to our timeless nature often enough, so not to loose track of what really matters.

Just think for yourself: how much quality time do you spend with your parents? How much quality time do you spend with your children? Are you able to really be present to them when you see them? Or are you somewhere else? Thinking, worrying, looking at the watch?

Ask yourself. Is it possible to chase happiness? Is it possible to be happy by postponing happiness for tomorrow, next day, the weekend, the holidays, retirement?

As much as they try to sell us happiness in every ad, there is only one way to find true happiness: by cultivating it at each moment.

Or else we are just engaging with momentary pleasures: I will have a sleep in today, have a little massage tomorrow, have a nice meal with a glass of wine. They are all transient, they give us pleasure, but do not really satisfy our inner thirst, and leave us wanting more.

Our inner thirst can only be satisfied by spending time alone each day. Going back to who we truly are, reconnecting with our timeless nature.

And most of all: learning how to appreciate it.

Ask yourself: why am I so afraid of stopping the doing, the thinking, the planning?

Is it possible that we have removed ourselves so remotely from whom we truly are that we now feel: I don’t know that person anymore, why would I sit in silence with him/her, this stranger? I will get bored out of my wits!

So it’s time to learn how to love ourselves once more: sit there in silence, rejoicing just in how precious life is, how precious this human body is, how much potential I have as a human being, and letting go of all the negativity we hold against ourselves, just let those thoughts fly out, do not follow them.

We have been so well conditioned to value ourselves for what we do and achieve in the material world, that we have forgotten the most important part of ourselves: our inner world.

Without getting to know ourselves intimately: our sorrows and pains, our joys and things that truly bring a smile to our face; we will not find peace of mind or lasting happiness.

And maybe when our kids grow up and we will see the same in them, we will then suffer in double.

So find time to read inspiring books each day. Read one story before meditation each night.

These books have individual chapters/stories that you can read in a few minutes:

Peace is every step, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Wherever you go, there you are, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Have a great week.

with metta,






Imagine waking up and being thankful for the miracle of being alive in another magnificent day?

Imagine being able to have amazing things falling into place, meeting the right people, being at the right places, getting the jobs you want, daily in your life?

Imagine feeling happy for no particular reason day in and day out?

And can you imagine doing that even when life is not all that rosy?

Well, according to spiritual teacher Behram Ghista, that is all possible.

Two weeks ago Behram taught a workshop in Sydney entitled “In Partnership with Providence”.

Although most of us think of ‘providence’ as being the positive situations, events, material things or people that come into our lives, Behram taught that providence is actually neutral.

According to his teachings providence is an infinite source that supplies us everything we experience. It is also a source that is neutral, which supplies us with whatever we focus upon. If we focus on the negatives, we will receive negative results. If, however, we focus on the positives, we will receive positive results.

He continued to point out that what we believe is real is only an interpretation of what we perceive and experience. Our joys and sorrows do not originate from reality itself, they originate from an interpretation of it. When we are faced with an unpleasant situation we have the choice to view it as a confirmation of our incapacity/inadequacy or as an invitation to bring out what is best in us.

Reality itself is neutral, however our translations of it become our ‘reality’. Our translations determine our focus. Our focus influences our character, and our character influences our responses. So if we are constantly translating things in a negative way, our focus will be in what is not working. And our character becomes negative, our responses will be unpleasant with people and life itself, and we will continue to attract more unpleasant experiences.

However when we filter the positives, constantly bringing our attention to whatever IS working in our circumstances and experiences, we start to see the opportunities and creative possibilities that come with each challenge and learn how to live and walk in a friendly universe. Whatever I focus upon, life will provide me with. Cause and consequence. This is one of life’s basic principles that cannot be violated. Life wants me to succeed, so much so that each difficulty comes not only with a solution, but also with a blessing attached to it.

When we awaken to the fact that our reality is determined by our beliefs and interpretations, it’s a liberating and empowering experience!

After the workshop I made a commitment to myself: I am going to stop complaining, I am going to wake up every morning and feel grateful for the wonderful day ahead, and I am going to put my best effort to retrain my mind in finding the positives and the blessings in each situation.

The good news is, I have been feeling positive as never before and some blessed things and people have come into my life in these last ten days after the workshop.

Is that easy? Not really, it requires constant focusing, a lot of mindfulness and a bucket full of kindness!

But it’s all worth it. After all, the Universe wants us to succeed!







If someone asks you how well you know your partner, or your child, it might sound like a rude question. We believe that we know the people close to us very well, but do we really?

Our relationship with our home is another very important and intimate relationship in our lives that we often take for granted.

How deep is your relationship with your home? Do you know the feel of every part of your home – all the nooks and crannies?

When I run space clearing sessions with my clients we go around each wall of the home, mindfully, rethreading the energy of the home, reuniting and moving that energy so it can flow again. Sometimes this is the most powerful aspect of the session: reconnecting with each part of the home again, in mindfulness.

Here is an exercise for you to check how connected you are with your home.

Take your time to go around the home along each wall of each room being present to what is there, being very mindful: open and non-judgmental. Notice when an unpleasant feeling arises in your body when you arrive in a certain corner, maybe tightness in the throat or stomach. And notice the pleasant feelings also when you see an inspiring picture or photograph or a perfectly arranged corner. Be also mindful of the emotions that appear with those primary feelings in the body: grief, sorrow, regret, maybe frustration, or happiness, joy. The more open and honest you allow yourself to be, the more clarity you will receive from this exercise.

Now think of a room or corner that you felt uncomfortable in. Walk to that uncomfortable place, take a seat there and be fully aware, fully mindful of the physical feelings in the body and the emotions arising from it.

What are the memories that come associated with those feelings and emotions? Write them down. Then you repeat to yourself gently for a few minutes: I accept these feelings and emotions in my body; I accept this part of my home. Do it for a few minutes. Then let unconditional love arise in your heart: think of a young child or animal and allow that love to arise in your heart. Become aware of your heart softening and opening, allow the love to fill your entire body. Now share that love with the space around you: visualise the love from your heart pouring from your body and filling the space around you. Continue for a few more minutes. Now write down what this experience has brought to you: any thoughts and emotions, clarity or insight.

Now think of a room or corner that you felt happy or joyful in. Walk to that part of the home, take another seat there. Again become aware of the feelings arising in the body. What are the emotions associated with these feelings? What are the memories that arise with those? Just be mindful of the feelings, emotions and memories that arise for a few minutes, then write those down.

Now notice the contrast between the first part and the second part of the home. Why did they make you feel quite different?

In mindfulness practice we say that we can only change that which we understand and know really well. The things we push away and deny cannot be changed. In the same way it is only by being fully present and open to our negative habits that we are able to change them, it is only by being fully open and accepting the problems in our home that we will be able to change them.

Awareness is always the best gift we can give ourselves: it frees us from our established and fixed ways of looking at the world and allows us the freshness and clarity to find new and exciting solutions for our old problems.



Your personal space can become your main support in connecting with true happiness.

Are you living a life with purpose? Or is there a dullness to your life – working 9 to 5, sleeping in on Saturday, and spending most of your spare time planning or dreaming about your next holiday?

We all say we want to be happy, but how long can external gratifications keep us happy? A minute, an hour, a day? Six months, 12 months?

We all say we want to be happy, but how often we choose to let negative feelings take over our minds, sometimes for hours, or even days. Throughout a single day we may engage in anger, envy, worry, doubt, sometimes I dare say, even ill-will. We don’t realise that we are choosing these states. Without awareness, these negativities control us. With awareness, we can control and then transform them.

True happiness, the wise people have said many times, arrives when we cultivate our good qualities in each moment. If we want to harvest mangoes we need to plant mango trees. If we want to be happy we need to bring loving awareness to our moments.

Is it possible to create a space that promotes mindfulness?

Imagine being able to live and work in an environment that raises your awareness. To live in an environment that supports mindfulness, that really allows you to reconnect with love, compassion, gratitude, acceptance, generosity, and friendship.  An environment that promotes fun, creativity, joy, inspiration and clarity.

Is your environment supporting you to be more aware, more peaceful, more loving – happier?

Sometimes a very cluttered, messy or noisy environment will create so much agitation in the mind, that we are unable to find solutions even to the smallest problem.

Letting go is always a good place to start. Once that stagnant energy has moved out, some fresh ideas will naturally arise to what to do next.

Bringing nature in will start the magic happening, with the sound of water running in the background, plants and pictures of wild landscapes.

Positive imagery surrounding us will support us choosing to engage with more positive states of mind, as will beautiful works of art in any medium.

Small details well placed can remind us of the power of a smile, the beauty of a flower, the joy of brilliant music, our connection with others, or just a good laugh.

Celebrating our connection with the source of all creation will bring us back to our true purpose. An altar with candles and beautiful images of inspiring people will support us in starting each day by setting a fresh new intention and by being grateful for all we have and all that is coming our way.





I am sure they have lots of things in common…we could go all day speculating about it!

But to me the main thing they have in common is that chocolate, sex and alcohol are best when experienced separately and in moderation.

We all may crave some chocolate sometimes, but while eating one square can bring you joy, eating 10 squares may not necessarily make the experience 10 times more enjoyable.

The line between pleasure and pain can be a very thin one, which often can be crossed if our awareness has not been sharpened.

We are this sensing machine going around smelling, tasting, hearing, touching, seeing, and imagining. So much input, especially if you walk into a shopping centre! And it is from these inputs that craving is born: I like this, I want that, I am hungry. And whenever craving is present its opposite is also bound to appear: aversion.

Then we are thrown from side to side with likes and dislikes: running towards what appeals to us, pushing away what we don’t like. And that is happening not only with our eating, our drinking or our shopping list, but also in our relationships with other people, in our health, in our work. Truly it is happening constantly. And it is causing us a lot of stress and dissatisfaction.

How to we free ourselves from such madness?

Sometimes I love to go away on meditation retreats. There, often after a couple of days, I start feeling less stressed and more at peace with myself.

While I could technically do retreats at home by turning all the phones and computers off, I feel that I am still too close to all that I perceive needs fixing, changing or improving to be able to have real ‘time off’. I am still too caught up in the ‘wants’ and the ‘don’t wants’ of my day-to-day life.

But the nicest thing I notice after coming back from one week of meditation, like I did last week, is that I am more grounded and less caught up in the madness of worldly life. It gives me a better perspective about what matters the most and also a better perspective about who I am and where I fit in the bigger picture.

Sometimes that’s all that one needs to become happier: to learn how to see life from a more detached perspective.

Do I have to be grateful Today?


Gratitude is something we need to practice every day towards every small thing, until we are able to become grateful for everything that comes our way (via Twitter this morning).

Last week the homework I gave at meditation class was to extend appreciation to all things around us, and to take that to our inter-personal encounters too.

Then, this week one of my students was brave enough to say she had to deal with a few difficult people and had trouble practicing gratitude along the week. I mentioned to her that we need to be kind to ourselves first and foremost, and accept that we all have days when we can be more tolerant than others. Accept and let go. Accept and let go. Again and again. That’s the beauty of the meditation practice.

It is common that some of us may set days to practice gratitude, or loving-kindness, or mindfulness, every once in a while. However to know how to be truly grateful only comes from daily practice. Day in, be grateful. Day out, be grateful. Sun comes, be grateful. Rain comes, be grateful. Bird eats the spiders on your plants be grateful. Bird leaves droppings on your balcony afterwards be grateful!

However to practice gratitude you need first to understand what it is that you are practicing, and the benefits of it. Then second you have to FEEL it. Is it coming from a genuine place inside you? Does it feel true to you? This is because if you set up to be grateful because you ‘should be grateful’ it will not work so well. It will only be working on a surface level, and you may end up feeling a bit like a great-fool instead.

Extending appreciation or developing gratitude is connecting with life itself. We can’t live in isolation. We depend on so many things and people around us, that being thankful is just an acknowledgement of what is already there. It is a remembering. We are just remembering our interconnectedness with all things, and that often bring us a sense of peace. And we slowly learn that good things and ‘bad’ things are equally part of life, equally important to our growth and happiness.

“Your thoughts matter because they create matter”

What are you thinking right now?

Did you know that you have in average 60,000 thoughts each day and that 95% of those thoughts are the same thoughts you had yesterday?

So if you are looking at improving your personal or professional life, wouldn’t be important to become more aware of the types of thoughts you are having at a deeper level?

Mindfulness meditation can help you in observing your the day to day thinking – such as planning, worrying about the past, worrying about the future, criticizing, more planning- and moving beyond that.

Mindfulness meditation will support you in observing your thinking underlying the day-to-day ‘noise’ or your common thoughts.

Because it’s only when you realise that underneath a thought of I’m going to be late! lies another thought such as I’m not good enough or  Who cares about me anyway? that you will start applying real change to your life.

with love from Ana