Time, Head Space, and Human Being…

“I have lived with several Zen masters – all of them cats.” Eckhart Tolle, author of global self-help phenomenon The Power of Now

If, like me, your brain is more dog then you’ll be familiar with the constant internal chatter. Am I doing this right? Have I replied to all the emails I was meant to? Every time the iPhone buzzes, I’m jumping to attend to it like one of Pavlov’s mutts. Modern day life has us whipped. It’s the burden of our species – the downside of evolution and the power of speech – with big brains we are prone to neuroses such as stress, anxiety and depression. All problems tend to be associated with issues from the past, fears in our minds, or desires for the future.

By consciously bringing ourselves back into the present moment, or being mindful as the buzzword goes, we can silence the noise. Adult Psychotherapist Sarah Hirigoyen, who combines her scientific interest in the brain with something more spiritual, has this advice, “The biggest mistake we all do is over-identify with our Minds. We think we are our thoughts. Most of us are unaware that we are slaves to our thoughts. The reality is that we are much, much more than our thoughts.  We have a mind: yes, but it is only an instrument we can use, we have another much bigger and better source of intelligence and Self. The bigger source of Self is rooted in the ‘I-Observer-Me’, which is there in the backdrop of everything and we notice it when we observe ourselves and our thoughts.”

Meditation helps. The good news is it’s a skill, and can be learnt and improved. Simple breathing mantras such as “Let Go” are effective: breathe in and say the word “let” in your mind’s eye, exhale and say “go”. Repeat until it becomes a reality. Tommy Taylor, Senior Stylist at Hare & Bone changed his lifestyle towards one of mindfulness two years ago when he needed to switch off from work. “I practice mindfulness through the meditation process, and counting my breathing steps which is the mindfulness of breathing.” 

Multidimensional Prayer By Louis Dyer

Learn to find pleasure in everyday tasks. Let’s face it, life isn’t all champagne and parties (well, maybe at fashion week it is), but menial things such as sweeping the floor become oddly enjoyable when we allow ourselves to focus on the minutia of the job in hand. Taylor agrees, “I think mindfulness is in everything you do. You can do it when you are walking down the street, be aware of every step, feeling the contact of the ground in everything you do. Even when I’m working, when I’m cutting hair, I end up being quite mindful thinking exactly what I’m doing, feeling the hair touch my fingers. Just staying completely self-conscious and aware of what’s going on. The wind blowing on your skin when you’re walking down the road. It’s all part of being mindful.”

There are other, more high-energy methods too. “Having fun!” Says Sammy Judah emphatically, life coach at his Neurologica Practice who’s also developed a new Energy Boost training course. “We enjoy ourselves the most when we are in the present. If you see kids playing, they are in the present. They aren’t thinking ‘Do I look silly?’, ‘What about the homework I’ve got to do.’ Having playtime is a really important part of that, and I think as adults we’ve kind of lost that.”

But what if it’s the present moment that’s keeping you down? This is the clever part – we can use our analytical brain for the good. When faced with negative thoughts we need to unpack them to create order. “I am firstly curious about them, I might try and identify from which (subpersonality) part of me, are these thoughts coming from,” says Hirigoyen. You can give yourself a pep talk too. “I would play the negative thoughts a bit, and test them to see if I can dialogue them away from another part of me, say for example from a reassuring part.” 

“If I can’t do that, and the thoughts are making me feel sad, depending on the situation I either bat them off in a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) style (basically decide firmly to not engage with them) or I might go deeper into them to work out what is underneath them, like layers to unfold. There is usually a primitive fear underneath them all, which I can become aware of. Relationships with primitive fears are now well-trodden paths, in me,” she says.

Personally I’ve stumbled across a few truths in the last five years. The most important of which, is that time does wait. You can make time slow down, just by willing it to be. It’s not going to catch up with you to extinguish you in some kind of freak time / space accident at the singularity point. Traffic jams used to be my personal hell, now I turn on the radio, find another kind of jam, and enjoy the forced downtime. 

So if and when the storm clouds of your mind gather this summer, make the conscious decision to cross to the sunny side of the street. 


PHOENIX’s new fifth anniversary issue FUTURE CLASSICS is available from Sainbury’s, WH Smith’s or our web shop now.

Words: Hannah Kane
Artwork: Louis Dyer

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