Stressed? Try Meditation.

Introduction To Meditation

Meditation is one of the best ways to remove stress. In a stressed state, you can find yourself thinking about what happened in the past or what might be happening in the future. This is a very common trait of the unconditioned mind and one we need to shift away from.

It is impossible to change the past and extremely hard to predict the future. Thus, the only place to be is "in the moment". Being present and in the moment is your natural state.

Being present is when you become fully aligned and connected to what is happening right now in the moment. The benefit of being in the moment is that it assists you to feel free on a mental and emotional level, elevating your state of mind. Enabling you to lead with clarity, free from stress.

Meditation can improve a multitude of different physiological and psychological markers for you. These are my big three growth areas:

 #1 Balancing The Nervous System

Modern day life is stressful. You have more to do and in less time than ever before. Furthermore, the demands upon what is expected of you from work, family and relationships are ever expanding.

All of these elements within your life can feel "stressful" and require you to reach into your fight or flight nervous system. An acute amount of daily stress is normal and is even healthy for you. However, it is when this stress becomes chronic that we begin to see a problem either physiologically or psychologically.

Meditation provides a technique that enables you to invoke a parasympathetic nervous system response. Meaning you can learn to turn on the rest and recovery side of your nervous system. This works to offset or balance the stress that accumulates from everyday life.

Meditation has been shown to decrease your blood pressure, reduce heart rate, improve heart rate variability and can invoke feelings of mental freedom and flexibility. I have found it help me through some of my life's most challenging times; guiding me to see what I can learn from the moment, rather than resisting it.

#2 Increasing Your Faculty Of Focus

Research has shown the idea of multitasking is a myth and is no longer considered an optimal way to split your attention. The new way of thinking it to give 100% of yourself to a task and let your increased attention create a more desired outcome.

The technique of meditation asks the student to create an effortless focus, i.e. on your breath or a mantra. These types of meditations are classified as single point focused meditation. The student lightly rests their attention on one point of focus for periods greater than 5 minutes at a time. 

A benefit of single-point focused meditation comes from within the focus that you are creating during your meditation. The more you cultivate your focus, the more that transcends into your ability to express higher levels of attention in your daily life.

As previously mentioned, the nature of meditation is to put you in the moment, freeing you from stress. It is the combination of that mentally clear state of mind and the increased focus which aligns meditation with improving performance for elite athletes and corporate employees.

 #3 Building Resilience

Resilience is a buzz word currently used in many workplaces around the world. The idea is that if you can create an environment for the employee or team where they express high levels of mental toughness, then they will be able to produce more optimal levels of performance compared to the competition. I speak with many people on this topic and most feel it can be summarised as your ability to endure or prevail against challenging situations.

Furthermore, I feel it is a new age way of getting staff to "harden up" and get on with the task, no matter how stressed you are. Building resilience does not mean you can handle lots of challenging situations. According to HeartMath, a science-based research company that focuses on stress and anxiety reduction, suggest that resilience is like a battery.

Meaning that your whole being is created of energy. Some activities you partake in give you energy, while some reduce your energy. To be resilient means to have an active process of techniques and behaviours that increase your energy. The more energy you possess, the higher your capacity to be resilient. A technique like meditation is a great way to build and maintain your energy levels, improving your performance.

Now Do IT!

Here is a process that you can use to start your practice of meditation:

#1 - Lie down or sit comfortably upright in a chair. Close your eyes.

#2 - Start breathing effortlessly in the nose and out the mouth.

#3 - Begin to notice the breath as it comes in and out of your body.

#4 - Lightly rest your focus on the breath as it comes and goes from your body.

#5 - Increase your focus on the sensation of the breath as it passes in and out.

#6 - Stay with the sensation of the breath. Keep your focus on the effortless sensation of the breath.

Tips:

You may find that your mind wanders off and lose focus of the breath. Or you might find that your mind is really busy. Do not worry, this is 100% normal. If you notice the mind has wondered off, simply and effortlessly bring your soft attention back to the sensation of your breath.

Your attention might also be pulled away by external sounds like a passing car and or you might feel the need to move. Once you have noticed that the noise has taken you away from your breath or the desire to move has done the same. Softly and effortlessly come back to the sensation of your breath.

The whole idea of this meditation is to softly focus on the sensation of your breath. If the mind wanders, you simply notice that is has done so. Once you have noticed that your focus has wandered, effortlessly bring the mind back to feeling the sensation of the breath as it passes in and out of your body. That is the moment of awareness! You have become aware that you are no longer in the moment! Bring yourself effortlessly back to the moment via focusing on your breath.

The nature of the mind is to wander. However, we want to stay in the moment. In this case, focused on the effortless sensation of the breath as it passes in and out of the body. The more experienced you get, the more you are able to maintain your focus without your mind wandering off.

Aim to start with 3 minutes of practice. Over a few sessions, you can build up to 10 minutes. See if you can add this into your daily routine. I aim for the middle of the day to get my session in. However, you can put your meditation session wherever it suits your schedule.

Give it a go and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me via here!

Yours in performance,

Mitchell.

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Life Is Constantly Changing

Things change all the time. An important and noteworthy rule that connects everything in the universe is that change is constant. We are evolving and progressing in each and every moment. The cells in our body are continuously transforming (depending on which article you read) every 7-10 years. After that time, we are essentially new people due to the fact that every single cell in our body has been replaced with a new cells.

Change is also interconnected in our daily lives via what we experience. We move house, we change jobs, we make new friends and connections. We lose loved ones, we gain loved ones. It’s all a big cycle of coming and going. Breaking down and building up, inhaling and exhaling. Change is everywhere and in everything.

Sometimes when change is happening, we get scared and shut ourselves down. We make ourselves feel uncomfortable because we have become out of sync with the flow of our existence. Life can feel quite exhausting when we are forever swimming upstream against the current. Fatigue, stress, anger, resentment, frustration, rage, anxiety and depression can be experienced as individual emotions and or states of being.

Another thing we do as humans regarding change is that we try to hold on. Hold on to everything that is no longer there because it has already changed. It is impossible to hold onto something that is no longer there. This puts us into a false reality and takes us out of our body. In order to hold on, we have to make up false ideas and concepts which make us ‘feel’ like we are still in possession of something that no longer exists.

A more progressive way to move through life with grace and flow is to connect yourself with this universal law of change. This can make us feel so happy and healthy on all levels. We know life is constantly evolving and if you look at the universe and everything in it, you can gain a greater appreciation and trust. You can have comfort in the fact that within the evolution of the universe and its contents, that there has been an obvious refinement - an upgrade of sorts. If we can bring that mentality to our lives, knowing that we are always changing and growing in a positive direction, we can let go of the shutting down and holding on. Embracing in trust and a willingness to partake in the process of life.

We can then start to live a life where we are open to change, moving with it. Allowing us to fall into deeper alignment with everything that is around us. Not judging things as good or bad, but seeing life for what it is. A moving from one state to the next. Maveling in the progression, engaging in a mental curiosity and appreciation for what is coming next.

If you’re in a state of openness and allowing, you are able to enhance your capacity to attract all the people, places and things that will help you in becoming your best self, so that you can live your best life. We are here to evolve, grow, change and learn. Letting go of what was, embracing what is and what will be is a sure ticket to work with life on a higher level. Experiencing more gratefulness and acceptance of your life, you find yourself enriched in more happiness. 

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The ocean is constantly changing. No two waves are the same. 

The Return

The aftermath of having hip surgery two weeks ago has been full on. It was challenging going through the physical pain and also going through the detoxification process to clear the general anaesthetic and pain killers. 

I had a moment on the first night at home where I was in so much pain that it reduced me to tears. The moment was too much. I was shaking and couldn't find peace in my body. Furthermore, due to the body clearing the toxins I was having hot and cold sweats. One minute I was boiling, the next I was shivering. It was a "character building" evening. 

Interestingly, as I went into these stages of struggle and passed through them, something new started to take its place. Each day, and every moment I heal, I feel more robust and resilient. I feel proud of the fact I put myself first and went into a space that I knew was going to be tough. I feel humbled to have faced and conquered a large array of my fears. 

Progressing through the stages of healing, about a week post surgery, I started to feel "normal" again. The fog of all the chemicals had left my body and I was able to think clearly. Then, strangely, a new part of the process had begun. The mental, emotional side of things had cranked up. I guess being so vulnerable and seemingly helpless had taken its toll on who I define myself to be.  

In this process, I have been unable to shower myself. Get out of bed and in and out of chairs. I have been unable to dress myself and create meals for myself. I have been reliant on the support of others, mainly my amazing wife Tarryn and our family. One of the biggest and most frustrating things has been my inability to support my kids, especially my son Orlando. We have such a physical relationship, wresting and playing with toys. Furthermore, when he is angry or emotional I usually pick him up and hug him. Not being able to do that has been tough.

With the loss of my physical output, which helps me define who I am and how I express myself has left me very much in a reflective state. Once everything is stripped away from you at such a high level and you're given time to be on your own you can't but help reflect. From that, big questions start to come through. "Who am I?", "What is my purpose?", "What do I want to spend my time doing once this is all over?".

I have felt uncomfortable with this. Yet I am now realising, just like it was when I had the initial injury.  I am changing. We all can relate, change, it isn't always easy or fun. However, the more I can step into the flow of everything I am experiencing with acceptance and grace being my go to thoughts. The happier I am and the more bright and opportunistic this time is.

I have begun investing my thoughts not on what I can't do, but what I can do! I have shifted to being grateful for everything around me and started celebrating each and every progression I make, no matter how small. It all depends on how you look at life. Either you can choose to create a consciousness where everything is bad or you can flip it and believe that everything that you are experiencing is elevating your life to another level.

It sounds easy, but it's not. Being happy, seemingly does not come easy to us humans. Yet, just like everything we create, we too can create happiness. It starts in our mind. Once you start to look for the silver lining within the challenges you are going through, you will be amazed at how much of life is actually helping to shape you into becoming your best self.

Once your mind is looking for the positive and you've set it to that frequency for long enough to create that habit, naturally your mind becomes a positive place. You are now thinking positive thoughts. This then leads onto say positive things and expressing yourself in positive ways. Life is all about thoughts, words and actions. If you can get yourself to a place where you are positively expressing yourself on all three of those planes you are setting yourself up for your best possible life.  

I am so grateful for what this experience has taught me. I love who am I and I'm excited by what I am finding out about myself. I feel like I'm shedding some old skin and perceiving life from a new and rejuvenated place. I feel happy and more committed to creating a life that revolves around being of service to others. 

I hope by sharing my inner world and experiences that it might make a difference to someone else's life. I feel that we are all going through something and the more vulnerable and open we are, the more we can relate and bring each other up. The world can feel like a lonely place sometimes, but from talking to many people about their experiences it has shown me that we are all not too dissimilar. Love, connection, openness and a mind that is able to see the positive is key. 

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The things you write down...

I wrote this letter to myself about 2 years ago. I don’t know where it came from, I just wrote it. I am now living all the truth and have manifested everything that I felt was expressed in this letter. It feels powerful.

Mitchell, I know you’re going through a rough time. I am not sorry about that. I know this might sound weird, except this is what you signed up for and part of you knows this. Yeah you’re going to have to do something about that hip. You are not here to live in pain. You’re here to move through it and learn what to do with it. Mitchell, you are my son and I love you very much. I want what is best for you, we all do. Time is coming for you to step into who you came here to be. It’s just that in order to live your dream you need great depth. You need to face your fears and come through them. Not many people step up in life and go through their fears. They stay the same… You don’t want that, I don’t want that. To treat people who are going up against their biggest fears you must go through yours. You are scared after watching the video of that person having hip surgery. The video shows you what happens to a person’s body in surgery. Remember, this is not you. It’s your vehicle. Get your shit sorted so you can do what you need to do. As simple as that. Too much energy is leaking into pain. Pay attention to all inside needs. Address your interior and go forth working with others and their interiors. That’s what your energy wants the most. We will support you all the way. We will send you angels all the way through this process. We love you so much you can’t even fathom. We are so proud of you. You are a man now. It’s amazing how far you have come in such a relatively short period of time. Let the next few days unfold. You need another job. Start looking and we will show you.

After writing that letter I never gave it much thought. Until I re-read it this week. It really hit me. It made me feel a level of connection to something far greater than myself. That letter by itself doesn’t mean much but as I reflect on the time between writing it to now, it feels like a big deal.

I went onto heal everything that needed to healed inside of me, I put the torch to all the dark bits. That’s when doors started to open, and it felt so easy. I got the job I needed and once that was over I got another job the week after, which felt perfect.

I opened up to finding a surgeon. When a door closed, another quickly opened and lead me to the man who performed surgery on me last week. Once again it was easy and it felt really good, it was the right fit.

Throughout this whole process I had always felt that I was being guided and assisted along the way. There was always a feeling or a voice or an opportunity that surprisingly came from nowhere. In my darkest days I felt like I had nothing and all I could do was pray. I’m not a religious person, but I guess when I felt like I had hit rock bottom that was all I could do.

“Ask and you shall receive”, is the old quote, I think it’s from the bible… and seemingly, yes. I asked and I recieved. In reflection upon writing that letter, me and the universe co-created together and manifested everything I needed.

Sitting here post surgery I am running at about 33% physical capacity. However, mentally I feel unstoppable. Combined with the feeling of that co-creative power I now and have always possessed, I feel I am in the best space I have ever been.

Pre surgery I was saying to people that my hip was the worst and best thing that had ever happened to me. From now on, I’m just flat out going to say it is the best thing that has ever happened to me. It gave me the opportunity and forced me to face all of my fears, physical and non-physical. It has been 10 years living with my injury. It has changed me so much, and I now feel forever blessed. I am whole.

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Attempted Suicide | Choosing Life

One evening after work I was driving home and had stopped at a set of traffic lights on a busy Sydney north shore road. Out of nowhere this girl in her early twenties started bashing on my passenger window. I put down the window and asked, “What is wrong?!”. The girl screamed, “Please help me, please help me! My dad has hurt himself and needs help!” I realised very quickly that she was in need of some serious assistance. She had this look that I will never forget, a face full of sheer terror and panic…

I told her to get in and we sped down the road. The young girl was on the phone to her injured father at the time and was directing me where to go. We turned off the busy main road next to a sporting oval; I thought we might be about to find a man with a broken bone or having a heart attack. However, as we headed past the oval and down into the dark suburban streets I started to feel this situation was becoming a little bit strange. The girl kept saying “It will be okay dad, we’re coming, we’re coming”. After driving for another few hundred meters the girl screamed out “There it is! Stop”. I stopped instantly and watched her run over to her father’s car.

The car was a medium sized late model sedan. It was white and had significant hail damage on the panels and in this particular moment, the windows were all fogged up. I watched her open the driver’s front door and when she looked inside she let out the loudest high pitch scream of terror I had ever heard. She backed away from the car in pure shock; she could barely hold herself up. I jumped out of my car and rushed over to her. As I got to her, I caught a glimpse of what was inside. I saw a man in the front seat of the car. He had blood all over his white business shirt. He had significant neck wounds; it looked like he had cut his throat. His face was discoloured, dark and swollen. I felt like I was in a scene from a war movie.

I helped the young girl into the passenger front seat of my car, she was in complete shock and barely functioning. I got my phone out and called triple zero, handed it to her and said, “You need to get it together and get the ambulance here because I have to go and help your dad“. I went back over to the man in the car and when I got there he was handing me a pair of scissors. I thought he was being remorseful, wanting me to take away 'the tool' he had used to hurt himself. I took the scissors from him and told him to lie down. The seat was already reclined and it was in that moment I got a better look at his neck. He had put a large cable tie around his neck and had been trying to strangle himself. It was so tight it had ripped up the skin around his neck. He had clearly been trying to cut himself free. 

The man had laid down and then I started to try and cut the extremely tight cable tie off his neck. Without being able to get the sharp part of the scissors to the cable tie I could only use the tips. It was like cutting with a butter knife and took for what felt like forever until I got the cable tie to release from his neck. After that everything happened so fast. Neighbours came out of their homes to see what was going on. I ended up back on the phone to the ambulance, as the girl couldn’t communicate where we were located. I stayed on the phone until the ambulance got to the scene. People were asking me what happened. The girl was in the gutter and in a bad way. People were tending to the man in the car and I was standing there with blood all over my hands trying to make sense of what had just happened.

I went into a person’s home and cleaned myself up. By the time I had returned most of the people had gone back into their houses. The man was now in the back of the ambulance receiving care. His daughter was standing in the street talking to a neighbour. She saw me coming down the street and as I came up towards them gave me a big hug and asked if I could write my number in her phone. Straight away she got into the ambulance and they drove away. Just like that, it was only me and one other guy left in the quiet dark street. It was the weirdest thing to go from a quiet drive home, to pure chaos, straight into absolute silence. I took a few breaths, composed myself sitting in my car for a few minutes and then drove myself home.

In the weeks that have followed, I have been through many mixed emotions. At various times feeling alone, sad, numb, happy, positive, grateful and even full of joy. I have been all over the place but not in a bad way. I now realise that when you are put into a situation and are forced to contemplate how sacred life is you are probably going to feel a wide variety of emotions. I feel it is a good thing because that is a big part of what makes us human. We live in world of relativity experiencing happy and sad, love and fear, hot and cold, life and death. Through this soul-searching, I have come to my own conclusion and feel that life is a choice. You can either work with it and learn and grow with its direction for you. Or you can shut yourself off to it and numb yourself into believing this is all that life has in store for me.

From now on I’m going to attempt as best I can to make a choice to choose life. Not just to go on breathing, eating, sleeping, going to work etc. I am going to choose to listen to my inner voice that keeps telling me I should do that, or I should try this. I believe my inner voice has been suppressed by me through my fear of what has happened in the past and what might happen in the future. I am now going to choose to get real with it, in the moment and move forward together with life. Life is too precious. We can’t waste our time not becoming the best version of ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to not play ourselves as small. We came here to shine and this little light of mine, I’m going to let it do that.

If this story has triggered you, please reach out to Lifeline - 13 11 14. You are never alone.

Tom Brady | Meditation | Super Bowl Win

At a time when everyone is looking for the next advantage in life. It might seem a little crazy to suggest stopping what you're doing, sit down, close your eyes and meditate, right? Wrong!

With their backs against the wall in Super Bowl 51, the New England Patriots found themselves with a 28-3 point deficit against the Atlanta Falcons. History states that no team has ever come back from more than a 10-point margin, it was safe to say the Patriots were highly unlikely to win. 

Boasting the best defence and 3rd ranked offense in the league, the Patriots had great reason to believe they were still able to win the match. No one more so than Tom Brady, their quarterback. Tom completed the most passing yards (466) in Super Bowl history. Guiding his team to one of the all-time great comeback victories.

How is it that Tom Brady, with very little going the Patriots way, with years of statistics suggesting victory was near impossible, shrug off all negative emotion, go out there and deliver the performance of a lifetime?

There is no one specific area of focus that makes an exceptional performer. However, like most occupations, it is a combination of many that contribute to the development of an elite NFL player. Programs typically use sports science, strength and conditioning, recovery protocols, technical and tactical training to assist in advancing their athletes. In addition, a new frontier of evolution is making its way into the elite NFL scene, meditation. Take one guess who uses it? Tom Brady. 

Tom uses meditation to help him to complete his whole picture of performance, which "relates to being physically fit, emotionally stable and spiritually nourished", says Tom's trainer and adviser Alex Guerrero.

Meditation and its effect on performance go hand in hand. Meditation provides you with a technique to stay cool, calm and collected under the most stressful of situations (even a Super Bowl). A component of our nervous system (NS) is divided into two parts; the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which aids with rest and recovery, and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is designed for fight or flight. In highly stressful situations it is advantageous for your NS to be in a balanced state so you can perform your task effectively.

Meditation as a practice has been shown to increase PNS activity (1). Meanings when you meditate you are putting your body into a state of high rest and recovery. Once you are developed in your practice you will have the ability transfer that state of relaxation into your most challenging situations. Potentially you can experience less stress and anxiety (2), and thus increase your chances of performance. 

Meditation has also been shown to enhance your capacity to focus (3). Typically meditation practices require a student to concentrate on one thing for an extended period of time e.g. your breath. Interestingly, adaptations to elevated levels of focus have been shown in as little as 5 days of 20-minute practice (3). In advanced students increased concentration is thought to correlate with higher emotional stability (4). Furthermore, meditation has also been shown to reduce the distracting effect of external stimuli (4), such as a loud crowd in a Super Bowl.

There is no doubt that Tom Brady is a once in a lifetime athlete. If you've only learned who he is this week through his Super Bowl victory or this post, you might assume he's been great his whole career, wrong. In 2000 Tom was drafted by the Patriots in the 6th round, at the 199th pick! Far from a 1st round quarterback selection where you would assume he came from. Tom is known for his work ethic and is famous for saying to the owner of the Patriots after the 2000 draft, "I'm the best decision this organisation has ever made".

Tom's mental ability to stay present within each moment, play-by-play, is nothing short of amazing. He does not worry about the past; he does not concern himself with the future. He is 100% focused on his process. Tom exhibits many potential adaptations from his meditation practice. He is extremely balanced and calm, displays high levels of focus and is not easily distracted. Meditation teaches you to be in the moment. Tom fights to be in the moment and that's why he is one of the greatest performing athletes of all time.

(1) Wu, S and Lo, P. (2008). Inward-attention meditation increases parasympathetic activity: a study based on heart rate variability. Biomedical Research, 29(5), pp. 245-250.

(2) Kabat-Zinn, J et al. (1992). Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, pp. 936-943

(3) Tang, Y et al. (2007). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. PNAS, 104(43), pp. 17152-6. 

(4) Lutz, A et al. (2008). Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in cognitive sciences, 12(4), pp. 163-169. 

Reflecting On 2016 | Forecasting 2017 | 1st Blog Post!

2016 was one of the most amazing years! I married the love of my life, the mother to my now two-year-old son, turned 30 and started focusing my efforts towards my own creative pursuits. This process has been extremely challenging, yet rewarding. Who knew building oneself up for a wedding, starting to find my place in the world of business and playing father/husband could be so massive! 

In 2017 I'm looking forward to becoming a lot more active in my work, drawing on my 10 plus years as a coach. The skills that I am set to focus on with my clients new and old are:

MEDITATION - Coaching individuals and groups through the process of calming the mind. This is done via focusing on the breath as a meditation tool to soothe the nervous system and promote recovery, allowing you to become active, and less re-active within your life.   

MOVEMENT - Creating space for you within your body through mobility and stretching exercises, plus focusing on the breath to help release connective tissue and fascia. If you're feeling stiff, sore, have an injury, are recovering from an injury or just want to be more dynamic, then this is for you. 

NUTRITION/DETOXIFICATION - Using whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and herbs as a way of cleaning the body. Focusing on the Lymphatic System (the body's sewer system) this protocol is designed to assist in the movement of Lymph encouraging healing at a cellular level. 

Lastly, what you can expect from this blog as I become more active online is simple; you will receive cool interesting content to help develop your own personal performance; think podcasts, webcasts, words and pics. 

2017 is set to be big working with clients, making life-long changes. If you're feeling inspired to make this year a little more about you please get in contact with me via my email - mitchell@mitchellwoods.com.au or give me a call on +61 415 847 006. 

See you here or in a session real soon. MW

Tarryn, Orlando and myself at our wedding late last year.