Relax, Relax, Relax

‘Relax, relax, relax”.

These are the 3 words my Thai boxing instructor constantly reminds me.

So I relax and straight away, I notice that my focus becomes more clear.

I can see the punches and kicks he is about to throw and react with blocks. It is almost as though I am reading a book.

But then I start to overthink the next combination of punches and kicks I am going to throw and the next thing I know, he has landed a punch or a kick that I wasn’t expecting.

I have tensed up and lost the flow.

“Relax, relax, relax”, he says.

And as soon as I do, the focus returns and my blocks, kicks and punches flow naturally and effortlessly.

Anyone who is a martial artist will know that it is hard to stay relaxed when you have someone throwing punches and kicks at you.

Which, let’s be honest, is not surprising. We are trying to defend ourselves and so the brain naturally puts us into the fight or flight response.

But it is not just martial arts where you can see this happening. You can often see it in team sports such as rugby or football when a team is under a lot of pressure. They tense up and make mistakes, whereas a confident and relaxed team appears to almost effortlessly dance around their opponents.

Because when we are relaxed, the mind ‘flows’ with whatever is happening around us and as a result, we tend to react in a calm and controlled way.

But as soon as the mind worries or we become tense, we tend to misinterpret things and let our previous thinking or thought patterns get in the way.

This clouds our judgement and leads to mistakes.

But how do we relax when stressful events are happening around us.

We quite simply focus on the body relaxing.

Drop the shoulders, relax the face muscles, breathe more slowly and smile.

We bring our attention into our body, notice any areas that feel tense and relax them.

We can also take some deep breaths into the abdomen and slow our actions down which also helps us engage in the present moment and flow naturally with the situation at hand.

And in this state of mind, we are far more prepared to tackle anything that comes our way.

For as soon as the body relaxes, the mind relaxes and when the mind is calm, the biggest problem in the world feels like the smallest,

But when the mind is agitated, the smallest problem can feel like the biggest.

This is the power of relaxation.

But when we are stressed, our minds tend to forget these gems of wisdom and we get drawn into our emotions.

So here is a great tip to help you remember.

Set your phone or watch to chime once every hour.

And every time you hear that sound, check in on your body. Notice how you are feeling and take a few moments to relax.

After a while, this becomes second nature and you find yourself checking in with your body and relaxing constantly throughout the day.

The results are that you work more efficiently, communicate more effectively and experience more pleasure in everything that you do.



Are you having a mid-life wobble?

Or did you ever have one?

I am curious as I have noticed many people seem to go through one at some point between the late ’30s to early ’50s.

And I call it a ‘wobble’ rather than a ‘crisis’ as I get the impression it’s more of a feeling of disillusionment rather than a full-on depression that people often associate with a mid-life crisis.

The reason I bring this up is that looking I would say about 80% of my clients are aged between their late 30’s and early 50’s which they are struggling to cope with and hence they come and see me.

And I think the reason a ‘wobble’ occurs is that at this time of our lives, we go through a big shift in our values and beliefs about the world.

And this means letting go of our old values and beliefs which can be very hard.

And from what most of my clients tell me, I think this is why.

When we are young, we are brought up to believe that the aim of life is to get married, have children, buy a house and get a good job.

Not only do our friends, family, teachers and the media persuade us to live our lives in this way, we also see it in virtually every movie we watch.

Have you noticed that in most films there is that romantic scene at the end where the lovers finally overcome all their obstacles and difficulties, embrace, kiss and we presume live happily ever after?

And of course, that’s it.

They don’t go on to show the future arguments, niggles, infidelity, painful break-up, depression and divorce battles do they?

So in our 20’s and 30’s, we do everything we can to reach ‘happy ever after’ which we believe means attaining possessions of some description…which can even mean a family.

During this period of our lives, we are therefore very much about ‘me’ and what I need to get.

But when we hit mid-life, I think we have attained most of these things and suddenly realise that there is still some sort of emptiness inside.

Even if we don’t have these things, there is still a realization that it is not these materialistic things that give us the fulfilment we are looking for.

And this causes a great deal of confusion and a feeling of being lost that causes us to really reflect and reevaluate our lives.

Now, 50% of people go through a complete career change at some point in their lives and most of the time it is during this ‘mid-life wobble’ time.

Every single time I have a client tell me they want to change career but they are unsure as to what to change too, I look into their values.

And every time, every single time, without any prompting from me, they say the same things.

“I want to help people or give back in some way”.

And this is what makes me believe that there is a shift in realization at this age that happiness does not come from fulfilling ‘My’ needs, but from helping others to fulfil theirs.

Why at this particular age?

Well, if we have had children, perhaps we have spent the last 18 years or so caring about them, but they had fled the nest and our lives felt empty. And perhaps we are looking for someone else to help.

But even if we haven’t had children, perhaps there is something in our genes that makes us have this realization. I don’t know, I am just guessing

But what I do notice is that when we do understand this and do make changes in our lives to start helping others, a beautiful change occurs that brings us a great deal more fulfilment, joy and happiness back into our lives.

These are just my thoughts and I may be completely wrong. But if you have gone through a mid-life wobble or went through one, did you draw any similar conclusions?

I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

Tai Chi practise

My alarm clock went off at 6am this morning. As always, it took me about 15 minutes of enjoying that cozy bed before I got up to go and exercise.

I noticed that slight discomfort in my lower back that I have had for the last 4 years. I stretched it out, it felt a little better, but it will always be there. I got up, put on some clothes and went outside to exercise.

I am not the greatest fan of exercise first thing in the morning, even when it is Tai Chi, but I know it is good for me and how amazing I feel once I am actually doing it.

After my own practice, I then took a Tai Chi class for some guests, went to the restaurant overlooking the Douro river and had an amazing breakfast.

This is quite a normal morning for me and probably doesn’t sound that exciting. But what does makes each and every day special for me is that I know this will all change one day.

One day, that minor pain in my lower back is going to be an ache that travels around most of my body. I may not even be able to get out of bed without the assistance of a walking frame or someone there to help me. I may have to burden someone with the task of helping me into the shower one day, maybe a complete stranger who is employed in a nursing home, who is impatient and just wishes I would hurry up so they could finish their night shift and go home.

I may only be able to walk a few metres, and as for exercise, FORGET IT! One day, I will probably sit on the end of my bed and dream about those days in the past when I could get up and gracefully perform Tai Chi as the sun rose over the Portuguese valley.

I will probably want to share my travelling stories with those who are close to me, but most of those people will probably have gone before me. My parents certainly won’t be alive and I am sure many of my close friends, brothers and sisters would also have passed over to the other side by then.

The interaction I have with the guests will one day be gone. I will probably struggle with my hearing, forget what I am saying half way through my sentences and repeat the same tales over and over again to some poor, patient soul who heard me tell the same story the day before, the day before that and every single time they came to visit me.

But there is no stopping the ageing process, for me, you or anyone. It sounds depressing doesn’t it? And you know what? It probably will be.

Of course, this is just one scenario.

Maybe I won’t get old. Maybe death will come quickly. Maybe the only warning I’ll get is, “Watch out for that bus!”

“What bus?”

SPLAT!

BUT…TODAY IS A GOOD DAY, BECAUSE TODAY I AM ALIVE, I can move, I can get myself out of bed, walk and take a shower on my own. I can talk to people and make new friends. I can exercise, my body works and I can choose to wake up early in the morning, step outside and feel the glorious sun shining down on my face and breathe in the fresh morning air. I have a roof over my head, water to drink, food to eat and money to support myself.

That is why I am happy today.

There are two reasons why I bring these things to your attention.

1) Be grateful for what you have today.
So much of the time we are comparing ourselves to others who have more than us and as a result, we feel as though we are lacking in life. If you have your health, a roof over your head, food to eat, water to drink, a social network, be grateful for that. If you focus on those who you believe have more than you, you will always feel unhappy.

If you reflect on all of those hundreds of millions who have less, you will always be happy and grateful. Your happiness completely depends on the way you see world. So do you choose to see the glass as being half full? Or half empty?

2) Everything in the universe is in a constant state of change.
Nothing ever remains the same.
A lot of the time we feel we are lacking in something and believe we have to reach a specific destination to be happy, such as when we have a perfect body, we have met that dream partner, we have a family, we have a nice home, we are financially secure etc. We believe that when we get those things, everything will be perfect and we can live happily ever after.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING as happily ever after.

Everything that we have will eventually pass. Our friends, families and loved ones, our health, our independence and no matter how much wealth we have, we will not be able to buy any of these things back.

In life, everything is born from nothing, appears, reaches its peak, declines, decays and passes.

No man, woman, animal, plant, business, country, planet or star in the sky has ever or will ever be able to escape this cycle. The more we try to resist it the more we will fight against the inevitable, become frustrated and unhappy.

But by really contemplating, understanding and accepting this fundamental law of nature, we can be far more grateful for this short life we have and learn to enjoy it so much more.
Appreciate today. Don’t stress and strain. Everything passes. Good things, bad things, happy things, sad things. Nothing remains. Enjoy what you have – TODAY!

Amanpuri resort

As you may be aware, 2 months ago I changed my website.

The reason being is that I now offer a new service which may (or may not), be of interest to you.

I am now working with Aman and Six Senses resorts worldwide offering people a holiday with a difference.
Now many people take a holiday because they need a break. Life can be stressful at times and a holiday seems to offer the chance to recuperate and relax.

What a Zen Mind holiday offers is the opportunity for you to stop, think and re-evaluate your life, contemplate what it is that you want and provide you with the tools to implement those changes when you return.

Now there are many retreats out there that offer meditation and yoga holidays etc. They are great and will de-stress you and make you feel better for the duration of the retreat, but what I feel is missing is the opportunity to reflect on all aspects of your life and what improvements you would like to make that will give you a greater sense of freedom and well-being.

The other thing is that these holidays not packaged, but are tailor-made for you personally. You will have a full consultation on your first day so that our specialists can fully understand what you want to achieve during your stay with us and arrange appropriate treatments for you to achieve those goals.

When I talk about specialists, we are talking about a selective group of Holistic therapists who have all worked at the top holistic spas worldwide, most of whom have more than 20 years of experience in Hypnotherapy, Massage, Osteopathy, Acupuncture, Meditation, Chinese medicine, Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Nutrition, Health and Fitness.

The areas we focus on are:

Relationships (family, friends and professional)
Career goals
Financial goals
Personal development
Spiritual development
Physical Health (Exercise, Nutrition and Holistic Therapies)
Meditation
Psychological well-being
Life Management

It is a holiday that you can either enjoy alone or bring your family along too.

An average day would include a one-hour movement class (yoga, pilates, Qi Gong, gym, swim, aerobic exercise class, etc.)
2 hours of 1-1 Mind, Life Management, Hypnotherapy, Meditation and Health recommendations. Coaching.
1-hour Massage therapy / Holistic treatment

In other words a total of 4 hours per day.

The rest of the day is time for you to relax, reflecting on your life, or enjoy time with your family.

The aim after 7 days is for you to return with greater clarity of thought to make positive changes in your life and the tools and knowledge on how to make those changes happen.

The main reason our wellness holidays are so successful is that most people are so busy in their normal, everyday lives, that they don’t ever have time to stop, think and reflect on where they are and what we want out of life. As a result, they often find themselves stuck on the treadmill of life going nowhere fast.

For more information about what we offer, please click here

And for more information about the various destinations we will be working at worldwide, please click here

Short term and long term gains

The mind is a funny thing.

Did you know that the 2 things at the heart of every decision and action you do throughout the day are what will give you pleasure and how you can avoid pain?

Of course, we need to survive and this is exactly why these two thoughts drive us to live our lives in the way that we do.

However, it is important to be aware of the fact that short-term pleasure leads to long-term unhappiness, whereas short-term displeasure leads to long-term happiness.

Most people are unaware of this fact and then wonder why they are struggling with their present-day situation.
Whatever your current situation is in life, the majority of it boils down to the choices and decisions you have made in the past.

The job you have, the partner you have, the financial situation you are in and your current state of mind. Even your state of health is largely dependent on the choices and decisions you have made in the past.
And if you are unhappy with your circumstances it is usually because you have chased after short-term pleasures in the past without giving them much thought.

If you are happy, then it is likely that you have given those previous actions careful thought and consideration.

This is one of the reasons why I believe it is so important to take some time out now and again to be clear about who you are and what direction to take your life in. Goal setting is so important because it can help you to recognize what you need to survive in the long term and allow you to set your mind on sacrificing momentary pleasures to achieve those goals.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

Laziness – It may seem more enjoyable to get home in the evening and catch up on Facebook and eat junk food than it is to eat a healthy meal and go to the gym. But health-wise, it is not going to give you the energy and healthy looking body that you desire in the long term.

Love Life – Are you looking for short-term pleasure? Or long-term commitment? If it is the long term you are looking for, be very clear about the type of person you are looking for, be patient and wait for them. Otherwise, you will find yourself giving into to those short-term pleasures, making a lot of mistakes and continually missing the right person who could be just around the corner.

Work – Are you working in a job that gives you little satisfaction because you are just focusing on the salary at the end of the month? Or should you be taking some time out to think about your long-term goals – which may involve some short-term sacrifices, such as a further study to propel your career or change it into something more suitable?

Family – how much time are you investing with your children, your partner or loved ones? Investing time in them now will lead to greater happiness for you on a day to day basis and greater stability with them in the future.

Spiritual development – How much of the day is your mind at peace and do you genuinely feel happy? Taking some time to nurture your mind will leave you feeling positive and happy meaning that you appreciate your life more and those around you enjoy your company more too.

The mind is always thinking and it needs something to focus on, so make sure the focus is clear and you abide by the laws of nature. Then your choices and actions will be in alignment with your long-term goals.

Heart health

The Heart is often referred to as the Source of Life as it provides the body with the essential ingredients that it needs to survive. This central muscle is finely sensitive to feedback mechanisms concerning our brain and muscle oxygen needs. It pumps blood, carrying warmth, oxygen and nutrients around the body and its rate and rhythm are determined by our breathing and our mental and emotional states.

In Asia, the heart is strongly associated with emotions and in the Thai language, every emotion is associated with the word “jai” or “heart”. “Jai rorn” means “hot heart” or “angry”, “jai dee” means “good heart” or “compassionate”, and “sabai jai” means “at ease with the heart” or “relaxed”.

In the English language we have words such as “kind-hearted”, “warm heart”, “heartfelt” and “heartless”, all associated with feelings and emotions.

When treating a client with Auricular Acupuncture for excessive emotional states such as stress, anger, fear or anxiety, the first needle is always inserted in the point that correlates to the heart.

But how can our minds and emotions affect our heart?

One example is when we experience stress.

Fear and anger are the most common emotions that we feel when we are stressed, which brings about the “fight” or “flight” response in our bodies. During the stress response, the heart beats faster, the arteries constrict (increasing blood pressure) and hormones that not only increase our energy but also affect our mood, flood throughout the body.

The more stress we feel, the more our blood pressure increases and the more emotional we become, which then again results in higher blood pressure and an even more exciting hormonal system and a so on and son on. It becomes a vicious circle.

Lack of exercise and a poor diet added to this is what has contributed to heart disease being the leading cause of death in western society.
So how can we counteract these negative emotions and reduce pressure on the heart? One way is through deep abdominal breathing, another is through meditation.

Slow, deep abdominal breathing at a rate of six breaths per minute (BPM), inhaling deeply for 5 seconds and exhaling for 5 seconds through the nose, slows down the heart rate and counteracts the stress response of the body.

Thirty years of scientific research by Dr Paul Johnson at Oxford University revealed that practicing 15 minutes of deep abdominal breathing per day at 6 BPM not only reduces high blood pressure, but also calms the mind by bringing the endocrine system (hormone releasing glands), back into a state of homeostasis.

Learning some simple meditation techniques also allows us to deal with our emotions more effectively. By learning to observe the mind and detach ourselves from our thoughts cuts off our body’s hormonal response to them.

This can be done whilst practising abdominal breathing by keeping the mind focused on the breath. Just observe the sensation of the breath moving in and out of the body and observe the abdomen rising and falling. Every time a thought comes to mind, just observe it for a few seconds, let the thought go and gently bring the mind back to the breath.

It is only when we cling to our thoughts and let our minds drift away and follow them that we trigger a hormonal response and increase stress on the heart. But by continually letting the thoughts go, the heart rate drops, the glands stop releasing excessive hormones and the body and mind reaches a state of peace and equilibrium.

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Toby Author

About Toby Maguire

Hi, I'm Toby.

I’m a meditation teacher, life coach, speaker and retreat host who has spent more than 30 years studying Meditation and Eastern philosophy.

I have helped thousands of people struggling with stress, anxiety or depression to take back control of their minds and build more manageable, enjoyable and more meaningful lives.

From Olympic athletes and Billionaires to company executives and troubled teenagers, I help people from all walks of life achieve greater peace of mind, clarity of their goals and enjoy the process of achieving them