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Blog – CamAWISE Mindfulness Sessions

CamAWISE offered 30-minute mindfulness sessions for 8 weeks between May and July this year. The sessions took place online on Wednesday evenings and were facilitated by Kalai vanii Jayaseelan, Mindfulness & Emotional Intelligence Coach and Director of Sukhaatma.

When your mind wanders, you simply bring it back to what you were supposed to be focussing on. The main idea is to stay with what’s here in the present, not the past or future, in a non-judgmental way. Practising like this in meditations means these skills will spill over into a person’s everyday life, and they will become more mindful and focussed generally, as well as responding in a calmer way to difficult situations.

Read the full blog here.

Blog – CamAWISE Mindfulness Sessions

By Dr Petia Tzokova

CamAWISE offered 30-minute mindfulness sessions for 8 weeks between May and July this year. The sessions took place online on Wednesday evenings and were facilitated by Kalai Vanii Jayaseelan, a Mindfulness & Emotional Intelligence Coach and director of Sukhaatma. I attended almost all of the sessions and really enjoyed them! I already have a background in mindfulness meditation, but some participants were new to this, and I thought Kalai tailored the sessions very well to both new and experienced meditators alike.

Mindfulness meditation has become quite popular in recent years and many people have heard of it but may not have tried it. Meditation usually involves sitting (either on a chair or the floor), but can also involve lying down, standing, or even walking, usually with your eyes closed, although this is not compulsory! A lot of the time, the aim of the meditation is to deliberately keep focussed on something (could be anything!), but usually it’s internal things such as the breath, body or thoughts or external things such as sounds, simply because these things are always available to you!

When your mind wanders, you simply bring it back to what you were supposed to be focussing on. The main idea is to stay with what’s here in the present, not the past or future, in a non-judgmental way. Practising like this in meditations means these skills will spill over into a person’s everyday life, and they will become more mindful and focussed generally, as well as responding in a calmer way to difficult situations.

I’ve just finished my PhD in Engineering at the University of Cambridge. I’ve practised mindfulness for a few years now; I initially did a course for students (following Mark Williams’ book “Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World”) and have been practising on and off since. I initially started meditating to improve my focus and concentration, as well as my general mental health. I restarted practising more regularly in lockdown, due to the situation and while finishing my PhD.

Kalai’s sessions came at just the right time for me and seemed like a great opportunity to get back into mindfulness. I’ve been involved with CamAWISE for years and I thought it would be great to meditate with others with whom I have something else in common.

Each session started with introductions if someone new had joined to make everyone feel welcome. We would then always have a meditation practice of about 10-20 minutes. Afterwards, we had a brief group discussion about the practice, where Kalai was happy to answer any questions.

We explored different meditations throughout the 8 sessions. The general techniques we used were focussing on the breath, including counting each breath (and seeing how high we could get before getting distracted by a wandering mind), and a body scan technique, where we focussed on each part of the body in turn, and then the body as a whole. I had tried most of these meditation types before, but it was great to be refreshed and try them again with others.

A highlight for me was a meditation called “loving-kindness meditation”. I had done this type of meditation before, but not in the way that Kalai taught us. The way I practised this before was by bringing to mind several different people: myself, a loved one, a neutral person and someone who I don’t get along with, and wishing them well in my head one after the other for a few minutes each. The overall idea in Kalai’s session was the same, but this time the instructions were to wish another participant in the session well. This involved opening our eyes halfway through the meditation to look at the other person (on the laptop screen!) and wish them well, again in our heads. I had never done the loving kindness meditation in this way before and I thought it was great (and required less imagination!).

In the discussions at the end of each session we also covered topics other than meditation. These included “flow state”: a frame of mind where time seems to just flow by, while we remain focussed. Kalai recommended the book “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport to learn more about how to get into this state more often. We also tried journaling, which involved writing whatever came to mind in response to a particular prompt, e.g. “things that annoy me are…”, “when I’m at my best I…”. I thought this was a good way to get thoughts out of a busy mind.

The sessions have been particularly helpful for me, as I hadn’t meditated with others much since the mindfulness course I originally took part in; this reminded me that I actually really like to meditate in a group, even virtually! I therefore sought out mindfulness meditation groups within the university – now I’m involved in several and I also recently took part in an online half-day mindfulness retreat!

CamAWISE Weekly Mindfulness Sessions – May-July 2020

In our unique circumstances amidst our ‘new normal’ – Join us for the next four weeks, for our 30 minutes weekly sessions, which are open to everyone. Members are subsidised and attend at no cost, Non-members can make a donation – please scroll down.

The CamAWISE Mindfulness sessions are an opportunity for you to clear the mental clutter and cultivate a more inner calm. Pay deliberate attention to help build your capacity to notice, and respond to information, situations and emotions, without getting overwhelmed or lost.

The sessions will be provided by Kalai Vanii Jayaseelan (Director, Sukhaatma), who is a Mindfulness & Emotional Intelligence Coach. She is a certified Search Inside Yourself Teacher of evidence-based Mindfulness and Leadership training originally developed at Google.

Research has shown mindfulness is

 

effective in reducing stress and anxiety. Overall, practice leads to decreased psychological markers of stress in a range of populations. The 2017 comprehensive study at the University of Cambridge evidenced Mindfulness lowered distress for students[1].

All are welcome, and no prior experience is required – just a bit of curiosity and an attitude of openness.

How do the sessions work

Our 30-minute sessions will include a short-guided mindfulness practice and a brief group discussion. CLICK ON A DATE BELOW and register – registration for each session will open closer to the date of the class. A Zoom link will then be sent to you to login at the time of class. Members are eligible for a further four free weeks, non-members are welcome to the additional four weeks by making a donation for each class.

Wednesday, 20 May 7:00-7:30pm All welcome
Wednesday, 27 May 7:00-7:30pm All welcome
Wednesday, 3 June 7:00-7:30pm All welcome
Wednesday, 10 June 7:00-7:30pm All welcome
Wednesday, 17 June 7:00-7:30pm All welcome*
Wednesday, 24 June 7:00-7:30pm All welcome*
Wednesday, 1 July 7:00-7:30pm All welcome*
Wednesday, 8 July 7:00-7:30pm All welcome*

*Please make a donation on booking, fully SUBSIDISED for Members. If not already a Member, click here and Join Us.

For non-members please make a donation

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If you have questions, please email Rukshana Jaman, info@camawise.org.uk.

If you would like to arrange for a personal consultation or bring mindfulness programs or keynotes to your organisation – contact Kalai at info@sukhaatma.co.uk or 07504 246413.

[1]Galante, J et al. Effectiveness of providing university students with a mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress: a pragmatic randomised controlled trialLancet Public Health; 19 December 2017; DOI: 10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30231-1

Stay Healthy, Stay Safe and get Connected!

 

Related article: Power of letting go of the paddles, Guide to finding Peace, Purpose & Happiness.

Blog – The Power of Letting go of the Paddles, A Practical Guide to find Peace, Purpose and Happiness

By Kalai Jayaseelan

The uncertainty and unpredictability of human Life is a given fact. Never has this fundamental truth of Life been made so apparent in our lifetimes ever like the pandemic that we are experiencing right now. It has been only a few months since I became a full-time freelancer. Like millions of others in the world, I also experienced the dark hour of chaos as I sat there wiping out my calendar for the foreseeable future, having no clue where Life is heading.

But luckily for me, the chaos was short-lived, lasting hardly for an hour. Like the ripples in the pond cease to be after being cast by a stone; the calm in me emerged naturally as the emotional ripples slowly ceased to be. All thanks to the tools and some helpful realisations I have acquired along the way, which I am pleased to share here with you.

So what is it? What could be the real secret to resilience? In the face of challenge, how do we not only cope but also show up with full vigour, each day, every day? 

Here is what I found out after digging-in deep to discover what helped me cope. It comes down to this – it is all about letting go of the paddles! Yes, you heard it correct. Just let go of the paddles.

What do I mean by that? To understand let’s ponder over the following. 

Without a tinge of doubt, all of us know that “Change” is the only constant that never changes. Change is at the very fabric of our existence. And yet, we humans firmly refuse to come to terms with it because we think we are in control. Of course, we are in control you would think. And I agree. We are definitely in control – not of the change – but only of our response to the change.

Let’s visualise this analogy for a moment. Consider Life as an ever-flowing perennial river and each of our existence as a boat in this ever-flowing river. Say, all we want to do in this life is to have a pleasant ride. We know the current always flows downriver and so paddling a boat upriver the ride is going to be hard. Whereas, if we let go of the paddles, the downriver’s current will automatically carry the boat and the ride is going to be easy!

Of course, at the start, not knowing where the currents will take us, it is going to be scary as hell. But as we understand the fundamental truth that uncertainty is the natural current of Life, it becomes easy to let go of the paddles, effortlessly achieve alignment with our well-being, and ultimately attain our true freedom. In no time we will be finding ourselves having one hell of a ride, Life seething with adventure and a heightened sense of aliveness.

Now try this out for yourself. Close your eyes for a moment and visualise how it feels like to paddle against the upriver currents. Now, visualise how it feels to let go of the paddles and effortlessly slide through the downriver currents!

What do you notice? Do you feel an immediate sense of ease in letting go? If so, precisely, that is why letting go of our paddles is such a powerful idea!

Here are some more benefits for you to consider.

Inner-peace

Few classic examples of paddling against the river are: wanting things to be different than what it is right now, wanting to be someplace else than where you are right now, wishing for someone in your life to be different than who they are right now, you name it!

Wishing for things to be different in itself is not a bad thing, but if that causes you anxiety, stress, fear and worry in the present moment, it is a sure sign of paddling upriver. Let go of the illusion of control; in other words, let go of the paddles. The moment you let go, the current is going to carry you from where you are right now naturally. So this too shall come to pass! Knowing this, you instantly find your inner peace. 

Purpose

Some of us are frantically trying to find a higher purpose and assign meaning to these times of crisis. Some of us are beating ourselves and others up to be intentional and over-productive. Some of us feel utterly demotivated because we see no purpose whatsoever in Life. The range of human experiences for any given situation as always never ceases to fascinate us. 

But only a select few amongst us realise that our ultimate purpose of existence is to experience happiness. Whatever we perceive as our purpose, the reason we perceive so is ultimately to feel happy! So, why not let go of all the paddles of imaginary purpose and simply be? Doing this, you instantly achieve your ultimate purpose.

Happiness

The biggest irony of human Life is this – our ultimate purpose is to find happiness. Still, we subject ourselves to struggle, pain and hardship with a romantic idea that happiness is something to be savoured at the end of the journey in a not so distant future: a future that only exists purely as imagination in our head.

This idea that happiness is through pain is so ingrained in us that we feel that there is no choice other than to suffer, no choice but to wait for normalcy to return our happiness back. Letting go of the paddles and turning downriver, we become present and realise there is no other moment other than NOW to experience happiness. Being an instrument for other’s happiness in the NOW, you instantly find your happiness. 

Time to take action

Now, my question to you is this. Knowing rowing upriver against the currents of Life is going to cost you peace, purpose and happiness of your very existence, what choice do you want to make? Are you ready to let go of your paddles and turn your boat downriver? Are you ready to embrace the uncertainty and enjoy this adventurous and alive ride we call Life?

If you choose to do so, all it takes to align with the natural currents of well-being is to bring intentional mindfulness to your day-to-day life. Mindfulness – a simple yet powerful practice of cultivating moment to moment conscious awareness of the way we think, feel, speak, act and be.  Practising mindfulness, we become painfully or blissfully aware of how we are doing with our paddles, i.e. how we are doing with our Choices! Simples.

Here is to boldly letting go of the paddles and opening up to boundless possibilities! 

And some helpful tools to get you started on the journey.

Free guided mindfulness 

Tools for Resilience

Search inside yourself – Book (Short summary)

I hope you enjoy your ride. Onward and forward together! 

About the Author

Find out more about Kalai Vanii Jayaseelan – Search Inside Yourself teacher and Co-founder at Sukhaatma. Kalai is currently actively engaged in helping employees of tech, healthcare and research to find calm, clarity, purpose and work-life balance in these times of crisis and uncertainty. Schedule a call or register your interest with her to bring highly practical mindfulness training to your virtual workplace for a transformative experience. It is so timely right now!

Stay Healthy, Stay Safe and get Connected!

 

Related article: CamAWISE Mindfulness Sessions 2020.

 

Blog – Working from Home: Best Practice Tips

By Raheela Rehman and Rukshana Jaman

Remote working had quietly been reshaping our lives; part or full-time. From coffee shops, public libraries to living rooms at our dining tables. The emergence of digital office rental services has led to changing attitudes around where we work or manage teams, and to whether we should. Today in 2020, unprecedented times bring us to a mass digital remote working era.  With the shift, we explore how best to coordinate our lives, weave in work-life balance, staying efficient and productive.

Establish a Routine

A structured routine establishes a mindset which separates working hours to personal time. For some this means hopping into the shower first thing in the morning and dressing as if you are going into a physical office, psychologically preparing you to start work!

Set the start and end times of your day and stick to them. A sharp initiation point removes grey areas of procrastination and delay. This allows you to focus on tasks for the day ahead and know when and how to juggle other demands accordingly. Incorporating simple tasks such as clearing emails or piles of accumulated paper help to building confidence in your working environment.

Dedicated Workspace

Ensure your workspace is comfortable, and set-up for what will work best for you. Your workspace should provide an area for productivity and comfort. Minor adjustments can boost productivity: a well set out desk; a well-adjusted chair; plugging in a keyboard to a laptop; sufficient ventilation or correct temperature. And should you decide, during your video conference, to wear a top half of a suit, but your home-casual bottoms, with your coffee just out of the video frame – we promise not to tell anyone.

Communicate

Communication is key in ensuring your message is not lost in translation. It can take a few seconds to convey a message when you are physically present in an office, the urgency of a request, reading your colleagues’ body language, or a message conveyed in the tone of voice. However, when communicating through text, it can be easy to miss subtle cues, therefore it is vital to communicate with clarity. Set agreed times to meet with your manager and teams, maintaining regular meetings and one-to-ones via phone calls or video conferencing.

It is worth noting that although you may not physically have to travel for a remote online meeting, it can be tiring. As you cannot ‘see’ the whole room, it maybe harder to judge an appropriate moment to talk and listen to others, or their reaction. There isn’t the small switch off walking to the next meeting, which might otherwise have diverted your thoughts to different things for a short time. Your brain may be doing extra work to fill in, which in turn means you may feel mentally fatigued. It is again important to give yourself time and rest.

Time Block and Remove Distractions

To help focus to the task at hand, and get the most out the your time whilst working on an activity, it’s useful to protect your time. Divide your day into blocks, each slot reserved to achieve a specific task. Make it harder for yourself to be drawn onto social media, remove them from your browser shortcuts, as well as logging out of accounts. For those for whom social media is an integral part of your job, if feasible block your time and check at your assigned times.

Reducing distractions also means you retain your routine. In the recent CamAWiSE workshop, “Boosting Emotional Intelligence: Secret to thriving in a world of distractions and tension” with Kalai Vanii Jayaseelan, delegates worked through practical steps of cultivating Emotional Intelligence for success and wellbeing in the workplace. Read the Blog – Thriving in a world of distractions on how to focus for success in a world rife with digital distractions and changing political, social and economic landscapes.

Security and Confidentiality

Ensure your devices are protected with up to date software. Keep confidential data and papers in a secure place, compliant with data protection laws. Agree with your manager or team, a secure location for all shared or non-shared files. Be wary of disclosing sensitive information to family members or visitors. Check if your employer has ‘working from home’ guidelines and seek to follow protocols. 

Breaks, Exercise and Connecting

Regular physical and mental breaks away from your screen and desk are important. Take care of your wellbeing and mental health. Adjust your posture and stretch whilst sitting or standing. If you have a garden, go outside for a change of scenery and get some fresh air. It is recommended that you rest your eyes five minutes out of each hour away from the screen.

Connect with others to break up any monotony that may arise, allowing you to return to your task refreshed. A short call, alternatively to sending an email can provide a welcome change. There can be a tendency when working from home of over-working and over-delivering, which crosses boundaries. Therefore, keep track of guilt, and your achievements.

You might want to pencil in a virtual coffee with colleagues and friends to create your own water-cooler moment. Finally, keep water close to hand and ensure you regularly replenish your water levels. You might find when working from home, you don’t drink as much water as you may have done whilst in an office!

Managing Family

When there is limited childcare or older person’s care, working from home raises challenges of juggling workloads, whilst providing the best care for younger or older family members. A thought-out strategy, aligned with creating your daily routine and workspace, is useful, especially for unplanned circumstances.

You may want to consider a quieter workspace which is at the other side of your living quarters, away from the children’s space. Schedule quality time you will spend with your children during your day for activities. These can be exercising together, cooking and mealtimes together or sharing household chores. For older family members, shop online together or if not living in the same habitat, timetable virtual visits.

Embrace the flexibility!

Managing Teams, Teamwork and Being Managed

Managing teams remotely will require tweaked skills to ensure you have a happy team, whilst achieving agreed goals. Be empathetic to team requirements, understanding during periods of lockdown (2020) that team members may have conflicting priorities, balancing work and family. Embed a culture of transparency and trust, so that the team feels supported.

Managers may worry the increasing prevalence of remote working may lead to a lack of collaboration or a disconnect between team members. Have regular one-to-ones as well as online face-to-face team meetings to foster team spirit. Be mindful of employees not logging in, they could be struggling: be flexible; provide coaching to help manage stress and anxiety; be open and be honest. Consider how to build-in social aspects for the team, such as sharing personal stories of their day’s events, or a personal-photo slot where members share their photo of the day – this could be a time to get creative.

With our current times, being kind to others and to yourself is important. Working from home will be an adjustment for many, and giving it time and leeway will make it a healthier way to work. Don’t be hard on yourself, on team members or those you manage if productivity dips. It is inevitable that settling into a new routine, whilst juggling non-work demands, means we have to get comfortable with a new way of working until for those who it is new, it becomes familiar.

Stay Healthy, Stay Safe and get Connected!

Related article: Remote Networking: Relationship Building In the Time of Coronavirus.

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