Blog Archives

Mindfulness & changing habits

2014-07-30 16.04.28

Quite often in my own life I’ve used mindfulness techniques as stress management tools. I would often use them to run away from the things in life that scared me or I felt that I couldn’t face up to. These practical techniques, such as breathing exercises, certainly helped me manage short-term stress and also allowed me to put myself into a more mentally resilient state. But they didn’t always enable me to explore my habitual patterns or unpick old behaviours. It seemed that despite practicing mindfulness the same challenges kept on arising time and again. It was only through exploring mindfulness, further, that I was able to understand more fully how it was my relationship “with” the things or situations that I found uncomfortable rather than the situation itself .

Creating the groundwork for developing mindfulness

In the first stages of my exploration of mindfulness I explored lots of different tools to help observe and develop smooth breathing, to develop focus, to be more aware of my physical body and also how changing my posture regulated my thoughts and emotions. I also practiced techniques to develop self love and love and compassion for others. These building blocks of mindfulness were and are essential components of human thriving.

These practices enabled me to be in a position to begin to explore my habitual habits and tendencies.

Exploring our inner world

In Yoga the fifth limb of the Eight limbs of Yoga, contained in the Yoga Sutras, is Pratyahara or the exploration of our inner world.

The exploration of our inner world means being still and observing whatever arises in a non-judgmental way. This happens at the level of sensation. We observe without the necessity of a cognitive oversight. We sit still, we observe the sensation and we breathe into the sensation. In this manner we observe that feelings and thoughts manifested as sensations arise and pass away. In this way we are able to separate our sense of self with the thoughts, feelings and sensations that arise. All things arise and pass away. Hardness softens. Things come and go. The mere act of observation changes the observed. As we continue to practice this observation of self we are better placed to separate the emotion and thought from our sense of self. For example I might be angry about a situation that another person may have “caused” but I do not define myself as an angry person nor hold anger towards the other person.

Observing emotions, allowing them to flow and acting

This is an example of, perhaps, a best-case scenario for managing a difficult situation:

Anger arose in me for an event caused by another person. I observed that anger arising and felt it first as a sensation. I breathed into that area and felt the anger subside. But the anger was a cause to act and in a balanced and calm manner I was able to express to the other person why I felt anger. I retained positive regard for the other person and kept an open mind and open ears. I was ready to challenge my own view on the situation as he explained his truth to me.

Bringing cognitive oversight to our observation

As we observe sensations in a calm and balanced way we may notice the same patterns arising again and again. We may notice the thoughts and feelings that emerge with the sensations and we may start to notice causal events linking event with thought, feeling and sensation.

On other occasions we may not be able to make such causal leaps. We often want to assign reasons for feelings and this may be useful. It might help us draw a line under things and move on. In many cases however life is so complex that we simply can’t understand where the feeling comes from. Maybe we just feel anxious sometimes and that’s ok. Simply observe the sensation, breathe it into and let it pass. Once again we are separating the sense of self with the feeling. “ I feel anxious now but that does not mean that anxiousness defines me”

All emotions are valid. Emotional intelligence is developed as we observe and don’t suppress the sensation and emotion. It is also developed as we develop and practice tools to handle the information that the sensations we observe are telling us.

Tools for observing our inner world

By sitting still we may observe patterns of thoughts, feelings and sensations arising over and over. There are a number of tools, which may be helpful in enabling you to fully appreciate that all things arise and pass away and by exploring these tools we may learn to unpick habitual tendencies. One of these tools is to keep asking why a particular situation causes you discomfort.

Asking WHY – WHY – WHY – WHY

If a feeling and sensation arises in the same situation again and again keep asking yourself why you feel that way. This exploration may help you unravel deeper feelings, such as, feeling unloved or of lacking in abundance. As we do this we may begin to appreciate that we are reacting to old hurts long past. The you and I, as we were when we were little kids, may no longer seem physically present but the five year old, fifteen year old and twenty-five year old us are still deep inside us. Not only are all our past selves contained within us but also the experiences of our ancestors and our society. We are creatures of conditioning and by calmly observing experience in the present we may learn to become less reactive and begin to create new positive patterns. This can only truly come by sitting and observing who we are. For example as I practice a yoga posture I try not to do the posture but be the posture. I observe myself within my environment and part of my environment. I am within my skin and know I am within my skin. But I am also part of my environment and am my environment. I AM. I am a human being and not a human doing.

We can let go of old ways of being and be present now reflecting upon and engaging with a new reality as it arises at this moment. We can learn to fully love the five year old, fifteen year old and twenty five year old us. They enabled us to be the beautiful person we are now, always were and always will be.

I hope you found this useful

Andy Roberts

Andy Roberts teaches mindfulness, emotional intelligence and resilience in Australia and the UK



The time we are given

The time we are given

A few days ago a good friend, Emily Collins, shared a message on Facebook which suggested that on average once you are into your 30s you have something like 1,800 weekends left to live (I did the math and thought it should be a bit more).  Some people posted that they felt that it was grim news but I felt that it was an uplifting a message about making the most of the time we have.  If you don’t believe me listen to Gandalf:

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that we are given”
JRR Tolkein

Research suggests that we find the concept of finite life so difficult to comprehend that we use every power that our ego possesses to suppress this truth and base many of our life decisions (both economic and psychological) on the false premise of continuity.

For me the 1,800 weekends left idea is a validation of my decision 9 years ago to leave the world of corporate finance to do a job I love.  I wanted my Monday to Friday and holidays to be at least as joyful as the weekends.

Meaning and joy
Thinking of life as a finite thing makes you approach each day as a special gift.  Of course we may already have just a few weekends left or maybe none.

If we look at our daily activities we can ask a simple question, “Does this activity bring me either joy or bring me a deeper meaning and understanding of who I am and what my place is in the world?”  Of course there inevitably follows a far more complex question.  “If the activity that I am doing brings me little or no joy now but I know that it enables me to have joy in the future, to what extent do I defer joy if life is uncertain and finite?”

The benefit of deferring joy is that it builds tenacity and willpower.   In studies, little kids who are able to sit in a room on their own and deny themselves the pleasure of eating a sweet now, compared to waiting for two in 10 minutes, are on average happier in later life, achieve more academically and are more successful in their careers.

The only problem with deferring joy is that it can become a habit.  Some people do it until they retire, counting the days away.  And in all those long years of denial they forget how to be playful and childlike.  They lose their creativity, their spark and their energy.

So perhaps we can look at what we do each day with more awareness and remind ourselves:
–         Life is precious and short
–         Am I clear that if I am deferring joy today it is because I am working towards something which has a deep meaning and I value (what I truly value – not what my peers, family or society values)

Experiencing joy
Obviously with 1,800 weekends or so people are tempted to pursue hedonism – to fulfil themselves through consumption (food, sex, cars, houses etc).  The problem with these joys is that they tend to be fleeting and habit forming.  Because they entice the senses so much they invite repetition and can squeeze out other forms of joy that the world has to offer.  Again the key is to raise awareness and ask:

“Am I repeating this joy out of habit?”
“What future joys can be experienced by choosing a more difficult path or trying something new?”
“Does this joy bring me closer to my loved ones, help me understand myself better and connect with new people?”

And finally I’d like to explore the greatest joy – connecting to friends and understanding yourself.  Research in Positive Psychology suggests that the greatest building block of wellbeing is the closeness and depth of your relationships.  Friendships are not measured by the number of Facebook friends that you have, but through having a handful of friends that know your highest highs and lowest lows, who love you even when you act and look like a car crash, and fill you with warmth and love when you succeed in life.

When you meet such people cherish and love them dearly.  Thanks for the inspiration Emily.

Hope you found this useful

Lots of love Andy

Staying hungry

Staying hungry

This weeks newsletter explores the recent research that suggests intermittent fasting may be good for us.  I take a brief look at the medical evidence for this, then consider why, psychologically, it might be a good for us and why its good for the planet.

A bit of the science
Scientists are uncovering evidence that short periods of fasting, if properly controlled, could achieve a number of health benefits as well as potentially helping the overweight.  Calorie restriction, eating well, but not much, is one of the few things that has been shown to extend life expectancy, at least in animals. For example mice put on a low-calorie, nutrient-rich diet live far longer. There is some evidence that the same is true in monkeys.

The world record for extending life expectancy in a mammal is held by a new type of mouse which can expect to live an extra 40%, equivalent to a human living to 110 or longer.  It has been genetically engineered so its body produces very low levels of a growth hormone called IGF-1, high levels of which seem to lead to accelerated ageing and age-related diseases, while low levels are protective.

The IGF-1 hormone (insulin-like growth factor) is one of the drivers which keep our bodies in go-go mode, with cells driven to reproduce. This is fine when you are growing, but not so good later in life when age-damaged cells are replicated.  There is now evidence suggesting that IGF-1 levels can be lowered by what you eat.   The reason seems to be that when our bodies no longer have access to food they switch from “growth mode” to “repair mode” – rather than replicate damaged cells, we repair them.  As levels of the IGF-1 hormone drop, a number of repair genes appear to get switched on according to ongoing research by Professor Valter Longo of the University of Southern California.

One area of current research into diet is Alternate Day fasting (ADF), involving eating what you want one day, then a very restricted diet (fewer than 600 calories) the next, and most surprisingly, it does not seem to matter that much what you eat on non-fast days.  Dr Krista Varady of the University of Illinois at Chicago carried out an eight-week trial comparing two groups of overweight patients on ADF.

“If you were sticking to your fast days, then in terms of cardiovascular disease risk, it didn’t seem to matter if you were eating a high-fat or low-fat diet on your feed (non-fast) days,” she said.

An alternative to is an easier version, the so-called 5:2 diet. As the name implies you eat normally 5 days a week, then two days a week you eat 500 calories if you are a woman, or 600 calories, if you are a man.  People who experienced this diet had improvements in blood markers, like IGF-1, glucose and cholesterol, as well reduced body fat statistics.

Although there are few long term studies on this sort of diet we can look at the experience of Norwegians during the second world war and Cubans after the fall of the Soviet Union (resulting in a reduction in the subsidy they received).  Both populations experienced dramatic falls in their calorie intake and both experienced a huge improvement in their wellbeing statistics.

The psychology of hunger
All the major religions have fasting as a core element of their spiritual and wellbeing practices.  One of the most interesting findings from the fasting research is that people seem to get smarter ie., they are quicker at solving problems and have improved recall. Why? Perhaps it’s because our brains are designed to work well when we strive.  We get up in the morning to find food, acquire material possessions for warmth and protection and to look for sex to replicate our genes. We are also looking for meaning in life, looking to acquire knowledge and finding ways to help others.

So perhaps in the same way that we learn to restrict our diet we need to explore how to stay hungry in our career, in our love lives and how to stay open to new experiences, travel and friendship. Maybe people get old quickly when they become too satisfied in each area of their lives.  In Positive Psychology we often measure people’s wellbeing levels by asking them how satisfied they are with their lives and we design interventions to help people to become more satisfied. Maybe we need to explore the power of restlessness and dissatisfaction to inspire growth and change?

The thing is, restlessness and dissatisfaction just don’t sound right.  Somehow we need to cultivate a mindset of inner contentment whilst retaining an ambitious, engaged action orientated outlook – a difficult balancing act!  In the yoga sutras the teaching is to keep your feet on the ground whilst striving to be as tall as you can.  You work as hard as you can but you don’t overly attach to the fruits of your labours and outcomes.

A health planet
Approximately 100 million people in the US and 150 million in the EU are obese.  Child deaths through malnutrition in 2011 were six million.

The food industries in the US and Europe are not controlled by evil people, but they are businessmen who want to sell us as much as possible at as high a margin as possible.  To do this they have to sell highly processed food made from the cheapest ingredients.  They take corn, (which is an ingredient in virtually every product we buy in a supermarket), add sugar, salt and fat, make it look attractive and sell it to us.  This attractive looking stuff is served up in lovely packaging which builds our food cravings.

This kind of food robs our energy (because we eat too much of it) and robs the futures of the malnourished.  Imagine the boost to global human energy if we distributed food fairly and ate foods that were not deconstructed and reconstructed into stuff so far removed from its original source (sunshine).

Lots of love,

Building a Positive Psychology business

In this week’s newsletter I’m going to explore some ideas on building a business based on the values of Positive Psychology. When we set up Breathe London in 2003, we didn’t have a clear strategy or a clear idea about what we wanted to achieve. For my part I knew what I didn’t want to do, ie. to continue working in corporate finance, but it wasn’t clear what I wanted to create or what I truly wanted to do. The picture has emerged slowly after lots of trials and many errors.

From the start the guiding light for developing a new career was based on a few basic ideas:

  • I wanted to create a job that I loved
  • I wanted to make Mondays at least as interesting as the weekends
  • To create a pattern of work that allowed me to explore my interest in health and fitness
  • To help other people as I supported myself financially
  • Strive to add more to human and environmental wellbeing than I took through my consumption

Over the last nine years Tom and I have travelled to India, become Yoga teachers and studied for Masters degrees in Positive Psychology and Cognitive Science. During that time we’ve both explored many areas of wellbeing, including varied spiritual, physical and psychological practices. This wandering has been an important of what has made our business thrive. There’s a lovely JRR Tolkien quote:

“Not all those who wander are lost”

Sometimes you need to go on a wander to appreciate what’s important.

The findings from Positive Psychology and teachings from Yoga and Buddhism seem to support the decision we made to radically change our career paths. Some of the core findings from Positive Psychology include:

  • Beyond a certain financial level, and given adequate healthcare, education and a stable political environment, additional material resources do not make us happier
  • People who feel that they are happy and engaged in their worklife are more likely to be like this in their home life

In an earlier newsletter I touched on the idea of the three pillars of wellbeing:

  • Autonomy – To feel free to do what you want to do in life
  • Competence – To feel skilled in your role, or know resources are available to attain new skills
  • Relatedness – Your life roles bring you into contact with people who you value (love) and value (love) you

Its taken a long time but I now think we have a network of amazing therapists at Breathe London, and are supported by great landlords in Jubilee Hall Trust/Coin Street and have a wonderful group of clients from whom I learn so much. As we expand to four treatment rooms and increase our corporate wellbeing events it’s important to reflect on why success has come. We broke all the rules of business development.
We didn’t (and still don’t have a strategy).
We take the minimum amount we can from the therapists that work under the Breathe banner’s earnings, to support our overheads
We want to work with clients to provide them life enhancing tools so eventually, they no longer require our services
We send clients to other organizations without expecting reciprocal arrangements

We have learnt many things over many years of wandering, but the most important thing is that while its important to work hard, you should not take yourself or your business too seriously. Try and stay playful when you build a business and look for opportunities to have fun.

Hope you found this interesting


Meditation and swimming

This weeks newsletter is a continuation of the meditation theme.   Although I have learnt and practiced many different meditation techniques I often find it difficult  to sit down, close my eyes and stop busy thoughts.  The excuse that I use is that I live in a big, busy city and feel bombarded with interesting, exciting images and ideas.  In this newsletter I introduce a really simple mindfulness technique and then talk about the evidence base which supports the exercise.

The practice
One technique that Tom Te Whaiti taught me years ago in Australia was to take an every day activity I love (swimming) and match this to a body scanning technique.  This is how it works – On the first lap you focus your attention to the crown of the head and feel for how it feels for the water to rush against it, on the second lap you move your focus down the body to the forehead , on the third your focus should be on the throat, continuing all the way down through the body’s energy centres until you reach your toes.  As you practice this you become totally wrapped in the moment – you hear that noise you make as you breathe out, you see the light making magical patterns on the floor of the pool and how it feels for the water to massage your skin.  If you do this for 20 minutes  its like being fully connected and in tune with reality as it unfolds.  Its euphoric and energising.  You can also do this technique running or on an exercise bike.

The evidence base for body scanning and swimming

  • Your environment effects your state of mind – mirror neurons in your brain reflect your circumstances.  When you take the time to observe beauty (say patterns of light at the bottom of the pool), you create beautiful patterns in your mind – you create a beautiful mind.  I’ll give you one example study illustrating how potentially vulnerable we are to our environment.   In a study participants were asked to sit in wobbly chairs and then rate how secure famous couples’ relationships were (for example Barack and Michelle Obama).  Another group were asked to do the same exercise on secure chairs.  Amazingly the wobbly group on average rated relationships as being insecure and craved security in their own relationships. (Kille, Forrest, Wood – University Waterloo Canada).  Thats just one illustration of how vulnerable our minds are to our environment – so its useful to train our minds to reflect on beautiful things.
  • Training our minds to be mindful and observe what arises in the moment reduces stress (Jon Kabat Zinn studies) and increase wellbeing levels ( Barbara Fredricksons research on loving kindness meditations)
  • Mindfulness and meditation exercises make permanent changes to the way we think – we observe more, are more creative and less vulnerable to negative shocks (Read the Dali Lama at MIT and the Buddha’s Brain for the latest neuroscience and decision making research in this area)
  • When you observe a body part working ( for example during the swimming body scan technique I observe my biceps moving in the water) you build more muscle than when you do an exercise and think about other things.  (Shackell, Standing at Bishop’s University).  Just by thinking about doing an exercise you build more muscle mass than a control group just asked to sit and do mental exercises.  One of the Ka Huna principals is energy flows where attention goes and this seems to be true.

Hope you found this useful
Love Andy

PS:  When I write these newsletters I try to emphasise a few points:

  • I try to provide practical examples of how I use Positive Psychology, meditation and other holistic practices in my life ( I take other peoples ideas and try and make them useful for me living in a big city)
  • Introduce the science supporting holistic practices
  • Explore the similarities and differences between Western Psychology and Buddhist/ Vedic practices  

Acupuncture Awareness Week

The first ever Acupuncture Awareness Week launches today Monday 27 February 2012 and will attempt to dispel the many
myths still surrounding acupuncture. Simon Plant, British Acupuncture Council Member will be offering free fifteen minute taster treatments at Breath London at the Colombo Centre and Westminster Gym this week and will be on hand to answer your questions about how acupuncture can help you.

Recent research has revealed that over 21 per cent of the British public think acupuncture needles are as large as the needles used for regular injections. Not true! But it just goes to show that in spite of Chinese medicine’s ever increasing popularity, there are still a whole host of common misconceptions surrounding this ancient form of treatment.

Every year traditional acupuncturists carry out 2.3 million acupuncture treatments and this figure is on the rise. Yet the latest research clearly demonstrates how myths about acupuncture still remain strong. Acupuncture Awareness Week, the first of its kind, aims to banish these myths and provide the public with all the answers they need to feel confident about giving acupuncture a try.

A growing body of evidence-based clinical research shows that traditional acupuncture, as practised by British Acupuncture Council members safely treats a wide range of common health problems including low back pain, [click here to visit BAcC research page],  tension headaches and migraine-type headaches. In fact the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines on best practice now recommend that GPs offer a course of ten sessions of acupuncture as a first-line treatment for persistent, non-specific low back pain.

TV presenter Clare Nasir had had several failed attempts to conceive using IVF alone. She had one last chance, and decided to use acupuncture in conjunction with the IVF to boost her chances of success. She now has a two year old daughter – listen to her story in the video below.

Learn more about Acupuncture by visiting

Learn more about Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine available at Breathe London by visiting

To book a free fifteen minute taster treatment contact Simon Plant at Breathe London: 07570 091568


Simon Plant BSc (Hons) MSc MBAcC MRCHM

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine


Positive Psychology

This is the fourth newsletter/blog detailing the major transformational courses that I’ve been on.

One of the best was the Masters degree in Applied Positive Psychology run by Ilona Boniwell at the University of East London.  I was lucky to be one of the first group of twenty students to be accepted onto this course and was amongst the first group to receive a masters degree in Positive Psychology in Europe.

The overall message of Positive Psychology is quite simple. As a race we are predisposed to be future minded.  This is a blessing and a curse.  We tend to be optimistic about the future and yet dissatisfied and restless.  We forget to cherish and nurture what we have and spend our time comparing ourselves to the tiny percentage of the planet who are materially better off than ourselves.

The coaching interventions in Positive Psychology encourage people to focus their attention on what works well in their lives in order to provide them with the energy and confidence to overcome their challenges.

Over the course of two years we studied many areas of wellbeing research including:

–          Can you measure wellbeing?  For example is it the absence of pain and maximisation of pleasure OR finding meaning in life OR being engaged with life OR some other personal definition of thriving and flourishing

–          Is there a value to measuring such things?  For example if you can find a valid measure of wellbeing then you can seek to ascertain what the building blocks of happiness are and perhaps align government policy, education and employment practices with interventions that boost wellbeing

–          What are the barriers to wellbeing and happiness and what practices help overcome them

–          What is the relationship between money, economic growth and happiness

–          Exploring the role of emotions on physiology, decision making and business performance. We also looked at how emotions flow between us at work and home and influence our ability to make rational decisions

–          Research around what constitutes positive aging (the secrets of successful aging)

–          Exploring the complex relationship between the promotion of wellbeing at the personal, group, national and global level.  Here we considered wisdom and how as we become more aware of the consequences of our actions we attempt to balance the optimisation of our own wellbeing with those of others.  This is a really important area.  Its about deciding who is in our tribe and who or what do we care about

–          We explored the theories about time – how our perception of time and tendency to spend our energy thinking about the past, planning for the  future or living in the present influences our wellbeing levels

–          We looked at the various ideas behind Flow theory.  This is the basic idea that attention to detail and engagement with the task in hand optimises wellbeing levels.  The practical impact on coaching strategies is that it teaches us to set goals which make us feel stretched but not stressed

–          One major area of research in Positive Psychology was around strengths – How to recognise our own inner strengths and those of our friends and colleagues and how to celebrate and use those strengths effectively.  This area covers how we find those activities in life that seem to fit, the things that we feel authentic doing and make us feel fully alive.

There are many other areas of Positive Psychology but for the next few weeks I’ll focus on each one of the above and how it helped me in my life




My friends Bridget Grenville Cleave and Charlotte Style have written some great introductory books for Positive Psychology




Kahuna philosophy

Continuing the theme of last weeks newsletter I’m going to introduce some of the important wellbeing courses that I’ve been on over the last thirteen years.

This week I’m going to introduce Kahuna philosophy and bodywork.  Kahuna was one of the first types of bodywork that I learnt back in Sydney (some 13 years ago).  The course was run by an amazing Irish woman, Nemara Hennigan and the training venue was in the beautiful South National park in Sydney.  As we were taught we could see the Pacific glinting, the sandy beaches and hear cockatoos and kookaburras playing.

Ka huna literally means light and wisdom.  It is the beautiful marriage of positive intention and knowledge and echoes the core teaching of Buddhism and Hinduism – that at our core, each of us is already perfect and all we need to do is develop practices that allow this beauty and radiance to shine through.

On day one of our training we spent many hours sitting on a beach doing a mindfulness exercise which involved brushing sand into piles and then brushing the sand apart.  We learnt to focus our attention and made our hands move with the action of a wave and gentle caress.  This brought to mind some key aspects of kahuna which have proved valuable in all areas of my life:

– When you do something put all your energy and attention into it at that moment

– Healing is soft and gentle –  it should cleanse and caress you like a wave

– As you brush the sand you stay connected at all times, your hands move in one direction and then turn without loosing contact.  This taught me many things.  In bodywork I approach the person gently and stay connected.  In positive psychology coaching and in my friendships I try to engage, listen and be dependable and supportive

The Kahuna centre in Sydney has explained the philosophies seven key principals in a beautiful way.  Over the years I’ve tried to bring each of these into my own life and into the way that work at Breathe London.  They also formed part of the basis of my interest in Positive Psychology.  Take a look at each of these and see if you can build these principals into your relationships and work.

IKE (ee-kay) – The world is what you think it is

Our thoughts make us who and what we are. If you want to change your situation, all you have to do is change your thoughts! Your body and your life will follow! Alter the way you see reality and you WILL alter reality.

KALA (kah-lah) – There are no limits – Be Free

Following on from Ike – ensure that when you think, you think without limitation! Don’t think about the things that you are “allowed” to have, or the things you believe are “just possible”. The most successful people think without limitations. Be free in your thinking! Whatever the mind of a person can conceive and believe, it can achieve! So THINK BIG.

MAKIA (mah-kee-ah) – Energy flows where attention goes – Be Focused

Have you ever noticed that the more interested you are in something the more likely you are to do something about it? Whatever holds your interest will also tend to attract your emotional and physical energy. The more successful a person is, the more you will find that they direct and hold their energy on something by conscious choice. They don’t wait for something to catch their attention; they go out and catch something with their attention. A person at all times has a choice as what to focus their attention on – so be focused on what you want at all times.

MANAWA (mah-nah-wah) – Now is the moment of power – Be Here

The past or future does not have any power because you can’t touch it, taste it, smell it, feel it or react to it in any way. For all practical purposes it doesn’t even exist! All we have right now is the memory of things, skills, pains, and experiences. It’s the memories that we respond to now – not the past itself. The memories exist in the present moment and you can alter your relationship to them – change your thinking about them and thereby change the effect on your life.

As for the future, no one knows what is going to happen. We can make logical or intuitive guesses but we don’t really know. However if we think of the future as a blank slate (rather than fixed or predestined) then we give ourselves permission to try anything.

ALOHA (ah-lo-hah) –  Be Happy

Aloha means many things, but in one word perhaps it’s best described as “love”. Love is happiness. Aloha is a caring for others as well as or as much as for your own self. Australians say, “no worries” – the Hawaiians use the idea of Aloha to define their society, their relationship with each other and their philosophy of life. It is with “aloha spirit” that all things are done. Not meant to harm and not meant to cause unhappiness to others.

MANA (mah-nah) – All power comes from within – Be Confident

Mana is power or energy. All power comes from within. Hawaiian belief is that Mana is the name for the one source of all the power that exists in the universe. This power is universal and flows through not only us, but through animals and plants, the foundation of the earth, the skies and planets, and everything that we know exists. It’s a life energy so to speak. This Mana flows through us and gives us the power to do what we believe we can do. The power to do anything that we decide to do and that we take action towards.

PONO (poh-noh) – Effectiveness is the measure of truth – Be Positive

Effectiveness is the measure of truth. A method, a plan, certain actions, when put in motion may work. If they work, that is all you need to be concerned with. There are many ways to do most things. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into thinking that you can only accomplish something in one way or that there is only one truth. For instance, how many ways are there that someone could find happiness? A million? How many ways could someone cook a fish? Create a pyramid? Make money to buy a car? Because you see someone accomplish something using one method, do not believe that there is just that one method. There are likely many more ways to go about it. That there are always alternatives to what you’re doing is the crux of “Pono” – do what feels right for you.

I hope you found this useful

Love Andy

Thank you Nemara  for being such a wonderful inspiration . For anyone going on holiday check out her centre in Paddington

Our next relaxation and energy course is Sat 28th January

Ubuntu – “if I diminish you, I diminish myself”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu refers to the african concept of humanity – Ubuntu – in an introduction to a small book containing the words that inspired Gandhi.

Ubuntu is the spiritual essence of humanity and the archbishop defines it in two parts:  the first is compassion, the second part openness.  This simplification is mine, the Archbishop spends more time highlighting examples of ubuntu; caring for those weaker than yourself, living without fear of other human beings and with a generosity that allows you to treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.

The book itself contains a large number of quotes from Gandhi, both from his time as a lawyer in colonial South Africa, and later as leader of the Indian satyagraha consciousness movement.

Desmond Tutu’s take on ubuntu is one that transcends his Christianity and is applicable across all religions and philosophies – the points he makes in defining Ubuntu are:

humanity is not be achieved by an isolated individual, but always in relationship to others – understood by western science through social psychology and social cognition.  Gandhi’s quote “I am what I am because of who we all are” expresses this perfectly.

the qualities expressed by ubuntu are, first and foremost formed by an acknowledgement of a oneness of spirit or energy – understood in relationship to modern civilisation as the shared social space of culture AND/OR the shared spiritual space of religion.

with this acknowledgement of a shared spiritual state comes a responsibility to maintain (and create wherever it is required) harmony in this shared socio-energetic space

the way to go about producing this harmony is through this mutually beneficial quality known by southern African culture as ubuntu, and by western culture as ???

The question marks are my personal evaluation of the modern civilisation we find ourselves in.  We often know how we should act to achieve a harmonious state – and see examples of it all around if we observe closely – those who give their time and energy out of a love of doing good for others, people who are able to offer comfort or heal pain and suffering simply by being around, listening, touching.

Yet sometimes we don’t know how to act to achieve unity of spirit.  We may not have role-models to base our experience on, we may simply choose what initially appears to be an easier way out – blocking out others, isolating ourselves from a problem through fear of reprisal or judgment.  If we choose to create social disorder rather than harmony, we deny ourselves – and often others – of ubuntu.  This can be seen again and again in observing social history, and conquering the cycle of oppression and fear is only truly done with the quality of ubuntu.  This has been famously personified in the twentieth century by people such as Mandela, Gandhi, close to the heart of the man who gives us the definition in the title of this article.  It is also personified in small actions all around us if we look closely or take our ubuntu with us when we venture outside.

Sometimes we might fall short of achieving ubuntu in our actions.  The ancient Hindu philosophy of ‘adwaita‘ (meaning “there is only one”, or literally in Sanskrit “not two”) contains the seed of ubuntu.    Ignorance is the fallacy that our destiny and wellbeing is neatly packaged in separate boxes.  Truth is that we are connected.  We share pain and sorrow.  Standing up for truth can sometimes feel lonely and unusual but also empowering and rewarding.

“The straight path is as difficult as it is simple.  Were it not so, all would follow the straight path.  Do not crave to know the views of others, nor base your intent thereon.  To think independently for oneself is a sign of fearlessness.”

with metta…  om shanti.

Todays blog was written by Breathe London founders Tom TeWhaiti and Andy Roberts


Gandhi, M., Tutu, D. (2007)  Peace: The Words and Inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi.  Blue Mountain Arts, Inc.

Training your mind to see the positive

Brains of happy people tuned in to notice positive events

Psychologists Wil Cunningham and Tabitha Kirkland at Ohio state university observed the brain scans of volunteers whilst showing them pictures designed to evoke positive, negative or neutral responses.  Positive images included a basket of kittens and negative images included someone being threatened with a gun.

What they found was that those participants who rated their own subjective level of happiness highly had a greater arousal of the amygdala (a region of the brain used to process information about the world around us and our emotional responses to it) when shown positive images, than participants who rated themselves lower on self reported happiness scales.

 The scans results showed that all the volunteers responded in similar ways to negative and neutral images.  What this may suggest is that people with a rosy outlook on life respond positively to positive stimulus in their environment and are more likely to observe these events, however they are still highly aware of threats around them.  They see the world in a balanced way. 

When I learnt the vipassana meditation technique I was constantly reminded to keep observing the world afresh.  The mantra was to view the world as it is rather than how you think it should be. 

That’s one of the great things about positive psychology – its interventions train your mind to focus on what’s good in the world and by doing so you build the tenacity to overcome your challenges and deal with the threats.  For all the problems in the world its still a beautiful life

Our next positive psychology course details are at Breathe London