It starts with you

It starts with you

I had a weird dream last night. I dreamed I received a ‘phone call. From number 10 Downing Street.

“Hello,” I said, somewhat taken aback. “How can I help you?”

“Are you Dave Robson?” said a voice.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Are you THE Dave Robson?” the voice persisted?

“I’ve no idea,” I replied. “Is there more than one?”

“Are you Dave Robson the Life Coach who teaches meditation?”

“Is this a wind up?” I enquired.

“No no, not at all,” said the voice at the other end. “It’s just that with Boris just out of intensive care we need someone here who can help us lower the stress levels, ‘cos we’re almost at bursting point.”

“If you’re serious, I can do that but there’s one condition. You’ve got to send me the full PPE kit to wear when I travel up on the tube, and to wear when I’m at number 10. I know you lot aren’t observing the social distancing properly and I don’t want to catch anything.”

“No no, no need for that. We’ll send a car for you,” she said.

“Very nice of you, but I still want the protective gear,” I replied.

“OK, no problem. But how are you going to meditate when you’re wearing the full safety suit? You’ll find it hard enough just to sit down.”

“It will be difficult but we’ll find a way,” I replied.

“Your driver will be there within the hour,” she said, “and he’ll bring the protective suit with him.”

“Tell him to leave the gear outside the front door, ring the door bell and go back to his car. Then I’ll change into the suit in my house and come out to the car. And make sure he’s wearing the stuff too.”

“Hey, we’re the ones who make the rules,” she said.

And with that I put the ‘phone down and wondered if this was for real. Then I woke up…

A few minutes later, while I was shaving, showering and getting dressed in readiness for another day in splendid isolation, I couldn’t help thinking of a salutary story I heard once:

A man was in his house one day when the severe rains started and the ground around his house started to flood. Soon the water was up to his first floor windows and still rising, and in his effort to escape the flood water he climbed onto the roof and started praying to God to save his life.

And sure enough, God said to him, “don’t worry, I’ll look after you my son.”

After a while some men from the rescue services came paddling by in a rubber dinghy and offered to retrieve the man from his roof and take him to a place of safety, but he waved them on, saying, “no need to worry, God is looking after me.”

Shortly after that a rescue helicopter hovered above him, shouting that they’d rescue him, but again he waved them away, repeating, “no need to worry, God is looking after me.”

So the flood waters continued to rise and eventually the man was swept away and drowned. When he reached the pearly gates he bumped in God and said angrily, “What went wrong? You said you’d look after me?”

And God replied indignantly, “look, I sent you a dinghy, I sent you a helicopter, what more do you want…?????”

I have met so many people who believe that the Universe or existence or some supernatural force is looking out for them and keeping them safe and all they need to do is surrender and trust in some higher good. While that may or may not be true, it doesn’t work like that. You have to do your bit and be proactive.

Same with the dream. The Prime Minister’s office might send you a comfy car to insulate you from the world outside and its bugs, but it’s still down to you to take personal responsibility for your own safety, and that of others, and do what you know in your heart to be the right thing to do.

I don’t know if the staff at number 10 are aware of this, but meditation is a very powerful tool for reducing stress levels, so in case you’ve forgotten how to do it, I’ll make sure that’s the very next subject I write about.

Meanwhile, take the dog for a walk and have a nice day.

Dealing with conflicts

Christmas and New Year are supposed to be times of celebration but all too often, especially within families, it becomes a period of stress and conflict with arguments that can reverberate for a long time afterwards.

One of the traps many people fall into is blaming the other person. Blaming gets you nowhere because, more often than not, the person being blamed instinctively feels he or she is under attack and they become defensive. In most cases either they retire and hide away, or go into denial, or they become verbally or even physically aggressive. Either way, when someone becomes defensive it’s virtually impossible to get through to them, and both parties end up frustrated.

This is important because in order for two people to reconcile an argument, they need to be able to communicate heart to heart because, whether or not you realise it, both parties feel hurt, angry, or whatever. Unless you can both relate on a heart level, it becomes a battle of egos and the disagreement continues.

Another aspect of this same problem is the danger of getting into an intellectual argument. In such a case, the cleverer or more eloquent or more persuasive or more manipulative party always “wins.” But actually, neither party wins.

 I have a brilliant technique for effectively dealing with personal conflicts which almost always yields a win/ win solution. It’s called the broken record technique and it needs to be executed with sensitivity.

This is how it works: When someone close to you makes you feel angry or hurt by blaming or judging you for something you did or said, you simply say something like, “when you do that I feel really hurt (or angry or whatever).”

If the other person continues blaming and attacking you, you simply repeat, “yes, but when you do that I feel really hurt.”

This is very subtle. Firstly you are saying how you feel, and nobody can argue with that. If the other person says, “well you shouldn’t feel hurt,” you reply is, “but I do.” Eventually the other person will realise their blaming isn’t working and you are not feeling guilty, and in most cases they will become more conciliatory, because you have also given them a way of backing down gracefully, without losing face. So they might say, “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I’m sorry.”

Now we are getting somewhere! You are also very careful not to throw any blame back on them. You are simply owning your own feelings and telling the other person, if you do this, my reaction is that. Once you have stated your truth, their reaction is up to them.

Of course some people don’t pick up your clues and carry on blaming regardless. In such a case you may have to acknowledge that no resolution is possible. But most important, you got it off your chest in a clean way and you have not been crushed!

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Who’s the boss, you or your mind?

Self-enquiry, or looking inside, is the way to discover your self-limiting beliefs, which are often unconscious. These are beliefs you have about yourself that limit you. Here’s another way of looking at this.

Suppose your goal is to become a champion tennis player. You might be making every effort to master your backhand, but if you are not getting results and you’re feeling frustrated, you may have a tape running continuously in your head saying, “I can’t do this,” or “I’m not good enough,” or some such. If you are not aware of these messages from yourself to yourself, you give them free reign to sabotage your efforts, leaving you wondering why.

The solution is to carefully control your dominant thoughts. Your mind is clever because it creates for you more of whatever your dominant thought is. Therefore you can benefit by implanting suitable dominant thoughts.

However, there are traps and pitfalls that can trip you up. Look at this: let’s say you believe you’re trying as hard as you can to add your backhand to your repertoire of winning shots. You believe you are focused on mastering that shot, and you believe that is entirely what you are thinking about.

Those who have developed a positive mindset probably are doing that, but people who struggle with self-doubt may not realise that their self-limiting belief is actually their dominant thought. If so, then your mind will create more difficulties for you and therefore more likelihood of failure.

It’s subtle and insidious and it will sabotage you every time. Try choosing more positive dominant thoughts like, “I’m certainly improving,” or, “look how easy this is when I practise more,” or best of all, “I love my backhand.” That way you avoid inventing more difficulties and instead start finding ways to navigate through the real, existing difficulties.

Even on days when I hate by backhand I tell myself I love it, and eventually I do.

Only by looking inside as a witness who sees without judgment can you become fully aware of what you are actually thinking. That’s the first step to rectifying the matter.

Once you can really see what’s going on inside you can consciously choose helpful dominant thoughts which will get you to where you want to go. It’s about controlling your mind so you can use it as your most powerful tool.

Surely, if I practise enough and really work at something without entertaining negative thoughts, then by definition I must improve.

You can use your mind to help you or you can let it hinder you. Who’s the boss? Are you in charge of your mind, or is it in charge of you? Your amazing mind is the most powerful tool you possess and you can benefit enormously from using it proactively.

Meditation is the most powerful tool you can adopt for searching the recesses of the most powerful tool you were born with, your mind. Meditation is free. It’s a gift. The Dalai Lama once said we should meditate for at least one hour a day, and if we believe we haven’t got time, then we should mediate for two hours a day!

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Life Coaching: Following Clues

As featured in Beach Media Magazines

Last time I talked about How to lead a happy life. This time I’m talking about how to find your purpose.

Many times as a Life Coach I would hear someone say, “I don’t know what to do with my life”, as if I could know the answer as to how somebody else should live their life!

I might suggest a few possibilities to see if they rang any bells, but for me to give a definitive opinion would, in my estimation, be meaningless. Because the only person who knows the answer is you, or to be more precise, your heart.

But if you are genuinely baffled, that’s not very helpful. Nor are comments like, “follow your passion,” or “listen to your heart.”

What might be helpful is to describe some of the ways you might find out for yourself. One brilliant way of doing that is by following clues.

When you are in such a quandary, listen for clues as attentively as possible, and when one comes along follow it up unquestioningly. Nobody can know where that clue will lead you. Maybe nowhere, in which case stop and listen again for another clue. But more often than not, something worthwhile will come of it, and it could be the making of you.

The only thing that matters is that you do what you love and love what you do.

I used this technique myself on the day I got my decree absolute from my first marriage. I was broke but free. “What could I do with my life now,” I asked myself. In the emotional and traumatic process of getting divorced I couldn’t remember what it was I’d always wanted to do. I was searching for clues.

Then out of the blue, one day over breakfast a totally unexpected word came in to my head. The word was “boats,” and I began to recall I’d always been fascinated by boats ever since I was a child, and wished I could learn to sail. It was very specific. Somehow I knew I didn’t want to learn to row (I already knew how to do that), I didn’t want to drive a motor boat or anything else. I just wanted to learn to sail.

That was some thirty eight years ago. Now I am sitting here writing this on board my own boat, gale bound in the tiny harbour of Bourgenay on France’s Atlantic coast, where we are taking shelter.

And what a magnificent summer it has been, cruising mostly in hot sunshine around the Bay of Biscay. This is where my clue – my dream – has led me so far and no way could I have had any idea when my clue came and took me by the hand that it would lead to me owning my own yacht! I was a penniless divorcee. How did this happen?

All I know is that cruising under sail gives me a sense of meaning and purpose even though it is obviously an entirely unnecessary and pointless exercise. That’s part of the joy. Now, as a Life Coach, I help others live their dreams – if they have the courage!

This is my point: listening for clues and following them up can give you a sense of meaning and purpose, and radically change your life.

Stop. Be silent and listen. And when a clue comes along, go for it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Life Coaching: How to lead a happy life

Life Coaching: How to lead a happy life

As featured in Beach Media magazines

I previously spoke about: “Love what you do do what you love” This time I’m tackling the subject of “How to lead a happy life”:

What happened to Theresa May is a classic example of what can occur if you stick rigidly to an extreme path, rather than following the Middle Way. Had she been a little more unbending in her zeal to avoid compromise, perhaps she’d have achieved her goal of “delivering Brexit” in a manner that would have benefitted both sides.

Instead, she came up with a big fat failure and lost her job to boot!

The problem with extremist idealists of whatever persuasion is that they are fixated on one idea and tend to see the world through blinkers. That means they can never see or embrace any point of view other than the one they espouse so vehemently, and therefore there can be no question of reconciliation, or tolerating or accepting each other.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. We could instead, if we are brave enough, adopt the Buddha’s teaching of The Middle Way.

This is what I love so much about the teachings of the Buddha, they always make good sense. No god is involved, you don’t have to believe in anything, you don’t have to be a disciple, you can simply receive the teachings and act upon them – or not, as you see fit. The Buddha puts the responsibility firmly on you, which is exactly where it should be, when it comes to deciding how to live your life.

So what is this Middle Way of which I speak? Let’s ask Jack Cornfield, well-known author and commentator on the Buddhist way:

“Buddhist teaching teaches us to be in the world but not of the world. This realization is called the middle way.”

Cornfield elaborates, “if we seek happiness purely through indulgence, we are not free. And if we fight against ourselves and the world we are not free.  It is the middle path that brings freedom. This is a universal truth discovered by all those who awaken.”

This teaching is of massive everyday importance because it’s the key to a balanced and happy life. Not only that. It’s also the only way to achieve world peace and an end to all conflicts between people. That’s how enormous this is.

Now, of course, I don’t expect us all to suddenly modify our thoughts, beliefs and behaviour overnight to adopt the middle way, but it’s worth bearing in mind that this concept can be applied to everything in our lives. But as we are by and large used to a culture of blame and looking after our personal best interests above all else, how do we put it into practice without disadvantaging ourselves?

“To discover the middle way”, says Buddhist teacher Ajahn Chah, “try to be mindful, and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool, and you will clearly see the nature of all things.  You will see many strange and wonderful things come and go, but you will be still.”

That’s another way of saying drop trying to be a control freak and let things turn out as they will.
Being still in your heart means having peace of mind, probably the most important gift anyone can get, especially if you want to sleep well at night. Therefore, adopting the Middle Way is in our best interests, once we realise what our best interests really are.

I have tried this myself – it really works

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See Dave’s new website, www.dave-robson.com, to find out more about his books, The Five Pillars of Happiness, and How to be a Popular Crew.

If you want Life Coaching, you can e-mail Dave at info@dave-robson.com

Telephone: 01722 505495