Mindful Walk: Ravenscraig Park to Dysart, Sun 24th November, 1pm-3pm

A mindful walk, beginning at Ravenscraig Park car park, and walking through the lovely park to the shoreline. From there we’ll pause to enjoy the sea and the beach, before continuing through the tunnel to Dysart harbour. We’ll wander around the harbour to the Dysart beams, before finishing at the Harbourmaster’s House for refreshments. Approx 2 hours. 1pm-3pm. Cost £10. To book, please message Craig via this page, text 07846 399594 or e-mail: info@craig-gilbert.com

A year in…how goes it?

Ladybank woods

I’ve been running mindfulness groups, classes and one to ones now for over a year as my main income stream, so felt it was a worthy topic to reflect upon. How has it gone?

People who know me well, know that the practice of mindfulness has transformed my life. In the five or so years since starting this journey, I have changed my personality (who knew that was possible!), become more peaceful and continue to learn, learn, learn. When I think of who I was five years ago, I blink bleary-eyed at that past, wondering in abject awe how things have changed in me and for me. If I’d been able to look into the future back then, I might have practised mindfulness even more diligently! Still, mindfulness is all about letting go, non-judging and coming back to the moment, so in that way, everything has flowed perfectly. I am enough, each and every day.

I’m not an ‘expert’ in mindfulness; what does that even mean? I’m not striving for becoming any more important, or impressive, or anything as it goes – my main aim, and has always been, is to know myself better so I can ease my suffering, and to know others better so I can help ease theirs. Being able to ease my own pain in life has led me to deeper connections with so many people. I’ve learned in this year not to try and force change in people, and accept people as they are. Any forcing on my part was just more learning – I’m also trying to stop ‘preaching’ about mindfulness as this amazing cure for everything in an effort to change other peoples’ views on it. If I preach too much, then I’m judging those who don’t do this practice, and that in itself stops my own mindfulness. Acceptance; letting be, these are the ways. So I continue to work on myself.

Each day is a gift, a new learning, a new approach, a curiosity that needs adventuring. Any sign of ego, the voice in my head that thinks too much, the emotions that come from that kind of thinking, ALL of it goes into the melting pot of conscious learning. What comes out is something I could never have conceived of. This something feels inherently more peaceful. Of course, sometimes I miss the gift, sometimes I still hurt, or have strong feelings about something – but in it goes, into that melting pot. Sometimes it takes a while to come out of the other side in its alchemy. I sometimes want it to be a bit quicker, to ‘get somewhere’, but again, that’s just not the point!

So, how’s the year gone? Incredibly rich, diverse, learning. Insight after insight! More kindness, joy and happiness; more able to stand on my own two feet and just be without too much emotional disturbance. A constant, changing, flowing journey – with no goal other than to survive, to be, to actually enjoy this precious life. In these challenging times of climate change and systems beginning to fall apart, mindfulness is my torch, carrying me onward, to give me permission to have joy when so many people are without it. Joy generates more joy, peace generates more peace. In this way, by changing my own personality, I become a practising ‘peaceful warrior’ to gain wisdom to ‘do the right thing’ for everyone in my world (including myself).

What’s next? Well, a book on mindfulness and some mindfulness practice cards will become props when they’re ready; more groups, courses and one to ones with people, and working with organisations to bring more mindfulness to Fife (and beyond) should it be asked for. I’m even contemplating doing a series of online videos – I might need some help with the technical aspects of this – but it’s all in that melting pot…

Can one person make a difference?

Wooden panel on Fife Coastal Path

I really liked this phrase etched into a wooden panel on Fife’s coastal path (just by Dalgety Bay) following a recent mindful walk there. It made me think of the difference that just one person can do to make a place beautiful.

In mindfulness, we start with ourselves. How can we start anywhere else? Through the practice, I’ve seen clearly what’s been in my mind, what’s made me my own ‘unique blend’ of life, and I see that my life has gone through lots of suffering: I’ve had illnesses, I’ve been mentally depressed, I’ve gone through anxious times, I’ve had relationship break-ups and numerous other human interactions that have wounded me or caused me pain. These, have, over the years, manifested in me as anger, frustration, shyness, nervousness, anxiety, sadness, loneliness…you name it, I’ve had it.

With the wonder that is mindfulness, all of these things are treated without judgment. So, whatever I’ve endured, whatever I’ve done, I can wipe the slate clean and look at how I’m doing right now. In fact, every time I get challenged or feel an emotion, I look at it with the light of mindfulness, bathing each challenge/feeling with loving-kindness for myself. Once I accept these things are part of me, have been part of me, and are continuing to be a part of me, then I start to change.

No longer beating myself up, or judging what comes, I let it be, give it warm affection and it passes (as does everything). In doing so, I transform my mind from a head filled with suffering, hurt, anguish etc. (all related to thoughts and memories from the past that no longer exist except in the mind/body) to simply being with what is happening now. My mind starts to ease its thinking, its patterns, its holding on to the past, its judgments. Freedom starts to coalesce and form. This is truly beautiful, and joy ensues as a result.

Then, because I’m in more a place of joy, a place of stillness and calmness through my mindful practice, I start looking outward, away from just myself, into the situation of other people, events, even the planet.

Yesterday, I saw thousands upon thousand of people, young and old alike, take to the streets to demonstrate about the Climate Emergency we’re all facing, and the whole thing gave me huge hope for the future: that we’re not restricted by our own, internal mind chatter, but that we’re working together as a community to help save ourselves. We are the planet.

So, this echoes for me the path with mindfulness at its core. If we are all joyful, happy humans, letting go of our past suffering, learning from the past to enable peace in the present, then we can have peace in our future. If we were all living in such a way that we took away OUR THINKING of how awful we are, how horrible we are as a species, how corrupt and despicable we all are, but came back to what’s going on now and how we can help solve that, then we will solve it without all the anger, sorrow and blame that we inflict on each other (and especially, ourselves).

And a world without anger, blame and judgment? That is truly, truly beautiful. By making ourselves beautiful, we make the place beautiful too. In this way, one little action we do for ourselves – letting go of an old thought pattern, letting go of blaming someone, letting go of our own internal struggle, is an act of real courage and brings us closer to our real self – a being of love and understanding. That is making a huge difference not only to our own life, but to those in our circles.

Formonthills Woodland Walk, Glenrothes – Sun 22nd Sep – 1pm-3pm

Starting at the Pitcairn Centre car park, we will walk into the Formonthills Woodland, where we will pause and investigate the various features within, such as the totem pictured. Various parts of the woodland offer striking views of Glenrothes and also the Lomond Hills. We will then return to the car park for approx 3pm, where there will be an option to travel to a cafe for refreshments in Glenrothes itself. Cost £10 per person. If you’d like to book on this event, please contact Craig Gilbert via text on 07846 399594, e-mail: info@craig-gilbert.com or private message on this page.

Moving house mindfully?

Heavy thoughts about the future?

I’m in a house move process. For the first time in my life, I’ve got mindfulness to help me with such a thing.

It is acutely aware to me of our need to rush, of our need to make sure we have a concrete buyer so we can move quickly, efficiently and with as much ease as possible.

Only, this is often not the reality of it. So, how do we help ourselves in a labelled ‘difficult’ time?

I’d been doing very well, up until the last few days, where I was anticipating a call from someone who had been interested in the house. I became aware of losing my power, of going into my head and repeating phrases like: ‘why haven’t they rang me yet?’, ‘please ring, phone’, ‘sigh – they’re not ringing, they don’t want the house’ etc etc etc. In fact, it became such that my mobile phone became a thing of derision; a thing I didn’t want to keep staring at, but stare at it for long moments, I did. Until my mindfulness kicked in. It took longer than normal to come in, which I found interesting in itself.

However, there we have it – mindfulness: being aware of the present moment without judgment – has saved me once more from all these tenacious thought patterns we find ourselves in. There I was, thinking about an outcome. There I was was, thinking about the future. There I was, with anticipation, expectation and hopes. All of this made me feel on edge, nervous, frustrated, even a bit sad. All. Started. With. Thoughts.

Once I’d realised I was in these thought patterns, it was time to let go of them. It was time to tune back in to what is, where I am right now, which is sitting in the house. I’m not ‘awaiting a phone call’, I’m just sitting. Then I’m reading. Then I’m typing on a computer. Then I’m drinking my tea. That’s it. This simplicity immediately relieved the tension.

From there, curiosity has taken me beyond the need for a quick sale of my house. It does not matter one jot when I move house. I’m still sheltered, I still have food on the table, I still have a place to sleep etc. It matters not which roof I’m under. What matters is I’ve made a conscious decision to move. It’s trusting the universe to make it happen. Trusting means not thinking about the future. It’s all going to be OK, but the when of it, the time (which is just a construct anyway), is irrelevant. When I’m meant to go, that’s what I’m meant to go.

So no amount of worrying, fussing, hoping or even coercing the future from me. As always with mindfulness, we’re tested every day to remember to arrive back at each moment, because these are the moments that are truly real and existing. These are ALL we have.

I’m meant to be where I’m meant to be, and that’s OK.

Inverkeithing to Aberdour Mindful Walk, Sun 25th Aug 1pm-4pm

A mindful walk, meeting at Inverkeithing Train Station, to Aberdour along the Fife Coastal Path. We’ll take our time, enjoying the views across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh and the Forth Bridges, looking out for seals and wildlife along the route. We’ll take a stop at St Brigit’s Kirk (pictured), to sit for a while and soak up the atmosphere, before continuing on to Aberdour where we’ll stop for refreshments along the High St. To return, there are buses or trains to Inverkeithing. Distance is approx 6 miles. Cost is £10 per person. If you’d like to book on this walk, please contact Craig Gilbert via text: 07846 399594, e-mail: info@craig-gilbert.com or direct message this page. Thank you, Craig

Be kind, and watch your happiness grow

Are you struggling with life? Do you worry endlessly about things; do you suffer physically and emotionally to the events that happen to you? Are you constantly beating yourself up, blaming yourself and blaming others for your lack of happiness? Are you unhappy, bored, lonely, tired, grouchy, or just generally slogging through life?

Here is your answer.

Be kind to yourself and to others.

That’s it. Only, it’s more than that, of course. But by offering kindness, we are looking outward at others, we are looking outward at the world and our place in it, and it changes our mindset from thinking about ourselves so much (self-thinking:ego) to thinking about easing suffering in others by being kind (non-self-thinking:non-ego). The result is that our ego is lessened, and therefore our worries lessen. We don’t THINK as much about ‘woe is me’, ‘if only I’d done that better’, ‘if only they’d been kind to me’, ‘I can’t believe that person said those things to me’ etc. These types of thoughts are ego mind, they are thoughts based on perceived threats to our well-being. Note the word ‘perceived’ here; many things we think are happening, of what people think of us etc, are mere assumptions and conjecture – not actual truth.

Only, the ‘threat’ situation has happened. It’s gone into the maelstrom of the past. Saying ‘woe is me’ isn’t going to change what’s happened. It’ll only feed our ego mind, make our worries stronger, because we’re thinking about being worried about it.

Change your mindset. Instead of thinking about me, me, me all the time – see if you can ease suffering in others. Can you be kind? Can you offer to help when someone is struggling (for no reward – to help just to help)? Can you let go of your ego-mind when it whines and screams at you that ‘you are not happy’? Can you come back to the present moment in those situations, breathe, smile, and ask yourself: ‘How do I ease suffering in this world’?

Easing suffering can be as simple as breathing with your emotion and not blaming anyone else for it. Easing suffering can be as simple as letting go of beating yourself up for ‘what you said’ and affirming you’re doing your best, and will continue to do your best. Easing suffering in others can be as simple as complimenting them, or deep listening to them – offering your full presence to someone is a gift, an act of kindness. Can you offer someone deep listening? Or are you trying to continually talk about your issues, your life, your problems??

Letting go of the need to talk about your own problems is key to a happy mind. Helping others is the path to selflessness – and that opens the doors to non-judgment, to genuine compassionate energy building up inside of you. People always respond to people who are kind and compassionate. You’ll find, without the need to THINK or TALK about YOU, you’ll get your needs met anyway. Start with being kind. This, as they say, is it.

Of course, it’s easy for me to say ‘let go of your thoughts’. It’s not easy. It’s a practice. It’s a discipline that is needed every single day you think the way you think. You have to try and catch these thoughts, let them go, and come back to the moment. Every. Single. Day. This is why we have the practice of mindfulness. This is why every moment of the day can be seen, if you concentrate on it, with your aware, waking mind, your non-ego mind, your non-thinking mind. Only when you encounter the present moment more and more will you ease your suffering and build joy. It’s an act of kindness in itself to ‘be in the moment’. Being is so much more important than doing. But when you do inevitably ‘do’, do it with kindness. Start with yourself, and work out to others. I guarantee it will change the way you are with the world, and the way the world works with you 🙂

Coastal walk from Leven beach to Lundin Links: Sun July 14th, 1pm-3pm.

Starting opposite the bus station in Leven, we’ll take a mindful walk along Leven Beach towards Lundin Links, with optional visit to the standing stones on the Lady’s golf course at Lundin Links. We will finish at a cafe for refreshments. From there, there’s a bus option to return to Leven or a walk back. Approx 2 miles (4 miles if walking back). Cost £10 per person. If you’d like to book on this event, please contact Craig Gilbert via text on 07846 399594, e-mail: info@craig-gilbert.com or private message on this page.

Who makes the tea? A mindful guide.

For many years, when I worked in an office, the lingering question: who makes the tea? caused interesting ripples. Some people didn’t drink much, others drank a lot. Some people were engrossed in their work commitments, or rushing about in meetings/busyness, that at times tea was never made.

In some offices, we had a rota system of who went to make the tea. In others, it was a free-for-all; just go when you need a cuppa and make one for yourself. In another office again, were people who just decided they wanted a cup of tea, and so would ask everyone else if they did also (the response often being affirmative).

At the time, none of these methods seemed satisfactory to me. I certainly drink a lot of tea, so my need for tea (so I thought) was greater than others. The rota system just produced some very grudging, grumpy cups of tea when the person who worked hard didn’t really want to make the tea and did so with mutterings and tuts. The free-for-all option seemed the best for a while, but that caused feelings of guilt, when seeing others working flat out without refreshment, why should I be allowed? This also interrupted the ‘rule’ of ‘going solo’ because other people would eye up the tea, or even interject and ask if I’d make one for them too. The other option, too, was not without its dilemmas. The responses to asking people about tea varied from ‘no’ with a stern look for even being talked to, to people demanding extra things, like more milk, or more sugar. And if there was no milk, the person making the tea had to go out and buy more milk.

Each possible route, then, all caused a bit of tension in each office. Some people, in some situations, NEVER made the tea, and were considered selfish oafs. Others felt they were took advantage of because of their need for tea. Do you see how a simple process of making cups of tea for a group of people can descend into all sorts of problems and thought patterns? Not to mention the emotions: guilt, shame, grief, anger…an unending stream of frustrations of not having tea, of having too much tea, or too little – and rifts extending between work ‘colleagues’.

Life is like this whenever people have a difference of opinion. Dissension and strife: the essence of suffering. Only, now I’m a bit older, I look back and examine that all of these contests of will were all run by the Ego mothership.

Ego – the bit of us that thinks only about ourselves. The thing that tries to separate us from everyone and everything. The thing that says ‘we are right and you are wrong’.

So, we come to the power of mindfulness: the practice of non-judgment, noticing what is occurring in the here and now with our awareness. I decided to adopt this mindful attitude from now on concerning who makes the tea.

So, without judgment, I let go of the ego thoughts about ‘why is it always me who makes the tea’, or ‘why can’t he get up and just do it?!’ or ‘I need a system here so everything is fair and just’. These are all mental formations based on what I believe to be good or bad (more judgments). Mindfulness isn’t like that. It’s not using the past experiences to label the present or affect the future. We don’t label at all. We just see what is going on in the moment. So what is going on in the moment? I’m thirsty. I have a craving for tea. Nobody else seems to be worried, but I don’t know for sure. So I get up and make tea. However, this time, I make tea for everyone. I don’t ask. I go and brew a bit pot of it, and I take what I need, and then I leave the rest on a tray in the office kitchen.

People get to know that I do this, every time I go and make the tea. I’m making the tea. I’m not annoyed that it’s always me that goes and makes the tea, because that’s just my judgmental ego speaking. I’ve let go of that; through constant hours of mindful practice (the practice is still on-going, I might add – that ego comes up quite often). But tea? I’ve cracked it.

Nobody suffers when there is no ego. In the present moment, just making the tea to make the tea, I get my needs met anyway without all this worry about things being ‘unfair’ or ‘unjust’. Moreover, other people who didn’t voice that they wanted tea have the choice to have some, or not. Either way is fine.

Interestingly, after time, people who see that I’m making the tea all the time will rise up and begin making the tea too. There comes a time in every human being where the real connectedness comes through, only sometimes it has to be shown and lit up. So, without my asking, or co-ercing, others start to make the tea. You might say this is a ‘guilt-trip’ for those people, and perhaps for some, it is. However, guilt is as much a lesson in mindfulness as anything else. Why do I feel guilty? Why does the ego make me feel guilty? Because deep down, we are threatened. We feel that if we don’t make the tea we’ll be labelled as ‘selfish’. So we act out this storyline in order to please others and let the spotlight move away from us.

If we can let go of this ego thought mentality, we lose our guilt also. Someone makes the tea. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Imagine a life like that!

I raise my current cup of tea to you all for reading 🙂

Falkland Summer Walk – 30th June 10am-1pm

A mindful walk starting from Pillars of Hercules organic cafe, through the magical Falkland Estate up to the Tyndall Bruce monument and the Temple of Decision. We will have just past the Summer Solstice, so this is a time of celebration and renewal of our energy at the mid point through the year. Everything is in full abundance, so we will delight in looking at the trees and wildlife in full swing as we walk up to the monument, with stunning views across the Howe of Fife. We’ll then proceed to the Temple of Decision, for a period of quiet reflection, before returning once more to the cafe for refreshments. Approx time 3 hours. Cost is £10 per person. Please book via this page, or text 07846 399594, or e-mail info@craig-gilbert.com