The Life Changing Magic of Gardening The Mind

What if we are at a critical point in human evolution? What if you signed a contract to be here right now at this time? In the midst of this? You signed the contract, got your ticket and here you are. Now what? If you are reading these words then you already know, work is needed and you are needed to do it. And this is step one. Awareness. What if our minds are being highjacked on multiple levels? Thoughts and actions distracted and distorted? You must take it back. The landscape of your mind is yours to cultivate.

The Original Garden, Findhorn

Do not think of your mind as an enemy you must silence. Together let’s relearn the importance of this amazing tool. For it is a tool that both separates and connects humans from and to plants and animals. The ability to see, feel and respond. This is a great power. And this power is your sovereignty.

But this art is being forgotten. Fear has swept over the world. We are unintentionally handing over our power. The ability to see, feel, connect, respond and act. Trusting those who have also forgotten the art of free thinking and right action. But all is not lost. You are invited on this journey to learn the next step.

Cullerne Gardens, Findhorn

Stop the noise. Stop the distractions. Stop the impulsive busyness. Tidy the mess of the mind. For as we tidy this internal mess we tidy the world. And the more people who tidy the mind the cleaner and clearer our world will become. For the benefit of all.

Think of it like lenses of a pair of glasses we’ve forgotten we’ve been wearing. Covered in layers and layers of dirt, built up over generations. Lifetime upon lifetime. Pain, hurt, fear. Now comes awareness, the awareness that we are even wearing these glasses. Now the tools to take them off. So we can truly see.

Remember you are not alone, no matter how much the current systems of the world maybe inducing fear and isolation. Touch into your heart and feel connection of humanity which knows no bounds. The golden thread of life that connects all humans and life force throughout all time, across all planes and channels. Can you feel even a glimmer of warmth and light shimmer in your heart in this moment?

As we order, clean and tidy the mind the light of the heart shines brighter. Our inner compass comes into action. Let’s shed the shackles of an untidy mind on this journey together. Here’s your ticket. Welcome aboard.

Cullerne Gardens, Findhorn

Step 1: Seeing the garden of our mind

Let’s think for a moment of our mind as a garden. As we settle into this visualisation take a moment to imagine a golden circle surrounding you now. Feel the breath in your body. Your feet on the ground. Take a few deep breaths and imagine the breath sweeping right through you and cleaning and clearing you from within. Like a cool fresh breeze. Imagine your mind as a garden. Notice the landscape of this garden, the life, the beauty, the dirt, the weeds, the litter. Notice any feelings and accept them completely, inviting them into the heart. Fear, sadness, doubt, anger, notice defences against this and trust. This is the middle, not the end. The messy middle, the hardest part. The stoping to see.

Take a pen and paper and sketch this garden. Your inner garden of the mind in as much details as possible, no need for an artists hand, stick figures, a rough sketch will suffice. A two minute sketch or a day of drawing, trust your own process. Play, enjoy, flow.

Illustrate it as it is. Noticing any thoughts, feelings about this inner landscape and welcome these thoughts and feelings into the heart. Do not try to judge, analyse or make any sense of the image with your mind. Gentling and kindly thank any thoughts that arrive and let them pass through the mind without any thoughts about the thoughts!

The Original Garden, Findhorn

When you have completed this image take a photo of it as it is now. Close the eyes. Sit with a straight back, relax the shoulders. Take a few breaths at your own pace. Bring to mind the image you just created. What changes are you drawn to make? Notice anything you’d like to remove, add, edit. With an open, gentle approach. With a sense of love and kindness. Like you are tending to the garden of someone you love dearly.

Open your eyes and set about this task. Rip, cut, erase, paint over, add to and remove. Tidy the garden of your mind. Like you are landscaping a garden. This may happen to your satisfaction in a few moments, it may take longer. Give yourself no longer than an hour, max. Don’t over analyse, plan or over think. Just play.

When you get a sense of completion, stop. Take a photo of your image as it is now. Look back at the before and after images. Notice how the mind/body feels when viewing the first image and how they feel when looking at the second. Close down the eyes. Sit up straight. Feel the breath in your body. Notice the thoughts in the mind with an open heart. As the thoughts arise notice where are their new homes in the garden?

For example;

  • Worry “what if…” future fear based thoughts may go on the compost heap, they won’t grow anything now, but what great soil they will make once left to decompose!
  • Hopes and dreams, these are seeds! Not ready yet, just the hope of life in the future. Are they to go into jars for seed storage or is there a space in the garden you’d like to plant this seed? Are the conditions for it’s planting ready yet?
  • Grief, these thoughts need a tender hand and there own space for ritual. Are you ready to release this back into the earth? Placing a headstone, plant or symbol of remembrance and love. Maybe adding a sitting area, so you can sit and be present in this space. To visit here, but not to live here.

What other thought categories do you notice? Where are there places in the garden you’d like to place them?

The Original Garden, Findhorn

This can become a useful daily task. A daily tidy of the garden will begin to train the mind. The thoughts will come to know they are welcome and have a space to be. To settle. So they aren’t just whirling through the mind like ghost stuck in a haunted mansion. Just once a day at a time that suits you, make this daily tidy up a habit. By taking just a few moment to notice the thoughts with love and kindness and welcome them into their designated spots.

And then relax. Let go. A garden comes on over time. It can handle a few days of neglect on the days you can’t practice. Don’t over work it. A garden takes time. It need fallow time as much as tending to. Know that this space you have created is here now for you to visit, use and tend to with your gentle loving light touch.

I’d love to see the images of your imagined garden and here how you get on with this mindful art playful practice.

This blog post was co-created and inspired by the beauty, serenity and space of the gardens at Findhorn Foundation. With special thanks to the devas and the flies who sat with me as I wrote!

I hope you find this practice useful. If you’d like to join me to enjoy more mindful art together I run a weekly zoom meet up on Sundays at 5pm GMT it’d be lovely to see you there. For more info on this click here.

Gemma x

My Top 10 Self-Care Activities at Home

by Gemma Bowden
Director at The Owl and The Coconut

Click a heading to find out more about each one!

YogaStef

I’ve absolutely loved practicing yoga in the comfort of my own home. Manchester based Stefan shares classes live via zoom throughout the week. And also offers an OMdemand subscription, which really suits me as it means I can just open up my laptop and practice anytime of the day with the gentle guidance of a yoga teacher I know and trust. Yoga teacher Stefan usually shares his classes across Manchester, including at our lovely very own Levenshulme Old Library.

Gong Spa

Ran by the lovely Martyn who has been our resident gong bath at The Nest since day one! Bringing his amazing soothing gong sounds to us every month. And now he’s bringing this gong sound experience to your home! And not just online, if you get a few mates together in a socially distanced safe way, Martyn will bring his Gong Spa to your very own back garden! How amazing is that!

Talk About It Mate

Sees the very passionate Mike and the team hold a space for men to be open and honest about how things are for them in their lives. They were newcomers to The Nest and we hope to welcome them back as soon as possible. I think The Blue Bell pub will be happy to hear that too, I believe there’s an option to pop there for a pint after each meet up! 

Heal Yourself with The Ice Shaman Wim Hof & Russell Brand

Watch for FREE this incredible, funny and informative interview with the inspiring Wim Hof and beautiful soul Russell Brand. Then get yourself (Safely! Follow the guidance in the video!) into an ice cold shower! Following a Wim Hof 10-week online course that I’ve done during lockdown, I’m now a massive fan of cold showering and his intensive breathing sequences. They leave you feeling full of the cosmic glow of human life!

OM and Gayatri Mantra Meditation

Live from Costa Rica with Deva Premal & Miten and hundreds of people live online around the world! I find this really special. Watch live on Facebook or Instagram at 9pm BST on Saturdays to be transported over to the Costa Rican rainforest with the amazing voices of Deva and Miten who guide you through simple and heartwarming mantras and meditation guiding you into a restful night’s sleep…

Merka Box

A self-care dream! I received my first box in June, a self-care treat for me from me! And it truly brought me so much joy! Filled with amazing vegan chocolate, gorgeous loose tea, incredible smelling incense cones and a beautiful lotus gazing necklace. And that’s to my six year old sons YouTube viewing I now understand the joy of ‘unboxing’! The whole box came with an info card with such heart centred tips on how to use the items for maximum self-care ritual me time. The name itself means; mer = light | ka = spirit | ba = body How lovely is that?! 

The gherkin, Levenshulme

OK so you do have to nip out the house for this one! But then straight back home to enjoy an oat milk decaf latte (that’s my fav!)and a freshly made energy ball. Both infused with a drop of CBD oil, which is said to help improve mood and reduce symptoms of pain. Also while your there check out the array of fabulous art for sale and get yourself a sage smudging stick to help raise funds for us! As the very kind owner is stocking a few meditation type items to help us raise some funds during these tricky times. 

Make your own shrine

I know it might sound grand this one! But I live in a two bed terrace with two other people and a dog and have still managed to sneak mini shrines all over the house! My main two shrines are in the bathroom and the garden. Just think of a shrine space as a space for you to find some peace. Place a few objects that bring you joy or inspiration for wellness. Maybe a nice candle. An image you love. Your journal. A chocolate bar! Have fun, meditation can be fully enjoying the experience of letting a piece of chocolate melt on your tongue as you tune in to the experience of all your senses as you enjoy it! 

Be a Perma Person

What the heck?! I know right! I’d never heard of this before I watched this great zoom session with Martin Seligman, a master on positive psychology and research into well-being, with Action For Happiness, click here to watch the full interview for FREE. In which Martin describes a perma person are people who make your day! Those kind people that give you a big smile. The friend who leaves a tub of vegan ice-cream on your doorstep (it happened to me! I have great friends!). The stranger who paid for my coffee when my card was declined. But that person. The world needs more of that. 

Do nothing.

No-thing. Nothing. When was the last time you truly did nothing? Just pause in the present moment. Feel your feet on the floor. See whatever you can see around you. Hear all the sounds that come and go, near and far. Notice any smells passing by. Any taste in your mouth. Feel a sense of melting in the body, softening, easing, letting go, like ice melting into water, releasing any holding, any tension in the jaw, the forehead, the shoulders. Stop the ‘doing’ and come back to ‘being’. Rest in present moment awareness. 

What have you been up to?

Tell us how you get on trying these and let us know what you’ve been up to for your own self-care, we want to try it! It will also really help us to plan our own un-pause if you could fill in this short questionnaire. Read more about un-pausing here.

Connect with us

Paused

By Gemma Bowden
Director at The Owl and The Coconut

Remember when our lives were flipped upside down? When we were encouraged to be out and about, buying this and that, going here and there, defining our lives by the things we do and the places we go to! When out of nowhere came a life-threatening virus, stretching across the globe bringing fear and uncertainty to us all. Forcing us to stay at home. To pause. To stop.

Oh wait, we are still in the midst of this global pandemic that has changed all of our lives quite possibly forever! How are you coping with this? Have you noticed any instinctive fight, flight or freeze responses?

Why have we paused?

At The Owl and The Coconut we froze, well we had to, suddenly we could no longer run our mindful art sessions; face-to-face groups of lovely people, like we love to do! All the amazingness of The Nest just vanished! No more yoga, gong baths or meditation classes together, in an instant it was gone. 

During this lockdown I have found it’s only when I have truly stopped I have been gifted the space to really notice. Notice my habitual thought processes, addicted to planning and the love of ‘doing’. Noticing the pull towards finding loads of new lockdown hobbies. Noticing how difficult it is to actually, truly Stop. 

I saw an inspiring post from Guy, the director of Riverford (organic farm and food delivery) about the need to simplify. It really hit home. It’s easy for any organisation, any person, to get pulled in all directions, to try to please all of the people all of the time, at the risk of spreading ourselves too thinly… Mission drift. In hindsight I can see I was falling into this trap myself. Overstretched and overloaded. Excited and running in too many different directions. Always trying to find balance, but never quite getting the sense I was hoping for. Due to juggling too many things. This pause was much needed. Time and space to practice the selfcare mission that I preach to a greater personal depth, to Stop and to Notice. 

My husband has just turned to me and said, “What are you doing?”
“I’m writing a blog post about pausing,” I said.
“Writing about pausing is not pausing.” he said. 

Ha! I know. I can see the irony! I’m in the trap of ‘doing’ whilst writing about the trap of ‘doing’! And with the extended spaces between time that this lockdown has illuminated for me, I can see this trap everywhere. I love work! I get pulled into ‘doing’ it for hours. In a cycle of boom and bust. Excitement and exhaustion.

This lockdown time at first was a welcomed break. I needed to pause. To rest. To reset. I’m lucky to have remained healthy and on the whole, happy, during this time. Now I feel like the bud of a flower beginning to get ready to reopen, but aware of opening to a changed world and changed self. 

My mission is to create opportunities for people to access the calm expansive space they have within themselves. To teach people simple, creative, mindful tools to Stop. Notice. Create. So they can access all they need to make positive changes in the world. A ripple effect. The way I see it, the more mindful, calm, creative, healthy, happy people we have in the world, the better the world will be for all. And that’s my dream. And my tiny part in this massive dream.

Being isolated during lockdown I really had time to reflect on how the gathering together of people is at the heart of all we do at The Owl and The Coconut. I heard Bob Roth, the CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, on Russell Brand’s Podcast, Under The Skin, saying that the connections for increasing the levels of health and wellbeing in each other magnifies when we join together. How amazing is that?! By just being together in meditation we improve our well-being! And there’s evidence that these positive vibrations ripple out into our community around us! 

So how do we do this during these uncertain times of social distancing? Zoom is now a word people are as familiar with as bread! And live video streams on Facebook and Instagram are popping up everywhere. I’ve particularly been enjoying Deva Premal and Miten daily chanting live streams via Instagram. And even though I’m sat wearing earpods chanting on my own, I do not feel alone. I have felt a strong connection with the hundreds, thousands of people, across the world, people I have never met, people who are also viewing online, live, in the moment, spiritually together, but physically apart.

Is this the new normal? Connecting together online? And if so, is that ok? Can we develop a great sense of connection together, whilst physically being alone? Is this the best way to “Stay Safe” and “Stay Alert” at this time? For now? It feels like a whole new world to navigate. 

What’s next after being paused?

At The Owl and The Coconut we are unsure when we will be able to welcome people back to our mindful art sessions at The Nest in the near future. We’ve thought long and hard about how we can adapt our sessions and work online, to make it as meaningful as possible, creating real opportunities for people to enhance their levels of health and happiness, together, whilst physically apart. 

Our mission has not changed. The changes are that we have simplified; returning to our core of Mindful Art. Simple guided meditations with playful messing about with art to relax, unwind and make space for selfcare. And, for now, we are moving from face to face to online courses and classes. The future is uncertain, but it always was. All we have is the ‘now’, and that is all that we need. Eckhart Tolle has been teaching us this for years! 

Well, that’s my experience of being paused; how has lockdown been for you? Have you tried any self-care classes or courses online? I’d love to hear about how you’ve been getting on, if you have a minute or two to tell us through this short questionnaire, it will really help us at The Owl and The Coconut as we plan our gradual un-pause and future online health and happiness classes and courses. To be first to hear about them click here and join our mailing list.

Fancy trying some self-care at home? Read my blog post about what I’ve been up to to make sure I continue to promote good health and wellbeing!

Mindful eating in lockdown

Until recently I was completing a 12-week, group-based, NHS supported programme to lose weight for health reasons. I’m technically obese, asthmatic and have other minor weight-related health issues. In the last month I have reduced my calorie intake, been walking more and attending sessions such as Aquacise at the local pool and was feeling quite positive and motivated.

The COVID-19 \ Coronavirus pandemic has meant that these activities have been disrupted, even just with a reduction in activities and before social distancing \ self-isolation / lockdown due to the pandemic. Obviously we don’t know to what degree our diets will be affected or for how long, but potential home isolation, heightened anxiety or depression, changes in routine and a lack of variety of food types are likely to impact attempts at weight loss.

At The Owl and The Coconut we try to accept ourselves as we are and reduce absorption of external opinions about weight loss. Over Christmas 2019 at the Book Club we read body positivity activist Megan Janye Crabbe aka @bodyposipanda‘s book,  that diets more often than not impossible, and that diet culture is a thing of the past.

We can be fit and happy at any body size, and Megan believes that diet culture is ‘just a marketing spin to make us feel bad and consume more, setting us up to fail and living on a never ending hamster wheel to self-acceptance – something that you just can’t buy’. However, some of us aren’t or don’t feel healthy, and the good thing about the programme I was on was that it was about making small, sustainable changes for our health. Our society may also have been the root cause of overeating, which isn’t healthy.

One thing that can help and doesn’t rely on an external world (obviously apart from being able to get some food in the first place!) is mindful eating, a way to try to change how you think about and go about eating in itself, a form of mindfulness that has been shown to be an effective technique to help gain control eating habits and disorders, reduce binge eating, help weight loss and the best one, improve experiences of enjoyment! It can definitely help to create better relationships with food and healthy weight loss.

So what is mindful eating?

You may have heard of the raisin technique, a practice that is part of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. It involves placing yourself somewhere free from distractions, and exploring a raisin or other small berry with all your senses and a “beginner’s mind”, as though you’d never experienced one before. Eventually you would place the raisin in your mouth (which is where the eating bit comes into it!) but eating can be so much more before chewing, and we’ve become accustomed not to even take notice of food anymore, despite our propensity to make it so tasty and varied.

Getting into the habit of mindful eating isn’t always easy after years of living in a fast-paced society, mindlessly eating, but practise can mean that eventually it is second nature and you could start implementing mindful eating habits with more meals. You could perhaps start with just mindfully eating one meal a day, just snacks or foods with high salt or sugar content. You’ll also find that if you’re rationing food, mindful eating can make eating much more enjoyable and memorable! When you are trying to cut down on something (or scarecity requires it), savouring becomes almost a neccessity. You could also save money and find that you eat much less generally. It can have benefits for anyone, not just those with weight issues.

Some key points about mindful eating:

  • Your brain can take up to 20 minutes to register its fullness, so eating more slowly is an important part of mindful eating and can help to prevent overeating.
  • Appreciation of your food, particularly if you took time to make it, is also key. Appreciation could even start during preparation!
  • Eating without distraction can also help to promote mindfulness – try ceasing conversations and bringing your attention away from the TV for example, and focussing on your food.
  • You should also try to pay attention to your physical fullness-hunger cues, eating only until you’re full and not beyond that, and honing you ability to distinguish between physical hunger as opposed to more psychological triggers for eating.
  • Allowing time for more engagement of your senses by paying more attention to the food itself; noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures and flavours for example.
  • You may find that you feel differently about something after eating it more slowly and mindfully, for example noticing how sugary it feels in the body.

Mindful eating challenge

Say you wanted to mindfully eat a chocolate biscuit (one of my favorite snacks). First eliminate all distractions by turning off the TV and putting down your phone further away so you can eat in silence or with quiet music on, and then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does the biscuit look like? Does it have a pattern? What colours is it made up from when you turn it towards the light?
  • Close your eyes if you want to.
  • What texture is it? How does it feel in the hand? If you break it, what happens to it?
  • What does it smell like? Do you like it? What does it remind you of? Does each side smell different?
  • Lick it… What does it it taste like? Is it different than the smell? Can you sense different ingredients?
  • Take a tiny bite…. How does it feel on your teeth? How does it break down when you hold it on your toungue and move it around?
  • Chew thoroughly and slowly… What does it feel like? How sweet is it?
  • Take a breath or a drink between every other bite.
  • Tune in to how the food makes you feel and any physiological changes in your body.
  • Stop eating when you’re full.
  • How do you feel immediately after, or 20 minutes later?
  • After doing this regularly for a few weeks, do you notice a change in how you feel about this particular food? Is there anything you’d like to add or suggest? Let us know on our Facebook page or in the comments below!

Hopefully you will experience some benefits from mindful eating, and can spread the idea to your loved ones, to get you all really enjoying your food! The raisin practice is part of the MBSR course and occasionally some other The Owl and The Coconut online classes – check them out on the Classes and Courses page.

Further reading: 13 tips to stop mindless eating

Author: Lucie Fitzpatrick, freelance marketing consultant.
Date: March 20, 2020

The Owl and The Coconut Self-Care Team Share Event

We invited all our volunteers, staff and associate freelancers to come along to a special Team Time at The Nest event that was kindly funded by HOUR Manchester to share a memory, hobby, activity or skill that they love with the team in any way they chose; something that sparks joy within them and enhances their wellbeing. They could demonstrate through hands-on, “show, tell and try” or a more formal presentation, whatever they felt most comfortable with. The aim was to share and empower others to try new things or get involved with something new.

After the Team Time, the team headed for local pub The Blue Bell Inn for a hearty Sunday Roast. This provided more time for some unstructured sharing! The impact for the team overall was a general consensus of feeling closer to each other, learning and growth through being able to share something important to them.

Team member: Pam – Circle Time Sharing

Pam just returned from maternity leave and felt that she really needed to reconnect with the team, so she hoped that sharing the activity of ‘Circle Time’ would provide the chance to do that. Circle Time is often used in schools and youth groups to enable young people to get to know each other better and become accustomed to sharing their feelings. Pam’s share time was first activity of the day, and it helped to loosen up the group and feel warmed up for sharing and receiving.

Each person held a cuddly pig as they shared. Lauren thought Pam’s activity choice was apt given her openness for dialogue; to present a question and delight in each answer. One question required each team member to say something that they liked about the person next to them, which was enlightening and inviting when people weren’t so familiar with each other, and heart warming and empowering when they were, pointing out how other’s actions, support or even just their personality traits had affected them personally, in a positive way. Perhaps such openness should be more present in daily life – or just part of every Team Time!

“I love getting to know people better and about their lives , not just talking about work stuff, and because I’m nosey! [I liked] just having time together and not having to focus on a particular task or piece of work. Yet mindfulness and art were still very present, despite us not having to use them directly for the presentations.”

Team member: Lucie – Life through a lens

After Pam had warmed the group into a atmosphere, Lucie set up a projector to share a selection of “urban photography”. Sharing why she loves photography – the message in general was to take notice; to capture moments; to see in different ways. She thinks it is important, to see the world around you rather than being too absorbed in tasks or thoughts all the time. To stop, to notice and to create!

As well as a projector presentation showing images and things to look out for when out taking photographs (or simply all day, every day!), Lucie brought printed photographs, mostly square prints of pictures edited on and taken directly from her Instagram account. This allowed the team to see them in a different format, touch them and see the richness of the colours. She talked the group through looking out for things such as weather, times of day, layers and point of view to create an interesting image and perhaps a new perspective. Most importantly – explore! Keep your eyes peeled; you can always crop later! And never hesitate or feel embarrassed to take a photograph.

“I’m one of the newest team members and often work in isolation with a focus to get things done, so it was great to meet with people I don’t know very well yet. The presentations gave me a window to peek into their lives and what matters to them. I enjoyed the mix of subjects and how they were shared, I loved trying a new art form led by Lauren – I’m always keen to try something where I have to let go! I also liked documenting the day through photography and hearing about Jess’ emerging wild and wise womanhood!”

Team member: Jess – Finding the plot

Jess shared her ideas and plans with the group for a double allotment space from which she wants to not only grow plants, herbs and vegetables, but also run community events around creativity, eco-friendliness and sustainability, perhaps some in partnership with The Owl and The Coconut potentially called “Finding the Plot”. Jess’ enthusiasm and passion for the project was clear because of how she talked about her ideas for workshops and events (such as the recycled plastic art workshops she has planned at The Nest) from the plot and her collection of photos in a digital journal. She also talked about the growth she has experienced as a woman and as a person and how her activities and experiences are aligning with the plans for the space. She wanted to share it with the group because she believes it is something that could potentially “be amazing and benefit all”, and she wanted to gauge enthusiasm and energy from others about it.

“I absolutely just love being in the building. The Nest is a lovely environment to be in, with its beautiful high windows. There’s nothing better than coming to a place amongst a group of likeminded and mindful lovelies, which in turn brings me serenity and comfort knowing I’m in a safe environment. It gave me a snippet into my fellow colleagues’ lives, a fraction of the hobbies shared with us, it was mindfully inspiring. It topped any team minutes I’ve ever attended. I loved learning more about other team members, I’ve never done that in the workplace, though this seems far from your usual workplace.”

Team member: Gemma – REFLECTION ON AN IMPORTANT TIME OF LIFE

Gemma was next, and she has chosen to share photographs and memories of her 8 or so months travelling and living in Thailand during her 20s whilst studying for a BA in Photography. She told us about the people she met and how it had impacted her life since. Her photos of smiling faces and foreign lands painted a rich picture of her friendships and experiences there. During Pam’s ‘circle time’ Gemma shared how she was at a point in her life now when her favourite place to be is at home spending time with her son, husband and dog, chatting and watching TV, and that though she enjoyed experience living in a place that has a slower pace of living learning how she might be able to do that here, she is content with her life and doesn’t feel an urge to travel anymore because she loves her home and area she lives.
She said she chose this to so she could share with the team an experience in her life that was important to her. “It influenced my interest in meditation, creativity and living life in the ‘middle lane’; the Buddhist idea of the middle path or equanimity.” Lauren loved seeing Gemma’s treasured photography paper box, filled with a collection of photos and tokens; shareable memories from an incredible adventure. Jess is keen to visit Thailand, so was really interested to hear about the country.

Gemma said the special Team Time helped her to feel closer to the group. She particularly enjoyed hearing people tell what they appreciated about each other and found it heartwarming.

“It was lovely to see everyone lighting up when sharing their interests and passions and good to share time outside of ‘work’ mode.”

Team member: Lauren – Letting go of control with MINDFUL painT play

Last, but by no means least, Lauren asked us to “let go”. Despite being mainly a digital artist since getting her first drawing tablet more than a decade ago, getting her hands into paint and chalk and ink has been one of Lauren’s favourite feelings for as long as she can remember. Generally working with “tidier materials” and enjoying the abundance of control that digital art allows, the way that Lauren works rarely allows space for play.

She chose to share “fluid art” with The Owl and The Coconut family for Team Time not because it’s intentionally Mindful Art, but because it’s a kind of messy and playful art that just happens to also be mindful – and one that she’s grown fond of. She discovered when she started researching acrylic pouring techniques last year, that it is a satisfying way of playing whilst making something that always ends up with a great result but is also messy, and – as much as you can try – it’s pretty uncontrollable.

“I find helps to break me out of the structure of the way I usually work. It’s a kind of art-making that you have to be patient for, that you can guide but mostly develops on its own, and that often uncovers all sorts of secrets and happy accidents as the paint mixes and shifts and settles. I knew that even if we went in with the exact same colours on the exact same coasters we’d all end up with results as individual as we are, and end up with a lovely little souvenir as well.”

“Just like the coasters, everyone at The Nest is wonderfully individual too, but also – somehow – crafted from the same materials. A bright streak of kindness and compassion here, a whorl of sparkling creativity there, all layered on top of our own palettes of personality and knowledge and passions, which pull together to complement each other in a collaborative exhibition; one that hadn’t been planned or intended, but happened naturally – and a bit like it was meant to happen all along.”
She relished the opportunity to find out a little more about the team, to share and learn something more about each other throught individual ways of visualising, collecting, and sharing information.

“Just like each colour we used in our acrylic paint pours, we as a team all found each other and added something new and unique to the canvas that is The Owl and The Coconut – I think that Team Time was a great reminder of that.”


Thanks to MACC’s HOUR Manchester for enabling us to have such a wonderful Self-Care Team Time! If you’re interested in The Owl and The Coconut, read about our work here!

Are you wondering “What can I do if my new year’s resolutions fail”?

Did you make a new year’s resolution for 2020? How are you getting on with it? Have you “failed” yet? Well if so, you’re not alone! According to U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate for new year’s resolutions is said to be about 80%! With most people giving up by mid-February (Inc 2019).

What was your new year’s resolution?

According to You.Gov the UK’s top 3 are all focused on health:

  • More exercise/improving fitness
  • Losing weight
  • Improving diet

Health and fitness

Megan’s Book

Well, we agree with body positivity activist Megan Janye Crabbe aka @bodyposipanda that diets more often than not! Diet culture is a thing of the past: we can be fit and happy at any body size! Members of our Health and Happiness Bookclub have all agreed to sign Megan’s pledge to stop dieting and step away from body shaming; of others and ourselves. Check out Megan’s fab book: ‘Body Positive Power’ to learn more about how she believes that diet culture is just marketing spin to make us feel bad and consume more, setting us up to fail and living on a never ending hamster wheel to self-acceptance – something that you just can’t buy.

Kindness cross stitch made in Mindful Textiles

Which brings me to what I believe to what I believe could be the most radical and perhaps easiest-to-stick-to new year’s resolution of them all, the one simple word: Kindness. I know… “kindness”, sounds fluffy and wet, right? Like “f@@k it just eat what you like!”. Well actually, kindness might just be that one word of the year we could just stick to. Kindness might be the little door to big change. Kindness might be the voice that whispers “if you do go on that run now you’ll feel ace later when you rest into that warm soothing bath.” Eat that cake, take that dance class, give yourself a break! Because it’d be kind to. And kindness is the key to self-acceptance and meaningful change.

We learned from the amazing psychotherapist and meditation teacher Tara Brach in our November bookclub read ‘Radical Acceptance’ that the recipe for health and happiness is:

Tara Brach
  • Mindfulness: clear seeing, alongside;
  • Compassion: the capacity to relate with kindness to what we perceive.

She describes Mindfulness and Compassion as “two wings of the same bird, meaning that to fly you need both: mindful-awareness and kindness-compassion.”

the best part? Kindness is contagious!

“The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.” This means one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people!” Says Jamil Zaki, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University for Scientific American.

Key Kindness dates for your diary

Monday 20th January: Blue Monday – be extra kind to everyone on this day, starting with yourself! Notice your first thought – was it somehow unkind to yourself or someone else? Challenge it! How con you make it kind?

Saturday 17th Feb: Random Acts of Kindness Day – a great day to act on our Feb Kindness Club deed!

Friday 13th November – International Kindness Day – Kindness around the world? Yay!

by Gemma Bowden, CEO (Chief Energy Officer), The Owl and the Coconut, 16th January, 2020


The Owl and The Coconut

The Nest: Wellness Centre

Creative arts and Wellness Centre

We are delighted to have set up home in the beautiful 1900s Carnegie building of Levenshulme Old Library in Manchester, where we host our Mindful Meditation and Mindful Art courses, events and workshops. We also have an amazing bunch of Nest members who share their great work at The Nest creative arts and wellness centre too! Come and have a look around and learn more about what’s happening at The Nest at our open day Sunday 22nd September 11am-5pm, as part of Levenshulme Jumble Trail. Find us on Cromwell Grove, M19 3QE or have a look around in this virtual tour now!

Here are a few of the fab people and wellness experiences on offer here at The Nest:

MASSAGE THERAPY

Fancy a massage? Then Simone Tunney, Massage Therapist from Olympians Lounge is your woman! Simone is an award-winning Massage Therapist and I can personally confirm that her massages are absolutely amazing! Simone says: “I’m here to inspire you to prioritise your wellness and boost your strength, so that you can continue in whatever you wish to succeed in, the right way!”

HEALING GONG BATHS

Have you ever had a Gong Bath? Don’t worry, you won’t have to take your clothes off! We are delighted to host monthly gong baths from the amazing Martyn Cawthorne at Gong Spa, who says: “Hi I’m Martyn. I’m a qualified gong practitioner having completed a 1-year gong course at the College of Sound Healing.

I offer large, group gongs baths at various venues around Manchester and Cheshire. Gong baths are wonderful for your well-being, a completely unique way to spend an hour or so in harmonic luxury, enveloped by frequencies that can stimulate profound inner journeys and awakenings. I’ve been a musician and meditator for over 25 years and my passions are of sounds, silence and sharing.” 

LIFE COACHING AND PSYCHOLOGICAL THERAPIES

Is your life on track? Could you do with some impractical support to help you life your best life?! We have a number of fab therapists and a life coach at the nest ready to offer you the help you need. There’s life coach lucy from brighter prospects who says; “My name is Lucy Bull and I am a certified life coach and founder of Brighter Prospects Coaching.

I completed my formal qualification as a personal performance coach with The Coaching Academy, which is the world’s leading coach training provider. My background is in technical arts and I have been practicing mindfulness for the last eight years. Balancing practicality, creativity, focus and compassion, I offer personally tailored coaching sessions that facilitate positive life changes. Whether there is a goal to accomplish or an obstacle to overcome, I can support you in navigating the most effective path to beneficial results.”

There’s also psychotherapist Nina Bradshaw who says: “I have been on my own psychotherapy journey, and I understand how challenging life can seem at times, and how therapy can help. I can offer a listening ear, a place for you to reflect, to feel heard, and together we can look at the things that cause you pain. Perhaps in the safe space of the therapy relationship, you can start to make some sense of the things you struggle with and begin to find a way to move forward and into a more fulfilled and enjoyable life.”

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Alex Linley, therapist, says “I’m dedicated to creating a stigma-free and non-judgemental environment in which individuals may access personal therapy.”

nvcDo you use your voice as a tool for work? Then Northern Voice Collective (NVC) could be a great shout for you! (Get it?!). NVC is a team of experienced professionals, dedicated to delivering quality voice and performance training via 1-2-1 sessions, drop-in classes and workshops. Offering regular, affordable training in: Vocal technique, Accents, Text, and can help you with a big audition, to build vocal confidence before a big presentation or nail that Bolton native with a hint of the Kiwi accent! They host voice workshops at The Nest every month. Click here to book. 

For the creative in you, fancy Life Drawing? Join Lisa at Levenshulme Life Drawing. Who says this class is “for experienced & novice artists alike, this relaxed arty social is a chance to use your chosen medium to capture the ultimate subject: an actual human person. Pencils & paper are provided, however feel free to bring the materials you like to work with. There’s no bar, but you are more than welcome to BRING YOUR OWN BOOZE (BYOB), interlude snackage and a Jazzy Jazz playlist included. To book email levenshulmelifedrawing@outlook.com 

Essential Oil Mixing

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Emma from Essentially Emma says: “I’m here to share how essential oils can improve you and your family’s overall wellness.”

 

Hire the nest

Are you looking for lovely and affordable space for hire in Levenshulme for your health or arts business’ next session or event? We are now taking bookings from freelancers, businesses and groups looking to run wellness or arts workshops, wellbeing groups or one to one counselling sessions at The Nest creative arts and wellness centre​.

We have a beautiful group room, 1-2-1 room and a meeting room to hire – visit this form for more info or get in touch at owlandcoconut@gmail.com

 

The Owl and The Coconut Turns Five!

Mindful Art in Manchester

2019 marks our 5 year anniversary at The Owl and The Coconut and we couldn’t be happier! We have been sharing Mindful Art in Manchester for over five years! To celebrate this milestone we have a brand new shiny logo and here’s a sneak peek!

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Although we are sad to say goodbye to our old cute owl and wonky coconut logo, fear not they are still at the heart of all we do and will still be popping up at our events. We feel our new logo reflects our growth, we are maturing, we are growing up and we are celebrating our achievements with a splash of gold!


5 years of Mindful Art

When we first started out, not many people had heard of mindful art but now it seems to be everywhere! We believe that what sets us apart from the rest is our social impact, how we help and invest in people to help reduce stress and increase levels of health and happiness for social good.

Our most successful way of doing this is our Mindful Art Practice 8 week Course MAPS. Where we take people on a creative healing journey. Each week we stop to explore the work of a different artist. We use meditation to notice our thoughts, feelings and automatic reactions and we use mindful art to create new neurological pathways to move from auto pilot reactions to creative mindful responses. Regaining power and steering our lives the way we choose, building our networks, confidence and connections to common humanity along the way.

The organisation is lead by Gemma and Pam who are qualified therapists supported by our amazing team of dedicated and passionate freelancers and volunteers who all have first hand experience of the benefits of mindful art. Working together to share mindfulness and creativity to increase health and happiness for all! 

Connections

Over the last five years we have shared mindful art with  thousands of people! Taking to the streets to meet people where they are including festivals, markets and even bus-stops! 

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Last year saw us move into our first home: The Nest in Levenshulme Old Library where we have been able to put down roots, grow plants and build a network for health and wellness with like minded souls.

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                The Nest at Levenshulme Old Library Manchester

We have partnered with charities and big organisations including DePaul UK,  Mind and Manchester Art Gallery. We have shared mindful art at Manchester’s first ever Mindful Living Show and the Science and Industry Museum as part of their Cultural Late special exploring the connection between Health and Art. What amazing experiences they were!

We have received support and funding from the Big Lottery, The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Greater Manchester Mental Health Service NHS, Manchester City Council, Santander and the School Of Social Entrepreneurs.  We have also had invaluable help from Lucie at Salford University, who has lead us on creating our new logo and refining our use of social media to support and share our work.  

Impact: Social Value

Along the way we’ve stopped to ask people about their levels of wellbeing using an evidenced based measure called WEMWEBS. and we have been blown away to see the increase in health and happiness reported back to us. It’s said that an increase of 3 points marks a significant increase in wellbeing. The average that we have had reported by people who attended our 8 week courses is 6 and we couldn’t be prouder!

Louise says: “The Mindful Art Practice course changed my life. It took me from being stuck in living in my head to the happiness of living in my heart.” Read Louise’s full story in her blog post here

We were stopped in our tracks when Local GP Dr Arora from Ashcroft Surgery knocked on our door and said “What is The Owl and The Coconut and how have you been helping so many of my patients?!”. Since that day we have been working with Dr Arora to help more and more people join our Mindfulness course to regain power over their health and happiness! Taking time to evaluate the impact of our work on peoples wellbeing. 

What’s Next?

As we reflect on the last five years and plan for the next, we have big ambitions! We want to begin to train people to deliver our Mindful Art Practice Course so that we can share this with more and more people!

To do this we are working closely with Dr Arora to bring together the evidence of our work and linking up with YMCA Central in London who have amazing ambitions in their Eudaimonia supported by Charles Leadbeater; a leading authority on innovation and creativity.  We are continuing to work to break down mental heath stigma and make tools for health and happiness available in every day settings for positive social impact and world change. If we were all a bit more mindful, creative and happy,  wouldn’t the world be a better place? We certainly think so!

Join us!

If you’d like to join us to try Mindful Art we have taster sessions coming up click here  to book and come and have a try for yourself. You don’t have to be good at art or to have ever meditated before! All you need to bring is your self!

To have a chat get in touch via social media or email us at
owlandcoconut@gmail.com

My journey from being in my head to my heart …..

 

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Mandala Mindful Art by Louise. Original illustration made for The Owl and The Coconut by Lauren Kelly.

 

By Louise

Growing up I was a shy and introverted child, who was very self-conscious. Entering my twenties, I was diagnosed with depression and had developed anorexia. Luckily for me I had a supportive GP who helped me to start to eat, but battling my thoughts was so much harder.

Throughout my adult life I was absorbed with believing myself to not be enough. I had various episodes of crippling anxiety and depression. I tried everything to fix me-under eat, over exercise, moved jobs and home, too much alcohol, no alcohol and so on… nothing helped. As a nurse, the only time I felt worthwhile was with my patients – I was being further depleted emotionally and physically. At home, an episode of domestic abuse confirmed for me my feelings of worthlessness.

Continue reading “My journey from being in my head to my heart …..”