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Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan Coaching, Training and Consulting

[email protected] Tel.0868373582



When I am contemplating something or have learned something worth sharing I will post it here.

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Claustrophobia and Other Fears.

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on September 21, 2018 at 3:55 AM Comments comments (0)


Recently, I have been working with the service users in the Irish Wheelchair Association Navan branch, teaching Mindfulness, funded by the LMETB Community Education Service. The subject of dealing with upcoming stressful events was a topic of discussion as most of the class has fears about hospital appointments such as blood tests, MRIs and other tests. I had to have an MRI myself last month so, I had a good understanding of what they were talking about. I too had to prepare myself as like many people I am somewhat claustrophobic.

My claustrophobia all started when as I child I would hide under beds and in cupboards when I became overwhelmed by the noise and hustle and bustle of a house with 7 people, and one cat, living in it. On one occasion I got locked in a cupboard that had no lock on the inside, only to be found by my sister who happened to open the door, and on two other occasions I got stuck under a bed and caused myself to have panic attack. At the time, it always seemed like I had been missing for hours but I was regularly amazed, when I returned to the land of the living, that no one had even noticed I was gone. I am sure now, it was probably only 20 minutes but to me, then, it seemed like hours. Unfortunately, these experiences caused me to dread feeling helpless as, at the time, my cries for help fell on deaf ears (or so it appeared to me) and they also triggered feelings of claustrophobia.

As I got older I challenged myself to face my fears. I am fine in lifts, I have been in mines, caves, scary dark theme-park rides and have crawled under cars and into small spaces attempting to repair things or rescue animals, as the case may be. It took me by great surprise when one day during a meditation I had a flash back akin to being buried but which was actually me being trapped under a bed. In hindsight I realise now this was a by-product of some work I had been doing on myself in relation to asking for help and I guess my clever, old unconscious mind thought it would be good to create a scenario where the only solution I could think of was to be saved by someone else digging me up – ‘Oh insert expletive here’. (I have since come up with several other imaginative ways of getting out of being buried alive, by the way).

I had mostly forgotten about it but when the MRI appointment came around I started to get more and more panicked about being in the machine and feeling trapped. It came to a head when one night in bed, I started to panic, and I knew if I didn’t do something I would end up having a panic attack. First, I noticed my breath and made an effort to slow my breathing down. I looked around the room to ground myself in my surroundings, the cream paint on the walls, the blue carpet, the feeling of the duvet against my skin. As I started to relax, I lay flat again, I had sat up as I was afraid to lie down with the heavy feeling pressing against my chest. I turned to face my husband and I focused on his face as I allowed the moment to pass and my body and brain return to safety. Once I had calmed down it wasn’t long before I was able to return to sleep again, all the while reassuring myself that I was safe, and this was all in my mind.

The next day I set about fixing this so that I could have my MRI without fear or panic. I used self-hypnosis to put myself into a relaxed state and I ran through in my mind what the day of the MRI would be like. I saw each part, breakfast, the journey to the clinic, filling in the form, the canula in my arm, the tunnel and of course heard the sound that so many people dread. At every opportunity I mentally rehearsed feeling safe and calm, each time my mind wandered to fear I focused on the present and came back to now. I reminded myself it was ok to feel helpless but, on this occasion, I wouldn’t be. I’d have an alarm in my hand, the radiographer would be there, and my lovely husband, James, would be waiting outside. I practiced every day right up to the day of the MRI. When the day came, I was calm. When I lay down and went into the machine, I noticed my surroundings, the grey stripe on the ceiling of the machine, the coolness of the air, the weight of the cage across my body. Rather than trying to block out the sound, like most people do, I listened. I noticed the change in beeps and knocks. I counted them in-between the instructions to breath. I noticed my breath, my thoughts, and before I knew it, it was over, what was supposed to take forty minutes only took twenty.

As I told this story to the service users in the IWA one of them started to laugh as she realised that what she usually did, on occasions like this, was she planned to ‘freak out’. As we all laughed, the others understood, as they all knew they were in the habit of doing the same. Rather than thinking of how they wanted it to be, they were focusing on how bad it could be, how scared they might be, and what could possibly go wrong. They also realised they often felt ok during any tests but had never thought to prepare to be ok before and after, and especially whilst they waited.

In the moment it can be difficult to deal with a flood of emotions, Mindfulness and flooding techniques help but planning to cope is much better. The next time you are faced with a challenging upcoming event, then plan to cope, mentally rehearse it so that you know you can and will be safe.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment or ask questions and if you want to get in touch email [email protected],com or phone 00353868373582.

I hope our paths cross again in the future,



I'm Back

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on September 7, 2018 at 3:15 AM Comments comments (0)

After taking a number of weeks off, I've been back to teaching for the past three weeks. I had the pleasure of delivering Senior Prefect Training on Leadership as well as TY Induction in Scoil Mhuire Trim. I'm back at the Irish Wheelchair Association in Navan teaching Mindfulness and Relaxation on Wednesdays and Thursdays funded by the LMETB Community Education Service and I'll be speaking at the St. Michael's Loreto Navan Health week on the 17th of September. Keep an eye out for my 8 week Mindfulness course starting in Beaufort College Navan Tuesdays 7-9pm. This is open to the public and you can book with the college. As always I am open for coaching clients. I'll be back writing more regular blog posts from next week, although I am going back to do some part-time study myself so they may not be weekly. Have a lovely weekend, Elfreda

The Art Of Loving Kindness

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on July 12, 2018 at 3:50 AM Comments comments (1)

‘Loving-kindness and compassion are the basis for wise, powerful, sometimes gentle, and sometimes fierce actions that can really make a difference -- in our own lives and those of others.’ Sharon Salzberg

Back in 2015 when I decided to rename my business, as I moved more into the areas of coaching and meditation instruction and away from teaching drama and performance, I took some time to choose a name that resonated with me and I what I wanted to do. At the time my regular practice was most often that of Loving Kindness. I had attended a Loving Kindness retreat in 2014 and had experienced a profound sense of love for myself and as I gradually expanded my practice to include all beings, I found my ability to forgive others, see them as vulnerable beings (just as I am) and to be more present with their good intentions, I realised how important the practice of Loving Kindness is to me. And so, Metta-morphics emerged, Metta being the Pali word for Loving Kindness. Now over four years since that retreat Loving Kindness is still one of my favourite practices and the one to which I always return in difficult times.

My first experience of Metta was listening to a guided meditation by Tara Brach many years ago and from there I went on to read Sharon Salzberg’s book Loving Kindness. Being quite rule bound I decided to follow the recommended instruction of practicing just for myself for 6 months before moving on to others. This recommendation is especially important for those of us living in the Western world as it is believed we have a hard time with self-hatred and self-loathing and feelings of disconnection due to a lack of community and communal thinking. In the East there appears less of a focus on individuality and so practicing for oneself appears to be less of a challenge for those born there.

The more I practiced the kinder I found myself being towards myself, the quicker I was to forgive my mistakes and the easier it was to see the good intentions of others as I began to realise I didn’t intend to make mistakes or be inconsiderate towards others. Eventually I moved on to including others, strangers, those I had difficulty with and finally all beings. The more I practiced the more content I became and the less bothered I was by the actions of others. It as during this time I went on retreat.

The last day of the retreat involved a practice where we sent Loving Kindness to ourselves at each stage of our lives, starting with birth, moving through childhood, our teens, and different stages of adulthood. During this practice I was overwhelmed with a sense of love for myself. I saw how hard I tried to do my best, how often I had beaten myself up for my mistakes and how even at my most foolish my intentions had always been good. I loved myself more, in that moment, than I ever had, and I felt no sense of shame or embarrassment for doing so. It was in that moment of kindness towards myself that I realised I could see others in the same way and with regular practice help myself to deal with challenges that arose in my life and my feelings when faced with challenging behaviour in others.

I practice Loving Kindness meditation weekly and I often bring it with me throughout my day. It is a simple practice and one which I hope you will find useful.

Begin by bringing to mind a loved one, a person, a pet, someone easy to love, living or dead. Get a sense of them in your mind, a picture, a feeling, whatever works for you. Feel and connect to that love in your heart (you can place your hand on your heart if you wish). Repeat the following phrases to this individual:

May You Be Safe

May You Be Happy

May You Be Healthy

May You Live with Ease.

Repeat the phrases for a minimum of one minute up to five minutes before moving on. You can adapt the phrases to suit your own specific needs for example: May you Be Free from Suffering, May You Love Yourself as You Are, May You Be at Peace etc. After your chosen duration, move on to yourself, repeating May I Be Safe and so on, or you can continue to say ‘You’ if that feels better. Some people find it easier to say ‘You’ especially if you find the process emotional, which many people do. After sending the Loving Kindness to yourself then move on to a stranger, a person you have a difficulty with and finally all beings.

As you practice you will find your mind will wander, when it does, simply return to the phrases and begin again. Notice your emotions during your practice, you may find it easier to send it to others rather than yourself to begin with, and that is quite normal. When you begin the practice initially it is recommended you do it just for yourself for approximately 6 months. If you find that a challenge you can still begin with loved one before turning the Loving Kindness towards yourself.

As you progress through your day it is nice to wish Loving Kindness to those you meet by repeating one of the phrases in your mind for them. It can also be useful when you find yourself getting frustrated with others. Instead of complaining in your mind, send them Loving Kindness, you’ll be amazed how much you’ll gain from the experience.

I hope you find Loving Kindness as rewarding as I do, feel free to post questions or thoughts in the comments.

Thanks for reading if you have any questions about what I do please get in touch, [email protected], 00353868373582.

I hope our paths cross again in future,


Mind Coach, Meditation Instructor, Trainer

Giving Yourself Permission

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on June 29, 2018 at 2:45 AM Comments comments (0)


Over the past few years I worked with a lot of clients. I am always fascinated how many of them mirror my own experiences and challenges. This leads me to think either one of two things,

1. They are a mirror for my own journey of self-discovery or

2. Everyone is just the same and we all struggle with the same problems and challenges.

I think the truth is, it’s both. The universe has a great way of placing in your path the right lessons at the right moment and underneath all the individual difference we display we really are the same, vulnerable, insecure and just trying to do our best. Over the past few years I have worked with people who don’t feel good enough, you struggle to speak up for themselves, who feel like victims, who think there is something wrong with them, who apologise all the time and who don’t know how to find their inner power, to name but a few. I have struggled with all of these experiences at different points in my life and some of them I am still working on. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a close group of people who accept me as I am, and this has allowed me to own up to my challenges and to admit when I am not doing so well. This is not always the case with clients and so for me as a coach it is important to allow them to be whomever they are in the moment, even if it involves expletives, some of which can get directed at me. I am ok with that, as I work hard at giving them permission to just be, whatever that may be, and when they are ready we work on finding their chosen direction and figuring out what they want.

What I’ve learned from this process is that most people struggle with giving themselves permission to be less than perfect. They may not feel the have to be perfect in every area of their life but there always seems to be some area where they deem their behaviour, or certain behaviours, as not good enough. When this happens, they feel a dissonance with what they think they should do and what they actually need. So, for this weekend I want you to give yourself permission to do, say, feel, be whatever your inner voice says you need, not what you should or what you think makes you a good person or a worthwhile person but what you truly need.

Stay in your pyjamas all day

Stay in bed

Pass on a shower or washing your hair

Wear no makeup

Each the cake

Lie in the sun




Take a day off

Have a takeaway

Leave the dishes in the sink

Let someone visit without cleaning the house

Let the grass grow

Write down all the things that frustrate you and wallow in your frustration for a few minutes

Say what you really think

Be true to your heart’s desire

Do whatever you never give yourself permission do because you think that its not ok, or that other people will judge you for it. The amazing thing is that once you do, the world won’t end, and people will soon forget about whatever you did because they will be too preoccupied with themselves. The important thing about giving yourself permission is acknowledging who you are and what you need. Once you do you’ll find the tiredness soon passes, the tears get less, the anger subsides, and you have the chance to be more present with what is actually happening, rather than trying to live up to some imagined expectation whilst ignoring what your true self actually needs.

So, just for the weekend (but preferably every day) give yourself permission to truly be yourself.

Thanks for reading if you have any questions about what I do please feel fee to get in touch, [email protected], 00353868373582.

I hope our paths cross again in future,


Mind Coach, Meditation Instructor, Trainer

Emotional Stability versus Emotional Flexibility

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on June 22, 2018 at 2:40 AM Comments comments (0)


I came across an interesting podcast recently about emotional stability. (I’ll be posting the link to the podcast on my Facebook page tomorrow). It was an interview with Dr Peter Koval lecturer at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences. In the interview he discusses his research into emotions and how he believes that emotional flexibility is more important than emotional stability. Working with clients one of the key points I try to impress on them is that they are normal, it’s not wrong for them to feel the way they feel, they just need to be able to manage their emotions better. The work of Dr. Koval reinforces this fact.

According to Peter Koval there has been a lot of emphasis, in the field of Psychology, on emotional stability, which is the ability to maintain your emotional state no matter what is happening around you. The reality is however, that those who are good at remaining stable are often in fact experiencing the full gamut of emotions but allowing themselves to experience the emotions and then let it go depending on the situation they are in, and the appropriateness of the emotion. He goes into detail as to why the belief that emotional stability appeared better from a psychological perspective, this was in response to the negative perception neuroticism has in the Big 5 or OCEAN – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extrovert, Agreeableness and Neuroticism – personality traits. The Big 5 is used more now when it comes to personality traits testing rather than those from tests like the Myers Briggs Personality Test.

The problem with looking at emotional stability as a positive quality is that it denies our emotional experience but also contributes to inertia or emotional inflexibility which can be found in individuals who experience depression. This happens when we respond to what’s happening in the environment with the same emotional response, which in the case of experiencing depression is to feel sad, down or hopeless. When we allow ourselves to become more adaptable or flexible then our emotional response becomes more appropriate and also, fluctuates as the situation we find ourselves in changes. Koval gives the example of being able to empathise with a friend when they have experienced loss or tragedy. It would be inappropriate to be happy in this situation and not allow ourselves to feel the depth of the sadness.

When working with clients, I help them to understand that, for them, in a given situation their emotional response is appropriate for what they are feeling, and they should acknowledge it and let it pass. In the extreme end of emotions, if someone is having a panic attack then riding it out or practicing the flooding technique – this involves letting the panic run its course and subside without doing anything to change it – allows the panic to subside much more quickly than if you try to do something to stop it. Clients often feel ashamed for feeling angry or for being upset with someone because they think it’s not ok to experience negative emotions. The truth is they are just emotions and labelling them as positive or negative is not useful. Another way this affects us is when we want to say something but think we can’t and then spend hours going over it in our head and often losing sleep and feeling stressed. By acknowledging an emotion and simply stating that you are feeling a particular way then you give the emotion the chance to peak and then abate, which gives you time to then respond to whatever is happening in the next moment without still feeling sad or angry or frustrated or whatever other emotion you feel.

This is why the practice of Mindfulness is so useful. It allows us to notice how we are feeling and experience it fully, knowing all the while that it will pass. When I teach Mindfulness students often ask me if they will feel happy all the time or never lose their temper if they are Mindful. The answer is no, you always feel whatever you feel, and you may still be angry or sad or excited but instead it will be appropriate to what is happening in the moment. In simple terms, if someone cuts you up in the road you may still think they’re an idiot, but you won’t be still thinking about it hours later and telling everyone you meet in order to maintain this emotional state.

Emotional flexibility allows us to acknowledge and experience our emotions without getting carried away by them or missing out on the good moments because we are still feeling upset about something that happened, hours, days, weeks, months or even years ago.

Thanks for reading. If I can help you with anything please get in touch, [email protected], 00353868373582

I hope our paths cross again in future,


Mind Coach, Meditation Instructor, Trainer

Being Authentic with Yourself

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on June 15, 2018 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (0)


As I sit to write this the rain has arrived after a long dry spell. It’s windy, I got wet whilst walking the dog and no doubt the topic of conversation around Ireland is how great the good weather was and how lucky we were to get it. Of course, if this wet spell lasts, the sunny weather will soon be forgotten as we complain about how bad the Irish summers are and reminisce about the sunny summers we had as children. The weather can be a lesson in Mindfulness, learning to be with things as they are and appreciate each moment, wet, dry, snowy, windy, sunny or whatever weather comes our way. So, what you may ask has this to do with being authentic with yourself? Not a lot probably, but it can teach us about being with whatever arises, knowing it will change and something else will arrive just as quickly.

One of the things I strive to be is the same with everyone, I don’t hide behind my mistakes, I take responsibility for my actions and I’m honest about who I am. However, the more I practice Mindfulness the more aware I have become, that sometimes in an attempt to maintain my happy go lucky state, I sometimes deny myself the experience of my emotions. It can be easy when you begin to notice your changing emotions, to realise how transient they are and how ridiculous they can be, especially when you fall into the trap of believing that your catastrophising or negative self-talk can be true. Seeing through the myths and legends we tell ourselves is important and can allow us to be more present with what is really there, rather than what we imagine to be true. But, does that allow us to be fully present with how we actually feel?

In my attempts to be present, I often talk myself out of my feelings because I know they aren’t real, they come and go like the wind and the rain but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel angry, frustrated or sad sometimes. The real challenge is allowing yourself to be with those less pleasant emotions and acknowledging them to yourself and in my case be ok with the fact that I feel them. For those of you who have worked hard on yourself, who work hard at maintaining the evidence that ‘you’ve got this’ it is also important to allow yourself to be messy and fall apart sometimes. The real challenge for me is knowing how to do this, without falling into the trap of the myth of thinking these feelings are true.

I know I am buying the myth when I am complaining and looking for validation from others, or agreement. You know what this is like, it’s visible in ‘vague bombing’ online, where people post about stuff looking for a reaction from others or hoping they will get a response from their friends that will validate that they have it bad. Feeling and allowing your emotions is not that. For me it’s admitting to myself that I am pissed off or sad and not judging myself for feeling like that because ‘I should know better’. It’s allowing myself to cry, to use some choice expletives quietly to myself and admitting that I am finding things a little hard. I have realised that when I look for validation it’s not that I need another person to tell me that I am right, I need to acknowledge myself and my emotions and not deny them because I am embarrassed that I am human and just as messy and awkward as the next person. When we feel bad we need to simply acknowledge that we are, rather than say we shouldn’t feel like that because we are ungrateful or because other people have it worse or because we are ashamed or feel embarrassed. Simply sit with your feelings, acknowledge them, explore them, tell them to a close friend or loved one if you have to. Try not to tell the story over and over to everyone you meet looking for evidence that you are right to feel like that. Simply feel it, acknowledge that it is there but always remember that just like the sun and the rain, it will soon be gone and replaced by something else. If you are lucky it may be a sunny dry spell that lasts for weeks.

Thanks for reading. If you want more information about my coaching, courses or online programmes then please get in touch.

I hope our paths cross again in future,


Mind Coach, Meditation Instructor, Trainer (and messy human being)


Buidling Self-Esteem Doesn't Work

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on June 1, 2018 at 7:55 AM Comments comments (0)

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Check out my latest video on why self-esteem building doesn't work. If you want to get in touch, email me or give me a call, Elfreda

Handling Unwanted Thoughts

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on May 25, 2018 at 2:10 AM Comments comments (0)

It often amuses me how lessons about life can come from the most random places or how something intended to have one meaning can be extrapolated to have another far more useful, and beneficial one. The strategy I am going to share with you in this post came from a comedy show, hence the photo of ‘The Goldbergs’.

I am not a big watcher of television. I was for many years and before I started practicing Mindfulness I filled my free hours with television, and in my case, often to distract me from the things I didn’t want to deal with or address. Now, I mostly watch television as a shared experience with my husband, we choose what to watch together and I only watch the things that interest me or purely for some light-hearted entertainment. The Goldbergs is one of these choices, mostly because it reminds me of my childhood in the 80s and it makes me laugh.

For those who haven’t seen it you can find out more about it here but in a nutshell it is about a family in the 80s with an overbearing, helicopter ‘smother’, a father who just wants to watch tv in his underpants, 3 children, one of whom narrates the story as an adult and is fixated with movies and making films. The last character is the cool grandad, ‘Pops’ and it is from him that the following pearl of wisdom comes.

In one of the episodes, Beverley, the mother, or ‘smother’, is passive-aggressively manipulating her children in to doing things by making them feel guilty. This ongoing ‘guilt tripping’ is getting Barry and Erica Goldberg down until Pops teaches them a strategy to avoid the guilt, he uses the phrase ‘It’s Not Real, Don’t Feel’. Now, obviously in this context the strategy was to be used to avoid manipulation, but it got me thinking about how I could use it when it came to my thoughts and my worries.

For those of you who have ever experienced worry or anxiety, you will know that the over-thinking about events that have yet to happen or which you feel you have no control over cause a myriad of problems, including sleepless nights, changes in appetite, headaches, heart palpitations, IBS and much more. The feelings of helplessness, or fear of things going wrong, can be overwhelming. I know, I dealt with all of those things, and more, for years. The reality is that the main cause of our worry and anxiety, is our thinking about the problem and our inability to take action to resolve it. The reason I love Mindfulness so much is because it draws attention to this fact and pushes you to make changes in the present moment that will have an influence on future outcomes. However, sometimes the only action we can, or need to, take is to stop the thinking and this is where the Goldbergs comes in.

Since watching the episode with Pops’, ‘Its Not Real, Don’t Feel’ strategy I have adopted it as a mantra when I find I am thinking about things that haven’t happened, might never happen or that are causing me to feel bad unnecessarily. As soon as I notice what I am doing I say to myself ‘It’s Not Real, Don’t Feel’. The problem with our thinking, especially when it is faulty is that we believe our thoughts to be true. We believe we are who we think we are and not someone who has been created through programming, our environment and a series of habits. We believe that we are sure about what other people think of us, especially when it is the bad stuff, and we are certain that what we imagine they will do, or how they will react is correct. The truth is, much of what we imagine will happen, never does because when it comes to our thoughts, ‘It’s Not Real, Don’t Feel’.

The practice of Mindfulness is about learning to let go and deal with what is happening in the present moment rather than drifting into thoughts of the past or future. Sometimes this can be a challenge as it can take time to notice what you are thinking, but also, even if you do, breaking the habit of thinking can be difficult which is why having a new habit, and a new mantra to repeat in your mind, can stop your thinking in it’s tracks, ‘It’s Not Real, Don’t Feel’. We can’t stop our thoughts but can redirect our thinking to new and better thoughts and if nothing else this mantra will make you laugh, as it does me, every time I say it.

Thanks for reading, if I can help you in anyway, get in touch [email protected], 00353868373582.

I hope our paths cross again in future,

Elfreda (Mindfulness Instructor and The Goldbergs viewer, amongst other things).