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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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Mindful Driving

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on May 18, 2018 at 3:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I often get asked by students, how do I incorporate mindfulness into my daily life after I get up from my meditation cushion and finish my daily practice? The reality is that your mindfulness never really leaves you once you start to become more aware, and as time goes on, the less of your time you’ll find that you have slipped into old patterns of ‘mindlessness’. That being said, there are ways in which you can be actively mindful throughout your day and one of my personal favourites is mindful driving.

I practice mindful driving every day and especially on long journeys when I can easily slip into the habits of worry or overthinking. It’s a good idea to set the intention to be mindful at the very start of your journey and start as you mean to go on. Below is a typical journey for me and how I return to mindfulness each time I get distracted or my mind wanders.

As I open the door of the car I remind myself that this is one of my mindfulness practices. I sit in my seat and I pause whilst I adjust to my surroundings. I notice anything that needs to be dealt with, such a frost on the window or a mirror to be adjusted and when I turn on the engine I notice the volume of the radio and decide whether I want it on or off, for this journey. For quite a while, I drove in silence, before choosing to listen to the radio. I liked paying attention to the sounds I would hear and noticing how it changed depending on what type of road I was driving. More recently I’ve adopted easy listening radio, or ‘old-fart’ music as I like to irreverently call it. I like the slower pace of the music and I know from years of practice that when it comes to being mindful, slower is better.

I start my journey by reminding myself of where I am going, I always make sure I have plenty of time but if I happen to be under pressure, I also remind myself that being a few minutes (or even a lot) late isn’t a big deal in the big scheme of things. In my experience feeling embarrassed or afraid to be late is often linked to fear of failure or not being good enough or fear of being judged as inadequate or incapable.

I notice the feeling of the steering wheel and my thoughts about what lies ahead. I look for any feelings of anxiety or worry and explore briefly the underlying emotion or fear. I then let that go and return to paying attention to my driving. As I accelerate I notice if there is urgency in my driving or a lack of focus. I observe what I see around me, the road, the traffic, the scenery and the people. Once out on the open road I relax into an open awareness, allowing my attention to drift to whatever draws it.

I have noticed a number of things over the years, since I have adopted this mindful driving practice. When I am worried my thoughts always drift to my day ahead or the thing that concerns me, on those days it takes a bit more effort to return to the present moment. I’ve also noticed how much more of song lyrics I hear now, and as my choice of music is now easy listening I am often amused by the odd rhyming and sometimes downright bizarre lyrics in some of the songs. This also makes me aware of my judgements and how this can affect my experience of myself and others. Passing comment internally can be a way of me masking my feelings of insecurity and a need to be right to feel better about myself.

Another thing I have noticed is that some of the journeys I have been driving for years were so habitual that somethings were hidden from me. Mindful driving made me aware of changes to the environment and even brought to my attention things that I had never seen before. I love that aspect of Mindfulness, when something that seemed so familiar suddenly exposes a hidden gem that you had never noticed before, such as field in the middle of a town that suddenly appeared out of nowhere but in hindsight had been there all along. I think that’s what I like about Mindfulness when it comes to self-awareness too. For me, there is nothing as satisfying as the ‘aha’ moment when you develop a greater understanding of yourself and how you tick.

The practice of mindful driving has made my journeys so much more pleasant and I find now that wherever I arrive I am always in a relaxed, good mood, ready for whatever awaits me when I arrive. Happy Driving!

Thanks for reading. Please get in touch if you have questions or post in the comments, [email protected]

I hope our paths cross again in future,

Elfreda (‘old-fart’ music lover amongst other things).


No one cares about your hang-ups so, why do you?

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on May 4, 2018 at 2:05 AM Comments comments (0)

I am often aware that when I write things on Facebook or in blog posts that it may seem like I’ve got it all figured out and that I never get stressed. (When I am teaching I am a little more self-deprecating). The reality is that I have all my own hang-ups and insecurities, the only difference now is that since practicing Mindfulness and using NLP on myself I call myself up on my BS and laugh at my ridiculousness. I am well aware of how foolish I can be, how things can get to me and even though I know this I can still trip myself up, knock myself of course and sometimes appear far more together than I actually am. So, in the interest of transparency here is me calling myself on my BS in public. Enjoy, I did!

A couple of weeks ago I had a dental visit for a teeth cleaning. I have to be honest I hadn’t been for quite some time so, it was rather painful, and I ended up on antibiotics for the bleeding, that’ll teach me. I loved the shiny, almost whiteness that the cleaning had produced, after the effects of the antibiotics wore off; tiredness, bloated stomach, headache, I really enjoyed the self-pity for a few days, life really was hard (*winks with sarcasm). Anyway, my teeth are not white, they are not straight and when I smile in photographs I always see this, and unfortunately you will probably see this now too, but hey I’m ok with that. Having stared at my teeth for days after the pain of cleaning had subsided, I decided to get a teeth-whitening kit to see if my pearly whites would be less pearly and more brilliant white.

If you’ve ever tried one of these kits, you’ll know how it works. You rub an accelerator on your teeth and then fill the gum shields with the whitening gel and then stick them in your mouth. I guess I didn’t really pay attention to the instructions and I inadvertently caught the bottom gumshield on my lip as I put it in. I waited the allotted time, brushed my teeth with the whitening toothpaste and went to bed. In the morning when I woke I noticed a tingling feeling at the edges of my lower lip, it felt slightly raw almost like it had been burnt. As the day progressed I noticed it was getting more painful and by evening I had realised that I had given myself a lovely chemical burn from the whitening gel. As Homer Simpson would say, D’oh!

Friday came, and I woke with two oozing, slightly green, strips along the edge of my lip. Not only did I have the hang-up of not white teeth, now I had to deal with the more noticeable green chemical burn. That’s when my Mindfulness kicked in. The truth was I could do nothing about this, I had to work, walk the dog, do the shopping, I had to go in public whether I liked it or not. I had to accept that people might notice it and because the body takes time to heal there wasn’t a single thing I could do about it, all I could do was let go.

This reminded me of the fact that I cannot control what people think anyway and they are far too busy with their own hang-ups to really care about mine. If they reject me ‘it’s not about me’, if they like me ‘that’s not about me’ either. People will love you or hate you because of what they think, what they feel, and based on their view of how the world works. So, green weepy lips and all, I got on with it. Nothing happened, no one commented on it, no one stared at me and even if they did what difference would it make, I’d still go home to the people who love me and the dog and cats who think I am the ‘food lady’ and worship me for that fact.

I know I will always have hang-ups, but I don’t have to let them dictate to me how I should live my life, where I should go or what I can or can’t do. The reality is that most people only notice the things that bother them and because we are so busy judging ourselves they often will tell you that your issue isn’t as bad as theirs, like the person who told me I had lovely teeth. Next time you are worrying about ‘how big your bum is in this’ or are busy noticing all your perceived flaws and failings remind yourself that letting go of the things you can’t change and getting on with it, is a far better use of your time. I’m off to brush my teeth now with some whitening toothpaste and to practice smiling with my mouth closed.

Thanks for reading. If I can help you in anyway, get in touch 00353868373582, email [email protected] or PM via Facebook.

I hope our paths cross again in future,


Mind Coach, Meditation Instructor (and ridiculous human being)

The Buddha Smile: try this simple trick to improve your mood.

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on April 27, 2018 at 2:25 AM Comments comments (0)


I was recently teaching a group about the Buddha smile and I thought I share it with you here as I find it a very useful way to change your mood when you are meditating, feeling awkward or could do with some happy hormones.

Whilst teaching Mindfulness I often notice that during the silent coffee breaks people have frowns on their faces. This can be because of the uncomfortable feelings they experience whilst having to sit, eat and drink tea or coffee in the company of others without speaking. My way to overcome this feeling is to practice the Buddha smile. I also use it when meditating as it can elevate my mood. I know it works because when I do breath meditation, I can feel the breath stronger in my right nostril which means my left side of the prefrontal cortex is in control and it is this side of the brain that is active when we are happy.

I have mentioned before, in other blog posts, the experiment called the Pencil Test. In this experiment they asked subjects to hold a pencil between their teeth so that it forced a smile, pushing their lips back. They tested their brains and hormones levels and found activity in the brain associated with happiness as well as feel good hormones, such as endorphins were present in the body. The Buddha smile is a bit like this, but you won’t need a pencil.

When trying this for the first time it’s best to do it with your eyes closed. Imagine a smile across your face, without actually smiling. Feel the softening of your eyes and the slight curl at the sides of your mouth. As you do this notice the change in your mood and feelings.

When I do this I immediately feel an increase in happiness as well as a kindness towards myself and others. No one will notice it as you are not really smiling but you will find that softness around your eyes will draw people to you. I often find, in a crowd, I’ll be the one asked for directions or the time and when I am out and about people regularly say hello to me. The other thing, which a student pointed out to me, is if you have a ‘resting b*tch face’ then less people will come up to you to ask you to ‘cheer up’ or tell you that ‘it might not happen’. Have fun with it, try it out over the weekend, the only thing you have to lose is your bad mood.

Thanks for reading. If you are interested in my one to one coaching or if I can help you in any way then phone 00353868373582, email [email protected] or PM me via Facebook.

I hope our paths cross again in future,


Mind Coach, Meditation Instructor (amongst other things)


Five Sayings to Get You Through the Hard Times

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on April 19, 2018 at 2:30 AM Comments comments (0)

At some point in our lives we have had someone say something that suddenly put what we were experiencing in perspective. As a coach and trainer, I regularly share sayings to help clients and students to understand either their experience or to give them greater understanding of the topic I am teaching, from Mindfulness to Stress Management. There are a number of sayings I use on myself too and I want to share them with you here. You may already know some of them, but I am hoping if you do this will act as a pleasant reminder, especially if you are faced with a challenge, at the moment.

It Is What it Is

This phrase is often used in modern teachings of the Buddhist Four Noble Truths. The actual origin in print, is in the Nebraska State Journal in 1949 and is attributed to J. E Lawrence, according to the New York Times. The reason it is used in Buddhism and Mindfulness is to demonstrate the importance of seeing things as they are and not falling into the trap of two of the Five Hindrances of Meditation, Grasping and Aversion. When you take things at face value without adding to them with your own story of woe then, you can let go of things easily or find a solution. I often tell the story of a broken cup when I’m teaching. A broken cup, is just that, a broken cup, but for some people it can be much more. It can be the cup ‘you broke on purpose even though you knew my grandmother gave to me for my 10th birthday and now I will never have another one like it’. These kind of reactions, can stay with us for hours even days and often have a negative impact on our relationships with others. Being able to accept it as it is and let it go, frees us from the second Noble Truth, the cause of suffering, craving or attachment.

That Which You Resist Persists and Grows Stronger

The first time I heard this saying was in a book by Ariel and Shya Kane, Working on Yourself, which I have written about in previous blog posts. I love this saying as it reminds you that the more you push against what you don’t want the harder things will become. It also links to the Five Hindrances of Meditation and more specifically, Aversion. The more we try to stop things from being the way they are the worse they often become. It’s like trying to stop your thoughts, you can’t, you can only redirect your thinking into something more useful. If you’ve ever been on a diet and gave something up and then found yourself stuffing your face with the very thing you’ve been trying to avoid then, you know exactly what this saying means.

Where Your Attention Flows Your Energy Goes

I am guessing by now you are seeing a pattern here. The above saying I was reminded of when attending training with Dr. Joe Dispenza. When we continually focus on our problems or keep looking back at what has gone wrong or forward to what we think might go wrong we miss out on what is happening right in front of us. If we invest all our energy in feeling bad, worrying, complaining or feeling helpless then it’s only natural there isn’t a whole lot of energy left for anything else. In NLP we talk about ‘Present State, to Desired State’, if you focus on what you want, rather than what you don’t want then you are more likely to spot the opportunities that will get you what you want when they come along. If you focus on what is wrong, you’ll just get more of the same. If you get up in the morning and decide you are having a bad day then, you are more likely only to notice all the negative experiences and very likely to dismiss or delete the fact that you have had lots of positive experiences too.

Cells that Fire Together, Wire Together

This next phrase is a simplified version of Hebbian Law. Basically, what it means is that connections made between cells are continually strengthened over time through repetition and habit. It’s like walking through a grass field and eventually creating a mud path. Habits in thinking make strong connections and so if we think negatively then we reinforce beliefs we have about the world and ourselves. Telling yourself you are no good at something, or that you can’t do something or repeatedly telling yourself that you are unlucky, that life is hard or that ‘this is just the way I am’ become self-fulfilling prophecies and, much like the previous saying, you will use confirmation bias to prove that it is true. In NLP we talk about Deletions, Distortions and Generalizations. These are the missing ingredients when someone states a belief about themselves that is not true but because they believe it is true, they have lots of proof to back it up because they have deleted, distorted or generalised the truth. Students are great at this, ‘I am no good at Maths, ‘I can’t draw’ and so on.

This Too Shall Pass

This last one I know you probably all have heard but it’s worth including it because it links with all the earlier ones. Things never stay the same for long. Time moves on, we learn new things, we grow as a person, our tastes change, and problems somehow always seem to resolve themselves. However, if we are caught in a cycle of pessimistic thinking then we often see things as permanent, pervasive and personal. I’ve mentioned this before in my writing about the work of Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology. When we are optimistic we realize that things change quickly, just because one area of your life has problems doesn’t mean every area has, and you are not always the reason things are the way they are.

If life is the way it is, and you give up resisting what is happening and give attention to things you want, knowing that the more positive habits you create, the stronger the neural pathways in your brain then, it is easy to see how your problems too shall pass.

Thanks for reading. If you are interested in my coaching or training then get in touch, 00353868373582, [email protected] or via PM.

I hope our paths cross again in future,


Mind Coach, Meditation Instructor


Introduction to Mindfulness Lesson 2 - Sitting Meditation

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on April 13, 2018 at 2:55 AM Comments comments (0)

This week I am sharing a video from my online course an Introduction to Mindfulness. you can find the video on my Facebook page You will need headphones or a quiet place if you want to do the practice. You can find out more about my course on my Online Courses page here on my website or through the store on my Facebook page. You will also find useful information in my last two blogs which cover daily practice and silent retreat, if you haven't read them already. If you are interested in booking a one to one session then get in touch so that we can arrange something to suit your personal needs, Elfreda

Daily Meditation: An Insider's Guide.

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on April 6, 2018 at 2:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Last week I posted about what it is like to go on a silent retreat and this week I thought I’d write about one of the more common questions asked of me when I am teaching meditation and Mindfulness to groups. Most of us, myself included, when we start out on a daily meditation practice want to know will it do for us what we hope it will? The answer to that question is complex, and the truth is, it depends. It depends on how much prior knowledge of meditation you have and if your expectations are realistic, it depends on how much time and effort you are willing to commit, and it depends on the quality of your meditations and whether you have been taught well and continue to learn. As Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson in their book Altered Traits say ‘Rather than just the sheer hours of practice put in…, it’s how smart those hours are’. They also state that without regular guidance we can plateau, and our progress stops. With all that in mind I will share my experience of having a daily meditation practice and what I have noticed and learned over my years of practice.

When I started out I was like most people, I meditated in fits and starts, doing around 10 minutes a day and sticking to it for a week or two before something would distract me and I would miss a day or several. I had read endless articles and books about Mindfulness and I knew a lot of the research said it was hugely beneficial for mental well-being and had a number of physical health benefits. One of those was sleep and back then I had chronic insomnia and regularly fell asleep during the day if I sat down for a few minutes. Most days I had to set my alarm at lunchtime to make sure I would wake up in time to go back to work. I often fell asleep whilst sitting in my car in shopping centres and car parks, and rarely stayed awake if I sat down in the evening to watch the television. At night it would take me anything up to an hour to get to sleep and I would be awake again before 4am and lie awake or get up long before my alarm was due. Most of those times was spent revisiting memories of past events and going over and over my worries to the point of having heart palpitations. I really wanted Mindfulness to be the answer to this problem as well as to my chronic ove-rthinking and worry. It was the answer to that and so much more.

It took a number of years before I decided to commit to a daily practice and when I did I was already doing twenty minutes or more a day. That quickly increased to thirty then forty minutes and now most days I do two hours or more of practice with a minimum of an hour if I have other commitments. The answer to my initial questions as to whether Mindfulness would help my sleep came fairly quickly and yes it did. However, I did also discover that the reason I wasn’t staying asleep was due to my sensitivity to noise and so ear plugs were necessary for that. It did however, end my night time worrying and pretty much my daytime worrying too and that came from my ability to notice my thoughts and to realise they are not real and will go away if I let them.

So, what’s a typical day’s practice like for me? I get up around 6am and I go straight to my meditation cushion (after a trip to the toilet, of course). My cushion is permanently in place as well as blankets to keep me warm as the heating may not have kicked in yet. I set my Insight Timer for one hour and fifteen minutes on an average morning and I sit. Most of my time, these days, is taken up with Vipassana meditation, which is open awareness meditation, although I play it by ear depending on what is happening in my mind. Usually the first few minutes is occupied with noticing my body. I might notice a twinge in my knee or that the blanket is tucked in funny or there’s a draft coming from somewhere. I notice my thoughts drift from one thing to the next and only respond if I think I really need to. On a weekday my thoughts will regularly drift to work. Over they years I have come to learn my patterns. I start to run through my day, checking in with my plan, reminding myself of where I need to be, times, things I need to bring and, more often than not, conversations I need to have. If I have nothing major going on then the thoughts drift into possibilities, I write blog posts, come up with ideas for new courses and get inspired solutions for client work. Unfortunately, this is not the time for this and so I usually intervene with some counting meditation or focused breath awareness to still my racing mind. In the beginning I resented these intrusions of thought, I tried to stop my habits by drawing attention to them not realising I needed to give them space to breath. My ability to plan was a defense against making mistakes, a protection against rejection, failure, and helplessness from feeling alone. My creative conversations and daydreamed solutions were escapism in difficult times to a fantasy world of my own creating, propelling me into a future of possibilities. These skills have served me well. Now that I know them I can use them to my advantage and just as Buddha welcomed and acknowledged Mara the demon, I acknowledge what these thoughts are trying do for me and I let them go.

My second pattern is to revisit past events that have caused me hurt or embarrassment. I go over conversations thinking of what I could or should have said. I think of ways to fix things, defend myself, apologise or make amends. As soon as I spot this pattern I laugh at my attachments to being liked, to being right and to not looking stupid. Each time the patterns reoccur I bring myself back; counting, the breath, sounds, my body, whatever is present in the moment. It’s not always so simple and often minutes have passed before I realise the blog post is written or the conversation has played out in numerous ways. If feelings arise I often change to Loving Kindness or Ho’oponopono practice as this is known to downgrade amygdala activity and the ‘Fight, Flight or Freeze’ process in the brain. If things are going well I can stay with this practice until the bell goes but other times I start to become fidgety, aware of numbness in my body, wondering how long is left, sometimes even peeking at the clock; which always seems to have seventeen minutes left. The restless meditations can be challenging but they are the most beneficial as they really challenge me to know myself and what is driving my emotions and thinking.

When I get up from my cushion I bring my Mindfulness with me throughout my day. Paying attention to my thoughts in the silence of meditation, has taught me to notice my thoughts before I react to them. I hear myself and internally laugh as I notice my neediness, my fears and my judgements. I don’t always stop myself as sometimes my motives become clear after the fact. I can see things for what they are now, my attachments to things having to be a particular way, my beliefs about the world, myself, and how I imagine my life should be. At best I shift my focus to what is happening right now and let them go and at worst I revisit them over and over again until I understand them or am distracted by some other more pressing problem. Therein lies another one of my patterns, the need to make sense of everything, the cause and the answer, but that’s the subject for another day’s meditation.

Is it worth it? I can definitely say, yes. Is it a challenge? It’s a commitment but one that pays dividends. I am happier now than I’ve ever been, and worry is a thing of the past. Over my hours of meditation I have discovered a still-contentment inside me that never leaves, it is present beyond the workings of my busy mind. It only takes moments to find it and to re-calibrate to that stillness that is me. In meditation these moments of pure silence and calm are what make it worthwhile. As Albert Camus said, ‘In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer’.

Thanks for reading. If you want more information about my classes, workshops or one to one coaching check out my website or get in touch, [email protected], 00353868373582.

I hope our paths cross again in future,


Silent Retreat: What is it and why should you do it?

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on March 29, 2018 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)


If you follow me on Facebook you will know that over the St. Patrick’s Day bank holiday weekend, I went on a Silent Retreat. It’s not the first time I’ve done this, having been on retreat every year for the past 5 years. It was my second time attending a retreat with this particular teacher, Marjo Oosterhoff. Marjo is trained in the Burmese, Buddhist tradition and runs her own retreat centre, Passadhi, on the Beara Peninsula in Co. Cork. The retreat took place in the Emmaus Centre in Swords. This is a great venue for a first retreat, as you have your own ensuite room and all your meals are provided, more often you will be in dormitory style accommodation and are expected to help out with meal preparation or cleaning up, but this is not the case here. Having my own space was important to me when I went on my first retreat there with Marjo years ago.

The retreat started on Friday evening and ended on Monday at lunch. After check in all the attendees, 22 in total, congregated in the meditation room for introductions and instruction from the teacher. Marjo checked to see who had been on retreat before and informed us of the structure of the weekend. The timetable was posted throughout the building so that we could check it whenever we needed. After that were instructed on Noble Silence. This is the silent part of the retreat, no speaking, no phone use, no reading, no writing and no eye-contact. On this particular retreat Marjo didn’t enforce no eye-contact, something which I found a challenge on day one as I had been used to having no eye-contact on all the other retreats I had attended. She later explained to me that this was to make it easier for all the new people, of which there were several. We then had a 30-minute meditation, with instruction from Marjo and at 9pm headed off to do our own thing, in silence, before lights out at 11pm.

Marjo Oosterhoff specialises in Vipassana (open awareness) and Metta (compassionate) meditation. Her teachings over the course of the weekend are intended to help to develop these practices or deepen existing ones. Marjo’s Metta guidance is amazing, and it was on my first retreat with her, doing this practice, that I experienced a profound feeling of compassion for myself that has never left me.

Saturday morning started with meditation in the group meditation room at 7.45am. This meditation is not guided so you are supposed to do Vipassana, based on your instructions from the night before, or Metta if you have been explicitly instructed to do so by your teacher. Breakfast is at 8.30am followed by time to do individual meditation, yoga, tai chi, walking or mindful showering and if you really need to, return to bed for some rest. I chose to meditate in my room during these breaks, practicing Vipassana or lying on the floor to do a body scan meditation incorporating some Alexander Technique teaching I had received for back problems. At 10.30am we returned to the meditation room for further guidance.

During the times we were together we were given instruction as well as an opportunity to ask questions if we needed. I always chose to stay silent as so much of my life it taken up with asking or answering questions on a day to day basis; it is useful for me to notice my thoughts without responding or reacting to them. This portion of the day involves sitting meditation, followed by walking meditation, each session taking approximately 30 minutes, on a rinse and repeat basis. Lunch was at 1pm followed by individual meditation etc. and a return to the meditation room at 3.30pm for more sitting and walking.

During these sessions Marjo also had one to one meetings to help attendees with any challenges or to give them specific guidance. This was optional, and at first, I decided not to attend but by Sunday afternoon I changed my mind.

The evening meal was at 6.30pm. Lunch was the largest meal of the day and for those of you curious about what we ate, the breakfast was a continental breakfast and the main meal was soup, followed by dinner, dessert and tea and coffee. The evening meal was a small cooked meal with a sweet treat to follow and tea and coffee. In Emmaus the service it waited service and so there is no clean up afterwards. This is really nice as it allows you to feel looked after, have a break and enjoy the shelter of the venue. At 8pm we reconvened in the meditation room for some feedback and a final meditation of the day. At 9pm we left to do our own thing and lights out were at 11pm once again.

The structure for Sunday was the same as was the morning of Monday, until 12pm on Monday when we broke the silence and had our meal between 12.30pm and 2pm to allow us to integrate back into speaking, ready for our return home.

On Saturday it snowed and so I chose to stay in for quite a bit of the day apart from some Mindful Walking outside. This was a big difference from the first time I was there. The first time I found the times between meditations very long and so I walked laps of the beautiful grounds to pass the time. Marjo had reminded us that filling our time with ‘doing’ is not ‘being’ with what is, which in some cases can be boredom or restlessness. I found it much easier to just sit in meditation this time or just sit, as the case may be, without the urge to fill up my time.

One of the challenges I became aware of on Saturday was in relation to Noble Silence. As I mentioned earlier normally there is no eye-contact or recognition of anyone else in any form but on this retreat many people smiled, whispered, opened doors for you, handed you cups or poured your water causing us to continually have to break with our own experience to acknowledge the other. I found this difficult as I went from internally apologising for myself in my head when I didn’t respond or internally apologising for breaking the rules when I did. After a while I noticed how ridiculous I was. The other challenge I had was physical, I’ve had a number of physical problems over the past few years and the extended sitting was proving difficult. As the first day progressed I became aware of how much tension I was holding in my body and how much ‘doing’ I was engaged in as I tried to sit straight, comfortably or relax. Once I began to notice this my body began to soften and by Sunday evening most of my pain had subsided. The real gift of silence is becoming familiar with yourself and your thoughts. In fact, the word meditation means ‘to become familiar with’. On a normal day our focus is often outside ourselves, needing to speak, be noticed or recognised, wanting approval, taking control or defending ourselves amongst many other things. When we stay in silence all these things either become very noticeable or fall away. This was the subject of my conversation with Marjo on Sunday afternoon to which she reminded me that we are all the same. In Buddhism they call is attachment and it is really useful to notice what you are attached to; this can be varied but some of the things that are common are: to your appearance, being right, not looking stupid, not making mistakes, perfectionism, being acknowledged, needing approval or helplessness, to name but a few.

On Monday we finally broke the silence. It takes me a bit of time to adjust to speaking again and for much of the lunch I smiled, nodded and said yes or no in response to questions before finally beginning to chat. It’s important you do break the silence however, as it can be easy for us to forget our surroundings on the journey home which can lead to potential accidents. By the time I got home I was ready to tell all to my husband, having not spoken since Friday, as well as cuddle my pets and sleep in my own bed. During lunchtime conversation it was funny to hear of the number of people who broke the ‘rules’, texting home, checking Facebook, making a quick phone call and quite a number looked up the results of the Six Nations. I of course, being the rule bound person that I am, did what I was told and only switched my phone back on at 2pm on Monday. My rule bound behaviour something my meditation has made me aware of over the years.

On return I found I was slow to get back to Social Media, staying away until the following Friday. I also found my meditations deeper and my discomfort lesson as the week progressed. I found it easier to practice Metta during the week too and spent a number days focusing on this practice.

If you are new to meditation then, I recommend you do a half day or full day silent workshop before immersing yourself into a full retreat. If after that you are interested in doing a longer period of silence then, I recommend Marjo’s retreats which you can find out about on her website for Passadhi Retreat Centre or try out Jampa Ling in Co. Cavan, they do silent retreats a number of times during the year.

Thanks for reading.

I hope our paths cross gain in future,


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How to Deal with the Opinions of Others

Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on March 23, 2018 at 3:20 AM Comments comments (0)

I know I have written about this before, but I wanted to write about it again as it is something that regularly comes up in my coaching sessions and when teaching. I recently had a message from someone who said their confidence was really knocked because someone posted an argument under a video they had shared online and it had affected them badly. So much so that they took their video down. Having an online presence and being able to deal with the reactions and opinions of others can be quite a challenge, especially when we feel a little nervous or vulnerable putting ourselves out there in the first place. I am not immune to this, but I do have some tips to help you deal with differing opinions and criticism.

From a Buddhist perspective when dealing with criticism we have to examine and acknowledge the things to which we are attached. Our attachments are the ideas we have about who we are, who we want to be and what we hope other people think of us to name but a few. When we begin to identify what these attachments are we can start to have a fair idea about why things bother us.

If we are hoping to be seen as intelligent then, if someone questions our intellect, ability, knowledge or expertise then we often feel bad. If we value our appearance, and someone criticises how we look then, we can feel bad also. Our values often determine what is important to us and these values are often the things that trip us up when it comes to criticism or the opinions of others. The real trick is to be able to use the criticism as feedback and use it to learn, grow or develop.

If we assume that we have already arrived then, we close ourselves off from further growth. Sure, being shown our failings can sting but the truth is if your value is growth, self-improvement or to help others then taking those opinions and using them to get better, to improve or to adopt new ideas and to expand your map of the world is useful.

I used to hate criticism, I could feel myself shrink inside and feel myself blush internally. I even struggled with shame and worried about the opinions of others long after an event had past. I’d lie awake at night going over and over the event as if that would somehow change it and I would miraculously erase the fact that they had pointed out my mistake or lack of knowledge. It never did change the past therefore, I had to adopt a new tactic. So, I developed a new a strategy and here it is:

The first thing I do is change the information given to me by someone else from criticism to feedback. This is a universal tool used in NLP. It can be as simple as changing the word criticism to feedback in your mind.

Then, I ask myself are they right in any way, and if so, what aspects of the feedback may be true?

If they are right. I ask myself what do I need to do, or learn, to become better? I then make a plan as to how to improve, or I ask for help. Sometimes from the person who offered the opinion in the first place.

If they are wrong, I chalk it down to a difference of opinion or I accept that this comment may be simply about them or their view of the world. I usually just thank them for their opinion and I move on. I remind myself that most people say what they say with good intention, even if I can’t see it, and I acknowledge that, to them, whatever they think or said makes sense.

The most important thing I remind myself of is, ‘It’s not about me’, in most cases people arguing with you, especially online, is more often than not, not personal. You just happen to represent something to them that triggers their values or beliefs, and in that moment they have chosen to voice them.

Most importantly, I try not to argue back. This just causes you to defend yourself, it closes you off from new experiences and learning, as it forces you to reinforce beliefs, ideas and opinions that you already have instead of opening you up to new ways of viewing the world. That old saying of not taking things personally is important to remember, as well as knowing that if you are taking it personally then that’s all you and nothing to do with them.

Get used to saying things like, ‘thank you, I appreciate your opinion’. ‘Wow, I never thought of it like that’. ‘That’s fascinating can you tell me more’. ‘You could be right, I’ll have to think about that’ and ‘you’re right I do have more to learn, thanks for giving me something new to think about’. Humility, is always a good place to start. I have to work at that all the time, but it really is worth the effort.

Another thing that is incredibly useful is to practice Loving Kindness or compassionate meditation. When we are kind to ourselves we can see ourselves more clearly as someone who is just trying to do their best. The biggest cause of sensitivity to criticism is trying to be perfect. You aren’t, you never will be and if you ever are then start worrying because then you have nothing left to learn and as far as I’m concerned learning is the whole point of living.

Thanks for reading. If you are interested in finding out about my online or face to face courses or Mind Coaching sessions you can find out more on my website.

I hope our paths cross again in future,