Day 19: Empathy and Gratitude

Two concepts repeatedly turn up when you try and find out the secret of “happy” people: empathy and gratitude. They are also essential to the practice of mindfulness. Why specifically these two? Today I invite you to try them out for yourself – ad see how practicing empathy and gratitude can change your mental “position”, and help you become a more happy person.

Empathy is trying to see, feel and experience the world through the eyes of someone else. As so many concepts in the bootcamp, this seems a really easy thing to do – but is very hard when you put it into practice.
On the other hand, once mastered, it allows you to be more sensitive and open to the feelings of other people, which in turn will make it much easier for you to communicate with them. As you develop empathy, you’ll notice how people increasingly change from being aggressive to open with you, because you learn to treat them the way they want to be treated. This can be a truly powerful motivator for people, and is fundamental to building strong relationships. At the same time, it will help to deal with negativity from people: simply by understanding “where they are coming from”, and trying to help them, many negative situations will become much less stressful – and can even turn out to be an opportunity to grow for everyone.

Think of how often it is easy to just be annoyed at someone who is unfriendly, taking the last seat on the train or complaining. But while it is easy to simply react annoyed, it is often better to stop, think and … practice empathy. You’ll be surprised at the reactions you are getting!

The first activity today is to try and react to three unpleasant or annoying situations with empathy.
To do this, when you experience a situation where you feel annoyed today, try to take a deep breath. Resist the temptation to react to whatever it is annoys you – or judge the person who is annoying you.
Simply switch into mindfulness mode – but instead of focusing o your ow mind, try and focus on the other person: experience how they are experiencing the situation. Imagine actively that you are that person in this moment. Maintain their point of view for as long as you can, especially when you are talking to them or are close to them.
Once you are back to “yourself”, ask yourself how the experience was different for you and them. See how experiencing the same situation from “the other” side has changed your view of the situation.

The second activity for today focuses on gratitude. As a popular saying says: “It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy”. Being grateful is, luckily, a lot easier than training empathy. However, we simply often lack the time or motivation to do this important task. So, as a second activity for today, I’ll ask you to write down three things you are particularly grateful for about today – just before you go to bed. This can be things related to anything that happened today. Even if it was a really bad day, I’m sure you’ll find at least three things to be grateful for (and probably many, many more once you start thinking about it!).

By simply stoping and asking yourself “what am I grateful for today”, many people notice how their mind immediately switches from the stress they may be experiencing during the day to a much more positive frame. This is a very powerful little tool: you can use it anytime you feel stressed or annoyed – or even just a bit unhappy: simply stop for a second. Take a deep breath and list three things you are grateful for in this moment or today. Try this out over the next few days – and see how your mind will slowly change and more readily focuses on the positive. You can even have certain “check-ins” during the day: for example, try having a gratefulness moment during your lunch break tomorrow.

Two little tricks today, but both are potentially life changing. I know they are not very easy – especially in the heat of the moment when you are annoyed or feeling stressed. But sometimes this little stop and think can really make a big difference.

If this makes a difference for you, why not share this with everyone? Or do you have other tips of how to stop yourself from stressing out in a situation? Please use the comments function below… it is always great to hear from you!

Day 18: Using Mindfulness to develop your life vision and mission

After yesterday’s activity, today we use blue sky thinking to create a vision and mission statement for yourself. Today has two activities to create the vision and mission: one “rational” one, one based on meditation. Depending on what type of person you are and if you are more emotional or thought driven, you can do either of them first. If you consider yourself more thought-driven and rational, then start with the first exercise. If you are more emotional, or indeed find the thought of rationally developing in a vision for yourself too challenging, you may find it easier to start with the meditation.

The min aim for today is to write two little sentences about you: a mission and a vision. Both should express similar aims, but are different. Let me quickly explain the difference: your mission is the ultimate end-state you would like to achieve. For example “urbangay’s mission is to enrich gay men’s lives through mindfulness” – ok, this may sound a bit lofty, but it captures the main aim.  The vision statement focuses more explicitly on how you are trying to achieve this lofty aim expressed in the mission. For example:
urbangay’s vision is to be the go-to resource to create powerful, personal change through mindfulness for gay men.
urbangay wants to build a safe space where gay men can learn about, develop, apply and put into practice mindfulness-based techniques for personal development in all aspects of their daily lives.
urbangay does this by educating, coaching and creating a community of connected individuals who learn and support each other in the process.

Some people find this activity challenging, as they relate often to very lofty visions – or try emulate too much a long-term business vision/mission. Remember, when you are completing this activity, that you are not fixed, and far more flexible than a large corporation.
On the other hand, don’t dismiss this activity as simply something big companies do: rather look at it as a tool that is used to (often) successfully focus large and complex organisations. So why not use it on you?
Importantly, don’t aim to create a very aspirational vision just because you think you have to. Your happiness is what counts, and you should think entirely what is right for you. There is no right or wrong vision: a vision of yourself living in a mountain retreat is just as valid as trying to make the world a better place. What’s right for you, is right for you. Nobody else can tell you that.

The first part I now describe is the rational activity to create the vision and mission.

Firstly, glance at the wall and lists created yesterday. Identify core values that drive your activities. These could be anything from charitable activities to a happier life through learning all there is to know about healthy vegan living. Basically, aim to take a helicopter perspective of the helicopter perspective from yesterday.
Aim to write a list of core values that guide your activities: these are the main emotional drivers. Simply put, the basic question you’re trying to answer is: “in an ideal world, what would make you jump out of bed full of energy every morning”.

In the second activity, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fS_Yb0PtpKQ . Use the guided meditation as a way to refine the ideas you generated in the first activity (careful, set an alarm at the end of the meditation, as it is a sleep meditation!). If you start with this activity, then mediate first, and use the first activity to refine your list.

In the next step, combine the list of values to a coherent vision: a few examples would be

The final step for today is to write a mission statement, e.g. how are you aiming to get there. Examples of this are

I hope these two exercises have been useful to you. I know they can be challenging for many people: taking a step back and looking at your life is never particularly easy. This is probably especially true when you feel actually relatively content with your life. In this case, it might be that these activities have clearly reinforced the life trajectory and the life plans you are on at the moment, which is brilliant news.
They may have, similarly, brought up a limited or a large number of areas where your future life needs a change of direction. In either case, you should have a pretty much clearer life vision now.

Again, try to keep the vision and mission statement clearly visible somewhere to remind you daily what it is that you wish to achieve. It can be particularly useful to keep it with the SWIPES lists, as you can then keep checking which activities should be prioritised from the nourishing activities contained in the lists. Of course, the vision/mission can also be a helpful reminder and source of motivation for completing depleting activities and recognising the greater purpose of these.

If you found these exercises helpful, or challenging, why don’t you share your thoughts below? It would be great to hear from you!

Day 16: Checking in on life: nourishing and deleting activities

Well done on completing the first part of the bootcamp!
This means you now have the main skills for the second part, where we are going to put them all into action, for love, sex – and firstly your life.

So, today we start with looking at your life: more specifically things you do. Often, people feel unhappy or stressed if they are caught in a rut: with many depleting activities and not enough time for nourishing activities, or even performing nourishing activities in a non-mindful way.

It is, of course, impossible to escape depleting activities fully. therefore it is especially important to identify nourishing activities – and to perform those with the mind fully present.

To complete the activity today, I therefore ask you to make two lists: the first one of typical activities you do regularly on a day where you work (e.g. week). The second one of activities on a typical day where you don’t work (e.g. weekend).
Try and be as comprehensive as possible: from simple things like getting up to big things like going for a dinner. Include all of it on your lists.

Once you have the lists, try and label the activities: Firstly identify all the activities that give you joy, the activities that are nourishing and refreshing for you. Mark them on the lists with a big +
Now label all the activities on the list that are clearly depleting: all the activities that lower your mood, are stressful or drain away your energy.
You’ll probably have some activities which are neither nourishing nor depleting, which is fine.

Now take a look at the balance on your list: how much time, how much energy do you dedicate to positive, nourishing actions vs time dedicated to depleting activities. Try to think of ways to address the balance: are there ways you can reduce the time spend on these? Take a look at them with mindfulness compassion: maybe some of them can change their meaning if you see them in a different light?

Now look at your nourishing activities: Are there ways you can perform these activities more mindfully? Is there scope to increase the nourishing activities?

Finally, look at the unclassified activities: Can you change these to become nourishing?

Often people find that performing some activities in a mindful manner can actually enhance them a lot: For example, when you walk to work, try being mindful on the way. Maybe look for a slightly longer, but more pretty way to work? Subtle shifts can often make a big difference to the activities.

The other main aim of the exercise is to give you an overview of all the nourishing activities you engage in. Check them for themes. What are the things you really enjoy doing?
Maybe you find that some things you are not doing at all, but would like to do: for example learning something new, volunteering or getting to know new people. With the help of the lists, you can identify shifts in activities you want to consider.
Tomorrow we will return to these themes and establish a “forward plan”.

Hopefully this activity will help you get a pretty good inventory of your life. Tomorrow, we will build on this inventory and think about ways to make life more enjoyable through taking appropriate life choices.

Remember to let me know how you are getting on. Please use the comment functions below to share your views, questions and especially your success stories! See you tomorrow!

Day 14: Meditation as a tool for change – Affirmations

Today’s activity is around affirmations. It’s not strictly speaking meditation nor hypnosis, but something that can “switch” your mind to a different mood. If you are skeptical at this moment, you are probably not alone. But give it a try and see if you feel any effect.

The good thing about affirmations is that they tend to be quick and easy ways to stop negative thoughts or even a negative mindset and focus on something positive. You can therefore use them as a tool in everyday life – or use them more long-term as a way to train your mind to think more positively.

For a short-term thinking change, you can use the affirmation technique simply by repeating something in your head (or out loud if you are alone). Then act the way as if that would be true. So, for example, if you feel like being in a bad mood, take your mind off it, by saying to yourself “Wow! I’m really lucky. I live in the most amazing city in the world.” (or something else that you are grateful for, or that is positive). Repeat this affirmation a few times in your head, and believe it to be true until your mood changes. Note: Of course, please don’t use a clearly untrue affirmation. So, on a cold winters day, don’t attempt to “talk” the day into a hot summers day 😉

If you want to try a more general approach to affirmations, with more long-term effects, try guided affirmations. This short collection of affirmations (10mins approx) for example. Produced by the Honest Guys, it is a set of general positive affirmations. I very much like their voice and music (so do explore the rest of their videos if you like!). With general affirmations, remember though, that while they may be shifting your mood temporarily, too, they generally take a bit longer to become perceived reality. While you are doing them, however, please visualise that they are true right now for them to be effective.

I hope you are enjoying the affirmations, and that you are starting to feel the effects of the mindfulness and meditation exercises we have made so far. Let me know how you feel things are going. Please use the comment function below – or #ug30bc on Twitter. Tomorrow will be the last of the “first section” of the bootcamp: We will be heading for erotic and sexy meditation practice… see you then!

Day 3: The Urbangay Manifesto

As said yesterday… today we will talk about some basic rules to make the bootcamp work – and some more overarching principles for the urbangay lifestyle.

To start off, here are the three simple rules for the next few days. The rules are not there to make things complicated – and I don’t think they are overly complicated. Instead, they are designed to be easy, simple and to help you get the most out of the bootcamp experience, for you and for everyone else who is ‘bootcamping’.

1) You can only fail if you give up.
This is hopefully pretty straight forward: there is no way to fail the bootcamp. At least not if you give it a try. The bootcamp is structured in days, but don’t let that stop you from going back or staying with one activity for a few days. The bootcamp is all about you. You decide. This also means that:

2) There is no right or wrong way.
Because we are all different, we like different things, and dislike different things. What makes it interesting is that we have different perspectives. Respecting different views is important during the bootcamp and in the urbangay community. Because of this…

3) Your opinion is valued, please share it
Share what you think. We are all in the bootcamp together. If you like something, why not comment on it? If you improved an exercise, please share it with the others. I love to hear your feedback, and I’m sure everyone else will appreciate to see how different participants feel. So… let’s share, be social and learn from each other.

Secondly, I invite you to think beyond the bootcamp. I’m “borrowing” these five principles from the general Buddhist ethics (I’m sure you will agree they are quite similar to other ethics). As promised, you don’t have to subscribe to this perspective, they are not part of the programme. But I invite you to reflect on them – and adapt them according to what you feel comfortable with. They are, after all, guides that make life easier and more enjoyable. Importantly, these are not rules or tick boxes. They are, in the Buddhist tradition, simply aims to live by. There is no shaming or blame involved if you feel you have failed. People have flaws. The Buddhist tradition simply asks you to acknowledge that you have failed and try to do it better next time.

1. Don’t kill – or cause harm.

2. Don’t steal.

3. Avoid false speak.

4. Avoid intoxication.

5. Don’t misuse sexuality.

1 to 3 should be pretty straight forward (I acknowledge, you can have a long discussion about them, but let us just accept them for the time being as given and the way you interpret them). 4 and 5 are more open to interpretation, particularly in terms of the bootcamp. As with 1-3, I invite you to use your own judgement when interpreting these for you. For example, traditionally, avoiding intoxication is interpreted often rigidly in terms of drinking or drugs. For me personally, I interpret this as not just referring to substances – but also to other forms of intoxication: for example, (mis-)information and other things that “numb” the mind. On the other hand, I don’t interpret this for me as something that prohibits alcohol, but rather that cautions not to over do it (and I’m sure you’ll agree… , trying to be mindful, do exercise or just about anything with a massive hang over is not going to work.). Similarly, I would interpret ‘misuse sexuality’ as meaning using sexuality to deceive or manipulate, including, of course, making sure sexuality is practiced only with consent.

I hope these three rules for the bootcamp – and the five principles to think about are a good foundation.

We also need to bear in mind, this is a journey we are taking together, and what has brought us here together: Lives that may have been lacking “that certain something”, or maybe just being curious about if there isn’t a better or alternative way. Something more fulfilling then what we have now.

Thus, let us combine all of this, together with all the topics and objectives of the bootcamp, into one easy “manifesto for the urbangay” (of course, you don’t have to live in an urban area. You are welcome to be an urbangay no matter where you are!). Something to guide the rest of the program and to define how we are growing as human being, during and after the program. So here is my “draft manifesto for the urbangay”… please remember to contribute and amend it how you see fit.

1. We are the urbangays.
We seek fulfillment through love, purposeful action, happiness and sexual expression with kindness, affect, freedom and respect for ourselves and each other. We use mindfulness, meditation, love and sexuality to create a fairer, happier and healthier world.

2. We are a community.
We come from different backgrounds, this is our strength. We are inclusive, diverse and welcoming, bound by the love and respect that we share for each other, united by our core principles. We support each other with kindness and generosity, with love and affection.

3. We embrace vulnerability and reject the perfect.
We acknowledge that nobody is perfect and everyone is vulnerable. We welcome our imperfections as showing us ways to grow and acknowledge ours and others vulnerabilities as possibilities to give and receive comfort and joy.

4. We live a fulfilled, purposeful life.
We may have different paths and objectives, giving us the opportunity to respect each others rights to live a fulfilled, purposeful lives, supported by the love, care and kindness of our fellow urbangays.

5. We have the right to ecstasy and to give and receive pleasure freely.
We have different forms of expressing sexuality and sexual identity, and we respect and cherish this, acknowledging everyone has the right to give and receive pleasure and experience ecstasy in a way they seek.

So… tomorrow we will finally get going. I hope you’re as excited about this as I’m! … See you tomorrow for the first activity introducing mindfulness.

But before we go, why not share the bootcamp with your friends?

Join me for 30 days of life, love, sex - mindfulness, meditation and tantra. Click To Tweet

Day 2: Terms & Co – Meditation, Mindfulness and Tantra

As I explained yesterday in the bootcamp basics post, the 30 day urbangay bootcamp program brings together three related, though slightly different activities; mindfulness, meditation and tantra. We won’t be going massively in depth into any one of them. The focus will be on cherry picking the best features of each approach and combine them in one powerful, transformative month for you.

All three methods have their roots in Eastern philosophy, though they can be found in different religions and philosophies outside of Asia. As promised, you don’t need to take a religious or philosophical stance, apart from some basic rules which I’ll explain more about tomorrow. So don’t pick some now, just dip into all of them, take the best they have to offer – and create your own toolbox at the end of the month.

Of course, the terms are often used interchangeably: mindfulness seems to mean meditation, both mean sitting still and tantra is almost movement-less sex. Well… almost. Of course, you are not here because you really wanted to sign up to a philosophy course and learn a lot of theory without trying things out, right? So… let me just quickly explain what is meant by these three terms – how they are similar, and how they are different. At least, this is how I will be using the terms in this program, to avoid confusion. Don’t worry though, this isn’t going to be a long and bothersome debate about the differences!

Mindfulness
When I talk about ‘Mindfulness’ I talk about an activity that focuses on the present moment in a way that accepts what is happening in the present moment and the focus is on awareness about what is happening. This activity can be a quiet activity, which could look very much like meditation, or it can be an ‘active’ activity, like running. With mindfulness, the focus is simply to be present in the current moment – and to train the mind to focus on what is happening right now (rather than drifting off and thinking about what was, could be or should be). We will spend the first week exploring this concept, and see why it is so fundamental to well being.

Meditation
While mindfulness is actively being present in the moment and accepting the moment, feelings and emotions as they are, when I talk about mediation it is something more purposeful. Rather then standing still and/or observing the present, when I use the term meditation, I’m referring to training the mind to do something or focus on something other than what is present, in other words, mediation has a purpose. For example, a meditation to train the mind become more positive, a meditation to increase confidence etc.. Meditation is also (at least in this context)  a quiet and stationary activity: so the term meditation means lying down or sitting down and not physically moving the body.

Tantra
In the last week of the bootcamp we will focus on different types of sexual expression, including what could be loosely described as “tantric sex”. There is a lot of polemic around the term. For the program it is not really necessary to delve into the debate. Rather what is meant when the term tantra appears is a generally slowly performed sexual activity, where the main purpose is not to achieve ejaculation. Rather the focus is on sensuality, feelings and emotions created through touch. If they lead to an ejaculation, in terms of this program, that is ok. If they don’t… that is great, too. The point is to learn to build sexual energy.

So there we have the basic definitions of the program:
Mindfulness – focus on the present, with awareness and acceptance
Meditation – silent, stationary activity with a purpose (often focusing on training the mind to do something)
Tantra – a sensual sexual activity where orgasm (or rather ejaculation) is not the main purpose.
Don’t worry if some of these concepts still seem a little unclear. We will explore them as the bootcamp goes on, and I’ll give you plenty of examples to see what I mean.

I know that some purists will probably have some issues with this simple approach to the terms, but as you are not here to enrol in a class on Eastern philosophy, they simple explanations above will be sufficient for the moment. The focus of the bootcamp is to introduce you to a lot of different techniques. It’s about finding out which ones are right for you, which you like and which techniques and methods you feel are good for you. There are no right or wrong ways here – just your own individual way. And if after the bootcamp you want to explore more of one method or technique … come back and find out more!

Now we are almost ready to go… come back tomorrow to find out more about the simple rules to follow during the bootcamp time. Don’t worry… I promised no complicated things, and a lot of fun. Tomorrow, we will develop a Manifesto for the urbangay… with principles to follow for the rest of the program – and maybe even beyond. Check back tomorrow to find out more!

Day 1: Welcome

First a big welcome! It is great that you’re joining me on this month long bootcamp! Over the next weeks, you’ll get a daily bootcamp activity, helping you focus on the most important person in the world: you! Less stress, better sex, more fitness… and even a completely new life are all on offer. All it will take is a small activity each day – to focus on you, yourself and your life.
But you don’t need to have big goals to take part: the program will still help you to enjoy your life more, get more out of the life you have and develop strategies and ideas to live a purposeful and happy life, now and in future.

The bootcamp uses truly powerful methods to empower you and your life: mindfulness, meditation and tantra. Each one has the potential to change your life  – together they are amazing, that’s why I’ll bring them all in over the next few weeks.
Why not focus on a single method like so many other methods? Simple answer: because the programme should be flexible enough to allow you to experience it all – and then pick what you like best – and what works for you.

The bootcamp is divided into four weeks, with daily doses of activities to complete or information to read:
For the first two weeks, we will focus on two powerful methods to focus and transform your mind: mindfulness and meditation. During these two weeks the bootcamps showcases different uses for the two methods – and the two methods in action, both in conventional as well as unconventional ways: So we will explore mindful awareness of the moment as well as mindfulness while performing sports, meditation in a traditional way to discover yourself, transform your mind – as well as a source of sexual energy.

The second part of the bootcamp then uses these methods to focus on living your life more purposefully in general and focusing on love, relationships and exploring and expanding your sex life. In the last part, I’ll additionally introduce some elements of tantra into the mix, to complement meditation and mindfulness. If you now think this means a lot of touching, strange positions and no orgasm, I have good news for you. Don’t worry… this isn’t going to be a classical tantra course. Far from it … as part of the bootcamp you’ll explore all the options of sexuality, from wild to sensual.

In fact, the bootcamp is designed in such a way that you don’t to have to sign up to a specific philosophical (or religious) world view before you embark on the programme (or ever after!). It is great if you have one, it’s great if you have none. You don’t have to become vegan or start every morning with a half hour meditation. Unless you want to. It’s really up to you. The bootcamp won’t ask you to do that. The most important for the bootcamp is that you have fun, discover some new things, learn some new tricks and maybe discover a few things about yourself. There are some principles, but I think you’ll agree they are easy to follow.

Finally… let me say what is required from you. Luckily, the requirement is quite simple. Simply complete the activity of the day as good as you can. There is a simple rule in this bootcamp: you can’t fail, unless you give up. Some activities may be more fun than others for you. Some will be amazing, some may not be something you would normally do. Go with it. Try it and see. I promise you, at the end you will have developed a toolbox of great activities which you enjoy and which will really help you get more out of live, love and sex.

The main point is that we are going on a journey. Together. Please share your experiences and become part of the urbangay community. Let’s make this a great journey, and the begin of a long journey together.

Just before we start, check in tomorrow, as  I’ll go over some of the terms I have quite loosely used here – and how they are different (but also why they are so great in combination!).

urbangay bootcamp: Day by Day

With just a week away, here is a look at the day to day program of the urbangay bootcamp, which starts on the 1. March.  As you can see, the bootcamp is divided into two parts:

Part 1 is the “skills” section: in this part, daily activities and material will cover the basic skills of mindfulness and meditation in a no-nonsense and easy to follow way.
Part 2 is the “application” section: here the skills from part 1 are the essential tools to take a break, have a look at life and love – and discover a bit more about you.

As you can see… it will be a fun month of daily, small activities, which make you think, change the way you look at life, make you appreciate life more, that are sexy and enjoyable!

To join – all you have to do is come back to the blog for the new activities. There is no fee, no application but please let me know how you like the bootcamp and the activities!
Alternatively: you can sign up to the newsletter (delivered as a weekly digest).
If you prefer your posts daily: you can also follow via Instagram or Twitter – and now also via Facebook.

Part 1 Mindfulness and Meditation
Wednesday 01/03/17 Basics of the bootcamp
Thursday 02/03/17 What’s meant by Mindfulness, Meditation and Tantra?
Friday 03/03/17 Here come the #urbangays! A Manifesto
Saturday 04/03/17 Switching from autopilot activity to mindfulness
Sunday 05/03/17 Focusing on Breathing
Monday 06/03/17 Daily life as mindfulness practice
Tuesday 07/03/17 Awareness
Wednesday 08/03/17 Awareness (part 2)
Thursday 09/03/17 Body scan – the quick way to check in with yourself
Friday 10/03/17 Letting go
Saturday 11/03/17 Mindfulness Recap
Sunday 12/03/17 The basics of Meditation
Monday 13/03/17 Meditating for relaxation
Tuesday 14/03/17 Meditation as a tool for change
Wednesday 15/03/17 Meditation for sex
Part 2: Life, Love, Sex
Thursday 16/03/17 Checking in on life: nourishing and deleting activities
Friday 17/03/17 Using meditation and mindfulness as guides: life choices
Saturday 18/03/17 Using Mindfulness to develop your life strategy
Sunday 19/03/17 Training Empathy and Gratitude
Monday 20/03/17 Mindfulness and Meditation as tools for Stress Reduction
Tuesday 21/03/17 Food – nourishing you mindfully
Wednesday 22/03/17 Mindful Exercise
Thursday 23/03/17 You are beautiful: Body Image
Friday 24/03/17 Defining your sexual self
Saturday 25/03/17 The basics of tantra
Sunday 26/03/17 Orgasm, Ejaculation and the role of breathing
Monday 27/03/17 Love yourself without shame: masturbation
Tuesday 28/03/17 Sensuality with mindfulness: Partner massage
Wednesday 29/03/17 Mindful Kink – spicing things up
Thursday 30/03/17 Mindful Relationships
Friday 31/03/17 Sustaining Mindfulness

 

 

Why 30 days?

Why is the bootcamp 30 days long? You may have heard about the idea that new habits need 21 days to become established. Unfortunately though, this is a bit of a myth. The actual number is much longer, and depends on a lot of different factors.

The actual number would be 66 days  at least according to science. However, it can be shorter or longer depending on the individual – and the habit.

Thus, the obvious question would be: why not a 66 day bootcamp? The easy answer: it is really about getting started on a journey – not all at once, nor infinite; but a little bit every day. This is why the bootcamp is broken down into 30 days. But apart from this, there are actually a few good reasons for this:

1. Putting some time aside for a month to kickstart a new “you” is a pretty good start. Doesn’t a little over two months sound quite scary? There are some books out there that ask you to commit three months to learn and apply mindfulness. They do have a good point: mindfulness gets better with practice. But three months is a long time. Some others promise mindfulness in 7 days… very short to really explore the concept and apply it. And so the bootcamp tries to strike a balance here: something you can commit to but that is not overly long and complex.

2. You don’t need to follow the 30 days – every day. I’m asking you to commit to following the program, because I really think it will give you the essential tools. However, you can and should follow at your own pace: if you feel like redoing a day – do so. Maybe you feel like going back to something you have done a few days back… no problem. I’m asking you not to skip ahead, but be gentle to yourself. This is not a race against each other, it is all about you.

3. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect the first time round. If you feel like it, try a daily exercise again. Or maybe just move to the next day, revisit the exercise at a later day. Sometimes some insights grow with time and practice.

4. It’s not about 21, 30 or 66 days… I’m not hoping and not promising you that after 30 days you will be stress free, eternally happy and enjoying life forever. The bootcamp is the start of a journey… and I hope that after one month you feel it is worthwhile investing a little time each day into yourself. Wether it is by revisiting some of the bootcamp exercises, or exploring some of the areas covered in the bootcamp more in depth – maybe as part of the follow up programs. The program is ultimately all about you – and only you can decide what you want to explore and experience.

In short, I hope the bootcamp is a start of journey: a journey together, where everyone can explore themselves, as individuals and part of the urbangay community.

Body, mind, happiness: the urbangay way

I had no reason to be unhappy: everything was fine.
But I had a nagging feeling that everything could be amazing.

The idea for urbangay didn’t start as an idea to create a specific program or even a specific approach… In fact, it all started as a personal growth project … and grew from there. How?

A few years ago things didn’t really go well for me: not that there was anything specific wrong that needed fixing. I had a stable job at as a university lecturer, traveled a lot, owned a nice apartment with an amazing view over the Thames and the skyline of London, had a lot of friends, did lots of voluntary work and generally everything was just the way a movie writer would love things to be at the end of a kitsch romance movie. But there was a little problem, and that was I just wasn’t really feeling happy. Not really unhappy either… just not really happy. (If you want to find out a little more about me, click here)

the urbangay idea brings together lots of different tools,
for your body, mind and happiness

The issue I had wasn’t really that new to me: Part of my work and almost all of my voluntary work experience over the last two decades included different forms of counselling: listening to people and their issues and helping them to find solutions, coaching people or helping people cope with set backs in their lives. And while specific issues could often be fairly easily addressed, many people I have met over this time didn’t really have a specific issue. In fact, one could say, many had “it all”, just like me – yet they were unhappy.

As part of that work and because of personal interest, I used all kinds of different techniques to help people: From coaching models to counselling techniques, from meditation to tantra. Hence, I assumed that if anyone should have enough experience in the field to resolve this riddle, it should be me. After all I had spoken to literally thousands of people. I managed to make them feel better, surely I should be able to “help” myself.

the urbangay way is affirmative, sex positive
and as individual as you are

My first step was to start to look around to find a solution to feel happier and more content. I came across lots of different solutions: I checked out everything from trying out minimalism to reading how changing the food I eat would change my life forever. The problem was, that all involved some really big life changes – and a lot of commitment, usually immediately up front. And I just wasn’t prepared to throw away all my stuff overnight, or commit to never eating a burger ever again. So while these techniques clearly worked for many people, they were just not right for me – at least not for the longer term.

Other approaches meant signing up to a bunch of spiritual or philosophical beliefs. Often I agreed happily with many of the principles or some of the outcomes, but I just didn’t want to tie myself down too much. For example, I vividly recall how I attended a tantra training. It was really great, and I loved the techniques and the way it felt. There was no doubt, tantra was something I liked. After the workshop I went out with the trainer, and he told me how tantra saved him quite literally from the brink. The story was good, and I could see how a completely tantric lifestyle could do that – but the problem for me was that, while I really liked tantric sessions, I also loved traditional sex. I didn’t want to give up on all other forms of sex. Committing my life to only tantric practice was something I simply wasn’t prepared to do. In short, I wanted something that combined the best of all the things I worked with, but without the dogma!

the urbangay way combines ancient techniques, brand new research
and things that really work – without the dogma

The result was that I started to revisit my experiences working with others: Often, I concluded, that these  dogmatic measures were really good at helping people who had a particular big issue. But what helped people who didn’t have such a specific issue was not a dogmatic application of some form of life principle, but a collection of different techniques borrowed from different methodologies or philosophies. A dip in and dip out approach if you want: something like a smorgasbord of small nibbles or a big buffet of tapas: something where one could try different things, and that once all the small portions are eaten, actually leave you really satisfied. That in mind I started to experiment around.

Eventually more and more friends and people I met or worked with became interested in what I was doing.  They encouraged me to write up the tools and make them available to others. The result is the collection of different workshops, “30 Day programs” and books available here. All of them building happiness by doing something for a healthier body and mind. And encouraging you to discover more and become a happier you.

I really hope the all the different workshops inspire you, too. I know change is often hard and difficult… but it is worth it.

It’s great if you can say everything is fine.
And a hundred times better when you can say it’s amazing!

stephan