Tag Archives: mind

What (We Think) We Know

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I

I was quite young when I heard the expression “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper”. My parents didn’t say it, but it was in the ether. Up until very recently when intermittent fasting became popular, the idea of skipping breakfast seemed unfathomable. Eating poorly for this first meal meant I could be destroying my health. 

The origin of this expression? Kelloggs, the makers of breakfast cereals. 

When early shampoo manufacturers wanted to increase their sales, their advertisers added a line on their bottles to promote this: “rinse and repeat”. 

A diamond engagement ring – as well as the notion that that diamonds are forever or that it should cost the man three months’ salary – was a “tradition” started in the 20th century by De Beers, the diamond company.

As for lavish or destination weddings – whether it’s wearing a designer white dress and walking down an aisle, or a Bollywood-style extravaganza across multiple days of events – has become entirely normalised thanks to popular films and television shows.

As a film person, I can tell you that no brand ever appears on screen by mistake. At the very least, the brand gives permission to show their product without money exchanging hands (as in the case of Apple products). But most often, brands paying substantial sums to have their products shown on screen. 

Whether it’s Rolex and BMW in James Bond films, or Doritos and Pepsi in Never Have I Ever, they are there intentionally. And that intention is to sell you something.

Magazines and billboards have notoriously used aspirational images to sell designer goods. Tara Button, in her excellent book A Life Less Throwaway, talks of her days working in advertising when they Photoshopped together parts of three different women to create one “perfect” woman to sell a car. 

II

Yeah, yeah, I know: we live in a consumerist culture, and that’s the price we have to pay for all the comfortable lifestyle we have. 

But the price can be very high. Because advertisers worked out a long time ago that happy, content people don’t buy things for any other reason that they genuinely need it (a screwdriver, an oven). 

So the rise of consumerism is not just the rise of materialism, but the rise of the Not-Enough-ism. 

The culture wants to keep you destabilised because nothing makes us spend money like insecurity. So we are constantly fed the message that we are not clean enough, not loved enough, and we (especially women) are certainly not pretty enough. We cannot ever believe we are good enough because, then, why would we want to purchase anything except the basic necessities? 

Advertisers also tap into our primal fear of being ousted from the tribe, so we all desperately want social belonging and approval. 

As Button says in A Life Less Throwaway about advertising campaigns: “The model’s [disdainful] expression is designed to make you question your status and to see them as superior to you so subconsciously you want what they have. And, crucially, to assure people who already own that brand that anyone who sees them with it will feel inferior in their presence.”

Only an insane culture tells you your clothes are out of style and need be replaced each season when they’re still completely functional. Or that you need eyelash extensions or a mascara to make it appear as if you are wearing false lashes. Or that you should fight any possibility of smelling like a human being. 

Every time we think we “should” do something, or that’s “just how it is” – it’s almost certainly because commercial entities have created a fear of the consequences.

An unhappy and fearful population will keep looking to soothe itself. And when we feel broken, we try to mend it from the outside with excess processed food, with alcohol and drugs, and – of course – with shopping. And spending money is the most socially sanctioned coping mechanism in our society.

III

Despite my fairly heightened awareness of all this, I still participate. Nobody has forced me to do any of it, but I’ve engaged with mainstream society long enough, and no matter where I am in the world, the messages are much the same. 

What’s been interesting is how the lockdown has started to make this come apart in the seams. It began by how I wasn’t able to do the things I normally do – such as dyeing my grey roots. And it morphed into I couldn’t be arsed to do any more – wear jewellery or, indeed, any clothing that wasn’t a t-shirt and leggings. The days I bothered to put on a bit of eyeliner (to perk myself up – old habits die hard), I felt like I’d dressed for an award show. 

I used to sometimes wonder – what would I do if nobody is watching? Well, now I found out. I’d shower less, sleep more, and be waaaay more sloppy. 

So what would you believe if you weren’t fed by the consumerist machinery of our culture? Is avoiding propaganda even possible? I’m not sure, honestly. We’ve sucked it up through osmosis by this point. And it can be exhausting to always double check – is this what I truly believe and want, or is it because I’ve been told it enough times that it is so? 

But the real question to ask is: what would you do if nobody is judging you?

There’s a lot at stake going against the status quo. I don’t just mean what you wear or what phone you carry. It goes a lot deeper and wider. It means examining all the things you’re supposed to believe make up a successful life, and then design one that suits just you. 

I have a lot more to say on that front personally, and I hope to articulate it all soon enough. But as countries are opening up now and life gets geared back up, this is a good time to accept that things won’t go back to “normal”. And that the old normal had a lot that needed improvement. But we were in so deep, we stopped noticing. 

So, this is a good time to ask: how do I choose to live now? 

“If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.” — Professor Gail Dines

Related Recommendations

“Well, let me tell you ’bout the way she looked / The way she acts and the colour of her hair / Her voice was soft and cool / Her eyes were clear and bright / But she’s not there.” I love the song, She’s Not There, originally by The Zombies. My favourite version is by Neil MacArthur. 

Articles of Interest, hosted by Avery Trufelman, is a limited series of podcasts under 99 Percent Invisible. Both seasons are excellent, but the recent, second, one is especially so. I’ve learnt so much about, among other things, diamond rings and men’s suits. I geek out on this stuff – it’s fascinating. 

In her book, A Life Less Throwaway, Tara Button talks about planned obsolecense (where products are designed to stop working within a set time so that you’re forced to buy a replacement) and many other practices by companies to get you to buy their products. She also has a website, Buy Me Once, where they find products that are created with integrity and built to last, so you waste less money and resources. 

Stay with me!

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Toby Maguire: Zen Breathing, Zen Body

Toby Maguire | Nupu Press | thetinlife
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.” — Zen proverb 
I’m so thrilled to share my exchange with Toby Maguire, a health and wellness consultant. His simple techniques have had a significant effect on my wellbeing in a short period of time. Here, he discusses his tips and tools for healthy living. The connection between our breathing and immunity has been especially valuable to understand.
Toby’s work on managing stress has been featured in the Sunday Times, Forbes magazine and Huffington Post, among other publications. He’s worked at wellness resorts around the world, and his clients include Olympic athletes, Premier League football players, as well as British and Hollywood actors.
He was born and raised in Windsor, in the United Kingdom. He has an MA in Holistic Wellness, as well as Diplomas in Hypnotherapy, Auricular Acupuncture, Thai Massage, Chi Nei Tsang Therapy, Meditation and Qi Gong.
He is the CEO and founder of Living in Balance Ltd, which runs workshops on stress management for company executives and upper management. He has been practising Eastern healing therapies for almost 20 years.
The early years
How did you become interested in Asian philosophy and healing?
I moved for work to Thailand in 1998. While there, I went for a Thai massage and was so impressed by the various techniques the therapist was using, and how I felt afterwards, that I decided to study it. After learning how it helped the body to heal, I wanted to learn more so went on to study Chi Nei Tsang (abdominal massage) and acupuncture.
As I learned how our mind affects what happens in our body, it led me to study meditation, hypnotherapy and Asian philosophy on how to live a happy and peaceful life.
What specifically interested you in meditation?
I suffered from depression and anxiety when I was in my late teens. One day I happened to pick up a book called How To Meditate [author forgotten] in a bookshop. It promised peace of mind, confidence, reduced anxiety and everything that I was trying to experience in my life at the time. So, I promised myself I would practise whatever was taught in the book until I could get over this dark period of my life.
Within three months of learning to meditate, the anxiety and depression completely disappeared. It also gave me a clear understanding of why I had had it in the first place – how I was the one who had created it and what I had to do to eradicate it permanently. I have never had anxiety or depression since.
What did it take for you to make the switch from your day job to doing this full-time?
It took some soul searching to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my life. My first career move was to leave my career as a stage manager in the theatre in 1998 to follow my heart and go to Thailand. I took a great risk by buying a one-way ticket with a four-week Teaching English certificate and about $1,000 in my back pocket. But everything worked out 10 times better than I could have expected.
After about eight years, I realised exactly what I wanted to do: help heal people. To change from my career as an English teacher to a holistic therapist took about two more years of part-time study until I was confident enough to take up a full-time position at Chiva-Som International Health Resort in Thailand.
Toby Maguire | Nupu Press | thetinlife
The breath
There are so many interesting facets to your teachings. I’d like to start with the breath. Could you please explain why it’s so important, and the benefits of proper breathing?
The breath has a huge impact on what is called the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system.
The breath changes when we experience stress or anxiety. We breathe more shallowly from the upper chest, the heart rate increases, while our muscles around the abdomen tense up to protect our internal organs. Blood and oxygen are drawn away from the digestive tract to supply energy to the arms and legs so we can run away faster.
As a result, long-term stress and anxiety can cause digestive disorders, an imbalance in the hormonal system and the internal organs, as the functioning of major internal organs becomes impaired, which results in a weaker immune system.
In contrast, when we breathe deeply and slowly into the abdomen, we restore blood and oxygen to the internal organs. Our heart rate slows down, reducing blood pressure. And stability is restored to the hormonal system – this is not only responsible for all the communication in the body but also for our emotions.
Therefore, deep abdominal breathing not only improves our physical health and boosts our immune system, but it also brings our moods and emotions back into balance.
Amazing. Do you have any tips for what someone can do when s/he is stressed – at a work meeting, say, or feeling helpless like so many of us are now?
There are a couple of techniques that you can implement at any time to calm the mind and improve your focus and mental clarity. As mentioned, deep abdominal breathing will calm the mind by breathing in and out as deeply as possible into the abdomen at six breaths per minute. This means five seconds inhale and five seconds exhale. This will also keep what we call the internal chatter in the back of the mind occupied, so you can listen and think more clearly.
I loved this. I hadn’t realised something so simple could have such a speedy and profound effect.
Taking deep breaths can help focus your body into relaxing. As you relax the body, then your mind switches from what is known as the animalistic, emotional brain over to the frontal lobe where logical and rational thinking takes place. This helps give you better perspective on the situation at hand.
Meditation can feel really daunting though. How do you like to introduce people to it?
The biggest obstacle people have with meditation is that they completely misunderstand what it is, and so they think they can’t do it.
The first point to establish is that meditation is not about trying to stop your thoughts. Any attempt to stop yourself thinking will just lead to frustration as the nature of the mind is to think.
The aim of meditation is to be aware of your thoughts, which is completely different; to be able to almost stand back and observe what you are thinking – without jumping into the story and letting your thoughts take over your mind.
When people understand this, they realise that they can meditate and it isn’t so difficult at all. It is also important to explain to people the benefits of meditation and how it improves productivity. When they understand a regular meditation practice will save them time and help them to work more efficiently, they are more likely to continue practising it.
What would be a good meditation habit for us to adopt?
Most people tell me that they don’t have time to meditate. In this case, I would encourage them to start with 10 minutes per day, but to make sure they practise every day. This way, it becomes a simple habit very quickly. Once a meditation habit is established, then the benefits become obvious. It’s then easier to lengthen the amount of practice time.
 
Toby Maguire | Nupu Press | thetinlife
The body
What is your view of the human body through Chinese medicine?
The major difference between the Western and Chinese approach to medicine is the meridian – or energy – lines that flow throughout the body. These meridian lines are connected to the internal organs, so, for example, you have your heart line that flows down both arms, and your kidney line that flows down both legs. The organs and meridians must work in synchronicity with one another to experience optimum health and wellbeing. But often due to injury, poor diet, lack of exercise or excessive emotional states, the organs and energy lines can become unbalanced, which can lead to long term pain, illness and disease.
Could you give an example of the interconnectedness of our bodies with a patient case study?
I had a client who was a nurse who suffered from something called Stapedius Myoclonus Tinnitus, a frustrating tapping sound that would occur in her ear and often prevent her from sleeping.
Her husband was a medical GP and, for the previous three years, she had been through every test and treatment available on the National Health Service to resolve the issue, but without success. She was very sceptical about Chinese medicine but came to me as a last resort.
I used a Korean form of acupuncture called Sujok which involved using the acupuncture points in her foot. This made her even more sceptical, but after just two sessions, the treatment resolved the issue and it never returned.
Is it a constant process to bring the body into balance, or can we actually stay there if we’re diligent and dedicated?
With the correct knowledge, diet and exercise, the body is far more likely to remain in balance. However, few people have the willpower to exercise regularly and eat well; as a result, they are likely to require treatments in the forms of massage and acupuncture.
 
Even the healthiest of people may need to be treated sometimes, especially as they get older, as the overall energy starts to deplete, which weakens the immune system.
What do each of our organs signify?
Each of our organs can become excessive or deficient in energy, which then affects our emotions. The negative emotions affected with each of the organs are:
kidneys and bladder: fear 

digestive organs: anxiety 

lungs and large intestine: grief and sadness 

liver and gall bladder: anger 

heart and small intestine: excessive joy, and lack of empathy
Could you talk a little about using sound as therapy? I found that fascinating!
Each of our organs can be strengthened by cultivating positive emotions, visualising specific colours, and also through specific sounds.
Sound is a vibration, and different sounds generate different vibrational frequencies. Each organ has a different density and vibration, so by using a specific sound that resonates with that organ will cause it to vibrate, stimulating the cells within it. This is a key aspect of Qi Gong.
Toby Maguire | Nupu Press | thetinlife
Our habits
I feel we have become so disconnected from nature that we have overridden our body’s innate wisdom with processed food, chronic stress or insufficient rest. But this has sadly become the norm. What do you say to patients who find it tough to change their ways?
Don’t try and change all of your habits overnight; be realistic about what you can achieve. For example, if you never exercise and are overweight, start with a 15-minute walk every day. If you are stressed, spend 10 to15 minutes a day meditating.
If you and your partner drink a bottle of wine every evening, then try to drink just a glass a day or every other day, and a bottle only at the weekend. If you set yourself simple goals to achieve that you really think are achievable, you are more likely to succeed in making those lifestyle changes. But if you try to do too much, you may have one bad day, then think you can’t achieve your goals and give up.
Because you have so many methods to treat a patient – acupuncture, nutrition, hypnotherapy, and more – how do you choose the right one?
It depends on the client and the reason they have come to see me. If they are in some sort of physical pain, I usually use a combination of massage and acupuncture, and perhaps some Qi Gong exercises for rehabilitation.
If they want to lose weight, I would use either hypnotherapy or acupuncture, or both. Also, depending on their knowledge about nutrition, I may offer them some dietary advice too. For something like stress, I would usually treat them with hypnotherapy, and teach them some meditation and breathing techniques to help them cope with stressful situations in the future.
But I also base my treatments on what I feel is right for the client. For example, there is no use doing hypnotherapy for a client if we’re not fluent in each other’s languages.
Any resources you recommend?
I like earthclinic.com. If you go to the menu, click on “Old Version”. This the best website for natural cures for almost any symptom or illness.
There’s also an app called Insight Timer. It’s free and there are thousands of meditations on it.
Toby Maguire | Nupu Press | thetinlife
Living your life
You live the way I lived for so long: out of a suitcase and roaming the world! What is it about living this way that appeals to you?
I love the feeling that every day is a new adventure, every day is different, and that every day I get to meet and work with people from many different cultures and backgrounds. As a result, I am always learning new things.
I also love that exciting feeling of being in a new place and experiencing new sights, sounds, smells and feelings I have never experienced before. And I have learnt that no matter what country or culture I experience, they always respond positively to the same thing: kindness.
What does a good day look like to you? Which daily practices do you ensure you do for your own health and wellbeing?
A good day is waking up in a nice hotel room, practising Qi Gong for an hour and maybe 30 minutes of meditation. This is followed by a nice breakfast in the hotel restaurant and seeing about four clients throughout the day. Finishing work around 6pm and having time to go for a swim in the sea as the sun sets. A light dinner followed by a bit of reading or listening to a podcast on spirituality or Traditional Chinese Medicine. It may sound strange, but my work is my passion and I love learning new things to improve myself and the treatments that I provide for others.
What has been your toughest lesson?
The realisation that everything comes to an end, and to accept it when it does. This has given me the ability to appreciate what I have today and to let go of things when their time has come. Nothing is permanent; it all appears from nothing, reaches its peak, then declines and disappears to the same place. It is the nature of the universe, and everything follows this same path.
When were you most happy?
I can quite honestly put my hand on my heart and say I have been very happy for the last 21 years since the day I abandoned my former career, and started to follow my heart to live life as an adventure.
But there are two situations when I am the happiest. The first is when I am on a sailing yacht in the middle of the ocean; there’s something magical about this. The second is having Sunday dinner with my mum at the family home. She is 72 and won’t be around forever, and knowing this makes these moments very special to me.
Toby’s favourite motto:Be kind, to everyone, all of the time.”

Toby’s Recommendations

The film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Ben Stiller (also the director) plays Walter Mitty, an office worker who constantly daydreams about living his life as an adventure, and eventually, he does. So inspiring! 

The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. I read this book in my early 20s and didn’t understand a word of it. But in my 30s and 40s, it became my bible, so full of wisdom. 

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is the best book I ever read. When you learn how people think, you can gain their trust, confidence and deepen your relationships with everyone.
Thank you so very much, Toby!
You can find out more about Toby Maguire and Living in Balance Ltd at zenmindcoach.com.
All images (except for the top) are copyrighted and courtesy of Zen Mind Coach.

A Warm Welcome!

“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively, unless you can choose a challenge instead of a competence.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Hello my lovelies, and a warm welcome!
 
I’m so excited you’re here.
 
The Tin Life is about holistic living for curious minds.
It’s about being good to our bodies and being green with our homes. It’s being creative from that part of us that is innately creative, even if we’ve covered it up over the years. It’s about living consciously and graciously, expansively and boldly. It’s about relationships and food – and being radically honest about both. It’s really about all the things I wish I was taught in school but had to learn – sometimes the hard way – as an adult.
I’ve been an intensive student of these topics for a long time. And I’m still insatiably curious. I always want to know more. So this is a space to dig deeper, examine how and why we do what we do, and ask some sage people about their experiences too.
 
This is a place without judgment or shaming. It’s about starting where you are. The ethos here is to offer humble gifts so you can be the best you. This is optimisation but in a thoughtful, organic way, and not so much about life hacks and short cuts.
 
The idea is to simplify as much as we can – how we eat, sleep, live, work, relate and more. Instead of adding more layers and noise, it’s about removing the excess and the complex (nature is a great teacher). When we take care of these core aspects, we can freely invest our energies on our creativity and service to others. This just works better for the world.
 
This is an experiment and adventure. I hope you will join me. Let’s live well!
 
Love,
Nupu xx
“The secret to living well and longer is: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure.” — Tibetan Proverb

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