Sitting on a Chicken: Extract

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To celebrate the release of Sitting on a Chicken by Michael Chissick, we are releasing an extract from the book, featuring four interactive yoga games and poses you can use with your children or pupils!

To download the extract please click here. 

Learn more about Sitting on a Chicken here. 

Michael Chissick has written several books for children, published by Singing Dragon, please find them here.

Striker, Slow Down! – Colouring Page

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To celebrate the release of Striker, Slow Down!, we have released a downloadable colouring page to help children use mindfulness to control their emotions.

Striker, Slow Down! tells the story of Striker the cat, who is unstoppable! He thinks that there is too much fun to be had, and no matter what his mama tells him, he never slows down. One day, a bump to the head brings this busy cat to a standstill. Will Striker finally listen to his mama and learn to make time for a little calmness?

You can use our colouring page with your children or pupils and you can share your finished pages with us on Facebook or Twitter.

To download the colouring page, please click here.

Improve patient’s experience through relationship-building – interview with Jane Wood

Jane Wood

Jane Wood has been involved in reflective practice for the last 20 years.  She is a supervisor and teacher of reflective practice at the University of Westminster and is the head

of practitioner development and reflective practice at the International School of Homeopathy, London.

Jane Wood’s new book The Compassionate Practitioner is now available from Singing Dragon. This handbook, full of practical tips and supportive advice, explains how best to enhance the client’s experience through compassion and mindfulness. This book will be a valued support for anyone working in private practice.

What inspired you to write this book?

I have been teaching the practitioner-patient relationship to students at college and at the University of Westminster for nearly 20 years. At the same time, I have been supervising qualified alternative practitioners and seen their struggles to build up a private practice. Many practitioners talked about the same issues in supervision: their patients were demanding, impatient or simply didn’t return. The practitioners needed to find a way to create trust, loyalty and staying power. They could do this if they improved the patient’s experience during the consultation. I realized I was in a position to write a book that takes the practitioner through every stage of the consultation, giving them lots of practical advice on how to create a healing relationship with the patient – and gain a flourishing practice.

 

Why is relationship building so important for people working in private practice?

I strongly believe that relationship building is vitally important for everyone in the caring professions whether they are alternative practitioners, counsellors and therapists or traditional doctors, nurses and consultants. Unfortunately, most orthodox practitioners do not have the time available to do much relationship building, leaving both the practitioner and the patient feeling dissatisfied and rushed. Many alternative practitioners such as homeopaths, acupuncturists, and body workers have longer sessions with their patients, which allow them more time to work on the relationship.

On the surface, making an effort to improve the experience for the patient will increase their trust and loyalty to the practitioner, but it is more than this. When the practitioner takes time to make the patient feel safe and appreciated, the patient can start to relax and explain themselves better; which in turn enables the practitioner to give a better treatment.

The added bonus for anyone in private practice, is that once there is a good relationship, the patient will help build up the practice by referring other people.

There are many different ways in which the practitioner can improve their patients’ experiences. One way is consider the clinic environment. I suggest that practitioners take five or ten minutes to sit in the patient’s chair, quieting their mind by focusing on the breath. Once they are quiet and relaxed, they can bring themselves into the present moment and use all of their senses to assess the clinic room. What is the feel of the chair they are sitting in? Is it comfortable? What is the room temperature? What smells are there?  Can they hear the receptionist or another therapist working in the next room? If so, does this impact on confidentiality?

 

What can practitioners do to improve their patients’ experiences?

The appearance of the room will make a big difference to the patient. If the practitioner is behind a desk they will feel more secure, but the patient will feel distanced. What do the patient’s eyes rest on when they are not talking? Considering the clinic room through the senses will give the practitioner a taste of what the patient experiences. They then need to consider what they can do to improve the current environment.

Another suggestion for improving the patient’s experience is that the practitioner should explain to the patient what will happen during the consultation. This is called ‘signposting’ and should be done at the beginning of the session. It can be very brief, such as, ‘I’m going to invite you to talk about yourself and your problem for the first twenty minutes, and then I’ll give you a treatment which takes about thirty minutes. You’ll need to take off your shoes and get onto the treatment couch. After the treatment we’ll see how you feel.” Once this has been clarified, the patient knows what to expect and can relax.

 

How can practitioners maintain balance in their work and avoid burnout?

Being a practitioner and listening to many patients talking about themselves is a great privilege and helping them can be deeply rewarding.  But sometimes the price is too high. There are several different causes of burnout, including working for very long hours, anxiety about patients or unconsciously taking on the patients’ negative emotions. The last one occurs mainly when there is a long time spent face-to-face with the patient, such as for counsellors, therapists or homeopaths. Our brains are programmed to read other people’s body language and facial expressions, so that we can empathise or feel their emotions.

The patient’s emotions can be directly experienced by the practitioner who might carry home a patient’s anger or depression. An awareness of this will help them consciously make more breaks in eye contact, and change their own body language more often so they don’t unconsciously mirror the patient so much.

Another way to avoid burnout is to make sure the practitioner has enough personal time to have fun and relax. This might sound obvious but when a single practitioner is running a private practice, they have to be their own marketing manager, record keeper and accountant and this all takes time. The practitioner needs to balance the intense work in the clinic with care for themselves, physically, mentally and emotionally.

 

You write a lot about self-reflection. Who do you think should do it and why do think it’s important?

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Self-reflection is a process of self-examination, of thinking seriously about your own character or actions. In the caring professions this will mean exploring something about the practitioner-patient relationship in order to understand it in more depth and decide what can be done to improve it. It is not nearly as effective if it is done within the limitations of the practitioners mind, and much better if it’s done out loud in front of a colleague or supervisor, or written into a self-reflective journal. If something went well, the practitioner can make a note of it so that they can repeat it. If it didn’t go well they can analyse why and plan how to change things next time. As I see it, all practitioners should be doing self-reflection. Their learning taught them how to work with the average patient. Experience shows them that patients are anything but average and everyone is very different. Self-reflection raises the standards of the practitioner and everyone gains from it: the practitioner, the patient, the clinic and the profession in general.

 

 2014  Singing Dragon blog. All Rights Reserved

 

Don’t expect it to go right – by Chris Mitchell

I have been asked frequently of late about whether or not mindfulness ‘works’. Personally, I think it neither does nor doesn’t work as it is something that one can neither succeed nor fail at. I appreciate that just because it can have an effect on the quality of life for some individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, including my own, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is for all. It can be easy to become put off from mindfulness practice when one feels that their mind wanders so much that they can’t calm it, and become more frustrated through just ‘trying’. But just simple noticing of the mind wandering is a good start. One of the most useful pieces of therapy I have had for coping with set-backs and disappointments is not to expect anything to go right, including mindfulness practice.

Too often when we set out to see or experience something that interests us or we are enthusiastic or passionate about or what has always been on our bucket list of things we would like to do, we almost expect to have a great time that we forget that there is the possibility that something might go wrong, and when it does, feelings can include not just disappointment, but also frustration, which in turns results in low mood.

northern light-smallAn interesting way to potentially experience disappointment as well as learn how to cope with it in a positive way is through chasing the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. Some have been fortunate to have seen the Northern Lights in the UK 2014 courtesy of a recent powerful solar storm that resulted in a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) strong enough for its impact on hitting Earth’s atmosphere to be visible much further south than normal. But as Northern Lights enthusiasts know well, more than just strong solar storm activity needs to occur to have a chance of seeing the lights, even when one is around Earth’s magnetic pole above the Arctic Circle in Tromso, Norway, a clear sky is needed and for the phenomena to be visible, solar storm activity has to be at the right level and has to happen at a certain time.

It is human nature to want an explanation as to why phenomena like the Northern Lights happen and as a result many myths have been associated with them over thousands of years, as they could appear very brightly without warning. The Sami, native to northern Scandinavia, believed that they came about when an arctic fox ran over the mountains leaving behind a mist while the Greenland Inuit believed them to be the souls of babies yet to be born.  Though solar storm activity is generally constant, even with present technology, it is still very difficult for astronomers to predict when CMEs will hit Earth’s atmosphere. With the added need of a clear sky, those on Northern Lights chases can experience either wonders or disappointment.

However, being aware that the phenomenon isn’t guaranteed to happen is a good way to prepare for potential disappointment. From images of northern Scandinavia, it can be assumed warm fire-smallthat the Northern Lights appear just about every night, but when visiting, one finds that reality and perception are two very different things, including the often harsh reality of adverse weather conditions for those who live there. After two nights looking for any signs of looking for any signs of aurora with no luck and poor conditions for aurora viewing including low cloud cover, when the adverse weather conditions of heavy snow, wind and cloud cover continued into my third night, when instead of thinking about whether or not I would see any aurora activity I had become more accustomed to the thrill of being in the Artic in heavy snow with access to the warmth of an open fire in a Sami tent, there came a break in the clouds and I managed to see a green tinge of aurora activity!

The aurora display that I managed to see was visible for only a few minutes until it was obscured by cloud again. But when it did appear, it provided me with a little reminder of how to approach mindfulness practice, which similarly with aurora chasing, not to have any expectations as to what its effects may be.  Aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome, including high anxiety, low self-esteem and depression can’t be ‘eliminated’ through mindfulness practice, but in time, the effects of mindfulness practice can help one deal with such issues, including coping with disappointments in a positive way.

During CME’s, which cause the phenomenon, the Sun loses some of its mass, which weakens its gravity, contributing to earth’s orbital period, and the year, gradually becoming longer, a reminder that the concept of clock and calendar time is neither fixed nor permanent, as are any effects of mindfulness practice. Understandably, if a person with Asperger’s Syndrome who experiences high levels of anxiety relies on the relative predictability of structured clock and calendar time, natural time as it unfolds can be a difficult concept to grasp. However, by initially just noticing reliance on structured time can help to see how it can become a controlling factor in one’s life when, including noticing certain habits that arouse from such routines. Any effects of mindfulness are more likely to arise in the much more abstract nature; natural time that we can’t often see rather than in the clock and calendar time we see frequently and come to rely on.

Just as it helps when going aurora chasing not to expect to see any aurora activity, similarly when seeking mindfulness practice, it helps not to have any initial expectations of any effects.

Chris Mitchell is the author of Asperger’s Syndrome and Mindfulness (2012) and Mindful Living with Asperger’s Syndrome (December 2013) both published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Holding Calm Within, Concentrating Attention Beyond: Asperger’s Syndrome and Lake Meditation – by Chris Mitchell

Chris-Mitchell-2People with Asperger’s syndrome are known for a liking for solitude, particularly if they feel that they can’t be understood or don’t feel accepted within the social world. Though a person with Asperger’s Syndrome may be quite content in such a setting, they may not initially be aware that it can lead to excessive isolation. However, where such a preference can help develop social skills is through adapting qualities from spending time in solitude into social environments. To enable this, one must see solitude as a place to step back from the flow rather than as a place to hide. Since being  diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, this is an aspect of my condition that I feel I have gradually begun to notice more. I am more aware of how solitude affects me and others around me, including how my Asperger-related tendencies have an effect on others as well as how the moods of others affect me. When stepping back from the flow in a natural setting, particularly in a forest or by a lake and  applying my focus to the present, I am able to see how various inter-connected factors cause different effects to happen, as well as being able to observe and be present with the qualities of adaptability and receptiveness that nature has.

When practicing lake meditation, a meditation technique that can be practiced by an actual lake or just with the lake image in mind.  One begins to notice the receptiveness of the surface of the water contained in the lake, and the lake’s responses to constantly changing factors including responding to wind with ripples, which produce a sparkling effect when reflecting sunlight or moonlight. On a clear day, from a good vantage point, the depths of a lake can sometimes be seen. Lake Wastwater in Cumbria is one such lake where the depths of the lake, including what the lake is comprised of, can be seen from the ascent of nearby Scafell Pike. With continued and focused attention, one also notices that the surface of the lake changes colour in accordance with the weather, dark when cloudy and inviting in reflections under clear skies.

It is important to expand your attention during your practice to consider how factors that affect the appearance of the lake also affect how we feel within the body.  How we feel within affects how we present on the outside. For instance we may shiver when temperature drops or a when a draft blows in or ‘jerk’ when caught in a gust of wind. But rather than allowing such occurrences to become an interruption or a distraction to the extent that they lead us to giving up the practice, it helps us to notice and acknowledge any impulses we have to react. In turn, this helps one notice how when we act on our impulses we find ourselves on ‘automatic pilot’, almost being controlled by them.

When we transfer the qualities experienced during lake meditation to social situations, we notice how factors affect our moods and feelings. Like the surface of a lake changes colour in response to light, facial expressions in people often change in shape and form. People’s complexions can change in between moods  and a change in mood and feelings brings about different actions and responses. As a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, I sometimes feel like I am an ‘actor,’ in that I learn non-verbal social skills from observation. But to enable appropriate acknowledgement and response in a social situation, it helps to be able to maintain the calm beneath one’s external presentation, relating to the calm water beneath the surface.

Taking a step back from the social world into solitude to practice lake meditation can help a person develop observational skills that are helpful in developing non-verbal social skills. To be able to be present with such observations, as well as to be able to apply attention when listening and retain the calm beneath the surface are qualities that when applied to social situations can enable social connection, acceptance and inclusion.

Chris Mitchell is the author of Asperger’s Syndrome and Mindfulness (2012) and Mindful Living with Asperger’s Syndrome (December 2013) both published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.