Tag Archives: meditation

Leo’s first ever Equine-assisted Psychotherapy session

Some of you may remember: Leo is the horse we rescued a couple of years ago, who on arrival here was little more than a bag of bones. Leo has been with us for three years now. He has made tremendous progress.

I thought the time was right to see if Leo, so traumatised and abused himself in the past, would be interested in helping our workshop participants resolve trauma they experienced previously. You can read more about Leo’s past here. So I asked my Belgian friend Kat if she would be interested in doing an equine-assisted psychotherapy session with Leo. Kat, herself a healer, and Leo, were both a bit nervous in the beginning. Kat is not familiar with horses and Leo has never worked with anyone else but me. Leo was a STAR, and so was Kat, working together to find common ground, both nervous, but both eager to find a way of communicating and helping each other. It was pure magic. It has taken me near three years to get Leo this point, to rebuild his trust in people, so much so that he would actually be willing to help them with their own problems. 

Here is Kat’s take on the experience:

Just follow your heart, Margaretha said…

I’m used to following my heart, when I work with adults, with children – when I teach, when I coach and when I heal. The only thing is that I’m a bit (read a whole lot) scared of horses. When you’re afraid, following your heart is not that easy.

The week before, Margaretha told me that she wanted to introduce me to Leo, so that I can work with him the following week. I tried to give him a carrot. As I reached out to him, he shied away and fled as if I was going to hit him with an axe. Equally sacred, I took a huge jump backwards.

With the assistance of Margaretha, whom I trust, and more importantly who Leo trusts, I managed to get him to eat a few carrots out of my hand, which Margaretha had to hold!

I could only imagine that during the following week, Margaretha had a good many nights of doubting, about her idea of me working with Leo. After almost three years of patience in trying to win his confidence and showing to Leo that people can be trusted, you do not want a nervous person to undo all of your achievements in a split second.

I, on the other hand, was prepared for the worst. In my mind’s eye and in my dreams, I saw a horse jumping and shying away from me. Anxiety is an emotion and mostly a product of our minds, so I decided to just be and breathe and see what happened. The worst thing that could happen is Leo jumping all over me.

The day we planned me working with Leo, I felt a bit nervous, so I grounded myself and did my full walking heart meditation. Without expectations and without a plan I entered the school.

Just follow your heart…. and so I did, I opened my heart for this wonderful being, let down and hurt by people. I just tried to establish a loving connection, kept my energy low, my movements very slow and calm.  I kept my distance and tried to make Leo curious. What happened I will remember the rest of my life. The pictures speak for themselves. I am so honoured to have attended this healing experience for Leo and for myself.

Thankfulness, Love and Joy. The power of the Hearth is the greatest Power in the World!

Thanks, Leo, thank you, Margaretha
Kat

I posted Kat and Leo’s adventure on my Facebook page and was completely overwhelmed by the encouraging response. You can read the comments here – the post is available for public viewing. I also recently wrote a blog post focusing on what Leo taught me about the pros and cons of mindfulness.

If you would like to meet Leo, please join us for a Connect with Horses Workshop here in the south of France. If you would like to follow Leo’s progress, please subscribe to this blog and to my newsletter at the top right of this page.

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6 Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation in Midlife

Mindfulness Meditation can be beneficial to women later in life in several different ways. Mindfulness can be cultivated using a variety of methods, but for the purpose of this post, we will focus on mindfulness meditation.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that mindfulness and meditation are two of my favourite subjects. With good reason, as you will soon discover. En plus, our ‘Connect with Horses’ personal empowerment workshops are based on mindfulness and meditation.

But what IS mindfulness meditation? Mindfulness meditation is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting this moment without judgment. By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness meditation find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past and are better able to form rewarding and lasting relationships with others.

Anxiety about the Future
As we get older, we may find that we fret more often about the future: Will we remain healthy in body and mind? Will we be able to cope if we lose our spouse/partner? Will we have to cope with loneliness in our old age? Are we financially secure enough in a politically and economically changing world?

Mindfulness meditation, if practised regularly, can reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, depression, exhaustion, loneliness and irritability. Mindfulness meditation reduces the production of stress hormones, so people who meditate regularly are calmer, more patient and more content. In this way, mindfulness meditation can help us keep anxiety about an unpredictable future at bay as we get older.

Memory Loss
Many of us worry about losing our memory as we get older, especially as the first signs of normal, age-related forgetfulness appear in our lives. Mindfulness meditation can improve your memory. It can protect our working memory, increase our creativity and extend our attention span. It can also increase our reaction speed and our mental endurance.

Mindfulness meditation can delay the thinning of certain areas of the brain that naturally occurs with ageing. Mindfulness slows the progression of age-related cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s dementia. Mindfulness meditation may also slow ageing at the cellular level by promoting chromosomal health and resilience.

Chronic Pain
Certain diseases that can cause chronic pain are more prevalent in older adults. Mindfulness increases our ability to cope with chronic pain. It increases grey matter in areas associated with self-awareness and self-control.

Mindfulness meditation can dramatically reduce pain and our emotional reaction to it. Studies suggest that pain levels can be reduced by 57 to 93%, depending on aptitude. In an effort to self-medicate, people with chronic pain often become substance (pain killers) abusers. Mindfulness can reduce addictions like the abuse of legal and prescription drugs and excessive alcohol intake.

Stronger Immune system
As we get older, our immune system that protects us against infectious and cancerous disease, becomes less effective. Mindfulness meditation can boost a flagging immune system. People who regularly meditate are admitted to hospital far less often for diseases like cancer, heart disease and a variety of infections. In fact, mindfulness meditation can reduce the risks of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease and it can decrease the severity of cardiovascular disease should it appear.

Restorative Sleep
We often have to cope with disturbed sleep patterns as the years go by. Restorative sleep is essential to the proper functioning our bodies and our minds. Mindfulness meditation can improve our sleep quality AND quantity. Stress is one of the most common causes of insomnia and sleep problems. Mindfulness meditation promotes calmness and helps reduce rumination that can disrupt sleep.

Rewarding Relationships
Mindfulness meditation can help build happier relationships by decreasing emotional reactivity. Couples who actively practised mindfulness saw improvements to their happiness with their relationship. The practice of mindfulness allows couples to be present in their relationships and to more quickly overcome stressful situations in the relationship. Mindfulness increases empathy and compassion, not only in intimate relationships but in all relationships, making relationships more rewarding and sustainable.

Mindful meditation makes it easier to savour the pleasures of life, especially as we get older. It helps us to be fully engaged in all our activities, and it creates a greater capacity in us to deal with adverse events. However, the beneficial effects of mindfulness meditation are dose-related – to be effective, it needs to be practised regularly. Prof Jon Kabat-Zinn, a world-recognised expert on mindfulness meditation and stress reduction, recommends 45 minutes of meditation at least six days a week.

Developing a mindfulness meditation practice can be a challenging exercise, especially on your own. That is one of the reasons we created our mindfulness and meditation workshops here in the south of France – to offer our guests instruction and support while they discover and experiment with different techniques, so as to enable them to find a way to practice mindfulness meditation that can be seamlessly incorporated into their lives. Since it is easier to learn by copying an expert, we use equine-guided mindfulness meditation to help our guests master this method.

dr_margaretha_montagu_v3All the knowledge and experience I have gained in presenting these workshops are now available in e-book form: Mindfulness and Meditation in the South Of France: Staying focused in a fast-paced World. The printed option will soon be available, also from Amazon.

What do you think about mindfulness meditation? Is it just another fashionable fad that will soon be out-of-date or does it have lasting value?

It has been said that mindfulness is the exact opposite of multitasking and that multitasking can be detrimental to one’s peace of mind. What do you think?

the-benefits-of-mindfulness-and-meditation-in-midlife

Mindfulness and Meditation in France

Did I mention that I have joined NaNoWriMo? I think I may have, about a hundred times so far. I am writing another non-fiction book. This one is called Mindfulness and Meditation in the south of France.

My aim with Mindfulness and Meditation in the south of France is to answer my readers’ questions about mindfulness and meditation and to present scientific proof of the effectiveness of both mindfulness and of meditation as stress management strategies. I introduce my readers to a variety of different meditation methods, to help each reader find the meditation practice that suits him/her best. Especially if, like me, the reader has tried traditional sitting meditation and has found that it just doesn’t work for them. In the book, I discuss

    • walking meditation,
    • working meditation,
    • writing meditation,
    • music meditation,
    • visualisation meditation,
    • contemplative meditation
    • equine-guided meditation
    • as well as traditional sitting meditation.

To help people choose a meditation method, I provide them with a questionnaire that enables them to choose a meditation method that they will be able to incorporate seamlessly into their lives.

Each chapter starts with a letter written to me by a potential participant in one of the mindfulness meditation workshops we host here in France. Each letter reveals a specific problem, or a set of problems, that readers will be able to identify with. The letter is followed by a detailed explanation of how to solve the writer’s problems using mindfulness and meditation.

This book more or less wrote itself. I have been teaching stress management strategies to workshop participants for nearly ten years, so all I did was to organise what I knew into book form. I think I should finish the book sometime this week. I had better, because the book is already available on pre-order at Amazon and is due to be published on the second of December. This time, I am much better prepared for the editing process. It should be a much faster and less painful process than when I edited French Women’s Confidence Secrets. Talking about French Women, I had to start writing a new book. It was the only way I could stop myself tinkering with the last one.  First time round I had to learn everything about self-publishing from scratch. This time round I am hoping that I can avoid pulling out as much of my hair as last time.

This is the cover of the new book:

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Now I only need to write two more books and then I will have written five in all. According to Joanna Penn, my self-publishing book writing guru,  one needs a series of books. Five sounded like a good number to me. Luckily a non-fiction book only has to have 45 000 words, although both these have more than 50 000. On the other hand, it is not so easy to condense a life-time’s knowledge and experience into a book of 50 000 words.

This week also heralds the publication of the November issue of my Mpower Magazine, so far standing at 3354 words and not quite finished yet. I have decided that my e-zine should also reflect our life here in France, so its full name now is: Mpower magazine: Living mindfully in the south of France. Each month, it contains the following:

  • Mpowering main article: With Thanksgiving and the Christmas season just around the corner, this month’s article is about Mindful Eating
  • Mpowering quote
  • Mpowering meme
  • Mpowering affirmation
  • Mpowering prompt
  • Living mindfully in the south of France – a short anecdote: this month my 93-year-old neighbour drives his battered old Citroen into a ditch
  • Photos from the south of France: Autumn in the vineyards!
  • News from the south of France featuring the Vendanges Tardives in Viella – last grape harvest on the 31st of December
  • Mpowering free download of the month: A chapter from Susan Albers’ book Mindful Eating
  • Mpowering Links including a link to a blog post by one of my blogging friends. This week it is a post by Molly Stevens.

If you would like to subscribe, please CLICK HERE. If you can think of anyone else who would like to subscribe, please share this post with them!

Pin to read this post later:

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Writer’s Life: the Book Signing

I am supposed to do a book signing in a couple of week’s time. I have never done this before and I have to admit, the idea scares the living daylights out of me. Do people actually realise that I am not a REAL writer? That I am mainly writing these books to spread the word about our mindfulness meditation workshops?

Okay, that is not the whole truth. One of the reasons I host these workshops is because I believe that mindfulness and meditation are very powerful stress-busting techniques that can help people avoid the physical and mental damage that stress can cause. Another reason, the main reason really, is because I want to empower women to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives, full of purpose and meaning, with the help of my horses. My books contain the information I share with our workshop participants, so with a bit of luck, my readers will find my books empowering too.

So far, I have had to ask people to review French Women’s Confidence Secrets, but I am now starting to receive unsolicited reviews. One has made my heart sing: “I’ve been following Margaretha’s blog since she first started blogging. When I saw her new book, I was intrigued, and naturally I had to read it. I was not disappointed. The book is outmost interesting. I would go as far as claiming at not only does it have the potential to help women of all ages to feel better about themselves, but could also be of interest for any compassionate man that has an important woman in his life. Read it!” Maria Jansson.

Even NaNoWriMo discriminates against me: I write non-fiction and even though there is a forum on NaNoWriMo for non-fiction writers called NaNoWriMo Rebels, I very much doubt that a non-fiction book will ever win a NaNoWriMo category. I am doing it anyway, because I enjoy meeting other writers and because I feel inspired and motivated to write in the company of so many others. I have managed, so far, to write 38 961 words of my third book,  Mindfulness and Meditation in France, so I am very glad I joined. Only 11 039 words to go.

I have a couple of problems with the French Women’s Confidence Secrets book signing. Firstly, the books that I have to sign, have not arrived yet. Admittedly, this is deepest, rural France, and international packages can take between four and six weeks to get here, but time is running out and I am getting a bit worried. Secondly, I thought it would be a great idea to put an author’s bookmark, introducing my Mindfulness and Meditation book, in each of the books I signed. So I went to Vistaprint.com and spent three days designing the PERFECT bookmark. I made sure that they deliver to France, as their .fr site and even their .co.uk site do not stock bookmarks. Only to find out, at the last minute, that they can not “at this time” send bookmarks to France. I was SO mad.

I have made flyers instead, at twice the expense, not at all what I had wanted, but better than nothing. Here are the proofs. What do you think?

fly1 fly2

Obviously, I am rather hoping that these will get here in time for the book signing too!

Nothing that happens to a writer, however happy, however tragic, is ever wasted. PD James

trials-and-tribulations-of-a-writers-life

Mindfulness of Mountains

These are the mighty Pyrenées Mountains, the border between France and Spain that stretch from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Mediterranean in the east. Our Retreat Centre, Les Sources Sacrées, is 90 minutes north of this border, we literally live in the foothills of the mountains, sometimes also called Les Petits Pyrenées.

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On a clear day, should you look southwards, the horizon is filled from east to west by row upon row of majestic snow-capped peaks. We consider ourselves exceptionally blessed to have such beauty in our backyard.

At Les Sources Sacrées (the sacred springs), we host personal empowerment workshops. During our guided walking meditations, we often pause and encourage our guests to find a peaceful spot facing these magnificent mountains for a spot of morning meditation. Looking at the mountains often makes me think of a Bible verse I learnt as a child:

I will lift my eyes up to the mountains, from where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made Heaven and Earth!
PS 121:1

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