Meditations

 

 

MBSR Body Scan

 

MBSR Body Scan Short Version.

 

MBSR Awareness of Breath

 

MBSR Mindful Movement, (Mindful yoga)

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): An 8 week course in Brighouse

Emma Dunn-MBSR Course Tutor

I live and work in Rastrick and am excited to bring this well established, evidenced based mindfulness programme to Brighouse.

I was a participant in an MBSR 8 week course in early 2016, not quite sure what to expect, but hoping this course would satisfy my appetite for meditation. I convinced myself it was about learning enough mindfulness to help my clients; I work as a psychotherapist. However it has proven to be just the beginning of a journey into mindfulness and meditation.

In May 2016 I was then excited to be able to proceed to complete a Mindfulness Instructor Course and late in 2016 started studying with the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice (CMRP) at Bangor University to complete my training to become a teacher of MBSR.

The training of Mindfulness teachers is now under the administration of the Mindfulness network

There is a voluntary code of practice, to which teachers are expected to adhere.

What is MBSR

MBSR is part of a group of evidenced based treatments that use aspects of the Buddhist philosophy, in particular  meditation to help us understand how we react to things, and to be more present in our lives, not lost in thought.

In the early 1970’s Buddhist monks were invited to have their brains scanned and the results showed differences in their brain structure compared to people who did not meditate. The differences where a stark contrast to the brains of those who are anxious and over reactive to thoughts and experience. The science of meditation began to grow.  An American doctor, who also meditated, Jon Kabat-Zinn began treatment groups for patients who did not seem to be improving with conventional medicine. He began with heart patients, those with skin conditions and chronic pain. His work is well documented in his book Full Catastrophe Living.

Researchers at Oxford University heard of this work and having completed the 8 week MBSR under Jon Kabat-Zinn themselves they then created their MBCT treatment programme which is adopted by NICE as a treatment for the prevention of relapse in depression. Many new programmes are being developed and researched to help with specific emotional issues for example for those with cancer, or addiction.

MBSR Treatment Programme

The programme content and learning is the same wherever you do the course. I will provide my personal experience and group members can share their own stories so each programme will be slightly different. There are lessons and meditations that are always in every MBSR course. There is also mindful movement, similar to yoga.

The programme is 8 weeks long and includes a day of silent meditation. There are meditation practices in each session that may be up to 40 minutes long. Participants are given homework, this is always to do a meditation but may also include work related to a particular lesson. This is often a piece of reflection.

The course progresses through each session so it is important that all classes are attended. The day of silence helps to consolidate a meditation practice and may follow a theme that the participants can chose. There is no extra cost and you will need to provide your own food and drinks.

Participants are encouraged to share and this is often done in pairs. Sharing can have a profound effect, just knowing you are not suffering alone, or even that everyone struggles with ‘meditation’… such as how to do it…and what is meant to happen during meditation. Confidentiality is important this is agreed at the beginning of the course.

Who is MBSR for?

Anyone.

Mindfulness is for anyone. The course content is directed at understanding and relieving stress, stress is in everyone’s life to some extent. Some stresses are helpful and often described as motivating. However  if you are under stress or have anxiety and it is impacting on your life and relationships MBSR is especially for you.

If you are starting to meditate, you are curious about mindfulness or someone suggested it to you this 8 week programme help you establish a routine, gain insights into your own habits and interpretations of the world and increase your sense of well being.

What next

If you wish to apply for the next course information will be available through Mindfulness at Insightfulness on Facebook

Or contact me at emmadunn@insightfulness.co.uk

Or use the form at the bottom of my Mindfulness page

I can also run the course for organisations, schools or other work places.

 

 

 

Christmas Stress-How to change your mindset using Mindfulness

Christmas Stress – How to change your mindset at Christmas

Christmas and Mindfulness
Anyone hosting Christmas will be aware of all the jobs that need to be done, the presents and party clothes to buy, food to be ordered, the list can go on. For those having Christmas alone, or if this year is the first without a loved one, the festivities provide a complex set of emotions which can be difficult to bare.

It may be that you have a silent dread of Christmas. However, Christmas is going to happen.

What follows are a few ideas about how changing your mindset may help.

Many of the reasons why stress accumulates over Christmas is to do with thoughts and behaviours, habits and expectations.

These reasons include;

  1. The emphasis placed on family traditions
  2. Concern about how much work needs to be done to make the day successful
  3. Present buying; how much to spend, what to buy
  4. The day being a reminder of those we have lost

These may feel like a real representation of how you feel. Mindfulness encourages a different approach to how we attach a meaning to these situations.

Mindfulness allows us to treat the current moment as all there is. How much meaning do we attach to the past at the expense of the present which is where we are now?

  1. The emphasis placed on family traditions

It can be difficult to change habits, certainly if we frame them as ‘family traditions’. I wonder if when your ‘family tradition’ happened for the first time the intention was for it to go on past its sell by date?

Interestingly we are aware in other circumstances, such as holidays, that when we try to repeat the experience it causes greater disappointment. Can this be applied to Christmas?

Traditions may include when to put the decorations up, real tree or artificial, Christmas day menu, the family members invited, the timing of present opening, television and what film to watch.

Before the ball gets rolling why not ask yourself and those involved, why are these traditions important, and do they create a good experience. You can also ask the question is it what they represent rather than the tradition itself?

You may find you can drop one or two and everyone has a sense of relief.

  1. The concern about how much work needs to be done for the day to be successful

There is as much work as you want. Is it true that the more work you put in, the happier everyone is? Or is this about you, and how others might perceive you?

Thoughts can creep into our head and be believed. At Christmas there might be a little bit more organising and planning but it happens every year and we do it every year. It is often worth noticing the thoughts we have, and reminding ourselves they are thoughts. There might be the thought, ‘I won’t get it done in time’ or ‘what if the turkey is under cooked ?’ Notice what happens to your stress levels when you have these thoughts. Are they appropriate, what is the worst that can happen? Thoughts are not facts, mindfulness enables us to notice a thought and not react to it.

Take a mindful moment. Take a deep in-breath and a slower out breath, counting to five. Repeat once or twice more.

  1. Present buying; how much to spend, what to buy

Why are you buying presents, who for and at what cost?

Present buying is a reflection of who you are and your relationship with the recipient, as well as your personal beliefs about Christmas.

There are many ways in which we get distracted from this, especially adverts and consumerism and ‘family traditions’. The shops become full of ‘gift ideas’. Spend a little time reflecting on why you want to give as a gift. There is some truth in the statement ‘it is the thought that counts’. A mindful approach focuses your mind on the reality of Christmas, encourages you to stick to intentions meaning it is less likely you buy things spontaneously.

You may also reflect on what does receiving a gift mean to you, and is this truth based on reality. A common belief is that a person close to you will instinctively know what you want. Unfortunately, life isn’t this simple, either tell them or be prepared for anything. People are not mind readers.

  1. The day is a reminder of those we have lost

Anniversaries are reminders. Allowing a time in the day to acknowledge absent friends and family can be useful. You and other friends and family also represent a little of that missing person, a shared joke, or shared gene, this too can be honoured. They have not gone completely.

Mindfulness encourages us to stay in the here and now, it is this moment that is important, comparisons often bring dissatisfaction. Each Christmas will be different, enjoying it for what it is can be more rewarding than not liking it for what it isn’t.

Mindfulness at Christmas

Mindfulness involves a regular commitment to paying attention to the present moment. Christmas often draws us into the past, the past has gone, enjoy the ‘now’ as this too will soon be gone.

You might be interested in

Thoughts and Anxiety-Using psychotherapy to alleviate stress

Mindfulness meditation for novices-Part 3

Mindfulness- making use of our tidy brain

The Brain and Automatic Pilot

My experience and understanding of mindfulness has led me to acknowledge the power thoughts have to manifest as reality. A thought is not reality, it is a specific activity of the brain.

Do you realise our thoughts  motivate our actions and behaviours even when they are not real!

The human brain has an amazing capacity for storing, collecting, summarising and accessing data. Data as memories, and information. Memories as embodied physical experiences, as well as stories. It has so much information that it is necessary to create short cuts to frequently used experiences and behaviours. It tries to keep things tidy and organised. For example, when you clean your teeth do you actually think about and plan your hand movements, or when you get dressed are you conscious of the order you put on clothes? Our brain has made many things for us very easy, so easy we often do not fully participate in what we do. How often, on our way to work do we wonder how we got there because we had been so caught up with thoughts. In Mindfulness terms this is often called ‘automatic pilot‘.

How did thoughts and thinking  become so important?

A subtle switch has happened in our development and culture. Descartes, is reported as saying I think therefore I am. Our thinking has become more important than our experiencing.  Rather than being present with reality, be conscious and awake to what is happening in each moment, as would a wild animal, we are lost in the meandering synapses of our brain. It is valued in culture and society to think, ‘think before you speak’ and experiences are minimised, we are encouraged to right lists of pros and cons rather than go with ‘our gut’. We are encouraged to use our huge brain to evaluate and plan. It is thought of as helpful and beneficial. We base our knowledge on measurable, objective data.

Has our tidying system got the priorities wrong?

Whilst society encouraged and nurtured our capacity to think, and develop a logical and scientific approach to the world, we failed to recognise and adapt to the types of thinking which fed our emotional and creative abilities. A thought can create anxiety and another joy. Thoughts were not real, they can help understanding but they also take us from reality.

I may have a thought, and before I know it I have a scenario in my head about something that isn’t real. My attention has been with the evolving thought. The thought often becomes manifest in the body. Happy thoughts; my mouth will begin to smile, sad thoughts my mood drops, fearful thoughts my pulse rises. Our brain reacts to thoughts as it does reality.

Interestingly our thoughts engage with our memories of experiences and emotions. This is how our emotions can become disproportionate and anxiety and stress become disabling. We respond to a current event as if it were a repetition of an event in our memory. In a very simplified way we might respond to our manager offering constructive criticism as if it were our parent, when we were a teenager, offering advice when we don’t want it. What has happened is the brain has developed a quick access, (neural pathway) to emotions of anger or threat when we hear words that are interpreted as critical. These neural pathways become so well used we do not have time or space to evaluate whether are response is useful or even appropriate.

Making use of our Tidied Brain- MINDFULNESS

So we have a wonderfully well organised brain, with systems to access all sorts of things when we need them. What we fail to have done is pay attention to the appropriateness of the brains responses to stimuli. This is not a phenomenon of today, this has been the case for hundreds of years. At one time the responses were appropriate, the protection of the family from wild animals or other foraging beasts by physical attack was balanced and about survival. Now anger and attacking are often exhibited at the smallest of threats, the dishwasher not being emptied, being ignored, loosing car keys, the response is reactive and instantaneous.

Mindfulness training slows down this reaction. We are encouraged to be present in the moment, engage and move towards any emotions that arise, being curious towards our feelings and not reactive. We retrain the brain, the data and memories stay the same. We cultivate an ability to notice what the data is, let it inform us but not let it be absolute.

I believe this enables us to become the true self we intend to be, losing attachment to our past, and desire for an unknown future, and being present in each moment.

Emma Dunn is currently training to teach the MBSR programme

You may also be interested in

Thoughts and Anxiety -Using Psychotherapy and Mindfulness to alleviate fretful thinking

Introduction to Mindfulness. Available in Brighouse, a balance of theory, shared experience and meditations.

Experience of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

This mindfulness novice gets serious

It is a while since my last blog on Mindfulness and a lot has happened. I have really noticed a difference in my mood, and reactivity to situations. I find I  notice my mood change and feel equipped to control it before I do something I might regret. My whole family is calmer and we are able to voice our emotions better without feeling vulnerable.

I have used Headspace a lot but also some other resources available on YouTube. You might want to experiment yourself. I like meditating to chanting and more often than not do it in silence.

I have done a lot more training and reading and I want to tell you a little about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course.

What is MBSR?

The 8-week MBSR course is a standardized course shown to improve symptoms of anxiety by using mindfulness techniques, and  daily meditations over an 8 week period. It involves attending group classes for 2 hours each week and some homework. The homework increases awareness of our feelings and responses to everyday situations. We were encouraged to keep a diary,  to think of an event that happened that day and reflect on how we felt physically and emotionally. The mindfulness course encourages us to get in touch with our bodies a lot more, to notice where we might feel things in our body and yoga is treated as a mediation practice. Other meditations vary from  20 minute sitting meditations, to a 45 minute body scan meditation usually done lying down. During the course there is a little taught theory but mainly discussion and sharing of experiences. I found the majority of the attendees had a little knowledge of mindfulness and were curious to see if it would benefit them.

The course has no religious or spiritual content so you don’t need to know anything before hand or have any religious beliefs.

There is a lot of research to show it works and is becoming more accessible through work, schools and the NHS. For more information The Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice has a comprehensive web site

Why did I attend this course?

I wanted to know more about Mindfulness, quite simple. I felt it had already impacted on me, increasing my self awareness . Self awareness is important in counselling and it seemed a good idea to learn to combine  counselling and mindfulness.  I could teach mindfulness to those clients who wanted to give it a try. After doing some googling I discovered the main training institutions that provide training and endorse the Good Practice Guidelines say all trainees should have completed this course.

What did I experience?

The course leader, Sally was lovely. We met in a quiet converted house on the outskirts of Huddersfield, and meditation equipment, mats and cushions were already there. There were always lovely smells of incense or candles to welcome us.

There were 11 in the group, mainly women, who came from all sorts of backgrounds. Some had suffered stress and anxiety for a long time, many years and had taken time off work due to its severity. Others were still managing to ‘live normally’ but their relationships were suffering as a result of short tempers and erratic behaviour. Others, like me wanted to use it in their work to help others.

We did a lot of small group work, talking to one other person but there was no expectation to share within the larger group unless you wanted to. However it became apparent really early on that the more we were prepared to share the more we learnt about how mindfulness was working for each of us.

There were 1 or 2 meditations in each class, and the ones we did in the session were the ones we were encouraged to do during the week at home. Sally would give us a recording of this to use at home.

Over the 8 weeks everyone felt different. More present in their life.

I had a great experience and would recommend it.

I am looking forward to some retreats and more training.

Book Review Mindful Emotional Eating; Mindfulness skills to control cravings, eat in moderation and optimize coping.

Book Review

 Pavel G. Somov- Mindful Emotional Eating; Mindfulness skills to control cravings, eat in moderation and optimize coping. (2015)

Mindful Emotional Eating

Review

Written for both the client and the clinician this book is in 3 parts. In the first part the author describes his model of working to enable ‘Mindful Emotional Eating’ (MEE). The second is how to develop clients so they can manage situations of relapse without them becoming catastrophes, and the final part describes more specific approaches to four more common emotional eating situations.

Part 1

I was disconcerted by Somov’s style and selling technique apparent in part one. He is using this book to teach other clinicians tools to help their clients, and it initially felt like a product promotion. However, with perseverance I continued.

The tools described are based on the neuroscience as well as the philosophy of Mindfulness. Mindfulness per se is not touched on, and the readers are not expected or encouraged to seek mindfulness as a way of being.

Somov describes how each of the 4-5 sessions planned for clients should run. He outlines his rationale, starting with reframing emotional eating, as either something to do mindlessly or mindfully. Identifying that we all have, by our nature as animals, strategies to preserve our own life; and emotional eating is a harm reduction strategy.  Abstinence (aka dieting, and avoiding food) takes away emotional eating as a harm reduction strategy, leaving us exposed, and so diets are likely to fail.

Take a breath before an impulsive act

Take a breath before an impulsive act

Throughout the book he emphasises that the client’s understanding of the shift in how they approach their eating behaviours is key. Breaking down the feelings of guilt and failure which often arise when giving in to a desire to emotionally eat, and replacing then with acceptance and permission. The training is about doing emotional eating, mindfully and not mindlessly.

He provides tools to enable choice. Initially teaching relaxation, quick, bottom up relaxation, engaging physiologically with the parasympathetic nervous system, so humming or blowing out forcefully as an exhalation.

Second are skills, he describes as choice awareness training, to ‘stay awake’ for example using the wrong cutlery, different plate, wrong hand.

Thirdly, ‘craving control training’ similar to a 3-minute breath meditation although described as a river bank exercise, focusing more on the impermanence of feelings and thoughts, watching them go. During this course clients are encouraged to engage with their ‘fullness’ either physically or emotionally, and given permission to carry on if they are not ready to stop.

Part 2

This second part, in my eyes, parallels the outcomes of mindfulness, creating a space for choice, appreciating the impermanence of thoughts and promoting self-awareness/acceptance.

Self-acceptance =motivational innocence + effort acceptance’

Or the greater our awareness of what drives us to eat combined with the belief that we do our best in the moment will increase self-acceptance, and this is likely to decrease the need to emotionally eat mindlessly.

In part 2 ‘motivational innocence’ and ‘effort acceptance’ are described more fully. One interesting idea related to dieting, or being abstinent, is that our brain is using stores of glucose to provide this self-control. The more we try to control ourselves; deny impulses, the more our brain responds by sending messages that we need something sweet, an energy fix. Giving in to a sugar fix is therefore an appropriate physiological response to the work we are doing marinating resistance, we can give ourselves permission to respond in this way without guilt, making a conscious choice to have a piece of chocolate or similar. This is an empowering shift.

He describes binge eating and how it might manifest either a result of the inability to cope emotionally-striving to feel good, or as a desire to feel numb, without emotions.

Somov is realistic about the struggle people have with relapse. He describes working collaboratively, supporting clients as they are able to apply more frequently and consistently the mindfulness techniques described in Part 1 which bring clients into the moment, encourage space between the feeling and the impulse and allow for self-acceptance, if in that moment, their effort was not what they had hoped for.

He finishes part 2 with information about Eastern traditions and philosophies about eating, including the extremes of Jainism, achieving the state of Santhara, fasting to the point of death.

Part 3

Finally, Somov provides some useful interpretations to manage emotional eating for boredom and emptiness, sadness and grief, anger and fear, and stress. Helping clients understand at a fundamental level what these emotions represent and how food is providing a ‘harm reduction’ strategy, and learning to eat mindfully rather than mindlessly.

In summary

This book grew on me as I began to see how mindfulness was being used in a genuine way to help clients move from mindless eating to mindful eating. I would recommend it to health professionals wanting to engage with clients in a real, humanistic way. This book is not about losing weight. If you have an issue with emotional eating this book will help, however, agreeing with the author, I would strongly recommend having the support of a buddy.

Of Interest

Ruby Wax: A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled

Eating Disorders-Do you recognise physiological hunger

Book Review: A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled

Book Review

Ruby Wax- A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled

Ruby Wax is known to me firstly as a comedian and more recently a Master of Mindfulness based cognitive therapy. It is because of the latter and her potential to reach the masses that I wanted to review her book, to help others decide whether it is a worthwhile read and me whether to stock it in my client library.

She writes with an easy style and you are soon drawn into the ideas of mindfulness. She is keen to teach the physiology of the brain (neuroscience) to help us understand that our behaviours and emotions are natural animal responses to the need to stay alive. The evolution of the brain is described very simply. She switches from humour to personal experience to science and back again. This might be engaging for some and keeps those not interested in the science bits motivated to continue reading. I found the science stilted and her style more forced, she acknowledges help with these passages from the experts which I can see is reflected in the prose. The humour is nice, although I am not sure whether it is a distraction some times.

The second section of the book is about applying mindfulness and how to use mindfulness with your children. There are some simple ideas to encourage an open and non-critical relationship with our family members. She clearly speaks from experience as a mother and a daughter and highlights how things are often easier said than done. This may be interpreted as don’t bother if you think it will fail which possible undermines some of the messages she wants to put across. However the message is simpler, you cannot fail just try, but try regularly-daily.

Frazzled fron coverIn the middle of the book is a stand-alone 6-week Mindfulness programme. It introduces the reader to familiar practices of meditations, for example the Body scan and the 3-minute breath. I was introduced to a lovely one focusing on listening. The practices show how to access our body, thoughts, senses and emotions in the present, through simple exercises set out week by week. There are questions after each practice to help you notice what might have changed or been different from your usual experience.

Part way through the book Ruby puts  ‘mindfulness’ on hold and shares a  moving journey about her own sufferings that happened during the writing of ‘Frazzled’. This makes the book all the more personal, and perhaps shows in that the latter section of the book seems to me a bit less dynamic or humorous than the first.

Finally she describes a retreat she went on. Retreats I guess are a bit like having children, you really cannot know what it’s like until you have done it. Her experience is heart-warming, real, and genuine.

I would recommend this book to the curious,  to those who love Ruby, and to those with anxiety looking for help through mindfulness. It is for a secular audience not the expert, although she does list her references and resources for those interested.

It does not touch on the spiritual or loving aspects of mindfulness these are more associated with Buddhism, and neither to does it claim to. To conclude  this is an easy read for those looking for an introduction to Mindfulness.

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax

Mindfulness meditation for novices-Part 3 ‘The mindfulness muscle’-it needs to be exercised!

faqs

I have been committed to mindfulness for a while. I love mindfulness, its simplicity, its obvious common sense and the fact it challenges the divergence of science and spirituality.  I have an insight into its works at a physiological level and a belief in its value to all. My bookcase is beginning to fill. My enthusiasm for spreading the word continues to grow. And yet over a 3 week period my formal practice stopped, I no longer found 15 minutes to meditate each day.

Mindfulness is simple yet hard to do.

The Consequences of Not Exercising the Mindfulness Muscle

I have excuses I can share, but the truth is I had prioritised other things over meditating. I still carried out activities that were mindful but not necessarily with mindfulness being the intention.

In hindsight I can see that over those few weeks my emotions gained power at the expense of being in the world. I was not settled to work. I had forgotten things and not focused on the things that make me happy. I had become less able to be content. I returned to a state of frustration: frustrated with politics, poverty, the media and people. But I hadn’t seen it happening. I had slipped into old habits. I had kidded myself that by knowing the usefulness of being present in the moment, and by noticing thoughts, this was enough.

It was a simple statement from a friend which triggered a ‘non-mindful’ response, which made me feel the past was repeating on me, that I was forever in a cycle of failure, that I had no control, I was quickly pulled into the past which nearly became reality. The emotions this evoked brought back their own memories which were painful, and it hit home; I had allowed one simple statement power over the present moment.  My ‘mindfulness muscle’ had grown weak through lack of exercise and was no longer able to keep me in the now, the past had hooked me in. My mindfulness muscle had lost its strength, my judgements had led to emotional overload and I was on the way to disaster. I was tearful, irrational and had catastrophized the situation.

The Importance of Regular Exercise

It was in the late 1990’s that I went for my first run. I managed a couple of minutes. I completed my first triathlon in 2002. I was enjoying exercising 5-6 times a week. It was sustainable, and I was fit and healthy. In 2009 I had a very rare leukaemia (acute promyelocytic leukaemia, APML). I tried exercising in hospital but had no will power or energy, and my routine slowly vanished. I ended up not exercising for 6 months. I have not run more than 3 km since despite being totally fit and healthy, I swim and do spinning classes every week. My running muscles have not been exercised and I no longer call myself a runner.  I have run about 6 times since 2009, my muscles know what to do but have no stamina for running. Yet I am fit.

The Mindfulness Muscle

My experience with mindfulness has been the same. It improves with exercising, some days go well, some days don’t but the muscles have been worked. They have been used and not allowed to degenerate. Sometimes exercising can feel hard work but 99% of the time the value is experienced immediately. It is important to exercise the appropriate muscles to develop the specific skill. I had half believed reading about mindfulness would make me mindful, it improves knowledge, motivation, understanding but reading does not specifically stimulate the neurological changes that meditation does. Mindfulness is not only about meditating;  exercising the brain, other ‘flow activities’ provide peace for the brain; where thoughts are not judged, and attention is given to current experience. The comparison continues with exercise, all exercise will impact on fitness, but you cannot improve an individual muscle without using it.

I have noticed several articles that describe practicing mindfulness as like exercising a muscle. I had no appreciation of how true that was until now. Knowing the theory, understanding the principles and acknowledging its efficacy seem to be no substitute for putting in the practice on a daily basis. Building up the new neurological pathways and dismantling the old ones is a continual process. Many of you interested in building muscle will have heard the saying ‘if you don’t use it you’ll lose it’ thus is true for Mindfulness too.

What Exercises Can Be Done?

Flow activities

Formal meditation seems to be the key, and a near daily habit is important but this can vary from a few minutes to a lot longer. I am getting a sense that trying to have a regular meditation of 20 minutes is optimum. I continue to enjoy the Headspace app., but there are others

The ways to be mindful are endless. The key is doing something with full awareness in the present. These might be referred to as ‘flow activities’. Adult colouring has become a trend, but anything that absorbs your attention works. This can be as mundane as washing up or as productive as writing a blog! My understanding is that flow activities focus your attention in the present, whilst letting go of expectations or rules for how things should be.

The Mindfulness Project have written ‘I am here now’- A creative guide and Journal’ offering exercises and ways to think positively to notice and enjoy the present moment.

The subtleties of the mindfulness muscle continue to amaze me. Since restarting meditation, it took only 4 days to notice a change in my attitude to work and relationships. I hope your mindfulness journey is going well, and you can overcome the blips.

You may also be interested in:

Mindfulness meditation for Novices: Sharing personal Experience- Part 1

Mindfulness meditation for Novices: Sharing personal experience- Part 2

Thoughts and Anxiety-Using Psychotherapy and Mindfulness to alleviate fretful thinking

A novice meditating

Mindfulness Meditation for Novices; sharing personal experience -Part 2

‘Doing it’

Time to start meditating

meditation cushion

After months of procrastination I got to the stage of wanting to actually try meditation. There was a fear that those who saw or knew would scoff. Perhaps there was part of me that would scoff too.

My journey seems to be about procrastination, I instinctively feel this is an area that mindfulness will help me with……….you will find your own fears to face.

I wanted to understand the science before I started, so I did a lot of reading. This is what I do, I procrastinate. It takes me a while to get going. So having liked what I read I followed up some leads, Mark Williams, the author of Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world, is also a Professor at Oxford University, being one of them. I found at http://www.oxfordmindfulness.org/ lots of practical resources that both fed my curiosity and got me started doing real meditations but just 2-3 minutes.

I began to listen to YouTube clips and then I discovered the Headspace app. This offered 10 free sessions. So that is where I started, with an app on my iPad.

Mindfulness Meditation for Novices- ‘Doing it’

A novice meditating

‘Doing it’ involves actually doing it!

  • I got myself a cushion, having used one in a Buddhist meditation class I knew it was a position I could sit in for a while.
  • I decided to meditate once the house was empty in the morning before my work, for 10 minutes.
  • Initially I found this traditional position extremely comfortable, once I had discovered how to stop the pins and needles in my feet

The position; not all that is seems

  • I initially felt a ‘numpty’ (a word frequently used by my children)
  • I do know from fitness training I have done that this open hand posture, and arm positioning is actually ergonomic, -it is following the natural alignment of bones and muscles and stops tension in the arms or shoulders so it is really comfortable.
  • I have since read how the positioning of the hands can influence the meditation experience. In fact the whole positioning of the body (mudras) especially the hands and feet is associated with embodied energy as made use of in yoga.
  • This whole experience was definitely changing from a curiosity to a desire to ‘be’, to live and experience my world differently. Even my body position influenced my experience.
  • ………the position does not always work, the cats pester me.

After 2 weeks I had used the free sessions on my app. What do I do now?

Even after a short time I could tell the difference, only subtle. My head was clearer.

I was now hooked, I wanted this for myself, my intention was changing, but I also believed in its benefits for those with busy cluttered heads. Possibly for you?

If you want to try Mindfulness meditation there are many useful resources a few are listed.

I would also love to hear of your experiences.

Part 3 will follow.

Resources

Books

  • Wherever you go there you are by Jon Kabat-Zin (2004)
  • Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world By Mark Williams and Danny Penman (2011)

For anyone interested in the science behind mindfulness-

  • The practical neuroscience of Buddha’s Brain, happiness, love and wisdom. By Rick Hanson with Richard Mendius (2009)

Websites

Mindfulness Meditation for Novices; sharing personal experience- Part 1

I am a middle aged mum (and incidental a psychotherapist) who wants to spread the word about Mindfulness. However the media hype is something that might put any novice off. I hope to provide a fresh and personal perspective.
I am not a Buddhist, I hold no particular belief about God or Allah, or paganism. I do believe that our busy world has taken our attention away from what it is to be human; what it is to have an inner sense of being OK; a belief that we have the skills to live our lives as best we can; that we are all OK, even if we sometimes feel otherwise. I hope to inspire mindfulness meditation for novices who are curious but don’t know where to start or anxious about doing it wrong.
I would like to say that I  agree with many of the supporters of Mindfulness, who feel there is potential to change how we respond to cultures different to our own, we often respond because of feelings of threat. We have a tendency to live our life based on fear. We make decisions to avoid harm or to minimise risk. I am not advocating risk, far from it, I notice how we have a strong need to plan, to stop bad things happening. We don’t believe we can manage should a bad thing happen; and we think, by planning, we can prevent the inevitable bad thing happening. I want to say, we are not fortune tellers! We have no idea what will happen in 2 weeks.

A spare pair of knickers in case I wet myself laughing

A spare pair of knickers in case I wet myself laughing

When was the last time you packed a spare pair of knickers because you anticipated wetting yourself laughing? It is far less often that we plan for unexpected joy.
We do not give ourselves space to experience the moment that is now. We allow the past or the future to disrupt now and that then generates feelings that may be difficult to contain.

We are in such a hurry to get on to the next task, to finish, to move on. To move on to what? When will it all be done?

Mindfulness Meditation for Novices-Wakening up to new possibilities

Mindfulness Meditation for Novices- Where to start?

Why do you want to do mindfulness meditation? This is not a miraculous cure for dissatisfaction, anxiety or depression. It will not change you directly, mindfulness is about being you, or awakening; being you in a way that is different, not preoccupied with thought.

You may have heard how mindfulness can help your mental health. Mental health issues may arise because we lose ourselves in thought, they become our reality, and the thoughts might trigger behaviours and we end up suffering in a way we do not like. Mindfulness can help and you can access some tailored support through your GP.

Or you may be intrigued, mindfulness meditation it is a new fashion after all. Great.

If you have already started reading or listening to meditations they often describe having an ‘intention’. This means; be clear why you are meditating. Identify your intention for yourself and also in relation to others. You will be reading this or considering Mindfulness because of something, a new possibility you see for yourself. It is worth thinking about this, either writing it down or telling someone. As your experience of mindfulness changes so will your understanding of the intentions you make, and these evolve. Mine are evolving all the time as I learn what ‘being awake’ feels like. ‘Being awake’ is the term often used by Mindfulness writers, I understand it to mean being conscious of every little moment, rather than being ‘in your head’ on ‘auto pilot’.

Lost in thought, we cannot remember where we put our keys

Lost in thought, we cannot remember where we put our keys

You may have those moments when you cannot remember locking the front door, or where you put your keys? These daily jobs are done on ‘auto pilot’ if we were totally conscious in these little activities things would not get lost.

We are often ‘lost in thought’ and the formal meditation practice is about noticing this, and providing us with an opportunity or even training to be able to separate ourselves from our thoughts.

Mindfulness Meditation for Novices-Trying to understand intentions

My understanding of Mindfulness is still very basic. There are some useful resources listed that might help you.

As a novice, I am finding it hard to understand ‘intentions’ as used for Mindfulness meditation. Here is my attempt at explaining intention, intentions are not goals or targets.

Initially I wanted to use Mindfulness in my work. So my intentions were about ‘learning’ and experiencing it. This was not the best way to start, as mindfulness is a lot more than a technique. I could compare it to learning to love, or learning to fear. Being Mindful is learning to be present, and ironically it is not until I started doing it, that I realised what this meant.

My early intentions were about changing me. This is a common intention to have, and it is not really what it all is about. It is more subtle. It might help comparing a goal with an intention, a goal might be ‘I want to be kinder’ whereas an intention is ‘I intend to give kindness’. As we become more ‘awake’, we notice our kindness and how kindness is already part of who we are, or we might notice others’ kindness and so learn what it is to be kind, or how it feels to experience kindness. We become more aware of kindness, and ‘kindness’ changes from being something that is ‘out there’ to strive for, to something ‘in your heart’ something already present; already available to give. I think this sounds exciting.

I suggest you give Mindfulness meditation a go. If you are suffering quite badly with a mental illness it is advisable to talk to your doctor first.

I share more of my journey in part 2

Resources

Books

  • Wherever you go there you are by Jon Kabat-Zin (2004)
  • Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world By Mark Williams and Danny Penman (2011)

For anyone interested in the science behind mindfulness-

  • The practical neuroscience of Buddha’s Brain, happiness, love and wisdom. By Rick Hanson with Richard Mendius (2009)

Websites