Owning Up

The goodbye speeches have been made and applauded. I have a couple of cards, with some beautifully written words in them and just the present I needed. I’ve hugged people I haven’t even touched in years of working with them and I put a box of photos and other memories in a box and driven home. After 30 years in one career, I am off. Time for a change and all that sort of thing. Soon I start a whole new job. But just now, here I am sat on my sofa, sipping my tea having finished my marmalade on toast. The house is quiet. The children are out and there is no music or tv on. I am right here. Between one thing and the next. Neither in the before state or in the one yet to come one. But equally, neither am I in a separate from them. It’s like the gap between the in breath and the out breath. That gap is only there because there is a breath before and after it, but still, in a way it is a separate gap.

And in this moment on the sofa I found myself feeling awkward; wanting to distract my mind with sensory stuff; a song, some more toast and tea, the telly. I didn’t have the courage to sit and notice what was present. I am not sure what it was that made me uncertain and nervous, but I could feel myself moving up and away from what was there in that moment. And this habit mirrors so much of both my own practice and other people’s meditation. On the cushion the mind is quite content-thank you-far off from that moment and that place; planning the day, day dreaming of the future doing good deeds and all being well in the world. We sit down knowing what we need to do and how to do it. We have heard the guidance before, maybe many times before. And also we know that when we do it a wiser and more spacious knowledge grows in us whilst that moment of awareness is present. What maybe worth trying is to own up to the present moment; a kind of “Yes that is here. I understand and appreciate that it is here. I am okay with what is here” Even if that owning up is painful and just for a moment, we can still start to learn how let go of the entrenched desire for that next something outside of ourselves and instead simply sit in the space between one thing and the next.

So tomorrow, sit again and practice noting the ending of one thought, feeling or emotion and the arising of the next. Pay attention to the mind being distracted from where you intended it to be. Then kindly, but precisely, invite it back again. And repeat that as many times as you need to during that practice and in all your future practices too. Own up to how it is in the present moment.

In the moment that we awaken from being lost in a thought or feeling or reaction, in that very moment we can recognize the empty, clear, skylike nature of awareness itself. In that moment of wakefulness, we get a glimpse of freedom. And instead of judging ourselves for all the times we do get lost, which happen again and again, we can delight in each moment of awakening.” Joseph Goldstein

Don’t be yourself

You’re apprehensive and uncertain. Are you good enough for this? Can you handle the situation? Win the day? Stare down the threat? Fortunately, your good friend is with you, calmly looks you in the eyes and whispers forcefully “You’ve got this. Just be yourself.” And you are reassured. Their kindness in the moment gives you support: you are good enough as you are, you don’t have to pretend to be anything you are not, you can make it, you are meaningful. 

But what does it actually mean to “be yourself”? Does it even make any sense at all? Looking back over your life, has there been anytime when you haven’t been yourself? To be genuine, to not be fake, to stand for some something and to have core values you live by is certainly a worthwhile and commendable standard. But being yourself doesn’t necessarily contribute to this.

Be yourself is no advice whatsoever because you cannot ever be anything other than yourself. And that self never stays the same anyway. “Don’t care what the world says/ I’n’I could never go astray” as Bob Marley put it.

All that is here, in this moment, is you. You have been made by all those previous moments of you and right now you are helping cause those future moments of you.  So it is not possible to act in any manner that could be described as not you. Someone could truthfully observe, “That was out of character.”  but only as they don’t have a full view of your thoughts and emotions and personal history. Because this well-meaning advice comes from such a position of partial knowledge and maybe ignorance, advising someone to just be yourself can be unhelpful or even damaging. Any creativity you might have brought to the situation is severely limited by being told to ‘act as I would expect you to’ or ‘as would be expected of you’. This is one reason why the older I have become the more I trust the friends I have known for decades. Even if they know nothing of my present situation because we haven’t met up in far too long, they still have a broader and fuller knowledge of what makes up and has made up what I am today.  

So instead of staying within the boundaries of some falsely prescribed idea of self, why not take a leap and act in a manner others may think is not yourself. You are of course still you; just maybe not what they think is or should be you. By doing this you could find a more honest and creative way of being as well as come to a better of understanding of what your self is and what it is not. 

Original idea for this post from ‘Wheesht” by Kate Davies https://www.wheeshtbook.com

And that image at the top is by Cindy Sherman’s IG @CindySherman

Home Practice Week 5

TNH tea

Here is the hand out from this week’s session. Please do take the time to rea it through.

Home Practice

1/ This week I would like you to alternate the body scan practice with the mindful movement/ mindful walking and the sitting practice.  Click here to hear the Rebecca Crane body scan one from previous weeks.

2/ The mindful movement practice is from Kate Mitcheom. Click HERE and you will find it at the bottom of the page of her guided practices; it is called standing yoga meditation

3/ The sitting practice I would like you to follow can be found by clicking HERE

4/ The 3 step breathing space is a marvellous way of bridging formal practice and your daily life. Also it helps with noticing habitual stress reactions, whether you are using pro- or re-actively. Use this in relation to the stressful communication diary below if you wish.If you have been using this frequently you may want to start doing this without having to listen to guidance as this will give you some more freedom when to do it. That is absolutely fine – you dont have to get too concerned about remembering every instruction, but if you like to have that security I attach a rough script of the 3SBS you could print and have with you.

5/ Complete the stressful communication diary. This is set out as the (un)pleasant ones were. Use it as a chance to develop awareness of difficult communications and exploring options for responding with greater mindfulness, spaciousness and clarity.  always remember that the breath is your anchor and that the three step breathing space is available if you wish to use it. If you have no difficult communications during the week, either remember some, or imagine communications that would fit in to your knowledge of yourself, and explore them. Once more I have linked the hot cross bun diagram to help you if you wish to refer to it.

home practice Hot cross bun

6/ As ever I also attach a copy of the Mindfulness Journal if you prefer if you want to keep that. Practice Record sheet 

6/ Last week I read a poem by Rumi called the Guest House, which you can read here. The Guest House Rumi

This week I read “A Reply to Rumi” which was written by an MBSR participant called Amy Newell. You can read that here. A Reply to Rumi

I am looking forward to hearing all about it next week 🙂

Home Practice Week 4

TNH tea

Home Practice

1/ This week I would like you to alternate the body scan practice with the mindful movement.  Click here to hear the Rebecca Crane one from previous weeks.

2/ The mindful movement practice is from Kate Mitcheom. Click HERE and you will find it at the bottom of the page of her guided practices; it is called standing yoga meditation

3/ During your days I would like you to be aware of your stress reactors: look for how you react when unpleasant situations arise. You dont need to write anything down about this , like we did last week. However if that helps you reflect on them, there is the same sheet you used last week linked here along with the hot cross bun diagram.

Unpleasant experience diary

home practice Hot cross bun

4/ The three step breathing space is a marvellous way of bridging formal practice and your daily life. It is definitely what I would call a portable practice. Here is a lovely guided version of it if you wish to use from Mark Williams.

5/ As ever I also attach a copy of the Mindfulness Journal if you prefer if you want to keep that. Practice Record sheet 

6/ The Guest House by Rumi is attached for you below

 The Guest House Rumi

I am looking forward to hearing all about it next Thursday

Unexpected Mindful Moment or Two

This week on the mindfulness course we have been noticing pleasant experiences. I always love when people start to see how practicing mindfulness formally can leak into their day to day in the form of relishing the good moments.

Another reason I love being a part in mindfulness courses is because I too get to learn and notice…. this morning after an unplanned school run due to late arising teenager (!) I realised I could stop on the way back home and run somewhere different for a change. So for for the first time in a month or so I snapped a #mindfulmoment or 3 photo. It was such a beautiful still morning out between Old Sarum and Little Durnford that the pictures sort of took themselves 😊 But it was the opportunity to practice mindfulness that allowed the moment to be full of wealth.

Home Practice Week 3

TNH tea

Home Practice

1/ This week I would like you to alternate the body scan practice with the mindful movement/ mindful walking.  Click here to hear the Rebecca Crane one from previous weeks.

2/ The mindful movement practice is from Kate Mitcheom. Click HERE and you will find it at the bottom of the page of her guided practices; it is called standing yoga meditation

3/ I have written some instructions for the mindful walking if you choose to do this. You might want to read the first half through a couple of times before you start, but after that put them down and just walk for your practice.

3/ Complete the unpleasant events table and/ or use the hot cross bun diagram to help you unpack your pleasant experiences. Digital links to these if you want another copy are below

Unpleasant experience diary

home practice Hot cross bun

4/ The three step breathing space is a marvellous way of bridging formal practice and your daily life. It is definitely what I would call a portable practice. Here is a lovely guided version of it if you wish to use from Mark Williams. (If you missed this being led in this week’s practice then don’t try it until next week)

4/ also do keep if you can your Mindfulness Journal or maybe using this simple table if you prefer. Practice Record sheet 

5/ A written guide to starting a sitting practice is here . Sitting mindfulness practice checklist

6/ The hand out for today’s session can be read and downloaded here.

7/ Finally below is a copy of the poem we heard 

I am looking forward to hearing all about it next week 🙂

Home Practice Week 2

TNH tea

Home Practice

1/ continue with the body scan practice. Here is a  body scan practice. This is the same one as last week, guided by Rebecca Crane.  Click here to hear it.

2/ Complete the pleasant events table and/ or use the hot cross bun diagram to help you unpack your pleasant experiences. Digital links to these if you want another copy are below

Pleasant experience diary

home practice Hot cross bun

3/ Continue to intentionally bring moments of awareness during your day; bring some mindfulness into your routines You can find a mindfulness anchor in any moment in any day. the opportunity is always there.

4/ Also do keep if you can your Mindfulness Journal or maybe using this simple table if you prefer. Practice Record sheet 

5/ If you wish to try some sitting practice like we did at the end of the second session here is a checklist to help get you started. Try doing this one without any guidance. Sitting mindfulness practice checklist

6/ Finally there is a copy of the poem “summer Day” from tonight’s session 

I am looking forward to hearing all about it next Thursday 🙂

Home Practice Week 1

TNH tea

1/ Here is a  body scan practice. This is guided by Rebecca Crane and is the one I am using the most at the moment myself. She leads it in such a clear and caring manner.  Click here to hear it.

If you prefer to start this week with a 30 minute not a 45 minute practice here is a youtube one from Jon Kabat Zinn

2/ Eat mindfully at least once in the week in the same way you ate the raisin with awareness of experiences and senses. Or maybe just a bite or two if a whole meal is too much. Whatever is good for you.

4/ Intentionally bring moments of awareness during your day; bring some mindfulness into your routines You can find a mindfulness anchor in any moment in any day. the opportunity is always there.

4/ Keeping a Mindfulness Journal or maybe using this simple table if you prefer. Practice Record sheet

5/ Finally below is a copy of the sessions notes including the main ideas and the poem I read during tonight’s session. 

I am looking forward to hearing all about it next Wednesday!

New Year’s resolutions: giving good fortune a helping hand

Ahh here comes the chance to throw out the old self and design and build a new and improved version. Promises are made to exercise more, eat better, turn off the phone for longer and learn to play the trumpet. By achieving all of this it will be possible to get away from all the painful things in life and then finally happiness will abound.

There is research to show that markers like New Year are the most effective time to set resolutions; the brain is ready and open to see the opportunity for change. But resolutions are often underlain by the assumption we should always be trying to be better than we are now; a message that also means ‘what we are at the moment is not good enough’. Seeing it like this the desire for change risks being an aggressive act toward ourselves, bringing on low self esteem and self hate. As my friend Polly said

“Yoga and motherhood have shown me the goal should be to do less and to be more open and accept all feelings as they arise so they don’t pop up at a less convenient time.”

IG @yogawithpolly

I recently heard someone describe good luck as needing a little bit of a push sometimes, whereas bad luck is a ruder god as it comes crashing in, unexpected and uninvited. I think the same theory applies to resolutions and targets; for the good stuff to happen we need to create the right space and balance for it enter. Instead of shutting down the unpleasantness and pain, we can open to it and acknowledge it. Often our neurosis and wisdom come from the same place, so if we try deny the former we will also be alienating ourselves from the latter. In this way, Pema Chodron describes meditation as

seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have and the people who are in our lives. It’s seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat. It’s about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness.

Pema Chodron from “The Wisdom of No Escape”

And so with this New Year, or this new month or new week or new day or new hour or even with this new breath we can simply stop and notice how it is for us right now. When this wisdom develops then the ability to nurture the good in our lives will have the space to grow. We will have given ‘good luck’ the little push it required.