Mindfulness of Breath

This is an 8 minute practice designed for occasional use or for a more regular practice

Sometimes you don’t need to read about mindfulness, sometimes you should simply stop and practice it. Here is a simple practice anyone from beginner to long time adherent can use in their lives. Simply find yourself a place to be still. It doesn’t need to be a quiet location but that might help too. I haven’t mentioned posture in the practice. As long as you are comfortable then that will suffice for a short practice like this.

If you find this practice useful please comment below and share if you so wish.

What they don’t tell you about mindfulness

Finding a comfortable position. Sitting in a dignified balanced manner. Bringing the awareness into the body. Noticing your breath.“

your mindfulness teacher

Some days I get this type of opening guidance and then immediately, bam! The mind and I are miles away scraping over the past or diving into the future. I am not observing, witnessing or noticing any part of my breath or my body or any sound whatsoever. I am detached from the present pretty all the way though until the bell sounds at the end. There was no mindfulness to speak of during any of that time. So was there a point to all that? Was a step made in the right direction, any truth more clearly understood? Or was it all a bloody waste of time?

I have had many experiences like this over the years; at the end I would find myself standing up at the least annoyed with myself and sometimes questioning my own ability to be practice meditation at all. Yet no one really seems to say much about such sessions. Its all sitting on a beach in front of the sunset, tanned and thin in the mindfulness memes. Whereas for me its more a case of on a cushion on my bedroom floor, in front of the hung out washing, overweight and in a dressing gown.

I think there are two better ways to view this, both of which entail bringing a broader view to the practice. Firstly, just a simple looking for silver linings to give yourself a boost: it isn’t all just rubbish after all. Secondly, is holding the intention to sit again tomorrow, to aim to reconnect next time. From this determination grows a practice that becomes part of the daily routine and out of a continuation of intention naturally grows a broader, wiser view of what mindfulness might be or already is. In terms of knowledge this breaks down into 4 areas.

  1. There is always the next meditation session. This is what happened today and it is over now. It cannot be changed. But you can be mindful of how you feel after it, noticing the emotions and thoughts and maybe physical sensations that you are experiencing now.
  2. When the bell rang at the end, you were aware of that moment, even if of no other and so there was mindfulness there.
  3. Among a whole series of sitting practices, today’s one can be seen as one distraction, one disconnect and only one before coming back to the breath in the next practice.
  4. More importantly, meditation and mindfulness are about seeing what is really is; the stuff we try to hide from all our friends and family and of course from ourselves. So if we are sitting honestly we will notice the ugly and the bad as least as much as the good.

Sit around the fire

I have quite a bit of Jon Hopkins and of Ram Dass in my life and so for the two to be together in such a beautiful manner is really a blessing. But as Ram Dass says here ‘Don’t worship the gate, go into the inner temple’

Encouragement

I couldn’t say with any honesty that I enjoy running, but it does give me a sense of satisfaction and, if I am honest, smugness as well. Whilst I was certainly pleased to complete the couch to 5k app a month ago, I feel more gratification that I am running or that I go running, than any goal I may achieve doing it. My original motivation was to be healthier, to be trimmer and slimmer, to breathe less heavily walking up hills, maybe even to live longer and with less illness. I bought some scales a year ago and was genuinely frightened by where the spinner stopped. I’ve had a few hospital visits recently too. So mortality’s foul breath is right up in my nose to be sure. Additionally, the thought of having to go return shopping for another pair of trousers the next size up was a self embarrassment lurking like a troll under a bridge in the back of mind.

I began to wonder what it was that had made me start running now. Let’s be honest, I’ve been out of condition, over weight and wheezy walking up hills for quite some time now. But something had made me finally lace up some new trainers and plod around my local park. There was some reason that had prompted my widening backside off the sofa at last and away from the fridge and out the front door. Half way around a run last week, as I struggled to the top of Hudson’s field, I began to work it out. I was running now because of the encouragement I had received from other people; most of whom do not even know they have encouraged me. It may have been just a word, or an online reply. Some people showed me by their own example how much satisfaction and self worth could be generated by completing a (half) marathon. Quite a few not only commented ‘good for you’ when I said I had started, but also checked in on my progress a couple of weeks later. There were two or three who had started running near the same time and we shared our progress and challenges with each other.

And there you have it. No one made any sacrifice or great effort to give me this encouragement. But when it was offered, it was done so with no expectation of return or reciprocation; presented to me outside of any exchange system. When I thought about this I began to see what an incredibly generous and selfless gift encouragement is. There is no tax break coming at the end of the year, no return on the investment, nor any presumption of a thank you card in the post. Instead I was boosted and supported by people who simply wanted me to do well, to be happy, to be healthy and content. Encouragement, it would seem, is full of grace and a most simple heart felt gift to give. Now that I have received it my intention is to hand it out in bundles too.

Home Practice Week 5

TNH tea

Home Practice

1/ This week I would like you to alternate the body scan practice with the mindful movement 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 Thursday 🙂

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

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

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