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 🙂

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 Thursday!

3 minute working from home mindfulness

We didn’t sign up for this when we took the job – laptop on the kitchen table or maybe on a desk in the spare room. Work hours leaking into home time. And the isolation, oh my the isolation. There are many new problems to face right now and no way of knowing when it will end. As a result, it is vital that we try to treat ourselves gently and go easy when our mind starts to rant and rave. Taking deliberate breaks and breathing spaces in the day to notice our physical, mental and emotional feelings, while not judging ourselves for whatever those sensations are can be a real help. So I have recorded a short and simple mindfulness practice (see the bottom of the post) that I hope will allow people the opportunity to pause in this way and notice a breath or two. I imagined that this could be done after a period of being sat down working, but really this could be used at any time in the day from waking up to going to bed.

If you find it useful please do let me know.

Peace

Philip

This is the recording of the practice. Just click play.

p.s. The photo is the view I get from work that I am missing 🙂

Coming back

After a six month enforced lay off, I went for a run yesterday. Now I’m no Mo Farah; I had only been running for a couple or months before having to stop, so slightly dispirited I went back to week one of the BBC couch to 5k app. Once more I was listening to Michael Johnson telling me not to run too fast (!) as I plodded around the park. It was disappointing to have no choice but to start over again. When I run I usually avoid eye contact with the properly dressed, skinnier, more lithe and faster joggers. My old sweatshirt, generic trainers and paunch feel like no match for the spring in every one of their steps.

But nevertheless I set off, albeit apprehensively. Yet almost immediately my body remembered what it felt like to run and nearly as quickly how this time it felt okay with what was happening. “You’ve got this Philip. You’ve done this before and survived.” This was not a foreign country to my muscles and joints; it was recognised ground. The exercise I had done earlier in the year was still there somewhere in me. I am not saying I flew around the park, nor that I did not ache in strange and multiple places for the next 24 hours. But I knew what was going on and I was in a better place physically to try to get healthier and fitter than six months ago.

I’ve been teaching and guiding mindfulness to adults for a few years now, so when I walk around town I meet people who have been on a course with me. And now seemingly I have developed a local area superpower. That is I have the ability to make people look sheepish and apologise as soon as they meet me. “Hello. I am sorry but I haven’t been practicing mindfulness much recently” they mumble to their shoes. And there is a similarity to me avoiding the gaze of proper runners to people looking at their shoes when they see me. The idea that we aren’t doing as well as we should, that we failing to reach a standard that other people are easily realising and surpassing even is present in so many of us.

So an irregular runner believes they are less than other exercisers. Someone who used to practice mindfulness thinks about sitting on their cushion but doesn’t because they believe they are no good at it anyways. Someone who is practicing mindfulness notices their mind has wondered and immediately believes they have got it wrong and that, not only is this a bad session, but that they are a bad practitioner and not good at being mindful. Now I would say that each person here needs to be encouraged to ignore that eroding inner critic and take their next step, but of course that is much, much easier typed than done.

The name couch to 5k is a great one. It clearly describes where you probably are and where you would like to get to. Progress is entirely measurable in both minutes and kilometres run. But equally someone who started their running a week before you would remain in front of you throughout the 9 weeks. In this way mindfulness is very different. There isn’t a goal to reach sometime in the future. You just do mindfulness. You may imagine that everyone else practicing in the room with you is perfectly resting in attention on the breath; that you are the only one getting distracted by thoughts of what might be for tea and the holey socks of the person in front of you, but the reality is that we are all imperfect pretty well all the time. Which is why mindfulness is not about stopping the mind from wandering, but instead to simply notice when it does. This means when you see your mind is not on your breath or your chosen anchor spot, that moment right there is being mindful, is realisation.That is what it is all about, so simply notice “my mind is involved in a thought about planning tea.” And then gently, without any rush, let the thought go. Don’t force it away. You can be aware that it is still there or that this thought is also passing like all mental events do. And then when it has passed, simply return to the anchor spot and be mindful of that. Every time you come back, you come back with more experience, with more wisdom. A mind returning to awareness, like a body to exercise, recognises what is going on a little bit better every time it does. Good habits are being formed.

So be aware of that inner critic. It isn’t doing you any favours. Don’t let it stop doing what you want or what is good for you all just because of a totally misplaced sense of inferiority. Additionally, it is mindfulness the self judgement is about then kindly and gently notice that is what your mind is paying attention to. Well done you are aware of your thoughts and feelings. They will pass.

Quiet Tuesdays

In times of hardship or stress people have a tendency to cut themselves off from others. Such self isolation compounds the original discomfort by making someone feel like they are suffering alone – and maybe even that they are the only person that feels like that. In the longer term this can lead to guilt about the false idea that they themselves are responsible for their own unpleasant feelings and emotions. Quite clearly in the present virus situation of 2020, the broader necessary and imposed isolation will compound this of pain and low self-worth.

Most people are lucky enough to be living with access to virtual connection. Whilst it cannot take the place of face to face communication, online linking and community is able to provide vital support for us all: we are not alone, we are not different from everyone else because we suffer. I believe that a sense of togetherness can greatly increase people’s well being. A sharing of experience is a lifting of the burden. This is why I am starting Quiet Tuesdays; for my own and anyone else’s benefit who wants to spend 20 to 30 minutes a week sitting mindfully together. We can help each other improve our health. Rob Brandsma (from ‘Mindfulness Teaching Guide) talks about how such a group can create resonance whereby our individual experience links up with other people’s. This can lead to increased group wisdom when we realise that there are many more possibilities than we could have realised on our own. Also we can see that our difficulties aren’t personal; that they are part of a wider shared human experience. Through this understanding a third benefit of togetherness is created.

I aim to create a regular dependable place for quiet and space in people’s week; somewhere to slow down, stop and notice. The longer term vision is that this session will grow into a small community of mutual support, born out of shared practice in a shared place. This is not a course and there will be little teaching. The most important activity will guided mindfulness; so the time will be spent primarily on experiential learning.  I chose the word ‘quiet’ but, to be honest, only just rejected ‘silent’. Maybe over time, depending on how and if the community develops, it might become beneficial to have brief discussions about the experience of practice in the group. But to forge a solid start, I believe it is best we simply practice together.  People are welcome to drop in to sessions, but the deepest and widest benefits will come from committing to such a practice and community on a regular basis. The changes that mindfulness can bring will certainly come but they will be more deeply and profoundly affective by putting in the energy over the long term.

Practice diary: 11th October

I have said it before, but people just presume I will always be mindful because I teach mindfulness. They are wrong.

Over the weekend the heater for the shower sprung a leak. The ceiling on the floor below developed some brownish patches and the cupboard the white box was in was drenched. The house electrics were also tripping. Now I may be the world’s least skilled DIY practitioner. If I am not I am in the top 3. When an event like leaking dripping sealed white boxes and randomly turning off lights and fridge and wifi happens I feel terror and dread and overwhelming sense of uselessness. Those negative emotions were eating away at me and I could feel a fighting turning sensation in my chest.

Twenty four hours later and a lovely and dear friend has sealed off the leak l,showed me how the electrics can be sorted and explained which profession I can ring on Monday morning to hopefully finish the job. I don’t feel those sensations now. It has all passed.

To understand how my mind and body got so filled with properly unpleasant feelings, thoughts and emotions I need to look all the back to where the feelings began. This was when my mind contacted the thought “The shower heater is leaking.” That is of course for anyone a bad event; an inconvenience at best and large cost and disruption at worst. If I had been mindful of that negative feeling right there and then at the start and seen it for what it was: unpleasant, maybe even painful – but also temporary, then I might have been able to detach from that initial sensation. In fact, detaching would have worked anywhere along the production line of negative reactions and feelings, all the way up the feeling of dread and self hatred. Mindfulness can create a stepping back from an automatic chain of reaction and allow space for a wiser response to occur.

I always make sure to tell a group starting an 8 week course that it won’t be ‘skipping through fields of daisies and ice creams’ for everyone if they practice mindfulness regularly. Alas, no matter how many courses or retreats you go on mindfulness won’t stop the bad stuff happening. But mindfulness can work to stop the so called ‘second dart’ of painful reactive feelings occurring ,even if first darts are still inevitable in our lives.

Now I am off to try and start taking some of my own advice.

Practice diary: 6th October

Don’t overcomplicate mindfulness!

Follow these instructions – allowing 10 seconds for each sentence

Simply sit or stand still in a comfortable position and keep your back tall, but relaxed. Feel your feet on the ground. Know you are sitting (or standing). Be aware of any sounds that are audible. When you breathe in, know you are breathing in. When you breathe out know you are breathing out.

And there you go; mindfulness in a minute!