on my mind this week.....
take a moment to appreciate....
So lovely to attend Elderflower Fields festival last week and a real honour to be delivering mindfulness sessions. Thanks to all of you who attended and shared your practice.
Its always a bit of a challenge, and a great exercise in being mindful, trying to share an hour of mindfulness...there is so much to say and so many practices we could do together.
I shall try to recap, as I said i would, so you can all be reminded what we did together.
Over the two days we did a variety of guided mindfulness practices that you can use in everyday life. This means no extra time is required to get started on your practice. However, i cannot stress enough the benefits of setting aside some time for regular - i.e. daily - meditations. The trick to this is to get them in your schedule, ahead of the day staring and running away with you! For those of you who are struggling with busy-ness, there will probably never be time, so its a case of looking at where it can be squeezed in, what else can give, be delegated, not done etc in order to give yourself this precious time. Just that simple act, of kindness, self compassion and acknowledging the importance of time for yourself can be extremely beneficial.
For a simple guided meditation, mail me and I am very happy to drop box you a link to some of the ones I have recorded if you feel the need for guidance, or look on Insight Timer or Youtube to get you started. Even before that, just setting a timer for 5 minutes and being with the breath is a great start - you always have it with you. By now you know the mind will wander, so every time it does, use this as an opportunity to practice kindly bringing it back. If it wanders 200 times, then theres lots of opportunity to be patient and kind with yourself.
Each of the mindfulness in action practices we did flow the same principle. Decide on the task or action you will be doing mindfully, e.g. cleaning your teeth, set the intention to stick with it, then each time you notice the mind has wandered, gently bring it back. When the activity is done, thank yourself and move on. Notice at this point if you are holding an idea that you didn't do it properly, or it didn't work...if so, well done, you've spotted a judgement! Decide to let that go, and come back to thanking yourself for sticking with the activity.
Each time we bring our mind back, with kindness and compassion we are remaking the relationship we have with it, and retraining it to stay where we have decided it will stay. This is so helpful when in the middle of the night the mind brings you lots of worries and anxieties, you can recognise this and practise mindful breathing, or mindfully becoming aware of each body part in turn. We call this the body scan, and its a great practise to do in the night.
We also practised mindful eating, and as always when I guide this exercise people are surprised at the experience. As we acknowledged then, we see to eat with our minds, not just our mouths. This is true of all experiences in our day, if the mind is busy somewhere else we are not properly present to what we see, hear, feel, taste and experience. Ever noticed that when you go on holiday, food often tastes so much better? Maybe that is because you are totally 'present' to the experience?
So mindfulness is about being in the moment, as it is. It has been estimated that we are on autopilot for around 90% of the time. So even if we become 10% more present, thats a lots more of our life we are experiencing. There was a common theme over the weekend for a lot of you, realising that your children are growing up quickly and you are often in the past or future, not here in this moment. One way to help with this is when you notice the mind has wandered, make an effort to bring it back, with an idea like pulling your energy in, calling it back like birds coming in to roost perhaps? Or letting it float off an ducting the strings to the items that are pulling you away, or letting the thoughts go, like helium balloons. These are all strategies that my clients regularly practice and find useful. Another is to say to yourself, 'be here, now' or something similar.
We also did mindful movement, a great one to do while you are walking, being present to all of the sensations of movement. Or start your day with a mindful shower or doe mindful stretching, as we did on day 2.
We practised mindful listening, tuning in to the sounds around you and just hearing them. When the mind chats and comments, just notice and come back to listening. Mindfully listening to a friend or colleague can be very powerful, in this exercise you pay the speaker all of your attention. Listening for the sake of listening. it can help to drop down into the heart and feel a connection to the speaker. In this exercise you are not waiting your turn to speak, as we so very often are when we 'listen', instead you are listening to really hear the other person. For some people this is really difficult...as there is a real need to agree, speak, disagree, prove something etc. Try it!
We did mindful body awareness, dropping into the body and noticing feelings and sensations, levels of comfort, discomfort, warmth coolness etc. This can be a great way to get away from a busy head, dropping down into the body, and can be done any where for a mindful break. Maybe try it with a mindful culpa, just allowing yourself to be present to all sensations that are there.
We talked a lot about the breath, and did a couple of breathing exercises - square breathing, where you can use the guidance of a 4 sided shape, e.g. window, phone, door etc breathing in for the count of 4, holding the great for the count of 4, breathing out for the count of 4, holding for a count of 4. This can really help if panicky, as can any counting with the breath. It gives the mind something else to do, and deep breathing helps to switch on the body's relaxation system, the parasympathetic nervous system.
We also did calm hand, where you hold your non dominant hand up and use the pointy finger of the other hand to trace round each digit in turn, in breath on the up stroke, out breath on the down for 5 slow breaths. Or use this hand as 5 cadres, blowing each one out in turn with a long slow breath. the latter two exercise are good for younger kids and my young teen yoga students love the square breathing.
I talked a bit about jon Kabat Zinn and his work with people with chronic illness.A book of his I have found very inspiring is Full Catastrophe Living.
We talked about the way that there are so many great resources out there, and many ways to be mindful. Its a great idea to find a group or a teacher as mindfulness can initiate you 'arriving' more fully into a life that you may have distracted yourself from for good reason. Also being human, it is easier to keep up our practice with the support of a group. I run a lovely group on Tuesday evenings in Hove, with people who have been coming for some time. I will be setting another group up in September in Lewes, so if you're interested in that do get in touch.
I hope i have covered most of the stuff we talked about, if not, do get in touch and I'm happy to go over anything else with you.
With love Jane