Welcome to week two! I'd like to quote pages 94-95 of our book "Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World".
"The first week of the mindfulness program began the process of building a capacity for sustained mindful concentration and awareness. It may have given you a glimpse into the mind's inner workings and its tendency to "chatter". Gradually, moment by moment, you may have come to realize that although you can't stop the unsettling thoughts from arising in your mind, you can stop what happens next. You can stop the vicious circle from feeding off itself.
The next step is to deepen your capacity to see the mind's reactivity by learning to pay mindful attention to the body. Here, you can feel the first stirrings of emotionally charged thoughts. Instead of your body acting as an amplifier, it can become a sensitive emotional radar; an early warning system that alerts you to unhappiness, anxiety and stress almost before they arise. But if you are to learn to "read" and understand the messages from your body, you first have to learn how to pay attention, in detail, to those parts of the body that are the source of the signals. As you will soon discover, these signals can arise anywhere in the body. This means you need to use a meditation practice that includes every region of the body, ignoring nothing, befriending everything. And for this, we use the Body Scan."
This chapter also discusses how we often expect that, now that we have been practicing, that we will magically be able to clear our mind of all thoughts and how untrue that often is. Your practice will vary from day to day and month to month, not always in some clear trajectory. The day after your "amazing" meditation session might well be your biggest struggle, as you enter into the session expecting what you got yesterday. Each day, each moment, is different. And we are practicing sitting with whatever is present WITHOUT judgment (ack! why is it so hard to not judge??)
For this week, the Habit Releaser is going for a walk. Try to get in a 15-30 minute walk with an open frame of mind. Focus on your feet, the movements in your body, the smells around you, the sounds of the trees, animals, leaves. Try stopping and looking upward as well, seeing all the delicious details of nature or the manmade structures around you.
Click here for a printable copy of the week's homework
Practices for week two:
Body scan (recommended to do twice a day for 6 out of 7 days)
Mindful daily life activity
Habit releaser (mindful walk)
Let me know how you are doing!
Summary of chapter 5 in “Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World”
In this chapter, the authors discuss how many of us tend to live constantly either thinking about the future or the past and that much of what we do ends up being on auto-pilot. The exercises assigned are to help bring awareness and all our senses to what is happening NOW.
A quote from page 86 “She began to think of her mind, its thoughts and its feelings, as a weather pattern, with her task simply being to observe the weather, even if it is stormy”…..she “was not trying to gain control over the ‘weather’.”
In mindfulness, we are strengthening our ability to observe our thoughts, rather than get caught and rushed downstream with them.
Click here for a printable homework log – there are several suggestions on what to practice this week. If it is too overwhelming, just choose one or two things to do consistently. Let’s work on consistency and support. What do you need to get these pieces a part of your daily life?
I’ve been wrapping my head around these two concepts for awhile now. Mindfulness seems to be the buzz word these days. Everywhere you look, people are jumping on the “mindfulness” bandwagon. Time magazine dubbed 2014 the “Year of Mindfulness”, celebrities meditate, large corporations like Google have meditation rooms, but what is it? Critics describe mindfulness as “meditation without the religion”. Is that what it is?
Jon Kabat-Zinn is largely credited with bringing mindfulness to the west with his mindfulness based stress reduction course (MBSR). He describes mindfulness as "paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”
So where does meditation come into play? Meditation in the dictionary is described as “think deeply or focus one's mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.”
I like to think that mindfulness is a way of being and meditation as the practice, or weight lifting, you do to be able to be mindful more often. It is possible to be mindful without meditation, but it makes it easier to be mindful if you have some practice in your back pocket. Mindfulness is deeply living in the present moment. It is being aware of all that is going on around you, in a physical, emotional, and thoughtful way. Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on one thing, your anchor, and training your brain to come back to it over and over again. Your anchor could be your breath, body sensations, chanting, mantras, and a host of different things.
I’ll leave you with an example of a meditative vs. a mindful walk:
A meditative walk would be focusing on the sensations of your feet as they lift, move, place, lift, move, place.
A mindful walk would be noticing the blue sky, hearing the birds, feeling the warmth of the sun and noticing how your body responds.
What are your thoughts? Does this ring true or do you have another point of view?
Welcome! I am excited to start this journey and explore a new format for learning and connection. This is my first time leading this type of course and I welcome comments and feedback at any time. This course is arising out of a desire to apply the skills we already know more regularly into our lives. Many us of know why it is important to be mindful and we recognize the value in connecting with the life that is right in front of us. We want to be able to not always get lost in our emotional quicksand and see things for what they really are. But, with our busy lives, our constant e-connection, and our attention being pulled in 10 different directions at once, it is easy for us to get scattered, overreact and fall into old habits. My hope is that the format of this class will allow you to start (and maintain) a mindfulness habit that takes just a few minutes a day and permeates all that you do. I look forward to starting this journey.
This week, we will be doing some pre-work before diving into week one in the book. We will be discussing the course format and also working on some homework. If you would like to deepen your learning, this will also give you time to purchase the book and read chapters 1-4 (pages 1-66). I suggest supporting your local bookstore, buying the e-book or purchasing online:
Starting next week, for 8 weeks, I will have a printable sheet for you to check off the different areas of homework. These will include:
Daily Life Activity: Each week, you will choose an activity that you do every day (brushing your teeth, washing your hands, washing dishes, drinking tea or coffee, doing laundry, starting your car, etc). Whenever you complete this activity, bring all your attention to this activity and immerse yourself in it completely. When you are washing your hands, for example, chances are your mind is thinking about something else – planning your day, talking with someone, anything but washing your hands. The idea of this activity is to bring your attention to all the sensations of the present moment – feel the water flowing over your hands, inhale the scent of the soap, feel the slipperiness of the suds. You don’t have to slow the activity down, or even enjoy it, just be fully present and alive while you are doing it. Mindfulness doesn’t mean we are happy all the time, it just means we are present in the moment for whatever it brings.
Habit Releaser: Each week, you will be presented with a ‘habit releaser’. This course is focused on making us more aware our habits, and these tasks will help, and challenge you, to notice what your habitual patterns are. These include such things as changing the chair you normally sit in to examining your relationship to your TV.
Meditation: You will also be presented with a meditation to complete each week. Copies of these can be downloaded here. The authors suggest trying to complete these 6 out of 7 days. These range in time from 3-20 minutes. If your life is slightly insane, don’t sweat trying to make a 20 minute time commitment every day. Even a one-minute pause intentionally put into your day can make a difference. I’ve met some folks who are great meditators – they can sit quietly for 30-45 minutes every day, but once they are done, their lives come crashing back and they ramp right back up. It’s almost like they have an on/off switch, or like they have a wonderfully tended garden with a beautiful gate in one small area of their yard, but the rest of the yard is wild and overgrown. The idea I am proposing is trying to plant little seeds of mindfulness throughout your day – one minute here, one breath there. Rather than having one meticulously cultivated corner, bring the mindfulness in throughout your day in small doses. With time, the seeds grow and we can be prancing through an expansive beautiful field rather than frantically pushing through our life of crazy weeds to get to that one area of solace.
Gratitude practice: This is not included in the book as a formal practice, but will be explored in this course. You will be asked to complete a daily gratitude practice, either written or oral, each week.
That’s it! Each week, I will provide a summary of the reading for the week and provide a printout of the homework for you to complete. This week, there are just questions for you to journal about:
1. What is important about having a mindfulness practice be a part of your life?
2. What are your hopes for this course?
Please feel free to leave your answers, thoughts, and introductions in the comments section below!