It seems only fitting that I am writing this post at 6am after spending much of the last few hours tossing and turning in bed with endless thoughts running through my head. As I near the end of a 2 week vacation, I am presented with what seems to be an endless amount of "stuff" to think about and process. The difference between now and a few years ago before my mindfulness practice is the way I feel about it all. A few years ago, I would have gotten angry about not falling asleep, wondering why and stressing about how the day was going to turn out. I would have added a layer of "self-talk" to the story that only serves to make falling asleep even more of a dream. But now, sometime around 5:30 am, I laid in bed and did a simple loving kindness meditation: "May I be happy, May I be healthy, May I be safe, May I live with ease".
Repeating these words seemed to bring a sense of calmness and acceptance towards my situation. Yes, it would be nice to enter today more well rested and refreshed, but here I was, wide awake, and in a beautiful place in this world. So I got up, grabbed my computer and am now sitting outside on a cozy porch watching the world wake up.
One practice I love doing and reminding others of is what I call "the best friend litmus test". Think of the last time you made a mistake, did something "wrong" or otherwise beat yourself up internally. Think of what you said to yourself. Often, it's something like "boy, that was dumb, I can't believe I did that, what was I thinking?" (or perhaps more colorful dialogue). Now think of a time your best friend told you about something they did that was similar. What would you say to them? Chances are, it wouldn't be the same.
If you wouldn't say it to your best friend, why say it to yourself?
Either sit quietly for 15 minutes or use tracks 1 and 4 (Mindfulness of Body and Breath, Breath and Body)
Then 10 minute Befriending meditation (track 7)
Three-Minute Breathing Space (track 8) - aiming to do twice a day or whenever you feel you need it.
Habit Releaser (choose one or do both!)
1. Reclaiming your life: think back to a time where pressures were less for you and recall activities you used to do then. Choose one thing you used to enjoy and plan to do it this week. It could be 5 minutes or 5 hours, important or trivial, involving others or alone. It is only important that it puts you back in touch with a part of your life that you had forgotten or left behind.
2. Do a good-natured deed for someone else. A random act of kindness for someone you know or a stranger. How can you make the life of someone else just a little bit better? It needn't be big, but notice how you feel when you do it.
Here is your printable homework sheet.
I recently saw the movie "Inside Out" with my family (which I highly recommend to anyone, whether you have kids or not!). Reading this chapter reminds me of the struggle between joy and sadness in the movie. Joy thought she always had to come in and save the day - she felt like a day where all the memories were joyful was a success. She had a hard time seeing the point of sadness. But eventually, she witnessed Sadness sitting next to the main characters forgotten imaginary friend, Bing Bong. Joy had been trying to cheer up Bing Bong, but it was only once Sadness sat down and let him cry that he eventually felt better.
Trying to hide from our difficult emotions doesn't make them go away. That is the point of this chapter. Sometimes (actually more often than not) we need to turn towards our difficult emotions and give them space. The exercises this week work on developing awareness and our habitual responses to difficult emotions, as well as noticing our bodily responses to these emotions. After we create awareness, we are able to turn towards them, saying, "It's OK to be feeling this way", and we are able to move on in a more open and accepting way.
This weeks daily plan:
8 minute Breath and Body
8 minute Sounds and Thoughts
10 minute Exploring Difficulty
3 minute Breathing Space
http://bit.ly/rodalemindfulness tracks 4,5,6 and 8
Habit Releaser: Plant a seed or tend a plant
Download the printable homework sheet here
I love the theory behind this chapter, it is something we talk about often in our coaching work. It’s worth pulling a paragraph or two from the book:
“The way we interpret the world makes a huge difference to how we react. This is sometimes called the ABC model of emotions. The “A” represents the situation itself – what a video camera would record. The “B” is the interpretation given to the scene; the running story we create out of the situation, which often flows just beneath the surface of awareness but is taken as fact. The “C” is our reactions: our emotions, body sensations and our impulses to act in various ways.
Often we see the “A” and “C” quite clearly, but we are not aware of the “B”. We think the situation itself aroused our feelings and emotions when, in fact, it was our interpretation of the scene that did this.” (page 137 “Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman)
This rings so true for me, especially when it comes to parenting. My son might start to protest at bedtime and my immediate response is almost blown out of proportion, I get frustrated so easily, because the “B” I’ve added on top of the situation is the thought of “Oh my, here he goes again, I will never make it through this, I can’t believe how irrational he is getting, will he ever learn? How could I raise such an inconsiderate kid? I am a horrible parent…..” which just makes the situation worse. I’m reacting to my thoughts rather than the situation at hand.
The idea behind week four is to enhance your ability to see when your mind might be turning negative and self-attacking, when you might get “pulled into a vortex”.
Practices for week four:
8 minute Breath and Body meditation followed by
8 minute Sounds and Thoughts mediation
(try to do the above twice a day)
Three minute breathing space meditation
(twice a day and whenever you need it at any time)
Habit Releaser: a visit to the movies
-for this, ask a friend or family member to go with you to the movies at a specific time and just choose whatever movie appeals to you only when you get there.
Click here for a downloadable homework sheet.
This chapter starts with a few different stories highlighting the key message "The spirit in which you do something is often as important as the act itself." The story of the boy tugging and pulling on the donkey's collar often reminds me of my struggles with my 6 year old son. The more I pull and push him into something I want him to do or be, the more he struggles (and the angrier I get!). But in hindsight, I am so glad for his strong will and I hope he never loses it. He is my constant reminder to slow down and let things unfold on their own. He also shows me the power of a negative spiral and how hard they can be to get out of. By creating awareness of these traps, hopefully I am on the road to a little more freedom.
This week's exercises further enhance our awareness of body and mind and continue to help weave mindfulness into our daily life.
8 minute Mindful Movement meditation followed by 8 minute Breath and Body meditation
http://bit.ly/rodalemindfulness (tracks 3 and 4)
3 minute Breathing Space twice a day (track 8 at the link above)
Habit Releaser: Valuing the television
Printable checklist here
For the habit releaser, it is suggested to choose one day to consciously decide, BEFORE turning on the TV, which show you want to watch, and then turn it off afterwards. If the TV isn't an issue, considering doing this with your computer - deciding what you are turning it on for, how long you are going to be on, and shutting it off when done (instead of skimming Facebook for hours on end...)
Thanks for following me on this journey, I welcome your comments at any time. These blog posts will always remain up, so if you want to follow, start over, go at your own pace, you can!