Monthly Archives: April 2016

An app that helped me: headspace

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I mentioned in my first post that it was apps  that had allowed me to really develop a regular meditation habit before I was able to find an accessible class.  The first app that helped me  to do that was Headspace. If you have any interest in meditation you have probably heard of Headspace and Andy Puddicombe, as it is Andy’s voice that will be guiding you through each exercise.

Not only does headspace offer guided meditations that help you build up your confidence and your skills and also give you a specific meditation  to do  every day.  If you (like me) work better  when given a specific structure to follow then this is one of the app’s main selling points. Although I have had a few lapses in the past I have found that the way had spaces structured has really helped me stay motivated and keep meditating on a daily basis.

 

This video is an example of the way Andy explains things. The above example really helped change the way I saw my thoughts working and helped me try to stop getting dragged away by them.  The animations and tips and tricks that headspace provides are a really  quick and easy way to get an insight or a new perspective on something. Another example of this would be when talking about effort. Meditation is often compared to sleep, in that the best way to do it well is to not try at all. I  have always been quite a  goal orientated person so this doesn’t come naturally to me so this idea was another new and interesting perspective.

It’s important to try and remember that there is no such thing as a good meditation or bad meditation, just the practice. Even after nearly 100 days of consecutive practice many of my meditations are still really busy. I still feel like I’m benefiting from trying to take a step back from my thoughts, no matter whether I feel I have been that successful or not.

One of the things that you need to be sure of with any guided meditation is that you don’t have an instinctive dislike to the voice, in my experience this can affect whether or not you enjoy and get the most benefit out of your meditation. This doesn’t affect me with headspace but it has affected me when it comes to other meditations. Also once you feel you are confident with meditation then you may feel that there is a little too much guidance in each session, which can sometimes be distracting. Most of the time though it acts as a reminder to go back to the breath, it just depends what works for you

I found the visualisation technique extremely difficult when I first started using headspace and it even stop me using the for a while.  When I came back to it, when they asked me to visualise a light gradually spreading through my body I used the image of the Doctor regenerating to help me imagine it more successfully.

Some people may be put off by the cost but if you find take 10 (which is free for 10 days) useful and you use it every day and you feel the need to help to build the structure like I did then I think you may find it worth it

The thing I like most about headspace is all the techniques that it teaches you and the way that with each new pack I feel that I am developing my technique even further and throughout each pack there are videos that help you get the most out of each technique.

This is not the only app I use but it is the one I use most regularly.I will be talking about the other apps I have found helpful soon.

Check out Headspace  here

I hope that this has been helpful, thank you for reading.

*This blog was mostly typed with speech recognition software, please forgive any mistakes or oddnesses that have slipped through my proofreading process. Thank you.

 

The Art of Meditation by Matthieu Ricard

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I discovered this little book while doing some research at work. Although the author is a Buddhist monk I think he does a good job of keeping this book open to anyone who has an interest in deepening their understanding of meditation. There were so many moments in this book where the author explained things that I had heard before but in a way that somehow made the concepts so much clearer and therefore made me feel like I was much more likely to be able to apply them successfully.

In terms of  meditation and being able to change the way that we  view our attitude  to things, he says:  “Understanding that the essential nature of consciousness is neutral permits us to understand that it is possible to change our mental universe.” (Loc 117) Later on in the book he talks  about  this neutrality being the centre of mindfulness.  The ultimate aim is for there not to be any judgement around the tasks we do anymore,  instead, there is just a task that we are doing and an open mindful approach to it. Something which I think will take me years to master.

Even though he does talk about posture in a very specific way and there are some diagrams which would be considered far from inclusive,  he also talks about changing your posture in accordance with your mood, or  taking a moment to change it when you are uncomfortable rather than being in unnecessary pain. These concessions help do away with any  resistance that was initially caused by his very specific instructions.

He  uses very strong imagery throughout the book which I found both helpful and oddly comforting. For example, when talking about turbulent thought processes he uses the image of a very  strong waterfall gradually going through its journey to become a calm ocean. I find this a good image to focus on, especially when I have a busy meditation, as I can get demoralised when my mind does not want to be calm. Focusing on this image helps to remind me that it is all part of the practice.

When he talks about body scans he uses more detail than I have seen in previous books and by using small details such as fingernails and other body parts that don’t normally get included I thought that this would help me create stronger visualisations when I’m trying to do body scans although  I acknowledge that some people might find the extra detail off-putting.

There was a lot of emphasis put on changing  your mindset and making an effort to care more about other people rather than yourself. This was very much put in the context of it being better for your own well-being to think this way rather than just for the good of humanity. Suggesting this idea is interesting, because the loving kindness meditations can often seem contrived or forced, so putting them in a wider perspective in this way could be helpful.

There are also many ideas for practical meditation on many different aspects of mindfulness,  with inspiration from different texts to go along with each meditation, so there are many ideas about how to develop practice.

The Habit of Happiness Ted Talk by Matthieu Ricard Click on the link if you would like to watch a Ted Talk given by Matthieu Ricard on the ideas surrounding meditation wellbeing and happiness

I was using the Kindle Edition but it is available from bookshops and libraries or Click the Link to go to The Book Depository

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

*This blog was mostly typed with speech recognition software, please forgive any mistakes or oddnesses that have slipped through my proofreading process. Thank you.

Mindfulness and a good cup of tea

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I realise up until this point my posts to be mostly about sitting meditation, so I thought it was time that I wrote about something that can help integrate mindfulness into everyday life. One of the best ways to bring mindfulness into  everyday life can be to focus on your favourite things and spend those times ensuring that you are  being mindful.

For me, a good time to  try and do this is when I have a cup of tea. Hopefully when you are stopping have a cup of tea it is a chance for you to relax and therefore also a great opportunity to take a moment to be mindful. A technique that can help bring about mindful awareness  of an experience is to bring your focus into each of the senses as you drink the cup of tea.

Sight: Focus for  the moment on the colour of the cup  of tea. If you are lucky enough to have had it made for you take a moment to appreciate the fact that they have made it just the way you like it.

Taste: For a moment focus on the bitter or sweetness of your tea, appreciate all the people that have  worked with the tea from the start  of its journey to being in your cup.

Touch: Take  a moment to appreciate the cup in your hands and how the  liquid feels as on   your tongue as you take a sip.

Smell: Is there smell that you associate with tea? Is it comforting? Take a moment to fully experience how that is making you feel.

Hearing: Although there may not be anything directly related to hearing to do with your cup of tea, there will probably be background noise that might distract you, just experience it and come back to the cup of tea as you would with the breath during meditation.

In order to make this exercise most effective, it is probably best if you focus on one sense each time you take a sip of tea. Although I have tea used in this example I think this exercise could be used when consuming any of your favourite food or drink. I think it is a good time to apply mindfulness because it makes me focus on things that I enjoy most and ensure that I appreciate them and I often find that I remember them more clearly because I was more focused on them.

This is just meant to be an initial guide that you could build on and adapt to suit you. For example, if there is one sense that you feel most comfortable with, maybe start with that and build on it as you get more comfortable

I hope that this has been helpful, thank you for reading.

*This blog was mostly typed with speech recognition software, please forgive any mistakes or oddnesses that have slipped through my proofreading process. Thank you.