Image shows cartoon of a man with a red open shirt and grey shirt standing slightly away from a set of hooks on a wall his eyes are closed and he is smiling. Caption reads: Let yourself off the hook. Picture by Molly Hahn at Buddha Doodles.
One of the things that I have learnt through mindfulness is that it is not necessarily how you feel about something that causes the problem, but the story that you build around it that causes you to feel worse.
The best example I can give of this is when I get caught in the rain, sure getting rained on isn’t great, but it’s the extra layer of me thinking ‘this is horrible’ ‘this sucks’ that makes it worse and spins the situation into something so much bigger in my head. Especially if I then add another layer of resistance by telling myself that I shouldn’t think negatively. It’s easy to see how a small inconvenience can become a big deal if you overthink it.
It’s the same with being irritated, if you can manage to acknowledge it and step back then great, but sometimes you can be in the middle of the story before you realise it. This is another situation where awareness can help, by not creating more resistance, by at least being aware enough not to become irritated about being irritated.
This can also sometimes be applied to discomfort in the body, the more I can sit with an ache or pain and be aware of it rather than creating a story around how bad it is the less it will bug me. I don’t suffer with that much pain though so I don’t feel I can say as much from experience.
In my experience the more I can be aware of the layers of story that less likely I am to get dragged away by them.
First of all, apologies if you thought this post was going to be about Pokemon Go, it’s not. It’s actually going to be about my first attempt to come up with my own mindfulness technique.
It’s based around the idea that an important part of mindfulness is about loosening our grip on things and trying not to take life quite so seriously.
I realised when I was playing a mobile game that I am quite addicted to that I was getting really frustrated for no reason, I was gripping my phone really strongly (I often put too much pressure in my grip anyway because of my CP) and there was lots of tension building up in my arms. When I noticed this I decided to try and use it as my newest way of bringing mindfulness into my every day life, in the hope that if I practice not getting too drawn in or frustrated by a game hopefully I will be able to apply it to other situations too.
So the next time you are playing your favourite mobile game, see if you can notice when you are getting too involved..
Notice the sensations that are there. Are you gripping tightly? Are there areas of your body that are full of tension? Notice whatever is there for you
Take a breath and bring yourself into wider awareness for a few moments.
If you want to you can spend a few moments focusing on relaxing the areas where you noticed tension or exploring any other sensations that you became aware of.
Repeat this technique whenever you notice you are getting too involved or frustrated
Let me know what you think of this idea in the comments, did you find the technique helpful?
Image shows a cartoon of a monk smiling, wearing orange robes, holding a bowl sitting cross-legged on the grass, he is holding a bowl and next to him is a cat. Caption reads: Enjoy the little things. Picture by Molly at Buddha Doodles
I feel like a lot of this blog has become focused on the theory of mindfulness and that means I haven’t talked so much about mindfulness in a more practical way. This is partly because reading informs a lot of my practice and I want to share what I learn in the hope that it will be useful to other people. I have been keeping up a daily meditation practice and while I don’t feel I have become particularly skilled at meditation, I do feel like it is having a positive effect on my life outside of practice, so I thought I would share with you some of the ways that I have noticed this.
The first example would be being able to respond rather than reacting so that in a discussion, things are able to stay a lot calmer and not escalate into situations that become a lot more difficult to deal with.
The second area where I have noticed changes is when it comes to dealing with rejection, I’m applying for a lot of things at the moment and that inevitably leads to a fair amount of rejection. in the past, I have really let situations like this get to me and not dealt with them very well. Mindfulness has been helping me turn that situation around and help me see the positives within the situation. I found this article really helpful, but the number one thing I am trying to remember about getting rejected is that it means you’re putting yourself out there and doing something.
I used to be very susceptible to being dragged down by my own negative thought processes about what I could have done better or how things could have been different. Now I find it a lot easier to see it all as a learning process and just keep going. This is not to say that I don’t get dragged into conversations with my inner critic at times, but I am a lot better at metaphorically walking away if that makes sense.
My third observation is related to mindful eating but is a bit more specific than that, lately, whenever I have been having a little treat, be that a chocolate bar or a favourite drink I have been remembering to pay attention to all the reasons why I love it. This has 2 advantages in that I get more enjoyment out of it and I’m less likely to over indulge because I am paying attention properly. This is particularly useful when you have a sweet tooth like I do.
I think this shows (to me at least) that even when I feel that meditation isn’t going well, commitment to the practice can still make a difference, just maybe not in the ways I first expected.
Image has black background. The words This is Happening are in blue neon text (block capitals) underneath that in white text is ‘Redesigning mindfulness for our very modern lives’. Near the bottom of the page in sky blue text is ‘Rohan Gunatillake’ Underneath that in white text is ‘Creator of buddhify’.
This is the second time that I read this book through and I have found a useful both times. It is written in a way that if you want to, you can just pick it up and read specific chapters, each of which focus on a different core technique within meditation, but I would recommend reading it all the way through at least once. The unique thing about this book is that as well encouraging you to develop meditation techniques in the traditional way ,it also really encourages you to develop what it refers to as “mobile meditation” where you take aspects of a core technique and use it while you’re out and about.
This book is written in a really accessible way but it still manages to be a really useful reference text. I like the way that each chapter starts with introducing the core technique and immediately relates it to a real life example of someone who had found it useful, which then made it easier to see how to apply the technique to myself. Each chapter then has ten exercises, a mixture of formal and mobile practices. A couple of my favourites are ‘Shoot Kindness’ and ‘Watch TV’ I have already used the book multiple times when I needed to refresh myself on a technique, for example when I was discussing the Loving Kindness technique and the RAIN technique, this book was one of the resources that I went to.
There are lots of things I will take away from reading this book, but the main ones are: thoughts are not facts, try not to take life too seriously and most of all how important it is to try and make mindfulness fit into your life rather than changing life to fit around mindfulness because that wouldn’t be sustainable.
The other unique thing about this book is that the last chapter is dedicated to encouraging you to develop your own meditation techniques. Something which I haven’t yet managed to do completely but I am working on. This book was also one of the main reasons that I was inspired to start this blog, because it made me realise as I felt there was no information that was completely suited to people with specific needs then why not create it? this is a book that I will definitely keep coming back to and I am confident that I will always find something useful every time I read it. I would recommend it to anyone that is trying to find or develop mindfulness techniques to really suit them.
I have been thinking a lot about how to keep motivated within my practice. I have been struggling to deal with distractions and I realise that this might be because it can sometimes be difficult to see meditation as engrossing. Let’s face it meditation is almost the opposite of what our brains are used to.
This brought me to the idea of beginner’s mind. This is a Buddhist concept and while this blog does not subscribe to any religion it would be pointless to deny the influence that Buddhism has had on meditation and mindfulness. Beginner’s mind is the attempt to constantly approach things as if seeing them for the first time. If you think about the awe and wonder with which little kids have when they are introduced to something that we take for granted, then that’s what we are aiming for. Not that that is going to be easy, but in the context of meditation practice, if curiosity can be brought to the breath (or whatever the chosen focus is) then maybe meditation can be as intriguing as and addictive as any other passion or obsession.
There is this idea that in every day life our mind is like a teacup, that fills up and fills up until it is overflowing and can’t take anything more in. Beginner’s mind is about trying to ’empty your teacup’ More on that idea here
In every day life practising beginner’s mind may help me, because the more I practice it the more I will remind myself not to expect experiences to always be the same or turn out the same way. Instead if I work at it then beginner’s mind will hopefully lead me to look for the changes in everything. I think this is a particularly useful skill when you may regularly have to face challenges that may otherwise leave you cynical.
I thought I would leave you with an explanation from Jon Kabat-Zinn, a very inspiring mindfulness teacher.
I hope this has been helpful. Have a good week.
The video is also available on YouTube. No copyright infringement intended.