So this week hasn’t gone as I thought or as I hoped it would. And yes I personally am scared even though I don’t live in America, as someone who is part of a minority I was never going to be happy with this result. It has reminded me how important it is to focus on the present.
I could be spending my time worrying about what could happen next and speculating on how bad it could get. Or I could acknowledge my fear, but use my effort to focus on what I can do now.
In no way am I saying that people should ‘just move on’ I think everyone has the right to feel whatever they need to feel about what has happened. What I am saying is that mindfulness might be a tool that we can all use to help us get through this.
Today is also world kindness day so while we figure out what we are going to do next the one thing we can definitely do is be kind to ourselves and each other.
If you want to give Loving Kindness Meditation a try visit my Be Kind post.
Take care everyone.
So this week has been really busy so I thought I would talk about mini meditations or mindful pauses. These can be anywhere between 30 seconds and 3 minutes depending on where you are and what you need. (Let’s face it when you really need it one long deep breath can help, but the longer you can focus on your breath the more difference it can make.)
You don’t have to be anywhere specific to do this. I’ve started trying to do this regularly on my commute and whenever I’m waiting for something (particularly if I’m nervous)
Just bring your attention to the breath and focus on the sensations of inhaling and exhaling. (You can close your eyes if you are comfortable with doing that, but you don’t have to.) If you get distracted just bring your attention back to the breath as you would usually.
This is also useful when I get stuck in my thoughts because it can be of switching my focus to the sensations in my body.
I can also say from experience that practising these little meditations throughout the day can make it easier when it comes to doing more formal sitting practice, as focusing on the breath begins to happen more naturally and automatically.
If you have been following this blog for a while then you will probably know that Headspace has played a big role in meditation becoming a habit for me. Particularly when it comes to meditating on a daily basis, something which I have at times found really hard to stick to. Headspace gives you a separate session to do each day focusing on a different aspect of mindfulness within your chosen pack, with ideas around how to apply mindfulness in a practical way, which keeps it interesting.
My meditation practice is still very up and down. Some weeks I find I am very calm and it feels like my practice is going really well and I have developed some depth and stability in my ability to stay present. Other days it will be back to being very choppy and it’s difficult to step back from the critical thoughts. Whatever type of practice I am having Headspace helps keep it consistent. This little video about letting go of effort both in terms of getting to sleep and having a calmer meditation is something I have found helpful and like to remind myself of quite often.
On the day this is posted I will have reached 200 days of meditating daily. As a reward for my ‘run streak’ I have a code for 3 months free access to help you get started with your own mindfulness practice. I am posting it here, but please only take it if you are pretty confident you are going to use it, as it can only be used once.
Simply copy the code, click here to go to headspace.com click ‘redeem code’ follow the instructions and enjoy!
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.