Almost four years ago at the end of my first week-long juice retreat, I wrote in the guest book: I met someone this week. My body. Thank you!
The week pushed me physically in ways I didn’t know possible. And I felt it. I really felt it in my body, not just in my head.
Remembering my body, my physical body, is tricky for me. As I didn’t play sports growing up, I didn’t learn at an early age the limits and abilities of my physical body. Only in the last few years would I say I have connected with my body, understanding it’s healing power, the amazing and organized machine it is as well as the unexpected limitations that exist or perhaps what makes my body unique.
The body scans this week have been ok for me so far, but not so comfortable. I find myself somewhat restless and my mind wanders. I fell asleep yesterday. I remind myself to be aware of what is here, right now. And if that question is answered with ‘nothing’ that is ok. If the sensations in my body are very subtle, I notice this very subtle feeling. Also, I am reminded that simply being aware of the stress or thought I am experiencing, can help to diffuse it as well. Being aware – so easy and so difficult at the same time.
This is your experience right now. There is no right way to feel. Let go of any intentions for the breath.Simply lie here. With a sense of coming home to the body, allow the body to be just as it is. Allow yourself to be just as you are – complete and whole, resting in awareness, moment by moment.
I remind myself that this practice is like training a muscle that has been underused and it takes time to redevelop this strength in reconnecting with my body.
Meditation is not a competition with anyone else and certainly not with ourselves. It is a practice to develop over time.
I’ve also done the 10-finger gratitude exercise this week. I agree with the book – after 4, I had to really stop, think and be aware of the simple gratitude around me. But once I did, I realized how much to be grateful for and how easily and mindlessly we take it for granted.
How has your week been? How was your practice? Did you go on a mindful walk?
‘We seemingly miss obvious things through automatically paying attention somewhere else.’
Although this makes “sense”, as I read this, I still thought,
“Hmmmm.... how much of my life have I missed by paying attention to my incessant thinking, to something else?”
Our thoughts are so powerful and can take us places we never even intended. Like when a couple of weeks ago, when I went to the grocery store to buy bananas and ended up with Ben & Jerry’s as well. My thoughts of having something sweet took over, if you will, and present was anything but what I was. I don’t even think I was present while eating the ice cream. My thoughts were somewhere else, I think. But I don’t know because I was on autopilot and not ‘there’.
As much as we may still believe in the effectiveness of multitasking, we can really only concentrate on one thing at a time or at least pay attention to a small number of things at one time. What this means with our thoughts is that one thought seems to drive out another. If there’s too much swimming around, then we can overflow and this can lead to feelings of stress. As said in the book, our autopilot allows us to extend the working memory by creating habits to ‘help’ us not crash and be stressed so quickly and often. A good thing, most of the time.
“Habits trigger thoughts, which trigger more thoughts, which end up triggering yet more habitual thoughts.”
What a cycle.
I am looking at my habits this week and looking at what habits I could release. And you?
What stuck with me from this chapter is understanding what mindfulness is NOT. It is NOT about getting rid of your thoughts. How would you do THAT? Mindfulness does not say, “Don’t send emails.”
Rather, it reminds us to check in and ask ourselves, “Is this what I intended to be doing?”
And in this exact moment, we are present. And we have a choice to leave our autopilot and choose something new.
For me, this brings up a few meaningful questions I’ll be reminding myself of this week:
- Is this was I intended to be doing?
- Is this how I want to be reacting and responding?
- Is this how I want to remember this ** moment ** after it’s gone?
This chapter lists several every day habits we have where we can practice being more mindful. Washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, drinking, eating. For me, this week it has been ironing.
The next time you are in the shower, ask yourself: Are you really in the shower? Or are you somewhere else? Already riding to work? Crafting the email to send before 9.00? Thinking about what you’ll have for lunch?
So often we’re really not where we actually are. We can be though. It’s a choice we have. Every. Single. Moment.
What about you? What have you learned about your own autopilot?
Tip: If you don’t have any raisins at home, pick some up this week. You’ll need one this week!
I’ve been traveling, working remotely and sleeping in a new place almost every night for the last 2 1/2 weeks. When it comes to my growing and somewhat regular mindfulness practice, this traveling certainly puts it to the test. Or does it? I’ve realized that it is not a test, it is not about being successful or being a failure with mindfulness meditation. It is not a to-do item. It is not something I do but rather who I am, even when I am not meditating. Just as we become **almost instantly** present once again as soon as we realize we are not, I have found myself also having these thoughts during the last few weeks:
I didn’t do my practice today. I’m driving in the car. OK, I can’t close my eyes, but I can take the next 5 minutes and concentrate on my breath. I’m waiting at the airport. I’m waiting in line. I can breathe. Hello. Here I Am. Breathe.
I have been reminded that a sustained mindfulness practice isn’t about crossing off each day and marking it as done and feeling guilty on the days I didn’t watch my breath. It is a practice, it is a way of being.
In this week’s chapter, my key takeaways include:
- Pushing and pulling in the direction I want to go is only one way. If I wait for things to work out, as they always do, just sometimes not in the way I want or expect them to, what other things change through this approach? For me, it is a sense of calm. Much less frustration and doubt.
- Remind myself of the sensation of feeling trapped and remember what this can create: exhaustion and helplessness. I am a Virgo and have a fair share of perfectionism (working on recovery from that one....) so this one hit home with me.
- The Three-Minute Breathing Space is the reminder and meditation I needed during these last few weeks. As in the book, it acts as a bridge between the longer and more formal meditations. 1. Become aware. 2. Gather and focus attention. 3. Expand attention.
How have your practices been this last week? Did anyone try the Mindful Movement Meditation? What was your experience?
How can you continue to have a mindfulness practice in your life amongst the everyday lives we lead which can sometimes pull us in another directions?
Much of what is discussed in this week’s chapter is what brought me to mindfulness in the very first place. Earlier this year, I was working through a challenging situation and looking for another way, another way to ‘do’ something, to ‘fix’ what was wrong.
I recall during one of our first sessions together with my mindfulness coach. She told me this: We are first going to do nothing.
Well, you can imagine how my ‘doing’, let’s fix it fast, this next way will/must/should work’ self reacted to this idea. And I was paying her to do tell me to do ‘nothing’?!?!? I was frustrated, curious, confused and annoyed.
At the same time, my ‘being’ self and quite honestly, my ‘I’m so tired, sad and confused’ self was ready to try anything, including NOTHING. I had been trying to solve the difficulty for so long, much in the same way I’ve solved other challenges in life — but it wasn’t WORKING. My DOING wasn’t WORKING. So, I thought I would give this NOTHING idea a go.
When I am mindful and turn towards difficulty instead of away, I am aware of all of the ‘shoulds, coulds and ought-to's’ running through my mind. Over time, I have realized I’ve let go of some shoulds, as when thinking about it in the present moment, I realize I don’t want or need to do the ‘shoulds’ my auto-pilot mind normally tells me.
During this time of working with this difficulty and starting a mindfulness practice, acceptance began. First and foremost, I had to define (or re-define) what acceptance actually meant.
I thought it was about giving in or giving up and throwing in the towel. As in this chapter, acceptance is not about giving up. It is not about ‘not feeling anything’ anymore. The word that came to me during my work with my coach was ‘indifferent’. It felt empowering, freeing to finally have found a word to articulate my acceptance of the situation and describe how I was feeling. I finally felt like there were choices in a situation I was defining as set, stuck, decided.
‘Acceptance allows the mind to embrace the true, deep understanding of how things really are. Acceptance is a pause, a period of allowing, of letting be, of clear seeing.’
I’m reminded of what comes with acceptance of how things really are – judgement of myself, the situation, the ‘shoulds and coulds’. I continue to remind myself to:
How did this week go for you? Difficult dealing with the difficulty meditation?
Hope you are all doing well and sending peace out to those who especially need it this week.
PS: If you haven’t had a chance to read the entire chapter, I recommend a few key pages. The poem by Rumi, The Guest House, on page 166-167, is one of my favorites. And give the difficulty mediation on page 172 a go as well.
Stuck in the past? Me? Never. Ha.
Many of us can relate to past events and thoughts that seem to go around and around and around in our minds. We end up carrying around dead weight of our past. This gets heavy and becomes exhausting.
It is not easy. There is difficulty in letting go of the past, the brooding about things that did or didn’t happen or worrying about things that haven’t happened yet.
“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
― Mark Twain
Irreversibility: the idea that we carry a hidden assumption around with us that because of what has happened to us, nothing at all can ever be the same again.
Why does this happen? It is because of the way we remember events in our lives from the past. When asked to recall happy events, research has shown, that our brains present one kind of pattern. A traumatic past event creates a different pattern. This is because of the way we remember such events, called ‘overgeneral’ memory. If this brain stuff interests you, you can learn more in pages 191-192 as well as from the studies conducted by Professor Richard Bryant and his work with firefighters.
This is a pattern of the mind where we can very easily get stuck and think this is permanent and there is nothing we can do about it. Being trapped in the past, as stated in the book, is when recall past events in an overgeneral way. By overgeneralizing a past traumatic event, we are actually feeding a tendency to suppress memories of events we don’t like or make us uncomfortable. We don’t return to the specifics of the events, only the generality of the event. We get stuck inside our guilt and shame for what has happened and bring it to our present and future thinking, thinking it will never change. It feels permanent, but it is not.
Mindfulness training has shown to shift overgeneral thinking to more specific thinking, changing the above brain pattern of such past events for us in how we recall them and releases us from this ‘trap’.
Good news, right?
I’d like to end this week’s post with key questions posed in this week’s chapter about kindness and compassion for the self – two keys to finding peace.
- Do you tell yourself you shouldn’t be feeling the way you’re feeling?
- Do I tell myself that you shouldn’t be thinking the way you do?
- Could you being treating yourself with more compassion and kindness?
YES? A good place to start is with this mantra meditation (p. 198):
May I be free from suffering.
May I be as happy and healthy as it is possible for me to be.
May I have ease of being.
WOW. Week Eight. Here it is. Week Eight is the rest of your life.
This week’s chapter is such a wonderful summary of all of the weeks. As such, I’ve chosen to include some of the most meaningful passages for me in this chapter:
Mindfulness practice does not compel us to let go of Doing, but it does give us a choice, and the skills to do so if we so choose.
There is an excellent (and short) review of all the week’s practices on pages 240-241. It serves as a reminder of this experience and how each week, each practice offered a different approach, a different way of being and in understanding doing.
The doing mode of mind is not a mistake, nor is it an enemy to get rid of. What about you? How has this read-along experience been for you?
It seems interesting to see that I began this read-along with a blog post that ended with the quote below. And I’m ending this last read-along post with the same quote. It is so fitting for me today, for always.
Be with things the way they are. Be well. To a wild, precious and wonderful life.
Within the first paragraphs of this chapter, I was reminded of a phrase I include in almost all of my trainings and coachings.
We don’t see the world as it is, but as we are. - Anais Nin
We are constantly making guesses about the world, constantly creating and re-creating and interpreting the images our mind creates, second by second. It’s happening right now. All. The. Time.
This running story we create in our mind, the film we have playing, or the B as referred to in this chapter, is our interpretation of the ‘thing’, situation, emotion, though or feeling. And this where the rumors start to grow. Maybe my interpretation is right, maybe only half-right, maybe not right at all.
Our thoughts are like rumors in the mind. They might be true. They might not be.
I don’t know about you, but I spent a lot of time **thinking** about the statements and questions listed on pages 140-141. A lot of them rang true to me – I’ve had these thoughts at all kinds of times in my life.
The sounds and thoughts meditation was one of my favorites so far, if you can have a favorite meditation. I agree with the idea that you can learn to relate to unsettling thoughts in the very same manner we relate to sounds. I have set a goal to pay more attention to putting thoughts in the background, as needed and not always front and center.
I’m carrying this with me this week from this book:
This moment, too, is a moment of your life.
Even if I am frustrated and waiting in line. I don’t want to miss my life, whatever moment may be showing up, comfortable or uncomfortable. That is only my interpretation anyway, right?
What was your experience this week? How are you feeling overall? We’re already in Week 4. I’m curious to hear from you.
'You can't stop the waves of life but you can learn how to ride them.’ I believe there is truth in this.
Most of us have experienced moments of high stress and feeling overwhelmed. A mindfulness practices allow us with the chance (or choice!) to manage it more skillfully – to ride the waves, if you will.
The enjoyable things in our lives are not really optional, though when we are overwhelmed by the exhaustion funnel, we define them as such. They are essential to our well-being. However, during times of stress, we make way for the so-called ‘important’ things and let enjoyment and those activities which provide nourishment become non-important and non-essential.
What activities are just relaxing and enjoyable for you and which activities actually nourish you at a much deeper level? What daily activities (or people, perhaps) are depleting?
I completed the list of nourishing or depleting activities in my every day life and was surprised and yet not surprised. Writing this down was certainly an eye-opener for me and very helpful. I remind myself that one very nourishing act can ‘balance’ out several depleting acts. It is not about having 10 on each side of the scales, but feeling in balance.
When you ((( think ))) you don’t have the time to pray, mediate or be mindful is actually the most important time to pray, mediate and be mindful. At times of stress, helpful questions to ask yourself (included in this week’s chapter) are:
- What do I need for myself right now?
- How can I best take care of myself right now?
I hope you are having a good week. Be kind to yourself and to your thoughts.
Mindfulness Read Along
‘Mindfulness is a way of learning to relate directly to whatever is happening in your life, a way of taking charge of your life, a way of doing something for yourself that no one else can do for you — consciously and systematically working with your own stress, pain, illness, and the challenges and demands of everyday life. ‘
Join me in a 9-week read along of the book, Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.
How do I sign-up?
Go to www.caterpillarspirit.com/blog and sign-up to the read log via our blog. You will receive all read along information via the blog postings.
What do I need?
1. The book, Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.
2. A commitment to and time for the 8-week program.
What is the cost to join the read-along?
When does it begin?
Week 1 (Prep Week) will begin the week of March 9th, 2015.
What can I expect?
I will post via the blog a summary of the week’s work, exercises and questions to create a dialogue between participants. You will be able to post comments and ask questions as you wish.
March 9th: Prep Week (Preparation for the read along.) Reading pages 1-56
Week 1: Waking up to the Autopilot
Week 2: Keeping the Body in Mind
Week 3: The Mouse in the Maze
Week 4: Moving Beyond the Rumor Mill
Week 5: Turning Toward Difficulties
Week 6: Trapped in the Past or Living in the Present?
Week 7: When Did You Stop Dancing?
Week 8: Your Wild and Precious Life
I look forward to talking with you during this read along.
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