Category Archives: Mindfulness Mondays

Mindfulness Mondays: Listening To Your Body

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“We may ignore or deride the messages of the body but its rebellion demands to be heeded because its language is the authentic expression of our true selves and of the strength of our vitality.”

Alice Miller

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How to practice, where to practice, when to practice? These are all great questions that come up about meditation! And, ones that can sometimes become an obstacle to actually practicing, especially for those new to meditation or just returning to a practice.  I’ll be sharing a few posts on this topic over the next month or so.

Today’s practice involves a bit of an exploration of posture and how to explore mindfulness through the body.  This question of posture is one that comes up often in my meditation groups. And, it’s important to know there is not one answer!  Depending on the style of meditation practice, certain specific postures can seen as beneficial.  Sitting cross-legged on the floor or in lotus posture is a common suggestion; however, this is not comfortable for everyone.

It is very important to listen to your body.  For most of us, as we move through our day, we tend to sit on chairs most often.   So taking time to explore how to practice meditation in this way can help us to bring mindfulness into our daily life.  It can also help us to begin to listen to and in a sense “befriend” our bodies.  This might not seem to be what we think meditation is all about – but being present with our bodies is a way of knowing ourselves more deeply and can be an anchor for many mindfulness and meditation practices.

I invite you to be curious!

Here’s a simple practice to explore:

Sit at the leading edge of chair so that your feet are flat on the floor.  Feel the support of mother earth beneath your feet.  Allow you spine to be straight but not tense; shoulders and stomach relaxed.  Place your hand on your knees or your lap.  If you are comfortable, gently close your eyes or have a soft gaze on the floor a few feet in front of you. 

If you feel tense, take a few deep breaths — breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five.  If possible, begin to let some of the tension in your body go. Then, let your breath fall back to its own natural rhythm.

Begin to open up to observe your whole body; and then begin to notice any specific sensations you may be feeling.  Perhaps feeling your body on the chair, your feet on the floor, or the feeling of your clothing against you skin.  Noticing if the air is moving or still, are you feeling hot or cold, or tired or energized and so on.  Focus on any sensations you notice related to your physical body.  Just noting them and them moving on to the next sensation. 

You might notice areas where your feel pain tension, pain or discomfort. Observe them and then continue on to other sensations that are present.  This is a time to notice physical sensations without attaching to or resisting any one of them. You are simply noticing!

If you notice that your mind is wandering, which it will, (this is the nature of the mind) simply bring it back to the next feeling or sensation that arises in your body.

To finish, take another moment to tune into your whole body.  Then, focusing on your breath, envision yourself  breathing into and out of your entire body for a few cycles of breath.

Finally, take a moment to express gratitude for your body and all it does to support you in being alive and awake in each and every moment!

As always, feel free to share your reflections in the comments below.

Tashi Deleh (I honor the greatness within you!)

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Day 24 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Deepening Your Metta Practice

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“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals.  Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.  Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

 – Pema Chodron

One of the great gifts of Metta is learning to move beyond our personal experience into the understanding that all beings experience suffering just as we do and additionally, all beings wish to be happy and peaceful just as we do.  I find 30 days to be a great container for exploring a new practice or creating a change in our lives.  As we move toward the end of our container, we have a much stronger foundation than when we first began.

This is a wonderful time to re-examine our practice and how far we have come.  It is also an opportunity to see where more of our work lies.  At this point you know that you can always do your practice in a way that you feel guided to; so your guidance as you feel to.

My suggestion for  today is to deepen in two areas:

1. Loving-kindness For Ourselves

2. Loving-kindness For A Difficult Person

Take some time today to practice for yourself for a bit longer than you may have been doing since we moved on to the other categories.   Also, take some time to offer Metta for yourself throughout the day, perhaps as difficult feelings arise or just when you think of it.  Metta can be both a proactive and responsive process, so it is beneficial to work with it in both of formal practice and “on the spot” practice.  If there is a particular issue or struggle you are dealing with or that you may have noticed  as you moved through the month, such as difficult feelings, outmoded beliefs or unhealthy patterns,  bring this into your practice by offering loving-kindness to yourself with a more specific focus.

Additionally, take some time to work the category of Difficult person, referred to in traditional Buddhist texts as the “Enemy”.  There are clearly varying degrees of difficulty and this is something to explore as part of the practice.  At the most basic level, the Difficult person is someone whom we find it challenging to like or feel friendly towards.  It is someone towards whom we may have varying degrees of negative feelings.  Sometimes, just thinking about this Difficult person causes us to feel upset or frustrated.

Working with the category of Difficult person offers us the opportunity to go to a deeper place within ourselves.  Oftentimes, when someone causes a reaction in us, there are feelings and issues we need to resolve within ourselves.   As always, we begin by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.  We acknowledge that something is arising within us that is causing discomfort and in a sense, we comfort ourselves with our attention and our compassion.

There are always people and situations that challenge us and cause uncomfortable feelings to arise; this can occur in our work life, our families, and just in moving about in the world.  Often, we need to deal with seemingly difficult people and situations but there is nothing we can do to change the fact that we have to relate with them.  This is one of the places we can shut our heart down as we feel there is nothing to do with our feelings but stuff them inside.  By offering Metta, we begin to work with our resistance, which supports having a more open heart and mind.  It also gives us a vehicle for dealing with something that we may feel we have no power to change.  Perhaps we cannot change this outwardly, but we do have the power to create change within ourselves.

As we begin, we recognize that the Difficult person is suffering just as we are suffering.  Even though we struggle with this person, we acknowledge that they deserve to be happy as all beings do.  You may wish to choose someone whom you have struggled with for some time or just notice a situation that arises during the day, such as a frustrating phone call or stressful interaction with a coworker.   In the beginning, it can be helpful to choose someone to work with who you find is only mildly difficult rather than someone who stirs up very strong emotions.  However, if a very difficult situation arises, this can be a good time to explore responding with loving-kindness and compassion.  Remember you can always bring your practice to yourself first.  Once you are in that space of loving-kindness you can then explore extending it to the Difficult person or situation.

Daily Practice:

Do your foundational practices.  Find a comfortable position. Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Connect with your own heart center and begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself:

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

Even if you did your practice at home, take a few moments as you as you go about your day to center yourself in the heart and repeat a round of two or phrases for yourself.  Remember to do your foundational practices several times throughout the day, especially when you are experiencing stress or difficult emotions.

When you feel ready to move on to practicing for all of the categories you feel to  for today: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person and All Beings.  As you begin, say, “Just as I wish to be peaceful and happy, so does this being wish to have inner peace and joy.”   Repeat the phrases for each category you are working with:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free from suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

As you become distracted or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning the practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  When you feel ready, return the practice to where you left off or move on to the next category.

At some point either in your sitting practice, as you go about your day or in both ways, take some time to explore the category of a Difficult Person more deeply.  Offer Metta for this person and also notice what arises within yourself.  Are there certain qualities about this person that you, too, may carry?  Maybe yes and maybe no; it’s all about exploring.  Remember, it can be someone whom you often struggle with or someone who has annoyed you or caused difficult emotions for you today.  Do your foundational practices and say, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish to have peace and happiness”.  Begin to offer phrases for your Difficult Person, remembering to return your practice to yourself as you need to:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free from suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

To complete your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.  Really allow that feeling to sink into you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.

Take a few moments to reflect on your practice.  Ask that the merit of your practice be for the benefit of all beings knowing that in sharing this merit you, too, are receiving immense benefit.

Daily Journal Reflection:

Take some time to reflect on your practice of Metta for yourself and for a Difficult Person.

  • Have you noticed any changes since you began?
  • How did it feel to take some more time to offer Metta to yourself?
  • Are you able to see a change as you work with the category of Difficult Person?
  • Do you notice anything about the Difficult Person that may be something for you to explore within yourself?
  • Are you remembering to be gentle and loving with yourself as you practice?
  • May you have a day filled with happiness and peace.

Have a loving and heart-centered day!

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Day 23 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Cultivating Peace On Earth

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My life blazed

with the desire

To serve as a thread

Joining Heaven and Earth

                                                                      ~ Haiku by Masahisa Goi

 

One of the things that may happen when we are cultivating loving-kindness and compassion is that we become more attuned with these energies and may be drawn into connection and community with like-minded others.  As each being becomes more of an embodiment of these positive qualities, they are not just bringing change to themselves but to those around them and the world itself.  Perhaps you have experienced this is in some way as you have been working with May Is For Metta or holding this intention it is a part of your ongoing personal practice.

One of the qualities we often work with in the Metta phrases is PEACE.  May I be peaceful.  May you be peaceful.  May all beings be peaceful.  In Metta, we see peace as an aspect of loving-kindness; when we feel held in love and compassion, most often we are at peace; and when we are at peace we become more able to connect with energy of loving-kindness.  These qualities go hand in hand.

Three years ago during May Is For Metta, I participated in a Peace Pole Dedication Ceremony with one of the communities I am a part of, Heal My Voice.  Heal My Voice is an international organization whose mission is to “empower and support women and girls globally to heal, reclaim their voice and step into greater leadership in their lives and in the world.” At the time, I was participating in a book project called Harmonic Voices: True Stories By Women On The Path To Peace, which focused on a year-long journey exploring moving from chaos to calm and cultivating peace in our own lives so that we might extend that energy out into our relationships and the world.   And, athough I was familiar with the concept of Peace Poles, I didn’t know the origin of them until I attended this event.

The Peace Pole Project was started in Japan by Masahisa Goi, who was greatly affected by the destruction caused by World War II and the atomic bombs which fell on the city of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  His desire to assist in the creation of world peace was answered when in 1955, the Peace Message, “May Peace Prevail On Earth”, came to him in a moment of great inspiration and deep prayer.

After Mr. Goi authored the Universal Peace Message in 1955, a great number of people gathered in support of his vision and activities to spread the Peace Message were promoted throughout Japan.  Soon after, Peace Poles inscribed with the Peace Message began to appear in various locations across Japan initiating the start of The Peace Pole Project.  The year 1986 was designated as the International Year of Peace and since then Peace Poles are one of the most recognized international peace symbols with more than 200,000 Peace Poles standing in almost every country throughout the world.

The synergy of completing a year-long  journey into peace with May Is For Metta that year seemed to culminate with this peace pole dedication.  Reflecting on these experiences has made me feel more deeply the idea that as we cultivate an energy or quality such as loving-kindness or peace, we are actually becoming an embodiment of it.

So for today’s practice, I felt to focus on peace specifically as our exploration.  When we focus on peace and being peaceful, we are allowing ourselves to become a “living” peace pole, one that is moving about and radiating the energy of peace wherever we go.  I hope you’ll join us in this exploration today.

You may wish to work with the full practice, choosing someone for each category or you may just wish to practice Metta on the spot today.  Take some time to feel into what feels best for you.  As always, our foundation comes from cultivating Metta for ourselves, so be sure to spend some time cultivating peace for yourself so that you may then extend that energy out to others and the world.

Daily Practice:

Find a quiet place and a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in your circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Imagine a time when you felt held in that way.  Also, for today, tune into a place or a time when you felt a deep sense of peace.  Really allow yourself to feel that peace.  Breathe it into every atom and cell of your being on the in breath and as you breathe it out feel it surrounding and enveloping you.  You may wish to continue to work with all of your phrases or just work with “May I be peaceful” for today’s exploration; it’s up to you.

When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories or the ones you have chosen for today: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person and All Beings.  Remember to come back to your heart center for a few moments between each category and reconnect with the feeling of peace you generated for yourself before moving on.  For each category, offer “May you be peaceful“.  And, if you feel to work with other phrases, please do.

As always, if you become distracted or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning the practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  Use a peaceful time or place as your anchor for today.  When you feel ready, return the practice to where you left off.   To complete your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of peace that you have been cultivating.  Really allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with peace.

In honor of the Peace Pole Project, let us also add this round of phrases, “May Peace Prevail On Earth”.  Knowing that as we do so we are supporting and embodying a vision which,

  • Symbolizes the oneness of humanity and our common wish for a world at peace
  • Reminds us to think, speak and act in the spirit of peace and harmony
  • Stands as a silent visual for peace to prevail on earth

May Peace Prevail On Earth

Finally, take a moment to honor yourself for creating the space to cultivate peace in your own life and in the world.  Can you feel how this is one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves and for our planet?

Daily Journal Reflection

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.

  • How did it feel to focus on peace today?
  • Did it feel difficult to work with one quality?
  • Did you notice areas of your life where it is challenging to feel peaceful?
  • How did it feel to offer peace to others?  to the world?
  • What will you do to continue to cultivate peace in your own life, in your relationships and in the world?

Wishing you a most loving and peaceful day.

May Peace Prevail On Earth!

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Day 21: May Is For Metta 2016: Create Your Own Metta Practice

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“A human being is a part of the whole called by us”universe”, a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” 

– Albert Einstein

Each time I explore the writings of Albert Einstein, I am just so amazed.  He was not only a master in the realm of science but of spirituality as well.  His words offer deep insights into universal consciousness, the interconnectedness of all things and the importance of being centered in the heart.  Each time we practice Metta, we are widening our circle of compassion and embracing all beings with loving-kindness. Each time we do this for ourselves and for others, we are increasing our ability to move beyond our “delusion” of separation; we are opening the doorway to experiencing oneness.  What a beautiful journey to be on together!

At this point in our Metta practice, we have explored practicing with all of the categories in a variety of ways.  As I have shared, it is really up to you how you would like to practice.  We have only 10 days of May Is For Metta 2106.  After that you may wish to continue with Metta or perhaps move on to exploring a different practice.  Also, there may be days you just practice for yourself; there may be some when you feel to do the full practice and some when you choose specific categories to work with.  This is one of the gifts of Metta practice.  Your practice can be adapted on a daily basis or you may wish to practice in a certain way for a period of time.  For the rest of our time together, we will explore a few more ways to practice, but at this point, you have all you need to create your own daily practice.

Daily Practice: 

Do your foundational practices.  Find a comfortable position. Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Allow your self to connect deeply with your own heart center.  Whenever you feel to, offer the Metta phrases for yourself:

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

In addition to your sitting practice, remember to come back to your heart and do your foundational practices several times throughout the day, especially when you are experiencing stress or difficult emotions.  When you feel complete with generating the feeling of loving-kindness and offering it to yourself, begin to consider which categories you would like to practice for today:

  • Benefactor
  • Beloved
  • Neutral Being
  • Difficult Person
  • All Beings

As you begin to extend Metta to whichever beings you choose, say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish to have inner peace and joy.”  Begin to offer the phrases:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

Whenever you feel complete with a category, come back to your heart center for a few moments before going on to the next one.  You may wish to explore practicing for a longer period of time with some or all of the categories.  As always, let your heart be your guide.

When you have completed your practice, take some time to dedicate the merit for the benefit of all beings without exception.  I would also like to continue to extend the offering of peace we brought in yesterday as part of the practice, by saying, “May Peace Prevail On Earth.”  You can join in this if you feel to by adding it to the dedication of merit or just be repeating a few times at the end of your practice.  Spend a few moments reflecting on your practice and expressing gratitude for your experience in a way that feels appropriate to you.

Daily Journal Reflection:

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.  

  • How did it feel to create your own practice?
  • Are you noticing you are more comfortable practicing for some categories and than others?
  • Did you have any difficult feelings arise during your practice?
  • Are you remembering to practice for yourself when difficult thoughts or feelings arise throughout the day?
  • Have you shared your experiences of Metta with anyone in your life?

May you day be filled with sunshine and happiness.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Day 19 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Walking Metta Meditation

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“In my room, the world is beyond my understanding; 

but when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud.”

– Walllace Stevens

During our practice in 2010, one of our participants shared that she had incorporated her practice of Metta with walking meditation, which she usually did outside.  I have always found walking meditation to be very beneficial because it helps to develop a practice in a way that supports carrying it out into the world.  Living in New York City for a large part of my life, I found this practice very beneficial.  It was not possible to connect with the many people I saw everyday or even offer help to all of those I saw in need, but it was possible to offer loving-kindness and compassion.  I know this practice was something that helped me to have a much greater connection to the world around me as well as a deep sense of peace.

At the time of the Buddha, it was a traditional practice for the monks and nuns to practice the cultivation of loving-kindness meditation as they walked.  As they went around town to town asking for food, they would radiate out loving-kindness and compassion to everyone they encountered on the streets.  

Today, I encourage you to explore combining your Metta practice with walking meditation, either as a formal practice or just by going out for a walk.  In basic walking meditation, we hold our awareness on each step.  Stepping right, stepping left.  This is our anchor as the breath may be our anchor in other practices.  In working with Metta, be present with each step but continue to use the phrases as your anchor if your mind wanders or you become distracted.

This is a short video with Thich Nhat Hanh sharing about the practice of walking meditation and the importance of making peaceful, happy steps on the earth.  He quotes the Buddha as saying, “As you can make peaceful, happy steps on the earth, the earth can become the pureland.”  Take some time today to make peaceful, happy steps on the earth.

Daily Practice: 

Choose whether you want to do a sitting practice and then explore doing some Metta as you go for a walk.  Or, choose to incorporate your Metta practice with walking meditation.  You can choose to walk in a circle or perhaps find somewhere in nature where you can practice mindful walking.  Do your foundational practices.  Imagine yourself in the center of your circle of loving beings or just enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness. Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself.

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories or the ones you have chosen for today using the phrases that feel best to you. Try to take at least part of your practice out into the world, whether doing walking meditation, going for a walk or even while at the grocery store.  Explore extending Metta to people you see out in the world remembering that “just as you wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish to have inner peace and joyfulness.”  Repeat the phrases:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

If you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns. Then, return your practice to where you left off.  When you are ready to complete your practice, return yourself to the circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating.  Really allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with loving-kindness and compassion.

When you feel complete with all of the categories you are practicing for today, dedicate the merit of your practice:

  • May all beings have happiness and it’s cause.
  • May all beings be free of suffering, joyous content and at ease.
  • May all beings be balanced in equanimity towards one and all.
  • May the merit of my practice be for my own benefit and for that of all sentient beings

Daily Journal Reflection: 

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.   

  • Did you explore combining Metta with walking meditation?  
  • How did that feel?  
  • How is your practice going?  
  • Are you able to spend some time everyday in practice?  
  • If yes, what are you noticing?  If not, what is stopping you?

May you all have a radiantly joyful day.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Day 17 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Bringing Our Practice Together

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“We all are so deeply interconnected; we have no option but to love all. Be kind and do good for any one and that will be reflected. The ripples of the kind heart are the highest blessings of the Universe.” 

~ Amit Ray

Today, we will continue our practice of Metta by bringing together all of the categories to experience the full practice of Metta.   If for some reason this feels too much, simply choose a few to work with for today.  

In a previous year’s practice, a question arose about the phrases, which I have been exploring and pondering each year since.   The question had to do with the difference between the Metta phrases and affirmations; and wondering why not to use statements like, “I am happy, I am peaceful, I am free of suffering, etc.” rather than “May I be…”.  

I am sure there are some complex answers to this and yet, the simple one that has arisen is that rather than affirming, when we use the Metta phrases we are inviting those qualities to begin to arise.  We may not be that in this moment, but we are inviting the qualities of loving-kindness and compassion to arise within us and then offering that they arise for others in the same way.  This exploration of the phrases always feel like something to explore together.  Feel free to comment on the post here or come share in our Facebook group about your reflections on the phrases.

Also, I came across this explanation of what Metta “is not” on the Wildmind Buddhist Meditation website and it feels like it may be helpful to explore:

  • Metta isn’t the same thing as feeling good, although when we feel metta we do feel more complete, and usually feel more joyful and happy.  But it’s possible to feel good and for that not to be metta. We can feel good, but be rather selfish and inconsiderate, for example.  Metta has a quality of caring about others.
  • Metta isn’t self-sacrifice.  A metta-full individual is not someone who always puts others before themselves.  Metta has a quality of appreciation, and we need to learn to appreciate ourselves as well as others.
  • Metta isn’t something unknown.  We all experience Metta.  Every time you feel pleasure in seeing someone do well, or are patient with someone who’s a bit difficult, or are considerate and ask someone what they think, you’re experiencing Metta.
  • Metta isn’t denying your experience.  To practice Metta doesn’t mean “being nice” in a false way.  It means that even if you don’t like someone, you can still have their welfare at heart.
  • Metta isn’t all or nothing.  Metta exists in degrees, and can be expressed in such simple ways as simple as politeness and courtesy.

As we work with the phrases, it is can be good to find ones that work for us and also, to explore the ones we struggle with.  It’s all about being open to our experience and what is arising in each moment within ourselves.  The phrases are merely translating the energetic quality of loving-kindness and compassion into language and so if you find yourself struggling with a phrase, it may be helpful to return to a time when you felt that energy or imagine yourself again in your circle of loving beings.

Daily Practice:

Once again, find a comfortable position.  Do your foundational practices.  Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or just enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself.

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person and All Beings.  Or, if you prefer, choose a few categories to work with today.  You may even want to offer Metta for more than one person in a particular category.  Be open to exploring what feels good to you, but also consider exploring the full practice today or tomorrow just to see how it feels to work with all of the categories. There is a wonderful opportunity to explore how we respond to others and the world as we work with the various categories and sometimes it is helpful to flow through the full practice to see where we experience openness and spaciousness and where our resistance resides.

During your practice, if you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the switch back, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  Then, return your practice to the category where you left off. When you are ready to complete your practice, return yourself to the circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating.  Really allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with loving-kindness and compassion.

When you feel complete with all of the categories you are practicing for today, dedicate the merit of your practice:

  • May all beings have happiness and it’s cause.
  • May all beings be free of suffering, joyous content and at ease.
  • May all beings be balanced in equanimity towards one and all.
  • May the merit of my practice be for my own benefit and for that of all sentient beings

Daily Journal Reflection: 

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.   

  • Are you noticing openness or resistance to certain phrases?  
  • Have you found phrases that feel good to you?  
  • How does it feel to do a more expanded practice?  
  • Are you able to make the time and space to practice?  
  • Are you remembering to be gentle and loving with yourself?

May you all have a peaceful and loving day.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Day 12 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Offering Lovingkindness To A Difficult Being

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“To understand human evolution it helps to get a fix on where you are headed. The answer is quite simple: you are moving to a state of total compassion. How do you get there? That’s simple too (at least in concept). By removing the “rough spots” in your life. What are the “rough spots? Anything you do not love. Because everything you do not love will cause you conflict.”

~ Ross Bishop,  A Shaman’s Path To Inner Peace

Today, we will move our practice of Metta to the category of a Difficult being, referred to in traditional Buddhist texts as the “Enemy”.  At the most basic level, the Difficult person is someone we find it difficult to like or feel kindly toward.  This is someone who we may have negative feelings toward or we find that they challenge us in some way.  There are varying degrees of difficulty and this is something we will explore as part of the practice.  This category offers us the opportunity to go to a deeper place within ourselves as we work to evoke and hold loving-kindness for someone who may have hurt us in some way, whom we have resistance towards and whose image stirs negativity in us.

When choosing a Difficult person, you can choose someone you have mildly difficult feelings about or a real “enemy” with whom you have experienced true problems.  It may be someone whom you find unpleasant, frightening, or annoying.  The Difficult person can include someone who is hostile toward you or someone toward whom you have hostility.  In the beginning, it is best to choose someone to work with who you find is only mildly difficult rather than someone who stirs up very strong emotions; this helps to expand your ability to generate loving-kindness.  Later, when you have practiced offering loving-kindness toward a mildly difficult person then you can expand your practice to increasingly difficult people.

Daily Practice: 

Do your foundational practices.  Get comfortable and settle into your breath.  Spend a few moments centering on your heart.  Imagine yourself sitting in a circle surrounded by loving beings.  By now you should have a clear sense of how to begin your practice.  If you need to, you can always return to Days 1 – 7 to deepen your foundation in loving-kindness practice for yourself.  Then, begin to send Metta to yourself by repeating the phrases.

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free from suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel immersed in the energy of loving-kindness for yourself, bring an image of the Difficult person you will work with into your awareness.  Remind yourself that this person, although difficult, is also struggling to find his or her way in life and in the process, is causing you discomfort.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be peaceful and free from suffering, may you also find inner peace and calm.”  Then, begin repeating the phrases while holding the image of the difficult person in your mind:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free from suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

It is natural for feelings of resistance, aversion, anger, guilt, and discomfort to arise. Sometimes the phrases seem weak in comparison to these strong emotions.  If you are struggling with your own emotions, try to name the emotion you are feeling, such as sadness or anger.  Take a few moments to practice compassion for yourself using the phrases and when you begin to feel more settled, then return your practice to the Difficult person.  Use the Switchback as often as you need to maintain an overall feeling of loving-kindness and compassion.  If it feels too much to practice for a difficult person, trying moving to another category that we have worked with and then move back to the difficult person when you feel to.

Practice as long as you feel to or have committed to for today.  When you feel complete, return to your heart center.  Spend a few moments reflecting on your practice.  Notice how it felt to connect with and offer loving-kindness to a Difficult person.  Spend a few moments dedicating the merit of your practice for your own benefit and for that of all sentient beings.  Do this in a way that feels appropriate for you.

Daily Journal Reflection: 

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.  

  • How was your experience practicing Metta for a Difficult person?
  • Was it harder than the other categories?
  • Did you have difficulty choosing or holding a Difficult person in your awareness?
  • Are you using the Switchback when you need to?
  • Are you continuing to be gentle and loving with yourself in your practice?
  • And, in your daily life?
  • If so, how does that feel?  If not, what is getting in the way?

May you have a beautiful and peaceful day.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!).

Beth

Mindfulness Mondays: Actualizing The Power of Intention

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“Every journey begins with the first step of articulating the intention, and then becoming the intention.” ~ Bryant McGill

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I just finished up leading a 30 day program on Setting Intentions & Visioning Your Dreams for  2016.  It was a powerful journey and I was amazed how it really helped me to deepen in my daily practice of mindfulness and meditation as well as the theme of intention setting and visioning.

How does actualizing the power of intention relate to mindfulness?

In mindfulness and other meditative practices, we tend to find something to focus our awareness on.  It may be our breath, our body or the beauty of nature around us.  The possibilities are endless.  We can also focus on our thoughts. This may include noticing the thoughts, worries or concerns that arise in our mind.  And, it may include cultivating positive thoughts or intentions such as gratitude, peace or loving ourselves.

To me, working with intention is a mindful practice. By setting intentions, both in an overall way and on a daily basis, I find I am more able to stay present with myself, to notice when I am aligning with that intention and to also recognize when I am distracted or off center.  In a way, an intention that we’ve created for ourselves is an anchor for our practice and for living mindfully.

I’ve shared several posts on Actualizing The Power of Intention previously on The Heart of Awakening.  For today’s practice, I’d like to share this audio meditation…

 

If you’d like to explore this topic more, I invite you visit my website’s Actualizing The Power of Intention, which includes a free 60 minute teleseminar previously recorded on 2/2/15 and a special offer, too!  Learn more…

Feel free to share you comments, thoughts and reflections on this week’s exploration below!  Or, join our Meditation & Mindfulness in a Rapidly Changing World group on Facebook.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!


 

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Mindfulness Mondays ~ Walking Meditation

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“In order to have peace and joy, you must succeed in having peace within each of your steps.  Your steps are the most important thing.  They decide everything.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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Last week, we explored Movement with Breath as a way to explore mindful movement.  I thought to continue this week with an exploration of walking meditation.

Walking meditation can be both a formal practice as well as a simple way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. It is one the most powerful ways to cultivate embodied awareness.  It invites you to be present as you walk, to use your steps and movement as a vehicle for mindfulness and for staying present in the moment.  It can also be a way to cultivate peace and calm as we move through our world.

You may wish to work with it on it’s own or incorporate it with a sitting meditation practice.  You may find you are on your way to work and simply choose to walk mindfully for a few blocks or for the whole trip. Be curious. Explore.

Here is video of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh sharing about Walking Meditation…

Walking Meditation Exploration

Standing with your eyes open with a soft gaze on the floor in front of you, simply focus on your breath and begin to step right and then left, with mindful awareness.  If it’s helpful you can label your steps, “stepping right” and “stepping left”.  You can explore synchronizing the breath with each step.  As you stay present with your steps, notice what is arising in body, mind, emotion and spirit.  When you noticed you’ve become distracted or drifted off, simple return your awareness to your next step. 

Walking meditation can be done by walking in a circle or by walking back and forth in straight line, pausing when you get to an end point and really taking time to notice as your turn around.  In practicing walking back and forth, you can pause at each turn to notice how it feels to shift from movement to stillness and to movement once again.  Exploring in this way is something we can inform us so that we might walk and move more mindfully and with greater awareness as we move through our daily lives.

You may wish to incorporate some of what Thich Nhat Hanh shared about taking peaceful steps into your exploration.  During our annual, May is For Metta event here on The Heart of Awakening Blog, we explore combining Walking Meditation with Lovingkindness practice.  Here is last year’s post if you’d like to explore this practice on Walking Metta Meditation.

Feel free to share your experiences and reflections in the comments below.


Come join us on Facebook! Meditation & Mindfulness In A Rapidly Changing World group is a space where I share each week’s practice and additional resources on mindfulness and meditation. Come Explore!

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Movement With Breath

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“In the midst of movement and chaos,

keep stillness inside of you.” 

~ Deepak Chopra

Butterfly BeautyThere are many ways to practice mindfulness meditation.  Beginning to include practices that incorporate movement can be a way to deepen your presence and support you in being more mindful as you move about through your daily life and the world around you.

Anytime that you practice mindful movements, with your attention fully in the activity and with a mindful attitude, you are practicing meditation.  Some activities to explore include walking, eating, cleaning, or doing the dishes. We’ll take time to work with each of the in future Mindfulness Mondays posts.

For this week, I was feeling to share a few simple ways to begin to explore working with mindful movement and the breath.  As I’ve shared before, sometimes due to the subtlety of the breath, it can be hard to focus on it, especially for beginning practitioners.  Also, for people who have experienced trauma or tend to be disconnected from their bodies in some way, bringing together movement and the breath, can be a way to really become more connected within themselves.

Movement With Breath Exploration

You can do these practices either sitting, on a chair or crosslegged/lotus position on the floor or in a standing position.  Sometimes it is good to explore practicing mindfulness in a standing position — if you have not done so, I encourage you to do so with this practice.  There may be times when practicing mindfulness is helpful in your daily life but taking time to sit and practice is not possible.  As you cultivate a standing practice, it will become easier practice mindfulness as you stand on line at the grocery store, walk down the street, etc.

Come to a comfortable position either sitting or standing.  If standing, stand up straight with your feet about hip-width apart. Allow your knees to be slightly bent, not tense. Relax your shoulders back, your chest and your stomach.  Tilt your chin a bit toward your chest so that your head is balanced on your neck and shoulders.

Whether sitting or standing, have a soft gaze on the floor in front of you, about 3 feet forward.  Begin to notice the sensation of your breath.  Become mindful of any areas in your body that feel tense or uncomfortable. Without trying to relax them, simply notice.

3 Ways To Practice Movement With Breath…

1) Floating Arms ~ After a few moments of tuning into to your breath and your body, begin to move your arms upwards in front of you with palms facing the floor.  As you breathe in, letting your arms simple float up to about shoulder height, continuing to rise for the length of the in-breath.  Once at shoulder height, slowly let then move back down as you breath out, returning to the side of your body on as the out-breath completes. Repeat this practice 10 or 15 rounds and notice any physical sensations as you do so.

2) Butterfly HandsHolding your hands in front of your body at a 90 degree angle. Place your palms together, fingers touching and then cross your thumbs one over the other.  As you breathe in, allow the pinky side of your hand to move outwards, spreading your finger and keeping thumbs intertwined so that your hands appear to be a like a butterfly opening it’s wings. As you breathe out, allow your bring your hands back together palms together, fingers touching and thumbs crossed.  Repeat this practice 10 or 15 rounds and notice any physical sensations as you do so.

3) Lotus FlowerHolding your hands in front of your body at a 90 degree angle. Place your palms together with all fingers touching and pointing straight out from your body.  On your in-breath, move the thumb side of your hands outward, allowing all of the fingers but the pink to become open, like a lotus blossoming.  On the out-breath, slowly bring your fingers together one by one from ring finger back to thumb until palms are together once again.  Repeat this practice 10 or 15 rounds and notice any physical sensations as you do so.

Take a few mindful moments to watch this video of a lotus blossom opening and closing.  There is a a rhythmic stillness in this movement which we can bring to our own mindfulness movements.  

After exploring these practices, you may also like to create your own mindful movements.  Be creative.

At the end of your practice, take some time to reflect, explore and journal about the following questions:

  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how mindful did you feel as you began?
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how mindful did you feel as you finished your practice?
  • What did you notice about your bodily sensations?  Was one movement more beneficial for you than another?
  • What thoughts arose while you were practicing?
  • What emotions arose for you while your were practicing?
  • How did it feel to incorporate movement with the breath? How might you continue to work with this type of practice?

I hope you’ll take some time to explore mindful movements this week. 

Tashi Deleh (I honor the greatness with you!)

Beth

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Labeling Thoughts

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Whether one is new to meditation and mindfulness practice or a more experienced practitioner, there will be days that are more challenging than others, when we simply find the mind is busier.  Also, there many be times when we are really struggling with certain thoughts such as worries, concerns, judgements that can really take us out of the present moment.  

Practicing mindfulness is in a sense like any other exercise practice one might develop.  It takes time to build our muscles when we start lifting weights and it takes time to build our “mindfulness” muscles when we begin to practice.  Working with noticing and labeling our thoughts is a way to begin to grow in our ability to be more mindful. 

Oftentimes, there are so many thoughts circling round and round in our minds that we cannot even identify them.  Or, if we stop to notice a thought, we can’t imagine how we even got there.  Practicing mindfulness helps us to de-clutter our mind and allows us to be more awake and alive in the present moment.  As we can notice some of our habitual thoughts and patterns, we can begin to acknowledging and accepting them and let them go. 

The practice of Labeling thoughts helps can help to raise awareness about the specific types of thoughts you may have and it is also a way to engage your mind during practice.  In a sense noticing and acknowledging our thoughts can become and anchor in the same way the breath may be used as an anchor.  As we notice our thoughts, we don’t judge or analyze them, we simply notice and let them go as best we can.  The labeling is a way to begin to let go.

Labeling Thoughts Practice

This practice can be done formally as a part of a sitting practice and informally, as on the spot practice, throughout your day.  I do often suggest to begin to work with a practice as part of a sitting practice, even if it’s for 5 or 10 minutes, to begin to get familiar with the practice. Then, begin to bring it into your daily life.  

Find a comfortable position sitting on a chair with feet flat on the floor, spine straight but not tense, shoulders and stomach relaxed, hands on your knees or lap. Or, sit comfortably on the floor cross-legged with a cushion to support your body. 

Gently close your eyes or have a soft gaze on the floor in a few feet front of you if that’s more comfortable.

Take a few moments to connect with you breath without changing or depending it.  Just begin to notice the breath as it flows into and out of your body.  Notice how it feels to slow down and center yourself.  Continue to be present with your breath. 

Begin to notice any thoughts that may arise.  You may notice a flurry of thoughts right away.  You may be thinking about your To Do list, grocery shopping, worrying about a family member, etc.  You just begin to notice your thoughts.  If there are many, try to notice just one thought and as you do, begin to label it, “Thinking”.  Then, come back to your next breath – breathing in and breathing out.  When you notice another thought, label it “Thinking”.  And, once again simply come back to your next breath.

At times, you many be “Thinking, Thinking, Thinking, Thinking…” and at other times you may begin to notice some spaciousness as you are present with your breath.  Either way, you are simply noticing what is arising in your mind and in your practice. 

This is a simple way to practice Labeling Thoughts.  Sometimes it is helpful to label types of thoughts and we will explore that in future posts, however, by using “Thinking” as the label it is actually helping us to detach from our thoughts or the type of thoughts we may be having, e.g. worry, judgement, etc.  Building a habit of not identifying with a certain thought can begin a powerful process of letting go.  We are just being with whatever is arising in our minds, noticing it, labeling it “Thinking” and letting it go. 

I hope you’ll take some time to explore Labeling Thoughts this week.  As always, feel free to share your reflections in the comments below.

Namaste.

Beth

Mindfulness Mondays ~ 7 Ways To Practice Mindfulness

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I thought to wrap up the last Mindfulness Mondays post of 2015 with a summary of practices we explored recently and added a post on Gratitude practice, too!  I am planning to continue this weekly series in 2016 to offer a virtual space for you to explore mindfulness and meditation practices.

If you’d like to connect with a virtual mindfulness meditation community, I invite you to join my Facebook group, Meditation & Mindfulness In A Rapidly Changing World.  Each week, I share our practice plus some additional resources and information.  There’s an opportunity to connect and explore together; and I am planning to offer some teleseminar gatherings in the new year, too!

As always I love to hear your reflections, so feel free to drop a note in the comments below if there is something you’ve enjoyed, benefitted from or would like to see more of in 2016! 

  1. Parallel Breaths

  2. Urge Surfing

  3. Take Your Mindfulness To Work

  4. Noticing Feelings & Emotions

  5. Coherence Breathing

  6. Practicing STOP

  7. Make A Gratitude List


Upcoming Events

January 1 – 30 ~ Setting Intentions & Visioning Our Dreams 30 Day Writing Program (Virtual)
1st Sundays ~ Healing The Shadow Shamanic Journey Telelcass (Virtual)
2016 Dates TBA ~ Healing The Shadow Shamanic Journey Process Group in Annapolis, MD (Local)
May 1 – 31 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: 31 Days of Loving-kindness Meditaton & Practice (Virtual)
June 2016 ~ Discover The Healer Within 4-Session Program (Virtual)
For details and registration information on events, visit http://www.bethterrence.com/Events.html or Sign Up my for Discover The Healer Within E-News to get updates on events, articles and special offers.

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Parallel Breaths

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One of the things I notice that happens this time of year is that there is a tendency to feel a sense of chaos or overwhelm that goes beyond our personal experience.  My sense is it has to do with the contraction of energy that is happening as we approach Winter and the Solstice, particularly for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.  Whether it is seasonal or not, at various times in our lives we can experience a sense of chaos or disorder.  Meditation and Mindfulness offer a space for us to ground, center and open ourselves more fully in the present moment.

The Parallel Breath practice is one that I use daily and have shared with my clients and in classes for many years.  I initially learned it from Fritz Smith, the creator of Zero Balancing, a cutting edge body/energy therapy that I utilize in my holistic healing practice.  In Zero Balancing classes, we begin each day with this practice and it is easy to see the difference it can create in your state of being with just a few minutes of practice.

A few months ago, around the time of the Autumn Equinox, I shared a short audio of this practice and I think it’s even more beneficial at this time.  If you’d like you can simply listen to the practice or see the overview below…

Guided Parallel Breath Practice

 


 

Here is an overview of the practice:

Close your eyes and begin by just observing your breath as it is.  For a few moments, deepen the breath a bit and try to establish an even rhythm, breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five. 

Then, begin to imagine that as you breath in you draw energy in from above and down through the top of your head.  As the in breath continues, draw this energy to down toward the base of your spine and exhale out into the earth.  On the next inhale, draw the breath up from the earth into the root center at the base of your spine, allowing to flow upwards exhaling back out the top of your head.  Continue in this way breathing from earth to heaven and heave to earth.  

You may wish to image the breath flowing like a wave of energy or even a waterfall cascading up and down through your body.  If you are feeling tension in a physical area or are having a challenging emotion, you can imagine that as the breath moves up and down it is loosening or moving your tension away. 

This practice support grounding in that we are connecting with earth and we are also connecting with spirit or source, however we define that for ourselves.  The parallel nature of the breaths helps us to feel more stable energetically and this helps with any sense of chaos or disorder we may be feeling. 

Practice for as long as you feel to.  5 or 10 minutes is a good amount of time to explore and as you work with this practice, you may find that just a few breaths in this way can help you to recalibrate and move more fully into the present moment. 

I hope you’ll take some time this week to explore!

Namaste.

Beth

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Urge Surfing

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Change Your Life Message #1

Urge surfing is a term coined by Alan Marlatt as part of a program of Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention that his research project helped to develop as an alternative resource for people recovering from addictions to alcohol and other drugs.  Urge surfing can actually be used to help with any addictive behavior or pattern such as emotional eating, smoking, compulsive shopping, etc.  It can also be applicable overall as a tool for staying focused from all of the distractions that arise in our lives that may keep us from being more fully present with ourselves.

Through research, what Marlatt found was that urges for substance use rarely last for very long. In fact, they almost never last for longer than about 30 minutes, if there is no opportunity to actually use a substance.  Research found that people admitted to a detoxification center where there was no access to their drug of choice often found it remarkable how little craving they actually experienced and/or how their cravings would move through in a short time. 

This is fascinating!  It is this internal struggle that feeds the cravings and attachments.  Marlatt likened trying to fight cravings to trying to block a waterfall from flowing.  We end up being flooded.  Urge Surfing invites us to use mindfulness to step aside and allow our cravings, impulses & urges to simply flow right past us.

Urge Surfing Exercise (adapted from Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention)

  • Find a comfortable position sitting on a chair or the floor
  • Begin with a few mindful breaths
  • Observe yourself  for any sensations of discomfort such as restlessness, an itch or body pain such as a headache, back pain or knee pain
  • Notice you natural response to rub, scratch, or move as a way to resist your discomfort as it arises
  • Notice any thoughts that may arise such as “I wish this itch would go away”, “This itch is driving me crazy”, or “I would love to scratch this itch”…
  • Remember that these thoughts are just that – simply thoughts; you may wish to label it, “it’s just a thought”.
  • Whenever you notice thoughts arising, gently and lovingly bring your attention back to your next breath and awareness of your bodily sensations
  • Begin to notice how the position, shape and quality of your discomfort shifts over time.  Continue to feel it as best you can, noticing how the intensity and shape changes with each cycle of the breath. You might inquire, “Is it stronger during the in breath or during the out breath?”
  • If you find your thoughts going onto other matters, such as your to do list, a situation at work, your plans for the weekend, etc., remember that these are “just thoughts”.  Gently and lovingly bring your attention back to your breath and body sensations.  And, notice how these sensations may have changed.

In this exercise, you have begun to observe the changing nature and impermanence of urges.  When you notice the physical sensations with interest, you are directly facing the urges rather than feeding them through resisting them.  As we try to eliminate our urges by distraction or talking ourselves out of them, we often just intensify those urges.  Research has shown that trying to suppress a thought, feeling or sensation, including pain, rather than decreasing it, actually increases it.

In Mindfulness, rather than avoiding our thoughts, feelings or urges, we simply notice them.  If we can simply let an urge be – non-judgmentally – without feeding it or resisting it, we will soon notice that it begins to rise, subside and finally drift away, just like an ocean wave.  It may come back again but as you become able to stay present with it, you will notice that these feelings will become less powerful and less frequent, too.

As an additional resource, visit the Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention website which offers lots of resources including a series of audios on mindfulness practices.

I hope you’ll take some time this week to explore Urge Surfing and Mindfulness practice!  As always, feel free to share your thoughts and reflections in the comments below.

And, if you’d like to join a virtual community exploring mindfulness and meditation, come join my Facebook group, Meditation & Mindfulness In A Rapidly Changing World

Namaste.

Beth

 

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Take Your Mindfulness To Work

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“Meditation is a way of being, not a technique. Meditation is not about trying to get anywhere else. It is about allowing yourself to be exactly where you are and as you are, and the world to be exactly as it is in this moment.”

 ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

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Last January, I had the pleasure of joining hosts Carolyn Owens and Mark Thorn on their Blog Talk Radio Show, Let’s Coach With Mark & Carolyn.  Our topic was “Take Your Mindfulness Meditation To Work”.  For this week’s Mindfulness Mondays post, I wanted to share some of what we discussed as well as a link to the show for you to explore.   One of the benefits of mindfulness practice is being able to bring it out beyond the meditation cushion and into our daily lives and relationships including the world of work.  Listen Here…

The relationship between our personal lives and our work lives has often been one of disconnection or separation.  When we go to work, we put on our work persona.  When we come home, we take it off.  Even when organizations and individuals desire to be more open, authentic and heart-centered, the transition is difficult.

It is such a fascinating time when we see science is getting on board with what spirituality has long know – meditation is a powerful tool for both consciousness and well-being.  I am amazed to see each week new information being shared about a variety of practices and one that seems to be in the forefront is mindfulness meditation.  Here is a brief summary of recent research from Dan Seigel, co-director of UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center:

• University of New Mexico researchers found that participation in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course decreased anxiety and binge eating.

• Office workers who practiced MBSR for twenty minutes a day reported an average 11% reduction in perceived stress.  

• Eight weeks of MBSR resulted in an improvement in the immune profiles of people with breast or prostate cancer, which corresponded with decreased depressive symptoms.

• A prison offering Vipassana meditation training for inmates found that those who completed the course showed lower levels of drug use, greater optimism, and better self-control, which could reduce recidivism.

• Fifth-grade girls who did a ten-week program of yoga and other mindfulness practices were more satisfied with their bodies and less preoccupied with weight.

• A mix of cancer patients who tried MBSR showed significant improvement in mood and reduced stress. These results were maintained at a checkup six months later.

• The likelihood of recurrence for patients who had experienced three or more bouts of depression was reduced by half through Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, an offshoot of MBSR.

• After fifteen weeks of practicing MBSR, counseling students reported improved physical and emotional well-being, and a positive effect on their counseling skills and therapeutic relationships. (Source: The Science Of Mindfulness)

So, what is mindfulness?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.

Mindfulness is a not just a practice, but a state of being in attention to the present moment.  When you’re practicing mindfulness, you are observing your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judgement, comparison or the need to understand.  It is a way to be present to life as it unfolds.  It’s simply practicing moment to moment awareness.

Here are some of the overall benefits of mindfulness practice:

  • Reduced stress
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Improved self-awareness
  • Boosts to working memory 
  • Clarity and Focus 
  • Less emotional reactivity 
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Improved immune functioning
  • Sense of well-being
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Increased empathy and compassion

How can this support our us in the world of work?

As Dan Seigel mentioned in his overview of scientific research, mindfulness meditation has been shown to benefit people at work as well as in their personal lives.  Mindfulness supports greater clarity, clearer focus, improved wellness, reduced stress, increased productivity, stronger resiliency and even enhanced creativity – these are all things that can benefit us in the world of work, whether we work in a large corporation or are a self-employed entrepreneur.

For an individual, mindfulness meditation offers a way to stay present, focused and bring more of our authentic self to our work.  For organizations, mindfulness meditation offers an opportunity to cultivate a culture of clarity, focus and employee engagement.  For both, it also supports a new paradigm for leadership development that is based on authenticity, self-awareness and openness.

Basically, bringing mindfulness meditation practice to work is a win-win situation.  So, whether you are an individual wanting to bring your personal practice more fully into your daily life or an organization wanting create change, bringing mindfulness practice to work offers a powerful tool for transformation.  We can see this happening at companies like Google, Apple, Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, Harpo Studios and The Huffington Post.

Some ways to incorporate mindfulness into your work:

Ways to incorporate mindfulness into your work:

  • Practice the “just one breath meditation”.  Simply take a mindful breath, noticing the sensations of the breath, where you feel it in your body, the rhythm of the breath and/or labeling it “breathing in and breathing out.
  • Count your next five breaths.
  • Give yourself a break – get up, stretch, step a way for just a moment.
  • Go for a mindful walk around the office or go outside and get some fresh air.
  • Feel your feet on the floor. Feel the support of the earth beneath you.
  • Give some attention to you body.  Notice where you feel might feel tension or discomfort.  Bring the breath to that area for just a moment.
  • Pause and notice all of the sounds around you, just listen and notice.
  • Get a mindfulness app or set a timer to remind you to pause several times during the day. 

Feel free to comment or share on how you bring mindfulness or other meditation practices to your world of work! 

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