What was your primary intention for participating in this course
My primary intention for participating in this course was to deepen my knowledge and understanding of Mindfulness.
What outcome were you hoping to achieve by taking this course?
Whilst I did not embark on the course with fixed expectations I was hoping that I would achieve a real understanding of Mindfulness and the ability to practice with more awareness and be able to impart that understanding to my mindful yoga students as well as continue the practice in my everyday life.
Specifically speaking, what did you get out of the program, if anything?
I have undergone a very real transformation in completing the course. I have experienced the shift from Mindfulness as a topic to Mindfulness as a way of life.
What are the lessons you will take with you as you move beyond this course work?
The most important lesson for me is that of heartfulness.
What sacrifices did you make? What were the costs to you?
I left a job which I knew beforehand was unsuitable to living a mindful life. If I would have continued in that
employment I would have been unable to comlpete the course as it was completely opposite to the teachings and I was unable to bring mindfulness into that area .
What obstacles did you encounter and what did you learn about yourself in working with these obstacles?
I encountered obstacles in my attitude and my ability to let be. I was astounded by the ability I developed to completely rework habitual patterns.
How will you continue to practice now that this program is over? Be specific!
I will continue to include the body scan and meditation in my regular yoga practice. I have also become prone to meditating at random times!…which is very beneficial to my focus.
What additional resources have you been able to identify that are available to you to continue strengthening your practice?
I have additional resources in the form of yoga classes which include mindful meditation and body scan and I have also sourced a Mindful meditation group ( Mindfulness Liverpool ) who have videos on youtube which are very therapeutic. I follow the work of Jon Kabat Zinn both in reading books, articles and audio materials.
An awareness of webs of connection allows us to explore the interpersonal dynamics of stress through the lens of interpersonal communications. By developing an awareness of our interpersonal communication patterns we can become more fluid and balanced in our relationships, particularly in times of stress or when we are experiencing strong emotions or feelings.
We have suggested that many times throughout the course of your day you ask yourself the question “What is called for now?” as you begin a practice segment, and then adjust your practice accordingly. As you learn to ask yourself this question more regularly, what are you learning? Are you adjusting your practice?…….Earlier in the course I was determined to continue with the ritual of continuing my yoga practice and complementing that with the course requirements of either meditation or body scan. I have since become more attuned with what would be more beneficial for me personally, whether that be a full body scan or a longer meditation or only concentrating on a yoga practice. Other times I am able to combine all of the elements. I am learning to listen to my body and mind and provide what is necessary for me.
Can you name a few things, if any, that you are discovering as you practice?…..As I practice I’m discovering an awareness of mind and body through the breath. The more I practice the more the breath becomes significant. At the beginning of the course I was aware of the breath as the anchor during practice, however now I have a different awareness of the breath which is difficult to describe but it feels as though the breath actually is the practice. When I am completely aware of the breath the practice of yoga, body scan and meditation are fluid and flow without question.
Have the Body Scan and gentle yoga become complementary for you?….The body scan and gentle yoga have become complementary in that the body scan allows me to become completely absorbed in the awareness and different sensations of my body. Then when practicing the yoga either immediately afterwards or at a later time I am able to recognize areas of my body that may be tight or may not and become totally embodied in the postures.
What are you noticing about the quality of your attention?….The quality of my attention has developed over the weeks. I noted previously that the ‘monkey mind’ was difficult to control. Now I feel that the spaces between thoughts are longer and I am not fixated on the thought or the space and that I am able to really allow the thoughts to come and go passively.
Is one of the practices influencing another? Does one specific practice stand out for you? If so, do you have any sense of why this is so? Is one easier or more difficult? Are you drawn to one more than others?…….I would say that the meditation practice is particularly influencing the yoga practice. It stands out to me because I was previously practicing Mindful Yoga. But the practice of Mindful Based Stress Reduction Meditation coupled with the Mindful Yoga has had an unexpected effect. I initially found the longer meditations quite challenging. I am now drawn to the meditations as I am equally to the yoga and body scan, I sense this is because as I now practice yoga I am in a meditative state, and I enjoy the yoga sessions so much more. I had no idea that there was another angle to the practice and that the sensation could be so different.
What, if any, new ways of responding to stressful situations have arisen for you?…….I have completely reviewed my personal stress response. This is one of the most valuable factors so far in the course, however I don’t think it would have been possible without the other factors we have studied. A broader view would not have been possible for me to achieve without the ongoing practice of the meditations and the body scan.
Do you recognize any of these patterns presented in this video segment? Do you tend to “push against”? Do you tend to “disappear” or acquiesce without truly being in agreement? Do you say “yes, and…” acknowledging both the other person’s viewpoint and your own?…..I think that it’s a natural ’push against’ reaction that I and most people display. However I can also see people who are stepping back from that attitude and I can also see it in myself. I think this is something to be cultivated and to be constantly aware of. I had never before thought of ‘stepping toward’ to the situation and bringing kindness to it. The intra and inter connection really allows me to have a better understanding of my exchanges and social relations.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, with compassion, and open-hearted curiosity. Through cultivating mindful awareness, we discover how to live in the present moment rather than brooding about the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness supports people’s capacity to make judgements in the present, act wisely and directly on those judgements, and strengthen resilience at work and in every day life.
Please describe some elements of your experience of choiceless awareness…At first I continued to use the breath as an anchor and was unable to disconnect from thoughts, sounds and emotions. Then quite unexpectedly I had a real sensation of letting it all come and go without looking for anything or holding on to anything. I felt as though a wave had washed over me and I was able to see myself as a whole entity without being attached to my body or mind.
You’ve engaged in the awareness of breathing practice many times in the past four sessions and during your home practice time. Is your experience changing? If so, in what way?….When I initially began the awareness of breathing practice I was eager to suppress thoughts and emotions and eager in turn to return to the breath and although I was aware of the non striving value, I realised that it was almost impossible for me not to strive for the desired effect! My experience is now changing as I am more familiar with the patterns of my thoughts and emotions and I allow them to linger or pass in whatever manner they may without becoming attached to their appearance. I am learning to observe.
What arose for you as you brought awareness to sounds, thinking, and emotions?….As I brought awareness to sounds, thinking and emotions I was initially distracted and then suddenly experienced a sense of freedom.
Our conditioning and perception shape our experience of stress and our reaction to stress. Mindfulness helps us to to relate to difficult moments, events, or situations, whether external or internal, and to expand our understanding of mindfulness as a means of reducing the negative effects of stress. By developing more effective ways of responding positively and proactively to stressful situations, we engage in an increasingly participatory role in our health and well-being.
What is your personal experience with the Stress Reaction Cycle?
I have generally considered my stress experiences to be positive factors as it has equipped me to succeed and accomplish in the face of adversity. I now understand that the unpleasant feelings and sensations that I experience are also stress and that these are associated to internal associations. Meditation is helping me to redirect and differentiate between thoughts and emotions. I understand now the concept of pushing against as opposed to honoring a thought as it arrives and simply letting it be. I am learning the ability to intervene in my habitual pattern, to recognize my own cycle of automatic emotional reaction and remember to show kindness to myself. It is often challenging to remember that I have the power to perceive and act in awareness on my stress cycle!
“Whatever is arising in this moment becomes the curriculum for liberating ourselves from the shackles of greed, hatred, and delusion. We do not need some ideal or romantic fairy tale of what would be best for us. What we most need is what is already given to us: the actuality of things as they are in the only moment we will ever have — this one.”
“And the key for apprehending and comprehending what is happening and for liberating ourselves from the momentum of our unconscious habits of mind lies in whether we can catch the moment in which it first registers that whatever has arisen is pleasant (if it is pleasant), or unpleasant (if it is unpleasant), or neither pleasant nor unpleasant. This is the basic and primary lens through which we apprehend any and every object of attention. It makes all the difference as to what happens in the very next moment in our mind and in our life — if we can be aware of this usually unconscious and automatic appraisal mechanism……”
“So mindfulness of the pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral quality of any moment is the key to not falling into the grip of greed, aversion, or delusion — or extracting ourselves rapidly when we do, as we inevitably will over and over again. Mindfulness, applied at the moment of contact with a particular object of attention arising in our experience, puts a momentary end to unnecessary, adventitious suffering, because the suffering resides neither in the unpleasantness nor in the pleasantness. It is in the aversion and in the greed — it is in the clinging and the self-identification.”
“All this can dissolve in a moment, when awareness apprehends what is actually unfolding . . . like the soap bubble being touched by the finger.”
An Excerpt from Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment – and Your Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
What did you notice in terms of pleasant and unpleasant sensations during this meditation?………….In terms of pleasant sensations during this meditation I noticed a feeling of lightness and comfort, beyond a feeling of relaxation. The sensations could be described as a sense of freedom of the body and mind. when I was completely absorbed in the awareness of breath the sensations were blissful. However as the thoughts come and go so does a sense of urgency and uneasiness and this can be described as unpleasant sensation.
Are these sensations familiar? Surprising? Enjoyable? Aversive? Do you notice them in your everyday life when you encounter an unpleasant moment?………..The sensations are not unfamiliar. The challenge is to allow the thoughts to come and go without allowing the sense of urgency and unease to overcome the meditation. In everyday life the sensations are similar when encountering unpleasant moments. It is a challenge to be aware that these moments are passing thoughts or encounters and to be aware of that and let it go. The temptation is still to become attached to the unpleasant and to allow anxiety and uneasiness to occur.
What are some of the obstacles and challenges to practice you have encountered so far in the course?……The main challenge is as stated above..to not become attached to unpleasant thoughts and sensations. I feel an obstacle in my practice is self doubt and some insecurity in that I am not confident in meeting unpleasant sensations and avoiding overload.
How did you meet or work with these obstacles and challenges?……In meeting the challenges in a new way I am conscious of showing kindness towards myself. I am aware of perceiving the obstacles as transient sensations rather than fixed states.
Are you learning anything new about yourself through this experience?….I am learning that I am not emotionally invincible and that a positivity can be achieved by attending to the things I have pushed away. I have learned that a finely tuned structure for pushing away can infact be the very core that is preventing progress from the uncomfortable sensations and enjoying life day to day. I am learning to be aware and accept and to embrace the structure of awareness and letting go.
Mindfulness is often defined as ‘paying attention on purpose moment by moment without judging, (Full Catastrophe Living, – Jon Kabat-Zinn). This means developing the ability to pay deliberate attention to our experience from moment to moment. We learn to tune in to what is going on in our mind and body day to day without judging our experience.
Becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings and sensations may not sound like an obviously helpful thing to do, however learning to do this in a way that suspends judgement and self criticism can have surprising results. Many people report finding inner strengths and resources that help them make wiser decisions about their health and life in general.
Most of us find ourselves frequently ‘swept away’ by the current of thoughts and feelings, worries, pressures, responsibilities; wanting things to be different from how they are right now. This can be particularly powerful when we are faced with pain, difficulties and illness that confound our attempts to find a solution or to feel better. Feeling stuck in this way can be draining. Mindfulness can help us to work directly with the struggle we sometimes have in relating to lifes experience and in doing so can really improve the quality of our life.(http://www.bangor.ac.uk/mindfulness)
Please reflect on your experience with the lying down yoga…..Although I teach Mindful Yoga, in my own personal practice there is, still, often a natural tendency to strive and ignore self compassion. Therefore my personal intention is to be careful and listen to my body and focus on remaining in the present moment. My attitude and engagement have shifted focus, with the support of the mat on the ground in lying down yoga there is a constant awareness of contact and a feeling of safety and security.
What are you noticing about the body? Is this new, surprising, familiar? ….I notice that my body has an ability to respond and achieve without striving. I am relaxed, rather than challenged by the practice. It is an unfamiliar feeling as I become more and more into the moment, through the body, not remaining fixed in the mind nor driving the body to perform and accomplish. Allowing the the wisdom of the body to take over and direct the body to what it needs whilst remaining relaxed deepens the posture.
What, if anything, can you say about the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations?…I am developing an effortless inner attitude in the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations.The yoga postures are less of an exercise and more meditative. As thoughts and emotions become more self-accepting, other feelings and emotions are more positive. Although some body sensations provoke negative emotions I am beginning to welcome these feelings, because they are cleansing, and not reacting to or rejecting them.