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British School of Meditation Blog

British School of Meditation Blog

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Welcome to the British School of Meditation blog on Meditation Teacher Training

Finding it hard to meditate?

Is there ever a time when you just can’t meditate?

We are encouraged to have a daily practice, in fact the advice is 20 minutes twice a day. I have been thinking long and hard about this, and whilst this is good practice it isn’t always possible.

Recently I have had a family issue that has taken all of my time up.  This would have been the ideal time to just sit and meditate, yet every time I sat down to start my practice, I just couldn’t, my mind simply would not let me.  All sorts of thoughts and emotions swirled around my mind.  At first, I was very frustrated with myself, thinking for goodness sake this is the time you need to meditate, so I was making this situation even more upsetting and stressful, increasing my levels of anxiety, which to be honest were at a high level as it was.  I was sending myself in a downward spiral just when I needed to be strong.

So, I took myself in hand, and thought what do I need?  I accepted that at that moment meditating in my normal way just wasn’t happening, I just craved peace and quiet, to be alone with my thoughts and emotions.  I would take myself off to bed early with a book that really didn’t need much thinking about.  A walk in the fresh air.  Sometimes I just stood and took three deep breaths. Whilst none of these were meditating in the strictest sense, they were what I needed at that moment in time, and this was OK.  Looking back this was the greatest kindness I could do for myself.

It is an easy trap to fall in, thinking that we really must meditate and not listen to what we need and are able to do at a particular time, it would be so easy to feel guilty about not meditating in the formal way, our practice does not need to be that rigid.   However, I am sure that through my daily practice I was able to understand and listen to what I needed at this time, without adding an extra stress of guilt to all that was happening around me.

When the time feels right, just gently go back to your practice, with love and kindness.  This is what I am doing.

Helen

http://havingtime.com/having-trouble-meditating-try-this/


Introduction

Surgeons are in a unique and privileged position. We are permitted, legally permitted, to inflict pain. Our patients ask us to do this for reasons of recurrent physical conditions, sometimes with associated psychological symptoms and sometimes, even for cosmetic conditions. An entire medical speciality called anaesthesia was created to support our endeavours.

 



With the ever-growing popularity of 'minimal access approaches' for a range of surgical conditions, surgeons are performing a number of procedures awake under local anaesthesia as opposed to the patient ‘asleep’ under general anaesthesia. This combination of reduced surgical ‘trauma’ and local anaesthesia use has resulted in reduced post-operative pain and quicker recovery time from surgery as well as from anaesthesia.

Local anaesthesia has variable effects on patients and is also dependent on the technique of infiltration of the agent. A number of different adjunct techniques can be used to reduce the patients’ perceptions of pains, thereby increasing its efficacy. Many surgeons will be employing some of these techniques knowingly or unknowingly.

Pain has a significant neurological component and some forms of pain-killers, act on neural pathways to disrupt them. However, even the most innocuous pain-killers, are not without potential short-or long-term consequences. Given the neurological component, it seems logical that a neurological process may be able to modulate the pain response. I have used the insights gained from meditation as well as my own personal experience with patients in the operating theatre to describe the common meditation and mindfulness techniques and how they work. You don’t need to be a meditator to use the insights gained in the article.

Managing expectations

Few things are worse for the experience of patients and people in general than fear, especially fear of the unknown. For this reason, these techniques are probably not suitable for acute (or chronic) undiagnosed pain. If the symptoms are acute or severe, you should seek medical attention.


Managing expectations, as well as the fear of patients, is important pre-operatively especially if you will be performing the procedure with the patient awake. Ideally this should be performed in an environment away from the operating theatre or procedure room with plenty of time for the patient to absorb the information and ask questions. The steps of the procedure should be explained to the patient.

 


Local anaesthesia is extremely effective if used properly and the patients’ expectations managed. Local anaesthetics selectively block pain receptors, however those receptors for pressure and temperature are still active, and the latter more relevant if diathermy (electrical cautery devices) are used. Local anaesthesia itself requires an injection with a needle. Some patients find this very distressing and this can be reduced using some of the techniques mentioned later as well as the use of a topical local anaesthetic applied to the injection site 30-40 minutes before the procedure. Sometimes the procedure can be done entirely under topical local anaesthesia and using some of the adjuncts described. The infiltration of local anaesthesia itself causes a short-lived stinging sensation before pain receptor blockage.

Attention - distraction

One of the easiest ways to ameliorate most mild forms of pain is to simply take your mind off it. Engage yourself in an activity, listen to some music or go for a walk. Most mild or short-lived causes for pain will subside.


Perhaps the best use of distraction was employed by one of my former trainers, Ian Franklin, who was one of the first to popularise the treatment of varicose veins in a clinic setting under local anaesthesia.

He had a number of techniques at his disposal but perhaps the most effective were:

1. He would allow patients to choose their own music to listen to during their operation. I would say that it is essential to give patients the right to choose their music or to not have any if performing procedures under local anaesthesia. The choice can greatly affect the patients experience of the procedure.

2. He would engage the patients during the procedure, explaining to those interested the steps of the procedure on the ultrasound monitor.

3. The piece de la resistance was the which nurses employed to monitor and converse with the patient. One nurse in particular, let’s call her 'Polly', was perhaps the most talkative nurse in South East England at the time and she could keep patients occupied in conversation for the entire duration of the procedure. This no doubt had a massive impact on the patients' consistently positive experience of the procedure.

Conscious breathing.

We’re all told to take deep breaths at a time of stress, anxiety, pain; childbirth. For breathing to be truly effective, it needs to be conscious. That is, to put your focus and full attention to your breathing. Taking deep breaths in through the nose, feeling how the air, its warmth, and flow feels as it enters your nose, airways, expands your chest and abdomen. On the exhalation, feel the relaxation in your abdomen and chest, feel the warm air leaving your airways and gently exhale it out of your mouth. The exhalation should last slightly longer than the inhalation. Every time you get distracted, especially by pain, go back to the breath and focus.


 

Breathing into the pain

In Vedic tradition, the breath is said to carry ‘Prana’, the vital life force that animates all living things. The breath is said to be healing by its very nature and is employed in a number of techniques that employ visualising breathing into the pain.


Now, you don’t need to believe in Prana to try this and it is likely that this is effective because the process of visualisation distracts the patient from the pain. That being said, it is simple to perform and perhaps a little more effective than conscious breathing. I can personally verify the efficacy of this technique both on myself and with patients during surgery.

“The cure for pain is in the pain – Rumi”

Awareness techniques

These techniques are effective for moderate to severe pain but do require some practice although there are some who are extremely adept and pick these techniques up quickly. They are effective for chronic ailments such as back pain (as previously mentioned, undiagnosed acute or recurrent pain usually requires medical attention).


If you break down pain, beyond any noxious stimulus (such as a burn) that may have precipitated it, it consists of an internal body sensation and associated thoughts and perhaps mental images, emotions and memories. Although the entirety of the experience may seem overwhelming, when broken down, the internal body sensation doesn’t seem as ‘harmful’ or ‘damaging’ without its associated negative thoughts. Similarly, the thoughts associated with the pain can be observed and their transient nature revealed.

It makes sense that conscious perception of pain is better tolerated than tolerating the pain alone.

Body scan meditation

Body scan meditation is a mindfulness practice that is gaining increasing popularity in pain management and pain clinics. It is especially useful for those with chronic pain. As mentioned, pain consists of more than just the physical sensations in the body and always involves thoughts, and often emotions and personal beliefs. Chronic pain can also cause negative emotions such as anger, sadness, desperation and anxiety making their management even more complicated and symptoms often worse.


Pain related thoughts arise spontaneously and most of the time we do not place our conscious awareness on them. Aware of them or not, these negative though associations work at a subconscious level and no doubt make patients ‘perceptions’ of pain worse.

Body scan meditation is said to help with the experiences associated with pain including those that can exacerbate pain such as emotion by placing awareness on them. There is a growing body of research in the peer-reviewed scientific literature attesting to its efficacy in reducing the intensity of perceived pain. This form of mindfulness allows us to change our relationship with pain for the better, instead of feeling like we are being held captive by it.

Techniques for body scan meditation

1. Bring your awareness to the internal sensations in the body region by region. Acknowledge whatever sensations are present, without judgment. Notice those areas where the pain is more intense or more diffuse compared to those where it is more localised. Just allow these areas to ‘soften’ before moving on to the next region

2. Focus on the breath as you are bringing attention to the different areas of the body. Many people tend to hold their breath or conversely hyperventilate in situations of pain, neither of which are in any way helpful. Bringing your attention back to your breath. This regulates the breathing and helps avoid shallow breathing that can exacerbate the sensations. As mentioned earlier, breathing into pain has a naturally calming effect.

3. Bring your awareness to the thoughts and emotions that may be accompanying the sensations. There may also be memories or mental images.
By doing this you are disentangling the somatic (body) features of pain with the mental characteristics. With all pain, the two always arise together.

We all have a unique perception of pain that can vary day by day even hour by hour. Understanding the components of pain is important if one is to manage it with mindfulness. Body scan meditation may significantly reduce pain and suffering, even if the causative factor is still present.

(for a free downloadable body scan meditation click here).

Detachment from pain

This is perhaps the most difficult technique to ‘master’. However, if you have time for nothing else or if in an extreme situation then this technique may be effective (and anyway, you have nothing to lose!). It involves detaching yourself from the pain at a deep level and becoming the ‘witness’ or observer of the pain. There has to be a deep belief that you are not the ever-changing and healing body that is experiencing pain, that the thoughts associated are temporary and fleeting and you are that who is ‘witnessing’ the pain. If done earnestly, this will cause immediate separation of the pain and the perceiver of the pain. As an Advaita Vedanta practice of awareness, I practice this technique often when I experience the back discomfort of sitting for long periods in meditation. I have also used it to great effect when I burned my hand on a 300-degree paint stripping gun. You may want to start with the niggly back pain though! The experience that I have when using this for focal (usually musculoskeletal) pain is the perception of the pain ‘melting’ away. Using this technique in the situation of the burn, the process definitely modulated the deep ‘internal’ pain to the point that it was negligible. The perception of pain superficially on the skin was also reduced significantly but not completely eliminated.


Whether you use any of these techniques or not, it is empowering to not be reliant on pain-killers and to know that pain itself is not a faceless intruder.

Article by Vikas Pandey MB ChB, MD, MRCS (Eng), FRCS (Gen Surg), Dip BSoM Consultant Surgeon

Vikas Pandey is a consultant surgeon based at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and teaches meditation on Harley Street, London.

Social media and meditation

Social media and meditation

We need to harness the power of social media and video. 

Apparently video is what Google and Facebook love, so, we all need to get into the habit of using and sharing videos.

We live in an age when Facebook and YouTube are beginning to take over as the main ways in which people share information. I read an article in the Sunday Times about the CEO of YouTube. She is Susan Wojcicki   and it is her belief that YouTube will soon become the world’s most powerful broadcaster.

According to research television viewing amongst young people (18-49) continues to drop rapidly while at the same time they spend more and more time on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

We want young people to become aware of the power of meditation and the ways in which it can help them reduce stress and manage an increasingly frantic world. If we want to reach them, we need to be visible to them.

So, we need to harness the power of YouTube, Facebook and other such social media sources. They are the future of communication and we need to embrace them.

https://www.facebook.com/BSoMeditation/

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+british+school+of+meditation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0LMPa3FGcE


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People often ask me “what is mindfulness”?


My answer is always this: it’s about BEING. HERE. NOW.

But what does that really mean, and how can you practice mindfulness?

• It’s the opposite of being on autopilot, where you automatically go through the motions of your day to day routine, without really registering/feeling/enjoying each of the moments and appreciating the moment for what it is.

• It’s where you’re not worrying about the future, or reliving events of the past – these are the 2 major sources of chronic stress we suffer today and with a bit of practice we can train our brains to remember to come back to focusing on the here and now, rather than the things that have already happened that we can’t change, or the future which we simply cannot control.

• It’s realising that the future is not yet here so avoid wasting energy worrying about it, the truth is none of us have any idea what the future holds.

• It’s realising and accepting that the past is dead and gone, and as tempting and habitual as it is, rehashing and reliving events in our past WILL NOT change what has already happened, nor will it move us forward.

If your mind and thoughts are scattered and you feel like your head is all over the place, you need to anchor and ground yourself in the present moment. The brilliant news is that there is a shortcut - YOU CAN USE YOUR SENSES to bring you back into the NOW.

 

Here’s how you can do this in 3 simple steps:

 

1. For one minute, look at something (anything!) - properly focus on it, what do you notice about its shape, appearance, texture, colour? What can you see now that you’re studying this object that you’ve never noticed before?


2. For one minute, touch something - how does it feel? Is it rough or smooth? What do you notice about the feel of the object? Is it hot or cold? Is it strong or supple?

3. For one minute, listen - what sounds can you hear? Get quiet and still, notice the sounds around you and tune into them. Whether it’s the rustling of the leaves, or the sound of cars going by, or the hum of machinery, just notice the sounds.

It’s just about being present and noticing your environment and what’s going on.

All these things will help your mind to bring you into the here and now. They will help you to be mindful, to feel calm and centered.

Nicky Thackray is a student on the BSoM Meditation Teacher Training course in the North East with

Pauline Archer

Creativity and meditation

Article on creativity and meditation

Do you know what Richard Gere, Madonna, Clint Eastwood, Russell Brand, Leonard Cohen, Sir Paul McCartney, and Novak Djokovic have in common? As well as being extremely famous, successful and creative people, they have all spoken about how a daily meditation practice has made a huge difference to their lives.  

Russell Brand  ‘Meditation has been incredibly valuable to me. I literally had an idea drop into my head the other day while I was meditating which I think is worth millions of dollars’ The New York Times, April 10th, 2011. Russell Brand

The list of famous authors who have accessed their inner creativity through meditation includes: Victor Hugo, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Deepak Chopra and quite probably Shakespeare who frequently alludes to meditation in his plays and sonnets.

He doth entreat your grace, my noble lord,
  To visit him to-morrow or next day:
    He is within, with two right reverend fathers,
      Divinely bent to meditation,
        And in no worldly suits would he be moved
          To draw him from his holy exercise.
      - William Shakespeare,  The Tragedy of King Richard the Third

So how can developing a meditation practice help you to be more creative?

Meditation can be the key to unlocking your creativity. Many writers struggle with writer’s block and cleaning the dirty windows can seem a pleasurable chore in comparison to sitting looking at a blank piece of paper; the words won't come, don't come.  So, what can you do when you are stuck? I think anyone who writes or is engaged in creative pursuits knows this feeling of frustration; this sense that the brain has seized up.

Many people, including writers, have discovered the power of meditation to calm the mind and access creativity.  If you don't already meditate how do you start?

So many people tell me that when they try to meditate they find it impossible to stop their thoughts and very often give up because they feel they can’t do it or they aren’t doing it correctly.

How to start: you can find a teacher and learn the techniques from them. Teachers who have trained with the British School of Meditation are fully qualified, insured and have signed our Code of Ethics and Practice. www.teaching-meditation.co.uk/findateacher

 Or you can develop your own practice at home. There is no need for complicated equipment, most people find sitting on an upright chair works for them. You certainly don't need any incense or statues of Buddha. All you need is a quiet space and some time. Not endless amounts of time. Start with five minutes and then gradually extend the sessions to about twenty minutes.

What you now need is a focus: it can be your breath, or a mantra. A mantra is simply a word or a phrase you repeat silently in your mind. When your attention drifts, which it undoubtedly will, just keep bringing it back to your point of focus. Simple but not easy! It takes practice. Your mantra could be something like: ‘words flow easily’.

Read what some other writers have said:

My friend, Sue Johnson, is a writer, poet, creative writing workshop facilitator and published author. This is what she says about meditation and the creative process:

‘Meditation can be seen as a doorway between our inner and outer worlds.

It is this inner world that creative writers, artists and musicians need to access for their work. This state of mind – between the worlds – has been described by Dan Brown,(author of ‘The Da Vinci Code’) as like being between sleeping and waking.

For a creative person with a day job that involves mainly left brain activity, meditation can help with switching to creative right brain activity as well as giving the brain a much-needed rest. This need not take up more than ten minutes and the benefits will very soon be seen with greater output and a better flow of ideas. There are many techniques that can help improve concentration when meditating. For instance, some people find that focusing on an image or colour that features in their current project can help to block out the endless ‘chatter’ of the mind. Alternatively, a scented candle can help to draw the writer or artist into the right space to begin their creative work.’

 Sue Johnson,   www.writers-toolkit.co.uk

Albert Einstein said, “The really valuable thing is intuition. Through meditation I found answers before I even asked the question.”

Alice Walker, (The Color Purple) says:  ‘At one point I learned transcendental meditation. This was 30-something years ago. It took me back to the way that I naturally was as a child growing up way in the country, rarely seeing people. I was in that state of oneness with creation and it was as if I didn't exist except as a part of everything.

Meditation takes you to the space in your mind where your true creativity resides. It is where you find your authentic voice. You are bringing yourself to the page, and this helps you to engage with your audience in a very profound way.  I wish you happy meditating and joyful writing.

©Mary Pearson 2019

mary@teaching-meditation.co.uk

www.teaching-meditation.co.uk


Pain management

Meditation and pain management

There are a variety of reasons why people decide to learn to meditate and one of the reasons can be for chronic pain management.  We therefore have to ask ourselves does meditation really help reduce pain.

 I have used meditation to help with pain.  I have just recovered from having two fractures in my knee, this meant I was none weight bearing for about five months, it took sometime as well for the fractures to be diagnosed but that’s another story.  As you can imagine my knee was very painful.  As a meditator I tried to meditate on the pain in my knee, and I really found this helped, somehow it took the pain down several notches and this in turn meant I needed fewer painkillers.  All I did was go into my quite space in my mind, and turn my attention to the pain and really that’s all it took. I have written the meditation in more detail at the end of this blog.

I am including a link to a YouTube video about a lady who said that she was in chronic pain and found that Mindfulness meditation really did help her, whilst it didn’t take it away completely, the pain was less and, in some ways, took the sting out of it.  The clip shows her brain scans before and after meditating on the pain, have a look at the clip and see the outcome.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrn8RWBMNsM

Danny Penman PhD, has written an interesting article about Mindfulness Meditation and pain, he makes the point that sometimes the struggle to fight the pain can make it even worse, and the effect of exploring the pain through mindfulness meditation can really help. He states that: -

Such an approach forms the core of a new treatment for chronic pain and illness that is based on an ancient form of meditation known as ‘mindfulness’. Mindfulness meditation has been shown in clinical trials to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent. Accomplished meditators can reduce it by over 90 percent.

Imaging studies show that mindfulness soothes the brain patterns underlying pain and, over time, these changes take root and alter the structure of the brain itself, so that patients no longer feel pain with the same intensity. Many say that they barely notice it at all.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/mindfulness-in-frantic-world/201501/can-mindfulness-meditation-really-reduce-pain-and-suffering

My meditation to help with pain.

For this meditation, sit or lie in a comfortable position for you, this will be guided by the discomfort/pain you are feeling.  When I have my fractures in my knee, I had to always sit with my feet up, so this is how I meditated.

Gently close your eyes, take a few breaths focusing on the coolness of the air as you breath in and the warmth of the air as you breath out.  When you are ready turn your attention to the various areas of your body, starting at the head, and working you way down to your feet, as you focus on each area try to relax the muscles and let any tension go. 

Now turn your attention to the area that is painful to you, for me it was my knee, so I just (and this is the only way I can explain it) watched and observed the pain. I tried not to judge it or even to think about what was causing it.  The first time I tried this I only focused on the area for a minute or two, as I practised my meditation over time, I increased the length of time that I focused on my knee.

When you are ready turn your attention back to the breath again focusing on the coolness of the air as you breathe in and the warmth of the air as you breathe out.  I always like to end my meditations by becoming aware of my feet and my connection with the ground.

This meditation is in no way to replace any medication you have been prescribed by your health practitioner.

Helen


Loving Kindness at Christmas

Loving Kindness Meditation

 As Christmas approaches, I thought I would focus in this blog on LovingKindness.

As Sharon Salzberg says Loving Kindness is the recognition that we are all connected and that everyone matters.  Loving Kindness is a favourite meditation with  many of my meditation students. Here is the meditation:

·         In this meditation we are going to focus on loving kindness for yourself and others as a way to enjoy happiness and good health. The more love you can give the more it will fill your being.

·         Begin by finding yourself in a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Switch off the phone, take this time for you. Sit on your favourite meditation chair with your feet flat on the floor. Straighten your spine and allow the chair to support you. Relax your shoulders and gently close your eyes. – Begin to focus on your breathing -------just gently become aware of breathing in and breathing out – don’t change your breathing just observe your breath. -------------

·         Let your body settle and begin to relax---------just take this time for you ---we lead such busy lives rushing from one task to another and forget to take time to just be ---- to just live in the moment – so just take some deeper breaths and begin to relax mind and body ----- enjoy this feeling of peace

·         Now gently bring your attention to your heart------imagine that your heart is a beautiful flower just beginning to open up------choose a flower now-----and see the petals gently beginning to open----- ------

·         Now silently repeat your name and place an image of yourself in the centre of the flower-----in the centre of your heart ------ begin to send love to the image in your heart and now begin to visualise yourself as your own best friend ---- see yourself as the warm, kind loving person you truly are ------the person who cares deeply and wants only what is best for your family and friends. We often judge ourselves much more harshly than we judge our friends ----- yet when we are more loving towards ourselves we begin to blossom into the loving, compassionate beings we really are. So, allow this image to grow in your heart – see yourself as kind, loving, warm and compassionate -----acknowledge all your good qualities and praise your successes, however small------ and just enjoy this feeling of being truly loved just as you are -----accept yourself -----none of us is perfect – but we can all be kinder and gentler to ourselves.

·         Now silently begin to repeat: ‘May I be well, may I be happy, may all things go well for me’;------- ‘May I be well, may I be happy, may all things go well for me’ --------and just continue to silently repeat these gentle, loving words. Allow your heart to fill with loving kindness for yourself. As we begin to feel more loving and kind towards ourselves then we can become more loving and kind to all the people in our lives. ‘May I be well, may I be happy, may all things go well for me.’

  • As you allow loving kindness flow into your being, breathe out stress and tension and let yourself relax. Let go of any reasons you may have for feeling you aren’t worthy of being happy or why you should not be loving and kind to yourself. Continue to repeat ‘May I be well, may I be happy, may all things go well for me’.
  • Now begin to focus your attention on the important people in your life --- your family and friends. And when you are ready begin to bring them into the centre of the flower----into your heart. Place an image of each of them gently in your heart. And now silently say to each one in turn: ‘May you be well, may you be happy, may all things go well for you; may you be well, may you be happy, may all things go well for you’ – just continue to bring your loved ones into your heart and wish them well. Allow the thought of loving kindness to flow out from your heart to their hearts. ----- As you continue to repeat the mantra, allow any arguments or disagreements you may have had with any of these people to gently dissolve. We are all doing our best. Begin to breathe in happiness and joy and if you can begin to let go of any thoughts of conflict, anger and sorrow on the out breath. Continue to repeat: ‘May you be well, may you be happy, may all things go well for you’. ----------------
  • Now think of someone you don’t know, a stranger, perhaps someone you may have seen in the street or in a shop today. Begin to feel friendly towards this person and silently repeat: ‘May you be well, may you be happy, may all things go well for you’. as you silently repeat these words while thinking about this stranger begin to realise that there are no strangers. We are all human, we are all connected. As you wish this stranger well so you are spreading loving kindness in the world.
  • Finally as your heart fills with more and more loving kindness allow that love to flow out into the world. Begin to open your heart to all beings to all living creatures on the earth. Allow the thought of loving kindness to flow out into a harsh world. ‘May we all be well, may we all be happy, may all things go well for us.------you are spreading loving kindness in the world and that kindness will come back to you a hundred fold.
  • When you are ready gently allow your heart to hold the feeling of loving kindness as you bring your awareness back into the moment and gently open your eyes. Feel a smile on your face as you look upon the world with loving kindness.
  • David Hamilton has also written about LovingKindness: ‘Why Kindness is good for you’ is one of his best selling books.

So, during this season of Christmas, remember to spread loving kindness, and don’t forget to include yourself!

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and a successful 2019.


Mindfully drinking tea

I don't know about you, but I used to pop the kettle on and then go off and do some other things around the house.  About 10 minutes later, I would suddenly remember I had boiled the kettle, feel the outside of it to see if it was still hot and then decide to boil it again.......... And then of course I would wander off again and do some other things around the house, forget I had switched it on again.....blah, blah, blah.....repeat, repeat, repeat!  When I had finally made the cup of tea, it would be too hot to drink and so I would leave it on the side while I while I would, again, go off and do other things.  Eventually, I would remember about my cup of tea, have a couple of sips and then leave it on the side to do more things.  Later in the afternoon, I would find half a cup of cold tea sat on the side!

“We can bring a wonderful awareness to the present moment as it unfolds”

The beauty of mindfulness is that we can bring it to every day tasks and slow them down to bring a contemplative nature to the experience.  By doing this we are able to notice our reaction to the encounter and bring a wonderful awareness to the present moment as it unfolds.  We spend so much of our lives on auto pilot, we have forgotten to notice.  With mindfulness we are noticing through our senses - what do you feel, smell, hear, taste and see?

Mindful tea drinking

Over the last week, in the advanced meditation groups, we have been bringing mindfulness to drinking a cup of tea.  Here are the step by step details, should you wish to give it a go:

  • Listen to the sound of the water pouring into the kettle, the click of the "on" button and the sound of the water boiling inside the kettle.  Notice the steam coming out of the spout.
  • As you pour the water onto the tea bag notice the infusion, aware of the change of colour from water to tea.  The sound of the pouring water too.  Then be fully present with lifting the teabag out with a spoon, adding milk and/or sugar.  Can you hear the tinkling of the spoon against the side of the cup?
  • Notice the aroma of the tea.  Be aware of the journey of the tea leaf and the blend that has been carefully put together for you to enjoy.
  • Notice your hands against the side of the cup, feeling the warmth of the tea.  Maybe take a moment to contemplate that many people around the world do not have clean drinking water, and yet you can enjoy a cup of warm tea whenever you choose.
  • Now drink mindfully.  Take it slow.  Just small sips.  Savouring each sip.  Notice the journey it takes from your mouth into your body.  Be aware of the taste and acknowledge if it feels "just right" today or if it is too strong or too weak.
  • As you take another sip, focus on the raising of your arm, the sip, the swallowing and lowering of the arm.  You can always take a few deep breaths in between sips.  Acknowledge any thoughts or feelings or sensations that take place.
  • Do you feel that you want to rush through the rest of the cup?  Just be aware of this?  Do you feel that there are other pressing things to do?  Again, be aware of this thought and the feelings generated by it.  Do you feel self-conscious?
  • And come back, again, to the direct experience of your tea.  Reconnecting with the warmth, the taste, the movement and the sounds of the tea drinking experience.  Continuing to watch and notice each moment.
  • Become aware that this moment and this tea will never exist again.
  • You can always end the tea drinking experience just giving a little "thanks" to the tea and to yourself for taking time to slow down and notice.

by Sarah Presley, British School of Meditation Teacher Trainer (South West)

This blog originally appeared on www.sarahpresley.co.uk

See also Thich Naht Hann


Mantras in everyday life

Mantras

This morning I meditated using my TM mantra. I have been practising TM for nearly 20 years now, and it has served me well. I am not alone in doing TM. Since it was introduced into the West by the Beatles in the 1960’s a great  many people have adopted TM as their meditation practice. Some famous names include: Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Hugh Jackman, Goldie Hawn and Jennifer Aniston. 

Hugh Jackman says "Nothing has ever opened my eyes like Transcendental Meditation has. It makes me calm, happy and well, it gives me some peace and quiet in what's a pretty chaotic life!"

When you learn TM, you are given a mantra to repeat silently twice a day for 15-20 minutes. Practising helps me to feel calm and centered and enables me to cope with whatever life may throw at me. TM website

There are however, many other mantras you can use successfully. Meditating on Lovingkindness involves repeating loving words silently in your mind, such as ‘May you be well, may you be happy’

One of our trainers, Sarah Presley, recently wrote about how a mantra helped her in her recovery from illness. She silently recited: I am strong, happy and healthy.

‘Calm’ is a wonderful mantra and for many it brings a sense of calm and well-being.

The most basic mantra is Om, which in Hinduism is known as the "pranava mantra," the source of all mantras. 

Frans Stiene, http://ihreiki.com says this about mantras: ‘The main point of chanting a mantra is to stay mindful, with a single pointed concentration on the mantra itself. Thus, if we start to recite the mantra from memory, rattling it off while at the same time we follow our thoughts to the past, present, and future, then the mantra is in reality doing nothing at all. The real key in chanting mantras is that we stay single pointedly focused on the mantra itself. This is why sometimes if we learn a mantra and, after a lot of practice, we start to feel that we are just rattling it off by memory, we might need to refocus our concentration again. We can do this by focusing, for example, on the syllables of the mantra. Or we may need to begin working with a new or longer mantra so that our concentration becomes more single pointed again’.

So, mantras are powerful tools for meditation, however, they are a type of meditation not the only way to meditate. We all need to find the best form of meditation for ourselves, sometimes by trying several until you find the one for you.



Staying grounded

Does our Meditation Practice keep our feet on the Ground?

I attended a Meditation retreat with Frans Stiene of the International House of Reiki http://www.ihreiki.com.

During the course of the retreat we discussed how modern Meditations were based on ancient practices. Take for example the following meditation, which is probably the most taught meditation in the west.

‘Focus on your breath as you inhale, feel the coolness of the breath as it passes through your nose, and on the exhale focus on the warmth of the breath as it passes through your nose, when your attention wanders just bring it back to the breath’

This is just one example, but there are lots of variations on this theme.   When this was first taught many years ago, people lived a very different life to how we live today. We worked the land, grew our own food, walked everywhere, went to sleep when it was dark and rose when it was light, we lived by the seasons.  The human race you could say lived in harmony with the Earth, and the seasons.  The Human race was part of the Earth.

These days in my view we live on the Earth, our lives are so far removed from the way ancient people existed, we live now very much in our heads, you just have to see people walking down the street with their phones, to see that the are just walking on the Earth and not part of the Earth.   They live their lives to some extent in cyber space.

So, I feel we need to ask is the meditation focussing on just the breath and those meditations that are similar just allowing us to live in our head, without our feet firmly on the ground?   Perhaps when teach Meditation and please don’t get me wrong this meditation is an excellent meditation to start with, we should also focus on other parts of the body, maybe a body scan.

In Martial Arts, the practitioner focuses on the energy centre which is found two finger widths beneath the navel, this can be known as the Hara or it can be known as the Dantian. By focusing the attention on this area, it gives the practitioner strength and helps ground them. Perhaps when we teach Meditation it would be good to bring this area into our meditations to ground us and help us to become more balanced.

One simple way of grounding ourselves, is to imagine that we are sending our breath to the hara, as we inhale, imagine the breath traveling to the hara, and as we exhale imagine that breath traveling out though your body to the area surrounding you.

We could also imagine the breath going to our feet, and as we exhale feel the connection with ground.

Further reading

http://www.ihreiki.com/blog/article/the_deeper_meaning_of_hara/

Another interesting article. https://www.osho.com/meditate/meditation-for-busy-people/hara-centering


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