Being in touch with the body is perhaps the most obvious way to connect with the present moment. Your body is always here, always now. Your body also listens to everything your mind says, be that conscious or unconsciously. This is what makes it a good tool for becoming more aware of each moment and aware of your reactions to external events.
In this first week we begin with simple awareness. There are in fact two fundamental approaches to mindful awareness, one using the power of focus and direction of attention, the other simply witnessing what arises without any direction. We will practice both, beginning with focussed attention.
With guided exercises you will cultivate a mindful awareness of the subtle response of the body in each moment. By witnessing, you will become friendly with the body's subtle messages, learning to allow your energy to flow. When we tune-in to the body, tune-in to our internal environment, it becomes a good mirror for how the mind is truly perceiving it's external environment. We are more able to perceive 'real' versus 'imaginary' threats, more in-tune with our gut instinct and more able to choose our responses to situations, rather than react automatically through the filter of our conditioning.
You will receive a worksheet and instructions for your 30 minute daily meditation practices for the week ahead.
Week 2 - The Mind and it's Ticking
Week 2 we offer a little food for the mind - some good news science. Understanding the brain function and the stress response is really helpful in learning how to effectively manage stress. It helps us to understand what happens in situations where stress is activated and how it affects our health, our moods and our relating. By understanding, we help to bring the mind on board so to speak, and by teaching the impact that mindfulness has on brain function, we help the mind to fully participate in something that it now 'knows' to be helpful for it's recovery.
We will also introduce a meditation technique specifically to help to detect the stress response in the body and process it effectively. This meditation is call Pendulation. Weekly instructions for the weeks meditations will be given. You will practice 30 minutes per day plus on one hour of guided mindfulness pendulation.
Week 3 - Effortless Being
Week 3 we introduce the concept and teachings and practice of active meditations. Active meditations are especially good for a mind that is super-charged or perhaps even shut-down. Here we use the body to awaken life-energy, we experience how good it can feel to be in the body, to give it movement and freedom of expression. The body has it's own wisdom and when given the opportunity, it will support you fully as you begin to explore your internal environment. For many people, simply sitting quietly watching is not at all an easy thing. Sometimes the thoughts of the mind have too strong a hold or suppressed emotions can surface. By becoming active, we draw energy away from mental activity and bring it into the body. When the body is energised, it then becomes easier to slip into a state of mindfulness awareness that is untouched by the thoughts that run around in our heads. Active meditations can be a truly revolutionary experience and in fact present an opportunity for mind and body to experience health and healing in unison.
This week you will practice a one hour active meditation and take this meditation with you into your week ahead. You will be asked to complete daily simple awareness and at least 3 active meditations for the week.
Week 4 - Managing Stress
This week we explore stress in more social context, both scientifically and experientially. Through group exercises we will practice the technique of STOP, a one-minute breathing space and mindful awareness exercise. We will use this method of awareness throughout the week in addition to your choice of mindfulness meditation and at least one active meditation.
We will watch a documentary that describes the physiology of stress, designed evolutionarily to protect us from danger, and how it can put our lives in danger when it is activated continually and without resolution. Through mindfulness, we learn how to reframe stress as responsive and life-protecting and build up our resilience and awareness.
Week 5 - Managing Emotions
In week 5 we take time to reflect on our journey so far. You are now familiar with simple awareness, pendulation, active meditations, stress and STOP awareness. You be able to appreciate any positive changes that may have resulted from the practices and also those areas where you may still be struggling, and we allow the possibility of appropriate midcourse corrections.
We then turn our attention to dealing with pain, both physical and emotional. We normally react to pain or discomfort in one of two ways: Blocking: We try to block or deny the discomfort by pushing through it by force of will, distracting ourselves, or numbing ourselves with food, alcohol or drugs. This is ultimately unsatisfactory since as soon as you stop “pushing through” you are faced once again with the cause of your suffering. Drowning: We become overwhelmed by it, drowning in the discomfort and its associated fears or judgments (“I can’t stand this!”, “How could they/I have been so stupid?!?”, etc.). This can lead a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness.
There is an old and true saying that states, 'what we resist, persists'. Mindfulness is a middle ground, a place where you are neither pushing away difficult feelings/situations, nor being subsumed by them. This "middle way" involves learning to feel the sensations or emotions, but not being swept away by them. A surprising and counterintuitive result of accepting the is-ness of our emotions is that the discomfort often lessens, or sometimes can even disappear.
There are in fact two ways in which we can process emotions to great effect. One is through expression, another is through witnessing. This week's mindfulness practice will cover witnessing. We will explore emotional tracking and pendulation, learning how to to contain emotions and yet not suppress them. We will also introduce a new active meditation that is specifically designed for the release of deeply suppressed emotions. For your weekly practice you will be given daily mindfulness and active meditations and STOP practice.
Week 6 - Relating to yourself and to others
This week, we focus on communication and what it means to be mindful in our interactions with others, whether it be family members, coworkers or neighbors. Our focus up to now has been on our internal world (thoughts, feelings and sensations); now we move from the intrapersonal to the interpersonal, taking into account that "the other" has their own perceptions, feelings and needs, which may certainly different from ours.
Most of us react to conflicting situations with one of two responses. We called this the Camel or the Lion. The camel response says 'yes' to the other. They don't want to make any waves. The lion says 'no' to the other. They either fight, either passively or aggressively, or they simply withdraw, either way, they say 'no'. We mostly alternate between camel or lion, though with more tendency perhaps to one more than the other. There is a third way of realigning, and one that doesn't depend upon compromise, which is basically where neither person is fully accepting of the situation. This we call the space of the 'Child', a child in a sense where a person has the freedom, the strength and the innocence to say 'yes' to himself, to respond in a way that is truly right for him or herself, without judgement or criticism, but rather with expansive awareness.
In this weeks course we learn to recognise our unconscious reactive patterns and practice a new way of relating that full honours our own truth in the present moment. Through a series of group exercises we playfully explore the dynamics of relating.
Week 7 - Compassionate Heart
This week we explore the wisdom of the heart. Scientifically the heart has been show to have it's own intelligence and a state of consciousness that is free naturally free from judgment and analysis. The heart's perception is one of beauty. The world in which we live, especially in the work environment, has not previously valued the tremendous resource that the heart can offer. Even in the 'caring' professions there is little time to 'go-in' and search for a heart response. We have therefore come to separate ourselves from one of life's greatest treasures. This week we reconnect with the innocence and beauty of life. This week is one of pure nourishment.
e use exercises that connect to the heart and practice a meditation specifically designed to embrace the hearts wounds, it's longing and it's deep connection to life and to others in life. We learn to accept and let-go of pain and desire and relax into a place of pure stillness and conscious awareness.
You will be given practice meditations and exercises for the week ahead. including stop, active meditation and simple awareness exercises.
Week 8 - Living life with totality
As the program ends, we turn our attention to continuing mindfulness practice in our daily work and lives. Sitting in quiet meditation is one thing, staying centered and aware while sitting in a busy office trying to beat that deadline, or dealing with difficult situations in our personal lives, is quite another.
We learn how to bridge the gap between the process of learning to be aware, which is best experienced in a quiet secluded space, and then experimenting with taking that awareness into our regular everyday lives. Often in life, we sacrifice being present, relaxed and aware in this moment for the striving for some future goal or a time when we imagine things will be better. At work especially we are taught that in order to succeed, we have to struggle, to strive, to set goals, to focus…. The problem with this approach is that the more we struggle, the more tense we become and the worse we perform. We suggest through a series of group exercises that there is indeed another way to approach the busy working day.
As you move forward, ultimately, you will decide upon a style of mindfulness that best resonate with you and helps you to be more alive, engaged and joyful in your daily life. You will have learned of many styles of resourcing that are available to you and you will be touch and changed by this experience forever.