Finding your feet again in practice…

A follow up day for MBSR has been a long time coming – thank you for your patience.

Maybe it’s a bit like waiting for a bus – you wait and wait and then 3 come at once!
Why 3?
I was planning a day in September – Saturday 14 – and then a friend reminded me that just because evening classes stop in July and August, not everything comes to a standstill. Not everybody is away and for those who are at home, this might be an ideal time to take a little time out for personal nourishment.

Hence, with a little shove from friend,
I decided to offer 2 possible dates in August as well – Sat 10 and 24th
I am putting all three dates out there and will run with whichever suits the most people. Who knows maybe 2, or even 3 will run!

‘Finding your feet again’ seemed like a good title for a number of reasons. I’m sure I’m mistaken but for just a few of you practice might have got a little sidelined since finishing MBSR. Difficult to keep going when life is busy and at times practice might seem dry and not particularly rewarding – a feeling that you’re ploughing a lonely furrow. We all need an injection of inspiration from time to time and a reminder that others are also walking this path. Hence the first aim of a follow up day is to help you find your feet again in practice. Just in case you’ve fallen by the wayside, the day will be an opportunity to revisit the Core Practices of MBSR (Sitting, Body Scan, Breathing Space and Walking Meditation) and to catch up with others who share your commitment to letting these practices find a place in their lives.

It’s also helpful if each follow day offers something new, or puts extra emphasis on some aspect of mindfulness  – body, emotions, thoughts etc. For this first day, I’d love to offer some input on mindfulness of the body in everyday posture – and where better to start than the feet, the foundation of posture. We will do a very simple self-assessment of our normal ways of standing and walking, (did you know that on average we take about 10,000 steps a day?), and a series of delightful exercises with feet resting on the wall. Of course we’ll do some formal walking meditation, but the emphasis will be on mindfulness of the feet as a doorway to being present to life as it unfolds moment by moment, step by step…..10,000 opportunities a day!

But grounding all of this in practical details:

PROPOSED DATES: August 10, August 24, September 14 (all Saturdays)

VENUE: Ballybay Wetlands Centre. TIMES: 10 am to 4pm

GUEST TEACHER: I am hoping that  Mairead Heaney a Mindfulness Teacher / Psychotherapist from Dundalk will be able to join us for these dates – some of you have met Mairead before: she has a particular interest in Mindfulness and Self Compassion and hopefully will share some this with us on a later follow up day…

REFRESHMENTS: Tea, coffee biscuits provided; please bring your own lunch

COST: €35 

BOOKING: please let me know by Monday 22 July whether you are interested in one of these days, and which one, so I can confirm the booking with the Wetland Centre

FURTHER DETAILS: delighted to hear from you if you want to give me a ring for more information…

Practising Presence…

My friends and family know that I have a penchant for starting new blogs but I’m not all that good at maintaining or adding content. I’ve done it again – started a new blog/website the other day called Practising Presence.

Over the holidays I had recorded a short practice called ‘Practising Presence’ – sensing into the body, breath and senses – simply being present to life unfolding moment by moment. I had in mind to put this up on-line as a taster practice for those who are exploring Mindfulness Meditation for the first time, and also for experienced meditators who want to do a short guided practice once in a while. Since this site can’t upload audio files I decided to start up a new one which does. Then I realised that because I have upgraded my new WordPress site to carry audio – this one can now do so as well – it seems the one upgrade applies to all my WordPress territories – I don’t really understand, but won’t complain! You can’t possibly be interested in my tentative explorations into cyberspace – suffice it to say that I may begin to use the Practising Presence for further practice material,both audio and written, and continue to use this site for occasional reflective pieces and for news of up-coming courses and events. We’ll see…

The thing about Mindfulness Meditation is that we’re not trying to achieve any special state – we’re not going after anything esoteric or sublime. The aim is just to be here – present to things exactly as they are. You could say that rather than having an ‘out of the body’ experience, we’re actually trying to be present right here in the body! You might think that you already live in your body – watch out for a later post on Automatic Pilot….

I hope you take time to listen to this short practice – it’s home made, so not perfect quality – but bear with me, I hope to get around eventually to making more professional recordings. Meanwhile, a simple practice like this is a very good way to not only practice formally  but also to begin creating the habit of being there ‘practising presence’ wherever you are. enjoy!

Please click here for Practising Presence, a 20 minute practice of just being wherever you are…

Thank you YFNI!

I enjoyed my day in Belfast yesterday so much – I feel rather guilty – is one supposed to enjoy work so much? Did I work hard enough? It was a lovely day and thank you so much, both to those who did the work of organising and to those who were so graciously present. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
As promised, I am putting up rough outlines of the practices we shared – hoping these help to jog the memory of those who wish to remember. I hope also that if you do the practices again, you will have a living experience – once more, allowing each moment to be born afresh…..
Opening Practice ,   Midday,   Closing Practice
(Suggestion – after viewing any of these files, I suggest you press the back button to return to the page. If you press close, you leave the site –  I’ll have to find out how to sort this.)

That’s it – I hope I have up-loaded 3 files.
If you have any problem accessing these, please let me know  (maireadmflynn@gmail.com) and I can send to you by email.
If you have questions – I’ll be delighted to elucidate…in fact, I eagerly await your questions!

Warm wishes to all,
Mairead

PS: I hope you are remembering your ‘I am here’ mantra!

How was your shower?

One of the big themes in the MBSR courses is Automatic Pilot and its opposite counterpart Being in the Present Moment.

For newcomers it is entertaining to gradually realise that we are very rarely present – just doing what you’re doing, being where you are. Doesn’t seem like a big deal and yet we spend so much of our lives time-travelling – rehearshing the future, rehashing the past. How often have you finished a cup of tea and the only evidence of having drunk it is that the cup is nearly empty, just a dreg of cold tea in the bottom! Nobody else was in the room, so you must have drunk it! Like I say, this kind of realisation is amusing for beginners and humbling of the more experienced – yes, no matter how long we practice mindfulness, yoga and meditation, most of us find that we still have frequent and long lapses in our awareness.Nobody – I’ll guarantee – is mindful 100% of the time!

The other morning I had a ‘eureka’ moment getting out of the shower – is there something about water that leads to realisations?
As I stepped out a little voice asked ‘How was your shower?’ You know what – I hadn’t a clue! I was wet all over, so was the shower, but I hadn’t really been there at all. I hadn’t enjoyed the gush of warm (expensive!) water – I hadn’t smelt the gorgeous shower gel my sister had given for recent birthday, nor did I feel the ‘rich luxurious foam’ of carefully chosen shampoo. I hoped that I had washed all the important bits and hadn’t used body wash on my hair. Most likely I hadn’t – I guess most days I shower on automatic pilot – very skilled at washing myself while I sort out the big issues of my life, or more likely lose myself in daily trivia!

So, the little voice was a wake up call. While the long-term aim is to be with our experience while it is happening – wake up and smell the coffee, shower gel or whatever – sometimes it’s easier to do it in retrospect. Try tuning into a recent experience… For example as you get up from the table ask yourself  ‘How was your lunch?’ Perhaps like me getting out of the shower, you haven’t a clue. But you know, the more we ask ourselves, ‘How was your drive?’ of ‘How was your cake’, ‘How was your walk?’  the more our attention might just perk up and begin to notice more and more of this wonderful life as it is actually happening!

Warm wishes,

Mairead

What’s the 8-week course about: Part 2 – Doing and Being

Last week in the course, we talked about ‘doing’ and ‘being’ – two different modes of mind.

You can probably guess – Yes, the ‘doing’ mode is when you’re just focused on getting the job done – it was on your to-do-list and whatever the cost, you’ll get it done today. Jon Kabat-Zinn tells the story of  man on one his courses who found himself at 10pm turning on the floodlights and going out to wash his car – it was on his list of things to do that day, and who cares that he had a heart attack couple of months ago – he was going to do it today!
On the other hand in ‘being’ mode, you also want to get the job done, but you stay tuned to how you are. If you realise that the to-do-list was a tad over ambitious you are willing to review your timescale- you are capable of stepping back and thinking ‘this might take a bit longer’ or ‘I might need some help with this’ or ‘I need a rest now and I’ll come back to it later with fresh energy’. There is also the possibility that you might enjoy the task rather than waiting for the satisfaction of completion!

Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with doing!  We all need deadlines at times to get the job done, and sometimes the deadline is not within our control. Problem is that we can become slaves to just getting things done. At the extreme end of ‘doing’ mode there is the tragedy that our lives might become reduced to just getting things done. A great book on this topic is ‘The Art of Effortless Living’ by Ingrid Bacci. In her opening paragraph she refers to our goal orientated society where we judge ourselves and others on our achievements:

Why is it that life often seems to be more like a treadmill than like a pathway to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? As we go about our daily lives, many of us are dogged by feelings of emotional and personal dissatisfaction. We have a nagging sense that there must be more to life than we are getting. We apply ourselves to reaching our goals, only to find that even the best achievements seem thin relative to the price we pay in the form of tension and stress….What keeps us travelling down a road whose rewards carry such a cost?

Her book describes a society in extreme ‘doing’ mode and she offers ways in which any of us can step off the treadmill and find a more human and satisfying way of ‘being’

You probably already know which mode you tend to inhabit, but here are a few pointers….

In doing mode, you  do things with effort and haste – the goal is to get things done
In being mode you are more likely to feel at ease and to take pleasure in whatever you are doing

In doing mode you are focused on the outer achievement- getting the job done is the priority
In being mode you are in touch with your inner experience, energy levels, tiredness, hunger – priority is to look after yourself

In doing mode you are driven by external pressures – what people / colleagues expect of you
In being mode you maintain your composure – your inner wisdom overriding external pressure

In doing mode, you are likely to multi-task – getting the job done is good; getting several jobs done is even better!
In being mode you do one thing at a time – whatever you choose to do deserves your full attention

In doing mode, you are living in the future – what’s next on the agenda once this is out of the way?
In being mode, you are in the present moment – in touch with what’s going on within and around you

This is all very well you say, but what if we all become mellow and relaxed, listen to our bodies, rest and all that stuff – when will we ever get things done? You may be surprised to hear that the link between effort and success is a very tenuous one!  I’m going to leave you with a further quote from Ingrid Bacci where she identifies to characteristics of effortless performance the kind that sets  apart the truly great musicians / sports people – what sets the truly high-achievers apart from the ‘no pain no gain’ brigade…

The 4 characteristics of effortless performance:

  • First, we focus more on how we feel inside than on the results we want to achieve
  • Second we keep our attention on maintaining inner calm and not giving way to anxiety
  • Third, we refuse to lose our composure in the face of external pressures
  • Fourth, we assume that performance is intimately connected with pleasure and keep our attention on finding enjoyment in what we are doing

Sounds a bit like doing mode….

More next week

What’s the 8-week course about? Part 1

With wonderfully good intentions I started this blog, but afraid I am disappointing myself by hardly ever making an entry! I could use the excuse that I am overwhelmed by the response to the 8-week Mindfulness programmes I started to offer in April… I have been amazed by the response – so many people looking for ways to reduce stress and live with greater ease and enjoyment – but I can’t blame that.It’s really just my usual pattern of loving to start things and finding it a bit more tricky to follow through – sound familiar?

S0, just in case anyone is following (and hopefully there might soon be something to follow) I resolved today to post something at least once a week. A good place to start might be to share something of what goes on during the 8 weeks of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Courses….

Without further waffle I will offer a few words on one of the very first themes THE AUTOMATIC PILOT….

THE AUTOMATIC PILOT is pretty self explanatory. It is the wonderful human capacity to do routine things without thinking about them. Wouldn’t it be terrible if we had to work it all out every time we tied a shoelace, or got into the car everyday and had to seach for where the ignition key should go…and then what to do next? Yes, it is wonderful that you can drive to work and rehearse your new strategy for dealing with a difficult colleague; you can eat lunch while mentally totting up your current account balance; you can go for an evening walk and relive in minute detail the near-triumph you had over the difficult work colleague – regretting slightly that you missed delivering  the barbed comment that is now so obvious – hopefully you can use it tomoorw!

But is all this so wonderful? Who is actually here? Who is living your life? Who is tasting your lunch… who is driving your car….who is enjoying a peaceful evening walk??? No one it seems!

I think the message is clear. Jon Kabat-Zinn (who pioneered the original Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction courses) talks of an empty feeling that many of us experience – a sense that there is something missing in our lives. That ‘something missing’ he suggests might be YOU!

Think about it. Without going into long detailed instructions (I could give you those also, but don’t think they’re necessary), might I suggest that for the next couple of days you experiment of just being where you are, doing what your’re doing….like when you drive, so what it’s like to just drive; when brushing your teeth, see what it’s like to just brush your teeth; when you’re eating your lunch see what it’s like to just eat your lunch.

‘Easy peasy!’ you might think. ‘ What has this got to do with meditation?’ you might ask.
Maybe not as easy as you think! But give it a try –
Who knows, to actually be present in your life might gradually seem like very good idea!
More next week…. 

Great day at Border Biz Camp!

Great day – met lots of lovely people, great energy, lots of good will. Even for a non-business person like me t’ was a very pleasant way to spend Saturday!

My own input went down well – the room was full – then why should I be surprised (I was very surprised!) Mindfulness just seems to draw a crowd! And a very nice crowd it was – folks were really receptive and engaged whole-heartedly in the short practice we did. We didn’t actually do the Breathing Space as I had planned – just a 10 minute sit with Mindfulness of Breath.

I did refer to a couple of websites and books and rather regretted that I didn’t have a couple of slides to flag up these references. So here they are:

www.mindfulnet.org – Enormous amount of resources about Mindfulness in different areas: health, education, business etc

www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk –  use of Mindfulness for chronic pain

‘Buddha’s Brain’ by Rick Hanson – great introduction to the neuroscience of meditation

‘Search Inside Yourself’ by Chade-Meng Tan – light-hearted intooduction to Google’s programme for Mindfulness-Based Emotional Intelligence programme.

And of course if you just google ‘Mindfulness’ you’ll find tons more!

I’m off now to France to spend a week doing a Yoga workshop with my teacher Peter Hersnack and 12 good friends from Ireland and UK – it’s a hard life!

Warm wishes,
Mairead

Breathing Space at Borderbizcamp…

I’m sort of looking forward to taking part in tomorrow’s borderbizcamp in Monaghan.
I say ‘sort of’ as I am a offering a 30 minute presentation on Mindfulness, and I’m feeling a tad nervous – very unusual  for me to share a platform with a whole host of business gurus!

However – I am also looking forward!
I’m intending to offer a short input on the background to the ‘Mindfulness’ movement – an amazing story of how an ancient contemplative practice has become mainstream and, starting with the medical world seems to have spread into every aspect of life, proving its worth in psychotherapy, education, sport, business – the list is endless! – I’ll then lead us in a 10 minute practice of seated meditation… not very long but enough, I hope, to give a flavour of just how relaxing, and reviving a little ‘inner’ time can be. 

I also hope to begin and end the session with a very simple practice called the ‘Three Stage Breathing Space
You can try that right now if you wish – obviously read one stage at a time, taking a minute or so to follow the instruction, then come back to the screen to read the next stage and follow that instruction – easy peasy! ENJOY!

STEP ONE: Stop whatever you are doing for a moment and take a quick check on how you are …like checking your internal weather….What thoughts have been around last couple of minutes? How is your mood? How is your body – any particular physical sensations? Bring a friendly curiosity to all of this and as far as possible just accept whatever you find….

STEP TWO: For the next minute or so, just watch the breath as it comes and goes – don’t try to do the breathing, don’t try to change or control it, simply let the breath happen, rather like waves washing a beach. If your mind wanders -and it probably will, simple come back to the breath. Have a sense that you have nothing else in the world to do but watch this breath, then this breath….

STEP THREE: Now gradually bring your attention to the whole body as you breath – having an awareness of the whole body, same time as you feel the breath coming and going. Then gradually be aware of where you are – immediate surroundings, sounds, time of day etc. Enjoy a moment of sensing your breathing body present in this place – a sense of being exactly where you are an how you are. And then, simply return to whatever you were doing before….

The ‘Breathing Space’ is a great way just to be where you are – you might ask the question Irish-style ‘sure where else would you be!’ Good question!

Looking forward to seeing you if you’re in Monaghan tomorrow…

More important visitors this Spring!

You may remember last year we had some important visitors around this time…
Both Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama created a very positive buzz – most would agree that they lifted our hearts in a time when positivity was in short supply.

This Spring again we are priviledged by two important leaders – not political leaders, not figures of power on the world stage, but leaders of hearts, and inspirational figures for humanity’s inner journey….

MARTINE BATCHELOR ….. a delightfully humourous, skillful and compassionate meditation teacher with whom I did a 7-day retreat in Devon last summer, is leading a 2-day retreat in Oscailt, Ballsbridge on 26 and 27 May.
Details at www.oscailt.com

THICH NHAT HANH…..world famous Vietnamese Zen Master (author of ‘Miracle of Mindfulness) is giving an evening talk in Dublin Convention Centre April 11 and a 4-day retreat in Killarney April 12 -15
Details at www.mindfulnessireland.org

Check them out. If you want your heart to be lifted in a different way this spring. If you are looking for some inspiration/ encouragement to keep your inner life on track, they may be just what you need. But even if you don’t get there in person, I am sure their presence and the practice they lead will have a ripple effect on all of us!

Being here – the source of our radiance and vitality!

When the Buddha was travelling around teaching, he was once asked ‘Why are your followers so radiant?’

He answered ‘Because they don’t dwell in the past, nor do they hanker after the future. Those who dwell in the past or hanker after the future are like green leaves cut down and left in the sun – they dry up and wither’

So in meditation, we’re invited to really be here in this very moment, and look to this moment as the source of our vitality and radiance. Not just when we’re sitting on the meditation but when we’re eating our breakfast, driving to work, walking the dog, taking a shower, drinking a cup of tea, chatting with a friend.
Why not experiment – whatever you are doing right now – can you allow this moment to nourish you…..