Just breathing. Perhaps simply taking a moment to notice breathing and the movement of the breath in the body. Taking a moment to “go back to basics” and re-connect with the breath. It is all to easy to seek new experiences and different ways of bringing mindfulness into our lives … and to get carried away with these new quests. It’s also helpful to remember that we already know how to be mindful and that we have a constant, vibrant reminder with us at all times if only we pay it some attention.
Returning to mindfulness is only a breath away.
I’ll use this page to share some Mindful Musings, current research stories and other items of interest from the mindfulness world.
The Mindfulness Initiative has just launched a seminal discussion paper “Mindfulness: Developing Agency in Urgent Times” which discusses the progression from “individual mindfulness to conscious action, mutual collaboration and collective agency”.
Mindfulness-based programs (Crane et al, 2017) derive from the seminal work of Jon Kabat-Zinn in the form of Mindfulness-based stress reduction courses. These courses sought to heal those suffering from a range of long-term conditions. Kabat-Zinn often reminded people that as long as they were breathing, “there was more right with you than wrong with you” (Kabat-Zinn-Zinn, 2013). MBSR was open to all, with participants finding themselves in groups with people experiencing a range of conditions.
MBCT (Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) incorporated essential elements of MBSR in the service of treating those with recurrent depression. It was developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale (Segal, Williams & Teasdale 2013) and brought together mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy in an 8-week course.
Research into both these approaches has increased exponentially in recent years. The American Mindfulness Research Association covers up-to-date movements in the field.
A Short Story: The one you feed …
An old Cherokee grandfather was sitting by the fire telling stories to his young grandson. “We all have two wolves inside of ourselves. One is impulsive, greedy, and mean-spirited; the other is kind, understanding and caring. Life is often a struggle between the two wolves.” The grandson thought about it, and asked “Which one wins?” The grandfather gently replied, “The one you feed.”
Whilst we are all navigating the challenges brought on by the current pandemic, it’s helpful to remember to look after our own mental health so that we can support and look after others. Now is a skilful time to consciously choose to incline towards Kindness and Understanding, without leaning towards judging the first wolf as “bad” and the second as “good”. We need to take care of both wolves, since both have something to teach us.
Our perspective and perception of our lives will be coloured by the Wolf that is calling the loudest. Sometimes we need to pause, and listen carefully so that we can act skilfully.
Jack Kornfield’s words are also pertinent here:
“Sometimes during periods when your struggles overwhelm you or last for a long time, you can mistake them for your life. You become used to your difficulty, and loyal to your suffering. You don’t know who you will be without it. But your difficulties are not the end of the story. They are one part of it ….”
Keeping your practice alive: A Day of Mindfulness at Home. Given the challenges offered by current world events, a day (or half-day) retreat at home may be a skilful way of using the time to take care of yourself and your mental health. It is helpful to set yourself a rough schedule of formal practices for the time that you have available, and to protect the time for your retreat (by switching off phones, devices etc and telling people that you be unavailable at this time). Set your intention to attend to your experience moment by moment, as we would do on a group retreat day. Remember to extend your mindfulness to the ordinary things (e.g. making a cup of tea, drinking and eating, washing up) as well as to the formal practices of sitting, walking, and doing the body scan. Experiment with mixing up the practices between stillness and walking, guided (with an audio recording) and silence. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a theme to reflect on, for example, the role kindness plays in your life, or gratitude and appreciation, or establishing equanimity. Please feel free to email me if you would like to share your experiences of a Day of Mindfulness at Home. Keep safe & well!
You can access the free guided meditations that I recorded for the Oxford Mindfulness Centre on YouTube here. Please remember that they were recorded to support home practice for the Mindfulness for Life course and were to be used with the support of a teacher. Please take care of yourself and only use these recordings when it feels safe to do so.
The audios that accompanied my mindfulness courses will be loaded here …
What graduates are saying…
Thank you for helping me recognise my thoughts … and to know that I can choose which ones to follow!
I was surprised that I could feel so comfortable with the group … even though they were strangers! I felt very safe and secure in your group sessions, so it was easy to share my experiences (even the difficult ones)
You had a delicate way of introducing us to the key skills of mindfulness; and so it was easier to engage with the practice and wait to see what unfolded
Thank you for teaching me that everything in life can be a mindfulness teacher
Thanks for the motivation and inspiration to get me started on the mindfulness path
It has given me a different perspective on life. I feel better for it and I really enjoyed it.
Thank you for passing on some real life changing tips … especially for introducing me to ‘the bucketful of kindness’. I take it everywhere with me now!
I can’t express how much of a change you have brought into my life! Thank you for your dedication.
Thank you … it has been challenging but superb!
You have literally changed my life. Thank you for running these courses.
You have a gentleness and joie de vivre that invites us to walk the path of mindfulness with you.
Thank you so much for the care you have shown each of us on the course ….. you are a great example of mindfulness in action!
Thank you for being a gentle and truthful teacher. The subtlety of your teaching has really stayed with me … I can at times sit with an awareness and gratitude to my harder lessons in life because of your style of teaching.
Thanks so much for the course, which I have gained a great deal from for both myself, my clients and the kids at school. It was a privilege to share the experience with such a warm and engaging group.
“I would like to thank you for your insightful, intuitive and profound guidance …. I am really enjoying my (albeit at times, challenging) journey. Who would have thought that 5 minutes of mindful awareness could bring me so much. Above all thank you for your compassion ….. thank you for being such a generous spirit.”
“… I love it that you walk the talk …”
Sarra Whicheloe, Iyengar Yoga Teacher writes:
“A person who truly cares, Gill is a gentle and sensitive teacher. This course has taught me an essential life skill”. If you would like to contact Sarra, please see her website.
“What a wonderful course. I very much enjoyed the whole thing and I learned so much. Mindfulness is now my way of life!”
“Interesting, insightful and have taken away everyday practices that can be applied whenever and wherever”
“…. I was worried aboout whether I could remain in silence for a whole day … but the Day Retreat was a delight! Thank you for holding the space open for us in such a gentle way ….”
I have found mindfulness to be very helpful with the more difficult things that life has thrown at me [since completing the course] …” (a course graduate on returning to a Follow On practice day)