Welcome! This page is designed to support your attendance at the BBC Mindfulness Course running from 8th July - 12th August 2014. Information about each of the sessions will be added as the course progresses, as well as mindfulness exercises that you can practice between sessions. If you miss a session, you can always check here to catch up on the theme and the invited home practice for the week.
Resources for BBC Mindfulness Course, Summer 2014
In week 5 we consider how mindfulness might be applied to communication. We explore stressful interactions and the when/how of bringing mindfulness to these occasions:
We also consider how mindfulness can be brought into other less stressful interactions, potentially enriching our engagement with others and creating greater feelings of connection. We often feel different when we know someone is fully engaged with us, bringing curiosity, openness, acceptance and warmth, and not needing to be anywhere else.
Putting mindful communication into practice
See if you can bring awareness to your interactions this week, whether with colleagues, friends, family or anyone else (e.g. someone who serves you in a shop). What is it like to do this? What do you notice? Can you spot how you might habitually act, and choose to do something different?
As we are coming to the end of this mindfulness introduction course, we are really keen to hear your feedback! Please take a few moments to fill in an evaluation questionnaire.
In session 4 we consider the value of thinking and how far conscious thought has allowed us to develop, whilst recognising that it also brings some pitfalls. Being able to reflect on the past, to plan ahead and to imagine scenarios that are far from any reality can really support learning and creativity. However, unfortunately, we can sometimes get stuck in a 'thinking mode' where we try (and fail) to think our way out of situations which are out of our control, or we are held hostage by our thoughts about things we wish we did differently in the past or are dreading in the future.
Trying to push thoughts away or fight them with more thoughts, they often come back. We might argue with them, but often they hold a really rich emotional intensity which is hard to argue with. And herein lies some useful knowledge: We don't need to fix or make difficult thoughts go away. We can acknowledge that they are thoughts, likely fuelled and coloured by our emotions in the moment, and we can let them just be. In this way, we take a step back, creating space for other thoughts to arise and begin to see that all thoughts come and go. This can free us up and break us out of the 'thinking mode', giving us more control and reducing stress into the next moments.
Imagine a man who has built a pond in his garden. All that he wants is for the water to be still and peaceful. He sits and watches, a smooth reflection on the surface of the water. A moment later, a single leaf drops into the pond causing ripples. In a moment of panic, he jumps into the water trying to push the ripples down with his hands. This may sound like an over reaction, but this is often our response to difficult thoughts or emotions. If the man sits a little longer and watches, the ripples settle down on their own. In the same way, thoughts and emotions can and do pass without us needing to 'jump in' and cause more ripples.
Putting mindfulness of thoughts into practice:
Begin by paying attention to the breath, then when you feel ready, just open to thoughts. Noticing them as they arise (even thoughts that pretend not to be thoughts like "I'm not thinking anything" or "I don't have time for this"), see if you can watch them from a distance without getting wrapped up in them. Then seeing what comes up next. If you get lost in a particular train of thought, come back to the breath, then turn back to thoughts when you feel more grounded.
Some people like to use imagery in mindfulness of thoughts - picturing themselves sat alone in a cinema, and their thoughts appearing and fading away on the big screen in front of them - or sitting by a stream, with each thought represented by a leaf gently flowing downstream - or perhaps watching the blue sky, and thoughts moving across the sky as clouds of varying sizes and shapes. You might have your own image that comes to mind and works for you, that's absolutely fine too.
To try a guided meditation that involves thoughts have a go at any of the 'Sitting Meditation' tab on the Free Resources page. They tend to explore awareness of breath and body before moving to sounds and thoughts. For a shorter sounds and thoughts meditation, here is a short practice guided by Mark Williams.
Session 3 focused on reconnecting with the body. We practised paying attention to sensations in the body, both in relative stillness and during and after movement. Often we spend most of our time in our heads, so allowing ourselves to spend some time with the body can feel very different.
We often see how fast the mind dismisses the body and returns to thought - our task is to notice this and where the mind has gone, then return the attention to the body. In movement some people find it easier to stay with sensations in the body, perhaps as there is more to 'listen' to and we are actively involved in making movements. However, there may also be a full range of pleasant, neutral or unpleasant sensations arising and choices to make about what is right for this particular body in this particular moment (e.g. is this enough of a stretch right now, am I noticing a tendency to compete with myself or others?).
Over time, we can get to know the patterns of sensations within the body and begin to develop a different relationship to it. This allows us to see how emotions or thoughts affect the body, or how particular sensations in the body might give rise to thoughts and emotions. When we spot a particular negative pattern occurring, we can then observe what is happening and choose to break the cycle.
See if you can bring more awareness to your body at moments throughout the day. Check-in with your posture, perhaps even taking a quick scan through different areas of the body. Based on what you find, choose whether to stay with the sensations as they are, or to make a conscious movement. This might be by adjusting your posture or perhaps recognising that you have been sat in the same position for a long time, so getting up and stretching or talking a short walk. Check-in with your eyes - sometimes when sitting at a screen, we blink less often. If you wish, take a few conscious blinks, or even allow the eyes to close for a few moments and let the eyes rest and regain some moisture from the eyelids.
For the formal practice this week, have a go at picking one of the body scan practices from the 'Free Resources' page. There is a range, from 4 minute body scans to 45 minutes, so see which you would like to do. It may also be interesting to spot why you chose a particular practice, and whether this identifies a particular pattern of thinking or behaviour for you.
In our second session we introduced a mindfulness exercise exploring the breath and sounds. Following a discussion of the mindfulness exercise and experiences of the home practice (bringing awareness to daily activities and mindfulness of breath) we considered the range of what we can notice in each moment. Greater awareness allows us to engage at a deeper level with positive experiences. However, we may also become more aware of unpleasant experiences. We may start to notice how we react to these experiences (both positive and negative), which opens up the possibility of responding differently rather than reacting in a habitual way.
The very idea of getting to know or turning towards unpleasant moments may be alien to us. However, the more we get to know experiences that we consider to be unpleasant, the more we can start to understand and tease out what our raw experience is and how we might be entering into cycles of reactivity that generate or maintain suffering.
Continue with mindfulness of everyday activities, either continuing with the same activity as last week or picking something new to experience.
Mindfulness of sounds. Notice any reactions you may have to particular sounds, then see if you can return to the raw sensations of the sounds themselves. See if you can have a go at this each day, whether using the guidance or having a go by yourself.
In session one we explored the concept of 'automatic pilot'. It's amazing how much of the time we can be drifting through the day, daydreaming or thinking about the past or the future, without much awareness as to what we are doing in the moment. Through intentionally bringing more awareness to the present moment we can begin to engage at a deeper level with our experience. This can result in increased enjoyment of positive experiences, such as really tasting a delicious meal (rather than eating it whilst texting, watching TV and having a conversation simultaneously) as well as helping us to see how we might habitually react in many situations. This in turn allows us to take more control over our lives, choosing how to respond rather than react.
See if you can bring a greater level of awareness and curiosity to a daily activity that you might usually do on automatic pilot. For example, brushing your teeth, having a shower, walking in to work. Really tune in to all of your senses and if your mind wanders onto other things, when you notice, gently bring your awareness back to the activity.
You are also invited to experience a short formal mindfulness practice, mindfulness of the breath. See if you can engage with the practice (either 10 or 20 minutes) every day between now and next week.
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