Practising mindfulness is a process. It’s not about trying to get something, but about living and being, allowing the practice to unfold just as life does. There is no end point but that doesn’t mean we don’t make progress. Every so often, something happens that makes me realise just how far I have travelled. It’s a moment to acknowledge, to explore and to celebrate.
I had one of these moments last week. I received a phone call from a hospital I am under; could I attend a three month inpatient neuro-rehabilitation programme with less than two days notice? I have been on the waiting list for the last eighteen months. It’s the only treatment available in this country that I am yet to try. Places are like gold dust.
But two days notice to up and leave daily life for three months in hospital is a tall order for anyone. Factor in the extra challenges I face with my disability, the length of time it takes me to get things done whilst managing my condition, and it’s a tall order indeed.
I didn’t know what I would decide, but I felt surprisingly calm. I was able to take time to explore my options. I could look from different perspectives. I drew upon the broad, stable awareness I’ve cultivated in practising the open heart meditation. I maintained my grounding as I allowed thoughts and feelings to come and go. I was able to look in on the situation and see it for what it was, rather than flapping about in panic, which would have been understandable but unhelpful.
As I thought it through clearly, the reality emerged that I would have less than twenty-four hours to get ready. I knew that wasn’t long enough. I asserted my needs, requesting the weekend to prepare and make arrangements, and I left it in the hands of the hospital, comfortable with my decision.
This time it wasn’t to be. Although my treatment would have begun no later, the bed had to be filled. I continue on the waiting list, not knowing when the next call will come or how much notice I’ll be given, but I now feel confident that it will feel like a ripple in the water, rather than a wave crashing down on me. With the help of my mindfulness practice, I can respond rather than react.
Two weeks ago I posted about the Breathworks Mindfulness teacher training I was about to embark on (here) and how mindfulness is enabling me to align my needs with my aspirations. I had the most wonderful time on retreat. We had a week of sunshine and inspiring training at Vajrasana. As I’d hoped, my practice most certainly was my protector.Read More
It’s an exciting week, the official start of a new pathway I have been embarking on. Tomorrow, I will start the Breathworks Mindfulness teacher training programme. It’s not unusual for me to start a new venture, to say I’m going to do something and then make it happen, often against quite unfavourable odds, but something about this feels reassuringly different.Read More
The ring of a bell is a familiar sound to meditators; an invitation to settle and become aware, it marks the start of a formal meditation practice. When I hear the chime, I find myself more awake to my immediate experience, my breath, my body, my thoughts and my feelings.
A helpful way to include mindfulness in daily life is to use ‘bells’, or cues, as a reminder to become aware. It can be an object you keep in your bag or on your desk, a particular activity you do regularly (for example answering the phone or opening a door), a reminder on your phone, a post-it note on your fridge, there are so many ways to scatter bells throughout the day.Read More
There’s a lady in the bed opposite. She’s waiting patiently with such elegance and poise. Later today she is having surgery to remove a tumour from her brain. She’ll be awake during the operation. She’s been warned of possible complications; loss of function and changes in personality. She waits, calmly. “It’s okay for me,” she says, “this is a one-off. It’s you I feel for having an ongoing condition.”
There’s a lady in the bed alongside me. She’s been waiting for hours, days, for tests she desperately hopes will reveal answers. “I just want to know what’s wrong,” she says, jumping up every time someone approaches her bed. I don’t know what’s tormenting her more, the waiting or the unknown.
As for me, my bags are packed and I’m waiting to go home. My face lights up as I think of seeing my kitties and being in the peace and quiet of my little oasis. But here I find myself, waiting.Read More
I once found myself sitting in a hospital patient group with a raisin in my hand. What did it feel like? What did it look like? What did it smell like? What did it taste like? At this point, there were murmurs of distaste going around the room as most of the group, myself included, didn’t like raisins.
The raisin exercise was my introduction to mindfulness. I may not have particularly enjoyed the taste, but I did notice the sweet earthy scent and the wrinkled grooves sitting on my tongue for the first time. That one little raisin was bursting with flavour. It proved a point; when you deliberately pay close attention to something, using all of your senses, whilst not being clouded by the past or the future (or the judgement, ‘I don’t like raisins!’), your immediate experience can change in powerful and unexpected ways.Read More
‘Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully each moment, and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.’ I’ve recently found myself waking up with this Gatha by Thich Nhat Hanh. As I start the day it reminds me that each hour is full of possibility, opportunity and hope.Read More
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.” Jon Kabat-Zinn often adds to his well known definition, saying, “as if your life depended on it.”
As if your life depended on it.
I’ve written in previous posts about how I use mindfulness to identify and acknowledge how I feel, enabling me to show myself kindness and attend to my needs during the most challenging times (‘Self-soothe‘ and ‘What do I need? A Technique for Self-Care‘). I’ve recently realised the importance not just of my practice during the harder times, but during the gentler times too. It’s during those better times that reserves of resilience are built. Practising mindfulness has been compared to weaving a parachute. As Mark Williams and Danny Penman wrote in ‘Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World’, “there’s no point in doing this when we’re falling headlong towards destruction. We have to weave our parachute every day so that it’s always there to hold us in an emergency.” So how do we weave our parachute and keep those reserves of resilience topped up? Read More
So you’re reading this blog. I wonder how you got here? Maybe you came online to send an email, saw a notification for a new post and here you are? Or perhaps you were scrolling through Facebook, this post popped up and you clicked the link before you even knew it? I’ve been thinking a lot about my use and interaction with technology and the internet. I know too much time on these things doesn’t serve me well, yet it is so easy to get sucked in. If you go with the flow of modern society, that seems to be exactly what happens, but at what cost?Read More
What is mindfulness? The next time I’m asked, I may well recommend ‘The Little Mindfulness Workbook,’ by Gary Hennessey, co-founder of Breathworks. The small, compact size of this new mini book is appealing, yet Gary, with his extensive experience practising and teaching mindfulness, introduces many key principles and practices. He captures the essence of mindfulness, which can be so hard to articulate, in a down to earth and friendly manner.Read More