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‘The Little Mindfulness Workbook’ by Gary Hennessey

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.

Working through the book, you first learn what mindfulness is, through written explanation and experiential enquiry. By the end of the book, you may well find yourself having developed a rich and nourishing practice. The book is divided into clear, concise chapters, each outlining the theory behind a particular theme, introducing practical enquiry and ‘mindfulness in action’ exercises, meditations, reflective questions on your experience and a summary of the main ideas introduced. The principle ideas covered include definitions of mindfulness, the difference between reacting and responding, how awareness brings choice and how we can influence our feelings by considering primary and secondary experiences, readdressing the balance between doing and being modes, meditation postures, accepting difficult experiences whilst also opening up to let in the good, kindness to ourselves and others, and taking your practice forward.

To truly understand what mindfulness is, you need to experience it. This book introduces key meditations, explaining the relevance and significance of each one, including the body scan, mindfulness of breathing, mindful movement, and a variety of compassion, acceptance and connection meditations. As well as being included in the text, each meditation is accompanied by a guided audio, available for free on Soundcloud, which includes many other Breathworks’ meditations and is well worth a look in itself.

Whilst this book provides a wonderful introduction to mindfulness, I think it’s equally useful for the experienced meditator. If you are wondering what mindfulness is, are feeling overwhelmed by the wealth of information out there, or are looking for fresh input and a new perspective on your existing practice, this little book is well worth a read. It may be pocket sized, but it is packed full of wisdom and thought provoking ideas. I worked through it to boost my practice after recent illness. It’s a welcome addition to my ‘Mindfulness Toolkit’.

 

You can find information about many other books that have inspired me in my Bookshelf.

Self-Soothe

I was becoming invisible, my body paling to the white sheets. As I lay on the hospital trolley, unable to move or speak, all I had was my mind. The strength of my thoughts and the images they created could take me anywhere. As I felt my heart sinking and tears pooling at my eyes I knew I needed to change direction. I focused on my breath. It gave me perspective. What was I feeling and where was it coming from? I felt utterly worthless. The actions, or lack of actions, by others during a time of acute illness in A&E had triggered an inner story; a deep seated belief that I knew to be untrue, yet at that moment I was compelled to believe.Read More

Reflections on Retreat

It was a dark winter’s afternoon and I was surrounded by fields in rural Suffolk. I’d lost all sense of where I was when I embarked on my first meditation retreat, but the centre soon enveloped me in its gentle and calm atmosphere. I was at Vajrasana, part of the London Buddhist Centre, in the state of the art ‘intelligent’ building that opened in 2016. Communal spaces, bedrooms and meditation spaces surrounded peaceful courtyards. Each way I looked, a picture was framed by the architecture, changing with the light and dark, and the misty fog that seemed to shroud us until our final afternoon.Read More

A Mindfully Merry Christmas

Pause. Absorb yourself in the present moment. Engage fully with the festivities. It’s easy for mindfulness practice to be forgotten about during the busy time of Christmas, but it’s a useful way to remind yourself what it is you are truly celebrating, whilst looking after your well-being.

Here are ten of my favourite ways to practise mindfulness during the Christmas period –Read More

Christmas Connections

There’s a picture that has been hung up with the decorations in my parents’ home for as long as I can remember. It exudes feelings of love, warmth, light and joy. There’s a closeness and intimacy of the family holding hands together; everyone is connected as they share such a special day. Looking at it conjures up warm, cosy memories of my childhood Christmases, but I know for many, Christmas can be a very different experience. Some people are alone, others feel lonely even though they are surrounded by people. The same is often true living with a chronic illness. You can find yourself spending lengthy stretches of time alone through being housebound, unable to socialise or work. You can also be surrounded by people but still feel lonely, perhaps because you feel nobody understands or can truly share what you are experiencing.Read More

The Cortical Homunculus – Reshaping the Brain through Movement

cortical-homunculus-image

The cortical homunculus is a physical representation of our body in our brain. There are two types of these neurological ‘maps’; one for sensory pathways, the other for motor. The area a body part takes up on the map depends on how innervated it is, not how large. If our bodies actually looked like our brain’s representation, we would look very strange indeed. What these maps look like also varies from person to person as they are dependent on the information the brain receives. My hands probably have a larger representation than average due to my music and crafts, whilst my legs are likely to have a smaller representation than average as a result of the movement symptoms of my FND.Read More

‘What do I need?’ – A Technique for Self-Care

Consciously Connected - what do I need?

George is a middle-aged man who lives in the States. He has a severe, progressive condition that affects all aspects of his day to day life, yet he is functioning on a higher level than many others with comparable disease. George practises mindfulness and is included as a case study in ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn. ‘Within the limits of his disease, he is actively meeting life’s challenges rather than sitting at home and bemoaning his fate. He takes each moment as it comes and figures out how he can work with it and stay relaxed and aware.’ An example of this is how George does the weekly grocery shop for himself and his wife. He takes his time. He rests. He asks for help when necessary. He gets the shopping packed into light bag loads which he is then able to lift from the trolley to the car. The daily tasks he completes in this way bring value and meaning to his life as he is able to contribute to the running of his household, whilst self-managing his condition. Read More

Satsang at Thaxted Yoga

Consciously Connected - Satsang 2

Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu – May all beings be happy and free.

The chanting filled the space. Twenty-five people had entered the studio alone or in small groups only thirty minutes earlier, yet now we had become one, living the true meaning of yoga, ‘union’.

It was a chilly Sunday evening and the first satsang, or gathering, of our Thaxted Yoga community. The studio space had been transformed, full of cosy corners to relax. There was a plentiful supply of refreshments; hot chai, vegan hot dogs and tacos, raw chocolate brownies and energy balls, popcorn, even cupcakes iced with the Thaxted Yoga logo, yoga poses and tiny rolled up mats. People curled up in blankets, resting on bolsters and cushions, bathed in the soft glow of candles and dimmed lights.Read More

It’s not the falling that matters; it’s the getting up that counts

Conciously Connected - It's not the falling that matters; it's the getting up that counts

I move from side to side, shifting the centre of gravity in my chest, left, right, left, right. My knees bend softly, my feet start to lift up, left, right, left, right. I look ahead in the mirror, left, right, left, right. I hold the rail, the sturdy support, left, right, left, right. There’s an unfamiliar jolt beneath me; my body twists and I fall on my back. Read More

A Handmade Gift

Consciously Connected Daisy Blanket

Little Niece D was five yesterday.  Five years since I saw my baby niece and Goddaughter come into the world.  Five years since I first held her in my arms before her Mummy had the strength to.  Five years since I bought her first dolly.  I instantly fell in love with that baby girl, her dark eyes looking about her and her little lips searching for milk.  That love has grown with each day and year I’ve been blessed to have such a special little person in my life. Read More