I’m participating in Mindful in May, a transformative one month online mindfulness program which brings together the world’s best meditation teachers, wellbeing experts and neuroscientists to teach you the tools to transform your mind towards greater well
My initial post provided a brief background as to where my interest in ‘Mindfulness’ came from and also advised that I was planning to publish a wrap up post after each week of the program to share my learnings/little gold nugget takeaways. Last week I posted on Mindful in May – Week 1.
This is a very long post, and I usually avoid writing long posts, but in this case it’s been unavoidable as there is so much within the week to try and summarise. As I suggested for Week 1 – perhaps skim and read the bits that interest you but by all means if this subject matter fascinates you, as it does me, read every detail and enjoy! So lets now have a look at what Week 2 had to offer.
ONE: Interview with BJ Fogg – ‘Tools & Tips for Making Meditation a Lasting Habit’
My wrap up of the interview:
- His focus/work is on behaviour change. How do you create systems that help people change their behaviour and do things that they would really like to do! (tapping into motivation you already have)
- He created the ‘Tiny Habits‘ program. Tiny habits in a nutshell is about breaking down the habit that you want to adopt to a tiny little habit. Find where it fits naturally in your day (through trial and error) and then attach it to an existing habit to help anchor it.
- Every time you do this new habit – celebrate it! Fire off a positive emotion inside yourself (like “yay me”!).
- Revision. Redesign. Revision. Redesign.
- Habits are like plants. Plant a seed in the right spot, nurture it, and it will grow.
- If you’re struggling for time, too busy etc, to do the new habit then break it down further. For example if your new habit were to floss your teeth, then floss just one tooth, or if it is to meditate – then meditate for 1 minute or 30 seconds. Just keep the seed alive. Be pleased with yourself for doing this and don’t beat yourself up!
- The most common obstacle for people who try to create new habits/behaviour change is keeping motivation and competing motivations.
- Many people are too industrious – too many BIG changes all at once rarely work. It’s like transplanting fully grown trees to your yard. They require a lot of work and if you get distracted, they can die.
- Design change so that it doesn’t rely on motivation.
- Big changes need a change of environment. They can be done but are rarely easy to do! Change of environment involves things like – a new job, moving house/location, new friends etc.
- Positive Reinforcements. Remember to fire off a positive emotion when you do your new habit. It feels good and makes you want to do this habit again!
- Have fun. Be playful. Have compassion for yourself. If it doesn’t work – tweak it and just keep going. Recognise your successes.
TWO: A guest meditation with Lauren Tober – ‘A deep yogic relaxation meditation’ – [17 mins, 50 sec]
Dr Lauren Tober is a Clinical Psychologist, Life Coach and Yoga Teacher based in Byron Bay and Mullumbimby, Australia. With a passion for health, healing, happiness and awakening Lauren integrates the best of western psychology with ancient yogic wisdom, both on and off the mat. She is the founder of Capturing Gratitude, a worldwide photographic happiness project, A Daily Dose of Bliss, a highly acclaimed online yoga course for finding your calm in the busy-ness of life and Living Your Heartfelt Desires a heartfelt online course to consciously create a life you love and Meditation, Pure + Simple a 6 week iRest Yoga Nidra course.
This was a beautifully relaxing meditation. Lauren has the most calming and relaxing voice! It was similar to a body scan meditation as the focus was very much on awareness of the body.
ONE: A guest meditation with Kate James – ‘A meditation to deepen your mindfulness’ – [7 mins, 24 secs]
Kate James has spent the past sixteen years working as a coach, meditation teacher, mindfulness speaker and retreat facilitator. She is also the author of four best-selling personal development books including Believe in Yourself and Be Mindful. Kate works with clients to help them increase self-awareness, build confidence and gain clarity about their career and life direction. She has practiced meditation herself for over 24 years.
This meditation began with placing your awareness on external sounds and then moved on to awareness of the body and later the breath. It was a lovely, relaxing meditation!
ONE: Interview with Michael Merzenich – ‘Train your brain and reach your fullest potential’
Dr. Michael Merzenich is the pioneer of neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change and adapt. Having published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and being bestowed in 2016 with the Kavli Prize (one of the world’s top neuroscience prizes), it’s fair to say Dr Merzenich is perhaps the most recognisable figure in brain plasticity today and contributes a breadth of knowledge to how we develop competence through experience and learning. You can read more about Dr Merzenichs’ work in his book, Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life.
This was quite a lengthy interview at just a touch under 1 hour. There was a lot of great information, so though I’ll try and summarise as best I can, there were quite a few fascinating points I want to share.
My wrap up of the interview:
- It was once thought that the brain was only plastic in infancy and childhood, and that once we reached adulthood it became frozen, with the only change possible being decline as we aged. Studies have proven this to be untrue and that in fact our brains are continually plastic throughout life. Plastic of course meaning – changing and remodelling.
- Plasticity in a young brain differs to plasticity in an older brain. As a baby and young child you have no decision-making abilities so you have no control over the changed happening in your brain as you learn. As an adult you can decide what changes you want or don’t want. “The machine is actually controlling its own evolution.”
- Neurologically, depression is a complex business. There are distortions in 5 or 6 different fundamental systems and processes of the brain, and ‘the pill’ (antidepressants) addresses only one of them. The others remain uncorrected. There will be some self-correction and improvement but because those others remain uncorrected, you’re highly at risk for recurrence of the problem. The underpinnings of the problem are still there. Ultimately, we will correct depression by addressing ALL of the problems that manifest it.
- Neuroplasticity is a two-way street. There are positives and negatives. It’s biodirectional, and you have control of the switch! As you age and lose ability, the consequence of negative plasticity, the brain is changing itself by neuroplasticity processes to sustain control. Alternatively, you can at any time, flip the switch from deterioration to improvement.
- Negative plasticity happens when you’re not paying attention to your brain and not doing what the brain needs to sustain high performance ability.
- Brain HQ – An online brain-training system that represents the culmination of 30 years of research in neurological science and related medicine. It was designed by an international team of neuroscientists, led by Michael Merzenich.
- Dr Merzenich says that neurological medicine and psychiatry treat disasters. We should be anticipating the way the brain is changing that will lead a person into the ‘ditch’. Most issues of neurology & medicine with regards to development of neuro-degenerative or physiological diseases are at their end points
- Attention and Neuroplasticity. Attention has the effect of amplifying the release of critical enablers of plasticity. One of these enablers contributes to your alertness. It’s the control of your light switch (brightness). The second chemical enabler, when it is released, controls the things your brain can change to (eg move better etc).
- Practicing ‘paying attention’ is the starting point for all useful learning.
- Brains naturally slow down & become sluggish as we age BUT we live in exciting times for brain health. An old brain can be brought back to its ‘prime performance’ with training. Dr Merzenich sees a future of ‘managed brain health’.
TWO: A guest meditation with Tara Brach – ‘Relaxing back into presence’ – [12 mins]
Tara Brach is a leading Western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. She has practiced and taught meditation for over 35 years, with an emphasis on mindfulness meditation. Tara is the senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington and author of several books on meditation and spiritual awakening including Radical Acceptance.
This meditation was about learning how to settle the body so the mind can follow. It was lovely!
ONE: A meditation by Elise Bialylew – ‘Coming home to the breath and cultivating compassion’ – [25 mins]
Today’s meditation is a longer practice that ran for 25 minutes. It was a recording of a live meditation that Elise hosted for thousands of people around the world. It’s an opportunity to deepen our practice. I loved the longer meditation as it was more time to quieten the mind and reach a lovely relaxed state.
TODAY’S MINDFUL TIP: Be mindful while waiting: Waiting in lines can often be a frustrating experience as we feel held up in our day and get caught in tense thoughts that fuel stress and irritation. We can practice mindfulness by “coming home to the body” and letting go of frustrated thoughts” and transform these “waiting” experiences into opportunities to strengthen our capacity for mindfulness. Be mindful in the supermarket queue by tuning in to your body. Sense your feet on the ground and scan the body for any tension that might be present. Let that tension go. Check in with how you are feeling, notice any irritation or impatience in the body and us the breath, see if you can let it go. When you notice yourself caught up in thoughts like “why is this person in front of me moving so slowly” see if you can let them go and come back to the sensations in your body.
We were invited to view a video by David Foster Wallace called ‘This is Water‘ depicting the frustration’s of daily life and what we need to remember in order to transform them.
ONE: An interview with Timothea Goddard – ‘Attitudes and antidotes to support greater emotional balance and wisdom’
Timothea Goddard is recognised as a pioneer in bringing MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) to Australia over the past 14 years and is certified with the Center for Mindfulness, UMass. Timothea has worked in private practice for 30 years as a psychotherapist, and educator, having trained in humanistic, psychodynamic and body-based psychotherapy.She is Director of Training with the Mindfulness Training Institute – Australia and New Zealand and in this capacity is driving excellence in the training of mindfulness teachers in the region.
My wrap up of the interview:
- Timothea is a strong advocate for retreats. Mindfulness is about learning to know your own mind. A retreat offers an opportunity to really meet your own mind and work with it. It’s a way to immerse that you can’t generally do in everyday life. Plus, there is the benefit of experienced teachers. A retreat is balm for the soul.
- Mindfulness is open heartedness and investigation and curiosity … of our experience (eg exploring body sensations, emotions, thoughts, memories, impulses) – the phenomena of being a person. It’s about investigating how your own mind works so you can become less reactive to changes.
- I liked the SNOW GLOBE example Timothea gave: There may be lots of stuff going on in your life (chaos, stress, busy’ness etc) but when you sit still, with a little time and focus, all the chaos/thoughts flying around in your mind will eventually settle.
- Timothea’s advice to those new to mindfulness and meditation:
- To know that if you’re finding it tough – keep going!
- Do a training course – eg 8 week course with intelligence and theory behind it, such as Mindfulness CBT offered by the Openground team
- Find a gang/tribe (much as Elise has provided for all of us doing MiM) so that it’s not an isolated pursuit.
- Do a retreat. It profoundly deepens your understanding and practice.
- Mindfulness and Courage – you need courage in order to leap into something unknown and to relinquish some control – eg going on a retreat. Mindfulness is a pathway to maturity. It takes courage to open your mind and investigate.
- Curiosity and Fear can’t exist in the brain at the same time.
- Mindfulness and Resilience offers a way to get curious rather than reactive. Building it over time creates a different sensitivity about what used to frighten you. Non-reactivity gives you the capacity to explore psychologically things that have been known and born. It gives you the capacity to bare things.
TWO: A guest meditation with Timothea Goddard (as above) – ‘The Gravity is your Friend Meditation’ – [10mins 48secs]
This was a lovely meditation but I didn’t get time to listen to it until evening when I was in bed. I was tired and kept dozing off. I need to do this one again when I am more alert!
Day 13 was Sunday and Mother’s Day. I had my children with me in the morning and I was with my mother and siblings in the afternoon, so I didn’t find time to listen to the interview or do a meditation on this day. However, I did listen to the interview and do the meditation on Day 14 which was Integration Day.
ONE: An interview with Chris Germer – ‘Mindfulness and Self Compassion’
Christopher Germer, PhD is a clinical psychologist specializing in mindfulness and compassion-based psychotherapy. He is a founding member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School, author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, and co-editor of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy and Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy: Deepening Mindfulness in Clinical Practice. Dr. Germer lectures and conducts workshops internationally on the art and science of mindful self-compassion.
I really enjoyed this interview. Chris spoke in a way that was easy for me to understand and what he said really resonated with me.
My wrap up of the interview:
- Self Compassion is:
- Mindfulness – knowing what you’re experiencing while you are experiencing it
- Common Humanity – feeling connected with others, rather than feeling isolated or separate
- Self-Kindness – rather than self-criticism
- A more informal definition of self compassion might be that – it’s treating ourselves with the same kindness and understanding when we suffer, as we might treat someone we truly love.
- Mindfulness is – awareness of present moment experience with acceptance.
- If Mindfulness is acceptance of the moment to moment experience, COMPASSION is loving awareness of the ‘experiencer’.
- Mindful Self Compassion training developed by Chris Germer and Kristin Neff is delivered all over the world. Studies have shown that by doing Mindful Self Compassion training people experienced increased mindfulness, compassion for others and self, reduced stress, depression & anxiety. People with diabetes were tested and positive effects included decreased glucose levels and reduced distress associated with Diabetes.
- It appears that our default position as humans is to show more compassion to others than to ourselves. When we’re under threat externally we move into FIGHT, FLIGHT or FREEZE mode. When we’re under pressure internally ‘fight’ becomes SELF CRITICISM, ‘flight’ becomes ISOLATION, and ‘freeze’ becomes RUMINATION (we get stuck in our heads). What we want to do through Mindful Self Compassion is to turn Self Criticism into Self Kindness, Isolation into Insight into Common Humanity, and Rumination into Mindfulness.
- There is proven evidence that self-compassion practice can move us from a ‘threat state’ (adrenalin based) to a ‘care state’ (neuro peptides e.g. oxytocin/endorphins – feel good hormones).
- Life is full of difficult moments and we can’t change that. What we want to do though is not make it worse. If we fight with our moment to moment experiences it does make it worse. There is that saying “what we resist, persists”. In Mindfulness there is another saying “what we can feel, we can heal”. Mindfulness allows us to be with difficulty without resistance.
- Caregiver Mode – a quality of tenderness or sympathy. An example of where one might use caregiver mode – when you can’t sleep at night. There are two universal expressions of compassion:
- Soothing touch (eg put your hand over your heart and feel the warmth), and
- Gentle vocalisations (nurturing sounds like ohhhh or shhhh etc – tone is important)
- There is a yin and yang of Self Compassion:
- YIN – feminine and being with. Comfort, soothing and validating.
- YANG – Action in the world. Protect ourselves. Providing (what do I need?). Motivating.
TWO: A guest meditation with Chris Germer – ‘A meditation for greater self compassion’ – [12 mins, 22 secs]
It was another busy day today and again it was not until I was in bed of an evening that I listened to this meditation. It was beautiful but again I was tired and kept dozing off. This is another one that I will need to do again when I am more alert.
Today is Integration Day. We were asked to reflect on the following questions:
- What was the biggest challenge of your week and were you able to bring mindfulness into that moment? I was on track most of the week but from Saturday my life became busy and it was harder to fit in watching the MiM interviews and do the meditations. I became a bit stressed but I do believe Mindfulness helped when I reminded myself that being present with my children, mother and family was far more important than worrying about falling behind on watching interviews etc. I will catch up eventually.
- Take a moment and revisit a challenge in your week. If you weren’t able to be mindful in that moment, can you take a moment now and actively bring compassion to yourself? Notice how it feels to actively bring compassion to yourself – is that a familiar feeling or more unfamiliar? Bringing compassion to myself is not a familiar feeling unfortunately. I have a very real problem with self-criticism. I do recall a challenge in my week and did find a way to bring compassion to myself. It feels nice. It will take some practice.
- What are your three most important values in life? What is one thing you can do today to get more aligned with one of your values? I will need to think on this one for longer before I can answer it.
On Day 14 which was Monday, I caught up on the interview and meditation from Day 13. I have only just seen the questions above now as I type this (Tuesday afternoon on Day 15). I’ve yet to listen to Day 15’s interview or do the meditation.
The last part of this week has seen me fall behind a bit with Mindful in May. It’s an indication of how real life can get in the way of regular practice. So far I have only missed one day of meditating, so I’m choosing to show myself some self-compassion and pat myself on the back for a job well done thus far.
If you’ve read all the way through to here, you are a trooper! Well done, and thank you!
Ciao for now,
Link up here at WOTM or with another of us in the Lovin’ Life Linky team:
Leanne of Deep Fried Fruit | Kathy of 50 Shades of Age |
Deborah of Debbish | Jo of The Hungry Writer – Joanne Tracey.
It doesn’t matter where you link up as it will magically appear on all five blogs.