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. So far I’ve posted my wrap ups for Mindful in May – Week 1 and Mindful in May – Week 2.
This is another long post. I’m afraid it’s unavoidable with so much information contained within each week. I’ve done my best to summarise as succinctly as possible! So, let’s now have a look at what fabulous learnings Week 3 has brought me.
ONE: An interview with Parker Palmer – ‘Living on purpose and in greater connection with your soul ‘
Parker J. Palmer is a world-renowned writer, speaker and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change. He is the Founder and Senior Partner Emeritus of the Center for Courage & Renewal, and has written nine books, including Let Your Life Speak, The Courage to Teach, A Hidden Wholeness, and Healing the Heart of Democracy. His latest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, was chosen by Spirituality & Practice as one of the best books of 2011 on contemplation and social activism.
This day was a busy day for me and I was still trying to catch up, so I listened to this interview on DAY 16.
My wrap up of the interview:
- A lot of Parker’s work centres around living in integrity and wholeness vs living a divided life. It’s about rejoining soul and role.
- Elise asked Parker what does he mean when he refers to ‘soul’? He says, nobody really knows what a soul is but Mary Oliver in one of her poems come as close as maybe anyone can when she says “I think the soul is made out of attentiveness”. The more you can pay attention to yourself and others in the world around you, the more soulful your way of being in the world is. Parker says that soul is the ‘being’ in human being. Our ‘self’ is a core of identify that wants to speak to you.
- A quote on ‘wholeness’ from Parkers latest book: Wholeness is the goal but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. The sooner we understand this the better. It’s a truth that can set us free to live well, to love well, and in the end, to die well.
- What the word ‘wholeness’ means to Parker: It makes him sad (for individuals) and mad (at our culture) when he sees people equating wholeness with perfection, because of course perfection is impossible. So the goal is to embrace and own the ‘shadows’ of life (eg his own few bouts of depression through life) as part of what has shaped your life and be present in the world with those realities as fully as you are with whatever gifts or strengths you may possess. He says the worst way he can imagine dying is with a sense that he had never showed up in the world as his true self, and his true self means the shadow as well as the light. Living behind a wall or a mask is cheating yourself and cheating the world because ultimately the only gift we have to give to the world is ‘true self’ – our own authenticity.
- The ‘Divided Life’, in contrast to wholeness is living one truth or reality on the inside and a different one on the outside. That dividedness is a source of human pain.
- Circle of Trust – Imagine a circle of maybe 25 people which is well facilitated by someone who understands what he/she is doing and understands fundamentally that the space between us is to be kept safe for the soul to speak. The soul is always trying to speak but the conditions for listening are hard to find in our society. Parker says that “an example of what goes on in a Circle of Trust that helps make it safe for a soul is that we are facilitators of the Centre of Courage and Renewal (and there is an Australasian version of the program). The Facilitators of these Circles of Trust enforce a basic ground rule which goes like this: “Whatever we hear here, there will be no fixing, no advising, no saving, and no correcting each other.” These things drive a soul back into hiding, as a person goes on the defensive or shuts down. We do that to each other all the time in life. The soul wants to be heard into speech. That means deep listening, and this is supplemented with the practice of asking honest, open questions. These are not questions which you know the answer to or have pre-conceived ideas as to what the answer might or should be. These are questions that will help them to think through their problem or issue so that they can hear themselves, not you! This process allows people to hear their truth and once they know it, they can act on it.
- Circles of Trust are communities of solitude – a way of being alone, together.
- Spirituality – one’s spirituality is any way one has of responding to the eternal human yearning to be connected with something larger than your own eye.
TWO: A Loving Kindness Meditation with our host Elise Bialylew – [8 mins, 36 secs]
I’m still trying to catch up with Mindful in May, so again this was done when I was in bed at night. I was sleepy and dozing off so should do it again when I’m more alert. However, it was a lovely feel good meditation.
ONE: A guest meditation with Timothea Goddard for developing more emotional balance – ‘The Mountain Meditation’ – [14 mins, 40 secs]
More information on Timothea Goddard can be read at Day 12 in my Mindful in May – Week 2 post.
In this meditation we are asked to imagine and visualise a mountain. It’s a still, grounded, unmoving presence. We imagine all the change happening around the mountain during the course of a day – different light, weather, wildlife etc – and also during different seasons. We eventually become the mountain and by becoming the mountain we link with its strength and stability, use its energy to support our energy, and feel its unwavering stillness no matter what is going on around us.
We were told of a simple mindfulness in motion practice called The Mindful P.A.U.S.E that Elise created. The mindful P.A.U.S.E is a simple yet powerful practice that reminds you to take a moment to re-centre and refocus so that you can respond to the demands of your day with awareness, rather than on automatic pilot.
Take a MINDFUL MOMENT and PAUSE today:
- P = Pause for a moment and interrupt your ‘automatic pilot’
- A = Attend to the breath and locate the feeling of the breath in your body
- U = Use the outbreath to let go of any tension in the body
- S = Sense what is present. What you’re thinking, feeling, hearing, seeing?
- E = Engage again with your activities
We were asked to try touching base with our breath during the day, and notice how you can choose to unhook from the stress of a moment by letting go of thinking, and bringing your attention to a few cycles of breathing. It’s suggested to set a few alarms on your phone throughout the day today with the reminder PAUSE and see what you notice.
ONE: An interview with Chantal Pierrat – ‘The Balance of Being and Doing’
Chantal is the Founder/CEO of Emerging Women & Emerging Women Live. Her mission is to empower women to lead impactful lives through transformative, female leadership. Prior to Emerging Women, Chantal served on the executive team as the VP of Sales and Marketing for Sounds True, a multimedia publishing company focused on spirituality, personal growth, and holistic living where she spearheaded the successful launch of the Wake Up Festival, Sounds True’s first annual national event with over 25 speakers and 800 attendees. Chantal is also the creator of SoulSweat™, a dynamic dance program that combines structured choreography with wild abandonment.
I’m not really sure where mindfulness comes into this interview but I really enjoyed watching/listening to it, particularly as I recognised myself when there was discussion around those that don’t have clarity around a purpose or passion and her advice to ‘dabble’. I have become expert at dabbling and have been dabbling in this and that for the last five years! It’s comforting to hear that this is in fact a good way to eventually get clarity and an unfolding of what it is I am here to do!
My wrap up of the interview:
- The meaning of Leadership to Chantal can be broken into to things:
- Part 1: Are you living a life on the outside congruent with what you know to be true on the inside? It’s that simple. That’s leadership. Once we start living in alignment with that congruence, we become leaders without even knowing it.
- Part 2: Take the work we’ve been doing on ourselves and take ‘sacred action’. The world needs women/feminine to lead (in addition to men) and the world needs men who believe that women should lead.
- When asked what might have limited Chantal in stepping into her own feminine leadership, she said the following:
- Overwhelm – a lot of women are scared of being overwhelmed. This is especially due to the demands on having children and some of us are also taking care of elders. Also, the feminine is wired towards ‘other’, so more susceptible to feeling the suffering of the planet. Make peace with who you are. Until we forgive ourselves not as effective and are susceptible to burn out.
- Comparison – and worrying too much about how others do things is limiting. Trust in yourself and your passion.
How open a channel can you be for the purpose you’ve been gifted?
- Elise asked Chantal how she looks after herself as a mother and entrepreneur:
- Self Compassion – it’s the easiest and hardest practice in the world and the thing she does that has been the biggest bang for buck (free)!
- Meditation – regular practice
- Elise asked Chantal for an example of a stuff up or failure since she’s started Emerging Women and Emerging Women Live and a lesson taken from that? She wanted to create a business that also allowed herself to evolve and grow and be supported as she emerged as a leader, but feels that in the beginning she was creating a business that was based on a different paradigm. You want to be successful in a traditional sense but she feels she put too much into that side of things so eventually shifted her thinking to not be so focussed on every dollar and the traditional metrics of success. She started documenting ways they were having impact. That shifted her focus from financial spreadsheets to ‘how can we tell a story?’. How can we tell the story of impact and how can we tell a story of transformation? How can we tell the story of evolutionary consciousness within the feminine paradigm through our events or activities being delivered. Being able to capture that now is probably the most valuable thing she has done for Emerging Women.
- Chantal was asked what advice she would give to someone who doesn’t really know what their purpose or calling is yet?
- If you’ve been gifted ‘desire’ – celebrate the longing! Don’t worry about clarity or purpose – lean into the desire.
- Dabble! Start dabbling in the name of pleasure and desire.
- Notice the five (5) people you’re spending the most time with. Of those five people, how many rich conversations are you having throughout your days, weeks, months? How much are those five people contributing to that? How much are you being stretched? You want to surround yourself with people who are helping you grow. You want to yield growth, new perspectives, unfolding.
- Work on your self compassion.
- Write how you want to feel. How do you want to feel?
- When asked what the best advice might be that she’s ever received: Really source in wisdom from the body. You can’t practice anything properly until you first FEEL it in your body.
TWO: A loving kindness meditation with Kate James – [18 mins, 53 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 was the most comforting meditation I think I have ever done. It did make me cry though. It made me cry because we had to think of someone we loved and picture them standing in front of us and feel their love and I thought of my Dad. My Dad is at the forefront of my mind constantly. I lost my Dad on 2 December 2017 and my grief is still very raw. Aside from this, I enjoyed seeing myself at age five standing in front of the adult me. We were asked to look our child self in the eye, take their hands and feel the love for them. I did love that five year old version of me – so sweet and innocent. This meditation was done with a hand over the heart and to each of the people we imagined ourselves with, and to ourselves, we said “May you be well. May you have love, and may you have peace in your life”.
ONE: Meditation with Elise Bialylew – ‘Turning your mindfulness outward and tuning into sounds’ – [9 mins, 49 secs]
This guided meditation invites you to turn your attention to the outside world and anchor your attention to the sounds around you. I noticed lots of sounds – there was a siren, the dog next door howling along with the siren, my dog getting a little agitated, birds chirping etc. I felt myself feeling a bit stressed by the noises – particularly the siren and howling dog next door so was glad when attention was brought back to our bodies and breath. It’s a great way to really bring you in touch with the present moment that’s for sure.
ONE: An interview with Tenzin Palmo – ‘Insights from 3 years in a solitary meditation retreat’
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo (born 1943) is a bhikṣuṇī in the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. She is an author, teacher and founder of the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery in Himachal Pradesh, India. She is best known for being one of the very few Western yoginis trained in the East, having spent twelve years living in a remote cave in the Himalayas, three of those years in strict meditation retreat.
My wrap up of the interview:
- When asked what did an average day look like during her time in the cave, she said that she would get up around 3am and do a session (meditation) till around 6am, have breakfast, do another session, have lunch and then have a break. During the break she’d read or paint or write out Tibetan manuscripts. Then she’d do another session, have dinner, then a final evening session before bed. Each session was around 3 hours.
- Elise asked what did she discover from her experience? It was 30 years ago but what comes to mind was that when one does a retreat, one shouldn’t do it with the aim of actually achieving anything, because the very motivation that is asking – what did we get out of it, what did we achieve from it, etc – is the EGO really, which wants to be enhanced. It’s the very ego that we’re trying to see through and dissolve, so that is always very tricky in people’s motivation. It’s more a matter of letting go rather than getting. The whole point is that we need to become more aware. Much of our life is spent in complete unawareness. We’re not fully conscious of what we’re thinking, saying or doing. Bring awareness into our daily lives, not just when formally sitting (in meditation).
- Elise asked if she felt that shorter but regular meditation/mindfulness practice that was more achievable for the average person could assist us in being happier people? Yes! All training in mindfulness is a good thing for awareness. We need to wake up. The more conscious and aware we are of our thoughts, feelings and emotions, the more we recognise that they are really very impermanent – just flowing along. We begin to understand they’re not necessarily me or mine and that gives us a tremendous sense of inner freedom. We are in charge. We begin to become the masters of our minds rather than the slaves of our minds and of course that gives freedom and with freedom comes genuine happiness.
- Elise asked “if thoughts, feelings etc are not mine then whose are they? Thoughts are like clouds, rainbows, lightening etc but behind all these things is the sky. You can’t grasp the sky or say this is my piece of sky. Space is all around us. We share it. Likewise, the essential nature of mind are primordial awareness. It isn’t ‘mine’, it’s something beyond that whole duality of self and others and that is whee lies genuine freedom of the mind beyond the coming and going of thoughts. Recognise the endless river of thoughts. Normally we are immersed and swept along in the river. So we have to learn to sit back on the bank and watch the river. We’re not trying to stop it and we’re not saying thoughts are bad, we just need to extricate ourselves from them.
- People think they need to learn to tune out or switch off but in actual fact it’s a matter of tuning in. There’s nothing wrong with thoughts but because they’re so noisy, they drown out the inner wisdom which is within us all. Start by focussing on the breath which anyone can do. We can only breathe in the present, not in the past or the future. Gradually, our ability to be conscious and mindful will increase and automatically our thoughts start to get a bit slower and quieter. Then we can observe a more quiet mind.
- Mental Afflictions – Buddhism recognises 5 points to be the afflictions of the mind:
- Greed and Grasping
- KINDFULNESS – not just mindful but we also open our hearts to recognise that just as we wish to be happy and not be unhappy, all beings (humans, animals, etc) actually want to be happy and not be suffering. Any being wants to feel ok. So, the least we can do is not harm them, to help them, and to be kind.
- Advice to beginners learning to meditate and be mindful:
- Relax and keep mind spacious, and focus
- Develop patience and perseverance
- Don’t give up!
TWO: A guest meditation by Richard Chambers – ‘Feel your Feelings’ – [10 mins, 1sec]
More information on Richard Chambers can be found at Day 5 in my Mindful in May – Week 1 post.
This meditation required you to focus on an emotion you were feeling and to notice different aspects of it, for example the feeling of it in your body. At the time I decided to do this meditation, I had problems with the dog next door barking and setting off my dog barking. Once I got that sorted, then my son was making a lot of noise. This all got me feeling stressed and annoyed because I wanted to get the meditation done as I had something else that required my attention soon. So it was ‘stress’ and ‘annoyance’ that I focussed on and boy do these things have such a huge impact on my body!
ONE: An interview with Michael Bunting – ‘Mindfulness for better leadership at home and work’
Michael is the founder of prominent leadership consultancy WorkSmart Australia and The Mindful Leader – an online portal for all things Mindfulness and Mindful Leadership.He has trained and coached thousands of leaders – from CEOs to front-line corporate leaders – with a client-base that includes numerous global multinationals. He is also the bestselling author of The Mindful Leader and A Practical Guide to Meditation, and co-author of Extraordinary Leadership in Australia and New Zealand.
My wrap up of the interview:
- Mindfulness is: Presence. Not being swept away by emotions and thoughts. I am here and I’m feeling, seeing, listening in the moment. The difference between presence and mindfulness is sustained and maintained presence. Being present of course means being open of heart and mind. So mindfulness is a deep openness and a sustained open attention, along with the domains of what you can be mindful of.
- Regular practice eventually results in ‘insight moments’ which always have a taste of health and freedom. An insight moment is a moment when you’re not reacting in ways that perpetuate suffering for yourself and others.
- The ultimate point of mindfulness is the reduction and cessation of suffering. The removal of suffering.
- In his latest book Michael talks about mindfulness supporting ‘distress tolerance’. Elise asked him to explain what this means. When we are reacting, there are two classic types of reactions (and there are more) – 1) Aggression; and 2) Withdrawal – which look like things like perfectionism, demanding others to be a certain way, pushing others to be different, or avoiding difficult conversations. Distress = feelings we cannot tolerate. We need to learn to sit with distress and truly feel it and examine it. Eventually, with practice, the clouds will part and you will see the fluidity of it.
- In the second foundation of Mindfulness, it is said that every experience is either:
- Pleasant (natural reaction is grabbing and holding on)
- Unpleasant (natural reaction is aversion, hatred, resistance, pushing away)
- Neutral (natural reaction – numb, zoned out)
- Eventually when we learn to be with distress, we also learn to be with amazing feelings because they too are hard to hold and hard to be with. So when you’re able to sit with difficult feelings, you’re able to sit with intensity and not back away from it.
- When asked what advice or teaching has stuck with him over the years of his practice, Michael said the following:
- If you’re meditating – concentrating on the breath or doing a body scan – and some feeling or distraction takes your attention, know that there’s a feeling happening right now that you don’t want to be with. Ask yourself “what is the feeling happening right now that I don’t want to be with?”. Start scanning your body. Sit with the raw sensation. To be friend’s with whatever is happening now. This is where there can be incredible growth and you won’t even know it’s happening.
- Loving Kindness practice. A colleague once asked him “what does it feel like to be in the company of a genuinely kind person?” His colleague IS a genuinely kind person. He said “it feels like you’re home”. Love + friendliness + kindness are highly privileged of course in mindfulness practice, but why? If you’re not being friendly with an experience, you’re not mindful. Friendliness, warmth, kindness, accepting things as they are is fundamental to mindfulness. So, the moment you start being harsh on yourself and judging yourself for not being mindful enough, you’re now practicing aggression on yourself in order to be more mindful so that you can be more at peace. It doesn’t make sense.
- Michael’s definition of leadership. There are two key pieces of data:
- How much of a person’s engagement is determined by the way their boss is behaving? The answer is – just over 40%!! So, if the boss improves his mindful leadership by 10%, that person’s engagement increases by 4%.
- Mental Health. The two most important people in your life for your mental health are your BOSS and your SPOUSE. Conscious leadership matters for the mental health of your people. 33% – a third of a person’s mental health can be explained by their boss’s behaviour!
- Self Awareness is the most valuable asset in leadership. There is no self awareness without mindfulness.
TWO: A meditation with our host Elise – ‘A breath meditation for greater focus’ – [20 mins, 59 secs]
This meditation asked for us to take notice of how our body feels right now, to let go of thoughts or concerns for now, and to connect with the breath. I always enjoy a longer meditation as it provides more time to get into a relaxed state and reap more benefits.
Try this Ten By Three Mindful Wake Up Practice when you wake up tomorrow (from Elise’s book The Happiness Plan).
This mindful morning practice is a quick and powerful energy shifter, and an easy way to start your day with presence and gratitude.
- When you first wake up in the morning, take a moment to sense how you are feeling: Rested? Tired? Lazy? Energetic?
- Bring awareness to your body, and more specifically to the feeling of your breath.
- Before you do anything else (like check your phone!), count ten breaths as they move in and out of the body and make sure that as you are counting, you actually feel the sensations of the breath in your body, allowing your mind to be free from any concerns about the day to come. If you lose count and get distracted, simply begin again when you notice you’ve lost count.
- After counting the breaths, drop the counting and bring to mind three things you’re grateful for.
- Get out of bed and start your day with a positive, appreciative attitude.
A day for reflection and integration and what happens after May?
Today I listened to yesterdays interview as I didn’t have time yesterday. I also did yesterday’s meditation.
We were today told about a 6-month Mind Life Project membership program which is an option to continue on from Mindful in May. It begins on 13 June. It’s an opportunity to keep the benefits of a clear, calm, and focussed mind beyond May and continue our learning with world leaders. It would help us to stay on track with mindfulness meditation, and we’d get access to the Mindful in May program for the next 6 months, rather than just to 8 June plus much more.
It’s a really wonderful opportunity and I am so tempted, but for me personally – at this point, I kind of feel that my brain has been given enough information to digest for a while and it needs a bit of space to do just that – digest it all and establish my own routine. I’d like to explore more – but in my own time.
It’s been another busy week this week and I did slip behind a bit at times but managed to catch up. The meditations I am experiencing and the interviews I am fortunate enough to be watching are quite profound and life changing really. I have a very open mind and am loving all the new perspectives and insights I am learning when it comes to mindfulness, meditation, and our minds. It has been a lot of information to absorb in a short time frame. I’m glad that I have summarised in these posts and will most definitely be visiting the websites of some of my favourite interviewees (most of them LOL) to learn more in my own time. It wouldn’t surprise me if the purchase of a few books is in my future too!
If you’ve read this whole post, thank you and I really hope you got something from doing so! More to come next week!
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.