I wanted to share something from a meditation class I went to this week where I learnt a new meditation technique. With this technique you put your attention in the belly area as you are breathing and the sensations here as you breathe as normal. It is particularly useful for getting ‘out of your head’. When our minds wonder it is a case of noticing it and not getting annoyed at it by practicing bringing the awareness back to the belly area. Our bodies are not thoughts and so we process our bodies in a different part of the brain associated with relaxation.
Sometimes our minds can feel as busy as this photo (which I took in Huddersfield’s Byram Arcade recently) or as my meditation teacher calls ‘the YouTube channel of our mind’ where, after watching the same types of clips over and over we get a choice of eight more associated clips to watch. These tend to be the same kind of clips: clips about conflict, work, shopping, conversations, dates and so on.
I hope that technology begins to reflect more mindfulness qualities, like the great minimalist writing applications which are available now, and less like brain-tweets.
I hope this little doodle I made helps to clarify why Mindfulness is not actually just doing one thing. Yet how practicing that way can help afterwards.
If attention was light:
My meditation teacher Maitreyabandhu says that Mindfulness is easy to do, but difficult to remember to do. My Cat snapped my ‘Thought in a thread’ which was one of my reminders, just after posting about it recently. So whilst I find a new mindfulness bracelet, I’ve decided to also make some Mindful Anchors.
Mindful Anchors are prompts throughout the day. To do this you take 10 minutes to make a small list of everyday ques which you charge to will act as a helpful prompt to be present in a Mindful way. The trick is to make a list of things you will firstly remember and secondly see at least a few times a week, and some everyday. I’m trying to chose them from indoors and outdoors and places I might need Mindfulness such as commuting and at work. The tricky thing is choosing anchors which are not so common that they will wear off over time with desensitisation, so a range of Anchors ensure you will experience them frequently.
With mine I have decide to try to incorporate the 5 senses so smells and sights and sounds and so on. I have tried to think of the different rooms of a building and things you might find in each.
The idea is that when you see them it is simply a case of feeling your weight on the floor, noticing your breathing and the quality of it, observing the thoughts occurring in that moment, just noticing any tension in the shoulders and hands, and tuning into your mood state. Taking mindfulness further you can learn to notice the “feeling quality” of the moment: is the general experience pleasant, unpleasant or on the neutral spectrum. This helps because we can begin to stop clinging to pleasant and averting unpleasant because these both take us away from the present moment which is ever-changing. Therefore avoiding distress. Learning the beauty of the imperfect.
Remember – when being mindful, you don’t really have to add anything to your experience or change it, you can be Mindful whilst running for the last train or even when multitasking. It is simply about switching off autopilot and becoming more aware. Letting automatic google-brain thoughts pass by.
Here some examples of my Mindfulness Anchors:
- A Crow
- Tartan pattern
- People with Dreadlocks
- Kiwi fruit
- The number 10
- Big Ben
- Fire Engines
- The Birmingham Accent
- The smell of aftershave/perfume
- The taste of Citron
- Odd socks
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Tagged attention, awareness, Buddhism, commuting, haruki murakami, mindful, mindful anchors, mindful triggers, Mindfulness, moment, murakami, now, present moment, stress
I am in Greece and I have bee using my Mindfulness “thought on a thread” bead whilst on holiday, a time you might not assume it might be needed. I have worn this for 3 years. It is a Mindfulness charity project for people affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa. You touch the bead and feel your weight on the ground, notice your breath and send compassion to someone else touching theirs somewhere else in the world in this moment. Very powerful. Why not buy one: www.thoughtonathread.co.uk
I actually found someone else wearing one during the Marina Abromovic exhibition in London recently. He went to sit next to Marina. It was a silent exhibition and we wore headphones and I was told to close my eyes by one of her helpers who maybe thought I was looking at Marina so I couldn’t catch him to show him mine.
When I opened my eyes he was gone. But everyone there was experiencing Mindfulness in a way that’s what it seemed to be about essentially. It taught me that we are all connected and physical presence is secondary to shared experiences. Compassion is everywhere.
I want to strongly recommend to everyone a beautifully simple read, The Little Book of Contentment by Leo Babauta who is a great blogger @zen_habits and it’s just 77p on the kindle!
This book is the first I’ve read to really express in everyday language with concrete and western examples how to shift perspective to have some contentment, now. Written from a kind and unpatronising vantage point. Leo clearly explains the differences of some similar constructs and ideas which can ironically become tangled and form common and unhelpful traps on the path towards being content.
It is a concise read though I would have liked to have read a little more on practical tips with an appreciation of pitfalls, for instance a little more about imperfectly learning, and also a little more on the difference between attention verses thinking. The latter is something which is highlighted a lot in the Mindfulness and Compassion teachings at The London Buddhist Centre: In a thought-obsessed culture we often try to think out way out of problems and so get caught in making stories. As Leo rightly explains we need to put our attention and gratitude towards our everyday experiences and embrace the pleasant, and unpleasant. However the book sometimes alludes to creating new positive thought-based-stories about ourselves which can eventually become unhelpful in my experience. To me this is what would be called secondary experience and not primary experience, in other words equally just a fantasy. I much prefer Leo’s recommendations of creating awareness, space and learning from these. Overall a superb and concise read, and one which feels refreshingly containing.
Bravo Leo, and thank you.
#Mindfulness + #Compassion = #Contentment
Here’s another Haiku from the same spot in Winter.
A haiku I wrote today for a friend using a photo I took last Autumn.