Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Week Four Day 2

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

"Remind yourself that the deepest stillness and peace does not arise because the world is still or the mind is quiet. Stillness is nourished when we allow the world, the mind and the body to be just as they are for now, moment by moment, and breath by breath." This is Mark Williams towards the end of the Breath and Body meditation.

It's amazing when you start forcing yourself to become more aware of the present moment how many moments in the day are actually lovely and calm. Most of them actually. It really rams home how much we create purely out of our own thinking.

My alarm went off at 6am this morning and I got up to make a cup of tea and do the Breath and Body meditation followed by the Sounds and Thoughts meditation. Then I did some stuff on the computer which was dumb.. I'm not going to do that again. I'm going to make my mug of tea, do my meditations then sit in the silence. It's very quiet and nice at that time of the morning.

I did my second round of those audios at 8pm and it was hilariously difficult to focus. One son burst through the kitchen (right next to the study) in search of food just as I was just getting underway and another son was calling out to me from downstairs 'MUM COME AND SORT OUT MY BED!!!!'. But I managed to finish after a couple of interruptions.

Did only one Breathing Space meditation (self-guided when locked in battle yet another son - I have three). Was nice and worked to calm me somewhat. The fighting situation was defused pretty quickly after that.

Would it have been if I hadn't shut my eyes to 'check in' and 'ground myself'? I'll never know...

Youngest son watching me stand at the kitchen bench with my eyes shut said; "are you pretending to be dead mum?" To which I replied; 'nope just checking in with myself'. Goodness knows what he made of that answer!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Monday, March 30, 2015

Week Four Day 1

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

Shit's getting deep now. I lay in bed last night watching New Zealand lose the Cricket World Cup Final (boo hoo) and reading the book to find out what's on the cards for Week Four.

It's great. They are really getting inside my grey matter now, trying to help me unpick the picture of the world that my mind is constantly generating. They're trying to help me identify a three-step equation and distinguish between the three steps. 1) what a situation is 2) what my interpretation of the situation is and 3) what my reaction to the situation is.

The point being if I can be mindful of those three steps, and pull out and be fully aware of the middle one - the interpretation I am giving events - then I can take more control over the last bit, my reactions to things.

Because most of the time our interpretations aren't based on fact! They're a "propaganda stream" created by our minds, one where we attach meanings to situations based on things like past experiences and guesses about the future.

The authors say often we see the situation and our reactions to it quite clearly, but we are not consciously aware of how our interpretation of the situation is affecting the outcome for us. "We think that the situation itself aroused our feelings and emotions when, in fact, it was our interpretation of the scene that did this."

I think the trick is to become aware of the propaganda stream (interpretation) that our mind heads into BEFORE it starts to trip us up. Clear as mud?

So this week is about exposing my interpretations and seeing them for what they are. Apparently this weeks practices are going to enhance my ability to sense when my mind and body start turning toward the negative and self-attacking, and give me a powerful new tool to prevent them from gaining unstoppable momentum. Bring it on!

Twice a day I have to do the 8-minute Breath & Body meditation from last week (track 4 in the link above) followed immediately by the 8-minute Sounds & Thoughts meditation (track 5 - they say this one is the powerful new tool).

Twice a day I also have to do the 3-minute Breathing Space meditation either by listening to track 8 above or self-guided.

I set my alarm this morning and got up at 6.15am to have a mindful cup of tea and do the Breath & Body and Sounds and Thoughts meditations (ha ha see how things are developing for me!!) and then I did them both again at 2pm when I had a moment before school pick-up. I did a self-guided Breathing Space while I was standing at the stove cooking dinner (went through the 3 steps in about 1 minute but they say that's ok) and did it again just now while re-listening to their guided audio.

Tomorrow's alarm will be going off early again!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Week Three Day 7

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

Today is a Sunday so I set my alarm for 5.45am and got up to check in with others in the Members Feed at Living Sober before we did our Group Meditation Thingy. I think there were a few more members taking part this week, and it's always fun hearing what everyone does from 6am - 6.20 when we do our thing.

I chose to do a Tara Guided Meditation again and it was quite funny because I got to a point where I was sure she'd finished ... and jumped up to check back in on the site with the others ... and saw that actually it was just a reeaaaalllllyyyyy long silence and there was still 4 minutes to go! Whoops! So I quickly lay back down and attempted to concentrate on my breath.

I've had a very busy last 4 days with a lot of challenging parenting and Mr D away so I have found it hard to quiet my mind when doing all these guided meditations. But I'm also giving myself a break, appreciating that I am only 3 weeks into my practice and it's going to take a LOT of practice to get 'good' at it.

I am definitely much better at witnessing the thoughts as they enter my mind. It sure is boring in there a lot of the time!! Much of the same stuff swirling around and around. Planning things to write (work stuff), thinking about interactions I need to follow up on and emails I need to respond to etc etc (more work stuff) and of course the mandane stuff of life (household/family stuff) and some concerns about interpersonal stuff. All veeeerrrryyy mundane.

I have been practicing my Habit Releaser today by attempting to mindfully use the iPad and it has been successful. The trick is going to be to keep up that practice now when I spend the last couple of hours of the day sitting on the sofa or in bed.. and I usually mindlessly surf around my various online spaces over and over.

I'm NOT going to do that tonight! I'm going to watch the Cricket World Cup Final and read the book above to find out what is on the cards for Week Four of the course. It starts tomorrow - whoop!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Week Three Day 6

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

Whoop! Just realised that after tomorrow I will be moving on to a new week's programme. Also just realised that we are about to head away for an extended Easter break (10 days surrounded by family) so it's going to be a lot harder for me to do this course and blog about it daily. But I am determined and will try hard to stick at it as is my commitment to myself.

I haven't done the Habit Releaser yet this week which is to watch TV mindfully - i.e. choose one programme you want to watch, turn the TV on and watch it and then turn the TV off (that last bit is key I think). I get what they are trying to do here.. stop people from endless mindless TV watching. 
Problem is I don't do endless mindless TV watching. Mr D and I tend to choose shows to watch, watch them then turn it off. We're much more 'appointment viewing' people. So for me I think I'd be better served by doing the Habit Releaser with my iPad. i.e. choose one activity to do on my iPad (e.g. I'm now going to check on the Members Feed at Living Sober and see how everyone is doing) .. pick up the iPad, do that one activity and then put the iPad down

That will be crucial for me because I tend to do endless mindless iPad surfing. I pick it up to check the site, then I check Instagram, check Twitter, check both my blog's comments, check the local news  websites, check my Facebook page, check Words With Friends, go back and check some of the other stuff again even though it's only been 10 minutes since I last checked them.. etc etc etc. 

You get the picture?

Tomorrow I am going to mindfully use my iPad and that will be my Habit Releaser for Week Three.

In the meantime I did the Mindful Movement meditation followed immediately by the Breath and Body meditation earlier this evening. I was in the study with the door shut, my two big boys were watching TV in the other room which I could hear, and I felt slightly sick from the Pizza Hut garlic bread and fries I had eaten earlier not to mention the glass of sickly sweet Sprite. Yuk. But I did the meditations and they were nice. They always are.

I did two 3-minute Breathing Space meditations earlier in the day all by myself (i.e. not listening to the audio clip) which they recommend. I really like those little emergency meditations and think they'll be useful.

Very tired. Need to go to bed. But first a mug of Chamomile tea and some lemon flavoured yogurt. 

Love, Mrs D xxx

Week Three Day 5

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

Yesterday I was fucking knackered - perhaps predictably. But I did my Mindful Movement meditation and the Breath and Body meditation in the afternoon (tracks 3 & 4 in the link above).

Then later on I did the three minute Breathing Space meditation (track 8 in the link above).

My mind does wander and I'm quick to jump out of them when they're finished (things to do, things to think about, things to act on.. busy busy busy).

But I do think this repetitive listening to the always lovely Mark Williams is cementing in me what the concepts of mindfulness are. It's a funny combination of being aware of your thoughts (not quieting them, just becoming aware of them so that you can see them for what they are and not be mindlessly absorbed/persuaded/blinded by them).. and rooting yourself in your body.

I was talking to my dear friend Sue about this at lunch yesterday. About what spirituality is. And how this mindfulness stuff (if it is indeed spiritually) is surprisingly so much about the body. You think of spirituality being about the mind. It's written on the box! MINDfulness. Not BODYfulness. But it's hugely about cementing yourself in the body. That's the surprising thing.

So yes. I am 'going deeper' into myself. But in a way I'm doing the exact opposite of 'going deeper' into myself. I'm releasing much of myself, grounding myself in my body, and distancing myself from my thoughts (or at least seeing them for what they are).

So 'going deeper' isn't naval gazing, although it appears to be from the outside because you are spending so much time sitting with your eyes shut doing stuff which looks self-indulgent and naval-gazey (if there is such a word). Going deeper is about releasing much of the self-analysis and pondering/questioning/planning/doing.

Going deeper is about letting go.

Mark says towards the end of Track 4 Breath and Body; "The deep stillness we seek does not arise because the world is still or the mind is quiet. Stillness is nourished when we allow things to be just as they are for now. In this moment. Moment by moment and breath by breath."

Not sure if this makes sense but will keep going to see how this develops for me.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Friday, March 27, 2015

Week Three Day 4

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

Full honesty here. Yesterday I didn't do the Mindful Movement meditation or the Breath & Body meditation. First time since I've started this course that I didn't follow the instructions to the letter.

My day was very full. 8.30am - 3pm I was at school helping with the 'Ultimate Challenge' extravaganza that only happens once a year, after school we went straight to the pool for the boys swimming lessons, then home to cook dinner & feed them, then out to take my eldest to Cubs, then home to tidy and get the younger two in their jammies, then out for the Cubs pick up, then home to put the youngest to bed, eat my dinner quickly, then get the oldest two to bed. By the time I was done with everything it was 8.45pm.

I sat on the sofa and then at about 9.20pm I remembered that I hadn't done my meditations. I had an internal dialogue for a while about whether I should get up and do them... honestly my eyelids were dropping I was falling asleep.. so in the end I just fell into bed.

This is a long explanation (excuse?) but also this is the reality of my life. So what do busy people do to fit in meditations?

I could have done it at 12.30 during the school lunch break when I popped home quickly to wrap my nephews birthday present. I was home for 35 minutes and also responded to a quick email. I did do the Breathing Space meditation at that time - it's only 3 minutes long! And it was nice... but should I have done the two 8-minute meditations above?

Or should I set my alarm and get up at 6am on days when I know there is going to be little free time?

I don't know but today I am going to do everything that is required!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Week Three Day 3

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

Not such a busy day today, I was at home but ironically my mind was more full of stuff to do, stuff to plan, stuff to worry about, stuff, stuff, stuff.

I stopped myself and did the Mindful Movement meditation followed by the Breath and Body meditation at around 1.30pm. It was nice but my mind was very busy.

I do think all this practice is having an influence on my days though. I coped well with an argumentative 8-year-old.. felt calm and somewhat detached from the fight and more able to deal with it calmly.

I am definitely going to keep going with it.

Just did the 3-minute Breathing Space meditation and I like that one, it's quick and relaxing.

Onwards...

Love, Mrs D xxx

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Week Three Day 2

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

Today I spent from 8am - 2pm helping at our oldest boys Ripper Rugby tournament. At one point in the afternoon I attempted to do the 3-minute Breathing Space meditation. I was standing on the grassy bank surrounded by loads of kids and teachers/parents and I took a moment to close my eyes and focus on what was happening in my body & mind, then focus on my breath, then widen my focus out to my entire body. Not sure it was entirely successful (lots of activity and distractions around me) but it was nice.

I got home exhausted at 2pm with only an hour until I had to go back to school and pick all the boys up, and decided to spend some of my precious quite time doing the Mindful Movement meditation followed by the Breath and Body meditation. They were nice. It felt nice. It still feels rather rebellious and interesting to take time out to do something like this. I like to think of it as the ultimate in mind-bending. Who needs drugs and alcohol when you can do 'proper' work on bending your great matter?!

Yes on the one hand a bit silly (although I'm slowly getting over that and now don't give a toss if anyone thinks I'm a weirdo hippy for working on mindfulness/meditation techniques)

I also drank a cup of tea mindfully and that always makes the tea more yummy. Sounds silly but it's really just concentrating on the tea and it really makes a difference from just mindlessly gulping it down.

And then just before I sat down to write this post I did the 3-minute Breathing Space meditation again (because I'm supposed to do it twice every day!). I stood at the computer table and played the audio guide this time.. it's so short it feels like no hardship at all but I can see how it will be helpful in times of great stress or busy-ness. 

Speaking of stress better go watch the end of the semi-final in the World Cup Cricket - go the Black Caps!!

Love, Mrs D xxx 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Week Three Whoop! Day 1

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

So I sat down last night with the book to read all about what was going to be required of me in Week Three and I instantly got hit with all these annoyed, over-it, can't be bothered, novelty has worn off thoughts. I just thought to myself how annoying it was going to be to make time every day to do this dumb meditation stuff.... It's hard to fit it in, I thought. Annoying, I thought.

Maybe the problem is that I was trying to watch Vikings with Mr D at the same time (love that programme!). Or maybe it was because I'd had a day of feeling slightly wound up and wasn't in the mood to sit and reflect (or even think & plan about how I was going to sit and reflect in the week ahead).

But I was also hyper-aware that I was having these annoyed, over-it, can't be bothered, novelty has worn off thoughts, and aware that they were negative thoughts, and aware that I shouldn't pay too much heed to them or let them rule the way. So was I being mindful by recognising those negative thoughts, being aware of them, observing them but not letting them stop me from moving ahead with this course...??

In the introduction to the Week Three chapter, the authors of this book say; "Negative spirals are incredibly powerful, you can begin to dissipate them just be becoming aware of them. The simple act of turning toward and observing them helps to dissolve such patterns."

Well ok then.

So what is the plan for Week Three? Apparently Weeks One and Two have been about introducing ways in which I can stabilise my mind and focus my attention. Week Three takes this enhanced awareness and begins to weave it even more closely into my daily life. Every day I have to do an 8-minute Mindful Movement meditation (essentially very slow stretches from a standing position, track 3 in the link above) followed immediately by an 8-minute Breath and Body meditation (sitting down, track 4 in the link above). I did them this afternoon. It was nice.

Let me say that again. It was nice. Must remember that when I'm next feeling annoyed about having to find the time to do this meditative stuff. It's actually very nice when you are doing it.

Then on top of that I have to do a 3-minute Breathing Space meditation TWICE A DAY!! It's just a simple pause-and-check-in exercise which you can do anywhere, at the sink, in the car, standing at the table, halfway through making the bed etc etc. It's a mini/emergency meditation which you can use if you're crazy busy and stressed and don't have time to sit for 20 mins. It's track 8 in the link above. I did that this afternoon and it was nice as well..

The Habit Releaser this week is about valuing the TV and one day a week I have to look for a single programme that I want to watch and sit down to watch it mindfully and then consciously turn off the TV as soon as it's finished. I think they're trying to break the mindless-endless-watching habit that many people probably have. Will look into that later. But for now I'm quickly going to do my second Breathing Space meditation of the day before watching another episode of Vikings. Mindfully.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Week Two Day 7

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

Got up at the crack of dawn this morning to check in with some Living Sober buddies and do a group meditation thingy (not sure what to call it). We check in on the site just before 6am and then again 20 minutes later and in between we all do our own meditation thing. We're all doing different things it seems. 

One guy is doing it in silence. One woman did it while holding her sleeping grandson. Someone else listened to a mindfulness podcast. Me and a couple of others listened to a Tara Brach Guided Meditation.

I lie down on the study floor on a thick blanket with a pillow under my head and another blanket over me. I'm still sleepy but awake enough to concentrate. It's really nice 

I do love Tara and have been listening to her hour-long talks for a couple of years now. She absolutely helps me with life, no doubt about it. But I've always steered away from her Guided Meditations because - guess what - I never wanted to meditate! That was dumb and boring (I thought).

But for this 20-minute commitment I've made to my Living Sober buddies her Guided Meditations are perfect .. and I'm so pleased I have given them a go. The one I did today is on this link here, it's dated 12/17/2014 and is called "Light of Awareness".

She talks throughout, but there are long periods of silence. Lots of looooonnnggg periods of silence.

In the middle she says; "At some point you'll notice that the mind has done what it habitually does which is to contract into a thought form..an idea..a voice in the mind..images. Not to judge, but rather just notice. Oh, ok, we're back in a virtual reality. And then pause, and relax back again."

I liked this. A virtual reality. Our thoughts, inner dialogue, thoughts, worries, plans, ponderings. They're all a virtual reality. Not actually of here. All we have is this moment. What's happening in this moment. The mind buggers off constantly... is that useful? What's happening in this moment?

Ironically I had kind of an angst-y afternoon, got a bit wound up and caught in a thinking loop about something which wasn't relaxing. I was very aware of this and kept telling myself - all I have here is this moment. What's happening in this moment right now? And in doing that a few times I was able to see that the present moment was actually quite lovely. It was my virtual (thinking) reality that wasn't. 

Soooo interesting. I managed to push those unhelpful thoughts away. Tomorrow I'm onto a new week of the mindfulness course from the book. Can't wait.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Week Two Day 6

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

I combined my Habit Releaser (mindful walk) with my Mindful Awareness of a Routine Daily Activity (drinking a cup of tea) today! Two birds with one stone! I was trying very hard to concentrate on the walk and the tea because I was not alone. Mr D and our 5-year old were along for the ride. So they had no idea that I had suggested we go to the Botanical Gardens because I needed to do my 15-30 minute walk paying special attention to all that was around me (sights, sounds, smells etc).

I think I managed ok. The tea was delicious, it was in my keep-cup again (plastic with a rubber band around the middle) and was my favourite Green Tea with Mandarin. I did very much enjoy it. 

And the walk was amazing. My goodness the Botanical Gardens were just so well kept, I suddenly became aware of the team of gardeners that must  work extremely hard to keep everything in tip-top shape. It also smelled delicious, the sun was shining down. And my husband was being lovely and my son was being hilarious as per usual (never stops talking). So I took paying close attention to them 'in each moment' was a part of being mindful on my walk.

They didn't say I had to do the mindful walk alone....!

Tomorrow morning it's the Living Sober 'Group Meditation' thingy at 6am and I will do a Tara Brach Guided Meditation for that. So that will be lovely once again.

And I'm going to read up on my Week Three requirements so I'm ready to hit the ground running on Monday.

I am definitely incorporating some of the mindful principals into my everyday life. I often have the phrase 'all you have is this moment' popping into my head. It's quite calming, because usually I find the moment I'm in is A-OK.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Friday, March 20, 2015

Week Two Day 5

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

Did my body scan earlier today on the floor of the living room with the sun beating down on me (that's the second audio in the link above as per the instructions for the second week of the course in the book in the link above).

The hot sun made the face part of the scan particularly interesting - I could practically see through my eyelids with the strong sun on them!

But seriously, it was a pretty mind-wandering scan today. But I'm not going to beat myself up too badly about that. Just gently keep practicing and see what happens.

This mornings mug of tea I gulped down mindlessly - forgetting it was supposed to be my 'Mindful Awareness of a Routine Daily Task'. But this afternoon I did remember and mindfully drank my cup of Dragon Pearl Jasmine Tea (it's fancy-pants and lovely, tastes like the tea you get when you go to Yum Cha). I had it in a keep-cup in the car while I was waiting for the school bell to go. Really concentrated on the cup (plastic with a patterned rubber strip around the middle), concentrated on the smell of the tea, felt it warm in my mouth and stayed really aware of the sensation as it travelled down my throat to my belly. 

I'm telling you, mindfully drinking a cup of tea (which is just basically making yourself concentrate really hard on drinking the cup of tea) makes it HEAPS more delicious!!!!!! I was feeling that yummy cup of tea for a long time after it finished.

So that's an interesting thing to notice!

Bed now to mindfully fall asleep for hopefully 8 hours.

Love, Mrs D xxx


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Week Two Day 4

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

Doing my Body Scan meditations and it is so lovely.

I think I'm starting to understand slightly what Mark Williams (the lovely man who narrates these Guided Meditations) is on about when he says in the opening "remember we're not trying to get anywhere or striving to achieve any special state. The intention here is to spend time with each region of the body in turn, cultivating awareness of what's already here. So we're not looking for anything special to happen, but allowing things to be just as we find them. So let go of the tendency to want things to be a certain way, or to judge how you're doing, simply following along with the instructions as best you can, and whenever the mind wanders away as it will tend to do, bringing it back without giving yourself a hard time."

He goes around the body slowly and is always saying 'now take a deep breath and move your attention to the next region...now holding it in awareness'

I've had these teeny tiny glimmers of just feeling awareness and not thinking about my feet (knees, shoulders or whatever).. it's very very hard to explain but maybe 3 times so far I've had a few seconds when I had this amazing just very chilled and peaceful 'sense' of my body and when my brain isn't 'thinking' about my body.

It's cool, you've got to listen to this man's voice he is sooooo lovely. Here's a photo of him - he's the one with the beard.

He says at the very end; "...and now letting go of any intentions for the breath and simply lying here, allowing the body to be just as it is. The sense of 'coming home' to the body. Allowing yourself to be just as you are. Complete and whole. Resting in awareness ... moment by moment."

I am slowly 'coming home' to my body I think. Aged 43 I am working hard to force myself right down into my body. If you want to read an incredibly powerful piece of writing by my friend Sue about how she forced herself into her body read this.

I remembered to drink my morning cup of tea mindfully this morning in my motel room. I turned off the tele (which had been my companion through the morning) and shut my eyes and slowly sipped my tea and concentrated on feeling the hot mug in my hands, smelling the aroma (it was my favourite Green tea with Mandarin) and then drinking it and feeling it in my mouth and imagining the hot liquid as it went down my throat into my gut. It was cool!!!!  I sure did love that cup of tea. About to have my nightly cup of chamomile tea and will do the same.

Interestingly I am still being mindful when I brush my teeth twice a day - that was last week's Routine Daily Task that I was making myself be mindful during. And I still have to do my Habit Releaser mindful walk.

Soon.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Week Two Day 3

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

Still on the road, trying to blog on my phone is hard! But I did the Guided Meditation this morning (number 2 on the link above, the 15 minute Body Scan one) and it was really good, quite interesting actually. I had a new sensation about my body. Hard to describe but at the end I sat up and said out loud 'amazing'. Interesting, cool, exciting.

Am very determined to keep going. It's clear that keeping going keeping going keeping going,  making yourself take the (short) time out to try these meditations, makes the difference. Something is happening to my brain, a .5% shift toward something - who knows what?!

Will keep going!

In the meantime have to confess the two cups of tea I had today I gulped mindlessly - dammit! Hard to remember that one.

Back home tomorrow, will try to remember ....

And now I'm going to do the Guided Meditation again for the second time today - as instructed.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Week Two Day 2

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

Blogging from the road! Am away for two nights giving talks to two women's Dinner Clubs about my recovery. Did the first one tonight and it went well I think.

But am pleased to report that I did the Guided Meditation twice today on my motel bed AND listened to a Tara talk! Lots of free time today, how interesting it is how I choose to fill it nowadays - hippy me.

Hippy but happy.

Whoops just realised I forgot to drink my tea mindfully, but I have definately been incorporating mindfulness into my day, just pausing to take more breaks to breath and centre myself. I was a bit nervous and wanted to 'lean into it' rather than resist it. So maybe the training is having an effect already?

Spoke to one woman after my talk tonight and she said she was trying to work on mindful techniques as well! That was fun...I do think more people are cottoning on to this being an effective way to manage life & our emotions.

Although I am ridiculously early days and still have a long way to go. Today was the third time I listened to the body scan meditation and I heard a bit I hadn't heard before (about the face). Mind wandering much?!

Will hopefully remember to drink my tea mindfully tomorrow.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Monday, March 16, 2015

Week Two Woo Hoo!!! Day 1

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

I'm a bit on edge today because I am leaving the house tomorrow for 2 nights - a rare occurrence! - so I've got a bit to organise, but I am trying to breath and stay calm. I've just taken the time to read through my instructions for Week Two of this mindfulness course I am doing. I have to admit it's rather exciting to be moving on to the next stage!

So apparently Week One began the process of "building a capacity for sustained concentration and awareness", and Week Two is about learning to pay mindful attention to the body.

They write many pages about the body/mind connection - it's well worth a read. Bottom line is our bodies powerfully influence our thoughts, our bodies are acutely sensitive to the finest flickering of emotion that move constantly across our minds, the judgments we make can moment to moment can be significantly affected by the state of our bodies at the time that we make them, and by simply altering our relationship to our bodies can we profoundly improve our lives.

This is VERY interested to me because I have always known that I am quite disconnected from my body. I don't feel very in touch with my physical self at all (in a day-to-day way) and I know that my 20+ years of drinking has left me quite numb to not just my emotions but my physical self. It's hard to describe what I mean by this but I don't feel very 'in' my body.

Lucky I'm sober now and working on reconnecting myself!

So the tasks for Week Two are;
1) The second Guided Meditation twice a day which is in the link at the top
2) A new Mindful Awareness of a Routine Activity 
3) A new Habit Releaser

I have just done the Guided Meditation. I chose my new spot (from yesterday) lying on the study floor on a rug with a cushion over my head and another rug on top of me. But they say you can lie on a bed if you like. It's 15 minutes long! My mind wandered quite a lot from about halfway through - I managed to completely miss the bit where he was asking me to focus on my hands and arms. But I will try not to judge myself for this and just keep going.

The Mindful Routine Activity I've chosen for this week is drinking tea (other options are walking from room to room, taking out the rubbish, emptying the washing machine). So every time I have a cup of tea this week I will pay careful attention to all the senses, smell, taste, the warmth, how it feels in my hand, entering my mouth, going down my throat and resting in my belly. (Update: I just had an instant decaf coffee and got halfway through gulping it before I realised I was supposed to be mindfully drinking - whoops!).

The Habit Releaser this week is to go for at least one 15-30 minute walk around the neighbourhood (or wherever you like).  Apparently I have to try very hard to stay mindful only on my walk and what is surrounding me, not go off busy in my mind thinking, planning, worrying etc etc etc. Focus my awareness on my feet as they land on the ground, feeling the fluid movements of all the muscles and tendons in my feet and legs and pay attention to all the sights, sounds and smells around me. Am sure that'll be a doddle - not!

Actually maybe I'll try to do my mindful walk while I'm away down south. That way I'll be in a new environment which should help me stay alive and aware of all the sensations around me.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Week One Day 7

So much for following their 8-week course to the letter. Today I did something a little different. I set my alarm for 5.45am and got up to check in with Living Sober. There were a bunch of us that had organised to do a 'group meditation thingy' at 6am. So fun!

When I got to my computer it was about 8 mins to 6am and there were some overseas members worried that they'd figured the time-zone wrong and had missed our group session.

But no, us kiwis all came online and 'checked in' with each other. I announced that I wasn't going to do the 20 minutes in silence. Yes, we'd agreed to do 20 BLOODY MINUTES!! I knew I wouldn't be able to focus on the breath for that long, I can barely do it for the 8 minute Guided Meditations I've been listening to this week. So I decided to look for a Tara Brach guided meditation and I found one in her 2011 archive called 'Being Here' which was 23 minutes long.

I shared that link up on the site in case anyone else wanted to do it that way. Then I lay a rug on the study floor and put a cushion down for my head. Then I lay down and put another blanket over me and hit play on Tara's podcast.

It was lovely. Similar but different to the Mark Williams one's I've been listening to. But really, really nice.

And it was really, really, really, really nice knowing that there were a bunch of Living Sober members doing a similar thing to me at the same time!

The power of community! Even online we can reach into each others lives and bring positive benefits.

I even felt a big surge of love at one point thinking about the others and how lovely it was that we are connected in this way. All trying to make the best of ourselves. All daring to 'go inward' and look to find peace in our minds and our lives.

After the 20 mins was up we all checked back in on the site and updated on how we'd gone. It was so cute and fun and will become a regular occurrence I think. Every Sunday at 6am.

So I didn't do any of the book's stuff today. I will read up tonight about what is in store for me in Week Two. Presumably it will be a new Habit Releaser and a new routine daily activity to be mindful during and a new Raisin-type meditation and definitely number two of the free audio guided meditations. Exciting to move to the next step!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Week One Day 6

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

I've started getting exciting about what is going to change in Week Two!

Today I did two listens of the Guided Meditation. First time was first thing in the morning and honestly I don't think I'd given myself enough time to wake up (was in a hurry to get it done before the kids woke up).. so I was at least a third of the way through before I had come to full consciousness. But it went ok. Second time was in the afternoon and I went into the bedroom and shut the door, lay down on a rug on the floor and listened to my friend Mark guide me through some mindfulness of body and breath. He's so nice.

Feel proud that I did it twice as instructed but still find it very hard to keep my mind focused on the breath. I'm all over the show with my thinking.

Trying not to judge. Just observing what is happening with my thoughts.

Didn't do the Raisin Meditation unfortunately. But did mindfully brush my teeth (and told Mr D all about the mindful teeth brushing when he laughed at the look on my face when I had my eyes shut concentrating on my brushing, not sure what he made of it! I said the trick is to try and not let your mind wander - just stay totally focused on the tooth brushing). 

Definitely managed the Habit Releaser today - which for me this week has been changing the chair I sit at for my evening meal. It was easy tonight because we were at friends house!!

Last day of these mindful activities and then I move onto Week Two...

Bring it on.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Week One Day 5

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

I changed position for my Guided Meditation this morning! Oooohhh how exciting that was (simple pleasures)! I actually think it was a good idea because when guru Mark told me to "pay attention to the sensations where the body comes into contact with whatever is supporting it" I had a bunch of different sensations for the first time this week. (Until now I've been in the same computer chair, today I lay on the bed).

Did the Raisin Meditation and afterwards wrote "Mind wandered. Thought about what the raisin had been before it became a raisin and who looked after it."

But honestly my mind still wanders a lot in both these activities.

I didn't manage a second listen to the Guided Meditation unfortunately but I did find myself consciously bringing myself back to the present moment a few times in the afternoon. At school waiting for the bell to ring, walking on the football field back to the car, driving.

It was quite fun and I've still got this crazy idea that mindfulness is somehow rebellious and cool. Blocking out everything in your head kind of feels like telling 'normal life' to go shove it. What freedom! Peace-ing out in your brain for a second is such a great, fun concept.

Remembered to concentrate on feeling all the sensations when I brushed my teeth (that's the Mindful Awareness of a Routine Daily Activity) but dinner was on the sofa so it wasn't really a Habit Releaser as such.

Still though, I feel committed to this challenge and excited about where it might take me.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Week One Day 4

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

I had insomnia last night which is really zen of me - not. My brain was racing between 3.30am and about 6am. I haven't had insomnia for ages! It took me back to my boozy days (years, lets be honest) where I slept like crap all the time. At least that wasn't the reason last night! I think it's because my ear is a bit blocked and sore and I'm busy with a lot of work on and stuff happening. I tried to calm my thoughts and focus on my breathing but, you know, I'm not that good at mindfulness yet.

But I'm practicing!

Listened to the Guided Meditation twice today as instructed. Still totally loving Mark Williams' soothing voice. My mind wanders but I'm not stressing about that.

Did the Raisin Meditation and afterwards wrote "Mind wandered. Takes a while to clear it out of my mouth. Yummy."

Mindfully brushed my teeth this morning and will hopefully remember to do that again tonight (forgot last night - whoops! Maybe that's why I had insomnia!!)

Couldn't do the Habit Releaser (change chairs at dinner time) because we were at the stadium at dinner time watching a World Cup Cricket match. Actually that reminds me, I'm hungry. Will go eat something now and will sit on a strange chair to do it, I promise.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Week One Day 3

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

I think I am slowly falling for the lovely man who is doing these guided meditations. His name is Mark Williams and he's one of the authors of this book I am following. This is their website and I just found this video of him talking about the common symptoms of stress and the reason for stress in our day to day lives.

I have listened to Mark (see, we're on a first name basis already!) twice today as per their instructions for Week One of their 8-week plan. I did the Guided Meditation at 6.20am just after I woke up and again just now at 2.30pm.  

I just love it at the end of this meditation (and it's only 8 minutes long so it's not a biggie!) where he says: "And remembering that the breath is always available to you, to help bring you back into the present moment, when you find your mind scattered and dispersed by the rush and busy-ness of your life. Always here, as an anchor deep within you, as a place of stillness, and peace."

He just sounds so warm and kind when he says it and I love this message he is sending. 

Having said that my mind still wanders like buggery when I am doing this meditation but I'm trying not to stress or judge that and just keep going. If I picture my actual lungs and ribs inside me moving as I breath it's easier to stay focused on my breath.

I mindfully brushed my teeth last night and this morning, concentrating on all the sensations (it feels quite intense! Rough...) and I sat at a different chair for dinner again last night (that's my Habit Releaser this week). Was hoping to do the Raisin Meditation before school pick-up but I've run out of time now (stop blogging Mrs D and go to school!) but maybe I'll do that later tonight.

Going well. Feeling good.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Week One Day 2

(I am doing the 8-week course in this book which includes these free meditation audio files).

First an update on yesterday. My 'Habit Releaser' is Changing Chairs (see previous post for instructions) and so when I set the table for dinner I moved us to the other end we don't normally sit around and I sat with my back to the wall which I don't normally do.

My second attempt at the Guided Meditation was cut short so it was a bit of a failure. I tried to do it while Mr D went downstairs to kiss the boys good night, and I thought he would definitely take 8 minutes - what with all the chatter that usually goes on - but he came up again in about 2 minutes! So I quickly turned it off so he didn't know what I was doing. I think I'm going to have to get over my embarrassment (die-hard beliefs that meditation is somehow ridiculous and for crazy hippies) and tell him next time what I'm doing so that he doesn't come near me for the allotted time. And shut the study door.

Then last night I was halfway through brushing my teeth when I remembered this was supposed to be my 'Mindful Awareness of a Routine Daily Activity'!! So I slowed down and did the second half of my brush concentrating on the sensations.

============

Anyway this morning was the start of a new day! I woke early and got up to do my first 8-minute Guided Meditation alone in the study. No-one came in and it was a lovely start to the day.

When I brushed my teeth I remembered to do it mindfully and concentrated on the sensations!

A couple of hours ago I did the Raisin Meditation again (see previous post for instructions) and this time afterwards I wrote: "Mind wandered. Tried not to judge. Raisin felt much bigger in my mouth than when it was in my hand - some grooves felt really deep under my tongue."

And just now I did my second listen of the 8-minute Guided Meditation! Yay for me! My mind does wander a lot but I'm trying not to judge that, just notice and bring my attention back to the breath. Honestly - my attention stays on the breath for only a moment before my mind wanders again. And then I bring it back to the breath. It's almost as though as soon as I stop thinking and just concentrate on the breath my brain freaks out and starts thinking again! Boy does it need some retraining.

Luckily that is exactly what I am doing....

So to complete today successfully all I need to do is change chairs at dinner time again, and remember to mindfully brush my teeth tonight.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Monday, March 9, 2015

Week One Day 1

Ok so here is the link to the free meditation audio tracks that come with this book. As I wrote in my last post this first week of the 8-week plan involves;

1) a Raisin Meditation
2) Mindful Awareness of a Routine daily Activity
3) a Habit Releaser
4) the first Guided Meditation twice a day.

Week One's Guided Meditation is called 'Mindfulness of the Body and Breath'. As soon as I woke up this morning I got up and came down to the study to try and do this meditation. I managed to navigate to the page on this link on my iPad but when I hit the green 'Download' button I got a pop up message saying 'Safari Can't Download' or something. So then I hit the little blue arrow next to 'Meditation One' and up popped a little player screen and I hit play and it started! A nice man with an English accent started talking to me about how to sit. Exciting!

Then I heard a little boy get up and start talking to Mr D down in the bedroom but I pressed on with my eyes shut listening to the nice English man talking. But there was something wrong with this method of playing the audio on my iPad and it kept getting stuck and jumping back a few seconds, and stopping, and jumping back etc etc. Frustrating! So I gave up and then had a frustrated morning getting the kids ready for school. Grumpy mummy, whoops! Tried hard to relax and I wasn't too bad but I was definitely frustrated that I'd got off to a bad start.

Anyway fast forward to this afternoon and I've just had a chance to try again. First I did the Raisin Meditation which involves getting a raisin and taking a long time to ponder it and eat it. I'll try summarise.

Raisin Meditation:
1. Holding. Sit quietly and hold the raisin between fingers or in the palm of your hand. Look at it for 20-30 seconds like you've never seen it before. Feel the weight. Look for the shadow.
2. Seeing. Take time to really see the raisin. Explore every part of it, highlights, dark shadows, hollows, folds & ridges. 20-30 seconds.
3. Touching. Turn it over and explore it's texture. How does it feel? 20-30 seconds.
4. Smelling. Hold it beneath your nose, see what you notice. Does it have a scent or not? Let if fill your awareness. 20-30 seconds.
5. Placing. Take it to your mouth, notice that your arm knows what to do. Put it in noticing what your tongue does. Don't chew just explore the sensation of it on your tongue. Move it about without chewing. 20-30 seconds.
6. Chewing. Consciously take a bite and notice the effects on the object and in your mouth. Notice the taste as it is released. Feel the texture, continue to chew but don't swallow. 20-30 seconds.
7. Swallowing. Can you detect the first intention to swallow as it arises in your mind? Experience that before you swallow. Notice what the tongue does to prepare to swallow. Be conscious as you swallow. 20-30 seconds.
8. Aftereffects. Spend a few moments registering the aftermath. Is there an aftertaste? What does the absence of the raisin feel like? Do you want another? 20-30 seconds.
9. Now write down anything that you noticed while you were doing the practice.

I wrote: "Constantly analysed what I was doing. Mind wandered. Planned how I was going to write about it."

Being honest here!

Then I tried listening to the Guided Meditation using my phone and for some reason the phone audio player worked (not the green button to download, that didn't work, but just hitting the blue arrow and playing it through my phone worked A-ok). Sat on a chair and listened to the man guiding me and of course my mind wandered but I kept "gently escorting my thoughts back to the breath" as instructed. It's only 8 minutes long! So that was do-able and I'm going to do it again tonight before bed as it's meant to be 2 times a day and this mornings attempt was a failure.

My 'Mindful Awareness of a Routine Daily Activity' is going to be brushing my teeth. They say: Where is your mind when you are brushing your teeth? Pay careful attention to all the sensations.

And Week One's Habit Releaser is 'Changing Chairs'. They are telling me to make a deliberate choice to try another chair or alter the position of the chair I use. Could be at home, in a cafe or at work. I am going to do this at dinner with the boys. We always sit in the same seats. I'm going to mix it up every day!!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pledge.

I stopped. I completely stopped sitting quietly with my eyes shut attempting to focus on my breath or do a body scan or some such.

Honestly I think I was crap at it and life got busy - had a house guest for 4 days and broke out of the habit. Blah blah.

How have I been? Ok. Fair-to-middling. Been stuck in a bit of a thinking loop about some things. Usual stuff.

I don't want to give up on this. I don't. I'm not going to. I want to live mindfully and achieve a much more sustainable measure of calm inside my head. I want to not stress the little things. I want to be open and compassionate to all the people I come across - even the tricky ones. I want to parent mindfully and raise my gorgeous, complicated boys as best I can.

So I am going to follow a proper 8-week plan that comes out of this book. They say in the intro 'Over time, mindfulness brings about long-term changes in mood and levels of happiness and well-being.'

EVERYONE SAYS THIS!! But I do think the key is 'over time' and 'practice' which I hear a lot. And I think my hap-hazard self-directed way of doing things isn't going to work this time. Or at least it hasn't worked yet.

So here's my pledge. I'm going to follow to the letter this books 8-week plan. They have available online guided meditations that I'm going to listen to (once I've learned how to download them, might have to get kindle on the iPad if I haven't already) and they also get you to do 'habit releasers' which gently break down ingrained habits - apparently fun to do and designed to reignite your innate curiosity.

I am going to start tomorrow and I will chart every day how it goes. I've just checked and for Week One it will involve
1) The Raisin meditation
2) Mindful awareness of a routine daily activity e.g. brushing teeth
3) Mindfulness of the Body and Breath meditation twice a day (audio track 1) and
4) Habit releaser

========================

Ok I've just spent 10 minutes looking at my calendar trying to convince myself that I shouldn't start now, that I should wait for 4 weeks until after our extended Easter Holiday (8 days away surrounded by loads of family the entire time). But fuck it. I want to do this now. I think there will always be a reason not to start. So I'm going to give it a go from tomorrow.

I'll try my best anyway.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Who's driving the bus?

I'm about to go and sit down cross legged on the floor for 10-15 minutes with my eyes shut. I am looking forward to it. I haven't had a chance to do it much over the past few days because I had a house guest and then was out all day yesterday helping on a school trip.

Excuses excuses.

My hairdresser told me her mum has been meditating for years and years and every now and then will just say to her 'if you'll just excuse me for a minute darling I'm just going to take a moment' and she'll then sit there with her eyes closed looking all calm and serene.

I loved this! It made me laugh and feel so happy for some reason.

Then last night a girlfriend who I don't see often was telling me she has just done a mindfulness class (I'm now realising how massive this is, a growing phenomenon in the world and I am so not alone in what I am learning how to do).

Anyway my friend was saying that they were taught that identifying and labelling their thoughts was a big step in diminishing their power. I hope I've got this right.

It made sense to me because when I am in a 'down' phase I am always caught in a thinking 'loop' about something.. i.e. picking over and over it in my brain so that it is hard for me to feel happy and calm. Now I can recognise what the thoughts are, and which part of me they are coming from (e.g. that is my 'judgemental sober person' talking or that is my 'incessant worrier' talking), and then you tell that person inside you that they have been heard, thank you very much for your input, and now you can move away.

Another friend said she heard it's like we're a bus and different emotions take turns driving the bus. And sometimes you have to take the wheel off different emotions. Or different parts of you.

IE if someone else's drinking was worrying me I have to hear the 'judgemental sober person' inside me thinking about that for a while and then I have to tell that part of me to let go of the wheel, that they have been heard, thank you for your input now go to the back seat.

Does this make any sense whatsoever?

Does to me. Anyway. A sit down awaits me.....

Love, Mrs D xxx

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Refreshed by boredom

Tried the trick of sitting quietly with my eyes closed and just smiling - thanks for the suggestion on my last post! - and that was really lovely. I was outside having just put a towel in the sun to dry and noticed the birds were chirping really loudly and beautifully so I decided to take a quick moment to pause. I sat in an outdoors chair and shut my eyes, listened to the birds and smiled. And sat. And smiled. And listened to the birds.

So simple yet so radical.

I think the mindful stuff is making a big difference in my day-to-day life, I am definitely much more aware of keeping in the moment, really listening to my kids when they talk, noticing lots of things around me visually and sensations beneath my feet and in my hands. I'm feeling calm on the inside.

I realise I spend a lot of time driving (running 3 boys around) so I've been trying to stay super-mindful of the feel of the car under my hands as I grip the steering wheel. And the sun as it hits the windscreen. And the horizon line around my city.

All of this stuff is quite fun because it takes you away. It's like the ultimate drug!

Part of why I loved drinking so much and drug taking (when I did it recreationally a while back) was that it felt really fun to 'step outside' normal life... to be removed from the 'normal'. I always felt excited about my reality being shifted and ordinary life being removed for a while. I sort of feel that way about meditation & mindfulness.

Does this make sense?

It's kind of crazy rebellious to sit and shut your eyes and try to stop your racing brain and think about your breath. It's fun to stop all the thinking and just 'be' a breathing human being. It's exciting to imagine a time when I might get a new shift in consciousness - a heightened awareness.

And it's a challenge and new and exciting. And I'm loving it!

In the book on mindfulness I'm reading - in the chapter by Steve Silberman - he quotes Tibetan meditation master Chogyam Trungpa who says 'The practice of meditation can be described as relating with cool boredom, refreshing boredom, boredom like a mountain stream."

In our hyper-connected, super-wired, fabulously busy modern lives, how often do we let ourselves get  'refreshed by boredom'?

Is that what I was doing while listening to the birds? I didn't feel bored. I felt a bit rebellious and very happy. But then again... I didn't pause for long. Honestly - maybe 3 minutes. Maybe that's my next challenge. Make these sit-downs last for longer...

Love, Mrs D xxx