Thursday, October 29, 2015

Just being quiet for a while is all you need sometimes...

Some days I am struggling to find time to listen to the Mindfulness Summit and think I'll give it a miss - but I have pushed on and have managed to fit in every single one! And often on the days I am close to not bothering the speaker ends up being totally awesome. In fact pretty much all of them have been totally awesome.

Yesterday it was a chap called Richard Burnett who Melli (summit organiser) interviewed. He started by summarising brilliantly what mindfulness brings to his life.

1) Groundedness
2) Improved well-being 
3) Better health (fewer colds etc!)
4) Short breaks from the constant chatter of the mind

I liked this - thought it was a good summary. Again... I want what he's got!!!

Anyway, his big thing is a programme he runs for mindfulness in schools. So they talked a lot about how to teach mindfulness to kids. He said meditation & sitting quietly comes with such baggage, so it's really all about finding down to earth ways to communicate about it, ways which are useful and common sense. 

He reiterated that mindfulness is not a quick fix. It needs to be worked on/practiced regularly. The more I listen and think about this the more I want to do a daily practice - ideally a morning meditation every single day. 

He mentioned a 'Bed-itation' but didn't expand on what that is but I like the sound of it! Might google and research it.

He also mentioned the 'counter-culture' nature of mindfulness which I liked. That's the rebellious aspect of sitting quietly in our busy world that appeals to me!

Today it was Danny Penman who is the co-author of this book which I own and I followed their 8-week programme to the letter! His latest book is about mindfulness for creativity so they talked a lot about that.  He says mindfulness builds mental resilience which is so important for creativity. Not only do you notice the new ideas but you have the drive and resilience to put them into action & ignore all the naysayers (often the loudest one is in our own heads). He says resilience and strength of character is so important to achieving anything in life and that's what mindfulness does. 

He also said that one of the major problems in the modern world is the brutal ways that we treat ourselves.

Melli asked him what he would do in a moment of writers block. He said 'walk around and get fresh air, it just opens the mind and broadens the mind'. He's an avid walker apparently.  

He also said 'just being quiet for a while is all you need sometimes'.

Only a few days left of the summit! 

Love, Mrs D xxx

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

History has delivered us this moment.....

Today's summit video was another one where the speaker did their own presentation to the camera (computer) with them on one side of the screen and a split screen with their slides on the other. It was  a lovely learned man called Michael Chaskalson who is the founder and CE of Mindfulness Works Ltd, and author of books on mindfulness (The Mindful Workplace and Mindfulness in Eight Weeks). He has a Masters in the clinical applications of mindfulness and has been practicing himself for 40 years... well! Some expert then!

Super lovely guy and a great presentation on mindfulness and what it does in strengthening areas of our brains when we practice it regularly and how that impacts on our approaches/responses to things when they occur in our lives. He talked about our 'Working Memory Capacity' and how our working memory is short term, very small, refreshes very quickly and is degraded by stress. This 'Working Memory Capacity' is strengthened by mindfulness.

Honestly listening to him you think to yourself 'why wouldn't I be doing mindfulness??". It seems like such a no-brainer. And I want what all these cool calm and together people have got! They all seem so smart and lovely!

He said there are two dimensions to mindfulness. A 'Wisdom Dimension' and a 'Compassion Dimension'.

He said: "The Wisdom Dimension entails choosing to allow what is the case, be the case. It's surprising how much energy we all put into NOT allowing what is the case be the case. We wish it were 'not like this', 'they shouldn't do this', 'it shouldn't be like that', 'why has this turned up now?'. But you know what? What's here is just what's here. What's shown up has shown up. History has delivered us this moment and it couldn't be anything other than it is. It is what it is. And when we can allow that it is what it is, whatever is the case is the case, embrace the moment, then we begin to have some choice. Until then we are stuck. Stuck in this attitude of refusal or wanting it to be different or needing it to be other."

I love that 'history has delivered us this moment, and it couldn't be anything other than it is'. Such deep acceptance. This has really helped me shift something today.

Re the 'Compassion Dimension' he really just said this is about stilling our inner critical voice. The 'I'm/they're/it's not good enough' voice. It's about kindness, openness & generosity.

See what I mean about this all sounding so amazing and beneficial!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Monday, October 26, 2015

It's not weird introverted stuff....

Can't believe I have been faithfully listening to the Mindfulness Summit for 26 days and have only missed half of one video! No paying for a full access pass for me! So enjoying it and I really feel that the messages are going deep into my mind now. The main things I am feeling are often repeated and most important in living mindfully and practicing meditation are;

* It should be fun.
* Don't try so hard.
* Feel the gravity holding your body to the ground/chair
* Look and notice the things right in front of you - aspects of nature particularly good but anything right in front of you is good
* Be kindly towards others
* Listen and pay attention to what others are saying

If meditating...
* Just sit quietly and observe what is going on.
* Notice where your mind is going. Be interested in your thoughts. Think 'I notice that I'm thinking about xyz'
* Gently bring your attention back to the breath or body. No worries if your mind wanders off again. Be interested in where you are going. Gently bring it back again.
* Doing that over and over will strengthen your attention and focus muscle
* It should be lovely

Today's speaker was a very learned woman Professor Katherine Weare who does lots of research and work in setting up mindfulness programmes in schools (site here) - evidence based programmes are very important to her (a particular programme she helped develop here).

She showed us a 'Finger Breathing' exercise where you run an index finger from one hand up and down the fingers of the other hand as you breath in and out. Breath in=run finger up one side of thumb. Breath out=run finger down other side. Breath in=run finger up one side of index finger. Breath out=run finger down other side..etc etc..

She said when teaching young people the practice should be Easy & Fun & Light (and in fact said it should be that way for everyone).

- Focus on the breath (it's a nice little portable anchor she said)
- Mindfulness in the body
- Being in the here and now (eating & walking good places to try this)
- With emphasis on relationships and getting on with other people

She said it's not weird introverted stuff! It's just about paying more attention to the stuff that you're doing naturally. Probably the best description of mindfulness I've heard so far!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Super Star Dan Goleman!!

I was very looking forward to this one because Dan Goleman is a bit of a superstar to my mind. I'm sure I've quoted him in more than one essay. His work on Emotional Intelligence is so interesting.

It was a short interview with Melli (less than 30 minutes) which is no surprise because he is so busy!

He was reassuring about feeling that you are failing at meditation because you notice how busy your mind is and how impossible it is to quiet your thoughts. He said that noticing how busy your mind is actually actually succeeding at the first step which is to notice how busy your mind is...! So keep going...

He also said "Attention is muscle of the mind and every time you notice your mind wandering and bring it back you are strengthening that muscle".

And "Multi-tasking is a myth. When you switch from one thing to another you lose focus and have to put extra effort in to get back to where you were in focussing on that thing before."

And then this which I found interesting from an addiction perspective..

"Habit itself is implemented through an unconscious part of the brain, so in order to change it at all we have to bring it into awareness and that's the power of mindfulness.. bringing the habit out of the unconscious into space in the mind where we can work with it. Mindfulness lets us be more intentional about what we do, whatever we are doing, because we realise when we are not paying attention and when we are. And that is fundamental."

I mindlessly drank wine for 20+ years. And then I slowly bought my wine drinking habit to the foreground of my brain so that I could focus on it and change that habit. Without that focus on the problem I wouldn't have changed it.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Rose, Thorn, Bud...

The last two speakers on the Mindfulness Summit have been lovely but I haven't taken as many notes for some reason. Yesterday Australian Mirabai Bush was interviewed by Melli (summit organiser) - she was an older woman who has been practicing and teaching (on a grand scale) mindfulness for years and years.

She really just told her story which was so interesting - how she got started in India. How she has taught mindfulness in many organisations etc..

Had some good practical techniques..
1) before you send an email take two deep mindful breaths. Then re-read the email and change it or send anyway.. but you gave yourself a bit of distance
2) Use daily reminders about mindfulness.. choose something like a particular door handle and every time you reach for it remind yourself to stop and take pause of your body in space, gravity holding you on the ground, your aliveness etc etc..
3) Mindful walking she does a lot of and highly recommends. Slow walking focussing on all of your senses and what they are taking in while you walk.

Then today the interview was with Kristen Race from the States. She is a brain scientist and has written a book called 'Mindful Parenting' and has done a Ted talk here. She was cool and had some good practical tips for how to help people with parenting mindfully.

Apparently the best thing we can do is work on ourselves - because everything starts with the parents (no pressure!) and stress is contagious. So work on yourself and your own responses to things, trying to do them mindfully and calmly and that alone will have an impact on your kids.

But if you need to do more direct mindfulness work with the kids (which she recommends) she had some practice tips..

1) The 3-breath hug. Good for times of high stress. Hug your child (if they will let you) and take 3 deep slow breaths together. Even if they don't do the slow breaths they will fee yours and get the gist of the breath being there to ground yourself and the breath being a tool.

2) Tell or show them what stress does to the brain. The little nuggets inside the brain (Thalamus & Amygdala - Limbic System) that gets triggered and puts you in 'fight or flight mode' .. pushing aside the thinking part at the front (Pre Frontal Cortex). This happens because the Limbic system reacts faster and can be more powerful than the Pre Frontal Cortex. We flip our lids and lose the plot and forget all the smart tools we know...

3) Stress like a fire in the brain .. the breath being powerful to put it out (like blowing out a birthday candle). Get kids to hold their hands in front of the mouth and breath three times as if blowing out a birthday candle. Also a good exercise when you meet your fingertips of both hands down at the belly level and stretch them into a big ball when you breath in then pinch them down tight when you breath out. I just tried this with my kids! It works to focus them on the breath....

4) Gratitude jar at the dinner table. Little bits of paper to write positive things. Also daily 'Rose, Thorn & Bud' Rose = something positive from the day. Thorn = mistake you learned from. Bud = act of kindness witnessed

Lots of good stuff! Might get her book from the library...

Love, Mrs D xxx

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Less 'warlike configurations'....

Well! How lovely was today's speaker. Her talk was just so soothing and reassuring about life and our place in the world and all of that stuff. I can't do justice with a summary.

Her name was Timothea Goddard and she is an accredited mindfulness teacher and apparently a pioneer in bringing mindfulness training to Australia for the past 11 years. And she's a founding director of Openground a network of mindfulness trainers etc...

She said one of the great things that comes with regular mindfulness practicing or awareness is that we are probably going to become a little less surprised, less shocked, less pained when really difficult things arise in our lives - greed, hatred and ignorance rise endlessly. Also impermanence - old age, death, & sickness come to us all.

Mindfulness practice can help prepare us.. is not just an instrument that can do something for us, but something that can really be a space in which insight and preparedness can arise. It can help us have less warlike configurations in our own heads and in our relations to other people.

She summarised awareness brilliantly like this...

1) Life Sucks
2) Everything Changes
3) Don't Take It Personally

With mindfulness we can start cultivating a knowing of the impermanence of things.

We're a process, not a problem to be solved or fixed.

I like this last one particularly. I'm a process. Not a problem to be solved or fixed.

That calms me.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wisdom, strength, and peace...

I've just listened to Arianna Huffington for half an hour. She's pretty incredible and feisty and strong. The video was presented as part of the Mindfulness Summit but was actually a keynote speech she did at a conference called 'Dreamforce' in 2014. There was another Arianna Huffington video they posted on the Summit page but it was over an hour long and I didn't have the time for it. I did however find it on You Tube (link here in case I want to listen later).

Anyway - Arianna Huffington famously collapsed from burnout some 8 years ago (hit her head, broke her cheekbone etc etc - she was exhausted) and since then has been on a wellness kick. Has written a book called 'Thrive' which I am going to reserve at the library. She is a self-proclaimed sleep enthusiast and says we all need down time - time to unplug, recharge, ground ourselves in our own reality.

She says sleep and meditation are performance enhancement tools and burnout is the disease of our civilisation right now. This quote from her I loved; "We all have in us a place from which we can move the world. That place of wisdom, strength, and peace. It's as close to us as our next breath'.

She said the people who will win the future are the people who can sit quietly in a room while the rest of us clear our inboxes (which is like bailing water out of a leaking boat). Loved her!

Yesterday's Mindfulness Summit speaker was Russ Harris and this was presented as a Skype chat with Melli (summit organiser) like many others have been. He is a former GP who now is a trainer for Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) and is the author of the bestselling The Happiness Trap.

He said mindfulness without values is like a ship without a rudder. You need to bring the values of warmth and openness and generosity to the practice in order to truly find calm and peace. He said Mindfulness is acceptance with awareness and you need to have an approach with is open, curious and flexible.

He was interesting on the topic emotional avoidance (which I have been guilty of for many years of my life). We get stuck if we believe happiness is needing to get rid of unpleasant feelings and instead accumulate positive ones... that tight agenda will cause problems, and the more problems it creates the more it gives rise to 'experiential avoidance'. Experiential Avoidance is the ongoing attempt to avoid or get rid of unwanted, uncomfortable and unpleasant thoughts and feelings (that's what I did for so many years with my boozing!!!).

Everyone is experientially avoidant but the higher your degree of this the more you try to go through life trying to avoid pain, the higher your risk of depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD, long term disability etc etc.

He had us do this cool exercise where we though our most nasty self-belief about ourselves (something you secretly think about yourself when you are being mean to yourself like 'I'm fat' or 'I'm not good enough' or 'I'm not ambitious enough') and he had us think it for a good minute over and over and really believe it. Then he had us think it again but insert the words 'I'm thinking that I'm ...' over and over.. and then after a while add a bit more to the front which is 'I'm noticing that I'm thinking that I'm....'

It was really affective in diffusing and distancing me somewhat from the thought.

We are not our thoughts!!

All good material on the summit the last couple of days.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Monday, October 19, 2015

Tiny Buddha

Lori Deschene the founder of the website Tiny Buddha was today's speaker on the Mindfulness Summit.. what a little powerhouse of a woman! She was cute and chatty and awesome.

She described herself as an over-thinker who is overly sensitive and said mindfulness has really unlocked her life for her in that she is no longer desperately worried about what people think of her or  desperately trying to control every little thing all the time. She said 'being able to catch my thoughts before they take hold and control what emotional reaction I have to them ha been very powerful'. She described mindfulness as 'just being' (as opposed to trying to control or reaching etc I suppose..).

It sounded to me like she does lots of informal mindfulness practices rather than formal (long sitting meditations).. so lots of mindful walking being aware of her body and nature, and also mindful eating (I think this is going to be key for me - it's actually bloody hard to always focus on your eating when you are eating! Try it!).

Another quote from her that she finds helpful is "I am not my thoughts and they can hurt me if I always believe them" ... and "this moment will never come again". She talked about the power of looking at what is unique in every moment because even though we often think of regular things are boring or repetitive there is often subtle differences that make the moment unique and interesting.

Melli also asked her for helpful tips regarding the use of technology... these were good..

* Not always having your device on or by you in the house. Leave it in another room at times. You don't have to reply instantly.

* 'Experience now, share later'. Yes share something if you like (on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook) but do it after the event so you are fully experiencing the event itself.. also because once you share something you often want to check back for likes/comments etc and that is just further taking you away from the experience. This will be a good one for me!

* Watch your intention when online. If you have 'drifted' away from your original intention ('I'm going to research a recipe') be aware and stop!

Think this is the highlights. It was shortish today (just 25 mins) but I really liked this lady!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Question & Answer session

Today's audio on the Mindfulness Summit was a Question and Answer with Melli (summit organiser) and Shamash Alidina who wrote the book 'Mindfulness for Dummies' and also featured earlier in the summit.

He's such a cool chatty guy and the questions were interesting. I think they'd been submitted by summit participants on Melli's (Mrs Mindfulness) Facebook page.. and had been 'up-voted' (liked) by the most people. Ten questions which Shamash answered in a long-winded chatty way...

The stand-out for me was when he talked about 'Urge Surfing' (I think the question was something about how to deal with recurring negative memories that emerge in meditation, how to resist cutting the session short when your brain is bringing up shit you don't want to deal with). For some reason he suggested the technique of 'Urge Surfing' - "also good for addictions" he said .. treat each urge like a wave, they usually last 7-8 minutes, so instead of acting immediately on the urge (to move if you are sore  or sick of sitting meditating, or reach for a wine, or check your phone for new emails etc etc).. ride the urge like a wave, bring curiosity to it.. and watch it pass by. Surf the urge!

I want to try this! I like this imagery.

Another stand out bit was when Shamash said the biggest obsticle to living mindfully is actually remembering to be mindful!

Also when he said relationships are by far the biggest and most important factor in happiness.

Can't remember during what question/answer he gave these factiods but I wrote them down.

A nice short but interesting audio and I am coming to really love Melli she's so easy to like! Very nice and low-key and authentic. 

Tomorrow's interview is apparently one with more tips on using technology mindfully.. ie how to live in this age of intense technological advancements and not lose your mind to it all... sounds good...

Love, Mrs D xxx

Curious, Open, Accepting, Loving

Well today was a bit of a treat on the Mindfulness Summit - it was Dr Dan Siegel and his WIFE! I have listened to and watched lots of his talks on the brain, never knew he was married to such a powerhouse of a woman, lawyer & mindfulness expert.. someone who has been meditating for decades apparently. I want what she has! (interesting to note that all mindfulness experts are very lithe and slim... maybe that will come to me if I eat more mindfully and don't be a little piggie at times.. but I digress...)

They started by talking to Melli (Summit organiser) about technology and screens and how to use them mindfully so they don't negatively impact on the brain. Dr Dan said we are so busy looking outwards into the internet, we don't spend enough time looking inwards to ourselves or face-to-face with others. He said there are 7 things you can't get online that you can get in person (this was good to hear laid out like this)

1) eye contact
2) facial expressions
3) tone of voice
4) gestures
5) posture
6) timing
7) intensity 

This is good for me as someone who can get hung up on emails....(over analyising them sometimes or reading them incorrectly.. I have some work relationships that are mainly conducted over email and I find it really difficult)

Anyway, they then talked about the importance of sleep for re-setting and de-toxifying the brain. Caroline Welch was Dr Dan's wife and she said she meditates for 30 minutes first thing in the morning and doesn't look at her phone or computer until after breakfast. She says after doing this for a while you come to experience a certain energy and liveliness, you come to feel like you 'can handle it' (all of life's experiences). You get a resilience and readiness. I like this. A readiness. Because shit is going to come, right? Taking time to reflect inwards will help ready us for stuff. Also they both said you get a glow and look much younger and I could see they were both standing there side by side, cool smart healthy mindful people.

Dr Dan said he does a 'Wheel of Awareness' in the morning - not sure what that is but he starts the day reflecting inwards.. if you start the day that way it becomes a trait and your are able to become more regulated in your responses to things (ie not just knee-jerk reactions, more considered responses). He said 'Presence is a wonderful thing. Having a 'COAL' approach ... Curious, Open, Accepting, Loving.

Also the importance of 'awe' and just taking time to become aware that we are a part of a much larger whole (simply taking time looking at nature can be enough awe for a day).. this is good not just for yourself but makes you want to reach out more for other people. Their website is here.

Sorry this is a bit disjointed today but suffice to say it was a great interview.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Friday, October 16, 2015

Brilliant breakdown of emotions...

OMG OMG OMG!!! I'm sure this is getting like a broken record but today's Mindfulness Summit speaker was SO GOOD!!! Funny because when he started I thought 'I can't be bothered' and I fell asleep after 10 minutes and almost didn't resume this morning but THANK FUCK I DID because he has given me the BEST breakdown of emotions EVER!!

And this has always been a major for me since I got sober, I am very interested in emotions, how to deal with them, how they work, why they're there etc etc. This dude gives such a brillliant break down of all of that.

His name is Paul Gilbert and hes a clinical psychologist from the UK, has written books and runs an organisation committed to helping people develop compassionate mindfulness to help them deal with emotions (their website is here).

The video wasn't an interview with Melli (summit organiser) but was a presentation from him, like yesterday's one, split screen with him on one side talking to the compter (us) and his slides on the other side. So it was a presentation!

I took notes and will try to break down some of what he said but it won't do justice to the presentation. Far out, I want to read his book!

Ok.. his first big point was that we didn't choose the minds we got, we didn't choose our genes or our circumstances.. all of that has shaped our minds - not us - and we must remember that. He said 'It's not your fault' and it sounded so lovely. 

He also made the point that humans are undoubtedly the most cruel animals on the planet-not just to others but to ourselves. We can talk to ourselves internally in the most cruel ways. Again this is not our fault.. It's because of how our brains are wired and what we are conditioned to focus on. 

He said there are three types of emotion regulation.
1) The 'Survival System'. Those emotions that focus on threat and self-protection (anger, anxiety, disgust). These emotions are the most powerful because for survival we can't afford to miss these. These ones will dominate. If we have a day of lovely experiences and one that wasn't, it will be the non-lovely experience we will ruminate on because that's how our brains are wired.
2) The 'Drive System' that focus on doing and achieving. Dopamine! This system doesn't have limits, left unregulated it causes problems (hello addiction!) we want more and more. It's about drive, excitement, and vitality. This emotion system has us wanting more-money, possessions, fame, success.
3) The 'Soothing System'. Contentment, safety, connection. Feeling safe is not just about the absence of threat, it is a specific system in the brain that gives us the capacity to feel safe and connected. It is all about our relationship with others and ourselves. 

Meditation is familiarisation with our brains. The more we become familiar with our brains the more we can accept without judgement. Meditation/mindfulness offers insight - but what are we getting insight into? Our own minds but also natures mind - the mind we were given. We can observe without owning. 

And the more we can see the range of potential versions of ourselves the easier we can choose the more compassionate ones. Mindfulness helps us to recognise the ruminating (the survival system that dominates) and helps us to choose to switch focus. We can shape our brains! Caring behaviour affects everything. Relationships (including the one with ourselves) are physiological regulators. Humans function best when they are loving and caring, when they feel loved and valued. Mindfulness builds this loving relationship with the self. 

OMG loved this dude. Loving the summit! It just keeps getting better! Righto, off to spend a day allowing my soothing system to dominate.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mindfulness for dealing with pain

Gosh it's amazing to find out about all these people who are doing wonderful work in the area of mindfulness... building big businessess around trying to help people deal with stuff.

Today's speaker on the Mindfulness Summit was a woman called Vidyamala Burch - a kiwi who has been living in the UK for many years, she has had major back problems for much of her life because of accidents I think.. and has for many years been embracing mindfulness and meditation as a way to deal with her chronic pain.

Now she has turned her personal endeavours into a business helping others, has written two books and runs a company called 'Breathworks' and it is growing massive! Courses - online and in person - resources etc etc. She was lovely, grey haired and softly spoken and it really seems fantastic what she is teaching people about how mindfulness and breathing into (not resisting) pain can help alieviate suffering. Brilliant and much needed helpful advice given chronic pain is such a massive issue for our modern world.

She says; Mindfulness is a self-management technique for dealing with pain. It helps us to turn off auto-pilot, develop awareness and intelligence, pay attention to our experiences in the present moment, remain steady through the ups and downs.

I love this; remain steady through the ups and downs.

I have to be really honest, I am feeling very steady and calm right now and I absolutely know that it is because of all of this focus I am putting towards mindfulness. Yesterday I took lots of mindful moments. I feel calm. Not sure if my family can tell but I can.. I am feeling really calm and present. 

Holy Shit! Inner calm! That's what I'm trying to find - it says so at the top of this blog! 

Anyway - Vidyamala says when we've got any tension or discomfort in the body we breath-hold/tense and that adds to the pain. What we need to do is guide the breath into the holding (sore) part of the body. I think this would work for emotional pain as well - often felt by me in the heart - guide the breath intentionally into the painful area. Instead of having an 'I don't like this' reaction to the pain, turn towards the experience. Investigate it with tenderness, care, acceptance and compassion. 

Breaks are also so important - 'take a break before you break' - 20 mins of work at the computer at the time (this would be good for me at home when working).

Other messages from her; pain is not solid or fixed, it's fluid. Mindfulness is not purely for the self, it impacts on those around us (another speaker talked about this), and - We are all a mixutre of pain and pleasure .. we are all just flowing along .. mindfulness helps us not get fixed on our own experience of pain.

There were three videos today, one a presentation Vidyamala did for us on her computer (split screen between her on Skype and her powerpoint slides that she was moving through on the other side while she spoke, worked well), another video an interview with Melli (summit organiser) that was a guided meditation to show how she leads people into the body and helps them turn towards areas that are commonly tensed when pain is being experienced, and a short video on her company (I didn't listen to that one).

Another amazingly interesting and useful day of material from this incredible summit that I am LOVING!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bugger!

For the first time since the Mindfulness Summit began I waited too late to finish listening to a talk and the 24-hour free listening period ran out. Such a shame! The guy was called Sam Harris and he was a big brain dude. The video wasn't the usual interview with Melli (summit organiser) but was a video of a one hour lecture he'd given somewhere some time, followed by a one hour Q & A. I got 40 minutes into the lecture this morning when I had to stop and only just got back to it now thinking I had time left to finish. But alas no.

It was a shame - he was really really interesting on spirituality not being of organised religion and was building up to outlining his understanding of what spirituality is .. separating out from the thinking self, the ego etc, and realising our other observing self. I think that's what he was going to say. I'm not sure. He was rediculously intelligent and really assured.. I was a bit blown away by him.. but boy did I want to finish it. Might see if I can find it elsewhere on the internet, otherwise I may end up buying an all access pass to the summit so I can finish this (maybe if I don't get to finish others as well...)

Anyway, I launched into listening to the next available audio right away - just 24 minutes long which was good. A lovely man called Jack Kornfield. He's a mindfulness expert, teacher and author on the subject etc etc. Does work with Tara Brach apparently.

He said mindfulness and spirituality are not separate (although we like to separate and compartmentalise things out in our modern lives). 

He said the goal isn't to become some rigid mindful person, it is to become fluid and to perfect your love.

I like that - perfect your love. 

To live with a compassionate heart and be present. He said people feed off that.. if you start to live and act and respond to life more mindfully it starts to have an affect on the people around you. It's like space - you become broader and more vast. Mindfulness is to see clearly and step out of the small sense of self. 

A lovely little interview with Jack Konfield. Wish I'd finished Sam Harris in time but lesson learned.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Monday, October 12, 2015

My favourite Summit speaker so far!!

I've said this before but today's speaker on the Mindfulness Summit has been my absolute stand-out favourite so far! He was just so fun and positive and upbeat and smart and cool and relaxed and encouraging about the whole mindfulness meditation thing.

I am going to buy his book and this is the first time I've felt like this! (athough I have already read a bunch of other people's books from the summit so far).

His name is Shamash Alidina  and he's got an English accent but is of Indian descent I think. He was cool! 

One of his big messages was to relax about the whole process. Don't feel you have to sit with a rigid back - get comfortable! Check if you are comfortable throughout (if you are doing a formal sitting, but he even make jokes about calling it 'formal' as if it is something you need to dress up for).. if you want to lie down, lie down! If you want to change your posture at any point, readjust! Just be aware and respond. Let what will be, be.

I really connected when he talked about what people are like when they first start trying to be mindfull/meditate.. trying to do it 'properly' and 'well' and really reaching or grasping for a particular reaction. Aiming for calm, aiming for relaxation.. aiming aiming aiming.

Just relax. Let what will be, be. If your mind wanders that is good and interesting. If you had a good friend that kept rabbiting on about stuff on their mind, you wouldn't get grumpy with them, you'd be kind. You should be the same about your own wandering mind. 

He said the first important aspect of being mindful is the sense of being in the here and now, the second important aspect is bringing the right attitude - kindness, warmth, affection.. these attitudes are really important when we start looking inwards. and the third important aspect is to look at the causes/direction of the mind wandering as that can teach us so much. Don't make autopilot the enemy.

Also that there are two parts of us, the thinking/story-telling part and the observer. Mindfulness brings a natural separation between the two which is so great.

Mindfulness is not an act of willpower, it's a letting things be.

He led us in a brief mindfulness exercise and at the start he had us imagine that we were holding two heavy bags - One was holding the past, all our memories and experiences and regrets etc.. and the other bag was holding the future, our worries and projections and fears .. and he has us imagine slowly setting down the bags one at a time, so that we were just left in the present moment, the only moment we ever really actually experience. Aaaaahhhhh.... it was so relaxing and lovely.

I can write more about what this dude said but it was the WAY he spoke which was so great. He was just so lovely and upbeat, funny and warm and cool. I loved him!

Just a quick note about yesterday's talk by Tara Brach. I couldn't listen to it. I was tired yes, but it wasn't an interview with Melli (the Summit organiser/host) which I was disappointed about, it was a Tara talk like she does all the time and I listen to her all the time (and love her) but was quite looking forward to a more unique Summit-style interview. So I passed. Sorry Tara.. love you but listen to you via your website later...

Love, Mrs D xxx

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ruby Ruby Ruby...

Wow Ruby Wax! Loved her book. Loved her interview with Melli for Day 9 of the Mindfulness Summit.

She's so brilliant and funny and supremely self-conscious and awkward at the same time. She is brutally honest about her struggles and wears her vulnerability all over her face - it's quite endearing. She also has quite a staccato way of talking that feels quite edgy like she's about to lose her train of thought - yet she never does. I loved this interview. Quite short today (just 33 mins) which was a relief as I find the hour long ones quite a big time commitment but I'm going to try and stay on track - even over the next week when I'm away on holiday with the family. But we'll have to see how that goes. Might not manage to keep up in which case I'll take a break for a week and revisit the ones I missed after the whole summit is finished (will buy and all-access pass if I have to).

ANYWAY - Ruby, Ruby, Ruby!

She suffers (or has suffered) from crippling depression in the past and says that mindfulness helps immensely. She describes those moments of quiet contemplation not 'I give up' but rather 'I'm pulling down the cortisol (red zone) so I can win the game when I come back in.'

I think for her stopping and being still has always been an issue... so learning how to be still has been immensely powerful and beneficial for her mental health.

In fact she said that she has been depression-free for 7 years.. then it came back just recently.. it dawned on her what was occurring inside her brain .. but rather than do her usual thing to cope (which used to be just get fucking busy, say yes to everything, go to every single event possible, busy, busy, busy don't have to think about what's going on...) this time she did the opposite. She CANCELLED everything, went on a retreat and stopped and focused on her inner world. Slowly she pulled the shutters up and the light came on again.

Mindfulness stopped her depression.

The fact that she is open about this, can articulate this and is proof that this works is GOLD.

Go Ruby!!!!!!!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Friday, October 9, 2015

Informal Practice...

Now this is my kind of topic! Day 8 of the Mindfulness Summit and Elisha Goldstein talked about the power of the 'informal practice' i.e. mindfullness time 'off the cushion' so not sitting doing a formal meditation.

He said mini moments of conscious awareness can have a real impact on our lives and that short semi-formal practices on a daily basis are better than one formal practice once a week. He said it's like yoga.. if you do one yoga class a week it's good but if you do a tiny bit of yoga every day it's better because you are having more little reminders for your muscles/body/brain.. and it's the same with mindfulness.

So if nothing else try to do a short semi-formal practice to start and finish your day - a mindful shower in the morning and some conscious awareness of your breath and body when you are lying in bed going to sleep at night.

Elisha Goldstein was a crazy character - boy did he chatter away! Even said at one point that he thinks he might be undiagnosed ADHD.. he did talk a LOT and very fast! But I could follow him ok and enjoyed his enthusiasm.

He said sometimes regular informal practice can sometimes lead to a regular formal practice, sometimes it's all you ever do and that's ok too.

And then he had some great acronyms which I wrote down. Pathways for mindful moments.

STOP:
S = Stop
T = Take a few breaths
O = Observe. Body, emotion, thoughts. What is my body doing? How am I feeling emotionally? What's on my mind?
P = Proceed. What's most important to pay attention to as I go on? What am I needing?

RAIN:
R = Recognise what's here (anxiety, shame, sadness)
A = Allow what's here to be here
I = Investigate/Inquire. Get intimate with what is happening for you internally. Move towards it, approach it rather than avoid it Ask: what is this feeling believing? What are my thoughts/messages to myself. Notice the deeper message. What do I need? Calm? Safety? Freedom? Connection?
N = Non-identification/Natural Awareness. I am not these thoughts and emotions. Get some perspective and distance.

SAFE:
S = Soften
A = Allow
F = Feeling
E = Expanding. Expand the sense of compassion you have to your current state to other humans feeling the same way right now. Feel some safety and security knowing that there are many others who are feeling and have felt the exact same way.

I love that last one. I often do that when I'm in a funk.. I make myself look at other people on the sidewalk/in their cars etc and imagine what is going on for them. Because we all deal with the same shit constantly, we all feel the same way at certain times. We are all connected and dealing with tough stuff constantly. It takes me out of myself. It's empathetic and calming.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dr. Rick Hanson ... what a guy!

I loved this guy!! He was such a spirited talker and really smart.. Melli and him had a great convo about what actually happens in the brain after you spend some concerted time meditating and living mindfully.

He's a neuropsychologist and has written a bunch of best-selling books. His website is here.

Wow it's unbelievable the people that are being interviewed for this summit. I can't believe it's all just available to me free! It's like I'm doing a fantastic university course on mindfulness.

I have been repeating yesterday's phrase 'embodied immediacy' all day today. I still really like that.

Can't wait for the next one!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Embodied Immediacy....

Just listened to the very serious Tami Simon being interviewed by Melli O'Brien for day 6 of the Mindfulness Summit. Actually I started earlier in the day.. listened to the start while lying on the bed.. the middle while cooking dinner and the ending on the sofa.

The ending was a guided meditation in the particular type of practice she is into which is 'body based awareness' (all about going around the body imagining each part is actually doing the breathing.. it was quite amazing although I do have to admit my mind wandered a lot ..!)

Anyway, Tami had a lovely way of talking about mindfulness as being about embracing the 'embodied immediacy' i.e. us in our bodies right at this moment. I like that phrase - 'embodied immediacy'.

She also said we are often grasping for things that are the opposite of 'embodied immediacy' i.e. things that aren't actually here (like things on our phones!).

Also this: 'the thinking mind is not the definer of our experience - there is something larger.'

She also reiterated what yesterday's guy said about words not being able to do justice to the felt experiences of mindfulness etc.. it's hard to put into words the shifting that can go on internally.

I'm trying to articulate all that I am learning and feeling and experiencing with words.. but am not sure if it's easy to follow, understand or imagine.

Let me just put it this way - I LOVE IT.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Mindful eating..

THIS one I REALLY enjoyed. Day 5 of the Mindfulness Summit was Susan Albers who has written 6 books on mindful eating.

She says she's retrained herself out of comfort eating .. simply by being extremely mindful when eating..and now finds different ways to sooth herself that don't involve food.

She's got a huge industry behind her of books, apps etc etc.. lots of tools and tricks.. but it was lovely listening to her being interviewed by Melli for 40 mins or so.

Her top tip is to follow the Four 'S''s when eating - Sit down, Smell the food, Savour the food, Slowly chew, and Smile.

I really need to work on this because I have very 'alcoholic' habits when it comes to food. If I am in a funk or tired or grumpy or lonely or whatever.. I turn to food to 'treat', 'reward', and comfort. (I put those first two words in inverted commas because I'm really not treating or rewarding myself at all! I punish my body with crap and then feel guilty, sluggish and shameful about it afterwards. It is very related to how I used to use booze and feel about my problem drinking.)

Suffice to say I am about to mindfully eat my morning muesli!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Monday, October 5, 2015

Having a 'tight mental condition'.

Day 4 of the Mindfulness Summit (already feels like it's been going forever - can't believe there's 31 days worth of this in total!) and Melli interviews Jono Fisher. He's a lovely looking Australian guy who runs something called the 'Wake Up Project' (which I'd never heard of).

They had a lovely chat, I listened to the first half in bed last night and the first half when I woke up. I frantically took notes because he kept saying things that I wanted to remember! He has a really great way of articulating stuff.. like the relief he feels when he breaks out of being lost in his head ("living only from the shoulders up") and the relief he feels when he clunks back down into his body/the present moment.

I've had periods like that recently, when I stopped being mindful and fell into over-rumination habits.. i.e. got lost in my head. He called it being on 'autopilot' or having a 'tight mental condition'. I like that description.. it describes well what I used to call being 'lost in my thoughts'.

The man was so brilliant at articulating tricky inner stuff, he even had a brilliant way of articulating the fact that he didn't think he had a brilliant way of articulating tricky inner stuff!! He said "it's hard to translate a felt experience into words". I know what he means.

I've had magical moments that I can STILL remember very clearly... one when I was sitting into the car outside the boys school and I was listening to a guided meditation and I suddenly had a very dramatic realisation of me sitting there in my body in the year 2015 in my car.. it felt very surreal almost.. it was a dramatic 'clunking' (my attempt to describe this felt experience into words!) into my body.

I don't know if anyone reading this can image what that felt like. It was a very dramatic felt feeling that I remember clearly. It stands out to me. I can try and describe it in words but the words will never do the feeling justice.

Honestly.. you just have to give this mindfulness thing a serious go and hopefully you'll start feeling these things too and it will be amazing.

Anyway.. Jono Fisher also said "so many people are hungry for a deeper quality in their lives and I think there is a real dissatisfaction with the lies around consumerism making our lives better. It's the flip side, gaining on the inside - not the outside - that makes us feel better."

Wise words from a clever lovely man.

Love, Mrs D xxx

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The voice in my head is an arsehole..

.. according to Dan Harris. He was the interview for Day 3 of this Mindfulness Summit. Was a shorter clip today (around 35 mins as opposed to 65) which was good because I have a busy house and Mr D is still away... but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it in bed last night. The new day's audios get downloaded at around 8pm my time so I might try to do them in the evening from now on.

Anyway, I was keen to hear Dan Harris because I loved his book - 10% Happier - and it was nice to see him interviewed in a more informal way. Seems like a straight-up smart guy.

He's great because he's honest about nothing ever being perfect, judgemental thoughts or over-rumination can still occur but a mindfulness/meditation practice helps you to clearly see and identify when they are and not let them run away.

And he's of the corporate world and was able to talk about how much mindfulness is permeating many high-powered sectors of America.

Am not promising I can blog every day that the summit is on (all of October) but will try while I can!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sudden awakening, gradual cultivation...

That was the message from Day 2 of the Mindfulness Summit today. Today's free session (available for 24 hours) was an interview with Joseph Goldstein.. another mindfulness guru who has been practicing and teaching for over 40 years. Super nice guy.

I love that the sessions feel very accessible! We can see the organiser Melli O'Brien in her living room talking to her computer with earphones in (she is carrying out these interviews via Skype) and the expert person on the other side of the screen in their study talking to their computer. It feels very intimate and straightforward.

Joseph Goldstein was lovely.. I found today's interview a little more difficult to follow because I have a houseguest now and the kids and puppy (usual story).. but I did manage to get through the 46 minutes and even partake of his guided mindfulness session at the end - was nice!

His main thing was reinforcing that this is a 'practice'. It's not a study for a while and 'get it' kind of thing.. the whole point is that it is a practice that you have to practice.. (!).. and that stopping and starting and coming and going from the practice is normal.. and that the times when we stop, or get stuck, or overly ruminate on things, or go through a struggle where we act reactively rather than responsively are the times that can teach us the most. Struggle is normal and will come! But we have to keep returning and practicing and that is moving us forward.

Also got from today the notion that grasping and holding onto things - good things and bad things - can be but should not be the way of life. The way of life is fluid. Fluidity is what an ongoing mindfulness practice will help us with. This is why we have to appreciate all feelings and experiences - good and bad - when they occur because everything changes.

He said mindfulness is about 'sudden awakening, gradual cultivation'.. so you could say I have had my sudden awakening to all of this lately.. and now I am into the 'gradual cultivation' phase of the practice.. which will likely continue and stop and start for the rest of my life!

Love, Mrs D xxx

Friday, October 2, 2015

Mindfulness Summit Day 1

The FREE Mindfulness Summit that I have registered for went live last night (after a slight delay which had people around the globe panicking!). I've just spent this morning listening to the Day 1 audio which is available for 24 hours only.

(You can buy an All Access Pass to have unlimited access to all the audio forever but I've not decided to do that as yet).

Day 1 is an hour-long interview between the summit's organiser Melli O'Brien and the wonderful Mark Williams who wrote the book that really started me on this track (Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World.)

One of the best things that I got out of this interview - other than getting to listen to Mark Williams for a whole hour which is simply wonderful because I adore this man! - was his reinforcing that mind-wandering during meditation is ok. Not just ok but actually necessary!

He says if you sit down to meditate and your mind doesn't wander it would be like going to a gym and there being no equipment. The thoughts in our mind are the equipment we need to practice the tools of identifying and observing thoughts.

Meditation practice is noticing when your thoughts have wandered and bringing the attention gently (and it has to be kindly and gently, not grumpy or disappointed - loving) back to the body or breath.

Noticing - escorting back to the present moment (using the body & breath as the anchor of the present moment).

Noticing - escorting back.

Noticing - escorting back.

Noticing - escorting back.

Noticing - escorting back.

Noticing - escorting back.

Noticing - escorting back.

Noticing - escorting back.

That's meditation.

Really looking forward to the rest of the summit!

Love, Mrs D xxx

UPDATE - OH MY GOODNESS!!!! I JUST LEFT A COMMENT ON THE SUMMIT'S PAGE AND MARK WILLIAMS HIMSELF ANSWERED ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CHECK IT OUT!!!