Group May 4th 2017

Today we began with a loving-kindness body scan, drawn from Jeffrey Brantley's 'Daily meditations for calming your anxious mind' (p.152). Brantley says in his introduction, 'Old, unconscious habits of meanness, self-criticism, and judgement can easily and quickly focus toxic attitudes on your body. For example, how do you usually react to and treat your body when it is sick, hurts, or is injured? Are you angry or kind?' He continues, ' ....focusing loving-kindness on your body - can help you cultivate a wiser and friendlier relationship with your body in any situation. This practice can be especially helpful in times of anxiety and worry when your "fear body" is loomimg large'. This scan, rather than systematically going around the body, toe to head or visa versa, takes the broad approach of feeling the flow of sensations throughout the body and adding kind words and  expressions of gratitude towards the body, both as a whole and wherever seems to call for closer attention. This can be taken into the organs of the body as well as its major regions and any part where there is or has been sickness, hurt or injury, using a mindful breath and kind, compassionate words to soothe and express gratitude

It is probably worth saying this practice is not about, for instance, healing a sickness, but about shifting the attitude towards the body in a more aware and kindly direction, whatever state it is in)

We followed with enquiry around this practice, and then generally. This practice can, like most others, be incorporated into everyday life, whenever we 'come to' and take a few moments to feel and breaths and in this case, bring a compassionate focus to the body.  The 3-minute breathing space has proven to be of huge value in providing a simple route for bringing mindfulness into the routine of life, as a mini reminder to 'come back' and notice what's happening right now and attending to sensations, emotions and thoughts with consciousness, rather than blind habit. 'The Mindful Way through Depression' (Williams, Teasdale, Segal, Kabat-Zinn, 2007) teaches a useful variety of applications for the '3-minute breathing space', which can of course be made into any length, from 30 seconds to 30 minutes - depending on the occasion!

We spoke of the way pain of all sorts can be made more bearable by not hardening into it, allowing for possibilities, somehow bringing a flexibility into how we regard even the possibility of further painful experience. Dealing with depression is one thing, dealing with the fear of future depression another, and it should not be minimised or denied. The practice of mindfulness in both its detailed attention, and in the vastness of 'just being with' offers the possibility:

"... to live life as if each moment is important, as if each moment counted and could be worked with, even if it is a moment of pain, sadness, despair, or fear" (Jon Kabat-Zinn)

Jeff Brantley ( 'Calmimg Your Anxious Mind') talks of four important internal factors that support meditation practice: Attitude ('don't know it all'  is good!); Curiosity ( even in unpleasant or difficult moments); Motivation (and determination and discipline - even if you don't like it!) and Belief in yourself (in your own ability and power to do something to help yourself). This last factor could well be called 'belief in your own wisdom', and for someone who has suffered depression, the 'experienced understanding' that mindfulness offers and the journey of resilience are huge possibilities. 

We finished our session with a short audio practice from 'Mindfulness Daily' by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach - 'Coming back to your senses' (Sounds True recordings).