December 2017 meeting

Our session began with a body scan with kindness, combining elements from Brantley's 'loving kindness body scan' ( 'Daily meditations for calming your anxious mind') and Germer's 'Mindfulness of emotion in the body' ('The mindful path to self-compassion'). This practice ranged from physical to emotional awareness with a focus on kindness. We followed up with enquiry.

On the cultivation of loving kindness toward yourself Pema Chödrön has this to say:-

'Some people find the teachings I offer helpful because I encourage them to be more kind to themselves. The kindness that I learned from my teachers, and that I wish so much to convey to other people, is kindness toward all qualities of our being. The qualities that are the toughest to be kind to are the painful parts, where we feel ashamed, as if we've just blown it, when things are falling apart for us. Maitrior loving-kindness, means sticking with ourselves when we don't have anything, when we feel like a loser. And it becomes the basis for extending the same unconditional friendliness to others.'

We had group enquiry around what gifts mindfulness has given us personally - reflections included the courage to show vulnerability. 

There was a final practice drawn from Kelly McGonigal's interview on 'The upside of stress' from the recent Shambala Mountain Centre 'Reality Summit'. This brief loving-kindness practice she describes as 'embodying and opening up to the embodiment of loving, kindness and compassion... shown to shift your physiology in the direction of both stress resilience and compassion, changing what's happening in the autonomic nervous system and the cardiovascular system ..'  Key features of this practice include imagining 'a quality of attention as if you were lightly holding a thread between your thumb and your index finger and life were just pulling that thread gently through...' and 'imagining if the breath were entering the body from the centre of your chest and it could find its way into your heart and from your heart into your lungs .. as you exhale, that breath woukd move from the lungs into the heart and then out through the centre of the chest... the breath is nourishing and strengthening the heart.' 

We finished with this closing paragraph from Kabat- Zinn's 'Coming to our Senses'', published in 2005: 

'Perhaps it is time for us to own the name we have given ourselves as a species, to own our sentience, and come to our senses while there is still time for us to do so. And while we might not realise it, that time, by all reckoning, is shorter than we think. And the stakes higher. What is at stake, finally, is none other than our very hearts, our very humanity, our species, and our world. What is available to us is the full spectrum of who and what we really are. What is required is nothing special, simply that we start paying attention and wake up to things as they are. All else will follow.'( p. 609)