July 2018 meeting

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We started with a practice drawn from 'The Pema Chödrön Audio Collection' (Sounds True, 2004). 

The one chosen was a mindfulness awareness practice, where the attitude is one of unconditional friendliness and 'learning to let go'. Certain 'techniques' are first described:

1. The posture, embodying balance, allowing the energy to flow through the body, the heart and mind to open. In this practice the eyes are encouraged to be open, to help work with any obstacles that may present themselves. The mouth is slightly open, to help relax the face and neck. The whole idea is to 'minimise the sense of struggle'.

2. The object -  here the out-breath. The in-breath is regarded as a pause before the out-breath which is a relaxing and softening out. We are just 'to be with the breath in a light and relaxed way'.

3. How to work with our thoughts. When they arise (this isn't wrong, it's the nature of mind to think) the instruction is not to get rid of thoughts but also not to grasp or judge. We can say to ourselves 'thinking' and then let go, it's 'not a big deal' -  coming back to the out-breath - until, once again, noticing when we have wandered off, and gently, once more coming back. We may label the kind of thinking - 'worrying', 'planning', before opening once again to the present moment.

We continued this practice for 15 - 20 minutes, always coming back, softening, relaxing, letting go, with gentleness and openness.

To close the practice, a description of 'Beginners Mind' was read from Kabat-Zinn's 'Full Catastrophe Living'. Here is a section: " Whatever the particular technique we might be using, whether it is the body scan, the sitting meditation or the yoga, we should bring our beginner's mind with us each time we practice so that we can be free of our expectations based on our past experiences. An open, "beginner's mind" allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our own expertise, which often thinks it knows more than it does. No moment is the same as any other. Each is unique and contains unique possibilities. Beginner's mind reminds us of this simple truth." (p. 35)

We followed the practice with some rich enquiry, sharing practice obstacles (such as sleeping, drifting off) and reactions to 'different' instructions such as having palms facing up and eyes open and to the idea of 'labelling' thoughts. 

We then had general enquiry and discussion around practice length and practice preferences. The ways in which we variously hold emotion in our bodies was shared. Once more, the relationship between 'formal' and 'informal' practice was discussed. We were reminded of the value of the 3 minute breathing space as a portable way of literally carrying practice into daily life.

We closed with a short sitting body scan.