December 2018 meeting

We began with a simple practice for connecting to the body drawn from Jeffrey Brantley's 'Daily meditations for calming your anxious mind' (p108). Brantley writes, 'By developing your ability to quickly connect with the "inner landscape" of your body, revealed in direct experience of changing physical sensations, moment by moment, you can help your mind and body relax and ease the effects of anxiety and fear.' This practice is a kind of open body scan, rather akin to the 3-minute breathing space, useful both formally and also informally throughout our day as a reminder to embody experience as opposed to carrying it all in our heads. We closed the practice with an acknowledgement of gratitude to the body, however frail, for carrying us through our lives.

We followed with enquiry, opening up to sharing our individual experience with mindfulness practices over the past month. We discussed the idea & indeed experience that mindfulness does not necessarily protect us from the ups and downs in life (there can be an expectation e.g. in mental health that it should) - but the shared experience was that embodiment can shift the mood 'simply' by experiencing and acknowledging the 'felt sense' or energy of the feeling or mood state - though our usual (reactive) response to pain or hurt is to shut down, avoid, ignore, distract or conceptually solve. But we also discussed how much we should 'put up' with pain or discomfort - emotional and physical - sometimes we do need to give the body or mind a break, ease up, go for a walk, chill out, play some music, have a glass of wine (Pema Chödrön in 'The Fearless Heart' chapter 23 talks about the need to be kind to oneself in order to open up to the rest of the world, a kind of lived loving kindness practice).

As this was the last session of another tumultuous year politically it seemed a good moment to read some prescient words of Jon Kabat-Zinn from 2005:

'As individuals and as a species, we can no longer afford to ignore this fundamental characteristic of our reciprocity and interconnectedness, nor can we ignore how interesting new possibilities emerge out of our yearnings and our intentions when we are, each in our own way, actually true to them, however mysterious or opaque they may at times feel to us. Through our sciences, through our philosophies, our histories, and our spiritual traditions, we have come to see that our health and well-being as individuals, our happiness, and actually even the continuity of the germ line, that life stream that we are only a momentary bubble in, that way in which we are the life-givers and world-builders for our future generations, depend on how we choose to live our own lives while we have them to live.

At the same time, as a culture, we have come to see that the very Earth on which we live, to say nothing of the well-being of its creatures and its cultures, depends in huge measure on those same choices, writ large through our collective behaviour as social beings. (Coming to our Senses, p4)

We closed with a short loving-kindness meditation broadly drawn from Germer (see p 132 -138) sending wishes both to ourselves and outward to others.