July 2019 meeting - Insole Court

We had our second meeting at Insole. Began with a short - 5 minute - settling practice, establishing being in the 'here and now', in silence.

Our next, longer practice was drawn from Brantley's 'Calming your anxious mind'. This guided meditation, called 'Awareness of breathing', focuses on an investigation of the breath, each breath, within the body. It begins with a reflection of the foundational attitudes for mindfulness practice which is really about allowing presence. These attitudes are non-judging, patience, beginner's mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go. As Brantley says 'Let go of any agenda about changing fear, anxiety, panic, or anything else, and don't try to make anything happen.' (p. 120). There is a paradox here. For those coming to mindfulness  for health reasons, to reduce stress, help with anxiety, depression or chronic physical conditions, 'results' are naturally going to be looked for. Brantley has this to say on this crux matter: 

'Having an agenda to get rid of something or to change something is a common source of frustration in meditation practice. Change and transformation do occur through meditation, but only when you teach yourself to allow attention and awareness to include disturbing and unpleasant conditions like anxiety and panic.

In the domain of meditation, it is the practice of being, not doing, that works. To be skillful in approaching any distress in your life - including fear, anxiety, or panic - through meditation, it is helpful to recall some fundamental points.

* Everything happens in the present moment

* Fear, anxiety, and panic, are only experiences flowing into and out of the present moment

* Meditation can be understood as a process of inner transformation that involves establishing a calm and focused attention, cultivating awareness, developing understanding and wisdom, and activating kindness and compassion.

* By correctly practicing mindfulness of fear, anxiety, and panic, you develop a clear understanding of their lesson and begin to see what action is necessary.

.... To produce change through meditation you have to stop trying to change anything! It is good enough to be present. It is strong enough to bring full attention to the present moment  - as it is.' (pp 200 - 201)

Brantley later adds these key words:

'Learning to make room for upset will help. Cultivating and resting more in the "heart" qualities of mindfulness - kindness and compassion - will comfort and steady you. And, discovering your inner resources for safety, silence, and stillness will empower you to deal with the most disturbing experiences.' (p. 201).

We followed this breath practice with enquiry. It was a 'return to the basics' for some of us ...perhaps a bit unsettling for that, almost like coming back having been away, but a useful reminder of what we have with us all the time, from moment to moment. This practice, as with so many, can be adapted to our daily lives, at any moment.

Our second practice was a walking meditation in the grounds, amongst the acer trees and shrubs. Some used the time to focus on simple awareness of walking, step by step, others using awareness of the beauty of nature surrounding us - maybe incorporating some of Hanson's 'Taking in the good' practice to encourage the brain to tilt in a positive direction, and/or allowing some personal loving-kindness phrases to come up as we walked. 

We ended with a short closing practice.