September 2019 meeting . Insole Court

We began with a short 'settling' practice - touching into awareness of the state of body and mind - using the anchor of the breath/ breath in the body or a stabilising part of the body itself (such as the feet on the floor) to steady and to ground.

Our main practice was drawn from the 'Mindfulness Daily' audio series (Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach). This practice notices pleasant, unpleasant and more neutral emotions in both mind and body - to bring a growing acceptance that we are all subject to such feeling states and that by gently allowing ourselves to feel this range in our practice we can learn how to be with them in our daily lives. We began by taking an alert but relaxed posture and then bringing awareness to the breath/body anchor and allowing a 'soothing breathing rhythm' developed from Paul Gilbert's 'Compassion Focused Therapy' (2010) by van den Brink and Koster. After this calming and steadying exercise, attention was turned to awareness of our emotions in the moment - sadness. calm, fear, boredom - and acknowledging such without judgement. Then we practiced awareness of where in the body we experienced such emotions - gut, throat, heart - and imagined such feelings as patterns of energy within the body - changing, moving, passing - strongly, subtly. Always remembering to go softly, allowing a gentle return to the breath or body anchor if feelings could possibly overwhelm. We need always to respect our own vulnerabilities. We then returned attention to our anchor, allowing our emotional state awareness to move into the background, then if emotions tugged we could always return once more and put them 'centre stage' for a while, before eventually returning once more to the breath/ body anchor. We then finally closed the practice.

Enquiry revealed that this practice allows insight into our habitual emotional responses. Anxiety and depression are relatively common emotions and they can threaten to overwhelm many of us. If we can learn to recognise our own triggers and automatic responses early enough - through practice - we can learn - albeit gradually - to make choices in our daily responses.

Relatedly we discussed cultivating our soothing systems - many of are well practiced in using our threat and drive systems!  - but we possibly have neglected the one that seeks connection, safeness, and responds with contentment and ease (Gilbert; van den Brink and Koster ). Polyvagal Therapy (Deb Dana) describes a multitude of ways in which the vagus nerve can be toned to better serve our oft beleaguered nervous systems. We talked about the simple practice of a 'Pleasure Walk' (Practical Guide to Mindfulness-based Compassionate Living, van den Brink and Koster, p 22) which can open up all our senses to the natural world - 'simple - and easy'!

Our short, closing practice was a 'Breathing Space with Kindness', an adaptation of the MBCT 'Three Minute Breathing Space' using a Soothing Breathing Rhythm to develop a self-compassionate response in our daily lives.

We closed here

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