November 2019 - Insole Court

We started with a brief, grounding 'sensory scan', adapted from Brantley and Millstine's 'Daily meditations for calming your anxious mind' (pp 62 - 63). 

Our main practice was a 'Compassionate Body Scan' taken from Kristin Neff's 'Self Compassion' (pp 133-4). If it's not our regular practice, it seems useful to 'come back' to a body scan every now and again. It's a reminder of just how much we hold in our bodies - pain, emotion, tension. Neff says of the body scan as commonly taught, 'The idea is to systematically sweep your attention from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet, bringing Mindfulness awareness to all of the physical sensations in your body' (p.133). One can of course start with the toes and work up. The difference with this scan is the addition of self-compassion so that "whenever you come into contact with an uncomfortable sensation while scanning your body, you should try to actively soothe the tension, giving yourself compassion for your suffering." (Neff, p.133). Once awareness has been swept from head to toe, attention can finally be brought to the entire body, with all its sensations, with love and compassion.

The body scan was followed by enquiry. For some, a body scan is a fairly regular practice, for others this practice was a reminder of what was often the first experience of mindfulness practice. Sleepiness during a body scan can sometimes be a reminder of our tiredness, and accepted as such, other times it could be used as a prompt to maybe sit rather than lie down, or vary the practice in some way. 

There was a reading from Brantley's 'Calming your anxious mind' (pp 63 - 64) which includes the following passage: ' With mindfulness, even the most disturbing sensations, feelings, thoughts and experiences - including fear, anxiety, panic, and worry - can be viewed from a wider perspective as passing events in the mind rather than as 'us' or necessarily true. By simply being present in this way, you support your own deep healing, and you will discover and dwell more steadily in your own inner space of peace and equanimity.

We then had general enquiry. In our troubled times practicing any degree of non-reactivity seems especially hard.  It's even harder when those close to us are struggling, displaying uncontrolled anger etc. Keeping some degree of equanimity ourselves at such times can be a form of micro-practice, maybe offering up a different way to be in such circumstances. And for ourselves we can always practice 'taking in the good' à la Rick Hanson as a regular 'antidote' training to that bombardment of negativity we are all subject to.

We closed with a short 'Centering meditation' drawn from Chris Germer's 'The mindful path to self-compassion' (pp260-261), where we allow a phrase or word to 'bubble up' within us, something that  comes up from within, that resonates and somehow speaks for a heartfelt need within.