December 2019 - Insole court

We began with an 'Intention' practice, drawn from the Sounds True 'Mindfulness daily' programme by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach. Jack Kornfield  reminds us that if/when we become aware of our intention before we act, we are in a better position to make better choices, leading to clarity and harmony - the alternative is auto-pilot. Intention precedes all action.

So on this occasion, we can set an intention for the actual practice - such as being present as best we can, or remembering to be kind to ourselves. We can also become aware of any urge to move as we sit, to note this and only move following this awareness. We can even practice becoming aware of when thoughts enter our minds. We can also set long-term intentions - using framing such as, 'What are the deepest intentions in and for my life?'

When we are mindful of intentions, it gives us greater freedom how we choose to act. It is valuable to pause - and check - especially in the midst of difficulty - maybe asking, 'What is my best intention here - for the well-being of all concerned?'. Clear intention brings focus. We can compare intention practices to pause practices, as e.g., recommended by Pema Chodron, who describes such practices as a way of stepping out of the stream of thoughts that often preoccupy us, realigning us with our best goals. 

We followed the practice with inquiry.

We then read the following excerpts from 'Dancing with Elephants' by Jarem Sawatsky:

'From our perspective, no matter what diagnosis you come with or what's wrong with you, there is more right with you than wrong with you - no matter what is 'wrong with you'.

It was like someone just smacked me on the head and I fell awake. More right with me than wrong with me? The man speaking knows I have Huntingdon's disease. In fact, he has spent his whole career working with people who have chronic and terminal diagnoses ...

Living on long-term disability with a chronic and terminal condition, I have a huge list of specialists I can call on to help with what is wrong with me... The medical literature on my condition divides into stages based on the inability to do things. More negative, problem-based thinking! I need to be careful not to see myself as one huge, fragmented problem ...

But Jon Kabat-Zinn was pointing toward a different, more freeing way...

Jon knows his task is to liberate people. In working with people with chronic and terminal conditions, he first focuses on freeing them from the stories they've absorbed from others, stories which suck the life right out of them. His approach is rooted in wisdom gleaned from witnessing thousand of people who have been in this spot and who have figured out how to get their lives back. This is hopeful. It is the hope of knowing that what you need is right here; it's not the hope of escaping from this place. I like this hope.'(pp 43 - 46)

We finished with a practice again drawn from 'Mindfulness Daily, this time entitled 'Emotions and Inner Resources', led by Tara Brach. This practice can be seen as a precursor to mindfulness - useful for when we are beset by fear, despair or trauma, and the practice of mindfulness can seem tricky. Here, we are intentionally activating our inner resources .. purposefully seeking refuge. 

We can do this in a number of ways. We can recall or imagine a place that may connect us with our inner resources. We can call on remembered people or beings with whom we have a connection, to help ground and soothe - this could be a spiritual person, or a person we have known, or even a pet. We may also find ease through touch of an object - a stone, a pebble  - or through something like a photo or a picture. We can then focus on the breath, lengthening and letting in comfort and ease, placing a hand on the heart or belly, communicating tenderness, establishing a soothing breathing rhythm. We can use any words that may deepen our sense of safety - 'May I be safe' ... 'May I be at ease' ... 'It's okay'.  Then just rest ..  allow the warmth/ease/connection/well-being to be felt ... to find the inner resources that are already there but need to be rediscovered and made more available.We finished with this poem by Hafez:

How

Did the rose

Ever open its heart

And give to this world

All its

Beauty?

It felt the encouragement of light

Against its Being.

Otherwise.

We all remain

Too

Frightened