The Mindfulness Connect Group

Monthly meeting:

We usually meet on the first Thursday of the month, sometimes it's the second Thursday, usually due to bank holidays. Please check this website.

Next meeting: Thursday 11th July 2019, 12.45 - 2.00pm @ Insole Court (Motor House Up room)

Facilitator - Cherry Stewart, to contact please email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Location: Insole Court, Fairwater Road, Llandaff, Cardiff CF5 2NL

Prospective attendees - please see the menu item: Joining Mindfulness Connect

August 2019 meeting - Insole Court

We began with a 'Pausing for presence' practice drawn from Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach's 'Mindfulness Daily' (Sounds True). This practice explores the first step necessary in mindfulness practice, pausing in order to become present. Really, this sums it all up, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, thinking or feeling. It's about coming to, becoming grounded, remembering ourselves. Pema Chodron often talks of the 'Pause practice' and the familiar '3-minute breathing space' is another version of this simple 'first step' practice.

We listened to the poem - 'Two Voices' by Alice Oswald (Falling Awake, 2016) - a finely and quirkily observed description of two very different creatures greeting the dawn. There's an abundance of curiosity and wonder at the natural world - something we can easily lose in our fast, hi-tech existences.

Our longer practice was around developing spaciousness - again from 'Mindfulness daily' (Sounds True)- this time Tara Brach's 'Spacious awareness'. This sort of practice can be helpful to open up, allow more space for a mind that has become rather closed down, troubled, confined. Maybe helpful in especially challenging times.

The practice starts with settling the mind and body through a focus on the breath/breath in the body. Then setting a personal intention - as best one can, to bring awareness into the present moment, to bring kindness to the practice .. whatever resonates. Then moving to exploring spacious awareness through sound, with sounds passing across our awareness like clouds or like bubbles, eventually vanishing without trace. Then to thoughts, images - coming and going, holding these while present in clear, open space. And on to bodily sensations and emotions - allowing these to come and pass or change, held in a vast open sky of awareness. Finally, deliberately bringing a dimension of love and compassion to this spacious awareness.

The practice was followed by enquiry. Our times have brought forth very strong emotions, such as anger, in many of us. This has to be acknowledged. What one does with the emotion becomes a choice, but the seeing it for what it is is an important early step. It's harder when witnessed and felt in others. But we still and always need to pay attention to our own need for love and compassion - again as an early step. Pema Chödrön has this to say about loving-kindness in her book, 'The wisdom of no escape':

'Meditation practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we already are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest. ... The path of meditation and the path of our lives altogether has to do with curiosity, inquisitiveness. The ground is ourselves; we're here to study ourselves and to get to know ourselves now, not later ... Inquisitiveness or curiosity involves being gentle, precise, and open - actually being able to let go and open. Gentleness is a sense of goodheartedness toward ourselves. Precision is being able to see very clearly, not being afraid to see what's really there, just as a scientist is not afraid to look into the microscope. Openness is being able to let go and open.' (pp 4 -5).

We closed with a short grounding practice. 

 

 

 

 

June 2019 meeting - Insole Court

We had our first meeting at Insole Court, Llandaff. Given this was a new venue and experience, we began with a  short grounding practice, taking our seats and bringing awareness to our bodies, our breath, and the ground beneath us, coming to rest in the present. 

Our first main practice. We came 'back to basics' with a body scan drawn from Jeffrey Brantley and Wendy Millstine's 'Daily meditations for calming your anxious mind' (p 108 - 109) entitled 'your inner body: a mindfulness meditation fro connecting directly with your body'. This is a practice to use both formally and informally, to 'tune into' the body throughout the day. The introduction to the practice says, ' 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.' There was an introductory reading from 'Full Catastrophe Living' (Kabat-Zinn) beginning, ' Wholeness and connectedness are what are most fundamental in our nature as living beings..' In this section the body scan is described as '... a door to the larger world, in that what we see in the workings of our body teaches us many lessons  that apply in other domains in our lives. What's more, our bodies usually require some healing. We all carry around at least some physical and psychological tension and armour. Our body has a lot to teach us about stress and pain, illness and health.' (p 162). 

The practice was followed by enquiry. The practice is perhaps more like a whole 'body sweep' than a systematic body scan - but with positive daily applications. Most of us seem to feel the need to return to a whole body practice of some sort from time to time - to remind us of what bodies go through, and are telling us, if we listen!

Other variants of the body scan can be found in many texts - including a concise one in Tessa Watt's 'Mindfulness - A Practical Guide'  (pp 61 - 63) and a breath-directed one from Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman's 'Mindfulness for Health' (pp 63 -68).

We had time for a second practice - once more returning to the familiar and grounding practice of the 'Mountain Meditation', this time taken from Watt (pp. 178 - 179). In this meditation we use the idea of into bringing the image or metaphor of the mountain into our own body - 'with your base rooted in the earth, and your peak rising skyward. Feel the strength, stability and unwavering quality of the mountain.' (Watt p179).

The session finished with a short closing practice, with the expressed intention of bringing practice into our daily lives. 

 

 

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.

 

All things connect

‘ Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.’ 

- Chief Seattle (quote attributed to this Native American chief, circa 1850)