The Mindfulness Connect Group

Three-weekly Zoom meetings:-

From Thursday 15th April  2021 we'll be holding three-weekly early evening Zoom meetings. There'll be short guided practices (from 2 to 20 minutes) with an emphasis on simple, adaptable practice that can be used both formally or as everyday on-the-spot practice at home or at work - or wherever you may be.

The practices and their derivations/ spiritual orientations and scientific bases plus references and links will be posted up soon after each session.

ps If you follow any of the audio practices you will need to press the stop button at the end of the practice as otherwise -  for some reason - you will find yourself listening to an adjacent practice. Sorry .... the vagaries ...! 

For more information please email me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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CALM Practice

Here's a C A L M practice - courtesy of one of our group. It's useful to have an acronym to help remind us of a practical, on-the-spot practice such as this:

 

 1. CONNECT your mind and body with a mindful check-in: feeling any sensations, any tightness in the body as well as feeling into your mood, feeling into your emotions, and just acknowledging whatever you are feeling &  letting these thoughts, sensations, feelings – just be.

2. ANCHOR your ATTENTION in your feet on the floor or hands on your lap or the rhythm of your breathing.

Allow your Awareness to rest and breathe steadily

Appreciate this special time that we share together

3. LET GO of any thoughts or memories of the day or concerns about tomorrow, even if the letting go is temporary. Offer yourself some Loving Kindness in this moment : may I be as safe, happy & healthy as possible through the next couple of months; may my life and lived experiences be in harmony with my surroundings and other people; may my life be balanced, in equilibrium. Offer other people similar loving kindness : may YOU be as safe, happy & healthy as possible through the next couple of months; may Your lives and lived experiences be in harmony with YOUR surroundings and other people around you; may YOUR life be balanced, in equilibrium.

4. MAKE a commitment to be MINDFUL over the summer. Come to this place of CALM on a regular basis while we have a break from meeting together. MOVE your body steadily and gently to stretch your fingers etc , shrug shoulders, glide neck from side to side / up & down & come back to stillness; breathing steadily & open your eyes.

 

                                                            C*A*L*M

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Integrity

'Integrity is the art of navigating those moments in which no prescripted rules apply. To meet complexity, to make new sense of it, requires willingness to go forward without someone else's instructions. It means not justifying continued destruction or limiting what is possible by pointing to history, or worse, "human nature" whatever that is.

The rigour of this is daunting. comparing and contrasting inner interpretations, experiences - listening and watching with wide angle perception. I see it as a muscle to train in receiving information about the vast inter-relational consequences of each action. (And, the action not taken is also an action). It means staying alert, paying attention, and resisting the itch to rest in the familiar.

Integrity has something to do with knowing that I will, with all I can muster, show up.'

(Nora Bateson, Jan 2, 2019)

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14) The Science of Connection

 

The Science of Connection

 

In her audiobook, 'Befriending the nervous system', Deb Dana writes:-

‘It’s our biology that shapes our experiences of safety and connection. Where we think our brains are running the show, really the way we navigate the world begins in our body with our Autonomic Nervous System’ 


'Polyvagal theory is the science of connection. It’s what I call the science of feeling safe enough to fall in love with life and take the risks of living‘ (chapter 3).

 

Until just a couple of decades ago it was commonly thought the model of stress v relaxation was based on the idea there were two circuits running the neural show of the Autonomic nervous system (ANS) - with the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activating the typical 'stress response' to threat and danger ('fight or flight') and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) expressing itself in the relaxation response ('rest and digest'). 

 

 

In the past 25 years, Polyvagal theory (Stephen Porges, 1994) has identified that the ANS has in fact three neural circuits which, in evolutionary history, developed separately in different animal lifeforms over millions of years, and we are the inheritors of all three. First came the dorsal branch of the vagus nerve – which, when not concerned with survival, aids digestion, but when responding to threat, is responsible for shutdown and collapse, disconnection and dissociation (as in a trauma response and in deep depressive states): next came the sympathetic spinal chain which allowed animals to move to ‘fight or flee’ the threat, and last of all, around 200 million years ago, in mammals, came the ventral branch of the vagus nerve - promoting positive states of relaxation and social connection and engagement. Taken together, these circuits regulate our bodily functions and help us maintain homeostasis or equilibrium.

Through understanding the delicate interplay between the different ANS pathways we can begin to appreciate the interdependence of the brain/body/mind connection. We begin with neuroception – beneath conscious awareness – but through understanding, perception, and behavioural adjustment we can learn to better regulate our nervous systems through our bodies - in the interest of greater mind/body equilibrium – and the role of the vagus nerve becomes ever more important in shaping our health and well-being.

 

As Stanley Rosenberg says in his book 'Accessing the healing power of the vagus nerve' -

 

‘Today there are many systems, including Pilates, yoga, martial arts, and mindfulness meditation , that help restore people to their sense of their body…

 

Sensing our own bodies and staying grounded helps us to remain in a ventral vagal state. Awareness of our body can help us to avoid getting carried away by emotions that can lead to faulty neuroception.’(p 63) 

 

                                *******

 

To help us better regulate our inner states and therefore our ways of being, of acting and of interacting in the world, we can develop greater bodily awareness. Here’s a practice to bring awareness into our ‘interior bodies’ through sensing and grounding from within:

 

 

 Felt-Sense Embodiment Practice

 

 

 

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13) Embodied awareness

 

'We have grown far from ourselves' - this line from Kae Tempest's 'On Connection' (p 15) is a powerful assertion about loss of connection .. both from ourselves and those around us.

In his short story collection, ‘Dubliners’ (1914), James Joyce's Mr Duffy (‘A Painful Case’) 'lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side glances. He had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a verb in the past tense. He never gave alms to beggars and walked firmly, carrying a stout hazel.'

'Mindfulness of the Body' is the first of the Four Foundations in Buddhist mindfulness teaching and is commonly first practiced through mindfulness of breathing, followed by 'mindfulness of the postures' - applied to all postures - walking, standing, sitting, lying down, as well as transitioning from one posture to another. Following on is the application of mindfulness of the body through all aspects of living, through indeed to death - and beyond. (Ven. Bhikku Bodhi https://www.lionsroar.com/the-buddhas-four-foundations-of-mindfulness/)

For decades now, alongside mindfulness meditation, other traditional eastern body/mind practices such as Qigong, Tai Chi and yoga have become increasingly popular in the west, and more recently, are being researched and sometimes adapted (such as TMW - Tai chi Movements for Wellbeing) for their health and wellbeing benefits.  An underlying principle in all these disciplines/practices involves 'embodiment' whereby, through practice, we learn to (re)inhabit our bodies - to literally sense that inherent, intrinsic connection of body and mind - a connection that has been absent in much of traditional dualistic western healthcare practice.

One hundred years separate James Joyce and Kae Tempest, yet their voices speak of the same separation. In 'On Connection' Kae Tempest goes on to say:

'Numbness, or disconnection, is a lack of true feeling. Maintaining a surface engagement with whatever is going on while at the same time being entirely elsewhere. So consumed with the concerns of the day, the actual events of the day pass unnoticed or are so unbearably precise they are experienced in the hyper-real close-up of a perceived threat to your life.' (p.15). 

The following short practice focuses on an aspect of meditation - posture - that is sometimes skirted over, but has the potential to directly (and fairly immediately) shift attention from our usual 'headiness' into our bodies where we can - through gentle balancing and easing - ground, relax and uplift our bodies to help reconnect the often fractured relationship between body and mind, so opening us to greater awareness.

Embodied Awareness 

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