'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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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

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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11) Touching Peace & Growing the Good

'If you think that peace and happiness are somewhere else and you run after them, you will never arrive.It is only when you realise that peace and happiness are available here in the present moment that you will be able to relax' (The Long Road Turns To Joy, Thich Nhat Hanh, p.14)

'If you're like me and many people, you go through each day zipping from one thing to another. But along the way, when's the last time you stopped for ten seconds to feel and take in one of the positive moments that happen in even the most hectic day? If you don't take those extra seconds to enjoy and stay with the experience, it passes through you like wind through the trees, momentarily pleasant but with no lasting value.'

So writes neuropsychologist Rick Hanson in the introduction to his book 'Hardwiring happiness' (2014). In this and more recent publications (see Resources section) he's written of ways we can learn to turn towards positive experiences in our lives - as essential training for our brains - in order to lead happier, healthier and more resilient lives.

We are hard-wired as humans to survive, and when there's threat - as has especially been the case over the past year during this pandemic - we are primed to be safe, to stay vigilant - in order to survive. All good adaptation!- except that this threat-based, negativity-biased living - protective though it is - can deplete and de-energise us, even carrying us down a path of isolation where we lose connectivity with others. 

But we can (re)prime our minds (and thence our brains) through something called 'experience-dependent neuroplasticity''. In 'Resilient', Hanson writes 'In order to convert passing experiences into lasting inner strengths, we have to be able to focus attention on an experience long enough for it to start being consolidated into the nervous system.' (p.24).

So ... we use our mindfulness practices to help steady and ground us - to help us regulate our attention. We can use what Hanson describes as 'Refuges' to help us feel more protected, safe, nature us - our 'Safe Place' practices (see no. 5 in this series) are imaginal refuges - as can be our friends, our pets, our favourite places, our a soothing thing like a cup of tea!

And then we can use a practice like Hanson's 'Let Be, Let Go, Let In' where we: 1) Can be with what's there.. feel whatever we're experiencing - feelings, thoughts, emotions .. you're simply 'being with' your experience without changing it - a kind of mini acceptance practice. 2) You can decrease the negative aspects ... whatever  is harmful - e.g. relax the tension in your body, step back, stop fuelling your self-critical thoughts, let go of an unhelpful habit like habitual comfort- eating. 3) Increase the positive - whatever's enjoyable - create or preserve - 'grow the good' - use your refuges, your soothing breath, develop a more positive eating habit. 

To further change our habitual negative-biased tendencies by using learning strategies to rewire our brains. Because 'Neurons that fire together wire together' (Donald Hebb), by having repeated experience, we change our brains - so we can choose to become calmer or more grateful or at peace. We can use Hanson's HEAL practice to activate and install new learning. The stages are:

Have a beneficial experience - e.g., by noticing a beautiful sunset, or imagine talking with a trusted friend/loved one

Enrich it - stay with the experience by lengthening it  (5 + seconds), intensify it by breathing with it, expanding it - noticing thoughts, sensations, emotions..., freshen it up by look for, noticing something different about it, value it by being aware why it matters to you

Absorb it - consciously choose to take in the experience, sense it sinking in .. like a golden light, a warm soothing balm .. tune into what is pleasurable or helpful about the experience - allowing neurotransmitter systems to help post the experience into long-term storage.

Link it (optional) - Use it to soothe and replace painful, harmful psychological material. Whilst having va strong sense off a positive experience in the foreground of awareness, we can also become aware of something negative in the background. An example could be when you're feeling more at peace with the world right now, you could sense this experience making contact with feelings of angst and unrest in the past. If the negative experience  takes over, drop it and move back to focus on the positive .. you can move back and forth when you feel stable enough .. foreground .. background .. N.B. This step is definitely optional - simply using HEA is helpful in shifting out brains (and so our minds) by deliberately inclining our minds to positive experience.

For a more detailed exposition of HEAL by Rick Hanson on Youtube see the following link:-  

 HEAL: 4 Steps to Happiness (by Rick Hanson)


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10) Compassionate acceptance practice - for physical pain

Here is a short meditation for working compassionately with physical pain. It's based on a practice from 'Mindfulness for health - a practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing' by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman. This book sensitively and experientially explores the field of chronic pain and the suffering of illness, both authors having deep personal experience of physical pain:

'We wrote this book to help you cope with pain, illness and stress in times such as these. It will teach you how to reduce your suffering progressively, so that you can begin living life to the full once again. It may not completely eliminate your suffering, but it will ensure that it no longer dominates your life.' (p 1)

As with all previous practices, this one could be lengthened or shortened, adapted to individual need, and used throughout your day.

Compassionate acceptance practice


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