This post refers to the 8 week mindfulness course in Mindfulness, a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic work. The book also has a website and blog: Frantic world
If you haven’t read them already, you may like to read these two posts first:
Week two: “Keeping the body in mind”
This chapter is all about tuning into the body with the help of the guided meditations on the cd. We often ignore or push aside feelings such as tiredness, stress and unhappiness in order to get through the long list of things we need to get done. However, in the long run this isn’t helpful and actually slows us down. If we can learn to tune in to our bodies, we can pick up when we need to take time out, time to relax, time to stretch, time to look after our bodies instead of our to-do list.
The chapter also explains the connection between the physical sensations that we are learning to tune in to, and our thoughts:
The body often detects our thoughts almost before we’ve consciously registered them ourselves and frequently reacts as if they are solid or real, whether they accurately reflect the world or not. (p.92)
It is during the week two meditation, the body scan, that we learn to focus on different sections of the body. This is where I tend to spot the different parts of me that hold tension, particularly in and around my shoulders. The meditation doesn’t ask you to change anything, just to notice, to be aware. These meditations differ from others that I’ve tried because there is an emphasis on “not being wrong”, which is very reassuring for someone as self-critical as me. For example, if you notice your mind wander, this is good because it means you are aware of your thoughts and can use this as a prompt to bring your attention back to your breath. All these years I’ve thought that you were meant to try and stop your thoughts, blank them out, how wrong I was!
This week’s lightbulb moment is that all the years that I’ve been putting my mind into “Doing mode” (p.28) in order to solve my problems, I have been doing exactly the opposite of what my mind and body have needed.
When in Doing mode we are trying to analyse what is wrong with us, how can we get from where we are to where we want to be, how we can narrow the gap. Doing mode is about focusing on the gap, focusing on what is missing, and so results in us feeling more down, even further from where we want to be. Instead we need to learn to step outside of Doing mode into a more curious mode, noticing thoughts, not judging them, looking at them as an impartial observer. When in this mode we are less critical, and can see thoughts as just thoughts. As a chronic over thinker, someone who felt that if I just tried that bit harder I could make everything right, this was a huge revelation. In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf”. This discovery was such an eye opener for me that I decided to make the picture below, I hope you like it.
Next week, week 3: the mouse in the maze…