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A slow walk on a Saturday morning

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The last three weeks of work, the first three weeks of the new school year, have been a combination of 100% full on and 100% non-stop with piles of new classes, new computers systems and new lessons. So waking up on this Saturday morning I decided to be in NO RUSH AT ALL. Instead of a usual sitting meditation or mindful movement I opted to do something different and walked out the front door with having no particular aim, apart from to take my time. Walking with no goal is a luxury difficult to pursue during the week and so it is one I love to cultivate and indulge in at other times.

Slow walking is likely brings less clarity than sat on the cushion where formality and routine allow for occasional slightly deeper moments of awareness. But slow (as opposed to mindful) walking has a looseness to it that means it is easier to blend practice and ‘normal life’. So I can be aware of the feeling in my feet for a few steps but then be distracted by having to step aside to allow a man and his dog to pass and or by the noise fumes of a bus pulling away and only sometime later being able to return to more mindful walking. Even early on a Saturday morning there are people and events to contend with so that just walking mindfully is not possible. But this mix can lessen the feeling of getting it wrong that often taints my formal practice.

But slow walking isn’t a cop out and a lesser activity than others. I find it helps increases my ability to sense my own surroundings. This morning I walked toward the town centre and so I was noticing features and details I have usually passed by in ignorance.

There was a tree half down from this week’s winds

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And there was goal/ basketball net play area

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And the chestnut cases

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Slow walking brings a focus and appreciation to what is around us. We can feel happier in our selves and our environment. It heightens awareness of our senses and adds an excitement to our moment-by-moment experience. But what I really like is I when I find it having a longer and more noticeable impact on the rest of my day. After slow walking this morning and without planning to, I was just aware of the fall of my feet on the kitchen lino and later on the sight of a female blackbird shuffling on the garden fence.

Slow walking enables us to better watch both our thoughts and people whistle past us. We can probably see ourselves in those figures which also means we can have more empathy for other people’s packed and stress-filled lives as well as our own. It is the pausing and deliberate deceleration that allows awareness and mindfulness to arise. Mindfulness is there always, but we have allowed it to become buried under all those other thoughts raking over our past or planning our futures. Slow walking can help us reconnect with our own experience in this moment especially if it is combined with a regular formal practice of mindfulness. This in turn can bring contentment, a feeling of gratitude for what we have and more empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings.

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#PedagooHampshire18 – “Mindfulness in the classroom the staff room”

pedagoohampshire18 logo

What a pleasure to present my few ideas and experiences of “Mindfulness in the classroom and the staffroom”

Since my session was at around 50% discussion I am not sure if the powerpoint as a standalone will be a true reflection of what happened and what was said. But nevertheless here it is pedagoo18Hamps The part about explaining how mindfulness works (or at least how I think it works) I had written earlier and posted here last week. Please do contact me on twitter @dukkhaboy if you want to learn more about establishing mindfulness for yourself, your classroom or your school.

Those who like the evidence behind mindfulness in schools and for young people can read Katherine Weare’s recent publication here with the much much shorter summary here Weare 2018 summary evidence only

If you wanted to read more about mindfulness from people A LOT more knowledgable than me then here is a brief review of books I have found very useful in my practice and understanding of mindfulness.

Also if you want to practice the 3 step breathing space I guided on Saturday, here is Mark Williams version of it.

 


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How does mindfulness work?

dorset

“I liked doing the Mindfulness practices and I feel calmer, but can you tell me how I would know that Mindfulness is working for me?”

And why would you start to practice anything  if you could tell if it was beneficial or not. I know it works for me and for many, many others. But equally, it mindfulness doesn’t do the job for everyone. So, rather embarrassingly, I was unable to give a good answer to her question in that class and I have been thinking about it ever since. I felt like a fraud not being able to describe the benefits clearly. Sure, one of the attitudes we should have to mindfulness is non striving (you can read about that here), but we still need to know that what we are practicing and practicing again is a worthy use of our time.

And so a few months too late for that participant in my class is the answer I have come up with so far. Its by no means a finished theory or set of ideas. But is a start.

At any given moment we are the result of all our past actions and thoughts and speech and choices. similarly our mind in this moment is the result of all the other moments of mind that have gone before. And all these past happenings shape only how we are but also how we respond to how we are. Without realising the full picture we can become a prisoner to events and ourselves. So it becomes easy to think that this thing we call ‘I’ and what happens to it is the result of purely outside influences; blame gets easily placed on someone else or some event beyond our control.

But mindfulness gives us the skill to step back, even if only for a split second and see how all the past that brought us here is getting us to react without thinking; we are living life on impulse and autopilot. That moment of calm in our practice creates a gap and we can see how thoughts are just thoughts and not us. they arise, stay a while and pass. “Just thinking” as Pema Chodron encourages us to say in meditation. Jon Kabat Zinn says that without mindfulness “we are stuck in the momentum of thoughts coming out our past.”

So really mindfulness gives us the ability to make this present moment a brand new beginning. All we need to do is slow down and stop all our doing and outward activity so that we rest here in this moment. By doing that we give ourselves the chance of a clearer, healthier and more compassionate future.

And so to answer that question that i couldn’t earlier, i would say that you know mindfulness is working for you because you begin to create a new future for yourself free from the autopilot you have unknowingly trusted for so long.


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Walking and Falling Mindfully

Laurie anderson

I’ve written about mindful walking previously both here  and here. But I was reminded of it again just recently. I was to be guiding some mindful walking last week and didn’t want to do so using the same old words, so I reread a bit of Jon Kabat-Zinn “Full Catastrophe Living” to improve my phrasing of and thinking about the practice. This was an excellent resource and indeed I read parts of it instead of my own guidance….

We carry our mind when we walk, so we are usually absorbed in our own thoughts to one extent or another. We are hardly ever just walking, even when we are “just going for a walk”. Usually we walk for a reason…..

Walking meditation involves intentionally attending to the experience of walking itself. It involves focussing on the sensations in your feet or in your legs…. It is an internal sensation that is being cultivated, just the felt sensations associated with walking, nothing more…. We are simply inviting ourselves to experiment in being where we already are in this moment, with this step and not get out ahead of ourselves. The trick is to be completely where we are, step by step.

But then he also said

In MBSR we tend to walk extremely slowly, so that we can experience the various aspects of the gait cycle, which is, when all is said and done, a continually controlled falling forward and catching oneself.

And I realised where I had heard those last words before. Laurie Anderson had said something very similar. And I love it when connections in my life fall into place. Like walking in one part of a big city and suddenly coming upon another part of the city you had always assumed was separate. But now in fact you understand is right next door. Suddenly both parts of the internal mind map just like the city map, make so much more sense seen side by side and joined together.

And yes I realise that maybe Laurie Anderson wasn’t thinking of the MBSR mindful walking practice or Jon Kabat-Zinn at all when she wrote this in the 70’s – to me that doesn’t matter anyway.

Walking and Falling lyrics

“I wanted you,
and I was looking for you,
but I couldn’t find you.
I wanted you,
and I was looking for you all day,
but I couldn’t find you.
I couldn’t find you.

You’re walking and you don’t always realize it,
but you’re always falling.
With each step, you fall forward slightly,
and then catch yourself from falling.
Over and over, you’re falling and then catching yourself from falling.
And this is how you can be walking and falling at the same time.”

 


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MBSR week 6 June 2018

 

TNH tea

Home Practice

This week with the whole day session as well the home practice is simpler.

1/ I would like you to alternate  the sitting practice with either the body scan practice or the lying down mindful movement. Choose one of the body scan or mindful movement to go with the sitting practice and stick with it for the week rather than juggle 3 practices. By now with the body scan you will be familiar with a guided practice that works better for you and I recommend staying with that one.  Click here to hear the one from Rebecca Crane I have linked before, while below is the one from Jon Kabat Zinn some of you have also been using.

There are more here as well.

2/ The lying down yoga practice I would like you to follow is here

 

3/ The sitting practice I would like you to follow can be found by clicking HERE

4/ The 3 step breathing space is a marvellous way of bridging formal practice and your daily life. Also it helps with noticing habitual stress reactions, whether you are using pro- or re-actively. Use this in relation to the stressful communication diary below if you wish.

 


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The Future of Mindfulness and Education

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It was a hell of a day. 800 of us at the Friends House in Euston London hearing teachers, academics, world renowned experts and pupils talk about mindfulness in their lives and their jobs; about mindfulness now, mindfulness in the past and mindfulness in the future. We were led in mindfulness practices by Jon Kabat-Zinn (@jonkabatzinn ), and also by 8 year old Maya guiding us in a practice. There were presentations about the theory and overview of mindfulness in education, about introducing it in your school, and about the effects of mindfulness on pupils themselves.

1/ Some overviews of the future of mindfulness and education

It was encouraging to learn from Chris Ruane MP (@ChrisRuane2017 ) that mindfulness has a foothold in Westminster; 185 MPs have received mindfulness training and there are  policy developments around mindfulness in education as well as the justice system and the work place. (you can read the mindful nation report here) He also made a link between how mindfulness can help pupils develop both the knowledge and skills that they will need in future life both for employment and their whole lives and that mindfulness and that surely it makes political and economic sense to invest more in it to partly address the issue of the 65 million antidepressants prescribed in the UK last year.

Rohan Gunatillake (@rohan21_awake ), creator of the Buddhify app, was fascinating on how mindfulness teachers need to avoid seeing digital revolution as the enemy. “If mindfulness is anything it is something that removes duality” And I thought about I might make better use of digital resources to help my students become introduced to and then continue using mindfulness after their course is complete. It was also an insight  to think about how mindfulness apps might work; if they are all about commodifying mindfulness into content and not wisdom just so they can keep us paying our monthly subscription then meditators and mindfulness practitioners are reduced to just another consumer. Rohan also touched on a point Jon Kabat-Zinn  returned to at the end – the danger that mindfulness will be reduced to just another luxury good accessible only to a small culturally and economically homogenised group of people.

I have already downloaded and started to read Katherine Weare’s report into “the evidence for mindfulness in schools for pupils and young people”. Click here to access it from the MiSP site. I would only oversimplify or misrepresent it if I wrote about it here.

Dr. Oren Ergas (@OrenErgas ) spoke about the future of mindfulness and education by the idea of reconstructing education through mindfulness attention. Whilst this is a distant aim for me and I suspect for most, I was really interested in what he said about how a pupil might go through her school day having her attention orientated by teachers to exclusively external matters. She would then be more likely to believe her own internal thoughts and feelings are of less value. This is a really important point to consider in the UK as the drive for a knowledge curriculum continues together momentum. You can find a link to his book on reconstructing education here.

2/ Some practical advice about mindfulness and education from teachers

I loved the ideas I heard even if I had to keep reminding myself to bear in mind the advice that this is a 1,000 year project.

Mrs Gotting (@MissSaryG ) and Jake gave me ideas about creating mindfulness prefects who get the job if they have vested a 100 day mindfulness challenge and running mindfulness assemblies led by the pupils (but getting the PTA to fund the cost of the minstrels needed for the mindful eating practice!)

Emma Naisbett gave me ideas about involving parents in mindfulness classes and how only by having mindfulness available and taught to staff AND pupils AND parents could you properly embed it in a school and its community.

Cathie Paine (@cathiepaine ) was both instructive and movingly honest: a CEO of, 60 primary schools she explained how mindfulness had helped her through dark professional and personal times (and I could relate to that) as well explaining the two main barriers preventing her rolling out mindfulness across her academy chain. These are that (i) there is no capacity for teachers to to take up any more initiatives (“as the only times the DfE phones me is to ask about OFSTED grades and KS2 results”) and (ii) money.

3/ Some opinions from pupils on the future of mindfulness and education

I am so thankful that Richard Burnett and all at MiSP did not just leave us with a one sided classroom picture of mindfulness. For to hear what pupils had to say about how it has changed their experience of education and hopefully the rest of their lives was not just inspiring, but the actual reason we had all gathered in the beautiful “light room” at Friends House, Euston in the first place.

Adam talked about how “when you have to sponge up so much [for your exams], it makes sense to stop and pay attention.” Jess explained how she was now better at not believing thoughts are facts or thoughts are her and she described how she had moved from extreme anxiety and 6 months in hospital to taking her GCSEs this summer. Jake described how he had taken on being a student mindfulness leader in his school. The year 4 pupils with Julie Berensten gave speeches on how mindfulness and the paws b program helped them worry less and sleep better. But it was Emily and Jo – mother and daughter – caught up in the Manchester bombing who moved me to tears as they described the almost unspeakable events at the arena that night and how their lives had been forever altered since.

please excuse the bits and pieces and incomplete record of the day, but I wanted to write down my thoughts right here and now the morning after, before they got lost in the maelstrom of school life next week. I will be trying to use mindfulness a bit more as the “WD40 of education” (Katherine Weare) and I will be thinking about Richard Burnett’s key question “Will mindfulness burn brightly here and there, but end up as a victim of poor implementation, fizzling out as just another teaching fad?” Whilst this is a complex question that needs to consider a wide range of opinions from parliament to the staffroom and the playground, in some ways I believe the best strategy to avoid this happening is simple; we as mindfulness enthusiasts, practitioners  and teachers need to start and finish by embodying what we preach.

If you wish more information on mindfulness in schools the website for MiSP is here

If you have any questions or comments please do add them via the comments below.

 

 

 


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MBSR week 5 June 2018

 

TNH tea

Home Practice

1/ This week I would like you to alternate  the sitting practice with either the body scan practice or the lying down mindful movement. Choose one of the body scan or mindful movement to go with the sitting practice and stick with it for the week rather than juggle 3 practices. By now with the body scan you will be familiar with a guided practice that works better for you and I recommend staying with that one.  Click here to hear the one from Rebecca Crane I have linked before, while below is the one from Jon Kabat Zinn some of you have also been using.

There are more here as well.

2/ The lying down yoga practice I would like you to follow is here

 

3/ The sitting practice I would like you to follow can be found by clicking HERE

4/ The 3 step breathing space is a marvellous way of bridging formal practice and your daily life. Also it helps with noticing habitual stress reactions, whether you are using pro- or re-actively. Use this in relation to the stressful communication diary below if you wish.

 

5/ Complete the stressful communication diary. This is set out as the (un)pleasant ones were. Use it as a chance to develop awareness of difficult communications and exploring options for responding with greater mindfulness, spaciousness and clarity.  always remember that the breath is your anchor and that the three step breathing space is available if you wish to use it. If you have no difficult communications during the week, either remember some, or imagine communications that would fit in to your knowledge of yourself, and explore them. Once more I have linked the hot cross bun diagram to help you if you wish to refer to it.

home practice Hot cross bun

6/ As ever I also attach a copy of the Mindfulness Journal if you prefer if you want to keep that. Practice Record sheet 

6/ Last week I read a poem by Rumi called the Guest House, which you can read here. The Guest House Rumi

This week I read “A Reply to Rumi” which was written by an MBSR participant called Amy Newell. You can read that here. A Reply to Rumi

I am looking forward to hearing all about it next Tuesday 🙂