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Mindfulness and autopilot

This post is a collection of three simple practices to develop or maintain your mindfulness practice. These are:

  1. Sitting mindfulness practice
  2. Mindful walking
  3. 3 step breathing space

As a combination they are excellent in letting you see habits and patterns of the mind and how these can occur without you realising; in other words recognising when autopilot is on in your life. The mindful sitting is a formal practice and one for which you will need to find some time and a quiet space to practice. The mindful walking can be done as a personal practice away from your ‘everyday life’, but it can also be done as part of your everyday activities. If you want to notice autopilot for example, then you could use this when you are walking along a familiar route. You will notice a few glances if you do this in public mind you; most people find it odd that anyone should walk without a purpose and without wanting to get somewhere!

Finally the 3 step breathing space can help you be aware of your thoughts feelings and boy sensations at any time of the day. It is really beneficial to try to do this 3 or 4 times in a waking day.

There are some links below if you like to be guided in these practices, but I am also sharing some written assistance so you can complete these in silence if you prefer.

 

 

Below is a mind and body sitting meditation

 

Herre is a 3 step breathing space practice (called by its old name of 3 minute breathing space, but dont worry)

And here is the instructions/ introduction to walking mindfulness. Instructions for Mindful Walking

Here are some written guidelines

3 Step Breathing Space

 

Autopilot versus Mindfulness

Sitting mindfulness practice checklist

Good luck with all your practices!

 

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I know you

4+Victory+over+Mara Rigpa

Before Buddha gained enlightenment he vowed to sit under the Bodhi tree until it happened. No matter what. Not until his bum hurt or his knees ached. Not until he got a bit thirsty or his friends came round to call. Instead he was going to stay right there until he got it completely done.

But as he sat for longer and gained more and more insight, things got trickier. It was at then that Mara appeared. In Buddhist history/mythology Mara is the Lord (or demon) of death and the desire realm. His aim is to stop people reaching Enlightenment. He’s the kind of guy who delights in helping others fail, so he wanted to do anything to tempt Buddha away from his spiritual path. He plied him with images of riches and beautiful women, showed him the lands he could rule, but none of this worked. So his final trick was his sneakiest as he tried to convince Buddha that going for Enlightenment was all a waste of time and not worth the effort at all. “I mean what is the point? When you get there you’ll be disappointed and you’re not good enough to do it anyway.” 

There in the hours before his Enlightenment, supposedly at the peak of his spiritual path, Buddha experienced self-doubt, temptation, desire and distraction. Of course when we sit in meditation it is the same. Within a split second of hearing the instruction and guidance our mind is away, turning over old stories and running with future fantasies. When this happens the technique is to simply recognise that meandering, that mindlessness and return to the focus of attention. Pema Chodron suggests saying ‘thinking’ when we realise that has happened. I heard Mark Williams use ‘gently escort’ in his guidance. But any instruction to ‘return to the breath’ is just helping us to learn how our awareness functions; its patterns and habits, or as Christina Feldman calls it, ‘our whole world of reactivity’. It is said when Buddha was faced by this onslaught of his mind by Mara he simply said “I know you” to each new wave of attack and that to me sounds like the ‘return to your breath’ tecnique when it has been perfected.

In mindfulness we are instructed to be curious and open minded, to notice and accept whatever arises. Of course normally when something appears our familiar stories rear up and gallop down the same old rutted tracks and before we know it the autopilot of our mind has stolen us away from the present moment into some past story or some future possibility. But if we can do what Buddha did then we can learn to live in a way that takes power away form all these thoughts and self-uncertainty and live in a way that we our in control of our own lives. As Akong Rinpoche said “When obstacles arise, if you deal with them through kindness without trying to escape then you have real freedom.”

So there are three ways in which practicing mindfulness can help in achieving this. Firstly, we need some of that resolve learn and patience to want to change. Secondly, to pause and find a sliver of stillness in the daily hurly burley of our lives and the life of our mind. And finally when that develops we can start to recognise and understand how our mind works.

The good news is that every time we sit down to practice we will eventually notice that our mind has wandered – even if it is only when the bell rings at the end of the session – and then we can delight in having been aware and having found a pause from all that stuff and chatter. Even that one moment is a fabulous thing, because when we learn to pause and uncover a quiet moment out of the gusting wind of our minds, we can start to explore the habits and patterns that lie underneath. True self wisdom can start now. “Ah there I go again” strategising a future that will probably never happen or replaying a slight and an argument from yesterday” Whatever our particular well-worn paths, they will start to appear as we sit and patiently, deliberately, slowly notice them. Right there is what Tchich Nhat Hanh meant when he said “In the sunlight of awareness, everything becomes sacred.”

The book that prompted me to write this is Christina Feldman’s “The Buddhist Path to Simplicity” all the good points from this were generated by the 6th chapter on emotion.


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Mindfulness and meditation books – a starter

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If you have read any of the mindfulness based posts on this site you will have realised that all of my good ideas are stolen straight from someone far more qualified than I am. Therefore I wanted to share a brief list of books I have found helpful with my practice and understanding of these two subjects. They are in no particular order.

Silence – Thich Nhat Hanh I only finished this at the end of last year. It is wonderful. Tchich Nhat Nanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who established one of the best known Buddhist and mindfulness centres in Europe; Plum Village in France. This book illustrates the delights and joy to be found in mindfulness practice and how pausing internally or quietening the mind can improve the quality of your life and of the lives of the people with whom you come into contact. Tchich Nhat Hanh has the advantage of being an mindfulness and meditation expert with a strong understanding of Western ways of living and thinking. Which is like Pema Chodron below, only the other way around. (ISBN 9781846044342 )

How to Meditate – Pema Chodron Pema Chodron is an American Buddhist nun, who follows the Tibetan tradition. But there is no need to be a Buddhist to read this. It is a  step by step guide, but also one you can take at your own pace, pausing between each stage to develop your experience with the theories and practices. Pema Chodron explains very clearly how the problems in your mindfulness practice are in fact necessary to help you  better understand your mind. The book looks at mindfulness both on its own and through the lens of a highly realised practitioner. It is a work I have read and re-read as my practice has changed. An excellent book written by a westerner with a strong understanding of Asian philosophy. (ISBN 9781604079333 )

Finding Peace in a Frantic World – Mark William and Daniel Penman This is the book to MBCT that Jon Kabat – Zinn’s is to MBSR. The book contains a CD with medtitation instructions you can follow and there is a website based on the book too www.franticworld.com The impacts of mindfulness as well as how to practice it are clearly explained. Most of all the authors show how the answer to living in a frantic world is to realise how we can stop “getting in our own way” and live with more freedom as a result. Reading this gives you a lot if confidence in what you are doing, but like an MBSR or MBCT course, this book is best read and used if you are prepared to commit yourself to reading it all and following it through to the end. (ISBN 9780749953089 )

The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron I have to admit that this is my favourite book on this list which is why there are two books by Pema Chodron here. So much compassion and wisdom come with this writing that it is difficult not to feel warmed by almost every page. I found this stop-right-there fantastic on first reading and whenever I have looked to help from it since. I have used the ideas of “precision, gentleness and letting go in my own practice and in my mindfulness teaching ever since. this really is a fantastic book. (ISBN 9781590307939 )

Stages of Meditation – The Dalai Lama – the “most Buddhist” book on this list. And an excellent one on meditation, not just mindfulness. It is a commentary based on a 8th century text. But don’t let that make you think it is all theory and no practicality. This is still written the best known ‘ordinary monk’ on the planet and as a result brings this ancient thinking and belief into a structure and a language we can all comprehend. This is a book you could refer to all your life. (ISBN 9780712629638 )

Frazzled – Ruby Wax – Ruby Wax writes relevantly yet informatively on how it is to be full of anxiety and in fact on how we all feel the same such things to differing degrees. She doesn’t duck from from explaining the science behind mindfulness and how it helped her come to terms with the chaotic nature or her mind. This is a worthy book on the topic if for no other reason that it demonstrates that the all those worries you have aren’t just merely worries that will pass but also that everyone else suffers from the same problems. (ISBN 9780062398796 )

Full Catastrophe Living – Jon Kabat Zinn The book that started off the modern understanding of and interest in secular mindfulness; in many ways there hasn’t been another book to beat it on MBSR yet. The size of the book might put you off and make you want to use it as merely a reference guide rather than text book. But as so much of what is written on mindfulness from a secular and western perspective can be traced directly back to this book it will always be high on people’s lists in necessary reads. Personally I have found the chapter on the 7 foundations of mindfulness and why “we don’t have to like mindfulness, we have to just get on and do it” a real source of support on more than one occasion. (ISBN 9780385298971 )

What is Meditation? – Rob Nairn This is the first meditation book I ever read. I had met Rob a couple of times beforehand and so knew that the calmness and wisdom promised by such a practice was an established part of his day to day life. You could choose to read this as a guide to mindfulness or as an introduction to Buddhism without touching the other half as the book, but since Rob so beautifully explains how an understanding of one compliments the other you would be missing out. But whatever you choose you will find this a delight and in my experience also a fantastic start in discovering what meditation and Buddhism mean and what they can do for you. (ISBN 9780834829350 )


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Mindfulness-Quietening the Mind week 6

Firstly thank you so much forgiving up your own precious time to come along this evening. I love how the articulation of how what our minds do and how they work is developing week on week.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by the group facebook page or by email at philipanderson57121@gmail.com

 

This week the practice is sounds and thoughts meditation

Sounds and Thoughts Meditation

If you want a spoken guide to this practice, here is one below (erroneously called Listening and thoughts)

And as I mentioned before you can find Mark Williams leading some mindfulness practices on spotify as well Hope this link works to them.

I am attaching the 3 step breathing space again as I think it is such a lovely practice to carry around with us in our day to day life. The script I base mine around is  here. 3 Step Breathing Space and there is youtube guided one from Mark Williams here

 

Here are the instructions for mindfulness walking again if you wish to do this practice as well. Instructions for Mindful Walking

And here is the Wendell Berry poem I read at the end.

 

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I awake in the night for the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.

I come into the presence of still water

and I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.

For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and I am free.

(By Wendell Berry)

word copy here The Peace of Wild Things

Good luck with your practices and I look forward to seeing you next (and our last) week.


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Mindfulness-Quietening the Mind week 5

Firstly thank you so much forgiving up your own precious time to come along this evening. It is lovely to see how the mindfulness practices are already making a difference for some people. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by the group facebook page or by email at philipanderson57121@gmail.com

Something I read this week made me smile as I was preparing for our 5th session on quietening the mind; looking at less pleasant experiences:

What is the key to happiness?

Good judgement

How do I gain good judgement?

Experience

How do I gain experience?

Bad judgement

For the next week I would like you to keep a record on your (pleasant) feelings; just once a day. I attach a copy of the ‘unpleasant communications’ sheet I handed out.

 

This week the practice is sitting meditation

Sitting mindfulness practice checklist

If you want a spoken guide to sitting practice, below is a short one(the same link as last week)

And as I mentioned before you can find Mark Williams leading some mindfulness practices on spotify as well Hope this link works to them.

And here if you are feeling more ambitious is a longer sitting practice

 

The second part of the practice of the 3 step breathing space. I have written a script for it here. 3 Step Breathing Space and there is youtube guided one from Mark Williams here

 

And here is a copy of the Rumi poem I read is here. The Guest House Rumi

Good luck with your practices and I look forward to seeing you next week.


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Mindfulness-Quietening the Mind week 4

Firstly thank you so much forgiving up your own precious time to come along this evening. I really appreciate it. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by the group facebook page or by email at philipanderson57121@gmail.com

For the next week I would like you to keep a record on your (pleasant) feelings; just once a day. I attach a copy of the sheets I handed out on Monday.

Pleasant experience diary

Unpleasant experience diary

Then choose one practice from body scan, sitting mindfulness or walking mindfulness and try to do one of those every day. There’s written instructions for the mindful walking and basic instructions for the sitting practice below:

Instructions for Mindful Walking

Sitting mindfulness practice checklist

I have also written previously about my personal break through with walking mindfulness here and some slightly different guidelines and thoughts about sitting practice here and here and here Though often I think the best thing to do is simply sit down and DO IT and not read the thoughts of someone else who’s experiences may not be relevant to you anyways.

If you want a spoken guide to sitting practice, below is a short one(the same link as last week)

And as I mentioned you can find Mark Williams leading some mindfulness practices on spotify as well Hope this link works to them.

 

And here if you are feeling more ambitious is a longer sitting practice

 

And the John O’Donohue poem I read at the end is here Beannacht

Here is a copy of the sheets that were handed out in previous weeks.

Tchich Nhat Hanh practice 

Autopilot versus Mindfulness

Habit Releasers

Good luck with your practices and I look forward to seeing you next week.


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Mindfulness-Quietening the Mind week 3

Firstly thank you so much forgiving up your own precious time to come along this evening. I really appreciate it. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by the group facebook page or by email at philipanderson57121@gmail.com

 

 

Below is a mind and body sitting meditation

 

And here is the instructions/ introduction to walking mindfulness. Instructions for Mindful Walking

Here is a copy of the sheets that were handed out in previous weeks.

Practice Record sheet (same one as last week)

Tchich Nhat Hanh practice 

Autopilot versus Mindfulness

Habit Releasers

Sitting mindfulness practice checklist

 

Finally here is the Mary Oliver poem that I read at the end of the session again tonight

summer day mary oliver

Good luck with your practices and I look forward to seeing you next week.