Dukkhaboy

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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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Mindful Walking – Part 2

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Last week end I was fortunate enough to be on a short retreat at Gaia House. We sat and walked mindfully for a lot of the day. We had some wonderful talks from John Peacock and Christina Feldman. And we were silent throughout. It was a privilege to be there. An opportunity that even at the time I knew to be an honour and one not to be squandered.

One of the things I took away was the walking; whilst I have recently got on far better with it (see this previous post) I had never done mindful walking for 3/4 of an hour at a go and certainly not 4 times a day! But then finding a space and time to carry on or occasionally repeat such practice has proved difficult in my normal life. It’s dark when I get up and nearly dark when I return from work. as we are a family of 3 children Clutter is now the second part of our double barrelled surname. as a result, finding an indoor space to walk is a bit tricky.

However, this morning is Saturday. I didn’t have a drop to drink last night (excuse the smugness) and I awoke early, safe in the knowledge that no one else would be up for a couple of hours at least. So I went down to the park just a 1/4 of a mile away from our front door. I pulled my cap down low to narrow my view and stood feet hip-width apart, dropping my attention into my soles and the underside of my toes; feeling the ground beneath them, noticing the weight they were holding up. Then, very slowly, I lifted my left foot, immediately being aware of the shift of weight to my right side and set off with no aim in mind into the park.

Just the same as when I am on the cushion my mind was speedily away from focussing on the movement of my feet and lower legs and onto seemingly more appealing places like the future and how I could do well in it, or the past and how I could and should have come out better from it. I noticed this from time to time and tried to gently escort it back to the feelings and experience of walking. Seeing my feet point skywards as they prepare to land, being aware of the roll of the sole of my foot on the ground as the weight transfers onto it and then it starts to lift at the heel and push off from the toes. Sometimes I overbalance slightly walking at that slow pace and my attention expands to the whole body realising how it is all involved in keeping upright me upright as I move. I am uncertain whether I should be paying attention to just the feet or this complete interdependent moving system.

Since it is early there are no more than a few dog walkers around and I can sense them giving me a wide berth as I inch about the park, calling their intrigued hounds away from me. My cap is pulled down to help avoid contact, partly to avoid possible social awkwardness but also to blinker myself slightly so I get less distracted by sights on my way. Half way round I remember reading an instruction for mindful walking that said “don’t look at your feet as you do this. You don’t need to when you walk around normally every day” and I lift my gaze to about 10 yards in front of my feet. This also helps lighten the intensity I had created by limiting my world view and I was able to start viewing the walking less as my body moving from within and more as my body moving through a space. I think this also helped me start to appreciate the continual change, adjustments and flow involved in ordinary walking.

I arrived back at the park gate where I had initially felt my feet on the ground and my mind returned to waking children and my responsibility to be back at home. The small “without striving” part of the day was over, but at least I could take the body and the movement of body around with me back in the real world again.


If you are interested in trying out some mindful walking. Here are some instructions I wrote out, mainly copied from people far more expert than I. Instructions for Mindful Walking


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Blind, not blind

eilidh-johnstone-blind-skier

Eilidh Johnstone is 10. She is blind. She skis. I am 51. I wear glasses. I moan about them when it rains and they get wet. Having read about her and watched her in action I feel my negative outlook needs adjusting.

There is an old old story about a gatekeeper. A traveller arrived at the the city and before passing through asked the keeper “What are the people of this city like?” The gatekeeper ducked his question and asked the traveller, “What were the people like where you just came from?” “Oh dear God, they were awful: untrustworthy, prone to to criminality, self centred and dishonest.” “Well I think you will find the people here are just the same,” ended the gatekeeper as he allowed the traveller through.

Later that day another traveller new to the city, approached the gates and before passing through he asked the keeper the same thing “What are the people of this city like?” Once more the gatekeeper ducked his question and asked the traveller, “What were the people like where you just came from?” The second traveller was enthusiastic in his response ” You couldn’t meet a better bunch of people. They were hospitable and, to a man and woman, kind and considerate.” “Well I think you will find the people here just the same,” smiled the gatekeeper as he waved the traveller in.

All day, every day we tell ourselves stories: he is like that, she always does this, they have never liked me. We carry around with us our simplistic versions of others. That they are generalisations is bad enough, but it means that the picture we hold in our minds, that we think is the truth is not what reality is – it is not the person we see in front of us. The stories we tell about our father, our partner, our boss are not our father, our partner or our boss. They are just stories – based on an event or series of events that definitely happened – but just stories nevertheless. The trouble is they block us from being able to experience all of our lives. These distorted and lazy tales create the ruts into which we all fall. The full picture of other people and of our broader lives is dulled by the preconceived ideas we cling on to.

Therefore it is becomes our challenge to notice this internal tale-spinning and drop the repeating circles our minds can restrict us to. We are living on autopilot and we are missing out. Within our mind’s stories lie our prejudices and our lapses into boredom. Without them there is possible a more joyful, empathetic and compassionate way of living. Being mindful can unentangle us from it all and allow us to ski with freedom like Eilidh.

As the Mindfulness teacher Christina Feldman says “Being present invites us to allow the memories and the stories rooted in the past to be just whispers in our minds that we no longer solidly with unwise attention.”

The main ideas from this post were all taken from Christina Feldman’s book “The Buddhist path to simplicity” and the inspiration to understand it more clearly was from Eilidh Johnstone.


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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.