Mindfulness: Week 8 – Your Wild and Precious Life – final week

John - always at home in the mountains

John – always at home in the mountains

“Week Eight is the rest of your life!”

As I read this bold statement in the last chapter of my Mindfulness book, I was briefly taken aback, but then it made complete sense.

After all, my mindfulness meditation experiences over the past seven weeks have been amazing. I am now able to self-manage my thoughts and spend more time living mindfully in the present moment. As a result, I feel calm and more at peace with my life exactly as it is right now.

I have also discovered that mindfulness meditation is an extremely effective tool for self-managing my ongoing rehabilitation, concussion symptoms and chronic pain. Therefore, I now have a valuable addition to my self-management toolkit.

As I embarked on my final week of my eight-week program, I felt quite confident in my ability to cultivate my own mindfulness life practice.

However, I also knew that I would need a detailed mindfulness plan in place soon.

Therefore, my primary objective during week eight was to create a sustainable three-month plan, using all of the information, tools and experiences that I had gleaned over the past seven weeks.

The concept of creating a plan during the last week was very familiar to me.

John - equally at home facilitating a chronic pain workshop

John facilitating a UVic chronic pain self-management workshop

It’s the same situation as we have in our University of Victoria six-week chronic pain self-management workshops.

As a workshop facilitator, I help our workshop participants as they develop their own sustainable three-month action plan during the final week’s workshop.

Having a daily routine for my mindfulness meditations will be critical to my long-term success.

Consequently, I first created a daily mindfulness meditation plan that I will use for the next three to six months of practice. I then followed the plan for the past week, making adjustments as needed. It worked very well.

Here’s a synopsis of my long-term daily routine, although I’m sure that it will require further adjustment and fine-tuning over time:

Early morning:
– Five deep, mindful breaths
– Gentle body stretch
– Mindfulness of Body & Breath meditation

This fifteen-minute routine first thing in the morning enables be to be fully awake and mindful in the present moment.

Mid-morning:
– Short trail run
– Leg stretches
– Mindful Movement meditation

Three times a week, I go for a short trail run. I follow a running rehabilitation program developed by the University of Buffalo concussion clinic. After I have finished my run and stretches, I do the Mindful Movement mediation that further adds to the peace and calm that I feel after running.

Mid-afternoon:
– Breath and Body meditation

My Breath and Body meditating around mid-afternoon ensures that I am fully awake, mindful and calm for my afternoon and evening time with our children.

Late-evening:
– Befriending meditation

Doing the Befriending meditation is a wonderful meditation to do before going to bed and sleep. These phrases from the meditation are especially comforting.

May I be safe and free of suffering
May I be as happy and healthy as it is possible for me to be
May I have ease of being

Befriending affords me the opportunity to offer a gift of kindness, love, friendship and compassion towards myself and indeed everyone on our beautiful planet. It’s the perfect way for me to be mindful and thankful before I lay down to rest.

Meditation bench - Hyde Creek, Port Moody

A favourite meditation spot – Noons Creek, Port Moody

Other Meditations – as required:
These are other guided meditations that I use as needed

The Body Scan – a longer meditation that I use when I need to fully re-connect with my body and the sensations of the body and breath.

Exploring Difficulty – an excellent meditation that I use for facing and overcoming major challenges, difficulties and fears that I periodically experience in my life.

Sounds and Thoughts – a meditation that I tend to use when I am stuck in a noisy environment. Rather than feel disturbed by the noise, I examine the sounds and my thoughts through this meditation.

The Three Minute Breathing Space – a quick and effective meditation that I use for those hectic moments when I need to feel calm and grounded.

Mindful Activities:
Since taking my eight-week mindfulness course, I now take advantage of everyday activities, such as shaving, cleaning teeth, dishwasher, laundry, cooking, eating, and housework, to practice being mindful in the moment.

Finding peace in a frantic world is not easy. On occasion, stress and anxiety can be overwhelming. During these times, I always remind myself that when you are close to the edge, you are close to truth.

A place of stillness - Mundy Park

A place of stillness – Mundy Park

My new mindfulness meditation practice has given me renewed hope for finding peace, by being mindful in the moment and okay with myself as I am right now.

However, maintaining my mindfulness meditation practice over the long term will not be easy. Staying the course requires commitment, dedication and hard work.

The rewards however are huge!

It’s really encouraging to hear from others that mindfulness meditation is already having a noticeable impact on my life and the lives of others. My wife Marjory recently told me that I had become calmer and more at peace over the past few weeks. She feels that my mindfulness meditation is responsible for the change.

When I first started my eight-week Mindfulness program, I thought that it might at least help me self-manage my rehabilitation, concussion symptoms and chronic pain. It has done this and also so much more.

Mindfulness meditation has made my life richer and it has changed all aspects of my life for the better.

Here are some final words from Danny and Mark’s Mindfulness book that for me capture the essence of mindfulness meditation.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
empty of it’s furniture,

still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite
them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Jalaluddin Rumi, the thirteenth-century Sufi poet, in The Essential Rumi,
translated by Coleman Barks, 1999

Home is where the heart is

Home is where the heart is

In closing, remind yourself that the deepest stillness and peace does not arise because the world is still, or the mind is quiet. Stillness is nourished when we allow the world, the mind and the body to be just as they are for now, moment by moment, and breath by breath.

At this time, I wish to again thank Professor Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman for writing their amazing book that inspired me to take this pivotal eight-week Mindfulness journey.

As you might expect, I thoroughly recommend that you consider buying their book for yourselves. It includes a link to download all of the guided meditations.

You can find out more about “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” at http://www.franticworld.com

If you enjoyed this blog and wish to read others in my Mindfulness series, please go to http://blogs.theprovince.com/tag/mindfulness/

Thank you for reading my blogs. Following a short break, I hope to be back with other similar blogs in the near future.

Warm wishes to you all.

Namaste,

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

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Mindfulness: Week 6 – Befriending

John in the midst of the BC mountains

John in the midst of the BC mountains

Week 6 – Befriending has been a beautiful week full of kindness, love, friendship and compassion towards myself, and those that I love and care for in my life.

Prior to starting the ten-minute “Befriending” meditation, my trusted guide gave me two options. I could prepare using some suggested meditations from prior weeks, or I could use the brief preparation within the meditation itself.

I was comfortable trying the latter. I took great care to maintain a dignified posture while being mindful of my body and breath. It worked well for me. I felt wakeful, quiet, calm and grounded.

My guide then asked me to consider how I truly felt about myself. Then he invited me to experience a different way of thinking. I would cultivate a sense of kindness and friendship towards myself, and then towards others.

No matter what my outside appearance suggested, I had to acknowledge that there were times when I felt sad, lonely and fearful on the inside. Additionally, that I first needed to wish myself well before I would be fully able to extend the same loving kindness to others.

Then, slowly and silently, I recited these three phrases:

May I be safe and free of suffering
May I be as happy and healthy as it is possible for me to be
May I have ease of being

Think of a waterfall as a continuing cascade of thoughts - Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Think of a waterfall as a continuing cascade of thoughts” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

“These words feel good, but am I worthy of such loving kindness?”, I wondered. Then my late Mother, to whom I was very close, and my dear wife Marjory, the love of my life, came to mind.

“Mom and Marjory love me unconditionally. So what would they wish for me at this time?” I asked myself.

Again, slowly and silently, I recited these three phrases:

May I be safe and free of suffering
May I be as happy and healthy as it is possible for me to be
May I have ease of being

I began to feel a warm glow radiating from my heart out to my entire body. I had started to establish a deep sense of love and friendship for myself.

Soon I was thinking of others to whom I might extend my love, friendship and kindness.

First, my dear ten-year old son came to mind. Having just started Grade 5 with a full slate of activities, his world was becoming a little hectic.

Then, there was the kind lady who works at our local recreational centre. I do not know her well, yet she always has a friendly word and warm smile for everyone, despite her ongoing health challenges.

One of my family members then came to mind. Although I struggle with our relationship from time to time, I know that she has a good heart.

A favourite summer hike - Cheakamus Lake

Sweet memories of our summer hike to Cheakamus Lake

Finally, I thought of the billions of people that share our planet earth, many of whom desperately need love, friendship and kindness right now.

Once more, slowly and silently, I recited these three phrases:

May you be safe and free of suffering
May you be as happy and healthy as it is possible for you to be
May you have ease of being

As I recited each phrase, I imagined that I had dropped a pebble down a deep well. Then I would mindfully listen for any reactions in my thoughts, feelings, and body sensations.

First there was silence as each pebble dropped, followed by a distance splash as it hit the water below. As the ripples of water extended toward the wall of the well, I felt that familiar heartfelt warmth extending throughout my entire body.

At the end of my meditation, I took some time to sit with the breath and the body, resting in the clear awareness of the present moment.

Meditation grove - Mundy Park

A favourite “after-running” meditation spot of mine – Mundy Park

For me, spending the week with the Befriending meditation was a deeply moving experience. In reciting the three phrases over and over, it became clear that despite my Mother’s unconditional love, I do not remember ever feeling safe and free of suffering as a child.

Through my adult years, it was much the same, until twelve years ago when I met and then married Marjory and we created our “world of love” together. Despite the many challenges that I still face, I now feel safe and loved.

Having now mentioned our “world of love”, I will tell you a short story about my “World of Love” poem that I shared with you in my “Week 4 – Sounds and Thoughts” blog.

I wrote this poem about a decade ago, and have always struggled with last word of the poem. A part of me thought the word “me” sounded a little self-indulgent, so I changed the last word to “thee”.

Although both words are true, having spent the past week with the “Befriending” meditation, I now know how important it is to love and befriend oneself first. Consequently, I am now entirely comfortable with my poem’s original last word.

Here’s the last verse:

“The world of love is everywhere
It’s right here for us all to see
And the love I feel for everyone
Is a love that I found in me.”

The clouds come and go, but the sky remains - Mark Williams & Danny Penman

“The clouds come and go, but the sky remains” – Mark Williams & Danny Penman

Now here are a few more final words for you, but this time from Albert Einstein:

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself; his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restriction us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in it’s beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security.”

Einstein’s words of wisdom came from Danny and Mark’s book. I wish to thank Professor Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman for writing the amazing book that inspired me to take this pivotal eight-week Mindfulness journey.

You can find out more about their book “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” at http://www.franticworld.com.

Finally, I look forward to starting “Week 7 – Learning to Dance Again” on Sunday and sharing my experiences with you in next week’s blog.

Namaste,

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

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