What an insightful first week of my eight-week mindfulness meditation course. I have enjoyed reading the book and following the guided meditations so much!
The material is well suited to someone like myself who is starting out, developing their own mindfulness practice, and already knows intuitively that they will benefit from it.
The author’s writing style is excellent. The meditation guide speaks respectfully and calmly with clarity and eloquence. My guide has become a trusted friend.
Over the week, I felt calmer, less stressed and more able to cope. It would require a long blog to mention all the things that I have experienced and learned over the week. However, I would like to share some of them with you.
My first task was to find times that would work well for my twice daily meditations. The first week’s meditation is only about 8 minutes, but finding two regular times that would work was challenging, but I found them quite quickly.
Morning meditations seem to work well for me and set me up for the day. They work best after I have showered, eaten and finished my morning run. I am awake, well nourished, feeling healthy and calm.
Just before going to bed works well too. I am relaxed and open for meditation at that time and I sleep really well afterwards.
As you might expect, I use ‘earbud’ headphones and my iPhone for all my meditations to improve my focus and to be respectful of others around me.
This week’s guided meditation was a short ‘Mindful of Body and Breath’ meditation, designed to ground me in the present moment.
Initially, I needed to ensure that I was sitting in a dignified yet comfortable position, so that my posture supported my intention to be awake and aware. I then closed my eyes and focused my attention on the physical sensations that I felt from my body.
I initially focused my awareness on my breathing and the breath to calm and ground myself.
Then, starting with my feet and working my way up to my head, I acknowledged the physical sensations that I was feeling from different areas of my body.
I finished by acknowledging the physical sensations felt from my entire body, as a whole.
These were amazing physical awareness experiences for me. I took great care not to make things happen – I simply registered what was already happening.
Moving my awareness back to the breath, I acknowledged the sensations of my abdomen rising and falling, breath by breath, moment by moment. It had been a long time since I had felt such a sense of peace, stillness and calm. It was sublime and I was deeply moved.
During my meditations, my mind would periodically wander off the breath, to thinking, memories, plans, worries or daydreams.
When this happened, I took great care not to judge myself, or to be upset with myself. I simply registered where my mind had wandered off to, and then gently escorted my attention back to the breath.
In his book “Wherever you go, there you are”, Jon Kabut-Zinn, a long-time mentor of mine, suggests that observing one’s thoughts during meditation is like sitting in a cave behind a waterfall and watching the water flow over the falls.
During my meditations this past week, I have come to appreciate Jon’s analogy. I have also discovered that there’s no need to dwell on thoughts that are emotionally stressful.
My ongoing mindfulness meditation practice will enable me to manage my thoughts and spend more time in the present moment. It’s a place where I will find inner peace, calm and tranquility.
As for the future, I am feeling quite optimistic and hopeful. My plan is to have a mindfulness meditation life-practice, integrated with my running rehabilitation and ‘non-inflammatory’ healthy eating programs that are already in place.
I am hoping that this is the missing piece of my self-managed rehabilitation and chronic pain management puzzle, so to speak.
It has been an exciting week and I am looking forward to the next seven weeks of my eight-week mindfulness course.
My challenge might be to resist the temptation to charge ahead in the book. Of course, I do know that I must stay in the present and savor every moment of this eight-week mindfulness experience.
Before bringing this blog to a close, I would like to share one more story.
About 15 years ago, I was in my downtown Vancouver apartment reading The Georgia Straight, when I came across a small ad for a Sufi cooking class.
It was at the nearby False Creek Community Centre and the fee was only $10.
Although I knew little about Sufism or their style of cooking, I was intrigued, so I signed up.
About 10 other people turned up on that Saturday morning. After a brief introduction to Sufi philosophy, our instructor asked us to leave our regular lives behind for the morning, be present in the moment, and enjoy the experience.
With that in mind, we were each asked to choose a healthy, nutritious dish of food that we would each prepare and then share for lunch that day. After deciding on a meal and making a shopping list, we walked together along False Creek to Granville Island market where we each bought the fresh produce for our dish.
It was a beautiful sunny day, the aroma from the flowers along the way was gorgeous, and the market was bustling with people. Then, upon our return, we each prepared our dish, sat down, offered a prayer of thanks and then we ate together.
It was an amazing experience and I learned so much from this seemingly insignificant half-day Sufi cooking class. Here are the things that I remember:
– A quiet sense of peace and calm that resonated from our instructor
– The sights, sounds and smells while walking along the creek to the market
– Being thankful for living in a place abundant with fresh fruit and vegetables
– Picking fruit and vegetables and accepting their minor flaws, without judgment
– Preparing the dishes by hand with love and caring for those that would eat it
– As we ate, being consciously aware of the people that helped create the meal
– The farmers, drivers, market workers, our instructor, our group, ourselves
– Giving thanks before our meal for our food and all those people that created it
– A quiet sense of peace and calm that resonated from everyone on departure
Perhaps not so surprisingly, I do not remember learning anything about a Sufi style of cooking or an ethnic dish. Of course, that’s because I was actually attending a mindfulness class!
With that story, I will close for this week. I hope that you are able to return and share more of my mindfulness meditation experiences through my weekly blogs.
Thank you again to Mark Williams and Danny Penman for writing the book that inspired me to start on this exciting eight-week journey towards mindfulness.
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.
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:
Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:
– Arthritis and Fibromyalgia
– Chronic Disease