Musselburgh Mindfulness Drop-in Sessions for 2019
When - Last Thursday of the month (exc. Dec.), 6.30pm-8.30pm
(Jan. 31, Feb. 28, Mar. 28, Apr. 25, May 30, June 27, July 25, Aug. 29, Sept. 26, Oct. 31, Nov. 28, 2019)
Where - St Peter's Church Hall, 2 High Street, Musselburgh, East Lothian, EH21 7AG (Free on street parking)
What - Mindfulness practice group for people with some meditation experience.
(There is no need to book. Please just come along.)
How much - Suggested donation of £10 for each session.
I am pleased to offer these sessions in partnership with CHANGES Community Health Project. Each session is the opportunity for people who have completed an introductory mindfulness course or who have some experience of meditation to refresh or deepen their practice. I normally bring a theme to each session which we explore through meditation. There is also space to share your experience in the moment (if you wish) and be part of a safe and supportive meditation group.
When was the last time you could delight in the happiness of another person? When you could wholeheartedly rejoice in their success, good fortune or well-being as if it were your own?
This kind of joy, also known as empathetic joy, is something that most of us experience in our life but rarely cultivate or consider valuable. It is the genuine sense of happiness we feel when someone we love has life going their way. This is not merely a case of telling someone we are happy for them, but a deep sense of joy which comes from sharing in their good fortune as if we ourselves just had something similar happen.
This ability to rejoice in the good fortune of others, however, is not something that comes easily to us. Often instead of rejoicing, we secretly find ourselves feeling a pang of envy, jealousy or even resentment. “I wish it was me”, ‘What if I lose out?”, “It is not fair!”... Do any of these sound familiar? Now imagine or feel what it would be like to sincerely share in the happiness of others more often, even of those we have never met before? How would this enrich your life and the life of others?
So why not giving yourself time this month to practice empathetic joy? I will introduce you to a new practice to help you cultivate your innate capacity to rejoice in the good fortune and good qualities of others as well as your own. We will also explore the common challenges that often arise from such practice with kindness and compassion.
This month I am drawn to revisit the importance of acceptance in our practice. I know from experience that our capacity to accept ourselves and our life in the moment is key to our well-being. Yet there are many misconceptions about acceptance. People often wonder if acceptance makes us doormat in our relationships; if acceptance is akin to resignation or if it makes us self-indulgent. Yet genuine acceptance doesn’t mean mindlessly indulging ourselves or others; nor does it mean becoming passive or having to like everything about ourselves.
Acceptance in the context of our mindfulness practice is our willingness to be completely open to the experience we are having right now, whatever it may be, instead of resisting it. Acceptance is the opposite of resistance. It is our willingness to pause and approach our physical or emotional pain with an attitude of self-enquiry, openness, and kindness instead of pushing anything away. And it is from this place of acceptance that we can act and respond to our life more wisely.
Practicing acceptance however is no mean feat. It takes time as we are hardwired to resist pain. Yet it is only through genuine acceptance that change can occur. As Carl Rogers, an influential humanistic psychologist, discovered for himself: “The great paradox was that it wasn’t until I accepted myself as I was that I was free to change.”
So let’s take time in our session this month to practice acceptance and see what happens when we can let go of resistance even just for a moment and allow ourselves to be just as we are.
Earlier in the year I noticed a strong tendency to strive in my sitting practice. Somehow I felt that “I should be better at this by now”. I found myself sitting with the subtle hope to make progress. A part of me hoped to stay present for longer periods of time or to have a light bulb moment. This didn’t happen, of course, and if anything it led to an increasing sense of failure and frustration, and I became reluctant to sit.
Around the same time, I also started practicing more Qi Gong and decided to make it my core practice. I felt that mindful movements could help me become unstuck somehow. Initially it was a welcome relief from sitting practice and from getting myself tied into knots. Mostly I seemed to enjoy practicing Qi Gong. I noticed my body become stronger and my mind more resilient. But it didn’t take long before I noticed familiar thoughts such as “Now I am getting somewhere”, “I am rather good at it”, “I need to master this” . Once again I was faced with my tendency to strive. When I had a “good” practice, I felt good and hopeful. But when I didn’t, I could feel disappointed in myself.
It has taken me a long time to become aware of my tendency to strive. And whilst this trait can sometimes serve me in my life, it can leave me feeling disheartened and struggling. But now I feel more hopeful because I have a choice. Whenever I am able to notice this tendency in my practice and in my life, I can choose to pause, notice and respond with self-compassion.
So in this month’s drop-in session, I invite you to join me for an evening of meditation and Qi Gong. We will practice letting go of any sense of striving as we notice our inner judgements and meet ourselves with compassion.