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.
Before my summer holiday this month, I found myself yearning for some space - space away from the demands and pressures of daily life and space to really give my mind a rest. I pictured myself standing on a deserted beach, my arms outstretched to the sides, my head tilted towards the sky, my mind feeling spacious, carefree. Well, that wasn’t to be... I found myself caught up into “doing” - a “doing” of a different kind maybe, but a “doing’ regardless! Meeting family and friends, going places, keeping people entertained. Some of it I enjoyed, but for the first week it didn’t feel like I could switch off. My mind was still in “doing” mode - planning, organising, worrying about whether I would ever feel rested by the time these holidays are over! I did get time in the end to rest and refresh, but what is my lesson here?
Well, giving my mind a rest is no mean feat. And holidays (whilst they can eventually be restful) won’t cut it! In fact, it was unrealistic of me to think that I could sustain a restful, spacious mind. As we know from our mindfulness training, it is not enough to say to our mind “okay time to rest now”, we need to systematically train our mind. We need to practice letting go - again and again and again - of our engagement with thinking so that our mind can begin to settle down and come to a place of rest… for a few seconds anyway.
So why not join me this coming Thursday for an evening of meditation where we will practice giving our minds a rest? As well as revisiting what the necessary conditions are for our mind to settle, I will introduce you to a visualisation practice called “Finding your special place of relaxation”. We will also practice some mindful Qigong before moving on to practicing resting our mind in our sitting meditation.
For our drop-in session this month, I would like to introduce you to a new practice called “The Compassionate Being”. It is a visualisation practice which is used in a lot of spiritual and religious traditions as a way of praying and feeling fully loved and accepted. But I would like to introduce it as a secular practice and see what happens when we can imagine ourselves being completely loved and cared for by another. I have come across it in my meditation training sometime ago and I have found it rather nourishing.
In this practice, we will imagine compassion flowing into ourselves from a compassionate being. This being could be a person, an animal or something inanimate such as a tree, mountain, ocean or light. As an ideal being, it has all the qualities that a compassionate being would have such as a deep kindness, warmth, understanding, wisdom and inner strength. It is also deeply attuned to our struggles and to our needs, and is able to accept us unconditionally. While some of you may be familiar with other compassion practices, the Compassionate Being practice is another way of accessing and developing the compassionate part of ourselves by receiving the love, care and understanding of another.
So if you are curious about this practice and would like to experience it in a group environment where together we will be generating the energy of presence and compassion, please come along. There will also be plenty of time to slow down and come back to presence, and perhaps to practice outside, should the weather be kind to us. Fingers crossed!
Every year, I take time to connect with my motivation for the year ahead. Often it is a simple word which comes to mind, something for me to remember in my meditation practice and in my life. This year what came to me was the word “love”. At first, I felt a bit puzzled by this. I thought of it as loving myself, something I have been working on for many years now and that I am much more able to feel. So I wondered why the word “love” came up again, how relevant it would be to my life this year. It finally became clearer last week when I choose to revisit the concept of gratitude and generosity and made it part of my daily practice.
Fundamentally gratitude and generosity are qualities of the heart. It is our natural ability to be open-hearted - to love both life and the people around us. Tara Brach defines gratitude and generosity as inseparable and as natural to us as the act of breathing. Gratitude is like breathing in and receiving the beauty, the mystery and the sweetness of the life that is here. Generosity is like breathing out when we are naturally giving out our care and love.
But when our survival brain is activated (i.e. when we are in flight, fight or freeze mode) we lose access to our ability to receive and to give wholeheartedly. We forget what and who we love and what makes our life rich and worth living. We find it difficult to pause and really savour the beauty and the goodness in our life. And this is what I needed to be reminded of - the necessity not only to love myself but also to remember the beauty and the goodness in my life (ie. the people, places and experiences) - because this is also an act of love.
So I can’t wait for our session this week and share this with you. As always we will allow plenty of time to settle back into the present moment, and we will also revisit some gratitude practices to help us reconnect with what and who we love in our life.
As I am writing this on Easter Monday morning, the sun is shining through my living room window and warming up my right cheek. It feels rather soothing and a welcome relief from what has been quite a difficult month for me. I have experienced waves of sadness which I have found overwhelming at times. Sitting to practice has been particularly challenging. Sometimes it would have felt easier to give up and simply wallow. I have had to dig deep and find my way back to presence by making plenty of space around what I felt and meeting myself with kindness and care. Every time I was able to relax back into presence in this way, however, something happened - a loosening. I could once again feel something other than sadness - something tender and peaceful.
In this month session, I am inspired to cultivate together our ability to relax back into presence, to make space and meet whatever arises in each moment of our life with love and care. This ability to relax back into presence or “being”, I believe, is in itself healing. But for it to grow, it requires to be practiced again and again. So I am looking forward to practicing with you this coming Thursday and in the meantime I wish you all well.
“We are not the survival of the fittest. We are the survival of the nurtured.” — Louis Cozolino ( American psychologist)
I came across this quote recently. It seemed to capture so simply what I experience time and time again in my work and in my life - that we flourish when we feel nurtured with love and understanding. But for so many of us, the lack of unconditional love and understanding received in childhood and beyond has severed our trust in others and our sense of belonging. Our heart has closed down, leaving us with a sense of inadequacy, fear and aloneness.
The good news is that through mindfulness and compassion training we can learn to nurture ourselves and reconnect with others in a way that can become healing and transformative. There is no magic to it. It simply starts with our intention to “allow” whatever feelings or sensations we experience to be just as it is, whilst meeting ourselves with care, tenderness and acceptance (like a good parent or a good friend would). And it continues with our intention to cultivate empathy and compassion for the suffering of others - recognising that ultimately we are all in the same boat.