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.
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.
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.