Tag Archive: mindfulness

Trust, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

Trust, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

I’m part of a coaching support group, where we practice being coaches on each other.  Contrary to some opinions, I find that coaches use many of the same techniques that therapists do, and being part of this group reminded me of what it was like testing my wings as a new therapist.  I remember watching the teachers conduct hot seats in front of us (a “hot seat” happens when a therapist and client work in front of an audience, generating “heat” simply by exposure for both of them; for this very reason, hot seats tend to generate fast results, when done well); as I watched, I marvelled at how brilliant the therapist was and wondered if I’d ever reach that level of competence – doubting at the time that I would.  Needless to say, over the years since, practicing and meeting with clients every day, I have reached that level – and it feels good, because I’m genuinely helping people achieve their dreams in the process.

The secret comes from trusting myself and the process.  In both coaching and therapy, the work involves the building of a trusting relationship between the coach or therapist and the client.  The client has to feel safe enough to speak openly and honetly; the coach or therapist has to be open and present and trust herself enough to go with what she sees and responds to, and to be able to say when she herself is stuck or confused.  Both need to trust that this process will lead to worthwhile results.  There isn’t a session I have with a client where I don’t learn something about myself as well as about my client.  It’s a process that benefits both of us, as long as there is trust.

When I first started to apply what I learned as a new therapist, I made the mistake of following instructions, so that I found I was completely “in my head” and equally completely out of touch with my body.  When that happened, there was no learning, no relationship-building, and no trust. The client left feeling dissatisfied and I was left feeling guilty and inadequate.

The way to trust is in being authentic and open, and in remaining in touch with our essential selves, which is always revealed in how we physically respond to our world.  For instance, if I were to think of a past event that brought me pain, my body will immediately register certain sensations – for me, it will be a feeling of tightness in my chest, like there was a heavy metal ball in the centre of it.  If on the other hand, I were to think of a past event that brings me pleasure, I feel a feathery kind of expansion in my chest.  When a client says something that grabs my attention, I feel that sense of expansion.  If I follow that interest, something always comes of it. If I ignore it, the session is pretty much done.

My challenge to you is this: discover in yourself how your body responds to painful and pleasant events. For one day, use this knowing to guide you, and at the end of it, take a moment to see how your day went, and how it left you feeling.

I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ … There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt. ― Maya Angelou

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thehjoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Beginner’s Mind, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

7 pillars of mindfulness

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.  -Shunryu Suzuki

Last week I decided to wash windows.  The windows in my place are the new kind that fold inward so that you can wash the outside from the inside.  Clever.

But I wasn’t used to these windows, and assumed that they would stay up when I simply put them back – like the windows I’m used to.  This assumption worked fine until the last set, where one of the windows didn’t stay put because, as it happened, the latch was stuck.  The window fell and hit me hard.  That window caused me a lot of pain, and may even have produced in me a mild concussion.

This may seem like a pretty mundane event – one we all encounter daily.  And that’s my point.  Had I approached these windows as something new – which they were – I would likely have saved myself grief.

When we’re relaxed and present, with no agenda going into something, then we have beginner’s mind. The next time you’re with a friend or loved one, try approaching them in this way, and see how that opens up new possibility for you.

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable. -Mary Oliver

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thehjoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Non-Striving, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

Non-Striving-one-of-the-7-pillars-of-mindfulness
The pillars of Mindfulness are Buddhist principles that help us live in beauty and peace.  One of them is non-striving.

I’m the kind of person who is always striving. Stiving to learn something new.  Striving to figure things out.  Striving to get somewhere. Striving involves incredible focus on whatever it is we are striving for,  which means little or no focus on anything else. That focus is on the future – some plan or future goal we’ve developed that is important to us.

If you’re like me, then you know that this practice and habit of striving means we miss a lot that is happening before our eyes. We miss that moment of tenderness or beauty; of connecting to that person beside us and with the world around us.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ll continue to strive for what gives my life meaning and purpose. Striving has its place. But striving sometimes hides dissatisfaction with what is, and can be a way to avoid what we think is, because unless we take a moment to look around us, whatever we believe is simply a thought in our minds.

This last point is important because we have such a huge capacity for self-deception. When I focus on something that engages me – say going for a hike in beautiful surroundings, or participating in a self-improvement course – I can lull myself into believing I’m into self-growth.  But if this is done at the expense of what I need to attend to – like, for instance, a failing relationship – then it’s really me striving to avoid seeing what I need to see.

So, if you’re like me, perhaps it’s time to take a breath, and simply look.

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thehjoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Patience, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

Patience

There are 7 pillars of mindfulness that are contemplated as part of a Buddhist practice.  Cultivating patience is one of these.

It’s said that with patience, we understand and accept that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.  In this way, patience is a form of wisdom – it reminds us that we, along with every thing in existence is in process, and that this process can’t be hurried.  Try forcing a square peg into a round hole: if you persist, the peg will likely break and the hole will become deformed.  The same happens with every process we attempt to force.

So often, it’s us we try to force, becoming impatient with our own process. We loose weight too slowly (then gain it back too quickly); we keep stumbling over mistakes while learning, ignoring or forgetting that stumbling is a necessary part of learning; we want it all – NOW – knowing in the back of our minds that anything worthwhile takes time.

I’d like to distinguish the mindful quality of patience from a natural energetic that some of us have that’s called impatience.  Some of us naturally move fast, think fast, walk fast.  If you’re like this, it’s as natural for you to be this way as it is for someone else to saunter.  Trying to force yourself to slow down wouldn’t work any better than trying to force a slow person to speed up, and may indicate an impatience to achieve some kind of imagined perfection that actually goes against what you are naturally.  It’s a kind of lack of acceptance and tollerance that I’ll cover in a few weeks.

Patience brings self-compassion to our awareness, helping us acknowledge and accept our own process. This kind of compassion melts away all inner resistance, allowing us to be open to each moment as it happens – without judgment – trusting that the process is unfolding perfectly as it is.

The next time you find yourself getting impatient with something you’re doing – even meditating (many of us believe there is a “right” way to meditate, for instance) – take some time to be with the feeling, and with the sensations this creates in your body.  Let is simply be, taking an interest in your natural, organic process of being with these feelings and sensations.

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thehjoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Non-Judging, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

Judgment

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thehjoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

The one I’d like to cover today is non-judging. When we judge, we form an opinion about something.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that – it’s how our mind works – comparing and weighing whether something is good or not good for us.  It’s important to our security to be able to judge.  It’s what our minds do best – if our assumptions are solid and we have all the facts.

But judging can also be a sign of our lack of self-acceptance. For instance, when I find myself judging the way a friend addresses me, it’s probably because I’m not feeling good about myself and am afraid that others will feel the same about me. Let’s say I gained 5 pouds seemingly overnight; this is something I’m sensitive about, so I’ll likely notice if someone comments on my appearance, take it the wrong way, and generate a judgmental story in my mind that makes me feel miserable.

On the other hand, when I’m feeling good and confident, I’m far less sensitive to any supposed slights. When I’m feeling on top of my world, even if someone came up to me and was explicit about my size, I’d probably laugh it off, knowing that what they said was really about them and not so much about me.

When I’m busy judging, it means my mind is occupied, and I’m not even able to really see what’s actually going on around me. The act of deliberately not judging what comes into awareness means we are with whatever comes up, as an impartial witness.  It allows us to feel what the judgments hide – the pain or anguish that’s really going on inside us.

Some people believe that meditation is a means of making ourselves feel calm. Sometimes that happens. But at other times, we aren’t calm, and during those times, meditation helps us be with our lack of calmness, without judging that lack of calmness as good or bad, as some kind of failure or lack on our part.

I invite you to discover your own way of judging in your world, by takeing 10 minutes and noticing your own judging patterns – along with any underlying feelings that might arise. And when you do this, do it with kindness and compassion for whatever it is you find.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Affect Tolerance, or How to Love Pain

mindfulness

Affect tolerance is all about learning to tolerate chronic pain.  It’s a big topic, especially around mindfulness practitioners, because being mindful can help someone learn to be OK with chronic pain – even love it!

Having a mindfulness practice helps in at least three ways: it helps us bear pain, it helps us accept aspects of ourselves that we try to ignore (which only serves to intensify the pain), and it helps us adjust our priorities to those that are more in line with life and wellness.

  1. It helps us bear pain. Often when we’re in pain, we make it much worse with our self-talk. “This is intolerable!” “I just can’t do anything with this pain and it makes me so angry!” – are two examples of how we can make the pain we feel remain centre-stage. Learning to separate our negative and un-helpful self-talk from the actual sensations not only provides some objective detachment, but also calms the talk.  This can very effectively reduce the actual sensation of pain. You can see this yourself the next time you feel a pain, say, in your hip: sit in a way that supports that painful part of your body, close your eyes, and breathe.  Then go to the actual area of pain, and imagine breathing right into that area – without attempting to alter the sensation; simply breathing into it; being with it. Do this for a few minutes and notice if there are any changes in the sensation as a result.  Most often, you will notice there is a change – a diminishing or softening of the sensation.
  2. It helps us accept ourselves as a whole, instead of limiting that acceptance to certain parts of ourselves. Pain can be a “pain”, but it can also be a friend – by telling us when we’ve gone too far. As we age, our bodies become increasingly limited in their ability to respond to our demands. Instead of fighting this, honoring what our body is able to do – and not able to do – is going to make us – ultimately – more content, moving from self-judgment and self-criticism to self-appreciation and support.
  3. It helps us adjust our priorities – to those that better serve us. This is closely linked to self-acceptance, and is really an extension of that idea: comparison to others who we judge as more fit or less in pain can only lead to misery. For instance, I can compare myself to my slim friend who can eat anything she wants, then judge myself wanting because I can’t eat anything I want without gaining weight and adding pressure to my knees.  Or, I can chose to focus instead on my successes – my depth of knowledge on what truly nourishes me, for instance; which I have only because I must watch what I eat. My priority can be to be ‘better than’, or it can be to be healthy and happy with what I have.  My choice.

My mother, for a number of reasons, had severe osteoporosis in her old age.  Because of this ailment, she had trouble walking and was almost constantly in pain. At first she fought it and ultimately made things worse by doing so.  Then she learned to accept and live with it, getting on with her life as best she could. She didn’t have a mindfulness practice – not much was known about mindfulness in the Western world at that time – but she did learn to really appreciate what was available to her, along with her limitations.  I can only wonder now what having a practice could have done for her.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Mindful Intimacy

Mindful Intimacy

Almost a year ago, I attended a conference on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, sponsored by Harvard University.  I was going through one of my all-too-frequent periods of physical challenges, so all I could manage was to get myself to the lectures in-between resting in my room.  Fortunately it rained a lot, and the friend I’d planned on meeting had to go elsewhere, so resting in the cool darkness of my room was perfect! I’m glad I made the effort; the quality of the talks and their speakers made it all worth-while.

One of the speakers was Willa Miller, Founder and Spiritual Director of Natural Dharma Fellowship in Boston.  She began with a stretch, and then a meditation, so that we could be supported in being present for what she wanted to share with us. A beautiful, and highly meaningful way to share her talk on Mindful Intimacy with us.  This isn’t, after all, a topic that can be truly appreciated without bringing the audience along. She lead more meditations during her time up there (I can’t recall how long she was up there – it felt like no time, but was probably an hour and a half). With each one, she spoke of and demonstrated the intimacy of solitary meditation.

How so? In 5 ways, we all shared the moment:

  1. Learned from a teacher – Ms. Miller was up there, leading us all one meditation at a time – something we all shared in as a result;
  2. Our relationship to the breath – since this was her focus, it was also ours;
  3. Our relationship with the present moment – there is no intimacy without presence, and being mindful is all about being present;
  4. With our immediate senses – similar to breathing together, we were, each of us, aware of hearing her voice and feeling our breathing;
  5. With our mind’s content – because she was teaching us as we meditated, we had something to focus on and think about, while at the same time, being fully present.

This kind of meditating practice is often called Relational Meditation. Its surprisingly intimate, and perhaps for this reason, energizing.  I left that lecture feeling well for the first time in a week.  I’m not claiming it was the meditation, but we do know that connection heals; that connection is, indeed, essential for human growth and wellness.

And so I leave you with this suggestion:  experiment with meditating by yourself and in groups, then note how you feel energetically.  I’d love to hear your feedback, and invite you to leave a comment below.