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Posts from the ‘Mindfulness’ Category

How To Bounce Back From A Mindfulness Lapse

Old habits die hard, so the saying goes.  And even though I’ve been practising mindfulness for a number of years, this is still true.  I’m just more aware of those habits!

Like the urge to push uncomfortable feelings away.

I’m sure some of you know what I mean.  That old familiar feeling you don’t like starts creeping up on you (in my case feelings of anxiety or sadness), and before you know it you’re in full-on problem solving mode.

How can I get rid of this feeling?  What meditation will make it go away?  Whose podcast of wise words can I listen to so I can find the mysterious ‘answer’ to stop myself feeling this way?

But here’s where the mindfulness steps in.  I’m not totally lost in this automatic habit.  These days, I notice myself doing this.  I recognise more quickly when I’m caught in that seductive agenda of trying to control how I feel.

In these moments I’m reminded that I don’t actually need to find some new trick or perspective.

I just need to re-visit something I’ve learned many times before.  That taking a mindful approach means turning towards these awkward, uncomfortable feelings.  It means exploring them with curiosity and responding with kindness.

Mindfulness doesn’t remove discomfort so that we’re ‘fixed’ and never feel it again.  In this human life, we’re going to keep on experiencing the unpleasant, the difficult and the challenging – alongside what’s beautiful, moving and enjoyable.

I’ve heard it said that mindfulness is a process of re-minding yourself.  During a meditation we may need to re-mind ourselves to come back to the breath – 20 times, or a hundred times.

And so it is in life that we constantly re-mind ourselves to respond to our experience with kind attention.  Often this means turning towards what we’re really feeling, so we can let it be felt and flow through.  The alternative is to get seduced into trying to fix the unfixable, or try to ignore it.

Those times when we find ourselves caught in old patterns aren’t a sign that our mindfulness has lapsed or failed.

When we see our old patterns playing out and can notice – in the midst of that very difficulty – what’s really happening, we’re being mindful in the most courageous of ways.

So the next time you notice an old habit kicking in, try not to give yourself a hard time.  Instead, celebrate this moment of awareness and bravery, which has brought you back to mindfulness.

Sheila Bayliss runs wellbeing classes in Heaton Moor, South Manchester, and offers personal workshops by Skype.

What Is Mindfulness?

I’m often asked the question ‘what is mindfulness?’.  I don’t believe there is one definitive answer to this question.  What you’ll find here is just one possible answer, based on the way I have received and share the practices of mindfulness and self-kindness…

Mindfulness means being with our experience in a gentle, accepting way.  When stressed, we have a tendency to be stuck in our heads, thinking and problem-solving.  With mindful awareness, we learn to inhabit our direct, sensory experience in the body, and this gives us more choice in how we respond to difficulty.  Through learning to be with all of our experience – even the difficult parts – we build emotional confidence.  I share mindfulness with a strong emphasis on kindness and compassion (including self-kindness, which is extremely powerful in helping us cope with difficulty).

What are the benefits?

Research shows that mindfulness reduces stress and improves wellbeing.  I can personally say that it has helped me feel much more calm and positive in the face of many life challenges. Mindfulness isn’t a quick fix, but it does have profound & lasting benefits when you make it a habit.  

So how does it work?

Mindfulness is practised by engaging in regular meditation.  But it may not be what you associate with the word ‘meditation’.  There are sitting practices that can be done while being guided.  These include focusing on the body, the breath or feelings of kindness.  There are also ways to bring mindful awareness to whatever we’re doing, and this all counts as meditation.  Over time, meditating regularly starts to have a positive impact on how we are generally.  It’s a bit like training to get fit: when practised regularly, it has a cumulative effect, re-wiring the brain to create new neural pathways.  Although practising meditation will greatly enhance the benefits, it is possible to start becoming more mindful of your habitual responses by using mindful awareness tools in daily life.

What’s the best way to learn?

Most people find that some guidance is helpful initially via a class or course of some kind.  This can be especially helpful if you think you’re ‘no good at meditating’.   Being able to access regular sessions helps with motivation to keep your own practice going.  It can also be useful to connect with other people who are learning. You can get CD’s or downloads with guided meditations to listen to at home.  My recordings can be found on the Meditations and Mini-Meditations pages of this blog. 

If you’re not quite ready for regular meditation, but you want to develop a more mindful response to worry, stress and overwhelm – you can still learn to live more mindfully in everyday life.  I share ideas on how to do this in my Monthly Tips posts.   Although it’s true that sitting meditation enhances the benefits of mindfulness, you can also develop your own set of tools that can be used whether you meditate or not.

Are all classes the same?

There are different types of courses and classes.  My approach is helpful for stress, but is not intended to provide support for debilitating mental health issues.  If you have been diagnosed with (or suspect you may have) a mental health condition such as depression or an anxiety disorder, you can ask your GP about a referral to a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy course (MBCT) – this is different from the classes I offer. 

My Top 10 Mindful Reading List

I often recommend some of these books to people – and I’ve found them all so helpful personally. Some are on mindfulness, others on self-compassion – but they all have something valuable to say about being human.

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your reading list, you might like to try some of these.

1. Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff – a fantastic intro to self-kindness, & how it can support our wellbeing.

2. Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson – great for boosting positivity.

3. Mindfulness: Finding Peace In A Frantic World by Mark Williams & Danny Penman – I recommend this as an intro to mindfulness for those who are curious but haven’t yet tried it.

4. The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert – fascinating explanation of our emotion systems and why we find life difficult.

5. Calming Your Anxious Mind by Jeffrey Brantley – a good book to progress to once you’ve already started practising mindfulness.

6. The Mindful Path To Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer – again, I’d say best read once you’ve already started practising self-compassion meditations.

7. The Mindfulness Solution by Ronald D Siegel – I found the sections about learning how to be with difficulty especially helpful, after I’d attended a mindfulness course.

8. Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn – I read this once I had a fairly established practice as a way of developing further.

9. Breath By Breath by Larry Rosenberg – A good book for people who already meditate regularly and want to go deeper.

10. Get Out Of Your Mind & Into Your Life by Steven C Hayes – practical exercises that help build discomfort tolerance, based on the ACT approach. The chapters on Values are great if you want to make some changes in your life. I’d suggest learning a bit about self-kindness before doing the other exercises.

If you’ve read any of these, what did you think?

Which books would be on your Top 10?

(At some point I might do a ‘part 2’ to this post – there are definitely more I could add since I first wrote it!)

Edit: The ‘part 2’ is now available at Mindful Living Book List