Week 5-6: Cultivating a Stable Mind

"Through meditation and contemplative practices, we learn to know and work with our minds. We develop heightened levels of awareness so that we can act consciously rather than compulsively, responsively rather than reactively. We develop the skill of being present in any situation, seeing it as it is, without our personal biases and needs”.
Meg Wheatley
Photo by mali maeder from Pexels

Introduction

The framing ‘A Stable Mind’ is taken from Margaret Wheatley, whose work guides this practice. By ‘Stable Mind’, Wheatley refers to how being contemplative and reflective allows us to attend to our minds (in how, and where we are).

The materials and resources have been kindly generated by many interested in mindfulness and working in different roles across public services. We have shared them, largely unedited and thank the mindfulness community for their generosity. We invite you to gently stroll through the materials at your own pace and time.

Coming Back to Our Senses

Life pulsates with business and rushing. At the moment these sensations seem particularly accentuated through the shifts that COVID-19 has brought to our rhythms and relationships. To take time to be present might seem counterintuitive against such a backdrop. However, focusing on being present and upon where we are offers a way of living and working in this. Developing a stillness and an attentiveness to where we all are offers the opportunity to see more clearly, to attend to our own (and others) needs, to make more careful decisions, and the space to pause and reset in these difficult times. A chance to be still. To think about our senses. To reflect on how we are, before we think about what we have to do. We want to invite you to set time aside to do this.

Take a moment to just be.

What do you notice?

Where does your mind go?

What can you see?

What can you smell?

What can you hear?

What are you touching?

Photo by Manuela Adler from Pexels

Overview

In the following sections, you can learn about some of the underlying mindfulness theory, try out mindfulness practices and explore further resources. The links to audio files/documents offer examples of practices that you can do in your own time.  You do not need to work through all of these, but use them in a way which fits with where you are now. They can be done by yourself, in teams, with friends and families.

You can jump to each section by clicking on the section heading in this list below, or scroll down to see all sections.

Underlying Theory

 “Mindfulness means paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally. This kind of awareness nurtures greater awareness, clarity and acceptance of present moment reality. It wakes us up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments. If we are not fully present for many of these moments, we may not only miss what is valuable in our lives but also fail to realise the richness and the depth of possibilities for growth and transformation. It is .. a turning towards life…To live life as if each moment is important, as if each moment counted and could be worked with, even if it is a moment of pain, sadness, despair or fear."
Jon Kabat Zinn
former Executive Director of the Centre for Mindfulness
at the University of Massachusetts
Photo by Max Gotts on Unsplash

The background to this work is based on mindfulness. Mindfulness develops through meditation and other practices. It is about focusing on what is happening in the current moment, without evaluating what it means, or worrying about what happens next. 

The 9 Attitudes of Mindfulness

In this video Jon Kabit-Zinn explores 9 attitudes of mindfulness. Although he goes through all of these individually, he reminds us that these are interconnected.

After watching the video, you might want to spend a few minutes journaling some responses to the following questions.
You can respond to all the questions or just those that resonate most with you in this moment:

How do I show up with an open attitude and a willingness to pause my expertise? 

when do I notice I am judging others and myself? How can I bring compassion and kindness when I notice I am judging?

What am I struggling to accept?

What am I trying to cling onto? What would it mean to let go?

How can I trust myself more?

What or who could I demonstrate more patience with?

Where do I notice that this comes into focus?

What am I grateful for in this moment?

What am I doing with and for others without looking for recognition?

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, the expert’s mind there are few”
Shunryu Suzuki

There is a wealth of literature and practices that surrounds mindfulness. We have included some of our favourites below, but please check out an additional resources page that we have set up and that includes texts, videos, blogs and practices. 

Mindfulness Practice

While it’s important to consider the definitions, literature and attitudes of mindfulness, it’s crucial to practice!
We start by ‘taking our seat’ with Meg Wheatley:

Mindful Meditation Practices

We have included some practices here for those who are new (or need a refresher) to mindfulness.  Please note we have included many more practices and links to practices in our resources section.

The purpose of these practices is to begin to slow down, and recognise what is happening as it happens so we can cultivate a settled or stable mind. If you are new to mindfulness, these are good sessions to start with, as they focus your attention on recognising what happens in the totality of our experience through:
 
  • Our body (physical sensations)
  • Sensory experiences (touch, smell, see hear, taste)
  • Emotions (moods, feelings, emotional states)
  • Thoughts (ongoing chatter, plans, memories, images)

Exercise One: Recognising the Unsettled Mind

This first practice focuses on how our minds are usually distracted by multitudes of sensory experiences. We often attend to thoughts that pop into our heads. The practices are built upon the sense that by being more present, we can begin to become more aware of how we are responding to stimuli, and train our mind not to engage. It is worth highlighting that through this, we are not trying to rid the mind of thoughts (impossible) or suppress them (potentially dangerous) but learning to let thoughts and feelings just arise and disperse without attaching meaning to them.

This exercise takes 5 minutes.

Exercise Two: Settling the Mind

This practice builds on our awareness of how busy the mind can be, jumping from thought to thought, and introduces the breath as support to begin settling the mind.

This exercise takes 10 minutes.

Exercise Three: Becoming Aware of the Body

This practice is aimed at developing our ability to tune into what is going on, what we are experiencing and recognising the deep contention between mind and body.  The aim is to become more aware of how we pay attention – sometimes we will focus on particular areas and sensations and sometimes we will be zooming out to become aware of more general areas and experiences. We will also become more aware of how distracted the mind gets (and it will).

This exercise takes 30 minutes.

Empathy: The Magic of Deep Listening
with Shona Cameron

Slidepack of sessions now available online

There are many definitions of empathy and ideas about what it is. Rather than more discussion this webinar is focused on the experience of empathy. Being deeply heard is a powerful experience that can stay with us. In this space of acceptance we find our own inner resources, solutions and move forward.

During these past sessions, Shona Cameron explained the simple process of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and then demonstrated with space for questions and further exploration.

Slidepack for Sessions

Slidepack for the sessions, having taken place in May, are available for download below.

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