Mindfulness with Sitara Morgenster

Tag: attention

World stress

The constant agitation of our thinking minds, which we encounter so vividly in the meditation practice, is actually fed and compounded by our diet of television, radio, newspapers, magazines, movies and the Internet. We are constantly shoveling into our minds more things to react to; more things to think, worry and obsess about; and more things to remember, as if your own daily lives did not produce enough on their own. The ultimate irony is that we do it to get some respite from our own concerns and preoccupations, to take our mind off our troubles , to entertain ourselves, to carry us away, to help us relax.
But it doesn’t work that way. Watching television hardly ever promotes physiological relaxation. Its purview is more along the lines of sensory bombardment.
(…)These observations and perspectives are merely offered as food for thought.(…)There are no ‘right’ answers, and our knowledge of the intricacies of these issues is always incomplete. They are presented here as examples of our interface with what we might call world stress. They are meant to provoke and challenge you to take a closer look at your views and behaviours and at your local environment, so that you might cultivate greater mindfulness and perhaps a more deliberate and conscious way of living in relationship to these phenomena that so colour and shape our lives, whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not.”

Excerpted from p.548-549 of “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn


When we bargain

When you find yourself bargaining with your mindfulness practice, ask yourself why.

Bargaining with the teacher or method is one of the first things that happens in mindfulness introductory courses. (And, often, we continue bargaining with ourselves every single time we plan to sit down and practice.) We have read that mindfulness helps people cope with life in a hectic world, and often this gets translated into preconceived ideas about how or what mindfulness works, what exactly it is or how it should be done. “Can’t I go for a walk in nature instead of practising 12 minutes of sitting mindfulness meditation a day?” “I like practising lying down with soft music playing in the background”. “I’m too restless to sit down and focus on my breathing or do a body scan”.
THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT!!!
The whole point is that we always need one crutch or another to be at ease. Yet nothing beats just sitting quietly with your eyes closed (initially) and your attention on your breath, your body, your physical, mental, emotional and “environmental” sensations, within and without. A large part of formal sitting practice is to train the ability to simply breathe and observe no matter what the internal or external turmoil. Observe that turmoil, that restlessness, those crazy thoughts. It’s the most exhilarating thing to be able to do. You can just sit there and “watch” it all go on and not having to run away, or stop it, or quench it, or distract yourself from it, or act on it, or fix it, or plan it away. Halleluja! That’s your peace, right there. This is not about relaxing. But it will relax you. No matter how “messy” your mindfulness session seems. No matter how brief it is. It’s your eye of your storm. Try it. Do it. Even if at first it is only for 1 minute.


#NZ Lockdown Day 16

Take a  few minutes to consider how your breath has been with you through thick and thin – and always will be, until you breathe your final outbreath. How it keeps going througout your sleep. How it only allows you to hold your breath for so long.

See if you can, randomly throughout the day, spare a moment to give attention to your breathing pattern, its rhythms or perhaps the times you almost “forget” to breathe or hold your breath.

Observe your breath closely for a moment.

Notice how the air feels as it enters your body and as it leaves. Where can you feel it – take your time to scan key parts; nostrils, mouth, chest, diaphragm, belly, torso. Pay attention to the natural gaps in your breathing pattern before you change from exhale to inhale and the other way around. Its tempo in all its variations. Is it shallow or deep, calm or hasty. Imagine that you can see the oxygen moving in and through your body.

Find as many details about your breath as you can, by observing and feeling. Conclude this exercise of focused attention by briefly writing down what you have noticed about your breath and breathing.

Difficulty concentrating? Try this

For a lot of people in so called lockdown here in New Zealand/Aotearoa, their main issue is difficulty concentrating. As you probably know (since you’re visiting this page), a meditation-a-day will help with mental clarity, mental peace and the ability to handle being here and now, not dwelling on the past or leapfrogging ahead to the future. Hopefully you’re able to find a quarter-of-an hour of time-out from others if you are in a “bubble” with more people. Hide under a duvet in the laundry wearing headphones if you must. Because here is a new recording for you to practise with if you wish: a guided, 14-minute, guided mindfulness meditation, with lots of silences – especially at the end. It focuses on breath, upper body and relaxation and of course, focus for the restless mind.

Also, I do think it is important to stay informed and not somehow hide under a rock while this COVID-19-thing is making its mark on the world. But there is so much information available and so much of it is only half the (currently available) story or fear-based biased rubbish, that reading or listening to the news isn’t always helpful, and the shouting crowd on social media sounds kind of extra nutty at the moment.

But this morning I found all my current questions answered in Kim Hill’s interview with British clinical virologist Dr Chris Smith (especially regarding whether or not to wear a face mask in public; currently a hot topic in many countries, including New Zealand/Aotearoa.  I felt their conversation was very sane, scientific and calming. So if you’re interested, this is the link to the interview for additional peace of mind.

Precious Attention Newsletter October 2018

The first Precious Attention Newsletter is out.

Click the image to read it online.

(then click on the word “Subscribe” in the top left corner if you want to receive it in your inbox, or sign-up here.

You can rest your mind!

“You can rest your mind!”, says Stephen Archer (Nyanaviro) in Episode 1 of the preciousattention.com mindfulness podcast. Listen below, sign up for the newsletter to receive regular updates.

12 Point Mindfulness Cheat Sheet

This month my blog takes the shape of a 12-point cheat sheet, addressing some of our pre-conceived ideas about formal mindfulness practice that are floating around. You can download the free PDF via the form below the article.

  1. Mindfulness practice = sitting silently, watching feelings, body-sensations and thoughts come and go, not hooking into any of them
  2. If your thinking or any other natural phenomena of the body/mind are too overwhelming, put your attention on your natural breathing rhythm
  3. You cannot do this wrong, despite what your opinion about the quality or outcomes of your practice want to tell you or despite what anyone else says
  4. It’s impossible to stop thinking. The mind is designed to think, just as the stomach wants to eat. But you can decide what focus to give your mind and be its master
  5. To practise between 12-20 minutes a day is sufficient for maximum benefit. Perhaps start with less to build up “sitting stamina”. Extend for your own good reasons
  6. Mindfulness practice delivers benefits automatically! Practice to take a closer look at the life you live and are, to develop a greater intimacy with life itself
  7. Mindfulness knowledge is experiential. It increases through continuing practice. Not by courses or reading about it (although of course there’s nothing wrong with that!)
  8. Nothing needs further addressing or fixing or solving, the practice itself is sufficient. You will know to seek help or share or write or explore when you need to
  9. Practising can result in feeling uncomfortable, but it’s not a sign something is wrong, and you will still reap the (scientifically proven) benefits
  10. Mindfulness is a perpetually growing process in which we begin to appreciate our unique inner and outer surroundings in life, whatever they may be
  11. The changes you may wish to make on the basis of your mindful connection with yourself will come from your insight; not reaction, effort or force or outer authority
  12. Mindfulness is common-sense mind/body hygiene like brushing your teeth, but it will not “get you anywhere”. There is nowhere to get. You’re already “it”
  13. Sitara Morgenster
  14. p.s. Download the free PDF of the 12-point Mindfulness Cheat Sheet by filling out your details below. The link will be emailed to you instantly!

    Mindfulness Cheat Sheet free PDF Download

Hanging out with your precious attention

Did you hang out with your precious attention today? Were you mostly mindful or absent-minded?

The answer is probably: “both!”

Harvard Research shows that our mind wanders, on average, 47% of the time: nearly half our lives! We spend that time thinking of what isn’t going on or propel ourselves into the future or ruminate on past events, feelings and relationships, or are busy wishing things were different right now.

This website is about mindfulness, a simple, free tool available to everyone (all you need is yourself, your attention and your breath), to profoundly enjoy each moment we’re alive.

I say free because you can teach yourself using a book or one of the many internet, app and cloud resources available for mindfulness/mediation. But you may want to spend some money on getting your practice off the ground and doing it with others in a class or retreat can have a strengthening effect on making it your habit.

What exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness Works, who I work for as a mindfulness trainer, defines it as “being present and aware at the same time”. Check out a few more other definitions, and you’ll get a feel for what mindfulness is, before you start practising it. Or, if you’re already involved in a  mindfulness practice, see if you can recognise some of these descriptions, or in other words, mindfulness in theory:

From Stephen Archer, director of Mindfulness Training:

“Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, with curiosity and compassion. It leads to a deeper understanding of life and how to respond wisely.”

From Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness:

“Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

From Shauna Shapiro, of shaunashapiro.com:

“Intentionally paying attention with kindness.”

Once you enter into a regular mindfulness practice with yourself (on your own or with others), you may want to give it your own definition. Let me know what you come up with! I currently call it something like “the art of sitting still” and “the daily practice of shutting up – with intention and awareness and without ambition or trying for perfection”.

Karl Baker, director and founder of Mindfulness Works, the largest mindfulness training organisation in New Zealand and currently also operating in Australia, defines it as both being aware and being present, as well as uses the definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his Guidebook. However, also recently emphasised this on his Mindfulness Works Facebook Page:

“There are mindfulness trainers and training organisations who try to possess mindfulness and make it their own. They claim there is is ‘right’ mindfulness (always their way) and ‘wrong’ mindfulness (other people’s ways).

They ignore their own self-protective agenda, under the guise of ‘spiritual’ or ‘scientific’ self-righteousness.

In truth – mindfulness is freely available to us all and an innate natural capacity. We could even say mindfulness is Life itself.

Mindfulness Works is committed to making mindfulness – as available to as many people as possible. We are committed to people realising that they are inherently OK just as they are, that mindfulness is not complicated and freely available. Rightly or wrongly.”

I love that about Mindfulness Works: the busting of all these myths, the removal of “right or wrong” and offering this simple practice for people to (re-) learn and use if they want to, to reclaim their own authority, to be their own best friend again, to become very close to themselves and know how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Where was your precious attention hanging out most of today? Were you mostly mindful, or absent-minded? Did you put your mindfulness meditation practices to good use? Reply by clicking the comments link above this article. I’d love to hear from you!

Sitara Morgenster

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