Mindfulness with Sitara Morgenster

Tag: mindfulness meditation

Judgements

You know this already; that the “father of modern mindfulness” Jon Kabat-Zin, says that mindfulness meditation “is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

The reason I’m bringing this up (again), is to focus on one of the elements of this definition today: the non-judgemental part.

Because for most of us, the non-judgemental mindset is not a destination reached overnight, and can cause grief for many a mindfulness practitioner. Especially as almost all of use have been trained in an extremely judgemental (=competitive) schooling systems.

So the non-judgemental, accepting part of mindfulness meditation will require a possibly long time of noticing the judgements in your mind flying thick and fast.

Observing them is the key here. It’s as simple as that.


Studying a blade of grass

Foto: Sitara Morgenster

blade of grass

This is a mindfulness exercise to do instead of or in addition to your formal (12-minute) sitting time*.

Study a blade of grass. Go out, find some tall grass, select a blade, and give it your undivided attention. If you can’t get out, study a leaf or stalk of the potted plant in your living room or office cubicle.

What should you be thinking about or noticing? If you can actually quiet your nerves and your chattering mind and pay attention to the blade of grass to the exclusion of everything else, you will know without having to ask what this exercise is designed to do.

Set your timer to do this for 10-15 minutes.
Then watch this space!
Part two of this mindfulness exercise is scheduled for #NZ Lockdown Day 20

*) This exercise was largely taken and ever so slightly adapted from Eric Maisel’s ‘Be Mindful’-chapter in his “The Creativity Book” (2000)

#NZ Lockdown Day 15

Register, Allow, Inspect, Noursh-guided mindfulness meditation for feeling emotion (R.A.I.N.)

I (finally!) recorded the “RAIN”-meditation I use in the intro course to mindfulness meditation, week 3. People either love it or hate it. I have recorded it for people who loved it. Or those who want to try a R.A.I.N.-meditation for the first time. And of course those who hated it might want to give it another go.

R.A.I.N. meditations assist with exploring icky feelings and bodily sensations we usually don’t want, label as negative, prefer to ignore, push away or try to fix. R.A.I.N. is an excellent tool for persistent emotions that keep gnawing or are repetitively triggered.

R is for recognise (the feeling) or register the feeling; starting by noticing there’s “something there”. A is for allowing it to be there, recognising that whatever you feel is  okay (even when it doesn’t feel okay). Allowing leaves the judgement outside the door. I is for investigating or inspecting, getting to know the feeling; it’s qualities, it’s location in the body, it’s associated thinking patterns. And finally, N is for non-identification (I feel this, but the feeling is not who I am. It’s a passing thing and it doesn’t define me, even though it seems temporarily part of me) or N for nourishment. In this guided meditation we use Register, Inspect, Allow and Nourish.

If you are new to using guided RAIN meditations, don’t try and tackle the “biggest” emotion straightaway and don’t start with the toughest upheaval. Practice this technique first. Begin with feeling (from a situation) that is mildly unpleasant, something not too threatening. Perhaps the feelings arising from a quarrel with a colleague, for instance, or an impatience with your neighbour, irritations from an encounter with a stranger in the supermarket, or something such as a slight sensation of restlessness that can be felt present somewhere in the body, like a persistent background noise. While it’s often external events, conditions, encounters that seem to elicit feelings/emotions/sensations, whatever goes on in you is still yours, you own it. With kindness we acknowledge they’re our perceptions and interpretations.

As with other (guided) mindfulness meditation sessions, these formal sitting times are to ‘build up muscle’, a muscle of emotional strength and curious kindness. Not only to be able to “tackle”, or rather “be with” bigger feelings over time, but also to build the skill to use these R.A.I.N.-tools ‘on the fly’, ‘in the world’, out in the wild, whenever you might need or want to use them. Until they become second nature – with awareness.

Unlike psychological or behavioural approaches, you are not asked to analyse or overthink your feelings/emotions/sensations. You “RAIN” them! This is important to remember. To remember to just feel and notice. Use breath where needed to focus awareness on the body whenever attention gets stuck in the mind. Write to me with any questions!

Click here to access this guided mindfulness meditation, stored on Soundcloud. It is about 14 minutes long, but of course you can use it multiple times a day if you feel to. The session ends with three tinkles of a meditation bell.

What am I doing?

Every now and again, I like to ask myself what I’m doing when I propose to myself to be practising mindfulness meditation. Give myself a little refresher. Go back to basics. It always helps me to look up Jon Kabat Zinn’s description: ‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.’ Okay, so I’m sitting down because I decide that’s what I want or need (“on purpose”), and relaxing (“non-judgmentally”) with reality as it is (“the present moment”). This means I accept things as they are, or at least that it is my intention to accept things as they are. I don’t try to feel any particular way. I don’t try to change anything. I don’t try to ‘get anywhere’. I shut up and feel, I open myself up to what I perceive about “what is”. I allow all emotions and sensations. My breath is my anchor. Once I’m well established in following my breathing (and this can take a moment, a day, weeks or months, depending on how much I practise), I trust that I have the wherewithal to look at all feelings: the ones that are difficult or painful or taboo, the ones I’ve been avoiding, suppressing or exaggerating, the ones I have been reacting from or tried to fix. To the degree I can do this is the degree I will also be able to feel joy, pleasure, ecstasy, lightness, bliss, happiness. And then I can open up to wider awareness. It’s not all as linear as I’ve just described; that’s just the easiest way to describe it. In reality it is more up and down, and more fluid.
The reason I sit down and close my eyes (or fix my gaze on a neutral spot) to do this on a daily basis, is to train myself to be able to do this (in the long term) at any moment, in any situation. An athlete trains every day so that when it’s time to compete in the Olympics, she’s as prepared as she can be and at the top of her game.

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.

How to “mindfulness” in 12 easy steps

Mindfulness Practice 12 point Cheat Sheet

  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
  5. To practise between 12-20 minutes a day – 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 are already “it
Photo: Mathieu Cheze via Unsplash

p.s.: If you want to download this 12 point Mindfulness Practice Cheat Sheet as a one page, pretty looking, printable PDF, click here. There is a little catch though: it will make you sign up for my email newsletter. But I don’t email very often and you can also easily unsubscribe.

#NZ Lockdown Day 3

When I was eight years old, my mother gave me the best advice ever: whenever you’re in doubt of what to do or confused about something, listen to your heart. I knew straightaway what she meant, and I knew she didn’t refer to my physical heart, or even my emotional feelings. She was pointing to my instinctual heart! In later years, she admitted sometimes regretting having told me so, because some of my decisions were ones she’d prefer me not to make. A bit later still, I would sometimes find myself in situations that felt uncomfortable or completely out of control, messy and disastrous (according to mind and emotions), and until the dust would settle to reveal a greater clarity than before, I would curse myself for not referring to the (conditioned)* mind. I also found out that what I sometimes think is my heart speaking, is in fact my mind. This is one of the reasons why I took up mindfulness meditation: I knew it would strengthen my “ear” for my (untainted) heart, which really is another word for inherent wisdom. Even the instinctual heart is a muscle that needs to be exercised if you want to use it. Living in a time (the 2020s!) that is ruled on survival based, scientific capitalist principles, sometimes intermingled with exoteric religion, consoling “spirituality” or psychological “positivity”, I need such strength to stay focused so I can hear my heart, even in the midst of this noisy world with its distractions, attractions, external opinions, media and knowledge. Because my instinctual heart is the location of my true peace and inherent wisdom, the natural intelligence I need to live a strong, happy and healthy life, the maypole I dance around. And it tells me it is the same for you. Keep practising!

*at that point I didn’t realise minds were conditioned or what that meant, I only found out about that even later still.

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