Compassion-based mindfulness presents us with the antidote for busyness and distraction. I am constantly astounded by the courage it takes to pause in the middle of busy and distracted lives and by the wisdom that is shared in my groups, particularly of how people make small changes in their lives even after a few short sessions. If we can just take the courage to pause and make a little space in our lives, so much more of life opens for us. And we can begin to make wise choices for our own wellbeing and perhaps allow ourselves to move in new directions. I was delighted recently to have been contacted by several West Cork People readers who like to follow my column every month. And because so often these articles are influenced by reflections shared within my groups, I felt motivated to describe how a typical mindfulness session runs for anyone who may be interested in giving it a go.
An hour-long drop-in session usually begins with a short, guided meditation that helps us to arrive and settle. Then there are a few minutes to inquire into how the meditation was for people or if they are noticing any change in their own habits or patterns during the week. This is followed by a second meditation with inquiry. I very often read a poem during the session. There is no obligation to speak or share anything about your experience. I don’t play music in my sessions, nor provide any mantras or sounds except my own voice and any natural sounds that may occur in the space around us. So, there is more of an encouraging of wakefulness in the sessions than relaxation. Having said that, people often experience a sense of deep rest during meditations.
Without any agenda or without judging ourselves, we practice how to sit silently, in stillness, doing almost nothing. We are not attempting to clear our minds, not stopping, or blocking thoughts, emotions, or physical feelings, but learning to sit and be ok with however we are feeling. By developing this skill of sitting with however we’re feeling, together we learn to sit with discomfort, joy, ease, grief or whatever is happening in the moment for us. By staying on our seats and noticing how we are, we notice our thoughts, but we learn to let them pass by. We learn to let go of sounds. We get to know the field of physical sensation that is ever present in the body.
This skill of learning to be ok with aspects of our meditation, like sounds, physical feelings or thoughts, whether pleasant or unpleasant, when applied to our lives can help us not only experience the joy and delight of pleasant moments but also to accept, rather than resist some of the unpleasant events or encounters in our everyday life and to let them go. Mindfulness and compassion, these two vital and sustainable life-skills, can be applied to pretty much every situation we encounter, and it is the application of these practices to our lives that allows space for gentle changes to occur. These lines from Rachel Holstead have been swirling around me and through me lately, “And space becomes your gift, encircles everything, slows the pace, lets the light in”.
I base much of my compassion-based mindfulness work at Myross Wood in Leap now, which is a now a community-based centre for climate action and sustainability (CECAS.ie). If you would like to either begin a compassion-based mindfulness practice or deepen an existing practice together in community with others, drop-in mindfulness sessions run on Tuesday mornings 10-11am: €10.
Online guided meditation sessions continue via Zoom on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8pm. 45 minutes. Donation-based.
For more information on upcoming workshops and courses please like my Facebook page (Mindhaven) or feel free to get in touch by phone: 087 2700572 or by email: email@example.com