• 8 Wellbeing Benefits of Practicing Gratitude

    Close Up of Dandelion Seeds

     

    Increased gratitude is a common result of practicing mindfulness. As we start paying more attention to our thoughts, we notice where we block ourselves from appreciating the good things in life.

     

    Say, for example, that you always used to get angry when stuck in traffic, but now when you bring your focus to where you are (rather than where you want to get to) you notice things such as the song on the radio or a beautiful scene beyond the car window. We can’t feel grateful for things we don’t notice, and so mindfulness and gratitude go hand-in-hand.

     

    The Science of Gratitude

     

    Robert Emmons, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology at UC Davis in California, and has been studying the effects of gratitude on over 1,000 people. The participants in his study ranged in age from eight to eighty, and were split into two groups.

    One group was asked to keep a journal in which they were to write five ‘gifts’ that they were grateful for each day, while the other group had to write down five ‘hassles’.

    Some examples of the ‘gifts’ people noted were generosity of friends, and watching a sunset through the clouds. Examples of ‘hassles’ were things like difficulty in finding a parking space, and burning their dinner.

    What Emmons found was that those who had kept a gratitude journal experienced significant psychological, physical and social benefits: a 25% improvement in overall health and wellbeing in comparison with the group focussing on what had gone wrong each day.

    Here are just eight of the many ways in which mindfully practicing gratitude can improve our wellbeing, and the wellbeing of others around us.

     

    1. Greater Energy Levels

     

    When we experience sadness or depression, our energy levels slump way down. Sometimes doing the simplest of tasks can feel like running a marathon. However, people who kept a gratitude journal in Emmons study reported that their energy levels improved. Many also started exercising more.

    People with depression are often told that exercise will help, however this study suggests it may in fact work the other way around; that being mindful of what’s good about our life plays an important role in having the energy to exercise.

     

    2. Better Sleep

     

    On average, study participants found that they were not only sleeping 10% longer than they used to, but that the quality of their sleep was improved. They reported waking up feeling more refreshed and ready for the coming day.

     

    3. Reduced Blood Pressure

     

    With our current hectic lifestyles, high blood pressure has become a common problem. However, simply taking moments to focus our attention on our loved ones or friends, or on the beauty of nature, can lower blood pressure, thus taking the strain off our hearts, brains and many other parts of the body.

     

    4. Feeling Less Lonely

     

    Gratitude strengthens relationships, not just with people we know, but with other people in general. When we’re mindful of positive traits and behaviours in others, we feel more supported, and that leads to us feeling more able to support others in return.

    When we feel safer, we become less selfish, as we no longer feel such a need to look out for our own interests above others. This leads to us feeling less lonely and isolated, as we are more able to truly connect with others.

     

    Happy Dog Running

     

    5. Fewer Physical Symptoms

     

    People who wrote down five things they were grateful for each day became less affected by aches, pains and other physical symptoms. This ties in with other studies which have found that mindfulness can ease uncomfortable physical symptoms, even chronic pain.

     

    6. Improved Attentiveness

     

    As we mentioned earlier in this post, mindfulness and gratitude are very much linked. Over time, those who deliberately thought about what they were grateful for experienced greater attentiveness. They felt more alert and aware of life.

     

    7. Taking Better Care of Health

     

    Practicing daily gratitude resulted in many participants taking better care of their physical health. Mindful individuals tend to have better self-control and are less impulsive, in many areas of life, including eating habits. Add this to more exercise and better quality of sleep, and you’ve got an all-round much healthier life.

     

    8. Increased Joy

     

    When we steer our attention to what’s good about the world, we naturally feel a greater sense of joy. It’s important to note, however, that gratitude isn’t about denying what’s wrong; solely acknowledging the positive and avoiding the negative can do us much psychological harm.

    But, noticing good things, when and where they exist, takes us away from seeing the world as a bad place where bad things happen.

    In truth, life contains both good and bad, but mindful gratitude helps us appreciate those lovely moments in life, whilst at the same time enabling us to make more of those lovely moments for others.

     

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  • Earth Day

    Take a moment to look around you. The furniture you are resting on, the paper on your desk, the tea in your cup, the food on your plate -- all of this and most everything that sustains us, is thanks to nature and its resources.

     

    The earth is our home, but these days the majority of us live deeply disconnected from it, forgetful of the profound continuity between nature and our self.

    Today, on Earth Day, it is nice to connect with a sense of gratitude for the gifts of nature that surround and sustain us, which day-to-day we take for granted -- water to drink, sunlight to brighten and warm our days, trees to clean the air, earth rich in nutrients to grow our food. When we look with awareness, we see that we are a part of nature and not apart from it.

    Today is also a time to remember that our earth is as risk and we are edging towards an environmental disaster of epic proportions. The time is also now for us each to consider how we can play our part individually in caring for its future.

    As we do, it becomes clear that something deeper must change within us all -- at the level of our mind and our consciousness. In the words of Albert Einstein:

     

    “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

     

    Without an urgent shift in the state of our awareness, the repercussions of this crisis will begin to play out in all areas of life.

    At this critical point, mindfulness has an important role to play. The simple act of cultivating awareness is one of the first steps we can take to help us to begin to rebuild the relationship with have with the earth.

    When we become awake to the interconnection of life on earth, and aware of our dependence on it as a source of physical and psychic nourishment, we naturally deepen our respect and intention to care for it.

    These small shifts in attention and intention allow us to begin to make choices that are better for the planet and have a common humanity at their heart -- and although they may not feel much on an individual level, when they gain pace collectively, we may begin to see seismic shifts taking place.

    To honour both the hope and despair these reflections can evoke, here is one of our favourite Wendell Berry poems:

     

    The Peace of Wild Things

     

    When despair for the world grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

     

    The Mindfulness Project runs a range of courses, workshops and retreats to help us to cultivate awareness.

     

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  • How Animals Help Us Live in the Moment

     

    The company of animals certainly seems to have a healing effect in many of our lives. This is probably partly due to the fact that they don’t judge us in the same way fellow humans do.

     

    They may get annoyed with us if we stroke them the wrong way, but they’ll never judge us for our flaws.

    A cat or a dog will never reject us because we eat too much, have credit card debts, or don’t call our mothers as often as we should. It’s not unusual to see dogs sitting beside homeless people on the street.

    Our animals love us, even if we don’t love ourselves. In many cases, they embody mindfulness; they are non-judgementally present in the moment.

    When an animal is sitting with us, they aren’t busy thinking about yesterday or tomorrow. They are simply there. This is probably why they have such a special place in many of our lives.

     

    Being Mindful with Our Pets

     

    In our busy lives it can be all too easy to take our pets for granted. However, if we can make the time, our pets can provide us with great ways to practice mindfulness.

    Next time you’re with your pet, why not take a few moments to really notice everything about them. When you stroke them, pay close attention to how their fur or feathers feel beneath your hand. Maybe even imagine that it’s the first time you’ve ever felt them, and see what difference it makes to your experience of them.

    Notice their appearance, taking in every whisker, every feather or patch of coloured fur, every paw and claw. Watch how they’re breathing. Listen to their heart beat if you’re snuggled up with them.

    Perhaps most importantly of all, cultivate a sense of gratitude for having them in your life. Remember all the difficult or painful times that you’ve been through, and how your pet has been there with you through it all. Let that gratitude fill you from top to toe.

     

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    Animals & Meditation

     

    One of the great things about animals is that they don’t care about our plans. They have a habit of interrupting those streams of thought that we feel are very important.

    Although this may at first seem like a negative thing, it can actually help us become unstuck from living in our mental chatter by bringing us back to reality. For this reason, animals can help us in our formal meditation practice.

    Have you ever been meditating, and then heard a dog barking in the distance, or had your cat try climbing on you for a cuddle? Far from being distractions from our meditation, they can enhance it.

    Meditation is not about escaping from the present moment, but about embracing it. While we’re taking our meditation very seriously, animals are just living their lives. And so that dog barking in the street or that cat determined to have your attention act as anchors to the flow of the present.

    They are reminders that we are not in control, and that the best way to cope with life is to let go of our pre-conceived ideas of how things should be and join in with the dance of how things really are.

    We can do this by noticing our reactions to them. If we feel annoyed about our meditation being interrupted, we can look at why that is.

    Perhaps it’s because we have an inaccurate idea of what meditation is about. Or perhaps we’re attached to an idea of how we’d like to be. In this way, animals can have a very humbling effect.

    They can remind us that our meditation practice doesn’t place us in an elevated state above the rest of life, but that in fact our meditating is just like the barking in the street, just one small part of life as a whole.

    Animals are indeed great mindfulness teachers, if we take the time to notice them. What mindfulness lessons have you learnt from your pets? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

     

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  • 5 Common Misconceptions of Self-Compassion

     

     

    There are many misconceptions in mindfulness, and the same can be said of self-compassion.

    Many of those that sign up to the mindful self-compassion course may even find themselves questioning what mindful self-compassion is as they join their first session.

    In this article, we dispel the myths of self-compassion to help explain what it means to practice.

     

    1. Self-Compassion is Self-Pity

    Self-compassion is not the same as self-pity. Self-pity is usually an isolating and lonely experience.

    It makes us feel disconnected from the world, like we’re the only one with a problem. It can lead us to catastrophise or wallow in our problems, which both tend to make us feel worse.

    The truth is; everyone suffers, everyone feels pain, and everyone experiences challenging emotions such as sadness, disappointment and jealousy. It’s not just us, even if it might feel like it from time to time! When we accept that, we’re moving toward self-compassion. 

     

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    With self-compassion we recognise that experiencing difficulty is part of the human experience. This allows us to feel more connected with others and offers a sense of belonging. 

    Self-Compassion invites us to notice when difficult feelings or thoughts come up and take steps to avoid slipping into self-pity. Instead of listening to inner doubt, judgement or self-criticism, we tune in to our self-compassionate voice and create space for what we really need. 

    With self-pity we’re digging ourselves a hole that might be hard to get out of. With self-compassion, we’re offering ourselves a ladder out of a difficult situation! 

     

    Sad Dog

     

    2. Self-Compassion is Self-Indulgent

    You may have heard the phrase 'self-care isn’t selfish’, and the same can be said of self-compassion. It’s not self-centred or indulgent. And here’s why…

    When we’re investing time in our own wellbeing, we’re investing time in those around us. Our friends and family want us to be happy. Self-compassionate can help us to feel happier.

    When we take the time to work on ourselves, it increases our resilience and inner strength. Strength that we can save for when it’s most needed, reducing the need to lean on others. It also enables us to offer others greater support when they are having a difficult time. 

    We’re keeping our battery charged, so we have more to offer the world. We can’t do that well if we’re depleted.

    What’s more, self-compassion breeds compassion. When we are more self-compassionate towards ourselves it can be much easier to be compassionate towards others.

     

    "Self-care isn't always baths and chocolate (sometimes it will be), but it is an intentional stance to do what you need to do for yourself."

     

    -- EMILY MITCHELL

     

    The big question in mindful self-compassion is ‘What do I need?’. We’re getting into the habit of asking ourselves this question, letting the answers be what they are, then offering kind encouragement to meet those needs.

     

    3. We Can Use Self-Compassion To Let Ourselves off the Hook

    Sorry to break it to you but self-compassion isn’t about giving us an excuse to not do something or allowing ourselves to always take the easy path. It’s better than that. It’s about making choices that help us instead of hindering. 

    In some cases, letting ourselves ‘off the hook’ might be the right thing to do. But in others, it might serve us best to take the tougher course of action. 

    This is where self-compassion can really come in handy. 

    Let’s take an example…

    There’s an event that in the right frame of mind we would really want to go to. Yet we’re feeling nervous or insecure about attending. 

    Many of us have been there, we’ve tried on six different outfits, the room is a mess, we’re starting to feel flustered and we’re on the edge of putting our pyjamas back on and eating an entire tub of Haagen Dazs. We're on the edge of self-pity. 

    Without self-compassion we might find we talk ourselves out of going, make excuses and later feel regret. 

    With self-compassion, we’re able to acknowledge how we really feel. 

     

    “I’m worried about what other people will think of me” 

    or;

    “I’m nervous that I won’t know anyone.” 

     

    And we can reply – in our heads or out loud – with words of encouragement.  Just like a friend might, we can say;

     

    “You can do this”

    “You’re a good person, if people don't like you then it doesn’t matter”

    “It’s OK, you’re just a bit nervous”

    or even; 

    “If you really don’t like it when you get there, you can leave”

     

    In giving ourselves this gentle encouragement, we can help to meet our actual needs with what will serve us well in the long-term.

     

    4. Self-Compassion Shows Weakness 

    Firstly, let’s start by saying that there is nothing remotely ‘wimpy’ or ‘weak’ about noticing that something is hard and trying to do something about it. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  

    Think about the last time you faced a challenge and didn’t act with self-compassion. Perhaps you got irritated, jealous or even found yourself in a state of despair. It’s easy to do.

    When we’re dealing with a difficult emotion or challenge we often gravitate towards distracting ourselves or burying our heads in the sand. 

     

     

    When we act to support ourselves with self-compassion or seek to understand what we really need, it can be more challenging. We’re coming up close to how we feel – not in a harsh or mean way – but asking ourselves what we really need. We’re being honest with ourselves instead of slipping into reactive habits, and that can be hard to do. Which brings us to… 

     

    5. Self-Compassion is Easy

    So by this point you may have decided to give this self-compassion thing a try? Easy, right? 

    Well, just like mindfulness, self-compassion will take practice. (A lot of practice.) One day it might be easy and the next it might be more challenging! 

    If we’ve been lacking self-compassion for ourselves for a while it may feel completely alien to start cheering ourselves on. We may come up against feelings of ‘backdraft’ - a resistance to offering ourselves compassion.

    The trick is to keep trying and to build a regular practice. Attending an 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course can be a great way to do this. It might take patience and we will inevitably stumble. Just as we wouldn’t expect to learn any other valuable skill overnight, the same can be said of self-compassion. A teacher's input and the support of a group can really help. 

    Every time we don’t get it quite right it’s a learning curve... and an opportunity to practice self-compassion. As Hugh Grant’s character once said in Notting Hill, we can simply say ‘whoops a daisies’, give ourselves a pat on the back for trying and approach it from a new angle. 

     

    Build a Regular Practice on the 8-Week Self-Compassion Course.

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  • Understanding the 7 Types of Hunger

    Dog Eating a Cake

     

    How many times have you reached for the snacks at a party and munched through them without thinking, or ordered dessert even though you were already full, just because it looked so good?

     

    We eat for many reasons - because we’re stressed or feeling sad, because we feel like we deserve a treat or simply because it’s our scheduled mealtime.

    Eating mindfully is about expanding our awareness around food habits, so that we can make more conscious decisions about what we eat and when. According to Jan Chozen-Bays, MD, author of the book ‘Mindful Eating’, there are seven different types of hunger relating to different parts of our anatomy - the eyes, nose, mouth, stomach, cells, mind and heart.

    Once we are more aware of these different types of hunger and their reasons, we can respond consciously and more appropriately to satisfy them.

     

    1. Eye Hunger

    We are highly stimulated by sight, so a beautifully presented meal or treat such as a birthday cake will be a lot more appealing to us than a bucket of slop - even if the ingredients are the same.

    TIP: To satisfy eye hunger, we can really feast our eyes on the food before we put it in our mouths. If we mindlessly throw our dinner in our mouths while watching TV, we’re wasting an opportunity to fully appreciate it.

     

    Join Our Mindful Eating Course - Starting Tuesday 10. May

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    2. Nose Hunger

    Most of what we think of as taste is actually smell. Our sense of smell is much more subtle than that of taste, as anyone who’s had a head cold and a stuffed up nose will tell!

    TIP: To satisfy your nose hunger, practice sensitising the smell of your food, isolated from taste, by taking a pause before eating to really take in the aromas.

     

    3. Mouth Hunger

    What we think of as tasty, appealing food is often socially conditioned or influenced by our upbringing. This includes how sweet or salty we want our food, and the kinds of seasoning and spices we enjoy. What is considered a delicacy in one country can repel those of another culture. Anyone for deep-fried cockroaches?! Many people’s aversion to raw food is a prime example of this social conditioning of the mouth hunger.

    TIP: Generating greater awareness and a sense of open curiosity around the flavours and textures in our mouths as we eat can help satisfy our mouth hunger.

     

    4. Stomach Hunger   

    A rumbling tummy is one of the main ways we recognise hunger. And yet, it doesn’t necessarily mean our body needs food. The hunger cues from the stomach are self-taught and linked to the schedule we have give our imposed upon it. It takes practice to sense when a grumbling stomach means actual hunger.

    Often, we can confuse the sensation with other feelings that affect our stomach such as anxiety or nervousness. If we feed anxiety with junk food, then get more anxious about our diet, we can spark off a negative spiral of emotional eating.

    TIP: What to do? This takes practice. Listen to the stomach’s cues and start to familiarise yourself with them. Try delaying eating when you feel hungry and become aware of the sensations. Assess your hunger on a scale from 1-10 before a meal, then halfway through check-in again.

     

    5. Cellular Hunger

    When our cells need nutrients, we might feel irritable, tired or we may get a headache. Cellular hunger is one of the hardest types of hunger to sense, even though it is the original reason for eating. When we were children, we intuitively knew when we needed to eat, and what our body was craving. But over time, we lose this ability.

    TIP: Through mindfulness, it’s possible to become more aware of our body’s cravings for specific nutrients and to develop some of the inner wisdom we had when we were children. As Jan Chozen-Bays says, “To learn to listen to cellular hunger is the primary skill of mindful eating.”

     

    Join Our Mindful Eating Course - Starting Tuesday 10. May

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    6. Mind Hunger

    Modern society has made us very anxious eaters. We're constantly influenced by the current fad diet, the latest nutritional guidelines or research paper. We are deafened by our inner voice telling us that one type of food is good and one type bad. This can make it very difficult to pick up on our body’s natural cues. The mind is very difficult to satisfy, as it is fickle and will find something new to focus on if one craving is satisfied.

    TIP: Mindfulness can help calm the mind and allow for a more sensitive awareness of the other cues our body is sending us.

     

    7. Heart Hunger

    So much of the time, what and when we eat is linked into our emotions. We might crave certain comfort food because we were given it as a child, or because we’ve associated it in our mind as a treat for when we’re feeling down.

    Often emotional eating boils down to a desire to be loved or looked after. We eat to fill a hole, but that hole often can’t be satisfied through eating. To satisfy our heart hunger, we need to find the intimacy or comfort our heart is craving.

    TIP: Try noticing the emotions that you’ve been feeling just before you have an urge to snack and you might be able to find other ways to satisfy them, such as calling a friend or having a cup of tea or a hot bath.

     

    So, next time you feel hungry, check-in with yourself and work out what kind of hunger you're sensing. If eating is appropriate - go ahead and eat! Try to be mindful of what and how you eat, take in the aroma, feast with your eyes and savour every flavour. Only then will you be truly satisfied.

     

    Join Our Mindful Eating Course - Starting Tuesday 10. May

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  • What Is a Retreat Day?

    Warm Drink and Cosy Blanket

     

    What does the word retreat conjure up for you? Sitting quietly in an empty room? Hiding under the duvet? Heading out into nature? 

     

    When we talk about a retreat in mindfulness, we’re talking about setting a prolonged period of time aside to tune into our senses and the present moment. To notice what’s going on in our bodies and minds.  

    We’re disconnecting from the distractions of everyday life to investigate beneath the surface; to restore, reset, and reconnect

    Just as we might set time aside to spend with our friends or family, we’re setting some time aside to catch up with ourselves and recharge our batteries.

     

    What is a Mindfulness Retreat Day?  

    In a nutshell, a mindfulness retreat day is a day dedicated to our practice, where we set aside our usual tasks and responsibilities and simply take some time for ourselves to be present.

    A full-day guided retreat is included in all of our Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) Courses. 

    The retreat’s an important part of the mindfulness course, where we can further explore the practices, deepen our own practice and consolidate learnings from the course. 

     

    What’s the Purpose of a Retreat Day? 

    It’s very easy to become stuck in a trance of ‘doing’. Retreat days allow us to take a pause and help us to slow down. They create a sort of circuit break and can provide us with clarity. 

    With a retreat day, we create a bit of extra space which can allow us to go a little deeper than our regular meditation and mindfulness practice. 

    As we immerse ourselves in mindfulness, it’s also useful to embrace mindful attitudes such as acceptance, curiosity, and non-judgment.  

    Things we might ask ourselves during the retreat include:

     

    How do we feel as we begin and end the retreat?

    Does anything change as we move through the day?

    Are we experiencing any difficulties or challenges?

    Are there any recurring patterns?

     

    A retreat day can be deeply relaxing, challenging or both. It’s not often we have a full day to ourselves, so we can learn a lot more than we might expect. 

     

    Where Can I Do a Retreat Day?

    There are plenty of places you can do a retreat day -- a meditation or mindfulness studio, retreat centre or from home. Anywhere you can meditate, you can do a retreat day!

    You might seek out the support of a teacher and group (particularly if you are just starting out with mindfulness or haven’t done a retreat before), or do a self-guided retreat at home. 

    All of our retreat days are currently run online. We might instinctively feel that doing a retreat day at home isn’t really a retreat, but there are benefits to doing a retreat day from home, beyond home comforts and the need to travel.

    Doing the retreat day at home still offers the same guidance from a teacher, practices and group support, albeit through a device.

    Most powerfully, it also allows for the opportunity to more closely integrate our mindfulness practice into daily life, weaving in our usual distractions.

    Some participants reported having a more joyful presence with others in the home during the break or realising ways they can bring the practice into their day to day -- which continue to benefit them beyond the course.

     

    N.B. Please note, due to Covid restrictions, all retreats are currently offered online only. In the future, retreat days will be offered online and in-person.

     

    Bath, Candle and Coffee

     

    Do I Have to Stay Silent? 

    A lot of people ask this question. Do I really have to be silent all day? Perhaps they even wonder if this is possible if they’re a natural chatterbox. 

    If the idea of being silent fills us with trepidation, we can try to take it as and when it comes. When we feel uncomfortable with something, it often presents a valuable opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.

    It might also be helpful to reflect on the purposes of the silence. One, is that it’s simply offering an opportunity to let go of our external communication and turn inwards, so we can deepen the connection with our practice.

    No matter how you feel about periods of silence, by the time you come to the retreat you will have built up plenty of guided meditation practice which may make it easier than you’re expecting. Most people find it goes much quicker than anticipated. 

    Try to approach the day with a curious beginner’s mind.

     

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    If We’re Silent, Why Is a Mindfulness Retreat in a Group?

    There’s a sense of community when we practice mindfulness with other people. When a retreat day is part of a course, participants will also be able to discuss their experiences either at the end of the day or in the next session. When we listen to others articulate their experience, or share our own, it can help to make sense of it all. 

    Just as with signing up to a mindfulness course, the act of scheduling in and committing to a retreat day can be useful. In signing up, we’re setting an intention to make some time for ourselves and our practice.

    Finally, a group setting can also remove any niggling temptations we might experience alone, such as taking a quick peak of our phone! 

     

    Will I Be Sitting All Day?

    The simple answer is no. You are unlikely to be sitting cross legged for a pins-and-needles-inducing period of time! A retreat will cover many mindfulness practises from the course throughout the day. 

    You’ll probably find yourself lying down, sitting, mindfully walking, and perhaps even jumping around or nibbling (not at the same time)! Everything is broken down into bite-size meditations. 

    For those guided meditation practices where we do sit still, there’s always the option to move (mindfully). It’s not a test or exam and there’s no good or bad way to meditate. 

    So, whilst we can gently resist excessive fidgeting, if it’s helping us to stay more present then we can move. 

     

    Cushion on Wooden Chair

     

    What Do I Need for a Retreat Day?

    As the motto goes, be prepared! Have a think about what might be useful and set up your space the day before, if possible.  

    A drink, cushion, blanket, fan; have options available so that you’ll be comfortable. Perhaps light a candle or bring a plant into the room. 

    It’s worth considering what you’ll eat for lunch too. It might be nice to prepare something nourishing in advance, or have the ingredients ready to prepare something in the allocated break.  

    And it’s a good idea to let anyone else in your household know what you’re doing - especially if they might think you’re not speaking to them!  

    Finally, turn off those alarms, mobiles, laptops, and any other distractions (Alexa /Google Home, we’re talking to you). If you need to, hide them in a cupboard. 

     

    How Will I Feel After a Retreat Day? 

    This will vary from person to person and there is no right way to feel. You might notice that you’re particularly tuned into your senses after a retreat, and it can take a while to adjust. 

    Give yourself time to slowly move back into the day and soak up the practice. It’s a bit like leaving a serene spa - you’re unlikely to want to go straight to a nightclub! 

    We recommend planning a relaxed evening. This might include time spent journaling, submerged in a bubble bath or outside in the natural world, away from technology. You might even book a massage or treat to end the day for an extra dose of self-kindness. 

    If possible, schedule the rest of the day as ‘me time’ and continue your digital detox

     

    What If I Find the Retreat Challenging? 

    Just as it can take time to settle into a meditation, it can take time to settle into a retreat. 

    We might try to sit with these feelings for a while, but if we feel overwhelmed at any stage, we can adjust what we’re doing, take a break and / or let the teacher know. The teacher will be there to guide the entire session and offer support with anything we might find difficult.

    You can message your teacher directly in the chat box or put your hand up (virtually or in- person). Alternatively, you can simply sit out a meditation and come back to it, if and when you feel ready. 

    Whilst many of us will leave a retreat feeling inspired and highly connected with our practice, it’s OK if you don’t. If you come out of the retreat day feeling like you need to speak to someone, drop us an email. 

     

    How Often Should I Do a Retreat?

    After completing a mindfulness course, we recommend joining a retreat at least once a year to support your mindfulness practice. This might be a single day, a weekend or more!

    Many people find it supportive to do a retreat more often than this, so perhaps perhaps the best way of knowing is to simply ask yourself, are you in need of a mindfulness retreat? 

     

    Book a Mindfulness Retreat Day With The Mindfulness Project.

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  • Finding Refuge in the Breath

    Gentle Breeze by the Ocean
    The mind is a constant whir of activity. Without any effort, our minds can jump from past regrets to concerns about the future to mentally noting that doctor’s appointment we have next week.

     

    If our minds are particularly busy, this stream of thinking can become too much for us to take. The non-stop nature of it can be overwhelming.

    Naturally, we want to retreat. And we might do so in a number of ways. We may have a glass of wine, eat cake, or switch on the TV. We might constantly check social media or the news for distractions, or even go on a shopping spree.

    At times, this might be just what we need, but often this only increases the busy-ness of our minds. Rarely do these things give us the sense of respite we so badly need.

    Thankfully there is a better refuge available to us, one which we can access at any time, no matter where we are or what we’re doing. It doesn’t exist outside of ourselves, so we’ll never be without it.

    When we find ourselves in the midst of stress, anxiety, depression, sadness, or even intense excitement (this can be overwhelming too), simply taking a deep breath can bring great relief.

     

    Gentle Waves on Shore

     

    When our minds have become tumultuous with thought – each passing thought like a wave that rocks our little boat in a stormy sea, and the rocking never seems to end – we can take a deep breath and…. ahhhh, the waves settle; sometimes just a little, but sometimes a lot!

    The more we practice, the easier it gets to remember to take those important moments of refuge.

    Perhaps try it now. Take a deep breath…. and let it out slowly. How has it changed the quality of this moment?

     

    Find Out More About Our Mindfulness Courses, Workshops & Retreat Days.

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  • How Can Mindfulness Impact Climate Change?

    Mindfulness Teacher - Jiva

    An interview with mindfulness teacher, Rosalie Dores, exploring how mindfulness can impact climate change and why she chose to run a workshop addressing the challenges. 

     

    What Has Mindfulness Got To Do With the Climate

    A fundamental component of mindfulness is developing awareness. In particular learning how to see and be with things the way they are. We engage in meditation practices that allow us to connect more deeply with ourselves and with the world in which we live. 

    In this way we find a deeply enriched experience of life. No longer living in a world mediated by constant patterns of thinking, we see life's beauty, sorrows and joys. 

    Sometimes I think about it as a kind of sobering up. We let go of the fairytale of the perfect life and instead find the capacity and wisdom to meet life as it is. 

    The verb to attend comes from the etymology to care. What we pay attention to we tend to care about. And so it is with the climate. 

     

    Globe

     

    How Can Mindfulness Impact Climate Change?

    In our current, technologically dominated world. Our attention is called here, there and everywhere. We could say that mindfulness is a radical act of paying attention. 

    If we're paying attention, we can't help but notice that our world is in trouble. Countries are threatened with extinction or major challenges due to flooding, drought, famine and extreme weather. 

     

    Join our Active Hope: Climate Crisis Workshop on 3. July. 

    JOIN WORKSHOP

     

    Mindfulness can impact the climate by supporting people in facing up to what's happening and being able to manage their responses, staying resourceful in the midst of great change and contribute to making positive change.

    Historian activist Rebecca Solnit says that optimism and pessimism are certainties, hope doesn't know, but acts anyway. This is the invitation I am making in offering the workshop.

     

     

    What Motivated You To Create the Climate Change Workshop?

    I have been concerned about what is happening to our world for a long time. In taking the online Active Hope Course with Chris Johnston I felt inspired to do more. One of the components of the workshop is to consider how you might participate in contributing to positive change.

    I'm a mindfulness teacher. And I'm a good mindfulness teacher. So I knew that I could do that. I could teach people what I was learning. How to move from the sense of powerlessness we face as humanity to a sense of empowerment. The workshop really does offer a sense that each of us has something of value to offer. 

    I remember being told by an activist that the antidote to despair, hopelessness, anxiety and depression is action. I have certainly found this to be my experience.  By engaging with climate uncertainty I have been able to create a feeling of connection with the world around me. I feel more hopeful and want to support others to do so.

     

    Can You Tell Us a Bit More About Joanna Macy’s Active Hope?

    Active Hope is structured around the work that reconnects spiral developed by Joanna Macy. The work begins by cultivating gratitude for what we love. This is the foundation and the first of four stages. 

     

    • Stage One: Finding Gratitude

    We find a foundation in a deep sense of gratitude for all that we are offered by the earth. In this way we come into touch with what we most care about. This care can bring us to connect with any sadness, depression and despair that might be present in regard to danger towards earth. 

     

    • Stage Two: Acknowledging Our Pain

    The next stage is acknowledging our pain for the world. The pain itself is data and feedback, important feedback that something is wrong. For many of us, our habitual response to feeling pained is to bury our heads in the sand or deny. This can work for a while, but the problems don't go away. 

     

    • Stage Three: Seeing the World With Fresh Eyes

    Thirdly, we see the world around us with new eyes, acknowledging that our pain can arouse a sense of energy and courage toward positive change. We recognise that we are a vital part of the culture, society and global population in which we live and that we have a part to play.

     

    ’We are not born into this world. We are born out of it.‘ 

    ALAN WATTS

     

    During the workshop we recognise that we are a part of this great planet and that in acting to protect it, we are acting to protect ourselves. We see with new eyes that we can make a vital contribution to change.

     

     

    • Stage Four: Contributing to Positive Change

    When we see with new eyes, we can be moved to go forth. To contribute to positive change in whatever way we feel able. The workshop that I'll be offering is structured around the spiral of Active Hope. 

     

    Join our Active Hope: Climate Crisis Workshop on 3. July. 

    JOIN WORKSHOP

     

    What Are the Biggest Challenges Around Meeting Climate Change Mindfully?

    I think the biggest challenge to meeting the climate change mindfully is the tendency to want to close down when we feel anxious or fearful in any way. The practices and material that I will be offering will support people in feeling more grounded and resourced in turning towards the climate challenges we face.

     

     

    What Sort of Change Do You Hope To Create?

    My hope for the workshop is that people will leave equipped with ways of seeing and practices that will support them in feeling empowered and able to face the climate challenges we are experiencing proactively.

    This is an introuductory workshop, which I plan to extend into a course for those that would like to take a more active role and to develop this further in the future. 

     

    Is This Workshop Suitable for Everyone?

    The workshop is for anyone feeling concerned about what's happening to our climate and would like to feel more empowered in facing these challenges. You do not need to have an established mindfulness practice to join, more a willingness to learn and explore. 

     

    Join our Active Hope: Climate Crisis Workshop on 3. July. 

    JOIN WORKSHOP

     

    A portion of the proceeds from the Climate Change Workshop at the Mindfulness Project will be offered as a donation to the Active Hope training.

  • Comparing Ourselves with Others

    Selection of Fruit

     

    It makes sense that we compare ourselves with others; social belonging is important to us, so we look around at our peers and make judgements on how well we’re fitting in. Whilst it's natural for us to compare, this doesn’t mean it benefiting us.

     

    Fear and anxiety are natural functions of the brain, designed to help us survive. Yet when these traits, including social comparison, become overstimulated they can cripple us, rather than keep us safe.

    If we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others and finding ourselves lacking in some way, this will leave us feeling not good enough and unable to express and enjoy our individuality.

    Reversely, if we’re comparing ourselves to others and feeling that we are better, this can put us into a self-righteous or judgemental mindset; one we might then feel we need to maintain.

    So how can we find peace with who we are, as we find ourselves, rather than basing our sense of self-worth on how we shape up in comparison with other people?

     

    Self-Esteem Relies on Comparison

     

    We may think that the antidote to being affected by social comparison is to have high self-esteem; to cultivate the belief that we are clever, good at our job, attractive, kind and loving, etc. However, rather than softening the sting of social comparison and helping us to accept ourselves, our desire for self-esteem actually drives us to compare in order to feel good.

    For us to feel attractive, self-esteem requires us to judge ourselves as above average in looks. If we’re to feel clever, we must achieve higher grades than our classmates. If we’re to feel like a kind person, we must try not get caught up in anger or selfishness like other people do, and so on.

     

    “The pursuit of high self-esteem has become a virtual religion, but research indicates this has serious downsides. Our culture has become so competitive we need to feel special and above average to just feel okay about ourselves (being called “average” is an insult).

    Most people, therefore, feel compelled to create what psychologists call a 'self-enhancement bias' – puffing ourselves up and putting others down so that we can feel superior in comparison.

    However, this constant need to feel better than our fellow human beings leads to a sense of isolation and separation.” 

    DR. KRISTIN NEFF

     

    Not only this, but when we compare ourselves to others and feel that we are less attractive or less successful, this really puts a dent in our self-worth.

    We might ask ourselves questions like, “How can I consider myself successful when my friend is earning more money than I am? That must mean I’m not successful.”

    Yet it is possible to untangle ourselves from thinking about our worth in terms of how we compare with others.

     

    Accepting Ourselves with Self-Compassion

     

    Whilst it’s true that we all share many things in common, including the pain and isolation of social comparison, it’s also true that we are unique in many ways. No one else has had quite the same life. No one else has exactly the same mind.

    We’re all dealing with a unique mix of personal history, brain wiring, physical abilities, personal limitations, emotions and thoughts. Remembering this can help us to become more grounded in the presence of who we are, not in relation to family, friends, colleagues or celebrities, but as an individual who is equally as valid as anyone else. 

     

     

    By adopting a more self-compassionate attitude towards ourselves, we can start to frame our lives differently. Instead of feeling that our achievements only count if they’re better than other people’s, we can start to realise that they count simply because we’ve achieved them.

    Say for example that we struggle daily with depression; if we come from a place of self-compassion, rather than self-esteem, we can see that our achievement of getting out of bed in the morning counts.

    These achievements are not because we’ve won some imaginary competition with others, but because it was hard for us to do, and yet we did it! And on days when we don’t manage anything, we can give ourselves a break and not add to our suffering by ranking ourselves as less than others.

    It can be useful to reflect on how we feel about ourselves, acknowledging our successes with an awareness of what it took for us to achieve them. We can view our failings with self-compassion, rather than belittling ourselves because other people seem to be doing much better.

     

    Self-Soothing Exercise

     

    1) A quick and effective way of accessing more self-compassion in this moment is to place our hands on our hearts.

    2) If it feels right, gently stroke that area, with the same kindness you might use to stroke a friend’s arm if they are feeling upset or a pet.

    3) Remember to breathe, noticing any unkind or judgemental thoughts that might arise and gently releasing them. 

    4) Acknowledge the presence of thoughts, yet if you can, try not to hold onto them.

    5) Just be with those thoughts, as a habitual chattering of the mind, rather than placing any sense of truth onto them.

    6) If it’s useful, you could try reminding yourself that you are always doing the best that you can in any moment, perhaps offering yourself some gentle words of encouragement. 

     

    Experiment with practicing this self-soothing technique whenever you notice that you’re judging your worth as a person in comparison to the worth you perceive in others.

     

    Learn About Mindful Self-Compassion on a Course or Workshop.

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  • What Is Mindful Self-Compassion?

     

    An interview with mindfulness teacher and supervisor Jiva Masheder, as she reflects on the practice of mindful self-compassion. 

     

    Firstly, Can You Tell Us a Bit About Yourself?

    I came to mindfulness in 1997 and loved it immediately. In 2007 I started the Masters programme at Bangor University to train to teach mindfulness which I finished in 2012. 

    I find the practice so beneficial in terms of improved emotional stability and mood and greater clarity about my own internal processes, which gives me choices about how I want to be. 

    After 20 years of mindfulness practice, I still felt something was somehow missing. Mindful Self Compassion filled that space and has been enormously helpful to me in viewing myself more kindly. 

     

    What’s the Science Behind Self-Compassion?

    This works because we are very sensitive to an internal climate of criticism and judgement - it's like having someone nagging at you, all the time, and this contributes to anxiety and depression. 

    As mammals, we are hard-wired  to respond well to kindness and tenderness, and cultivating that as our internal climate is enormously beneficial for our wellbeing. It's also quite possible to do. 

    It turns out a kind internal motivator works better than a harsh one! Just think of the best teachers or coaches you've ever had - were they kind and encouraging? Or did they berate you at every turn?

    Dr. Kristin Neff, who co-wrote the Mindful Self-Compassion programme with Dr. Chris Germer, is a researcher on the subject of self-compassion. She has written three books on the subject; ‘Self-Compassion’, 'The Mindful Self Compassion Workbook’ and ‘Fierce Self-Compassion’.

     

    Cat Relaxing

     

    What Are Some of the Benefits of Self-Compassion?

    There's a mass of research to show benefits such as reductions in anxiety and stress, depression, and building resilience.

    It can help to improve communication and relationships, support healthy living and allow us to self-regulate emotion. It also offers a general sense of well-being and self-worth.

     

    Isn’t Self-Compassion All About Bubble Baths and Chocolate?

    The research shows that actually, when we are more self-compassionate, we are more likely to have good health behaviours. So while the occasional bubble bath and chocolate might be just the right thing, people are also more likely to eat healthily, exercise and get enough sleep.

    Self-compassion can also help us to draw clear boundaries so that we're choosing where, when and how to spend our time. When we focus on our values in a self-compassionate way we can protect what is important to us.

    For example, if we value family time it might mean declining an invitation to a work event we don't really want to attend to ensure we have the time (and energy) to dedicate to our family. 

    We don't get more self-indulgent - which is a common concern - we are more like a good parent who makes sure their child eats their broccoli!

     

    Join a Mindful Self-Compassion Course or Workshop.

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    Will Self-Compassion Help Me To Silence My Inner Critic?

    We do spend a session looking at the inner critic. People often feel that without it, they'll just lie in a bath and eat chocolate all day. 

    Instead, we learn to develop compassionate, encouraging motivation, which over time will come to replace the inner critic. This does take time. 

    Whilst self-compassion might not silence our inner critic, we can learn to relate to it differently and find a kinder motivation which can gradually replace the inner critic.

     

    Heart-Shaped Coffee & Fern

     

    How Does the Course Differ From the MBSR and MBCT Course?

    It's superficially similar - eight weeks, group course, practices and sharing. However, it includes more reflective guidance and written exercises. There’s also more discussion and exploration in small groups than you typically do in MBSR or MBCT. 

    As you'd expect, it also has a far bigger emphasis on self-kindness and a wider range of self-compassion practices to engage with. Many participants appreciate this as they're more likely to find a couple of practices that really resonate. 

    The course works well whether you've got experience in mindfulness or not. It's also a great follow-on course after a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course.

     

    Is There Any Home-Practice on the Course?

    From the first week there are practices to engage with and they are a crucial part of the course. They are shorter than MBSR, typically 15-20 minutes, and there's a wider range to choose from

    The suggestion is to do 20-30 minutes a day of guided practice. As with anything, the more time you give yourself to engage with the course, the more it will give you. The programme also equips participants with ongoing practices and reflective exercises beyond the course.

     

    Join a Mindful Self-Compassion Course or Workshop.

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