• Beating The Winter Blues, Mindfully!

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    As we fall into a new rhythm that brings darker days and colder weather, our mood can take a hit. For some it’s a sense of feeling low-spirited, but for others it manifests as a debilitating type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D), which causes symptoms of anxiety, hopelessness, irritability and fatigue.

    Research has shown that one in fifteen people in the UK suffers from S.A.D, otherwise known as the “winter blues”. Scientific studies point to a lack of the sunshine drug - vitamin D - as the culprit, which means levels of serotonin and melatonin drop and the body’s circadian rhythms are disrupted. So how can mindfulness make a difference?

    The first way mindfulness can be used to counteract the effects of S.A.D, is by helping us to build resilience - the ability to adapt to change and overcome the unpleasant things in our lives without being overwhelmed by them. Whether we’re challenged by low mood or cold weather, staying present and turning towards any unpleasant feelings with a curiosity and non-judgmental awareness can help to soften the hard emotional states that arise with S.A.D and strengthen our ability to bounce back in similar situations.

    Likewise, mindfulness can help us to understand and embrace the impermanence of life. When we stay mindfully engaged in every moment, with whatever is arising in our thoughts, feelings and experiences - we gain an awareness that change is the nature of all things. Understanding the truth of impermanence can benefit us in moments of low mood, as it helps us to realise that these feelings will eventually pass.

    The next tool we have in our mindfulness practice is the power of perspective. As the adage goes: ‘change how you see, and see how you change’. For example, instead of directing our focus on what is lacking over the winter – warmth, sunshine, nature in bloom – we can choose to shift our awareness to see its gifts. A time of endings opens the door for self-reflection, and the slower pace brings with it an opportunity to rest and recalibrate. A conscious change in perspective, if we practice it often enough, can become embedded in our brain thanks to neurological plasticity.

    We can extend this sense of wellbeing even further by creating a daily or weekly gratitude list. From warm drinks and woolly socks, to the simple joy of having a bed to sleep in at night – there are countless things to be grateful for over the winter months. We can use gratitude as a buffer against negative attitudes and mind-sets by bringing our awareness to the good things in life and taking the time to savour them.

    Finally, since mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with self-compassion, adopting a regular self-care practice over the winter months can also help to remedy a low mood. Ask yourself what can you do to make yourself feel good? Nurturing habits, such as long walks outdoors, warm baths and nourishing meals can all take the edge off feelings of anxiety and depression that are associated with S.A.D.

    .....

    MEDITATION:

    Changing Seasons Meditation

    Body Scan

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindfulness for Anxiety and Depression

    8-Week Mindfulness Course for Depression

    8-Week Mindfulness Course

    Mindfulness One-Day Workshop

  • Cultivating Positive Mind States

    Written by Alexa Frey

    In mindfulness, we train our attention to be in the present moment. How? By anchoring it on a sensory experience – for example, the breath, a bodily sensation, or a sound. In short, we learn to place our attention on a chosen anchor. That’s the first step. With practice, we then become better at directing our attention where we want it to be. Slowly but surely, we learn to focus and stay in the present moment.

    Now, once we are able to focus, and choose where we want our attention to be, we can start engaging in what in mindfulness is called ‘cultivation’. This means, that we place our attention on something that fills us with gratitude, acceptance or anticipatory joy, or compassion for ourselves or others.

    How does this work? Usually we start by settling our attention on the breath, which helps to calm down and focus the mind. After a while, we begin to engage in cultivation. If we wish to cultivate gratitude for example, we will bring up a person or a thing, or a situation, that fills us with gratitude. Maybe the lush tree that grows in front of your house evokes gratitude in you, or the fact that you can see, or maybe you feel grateful that you own the cutest dog in the world!

    So, bring to mind what you are grateful for and keep your attention on it. As you stay with it for a while, you will notice a sense of gratitude spreading through your body. A sense of expansion and joy.

    As you practice cultivating gratitude, your mind might drift off – just like in a normal meditation. It might run off to a completely different experience. If this happens, gently redirect your attention back to what you are grateful for. Return to gratitude. Again, and again, and again.

    .....

    MEDITATIONS:

    Gratitude Meditation

    Love Meditation

    Animal Affection

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Cultivating Happiness Workshop

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

  • Four Ways Mindfulness Eases Anxiety and Depression

    Written by Amy Jane Wood

    According to the mental health charity Mind, anxiety and depression affect nearly one in four of us in the UK. So if that includes you too, you are not alone. Though their root causes are varied and complex, we do know that anxiety and depression are exacerbated by our fast-paced, plugged-in world, which leaves us little time to connect with ourselves. Mindfulness may not be an overnight fix, but it does offer us an arsenal of tools and techniques to ease the weight of anxiety and depression. And its effects are cumulative – which means that what we practice only grows stronger. Find out just a few of the ways it can help…

    Mindfulness soothes the nervous system

    On a simple level, mindfulness meditation soothes the nervous system and promotes a sense of calm which reduces anxiety. Being attentive to physical sensations and breathing mindfully activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a state of peace and relaxation in the body. This is backed by recent scientific studies, which have revealed that levels of cortisol – the hormone that’s triggered in response to stress – are dramatically reduced in those who practice mindful awareness.

    Mindfulness teaches us to accept difficulty

    When the blues strike, it’s common to want to hide what we feel and detach from our emotions. Sweeping pain under the metaphorical rug stops us from connecting with it, which can simply make it worse. As the old adage goes: ‘what you resist, persists’. The idea of turning towards emotional pain may seem counterintuitive, but when we gently open the door and invite it in, our relationship with it can be truly transformed. By cultivating an acceptance of our painful thoughts and feelings in the present moment, and holding space to simply ‘be’ with them, we may find that they loosen their grip on our lives quite dramatically. This can bring a clarity that helps to heal old wounds and break unhealthy patterns.

    Mindfulness opens us to self-compassion

    We all have an inner critic – it’s a voice that often comes from the past: a parent, teacher or boss. When we find ourselves stuck in a rut, feeling anxious or depressed, that judgmental voice can make things ten times harder. If we’re not careful, we can live by the stories it tells us about ourselves and let it shape the direction of our lives. Becoming aware of our inner critic is the first step towards disengaging with it, and mindfulness empowers us to do this. By training the brain to spot its negative internal commentaries, we can choose to respond to life’s difficulties with self-compassion instead of self-criticism. In this way, we chart new neural pathways that support and nurture us when we’re feeling low.

    Mindfulness helps us to break negative thinking

    Negative and ruminative loops of thinking are characteristic of depressive and anxious moods. They can throw us into a black hole of self-doubt that colours our response to everything. Happily, mindfulness can help us to break this cycle. With mindful awareness, we train the mind to recognise negative thought patterns and learn the skills to interrupt and respond to them in a way that makes us more resilient. Science has also shown that mindfulness works to disarm the mind’s ‘stress centre’ – the amygdala – which is the seat of our fearful and anxious emotions, and boosts activity in the more thoughtful area of the brain – the pre-frontal cortex. As a result, we are less overwhelmed by negative and ruminative thoughts, and more able to access practical thinking and positive emotions.

    .....

    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    TIPS:

    Why Meditate?

    The Present Moment

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindfulness for Anxiety and Depression

    8-Week Mindfulness Course for Depression

    8-Week Mindfulness Course

    Mindfulness One-Day Workshop

  • Phone off: My 12-hour Digital Detox

    written by Alexa Frey

    A busy and emotional week lay behind me and I urgently needed a break. Thus, I had decided to spend a whole Saturday doing nothing - in solitude. Nurturing myself. Taking care of the most important relationship that I have, the relationship with myself.

    Saturday, 2pm. I had slept in, eaten breakfast and then slept a little more. I went on to Netflixing an animal documentary (ok, and a little ‘Mad Men’). Everything should have been good. But my heart was pounding in my chest and my body just wouldn’t settle into my self-proclaimed chill out day.

    Ding! My friend had texted and I texted back. A few texts led to a whole conversation and by the end of the conversation, I felt even more tense. But now I knew why my heart was pounding in my chest!

    There was this sense – in that moment - that I wasn’t safe. The fact that my phone was on, didn’t give me that solitary space I needed. I had this visceral sense, that at any moment, someone could intrude my space and disturb my chill-out day. But not only that, I noticed how the impulses to check social media and be in online contact with my friends didn’t let me attend to myself. The self, that I had neglected all week. The self, that needed attention and nourishment.

    I decided to turn off my phone. For 12 hours. This is what I’ve learned:

    Back to Books

    As soon as I had turned off my phone, like magic, my body started calming down. Moments later, I realised that I actually had no desire to be on Netflix. So I grabbed a book from my bookshelf and – feeling like back in the 70s – started reading. I noticed the simple letters on the paper pages. Black and white. This simplicity felt soothing. Freeing. So I read for a while. As my body calmed down more and more, I looked outside and felt a pull to get out into nature.

    Off to the Park

    Walking towards the park, I spotted a little bee dancing around a flower. I paused and watched it as a smile grew on my face. As I looked up, a woman came walking towards me, her gaze firmly glued onto her phone screen. I wondered whether she too had spotted a bee, as I continued walking. The park seemed brighter today as I passed by a blackberry bush. My friend’s favourite berries. I grabbed for my phone to send her a picture. No phone. Just me.

    Old School Entertainment

    After having a swim in the Hampstead Health woman’s pond, I lay down in the grass. Wondering what time it was. At this point, I’d usually check in with my phone, maybe read an article from my Facebook feed or shoot off a few texts. But here I was – just me. Since there was no online entertainment, I started listening to those two very old French ladies behind me, wondering how they had lived most of their lives without phones. It was lovely listening to them discussing the new Diana documentary, Brexit and the long dark Winter nights in Norway. I was truly entertained.

    Missing out?

    “It’s 7:05pm!” One of the French ladies answered to my question. I decided to make my way back home. I was wondering whether my flatmate was hungry too and felt to urge to ask her out for dinner. I grabbed for my phone. No phone. I am so used to be able to reach out to my friends and family whenever I want to, that the situation felt strange. Foreign. I made my way back home – uncertain whether my flatmate would eat without me, and whether she was even at home.

    Deeply Connecting with Myself

    She wasn’t at home, and I didn’t know where she was. I had decided to keep my phone off and spend some more time just with myself. That evening, I really settled in. Reconnected with the most important person in my life. Myself. Phone off. Just me.  

    .....

    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    TIPS:

    Why Meditate?

    The Present Moment

    RETREATS:

    3-Day Mindfulness and Nature Connection Retreat

    One-Day Mindfulness Retreat

    Deepening Mindfulness Retreat Day

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindfulness for Anxiety and Depression

  • Wanting to be different

    Our internal world isn’t always how we want it to be. Emotions sometimes sweep through our minds and bodies - and we often have no control over them. Sometimes we don’t even know what triggered them.

    If we experience such emotional tsunamis on a frequent basis, and those experiences negatively impact on our everyday lives and relationships - we might start to hate not only those experiences, but also ourselves and this being human.

    “Why do I have to be like that? Why can’t I be in control?”

    “Why do I have to experience this emotional roller coaster?”

    “I want to be different, someone else!”

    Such thoughts usually don’t help. Especially because we tend to repeat them over and over again in our heads, and those repetitive energy loaded thoughts will create even more emotions in our bodies. More suffering. More pain. It’s endless.

    At the core of this rumination is the wish to be different. To be in control of our emotions, to feel less.

    But what if the first step to recovery wasn’t attempting to be different. But the attempt to accept who we are? To get real with who we are. To get real with the fact that maybe I need more sleep than other people? That I am an introvert who needs to spend a lot of time in nature in order to be happy.

    What if the solution to the problem is actually rather practical? To accept who I am and to make the necessary arrangements in my life? Practical problem solving. Taking care of the fragile being that I am - rather than wishing every day I was different, someone else.

    .....

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

  • Using the Body’s Wisdom as a Signpost to Healthy Relationships

    Written by Alexa Frey

    Mindfulness means living in our body. Noticing what footprint experiences leave on us.

    Some of us were repeatedly hurt by our primary caregivers or other important people in our lives. Repeatedly. Throughout childhood or adolescence.

    People hurt us and we got used to that pain. Somehow pain became part of our lives.

    Now, as grown ups, we might find ourselves meeting people who hurt us. We might have a partner that doesn’t give us what we need. Maybe he or she is even causing us emotional pain on a regular basis. Or we find ourselves working in a job that stresses us out, day by day.

    If we were exposed to repeated pain in our childhoods and couldn’t escape, we are now more likely to stay stuck in and stay in such unhealthy situations or relationships. We’re trying to manage, tell ourselves it’s not as bad. We’re enduring. We’re trapped.

    How can we use mindfulness to free ourselves from our past conditioning that creates unhealthy patterns in the present?

    It’s simple. By dropping into and checking in with our bodies.

    How does this over-chatty and nervous friend make me feel we meet in this loud bar? Does my chest tense up, or does my heart rate increase? Does my body become restless?

    How does my body feel at work? Am I feeling claustrophobic? Stressed out? Tense?

    How does my romantic partner make me feel every time we meet? A bit anxious that I am not good enough? Restless or bored?

    As we start to frequently check in with how our body feels in certain situations and with certain people, we will become more and more aware, which situations and people actually nourish us, and which deplete us.

    The next step is to take care of ourselves. Which means, taking the necessary life changes to expose ourselves less to situations and people that leave a negative footprint on our body, and increase the ones, that make us more happy and healthy.

    So, mindfulness is about using our bodies wisdom. We don’t always have to analyse every situation or person. How about we just simply start with asking ourselves: how does this right now, make me feel, in my body? That’s it.

    .....

    MEDITATIONS:

    Body Scan

    Good Friend Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course

  • Are you in need of a mindfulness retreat?

    Mindfulness Retreat

    “On retreat, we nourish the most important relationship that we have - the relationship with ourselves.” - Sarah Powers.

    This year, instead of a traditional summer holiday, how about taking a break to nourish your self and mind on a restorative retreat? Away from the distractions of daily life, a mindfulness retreat in the nurturing surrounds of nature can be a wonderful opportunity to slow down, have a digital detox and truly take some time just for ourselves. Read on to find out some of the ways a retreat can be beneficial...

     

    Having space to grow

    Carving out the time to fully dedicate ourselves to an extended period of mindfulness away from everyday life is an excellent opportunity to deepen and rejuvenate our practice. “A retreat removes the daily responsibilities and technological distractions, meaning that you have more time and space in which to dedicate yourself to sitting,” says mindfulness teacher James Milford. “This is essential as practice can grow stale and tick-box like if all we ever do is try and fit it into an existing schedule.”

     

    Breaking habitual patterns

    Although it may take some time to adjust to initially, taking a retreat in silence gives us the chance to see ourselves and our habitual patterns more clearly. “Silence can be challenging for many of us when we first start to observe it, but over time it becomes a welcome and nourishing refuge,” says mindfulness teacher Christiane Kerr. Being in silence allows our practice to deepen and helps us recognise our habitual thought patterns.” For example, you might notice that you get very self-conscious at meal times, which might lead to urges to eat more or less than usual. On retreat, there’s no distracting ourselves in such uncomfortable moments by checking our phones or chatting. Instead, we have the opportunity to cultivate awareness of our patterns, and meet them with self-compassion.

     

    Connecting with others

    Although it might sound strange, silent retreats offer a wonderful opportunity to connect with others in a new and profound way. Surrounded by fellow meditators, a retreat offers a supportive and nurturing environment in which to practice -- there is always someone there supporting you with their presence. And moments where you catch someone’s eye or receive an encouraging or understanding smile become really special. “Practicing mindfulness alone day after day can be a little dispiriting at times, so a retreat is a welcome chance to be with others and draw benefits from their participation and proximity,” says James. For most of us, sitting in collective stillness for days at a time will be a new experience - but through it we may find that we discover new ways of being with others and a rich sense of connection that nourishes and enriches our practice.

     

    Training our mindfulness muscle of attention

    On retreat, we spend a large amount of our time in formal meditation, and the rest of our waking time in informal practice. This means we are exercising our muscle of attention much more than we would usually do. This presents a wonderful opportunity for us to have deep insights, and this turning inwards to connect with ourselves and our inner wisdom can bring new perspectives that leave us feeling refreshed and renewed. Most retreat attendees notice a significant difference in their ability to meet everyday challenges with more ease when returning back home.

     

    For those new to meditation or a silent meditation retreat, the idea might seem quite daunting and scary, or even just really unappealing. But by placing ourselves in this unique environment, we can truly spend time with ourselves, have space for reflection and practice living in the present moment. And just because it’s silent, it doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to one of the teachers or support staff if you need to, and there is often dedicated time for discussion with the teacher in groups during the retreat. In other words, the silence isn’t there as a test of stamina, but rather as a way to observe your habitual patterns and thoughts. It is only through this awareness that we gain a platform to change and grow.

    .....

    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    TIPS:

    Why Meditate?

    The Present Moment

    RETREATS:

    3-Day Mindfulness and Nature Connection Retreat

    One-Day Mindfulness Retreat

    Deepening Mindfulness Retreat Day

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindfulness for Anxiety and Depression

  • Mindfulness for Teenagers

    It goes without saying that adolescence is a time of physiological and emotional upheaval.  Emerging from the cocoon of childhood in a tumult of hormones, physical developments and emotions, teenagers try and forge their own place, their own identity and to do so whilst trying to manage the expectations and opinions of their family, friends, and wider peer groups. Add to that the omnipresent reality of homework and exams, demanding extracurriculars, and impending decisions about their future and it is easy to see how these very real pressures can increase stress and anxiety.

    Luckily, there is increasing awareness of the pressures faced by teenagers, and the need to help guide them in dealing with the emotional realities of adolescence. Within mindfulness there are courses and school-based programmes specifically aimed at teenagers. These have provided a foundation for the growing research interest in the field, which is indeed showing positive results. A recent study showed that group mindfulness practice for teenagers resulted in “significant improvements in anxiety, internalising stress and attention”. Another research paper looking at mindfulness and self-compassion highlights how a course not only has the “potential to decrease stress”, but to also boost positive aspects of behaviour, such as “increasing resilience and positive risk taking”.

    Mindfulness, as the research indicates, can offer tools and attitudes that help navigate the uneven terrain of adolescence. Stress, anxiety and pressure are part of a teenagers’ reality, but they do not have to be debilitating. Through mindfulness, they can develop awareness, resilience and the emotional intelligence needed to skillfully cope with the pressures of their academic and social lives.

    One of the missing pieces is how to give teenagers access to mindfulness programmes outside of school-based programmes, as these are not yet widely available. One of the best ways is to practice and embody it as a parent. Be a living demonstration of the ability to respond rather than react at times of difficulty and stress. By seeing how a calm, even demeanour leads to less emotional upheaval, the benefits of mindfulness are passed on almost by osmosis.

    But this might not be enough on its own. Teenagers are known to rebel against anything their parents do or suggest, so they might dismiss your actions. Or perhaps they simply do not pay attention to your good example. Therefore, getting them to practice mindfulness themselves might require other in-roads.

    One way is to use the technology that is (quite literally) at their fingertips. Smartphones are now central to the lives of teenagers and these devices can be utilised to help them engage with mindfulness. There are apps they can use. Headspace has a version of their app for younger children, three different age ranges going up to 12, while “Stop, Breathe, Think” and “Smiling Mind” have been developed to make mindfulness accessible for teens.  Youtube too has a wealth of videos aimed at engaging teenagers with mindfulness and the cultivation of wellbeing, helping make it relevant to them.

    The one thing these technological routes into mindfulness cannot offer though is the teacher led experience. Mindfulness practice raises many avenues to explore and there is a need to find a qualified and experienced teacher who can skillfully guide practitioners. There are some options available. There are some family and child therapists who offer mindfulness for teenagers, or perhaps a dipping the toe in the water approach, attending a workshop, may be the perfect way to get teenagers into mindfulness in a relaxed and informal way?

    Even if teenagers only grudgingly participate at first -- they will thank you later. It seems safe to say that everyone who comes to mindfulness wishes they had only found it sooner.

    .....

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Mindful Parenting Workshop

  • How To Use Mindfulness To Cultivate Happiness

     

    By Amy Jane Wood

    Is negative thinking clouding your happiness? Mindfulness may be able to help. Scientific studies have confirmed that we all hardwired with a ‘negativity bias’ - an evolutionary function that was once necessary for our survival. This means our brains are built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news and a tendency to embed negative experiences more strongly than positive ones. As Dr. Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, puts it: The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” But the good news is we can break this bias. Studies have shown that mindfulness can help to rewire the brain and increase our capacity for happiness and wellbeing. Read on to find out how…

    Mindfulness short circuits negative thinking

    In mindfulness, we learn to be on close terms with the nature of the mind. As we hone in on our present moment experience and observe our mental activity, we become more skillful at noticing when our minds are getting caught up in negative and discouraging patterns of thought. In observing this, we can choose to break the circuit and shift to a self-compassionate mode of thinking that is supportive and nurturing instead.

    Mindfulness promotes gratitude

    Gratitude is a powerful antidote to negative thinking. To be mindful means to be aware of what is happening around us, and within us - and this is the first step towards being grateful for what we have. Cultivating an awareness and appreciation of the things that are going well in our lives and developing a daily gratitude practice prevents negativity from clouding our vision and reinforces positive connections in the brain that increase our capacity for happiness. It’s simple and transformative.

    Mindfulness rewires the brain

    What we think, feel and do all sculpt our neural networks. This is neuroplasticity in action - the brain‘s ability to constantly change throughout life and rewire itself in response to our feelings, thoughts and experiences. Research has shown that every time we use a particular pathway of thinking - either positive or negative - it increases the likelihood that we will do it again. Happily, mindfulness can be used as a tool to dislodge deep-rooted negative thinking patterns over time and chart new pathways in their place, which are more positive and nurturing. By bringing mindful awareness to everyday positive experiences, noticing when something feels good and actively taking in that feeling, we can weave the experience into the brain. The more we establish and exercise these pathways for happiness, the stronger they become.

    Mindfulness builds inner contentment

    One of the greatest gifts that mindfulness can bring to our lives is a sense of inner happiness and calm. It is often said that states of anxiety and depression stem from our ways of thinking - if we’re anxious, we’re spending too much time thinking about the future and if we’re depressed, we’re ruminating too frequently on the past. Of course, there are other factors to consider here - both biological and environmental - but the simple act of staying present keeps us more centred, teaches us acceptance and gives us a greater appreciation of life. In mindfulness, we also train ourselves to observe the world more objectively - which gives us the power to see things as they are, not as we are. This allows us to respond to situations and interactions without projecting our own mental model onto them, and frees us from the tendency to live in our own minds.

    .....

    MEDITATIONS:

    Gratitude Meditation

    Love Meditation

    Animal Affection

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Cultivating Happiness Workshop

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

  • Using Mindfulness to Maintain Motivation

    By James Milford

    The end of a mindfulness course is often a bittersweet experience. It is often accompanied by a sense of elation at having completed this journey together. There is a shared feeling. Words of enjoyment, appreciation and encouragement are imparted. Awareness of impending separation is tempered by urges to stay in touch and the hugs goodbye. The bond built over 8 weeks formed a cohesive unit, but then, suddenly, it’s gone. The group, the physical and cognitive support that has been a fixture of your week, scatters like the atoms of an out-breath into the ether.

    There is often a burst of enthusiasm after a course. The desire to maintain a daily practice is high. Over 8 weeks the requirement of daily mindfulness practice shifts from a cognitive knowing of its importance, to experientially understanding its substance and worth. You can now empathise with Jon Kabat-Zinn when he says “making a time for formal practice every day is like feeding yourself every day. It is that important.”

    But there will be challenges to regular practice, times when our motivation suffers. Maybe you have had a busy day and you just wanted to relax. Maybe the kids are demanding and on top of all your other responsibilities finding time simply eluded you. Maybe the myriad of time pressures from daily life just mounted up and you decided against formal practice for that day. This happens -- indeed it is to be expected. Life is busy and demanding, and from time to time our mindfulness practice will slip down the list of priorities. When this happens, we just set our intention to begin again the next day.

    However, avoidance can easily become a habit. Research has indicated that many mindfulness practitioners experience a lessening of motivation once the formal structure of a course is completed, with many abandoning mindfulness altogether within a year of the end of their formal course. Various contributing factors have been attributed to this, including lack of time and diminished interest to missing the support and structure offered by the group.

    So how are we to meet these real challenges and maintain our mindfulness practice? By using mindfulness of course! By tapping into the experiential and attitudinal qualities of mindfulness that were woven into the teaching of the 8-week course, you can explore your challenges and respond to them mindfully, getting practice back on track.

    Acceptance

    Rather than ignore or shy away from the fact that your mindfulness practice is suffering, open fully to this reality. Bring a sense of acceptance to the fact that you are having difficulties with motivation. Explore the sensations, thoughts and emotions that arise when you feel resistance to practice. By doing this you make the difficulties part of your mindfulness practice, exploring obstacles and giving yourself a sense of space in choosing to respond.

    Non-Judgement & Compassion

    Not practicing, can leave the door open for the doing mind to criticise ourselves for not practicing…….” I should be doing this”. Mindfulness practice should not be something else to give ourselves a hard time about. To avoid adding judgement to the fact that we are struggling with motivation, we can bring a sense of non-judgement and compassion to our reality. Recognise that motivation ebbs and flows, that it can be difficult to always find time and offer ourselves support. Recognise that you are human and that you are not striving for perfection. Let yourself off the hook a little.

    Beginner’s Mind

    Beginner’s mind is essential within mindfulness, but it has an elusive quality, particularly in applying it day to day. However, approaching things with beginner’s mind and a renewed sense of curiosity can be extremely helpful in restoring motivation to practice mindfulness.

    We can revisit our motivation for practice. This has likely changed since first decided to attend a course so spending a little time engaging with our continuing motivation can be incredibly helpful. Perhaps you are being driven by a subtle striving or goal setting that is inhibiting your practice. Approaching this with a freshness and beginner’s mind could be how you reinvigorate your mindfulness practice.

    Find Support

    Finally, it can be helpful to open up to what has changed, what is missing. Research into continued mindfulness practice has explicitly and implicitly highlighted the importance of group support as key in helping maintain interest and mindfulness practice. The lack of structure, support and teaching offered in a group can feel like a loss, so re-engaging with group practice could be beneficial. You might want to deepen your practice with a retreat. Perhaps it is a once a month or once a week drop-in class that you need. Maybe it is more structured and regular. Just explore and see what works for you. It could make all the difference and keep you coming back to the cushion.

    .....

    MEDITATION:

    Body Scan

    RETREATS:

    3-Day Mindfulness and Nature Connection Retreat

    8-Week Interpersonal Mindfulness Course

    Deepening Mindfulness Retreat Day

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

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