Weekly Review Emails
I hope you enjoyed the first week of our meditation course. Here are the key points:
1. Meditation can be thought of as relaxing the body and calming the mind.
2. Physical relaxation is a prerequisite for mental and emotional calm.
3. There is no ideal posture. You can meditate whilst sitting, lying, standing, or walking.
4. Trying to emtpy your mind is not a good idea. That will just create struggle and strain.
5. Meditation doesn’t require 20 minutes alone is a quiet room. You can do it anywhere, and at any time.
Over the next week try out some of the techniques we explored during class:
Integrate these spot-meditations into your day in whatever way feels natural to you. Note, however, that remembering to use these techniques may be the hardest part of meditation — so it pays to be deliberate.
Make it a habit to ask yourself: “Could I meditate now?” It doesn’t matter where you are, what time it is, or who you are with.
It’s also useful to use triggers as reminders to meditate. This week make use of waiting time.
For example, you could meditate:
* whilst stuck in the traffic or waiting for the lights to change
* whilst waiting for a train, tram, or bus to arrive
* whilst waiting for a friend to arrive or a meeting to start
* while you’re left on hold during a phone call
* while waiting for a lift (or during your time in the lift)
* whilst in a queue (e.g. at the supermarket or bank)
* as the kettle boils or you wait for the toast to pop up
It’s easy to underestimate the value of these short meditations. They may not seem like ‘real’ meditation. Don’t make that mistake. Numerous ‘spot’ meditations sprinkled throughout your day are much more likely to make a difference than the occasional long meditation.
Aim to do up to a dozen spot meditations each day.
Eric Harrison’s The 5-Minute Meditator is the recommended textbook for the course. It’s super easy to read, with short, succinct chapters, clear explanations of the key principles, and lots of different examples of how you can integrate meditation and mindfulness into your day. You can pick up a copy for $25 at class.
Course notes for Week 1 are available in the Student Resources section of our website.
Can’t make your usual class? You’re welcome to attend any other class that week. Check the course schedule for times and locations.
JUST FOR FUN
Here’s a quick summary of the week one material put to music, courtesy of Lemon Jelly.
Remember, if you have any questions, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org
We’d love to hear how you’re getting on. Please feel free to let us know what you think of the course. We welcome all comments, criticisms and suggestions for improvement.
This week you learnt that meditation involves shifting from an exclusively thinking mode, into a more passive – and inherently relaxing – sensing mode.
Keep this principle in mind as you practice this week.
We also explored how our ‘normal’ mind can keep us trapped in stress cyles. If you find yourself thinking about the same thing over and over again, remember, there’s a way out.
Also, try not to beat yourself up. Whilst it can be painful, becoming aware of your tendency to overthink is beneficial. In fact, becoming aware of the sources of your stress — as well as the accompanying physical, emotional and mental signs – is a prerequisite for learning how to manage it more effectively.
THIS WEEK’S TIP
Look for opportunities to shift into sensing mode – deliberately look, listen, touch, taste or smell.
When walking, feel the touch of your feet on the ground.
Pause, now and then, and let your mind rest in the soundscape.
Give your full attention to the taste of your coffee.
Be creative. You can invent your own meditations. And keep it light. Meditation can be fun – a hobby you enjoy rather than a discipline you force yourself to practise.
And consider this. When someone makes a good decision why is it we say: He’s come to his senses?
Course notes for Week 2 are available in the Student Resources section of our website.
You can also listen to the guided meditation (on the senses) that we did in class this week.
From the Team at MMC.
P.S. If you haven’t already, grab yourself a Guided Meditation CD, some mp3’s, or some reading material, to help you on your way. These are the ‘training wheels’ that will – often quite dramatically – expedite the learning process.
Meditation can seem complicated. It’s not. In essence, it’s a simple three-step process:
- Lose Focus
ALL THREE steps are equally important. Being focused all the time is not the aim.
Indeed, it’s impossible to maintain perfect focus because the mind is wired to keep track of changes in the environment (both within and around us).
In fact, what happens when you lose focus may be the most critical part of your meditation, because it’s here that you need to decide how best to relate to the thought, emotion, or sensation that has arisen.
Trying to force yourself to remain focused and calm doesn’t work. Instead:
- give yourself permission to experience whatever it is that is coming up (a cascade of thought, irritation or agitation, interruptions from outside)
- be curious about what arises from moment to moment (as well as your reactions and responses), and
- be gentle, supportive and encouraging, rather than self-critical.
If you adopt these attitudes you’ll find that you can navigate your way skillfully through the ‘distractions’ you meet as you meditate. You’ll also find that you gradually become more mindful (or aware) – you make friends with your mind.
This week, try out each of the meditations from our Six Spot Sequence.
Course notes for Week 3 are available in the Student Resources section of our website.
JUST FOR FUN
Let Spike from Meditation Kick’s Ass give you a quick rundown on How to Meditate.
You may have noticed that meditation is easy — during class — when you have time dedicated to practice and the guidance of a teacher.
You may also have noticed that it’s much, much harder — even to remember to meditate — away from these supports.
We’ll address that difficulty below.
However, if you’re short of time (or have a tendency to prioritise the urgent over the important), here’s my suggestion: Just listen to this two-minute guided meditation.
For best results, bookmark it, and listen to it whenever you start feeling a little stressed. You’ll probably find that this quick reset will result in a clearer mind, better decision making and a more productive and less stressful working day.
For dozens of other guided meditations, ranging between 1 and 30 minutes, listen online.
For a quick recap of what we’ve covered so far, refer to the Week 4 Notes.
A FEW TIPS
Meditation is based on simple principles — and it’s not difficult to understand, or do — as long as your expectations are realistic. You will get distracted, you will lose focus, and if you are at all tired, you may well fall asleep. These are not problems, they are just a part of the practice. Learning to meditate involves learning to accept, rather than fight, such experiences.
What can be more difficult, is actually remembering to meditate. This is where you’ll need to be both disciplined and creative. You’ll need to come up with strategies that become habits. Once you’ve developed a meditation habit, your new-found skills can really start to bear fruit.
HOW TO DEVELOP A MEDITATION HABIT
Identify the times and places where you are most likely to choose to meditate. Are you drawn to a formal morning practice? Could you meditate on your commute to and from work? Could you arrive early (for example, when you pick the kids up from school) somewhere and then meditate in your car, or a park? Or perhaps you like to jog, cycle, swim or work out? All these activities can be made into meditations too.
You may also like to set yourself reminders, particularly if you have a very busy schedule. There are numerous smartphone apps that will both remind you of opportunities to meditate and offer you guidance. View Recommended Apps.
(Feel free to follow us on Twitter. We tweet a meditation tip or reminder once each weekday).
Alternatively, you can make use of environmental triggers, and do spot meditations when you see something or someone. (e.g. someone wearing red, the sound of a siren, a particular item of food). Get creative. You could take a deep breath each time you see someone driving the same make of car as you. Or do a quick scan to see what parts of your body feel most tense each time you see the McDonalds logo. If none of these strategies work, then you might need to get out the big stickK.
FOR EXTRA CREDIT
This week pay close attention to your body — while sitting, standing, as you walk etc. Notice how it feels, where it’s unnecessarily tense, where and when it feels good. During meditations see if you can identify all the little signs that the body is relaxing — muscle tension releasing, the breath becoming soft, discomfort becoming apparent, little vibrations and movement within the body.
And if you have trouble sleeping do a body scan each night, even if only for a minute or two, in bed as you go to sleep. Choose from:
If you’re interested in understanding the science behind habit formation (and some practical tips on how to create your own healthy habits) check out The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg or Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip & Dan Heath.
JUST FOR FUN
Here’s a meditation to do when you don’t feel like meditating. Check it out. It might just be the highlight of your week!
Your Meditation & Mindfulness for Beginners Course is almost complete. We have just one week to go.
By now you should be fairly confident in your abilities to relax your body and calm your mind.
The next step is to use these skills as a stepping stone from which to develop a greater capacity to tolerate, understand and better manage your thoughts and emotions. In other words, instead of using meditation just to calm down, you can use it for self-understanding and exploration. This is where meditation can really start to come alive.
The recommendation this week, then, is to give some attention to your thoughts and emotions.
See if you can identify what occupies your attention most frequently.
What are the most common themes or ideas that concern you?
What emotions do you experience most frequently, or intensely?
Which ones do you have the most trouble with?
The intention here is to start developing a greater awareness of your mental and emotional worlds, to begin making finer distinctions (e.g. are your thoughts helpful or unhelpful, important or trivial), and to develop the capacity to welcome and learn from all your emotions, including the ones you may find quite difficult to tolerate.
Further notes, and the guided meditations on thoughts and emotions, can be found in the Week 5 Notes.
The guided meditations are worth listening to repeatedly, even if you found them ineffective at the first attempt. The principles introduced in these meditations have the capacity to transform your thinking, and the way you work with emotions, in profound ways.
The topics we introduced this week are complex. We could easily spend six more weeks exploring emotions, and even then we’d only be scratching the surface. For these reasons, I’m including a longer-than-normal list of resources, should you wish to explore these topics further.
If you found the meditation on emotions intriguing (or confusing) you may like to listen Karla McLaren explain the basic principles in more detail.
For a mind-bending exploration of the latest neuroscience and how it relates to emotions, check out How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
And for a very practical guide to working with your emotions you may enjoy It’s Not Always Depression by Hilary Jacobs Hendel.
Here are two great TED talks on emotions.
And for help with specific emotions, you can refer to:
And if you’d like to explore your thoughts in greater depth, check out these helpful articles.
Congratulations. You now know how to meditate. You understand the basic principles, you’ve tried a range of different techniques and you know roughly what to expect. On the other hand, keep in mind that while you have a good foundation, you are still very much a beginner. Learning to meditate is a bit like learning to walk. It will probably take roughly 12 months to get competent. Over that time, however, you will be slowly but surely developing the ability to manage your thoughts and emotions with far greater skill.
How are you going to make sure that you get the best out of meditation now that your course has ended?
Here’s what we recommend:
1. Practice daily, even if only for a minute.
2. Check out the Practice Plan in the Week 6 Notes.
3. If you’re not confident guiding yourself, listen to some guided meditations.
4. Repeat the course some time in the next six to twelve months in order to consolidate and develop your learning. (You’ll probably be surprised at how much easier it is, and how much you forgot!).
5. Look out for one of our Mindful Mini-Retreats, a full Sunday of meditation practice designed to enhance and develop your skills.
6. Dive much deeper on one of our retreats, held in March and November each year in the beautiful Yarra Valley.
7. Learn to teach others on our Meditation Teacher Training program.
Look out for casual meditation sessions in your neighbourhood. There are several dedicated meditation studios in Melbourne. Yoga studios and gyms are another good place to check.
We can also provide meditation sessions, or meditation and mindfulness training at your workplace.
Looking for study meditation further? Here are my top five books on the subject.
Finally, thanks very much for choosing to learn to meditate with us.
We’d be very grateful if you could leave a review on Facebook.
From the Team at MMC.