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Mindfulness – open introductory course for Dartford. Begins Thursday April 19th

March 12, 2018

membershipbig1718

Because of continuing demand for these local courses, I’m going to try to fit in four, rather than three, per year. So the next five session, weekly, course begins on Thursday 19th April at 7:30pm. As ever this will be a gentle introduction to Mindfulness based on a workplace course developed by Mindfulness at Work, who have kindly agreed for me to use the ‘Mindfulness is Now’ [MiN] course, normally run for business clients. The fees are around a third of that usually charged to businesses for an identical course. My aim continues to be to introduce as many people as possible in Dartford to the practice and benefits of Mindfulness. The timing of this particular course makes it a good one for those who are coming out of hibernation, after the cold days and dark evenings, and want to make new plans for the spring and summer.
.
.
Detailed Course Dates and Times:
.
Thursday 19th April at 7:30pm, then each of the following four Thursdays at the same time [April 26th and May 3rd, 10th and 17th] February 1st, 8th and 15th]. The one hour sessions start at 7:30 sharp, so please arrive in good time, particularly on the first evening.
.
Location:
.
Holy Trinity Church Hall and Cafe, High Street, Dartford. DA1 1DE. Access is via the cafe a few yards to the left of the main church doors.
.
Cost:
.
£70 for the whole of the five week course including sessions, printed notes, audio downloads and e-mail ‘daily prompts’.
.
[16-18 yr olds – £20. Returning participants from previous courses wanting a refresher – £20]
.
.
.
How to sign up:
.
Please e-mail me on nick[at]soshall.net or call/text me on 07958 516967 to reserve a place. Similarly, please get in touch if you want to find out more about me or the course. You can just turn up on the first night – but advance booking ensures you won’t miss out, and that I know how many printed packs to prepare.
.
I can take payment at the first session – by cash, cheque [payable to SoShall Consulting Ltd] or I can give you bank details for internet payment.
.
The course is not open to under-16s.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please also consult with your GP or other professional, before taking this course, if you are currently receiving help with a condition such as depression or anxiety. Mindfulness can be very helpful, but needs to be in conjunction with other interventions and support. Similarly, please consider seeking professional advice if you believe that you may be at risk of such a condition. This course is a gentle introduction, not therapeutic, and it should not be the first, or sole, resort for someone who feels they may be unwell.
.
.
.
What is Mindfulness?
.
Mindfulness is something that you do, something that you learn by practicing regularly and can then apply throughout your day. It’s a way of approaching life which helps you to focus on what’s happening right now, without judging or getting stuck in habits and assumptions. This is an antidote to mulling over what has happened in the past, or worrying about what might happen in the future. It helps us to obsess less about whether we are doing well, doing the right thing, look OK to other people or deserve to be happy. This course makes you aware of how our thoughts and actions can just bundle us through the day on a kind of ‘auto-pilot’. Mindfulness offers us an alternative – pausing more often and making conscious decisions rather than just reacting.
.
The results include reduced stress, better focus on one thing at a time, a clearer mind and better interaction with other people. These in turn may improve your physical health, by reducing the damage that stress can do to our heart, circulatory system, immune system and digestion. More generally, mindfulness can help you to be happier and to appreciate more of life’s minutes – rather than just fast forwarding to the next ‘good bit’.
.
A good description of Mindfulness can be found on the Frantic World Website. The authors Danny Penman and Mark Williams have had a leading role in developing Mindfulness in the UK, and I will tell you more about their books on the course. But here’s what they say about Mindfulness.
.
.

“Mindfulness at Work”… so is this just a work thing?
.
No. Mindfulness at Work are normally commissioned by employers to deliver the MiN course in the workplace – it has even won an award from the UK legal profession. The course pack reflects this workplace setting. But Mindfulness is applicable to all aspects of life, and to everyone. We always adapt the course for each audience – anyone can learn and practice these techniques, for a few minutes a day, and feel the benefit.
.
.
What happens on the course?
.
The course is informal, welcoming and fun – but also purposeful. The sessions use Explanation, Experience and Enquiry. You will learn what Mindfulness is, how it works, how to do practices, and how to apply Mindfulness to everyday life. I will also point you to other resources and activities you can use to keep going after the course finishes – because the purpose of the course is to help you start a habit that you can benefit from for the rest of your life. You will experience guided practices – typically 10 minutes – as I talk you though placing your attention on your breathing, or moving your attention around your body, and there are also other exercises to help demonstrate why Mindfulness helps. Enquiry is about reflecting together on what you experience during a practice and how your week has gone between sessions. This helps to reinforce your learning and to encourage others, or be encouraged by them, through sharing. Knowing that “it’s not just me” can be a big help!
.
You will be shown how to download audio tracks, which you can use on a mobile phone/tablet, PC or Mac, to do your practices during the week by listening to a trainer’s voice. You will also sign up for daily e-mail prompts which explain some of the applications of Mindfulness and suggest things you might try.
.
There is a printed course pack which summarises the sessions, points you to other resources and suggests ways of continuing the Mindfulness habit.
.
.
.
Is this a religion???
.
Mindfulness practices are very similar to some kinds of meditation. Meditation techniques can be found in many different religions around the world, particularly Buddhism, which seem to have evolved similar approaches to dealing with life. When modern Mindfulness was developed in the 1970s and 1980s it was deliberately made more secular, so that belonging to a particular religion, or indeed aversion to any religion, would not be a barrier to taking it up. Mindfulness is compatible with many religious principles – not least compassion towards others and towards yourself! That second is something many of us forget to have.
.
.
.
Other details:
.

I can give people other information when they sign up but, just in case:
There is parking nearby in the Market Place (by Iceland), Overy Street, Acacia Hall (gates close 9pm) and Darenth Road. Many of these are free after 6:30pm. There is multi-storey car parking at the Orchards shopping centre £1 for 2 hours. Suface Parking by Aldi, at the Orchards, is free but only for 1.5 hours – which may be cutting things a bit fine. You don’t want to be worrying about getting back to your car throughout the session. Sainsburys, Instone Rd, car park is a little further away but is free after 7pm.
.
.
Any suggestions or questions please contact me via the methods given above.

Mindfulness – open introductory course for Dartford. Begins Thursday January 18th

December 5, 2017

membershipbig1718

 

Another course! And so nice already to have people waiting for it to be announced, or making word-of-mouth inspired queries about when there will be another one. Even better is that we now have free monthly ‘Drop-In’ sessions for people who have attended my past courses. This allows people to share experiences, request and try new things, or get the support and motivation to re-start after a gap in their practice. It marks the very beginning of a little mindfulness community in Dartford. Something I’ve long hoped to cultivate.

So… in January we start another gentle 5-session introduction to Mindfulness based on a workplace course developed by Mindfulness at Work. As on each past occasion, they have kindly agreed for me to use the ‘Mindfulness is Now’ [MiN] course, normally run for business clients. The fees are around a third of that usually charged to businesses for an identical course. My aim continues to be to introduce as many people as possible in Dartford to the practice and benefits of Mindfulness.

.
.
Course Dates and Times:
.
Thursday 18th January at 7:30pm, then each of the following four Thursdays at the same time [January 25th and February 1st, 8th and 15th]. The one hour sessions start at 7:30 sharp, so please arrive in good time, particularly on the first evening.
.
Location:
.
Holy Trinity Church Hall and Cafe, High Street, Dartford. DA1 1DE. Access is via the cafe a few yards to the left of the main church doors.
.
Cost:
.
£60 for the whole of the five week course including sessions, printed notes, audio downloads and e-mail ‘daily prompts’.
.
[16-18 yr olds – £20.  Returning participants from previous courses wanting a refresher – £20]
.
.
.
How to sign up:
.
Please e-mail me on nick[at]soshall.net or call/text me on 07958 516967 to reserve a place. Similarly, please get in touch if you want to find out more about me or the course. You can just turn up on the first night – but advance booking ensures you won’t miss out, and that I know how many packs to prepare.
.
I can take payment at, or immediately after, the first session – by cash, cheque [payable to SoShall Consulting Ltd] or I can give you bank details for internet payment.
.
The course is not open to under-16s.

Please also consult with your GP or other professional, before taking this course, if you are currently receiving help with a condition such as depression or anxiety. Mindfulness can be very helpful, but needs to be in conjunction with other interventions and support. Similarly, please consider seeking professional advice if you believe that you may be at risk of such a condition. This course is a gentle introduction, not therapeutic, and it should not be the first, or sole, resort for someone who feels they may be unwell.
.
.
.
What is Mindfulness?
.
Mindfulness is something that you do, something that you learn by practicing regularly and can then apply throughout your day. It’s a way of approaching life which helps you to focus on what’s happening right now, without judging or getting stuck in habits and assumptions. This is an antidote to mulling over what has happened in the past, or worrying about what might happen in the future. It helps us to obsess less about whether we are doing well, doing the right thing, look OK to other people or deserve to be happy. This course makes you aware of how our thoughts and actions can just bundle us through the day on a kind of ‘auto-pilot’. Mindfulness offers us an alternative – pausing more often and making conscious decisions rather than just reacting.
.
The results include reduced stress, better focus on one thing at a time, a clearer mind and better interaction with other people. These in turn can improve your physical health, by reducing the damage that stress can do to our heart, circulatory system, immune system and digestion. More generally, it can help you to be happier and to appreciate more of life’s minutes – rather than just fast forwarding to the next ‘good bit’.
.
A good description of Mindfulness can be found on the Frantic World Website. The authors Danny Penman and Mark Williams have had a leading role in developing Mindfulness in the UK, and I will tell you more about their books on the course. But here’s what they say about Mindfulness.
.
.

“Mindfulness at Work”… so is this just a work thing?
.
No. Mindfulness at Work are normally commissioned by employers to deliver the MiN course in the workplace – it has even won an award from the UK legal profession. The course pack reflects this workplace setting. But Mindfulness is applicable to all aspects of life, and to everyone. We always adapt the course for each audience – anyone can learn and practice these techniques, for a few minutes a day, and feel the benefit.
.
.
What happens on the course?
.
The course is informal, welcoming and fun – but also purposeful. The sessions use Explanation, Experience and Enquiry. I will explain what Mindfulness is, how it works, how to do practices, and how to apply Mindfulness to everyday life. I will also point you to other resources and activities you can use to keep going after the course finishes – because the purpose of the course is to help you start a habit that you can benefit from for the rest of your life. You will experience guided practices – typically 10 minutes – as I talk you though placing your attention on your breathing, or moving your attention around your body, and there are also other exercises to help demonstrate why Mindfulness helps. Enquiry is about reflecting, and discussing, together what you experience during a practice and how your week has gone between sessions. This helps to reinforce your learning, and to encourage others, or be encouraged by them through sharing. Knowing that “it’s not just me” can be a big help!
.
You will be shown how to download audio tracks, which you can use on a mobile phone/tablet, PC or Mac, to do your practices during the week by listening to a trainer’s voice. You will also sign up for daily e-mail prompts which explain some of the applications of Mindfulness and suggest things you might try, if you are in the mood, some time that day.
.
There is a printed course pack which summarises the sessions, points you to other resources and suggests ways of continuing the Mindfulness habit.
.
.
.
Is this a religion???
.
Mindfulness practices are very similar to some kinds of meditation. Meditation techniques can be found in many different religions around the world,  particularly Buddhism, which seem to have evolved similar approaches to dealing with life. When modern Mindfulness was developed in the 1970s and 1980s it was deliberately made more secular, so that belonging to a particular religion, or indeed aversion to any religion, should not be a barrier to taking it up. Mindfulness is compatible with many religious principles – not least compassion towards others and towards yourself! That second one is something many of us forget to have.
.
.
.
Other details:
.

I can give people other information when they sign up but, just in case.
There is parking nearby in the Market Place (by Iceland), Market  Street (alongside the park), Overy Street, Acacia Hall (gates close 9pm) and Darenth Road. Many of these are free after 6:30pm. Parking by Aldi, at the Orchards, is free but only for 1.5 hours – which may be cutting things a bit fine. You don’t want to be worrying about getting back to your car throughout the session.
.
.
Any suggestions or questions please contact me via the methods given above.

Mindfulness Beginners’ Course – Dartford. Begins 14th September

August 15, 2017

membershipbig1718

I have run several of these over the last few years. It’s a gentle 5-session introduction to Mindfulness based on a workplace course developed by Mindfulness at Work. As previously, they have kindly agreed for me to use the ‘Mindfulness is Now’ [MiN] course, normally run for business clients. The fees are less than a third of that usually charged to businesses for an identical course. My aim is to introduce as many people as possible in Dartford to the practice and benefits of Mindfulness.

Note: I will also be starting ‘drop in’ sessions, at the same venue, for people who have previously attended one of my courses and want a bit of support in keeping up their practice or trying something new. The first of those is next Tuesday – 22nd August – so look out for a separate announcement.
..
.
.
Course Dates and Times:
.
Thursday 14th September at 7:30pm, then each of the following four Thursdays at the same time [September 21st and 28th, then October 5th and 12th]. The one hour sessions start at 7:30 sharp, so please arrive in good time, particularly on the first evening.
.
Location:
.
Holy Trinity Church Hall, High Street, Dartford. DA1 1DE. Access is via the cafe a few yards to the left of the main church doors.
.
Cost:
.
£60 for the whole of the five week course including sessions, printed notes, audio downloads and e-mail ‘daily prompts’.
.
[16-18 yr olds – £20.  Returning participants from previous courses wanting a refresher – £20]
.
.
.
How to sign up:
.
Please e-mail me on nick[at]soshall.net or call/text me on 07958 516967 to reserve a place. Similarly, please get in touch if you want to find out more about me or the course. You can just turn up on the first night – but advance booking ensures you won’t miss out, and that I know how many packs to prepare.
.
I can take payment at, or immediately after, the first session – by cash, cheque [payable to SoShall Consulting Ltd] or I can give you bank details for internet payment.
.
The course is not open to under-16s. Please also consult with your GP or other professional, before taking the course, if you are currently receiving help with a condition such as depression or anxiety.
.
.
.
What is Mindfulness?
.
Mindfulness is something that you do, something that you learn by practicing regularly and can then apply throughout your day. It’s a way of approaching life which helps you to focus on what’s happening right now, without judging or getting stuck with habits and assumptions. This is an antidote to mulling over what has happened in the past, or worrying about what might happen in the future. It helps us to obsess less about whether we are doing well, doing the right thing, look OK to other people or deserve to be happy. This course makes you aware of how our thoughts and actions can just bundle us through the day on a kind of ‘auto-pilot’. Mindfulness offers us an alternative – pausing more often and making conscious decisions rather than just reacting.
.
The results include reduced stress, better focus on one thing at a time, a clearer mind and better interaction with other people. These in turn can improve your physical health, by reducing the damage that stress can do to our heart, circulatory system, immune system and digestion. More generally, it can help you to be happier and to appreciate more of life’s minutes – rather than just fast forwarding to the next ‘good bit’.
.
A good description of Mindfulness can be found on the Frantic World Website. The authors Danny Penman and Mark Williams have had a leading role in developing Mindfulness in the UK, and I will tell you more about their books on the course. But here’s what they say about Mindfulness.
.
.

“Mindfulness at Work”… so is this just a work thing?
.
No. Mindfulness at Work are normally commissioned by employers to deliver the MiN course in the workplace – it has even won an award from the UK legal profession. The course pack reflects this workplace setting. But Mindfulness is applicable to all aspects of life, and to everyone. We always adapt the course for each audience – anyone can learn and practice these techniques, for a few minutes a day, and feel the benefit.
.
.
What happens on the course?
.
The course is informal, welcoming and fun – but also purposeful. The sessions use Explanation, Experience and Enquiry. I will explain what Mindfulness is, how it works, how to do practices, and how to apply Mindfulness to everyday life. I will also point you to other resources and activities you can use to keep going after the course finishes – because the purpose of the course is to help you start a habit that you can benefit from for the rest of your life. You will Experience guided practices – typically 10 minutes – as I talk you though placing your attention on your breathing, or moving your attention around your body, and there are also other exercises to help demonstrate why Mindfulness helps. Enquiry is about reflecting, and discussing, together what you experience during a practice and how your week has gone between sessions. This helps to reinforce your learning, and to encourage others, or be encouraged by them through sharing. Knowing that “it’s not just me” can be a big help!
.
You will be shown how to download audio tracks, which you can use on a mobile phone/tablet, PC or Mac, to do your practices during the week by listening to a trainer’s voice. You will also sign up for daily e-mail prompts which explain some of the applications of Mindfulness and suggest things you might try, if you are in the mood, some time that day.
.
There is a printed course pack which summarises the sessions, points you to other resources and suggests ways of continuing the Mindfulness habit.
.
.
.
Is this a religious thing?
.
Mindfulness practices are very similar to some kinds of meditation. Meditation techniques can be found in many different religions around the world,  particularly Buddhism, which seem to have evolved similar approaches to dealing with life. When modern Mindfulness was developed in the 1970s and 1980s it was deliberately made more secular, so that belonging to a particular religion, or indeed aversion to any religion, should not be a barrier to taking it up. Mindfulness is compatible with many religious principles – not least compassion towards others and towards yourself! That second one is something many of us forget to have.
.
.
.
Other details:
.

I can give people other information when they sign up but, just in case.
There is parking nearby in the Market Place (by Iceland), Market  Street (alongside the park), Overy Street, Acacia Hall (gates close 9pm) and Darenth Road. Many of these are free after 6:30pm. Parking by Aldi, at the Orchards, is free but only for 1.5 hours – which may be cutting things a bit fine. You don’t want to be worrying about getting back to your car throughout the session.
.
.
Any suggestions or questions please contact me via the methods given above.

The “fundamental question of our time”

July 6, 2017

 

Water bottleI read a wearisome headline this morning. It was from one of those curious “speech-preview” press releases. Apparently Donald Trump will today say that the “fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive”.

He, and whatever advisors wrote this statesmanlike pretension for him, is wrong.

The fundamental question of our time is how humanity can come of age. For example by transcending its adolescent preoccupation with nationality and race. Or by recognising the damage done by inequality and the fact that inequality is more and more unnecessary as technology develops.

The fundamental question of our time is about when and how we are going to recognise that there is just one humanity and that we are all, in essence and foundation, the same. [What is different, and gives richness to human life, is how we then play out, and are allowed to play out, the sequence of events that our personal common humanity encounters].

When we can do that, other issues such as climate change and pollution, become much more straightforward. Because when there is just one humanity, we recognise that we all share one common home, one common legacy. When there are no ‘other people’ to blame, we have no reason, no choice, but to get on with cleaning up and protecting our common future.

One great challenge to come from this, at least temporarily, might be accepting that many of us need to have a little less and be a little more. So what do we say to those who most feel the need to ‘have’ – to own stuff and have power? These people who talk about, “whether the West has the will to survive”.

Mastery

June 30, 2017

I am very struck by the Japanese concept of Shu-Ha-Ri

This is the description of a way, which leads to mastery of a skill, or of a perspective… of life.

Shu.   Learn: Follow the rules

Ha.    Break Away: Let go of the rules

Ri.   Transcend: There are no rules – all is natural

I can see, almost feel, how this applies to mindfulness. That may be experientially within a single practice, or in one’s approach to practicing, or in the application of mindfulness to work and life.

For a long time, within a mindfulness practice, the question might be ‘… did I transcend, or did I simply fall into dullness of mind and sleep?’   :0)

At some point today, reflect on the activity you are engaged in at that moment, and ask yourself how Shu-Ha-Ri may apply to the way you are doing it right now… or to how you might choose to do it in the future.

I will do the same.

Mindfulness course for Dartford. Starts 7:30pm, Thursday 15th June.

June 1, 2017

I am running the next five week introductory Mindfulness course for friends and community in Dartford during June and July.
.
Mindfulness at Work have again very kindly agreed for me to use the ‘Mindfulness is Now’ [MiN] course, normally run for business clients, at a fraction of the usual price. Only 30 places are available. The main details are below – followed by some explanation about what Mindfulness is and how it works.

..

.
.

Dates and Times:
.
Thursday 15th June at 7:30pm, then each of the following four Thursdays at the same time [June 22nd and 29th, July 6th and 13th]. Sessions start at 7:30 sharp, so please arrive in good time, particularly on the first evening.
.
Location:
.
Holy Trinity Church Hall, High Street, Dartford. DA1 1DE. Access is via the cafe a few yards to the left of the main church doors.
.
Cost:
.
£60 for the whole of the five week course including sessions, printed notes, audio downloads and e-mail ‘daily prompts’.
.
[16-18 yr olds – £20.  Returning participants from previous courses wanting a refresher – £20]
.
.
.
How to sign up:
.
Please e-mail me on nick[at]soshall.net or call/text me on 07958 516967 to reserve a place. Similarly, please get in touch if you want to find out more about me or the course. You can just turn up on the first night – but advance booking ensures you won’t miss out, and that I know how many packs to prepare.
.
I can take payment at, or immediately after, the first session – by cash, cheque [payable to SoShall Consulting Ltd] or I can give you bank details for internet payment.
.
The course is not open to under-16s. Please also consult with your GP or other professional, before taking the course, if you are currently receiving help with a condition such as depression or anxiety.
.
.
.
What is Mindfulness?
.
Mindfulness is a way of approaching life, and in particular a set of regularly practiced techniques, which helps you to pay attention right now, without judging, to things as they are happening and as they actually are. This is an antidote to constantly mulling over what has happened in the past, or worrying about what might happen in the future. It reduces our tendency to obsess about whether we are doing well, doing the right thing, look OK to other people or deserve to be happy. By making us aware of how our thoughts and actions can just bundle us through the day on a kind of ‘auto-pilot’, Mindfulness allows us to pause more often and make conscious decisions rather than just reacting.
.
The result is reduced stress, better focus on one thing at a time, a clearer mind and better interaction with other people. This in turn can also improve your physical health, by reducing the damage that stress can do to our heart, circulatory system, immune system and digestion. More generally, it can help you to be happier and to appreciate more of life’s minutes – rather than just fast forwarding to the next ‘good bit’.
.
NICE [the NHS’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence] has recommended a particular clinical version of Mindfulness training [called MBCT] for addressing depression in people who are currently well but have experienced three or more previous episodes of depression.
.
A good description of Mindfulness can be found on the Frantic World Website. The authors Danny Penman and Mark Williams have had a leading role in developing Mindfulness in the UK, and I will tell you more about their books on the course. But here’s what they say about Mindfulness.
.
.
.
So is this just a Work thing?
.
No. Mindfulness at Work are normally commissioned by employers to deliver the MiN course in the workplace – it has even won an award from the UK legal profession. The course pack reflects this workplace setting. But Mindfulness is applicable to all aspects of life, and to everyone. We always adapt the course for each audience – anyone can learn and practice these techniques, for a few minutes a day, and feel the benefit.
.

.
What happens on the course?
.
The course is informal, welcoming and fun – but also purposeful. The sessions are made up of Explanation, Experience and Enquiry. I will explain what Mindfulness is, how it works, how to do practices, and how to apply Mindfulness to everyday life. I will also point you to other resources and activities you can use to keep going after the course finishes – because the purpose of the course is to help you start a habit that you can benefit from for the rest of your life. You will Experience guided practices – typically 10 minutes – as I talk you though placing your attention on your breathing, or moving your attention around your body, and there are also other exercises to help demonstrate why Mindfulness helps. Enquiry is about reflecting, and discussing, together what you experience during a practice and how your week has gone between sessions. This helps to reinforce your learning, and to encourage others, or be encouraged by them through sharing. Knowing that “it’s not just me” can be a big help!
.
You will be shown how to download audio tracks, which you can use on a mobile phone/tablet, PC or Mac, to do your practices during the week by listening to a trainer’s voice. You will also sign up for daily e-mail prompts which explain some of the applications of Mindfulness and suggest things you might try, if you are in the mood, some time that day.
.
There is a printed course pack which summarises the sessions, points you to other resources and suggests ways of continuing the Mindfulness habit.
.

.
Is this a religious thing?
.
Mindfulness practices are very similar to some kinds of meditation. The techniques can be found in many different religions around the world,  particularly Buddhism, which seem to have evolved similar approaches to dealing with life. When modern Mindfulness was developed in the 1970s and 1980s it was deliberately made more secular, so that belonging to a particular religion, or indeed aversion to any religion, should not be a barrier to taking it up. Mindfulness is compatible with many religious principles – not least compassion towards others and towards yourself! That second one is something many of us forget to have.
.

.
Other details:
. can give people other information when they sign up but, just in case.

There is parking nearby in the Market Place (by Iceland), Market  Street (alongside the park), Overy Street, Acacia Hall (gates close 9pm) and Darenth Road. Many of these are free after 6:30pm. Parking by Aldi, at the Orchards, is free but only for 1.5 hours – which may be cutting things a bit fine. You don’t want to be worrying about getting back to your car throughout the session.

.
Any suggestions or questions please contact me via the methods given above.

Is mindfulness about eliminating our emotions?

February 27, 2017

reflective-robot

When I am teaching mindfulness, and we reach a certain point in the course, a number of people always ask me something like… “Ah! So are we trying to eliminate our emotions?”. My answer always has to be “No”.
..
The question is understandable. People who take up mindfulness often do so because they are troubled by emotions such as anxiety, anger, sadness or guilt which distort their behaviour and make them unhappy. If mindfulness helps them with this, then surely it must be removing or diminishing those emotions – in the way that medicines can diminish or remove pain?
.
I think of emotions in the broadest sense. They are what cause us to do something rather than nothing. It is no accident that emotions contain the word ‘motion’. Nor that we talk about being ‘moved’ by something when it makes us feel an emotion. It seems likely that even if we could eliminate our emotions in some way we would simply starve, dehydrate or succumb to hypothermia. I realise that I am lumping something like ‘appetites’ in here with much more complex and refined emotions. But that’s what I mean by ‘the broadest sense’ – these are all sensations that in some way have power to initiate action or dictate focus. Their roots lie in our evolved disposition to address challenges, take opportunities and deal with life or death prioritisation. They are the judgements in the face of which mindfulness is often characterised as non-judging.
.
What can start to happen when we practice mindfulness is that we are first aware of a thought, idea or image and then we become aware of a distinct accompanying sensation which offers to propel us. This may just direct us to more thoughts of a certain kind, as the felt sense of anxiety might drive us to stray into thinking, at length, about precautions and solutions. Or, at the bidding of these emotions, it may be the felt tension or gathering that would precede actually standing up and going off to do something. Thus, in mindfulness practice, we start to separate the content of our thoughts from the puppet strings that would dictate our actions.
.
Mindfulness does not mean overcoming these emotional drivers – without which, give or take the odd reflex, we would be totally inert. It means being aware that these drivers are there at all, and so having a greater opportunity to postpone or disregard them in favour of others. Of course, there is no obvious end or bottom to this. Our awareness of this inner situation will give rise, in part, to further emotions and impulses… and so on. What we are eliminating is not the emotions but their ability to dictate our actions and further thoughts unchallenged. Be that because we were previously unconscious of our emotions, or because we had habits of thought, beliefs, which gave them that unchallenged control.
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My own experience of mindfulness practice, and then the application of mindfulness on the go, is that this “decluttering” removes many layers of complicated emotions and assumptions or “stories”. What can then emerge is not some super-logical deduction of what to do next. Rather it is just a simpler and more direct awareness of my real needs, or human motives, and of the correspondingly simpler ways to meet these.