Does Mindfulness Help?

(video 3:30m) If Mindfulness Meditation doesn’t take away the things that are bothering me, how does it help? How does noticing what’s bothering me benefit me? I already know how bothered I am! How is paying attention to it going to make things better?

Great questions! Glad you asked.

It does seems counter-intuitive to do something that not only doesn’t fix the bad things, it has you pay attention to them more! The difference is really about perspective or point of view… normally, when we’re realizing that we feel terrible, we’re in the middle of it. We’re believing the thoughts and emotions that we’re having and we think and feel as if they are our whole reality. We’ve forgotten that actually they’re just thoughts and emotions and that they come and go.

Mindfulness offers us another place to notice from, a place that we have access to at all times if we care to be in it – that part of us that is simply aware that we’re here doing what ever we’re doing (thinking and feeling). It’s simply to notice from that state of mind that is always here, available, that can notice what we’re thinking and feeling.

It’s so simple that it is easy to miss. You can access it right now by noticing where you are physically. Notice that you (in your body) are standing or sitting or lying down where ever you are. Notice that you are there and not say, in Paris (unless of course you are and then notice that you’re in Paris and not in London.) That part of you that just noticed that simple fact is the part we’re using in mindfulness.

If you start thinking or feeling things about the place that you’re in, say that you really like the temperature, there’s a part of you that can notice that you’re thinking. There’s a part that can say, “This is me having the thought that I like the temperature.” That’s it. That’s the part of you that we’re accessing. Super simple.

So how does accessing that part help? Well, imagine that you’re really upset about something. Your heart is racing, you’re breathing fast, you’re looking around for someone or something to yell at… you’re in the middle of emotion. What if you could in that moment access that part of you that can say, “Hey, this is me feeling really upset. Wow. This is big! I’m REALLY upset!”

Right in that moment, you have just given yourself a tiny bit of room from the emotion. You’re still feeling it and you’re also aware that it’s not your whole reality. Suddenly, you have choices. “Hm. I wonder what I want to do with this feeling? Do I want to yell at the person in front of me? Or do I want to let them know I’m super upset and need to go outside and vent for a few minutes?”

See how that works?

Yes, it takes practice and commitment to keep practicing, and if you like it it can change your life. In the beginning you might just get to watch yourself yell at the person, which is pretty painful. “Wow, this is me yelling at this person and being a complete jerk. Ouch.” And slowly, we get better and better at being in the mindful place even during stress, and our ability to choose what to do (vs just yelling) gets stronger and stronger.

Enjoy being mindful.

(p.s. If you’re interested, practicing this state actually causes measurable changes in the brain according to studies. Psychologists call it “self-regulation” and neurologists have found that the related part of the brain grows in size. Look for Dr Sara Lazar’s studies on my Links page.)

Sun Saltuation de L’ile de Re

(video 3:46min) And now for something different…

This summer, I had the pleasure of sharing yoga with several lovely humans new to it. Over the course of the week, we slowly built up to doing a Sun Salutation…  and here it is.

Note on breathing: There are many, many schools of thought in yoga on how to breathe. For me, the most important part is that you connect your breathing with your movements, meaning that you time your movements to your breath. Whether you’re breathing in or out during a certain movement isn’t as important as that the movement starts when your breath starts. As you begin to breathe in (or out) you begin a movement. Then as you begin to breathe out (or in) you begin the next movement.

Enjoy breathing as you move! 🙂

How to Calm Your Mind, Part 1

(video: 9:44min) “I can’t stop thinking!” is the number 1 complaint I hear when people start practicing mindfulness.

We’re stressed! We want the madness to stop! Doesn’t mindfulness help us calm our minds and let go of thoughts?!

Well yes, and no… Mindfulness helps you change your relationship with your thoughts. It does NOT make them go away. This new relationship is less stressful and more calm.

For most of us, this new relationship takes a bit of explanation to understand. Most instructors know it’s actually more comprehensive for you to experience it than try to explain it to you… which means that before you experience it you’re confused about your goal during practice. You think you’re supposed to stop thinking.

 

So what are you supposed to be doing? And how will it help? Here are two videos to help you unravel this mystery.

Mindfulness Practice: Simple Breath

MME Album Art(5:35min) A simple breath practice to play with… a great place to start and a wonderful practice to keep.

Mindfulness Practice: Simple Breath

    1.  Begin by getting into position, whatever position works best for your body. The best position is one that is comfortable for you. If you use the same position every time, it will become your body-mind’s signal that you are starting a practice.

I suggest the following:

Sit on a chair (sofa, bed, etc) with your feet flat on the floor.

Rest your hands, palms down, on your thighs.  Don’t prop yourself up or pull yourself forward with your hands.

Feel your sit bones pressing down into the chair.

Float the crown of your head up so that it gently lifts your torso. Let your spine gently align, your shoulders relax and your chest open. This position allows you to breathe easily.

Let the back of your neck be long, and your chin parallel to the floor. This keeps your neck in a healthy, neutral position.

Let your back body be gently firm to keep you upright.

Let your front body be soft. Relax you belly, chest and face. Relax your jaw and tongue. Relax your eyes.

Close your eyes.

 2. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to breathe. Keep most of your attention on the feeling of breathing.

3. Let everything else float by in the background. Let thoughts, emotions and physical sensations float by in the background like passing clouds.

4. If you find that your attention has become absorbed in your thoughts (emotions or sensations) to the point that you are no longer noticing your breath, simply let the thought go. Let it float away like a balloon. Then kindly and gently bring your attention back to your breath and start a fresh. You can have an infinite number of fresh starts, so you can relax about this.

5. End the practice when you feel ready or when your timer rings by gently opening your eyes.

Be kind and gentle, remembering that noticing that your thoughts is an important part of the practice.

 

To Download:

Click on the Download button below.

If it does not download automatically:

  1. A new window will open with an audio player (like the player above).
  2. Right click on the player and choose “Download File” or “Download Video”
  3. iPhone users will want to first copy the meditation into iTunes (on your computer) and then sync with your iPhone.

Note that you are welcome to download and share this files as many times as you like provided you do so in it’s entirety and it is used for personal or educational use only (no commercial uses).

Download

 

Meditation Practice: Walking With Awareness

MME Album Art(8:34min) Want to bring mindfulness into your daily life? One way to do that is to walk mindfully. Most of us walk at least some every day, to the front door, to the coffee machine, the elevator, the bathroom, across the street, etc. This meditation helps you bring mindfulness into your daily life by practicing walking mindfully, noticing every step. Begin by practicing in a quiet place, getting used to it, creating a new habit and then begin taking a few mindful steps every day. You could pick a daily walk, like walking to the bathroom or your car, and take 3 mindful steps every day when you do that. When that is easy, do 5 and then 7 and so on. Soon you will be taking the whole walk mindfully and noticing how this simple exercise affects other parts of your day as well.

Meditation Practice: Walking with Awareness

  1. Start standing in a quiet space where you can walk at least 10 paces in a line or a circle.
  2. Close your eyes and notice your breathing for a few breaths.
  3. Shift your attention to your feet and feel the sensation of your natural body weight pressing down into the floor.
  4. Slowly shift your weight to one foot, feeling the sensations in your feet as your weight shifts.
  5. Slowly lift your other foot, place it in front of you and slowly begin shifting your weight onto your front foot feeling the sensations in your feet as you move.
  6. Continue walking slowly, feeling the sensations in your feet.
  7. If you notice that you have become lost in thought, pause and stop moving. Close your eyes and find your breath again. Bring your attention to your feet again and when you’re ready, open your eyes and begin again walking slowly.
  8. When you get to the end of your space, slowly turn around, feeling the sensations in your feet as you do so and go back to the start. Continue on your line or circle until you feel complete or your practice bells rings to tell you your time is finished.

Be kind and gentle, remembering that noticing that your thoughts is an important part of the practice.

 

To Download:

Click on the Download button below.

If it does not download automatically:

  1. A new window will open with an audio player (like the player above).
  2. Right click on the player and choose “Download File” or “Download Video”
  3. iPhone users will want to first copy the meditation into iTunes (on your computer) and then sync with your iPhone.

Note that you are welcome to download and share this files as many times as you like provided you do so in it’s entirety and it is used for personal or educational uses only (no commercial uses).

Download

 

 

Mindfulness is Not Self-help

(video 4:12) I listened to the Science of Meditation Summit presentation by meditation teacher Susan Piver who said one of the myths about mindfulness is that it is a form of self-help. “It’s not,” she says, and after listening to her explaination, I totally agree.

Mindfulness as a concept is simply being present, aware of ourselves, and pure mindfulness practice is simply noticing ourselves. What ever we’re doing, thinking, feeling, we simply notice. We don’t try to change anything, we simply notice.

Self-help is another set of meditations, therapies and tools that we use to change what we notice. If, using mindfulness, we notice that we’re angry a lot and inappropriate with how we express it, we might take other steps to create healthier expressions of our anger. Now we’ve added self-help.

I find this distinction really useful for understanding the role of mindfulness and the role of self-help. Mindfulness is for being aware of what is happening. Self-help is for changing what is happening.

Sensational Awareness – Guided Meditation

MME Album Art(meditation: 8:51 min)

Ever thought, “Uh! I wish I hadn’t said that!!”

Americans like to call this putting your foot in your mouth. Sometimes I put my whole leg in! Open mouth, insert leg. Yikes!

One of the beauties of meditation is that I don’t do this so often anymore. Meditation helps me be more aware of what I’m thinking and feeling… so that I have a moment to decide whether to say something before it pops out of my mouth.

Instead of being lost in my thoughts or overwhelmed by my feelings, I cultivate a perspective (called presence) that lets me see the difference between me and them. I stay aware that I am bigger than my thoughts. I am like a container for them. They are still very much here in me, they are just a PART of me versus taking over me.

This subtle and powerful change in perspective makes all the difference.

I do not get so overwhelmed because they do not fill my entire world. I do not get so lost in them because I see the whole map now.

Make sense? Probably not. If you are like most people this is at best a crazy sounding conceptual theory that doesn’t realate to your experience of reality. I clearly remember thinking this myself. “What the heck does that mean, ‘I am not my thoughts’?

So, how to go from wacky sounding theory to part of your reality?

Experience it yourself!

Below is a practice to help you experience this with sensation, the easiest of the three (thoughts, emotions, sensations). You will happily discover that you do this already (you are present quite often), quite naturally… And now you know how to cultivate it.

Note that if this is the first time you’ve experienced meditation, this isn’t the easiest place to start! I recommend starting with something simple to get the mechanics down first like 3 Breaths.

Happy sensing!

Mindfulness Practice: Sensational Awareness

  1. Start by becoming present to the location you are in: look around at what you can see right now.
  2. Close your eyes and gently shift your attention to your breathing. Notice your breath moving in and out of your body right now. Be curious about your breath. “How am I breathing right now?”
  3. Find a place in your body that has a strong sensation to focus on. Often it is easiest to feel a place that is painful or stiff, or chose a place that feels very fluid and nice. Anywhere is fine, as long as there is sensation that is easy to feel there.
    1. Shift your attention away from your breath and to the area you have chosen with the strong sensation.
    2. Remembering that you are the one feeling the sensation (“I am feeling/sensing.”), be curious about the qualities of the sensation. Notice as much as you can about how it feels. (You can notice qualities like: big/small, intense/soft, rough/smooth, sharp/dull, pulsing/constant, dense/open, etc.)
    3. As much as you can feel it and don’t go into the story about why you are sensing it. Cultivate being curious about feeling the sensations versus thinking about why you feel this way and what you can do to avoid (or repeat) it in the future.
  4. When you feel complete, shift your attention back to your breath. Notice your breath moving in and out of your body.
  5. When you’re ready, open your eyes to end the practice, noticing the space that you’re in right now.

When your mind wanders, as it inevitably will, gently bring it back first to presence by noticing your breath and the quiet between thoughts, and then re-focus on the heart of the practice.

 

To Download:

Click on the Download button below.

If it does not download automatically:

  1. A new window will open with an audio player (like the player above).
  2. Right click on the player and choose “Download File” or “Download Video”
  3. iPhone users will want to first copy the meditation into iTunes (on your computer) and then sync with your iPhone.

Note that you are welcome to download and share this files as many times as you like provided you do so in it’s entirety and it is used for personal or educational use only (no commercial uses).

Download

 

Three Point Body Scan (Pure Noticing) – Guided Meditation

(4:19) This guided meditation is quick to do, and nice for your daily 2-minute practice.

This particular version of a body scan guides you to notice whatever sensations are happening right now versus creating sensation by moving your body.

This is great for when you want to do a quick practice, because you just notice an area and move on with out staying there very long. It is also nice for increasing your ability to notice subtlety, because as you practice it your capacity to notice subtler and subtler sensations improves.

 

 

To Download:

Click on the Download button below

If it does not download automatically:

  1. A new window will open with an audio player (like the player above).
  2. Right click on the player and choose “Download File” or “Download Video”
  3. iPhone users will want to first copy the meditation into iTunes (on your computer) and then sync with your iPhone.
Download

 

Spiritual Awareness through Cultural Immersion

Spiritual Awareness thru Culture

Enlightening Radio Interview: Spiritual Awareness through Cultural Immersion

Christine Andrew, owner of CoSozo Wellness interviewed me for her Enlightening Radio show. Here’s what she wrote about it:

“Every moment in our lives has the opportunity to provide deeper awareness and insight into our true essential nature. Traveling to and living in a completely foreign country or within new cultures and belief systems enables you to confront and encounter awarenesses that you perhaps might not have the opportunity to experience any other way.

Joining our conversation today is Elena Foucher, the Founder of the Joy Lab in Hong Kong. Elena delivers short and easy meditation tools and tips that you can literally do any time. She also has a fascinating backstory with Enlightening Radio host Christine Andrew. On today’s show, we’re not only discussing that rich history, but also some of the insights that you can gain in your life, whether you’re in your own backyard or half way around the world!

There’s a rich and deep world within each of us. Use the messages and examples of today’s show and dive on in! For more information about Elena and the Toothbrush Meditations, please email Elena@ElenaMariaFoucher.com or visitwww.toothbrushmeditations.com.”

Recorded 23 August, 2014, click the link at the top to listen to the interview.

Enjoy!,

Elena