Cultivating Compassion

(video 4:59) The Science of Meditation Summit interview with Dr. Kelly McGonigal was all about compassion, her research and experience.

Compassion for others is an instinct, according to her research, as social animals we’re geared towards helping our community members relieve their suffering. This keeps our survival group strong.

Self-compassion is not instinctive. Instinctively we respond to our own suffering with stress: distress, shame, guilt, fight, fight, freeze, etc.

If we’re going to train compassion for self and others, she suggests that we do both at the same time. Cultivate compassion for others, practicing to improve that natural process, and also include self-compassion in the practice to build that as well.

Watch the video for a brief description of a compassion practice.

Enjoy!,
Elena
www.ElenaMariaFoucher.com

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.

Decision Fatigue

(video 4:13min) I’ve been reading research lately that talks about decision fatigue, the idea that over time, say over the course of a day, your ability to make decisions decreases. Essentially, you’re good at making decisions when you start, and then not so good, to bad as you continue.

The metaphor that is often used is that it’s like a muscle, it’s strong at first and then after using it for a while it gets tired and eventually too week to move.

After you rest you’re ready to go again.

This makes lunch breaks, coffee breaks, etc really important! Stop making decisions when you take breaks. Unplug.

If you can’t break for your whole lunch time, take a shorter break. Doing a 2 to 5 minute meditation practice is a great micro-break whenever you need one during the day. Or even a few mindful breaths… look away from your work & take a few.

Studies say you’ll make better decisions after enough rest.
Try it out & see if you agree!

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

 

Emotional Awareness

MME Album Art(5:55) I use this practice A LOT. It is one of the most powerful meditation tools that I have. Whenever something is screaming for my attention, whenever a sensation, emotion or thought is taking over (overwhelm!), I use this practice to help me embrace it. By turning my attention to it, becoming fully present to it, I can integrate it into myself – and the overwhelm subsides because it has my attention!

Sometimes it takes multiple sits to fully integrate if it is something big… so don’t be discouraged if it takes a few times. Most things integrate fairly quickly and some things I’ve been working with for years! 🙂

This practice works best if you have some experience with meditation, especially with being present or focusing your attention on something that is happening right now (like your breathing, your physical sensations, what you can hear or see, etc).

Mindfulness Practice: Emotional Awareness

  1. Notice that something is bothering you or wants your attention.
  2. Start to create awareness of yourself, presence, or space by (closing your eyes and) first focusing on your breathing. “How am I breathing right now?”
  3. Once you are aware of yourself breathing, once you are present, notice what you are feeling and feel it as fully as you are able. If you feel “nothing” notice that as fully as you are able.
  4. As much as you can, just feel what the feeling feels like. Feel with out naming the feeling or going into the stories around the feeling. Focus on feeling the feeling versus on understanding the feeling.
  5. As much as you can maintain your awareness that you are the one feeling the feeling. “I am feeling this right now.” Maintain your awareness that YOU are feeling a feeling. Maintain the perspective that you are feeling vs getting lost in the feelings (and forgetting the perspective of YOU doing the feeling).
  6. If you start to feel overwhelmed by the feeling, give yourself a break and shift your attention to your breath. You can either return to noticing the feeling or decide that you need help navigating this one. Get help if you want it from friends, coaches or therapists.
  7. When you are ready to end move your focus back to your breath for a few breaths and then open your eyes if they are closed. 

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 uses only (no commercial uses).

Download

 

Where Is My Center – Mindfulness Practice

MME Album Art(5:22) I like to use this mindfulness practice when I am out in the world and I want to play… play with balance and play with getting calm and clear.

It is a standing practice, which makes it good fun in elevators, on escalators or standing waiting for the train or the light to change.

It can also be done sitting, which is perfect for getting calm and clear at my desk or in meetings!

Mindfulness Practice: Where Is My Center? (Standing or Sitting)

  1. Start by becoming present: bring your attention into the space you’re in by looking at what you can see right now.
  2. Close your eyes, or lower them so they are 3/4 closed, 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. Shift your attention to your feet and notice the natural weight of your body pressing down.
    1. Begin to notice if your weight is more on one foot than the other. With small, subtle movements, rock from side to side to feel where your weight is, and find the place in the middle where your weight is evenly distributed between both feet.
    2. Now notice the fronts and back of your feet, the balls of your toes and your heels, and notice where you weight is from front to back. With small subtle movements, rock forwards and backwards and find the place where your weight is evenly distributed front to back.
    3. Notice how it feels to be standing with your weight evenly distributed from side to side and front to back.
  4. Begin to end by shifting your attention back to your breath, noticing it moving in and out of your body.
  5. When you’re ready to end, open your eyes 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 uses only (no commercial uses).

Download

 

#1 Mindfulness Myth Busted!

(5:16) Myth: When you meditate you should clear your mind of thoughts.

Myth busted: Ouch! This is not my experience at all. 11 years of practice later, I still think a lot when meditating!

If you’re alive, your heart will beat & your mind will think… Even when you’re meditating! Congratulations, you’re alive! This is great news! 🙂

So what does happen to our thoughts when we meditate?
We learn to have perspective on our thoughts. It’s called presence.

This perspective helps us stay grounded in reality vs getting lost in our thoughts.

How is that relaxing? When we have this perspective (vs getting lost in a single stream of thoughts) we have access to lots of ideas, information & input. We have options vs getting stuck in old thought patterns & outdated ideas. We have access to lots of ideas (& feelings & sensations, etc). We can see what makes the most sense vs just the first thing that popped in. We can be clear about what is actually going on, which makes for a much saner and calmer mind.

This is how the mind is ‘clear’. You’re not clear of thoughts, you’re clear in your thoughts.

Want help maintaining this clarity for yourself? Contact me for your private Skype sessions.

Walking Meditation – Mindfulness Practice

MME Album Art

When I first started meditating in 2004/2005, I had a really tough time with silent, seated, non-moving practices. In fact, I gave up meditation all together thinking that I couldn’t meditate! Now I thank them, because with out them I would not have discovered moving practices!

This is a moving practice, one of the classics, walking meditation. It is from the same family as the silent-seated type, and uses much of the same cues. It will feel familiar if you are used to the traditional Vipassana practices that are often referred to as mindfulness practices these days.

For some of us, like me in the beginning!, this practice will still feel too structured and limiting. If you want more freedom in your movement, Five Rhythms can be a great place to play! Look it up and see how you feel.

Mindfulness Practice: Walking Meditation

  1. Start by becoming present: bring your attention into the space you’re in by looking 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. Open your eyes and gaze down. Shift your attention to your feet and notice how it feels to be standing here.
  4. Shift your attention to one foot, SLOWLY lift your foot notice how your foot feels as you lift it off the floor and SLOWLY put it down again. Feel each part of the foot as you lift it and then press it down onto the floor.
  5. SLOWLY lift the other foot and repeat the process as you slowly walk around in the space that you are in. GO SLOWLY.
  6. When you are ready to end, come back to standing and notice both feet and how it feels to be standing here now.
  7. Shift your attention back to your breath, noticing it as it moves in and out of your body.
  8. 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 use it for personal or educational use only (no commercial uses).

Download