Why is it important to practice mindfulness regularly?

(video: 5:31 min) Does mindfulness ever become permanent? Will I ever be mindful all the time with out having to practice it regularly?

Well yes. And no.
Yes in that you can reach a stage where mindfulness is something you’re doing all of the time, as a behavior, a habit or an state of being.

And no in that until it becomes an ingrained habit, you need to keep reinforcing the behavior by practicing it!

Why? Because your brain learns and changes based on your behaviors. What you do today is changing your brain. You’re either creating & maintaining neurological structures for mindfulness today or you’re creating structures for something else.

Thanks to Dr Lara Boyd on TEDxVancouver for making the relationship between our daily behaviors and our brain so clear.

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

 

How to make your meditation practice fun.

To make anything you do more fun, like meditation or working on a project, add in elements of things you like! Add music, go to a beautiful place or dance while you work.

Not sure how to do this last one? Get creative! I have a high counter that I work at that allows me to move.

Here’s to us all having even more fun this new year!

Warmly,
Elena Maria Foucher

Portable Practice 4: Field of Sound (Guided Meditation)

MME Album Art

Welcome to the Mindfulness Made Easy Portable Practices. In the Mindfulness Made Easy course I teach simple and quick practices that you can do anywhere and anytime.

This is the fourth portable practice that I teach in the course, Field of Sound. This practice is great for those of you who prefer audio or sound focuses.

It’s your’s to listen to, download and share as many times as you like for personal, non-commercial use.

Enjoy!,

Elena

To Listen: Click play to listen on this page.

 

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

 

Portable Practice 1: Three Breaths Meditation

MME Album Art

Welcome to the Mindfulness Made Easy Portable Practices.

In the Mindfulness Made Easy course I teach quick and easy practices that you can do anywhere and anytime.

This is the first portable practice that I teach in the course. It’s called Three Breaths.

It’s your’s to listen to, download and share as many times as you like for personal, non-commercial use only.

Enjoy!,

Elena

 

To Listen: Click play to listen on this page.

 

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

 

Spice Up Your Meditation Practice!

Spice Up Your Practice!-3Want to spice up your meditation practice?
Add one of these simple focuses to your practice to spices things up a bit. They help keep your mind interested (focused and willing)… and ultimately keep us motivated to practice!

1. Counting vs not counting breath: Exploring the advantages and challenges of both. Noticing what happens when you count vs when you don’t. (The bigger picture: This isn’t about one option being better, it’s more about noticing the differences between the two and playing with the effects.)

2. Noticing the variety of sensations in your body at any given time: Noticing different qualities of sensations in your foot like hot, cold, itching, tingling, etc. Next time you can notice all the different sensations in your foot again and notice how things have changed – to compare and contrast, or switch to noticing your leg or face or arm, etc. (The bigger picture: Focusing attention on noticing the different sensations increases your ability to sense them… This gets quite interesting as there are a wide array of ‘subtle’ sensations that most of us are not even aware of at first.)

3. Relaxing: Can you relax your face when you meditate? (Or your foot, or leg…). This is to play with consciously relaxing a part of the body and noticing what happens. (The bigger picture: This also helps you notice how tense you are – or aren’t – and to let go of unnecessary muscular tension that drains your energy! Often we discover that there are areas that we habitually hold unnecessary tension and we can begin to change that habit by relaxing those areas every day.)4. How big or small of an area can you pay attention to? Can you notice your whole foot for 3 breaths? Only 1 toe? (The bigger picture: This helps you break out of any patterns you’ve developed during your life or your practice that are restricting your ability to focus on larger or smaller areas/things.)

5. Length of focus: Can you stay present for one entire breath (inhale+exhale) with out losing focus and getting lost in thought? Two? Two and a half? Three? Can you build up to three and a half? Four? Four and a half? Ten?
(The bigger picture: This is to consciously lengthen the amount of time you’re able to stay present continuously. This isn’t about increasing to a specific number of breaths or certain length of time, it’s about exercising the muscle of focus and thereby learning and remembering how to grow and change and evolve… as we play with lengthening our focus we teach ourselves how, how to get better. This is not about numbers, it’s about getting to know ourselves and learning how to learn.)

 

Mindfulness Made Easy Practice Group

Marathon Finish LineDear Fellow Meditators,
It ​is a ​true ​joy to share mindfulness and I hope that you are gaining a lot from your practice.
To support you in continuing your practice, I’m offering periodic one hour group practice sessions over Skype.
What are these group practice ​sessions?
In these sessions we will all meet, do a practice together (that you already know) and you can share what’s happening in your practice. This is a perfect time for sharing insights and asking any questions that have come up.This group is to support you to practice what you’ve learned, so I will not teach anything new.
Cost?

They will be $200 HKD/session, payable at the beginning of the month for 1, 3 or 6 month packages. Discounts given for 3 and 6 month packages – to encourage you to practice!

How does this help you?
I ran the Standard Chartered Marathon two years ago with the help of a friend in Australia. Every Friday we exchanged emails about how far we’d run that week, any insights we’d had and any issues we’d run into. In these emails we gave and received companionship, advice, accountability and the encouragement to keep going! It was incredibly helpful as I train​ed​ a lot in order to run that race… and when I crossed the finish line, I thanked her for helping make that victory happen.

Why are practice groups important? The science says…
​S​tudies have shown that practicing habits with a group greatly increases our tendency to do them.
Why? Because groups provide support and accountability.
​They support us to grow and learn and encourage us to keep going. ​

They are wonderful ways to help ourselves instill and maintain habits.

Joining this group will help you practice regularly, giving you the most out of your investment.
Consider joining this group if you would like to have this support to continue your mindfulness practice.
Finally, there are other meditation groups that meet in person every week if you prefer to meet in person.
Happy Practicing!,
Elena

Tracking Your Meditation Practice

womanRunning2Hello Fellow Meditators,

In order to benefit from meditation we have to practice. Just like exercise, we have to do it to get more fit!

The key to your meditation practice is to remember why you want to meditate.
Take a moment to remember what you want to gain… is it calm? A better way to deal with stress? To be less anxious? Relief from physical pain? Inner peace? Self knowledge?

Whatever it is, take a moment to remember that now.

Your reason for meditating is very important because that is your motivation to practice.
Without it you will not practice. It is that crucial. It is the key to keeping your practice going on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis. Keep your reason close to your heart, write it down and look at it periodically or review it in your mind every so often. It may change over time as your practice grows, which is wonderful. Whatever it is, keep it close.

Another helpful thing to do is to measure your progress.
It helps to measure whether you are you moving towards your goal or not.

How can we measure our progress?

We can do the very simple procedure of tracking our practice.

It works like this: get a notebook or a piece of paper and write down every day a few key items…

1. How often you practiced today (Example: Today’s Date: 0 or 20,000 times)

2. Any insights you had or questions that came up. (Example: I realized today that lack of sleep has a big impact on my ability to focus!)

3. Anything that changed today (Examples: Today it was easier to focus. or Today it was harder to be present.)

 

Start with these and see how it goes. I recommend doing this for at least a full week to see if it helps you or not. Over the course of your week, you may realize that you want to track different things than these. For instance, you may want to track how much sleep you’ve had or how easy it was to focus or how long it took you to get through your meditation.

Whatever you choose to track, I do recommend that you always track how many times a day you practice because it will encourage you to practice if you know that  you are writing it down. And it is wonderfully encouraging to look back after several weeks or months and see how much you have practiced!

Finally, you can track on paper, on your phone, on your computer… whatever is easiest for you.

I like paper for meditation because I like to journal about any questions that keep coming up. For running I use an app on my phone or a calendar on the wall if I’m doing specific training for a race.

Some people like to track on a spread sheet at their desk, or use their phone’s note app or a tracking app. You could send daily emails to yourself using the same or similar subject lines or use task management software if you wanted to get really fancy (esp if you already use it for work or other projects in your life). If you’ve tracked anything in the past, think about how it worked for you and whether you can use it for meditation practice now.

There are many, many ways to track, the most important way is the one that works for you. Choose the one that seems easiest at first, and experiment until you’re satisfied that you’ve found something that’s easy.

In case you like the app idea, here is a meditation app that says that it allows you to track your practice via iPhone: Equanimity, ‘easily log meditations not timed using your iPhone (at a class or retreat etc)’. And here’s a whole list of them, which may suit your needs. I haven’t tried any of them, so if you do, please let me know how it goes!

And feel free to put what works for you for tracking, including other apps below!

Enjoy,
Elena

Creative Commons Photo License

Learning to Love Myself – Step 1

learning to love myselfI’m teaching myself to love myself. Actually, I’m sort of conning myself into it by constantly telling myself that I love myself. Several people have suggested this as a way to rewire the brain and the subconscious. Matt Kahn gives a pretty compelling argument here as does Kamal Ravikant in his book, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It. I am beginning to realize that it does. At least a happy life does.

The first time I listened to the Matt Kahn video many months ago, I foolishly decided to try out repeating “I love myself” on a long training run. There I am running along in a beautiful country park, telling this to myself, and suddenly I start feeling terrible. I didn’t make any connection between the phrase and the discomfort, so I keep repeating “I love you” and just slow my pace down a bit. I feel worse and worse until finally I have to stop running, because I feel like I’m going to vomit. I’m standing there, looking down at a beautiful reservoir, doubled over in pain and I realize that actually there is nothing wrong with my physical body. I am just feeling nausious, not actually physically sick. The light turns on.

Saying this one little phrase to myself over and over dredged up a lot of crud. I walked a lot that day, and did a lot of clearing. Lots of breathing out nastiness and letting go. I didn’t think about the practice much after that until recently when I read the book by Ravikant.

I’ve decide this time to stick with the practice until I have it wired into my brain, until it is the new default thought loop that plays over and over in my head. It is a lot better than all of the other things that are in here!

As I’m getting into it things are changing, of course. Yesterday, I started realizing that I don’t generally know what I want. Like pretty much EVER.

That’s a stunning realization.

No vomiting yet.

 

3 Steps to Empowerment, Step 2: Acceptance

As we become aware of ourselves, our daily thoughts, feelings and actions, then we can start to accept them… most will be easy to accept and some will take a bit of compassion. For some we will want to step out of denial and out of resistance and into compassion, non-judgement and acceptance.
Why might this be useful?
If we want to go from fine to fantastic then we want to accept all of ourselves… step out of denial and resistance of the parts that we feel we don’t like and into acceptance. Then we start to know the truth of how fantastic we already are!
Can you accept all of you?
Some days I’m better than others… I’d love to know what kinds of things you’ve done that helped you to accept parts that were “unacceptable”?
Enjoy,
Elena
theJoyLab.net