Meditation

The past few months have been a bit hectic for me (hence the lack of tweeting and blog posting). I was finishing up my course at Oxford which included writing a case study, doing my last few weeks of course study, turning in a rated recording of a session and then finally writing my dissertation. In addition, we had to plan and go on a holiday back to the States to visit my family, which was lovely, but which also does include some stress (especially as we missed one flight due to major storms in Atlanta). Happily, it’s all finished! I’ll talk a bit more about my dissertation at another time, but I thought I’d share the meditation that I used throughout to remain calm and which helped remind me to live in the moment and let the little stuff just ‘float on by’.

 

The leaves on the stream meditation is one that I teach many of my clients and which I’ve posted about before, but I think it’s worth sharing again:

(1) Sit in a comfortable position and either close your eyes or rest them gently on a fixed spot in the room.

(2) Visualize yourself sitting beside a gently flowing stream with leaves floating along the surface of the water. Pause 10 seconds.

(3) For the next few minutes, take each thought that enters your mind and place it on a leaf… let it float by. Do this with each thought – pleasurable, painful, or neutral. Even if you have joyous or enthusiastic thoughts, place them on a leaf and let them float by.

(4) If your thoughts momentarily stop, continue to watch the stream. Sooner or later, your thoughts will start up again. Pause 20 seconds.

(5) Allow the stream to flow at its own pace. Don’t try to speed it up and rush your thoughts along. You’re not trying to rush the leaves along or “get rid” of your thoughts. You are allowing them to come and go at their own pace.

(6) If your mind says “This is dumb,” “I’m bored,” or “I’m not doing this right” place those thoughts on leaves, too, and let them pass. Pause 20 seconds.

(7) If a leaf gets stuck, allow it to hang around until it’s ready to float by. If the thought comes up again, watch it float by another time. Pause 20 seconds.

(8) If a difficult or painful feeling arises, simply acknowledge it. Say to yourself, “I notice myself having a feeling of boredom/impatience/frustration.” Place those thoughts on leaves and allow them float along.

(9) From time to time, your thoughts may hook you and distract you from being fully present in this exercise. This is normal. As soon as you realize that you have become side-tracked, gently bring your attention back to the visualization exercise.

Taken from: Harris, R. (2009). ACT made simple. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

A Mindfulness Exercise

Many times we find that our thoughts disturb us.  We begin to believe that our thoughts define us.  We begin to feel stress, may not sleep well and can’t concentrate.  In CBT, we end up talking through a lot of these thoughts and try to find alternatives to the thoughts.  Along with this, if your practitioner uses mindfulness, you might also use the Leaves in the Stream meditation.  It’s a great way to release the thoughts that are making you suffer.  It may be difficult at first but that’s okay.  It’s hard to remain mindful and present.  But the more you practice it, the easier it becomes to let go.

The Leaves in the Stream meditation: 
Sit quietly. Focus on your breath, going in and out. Start to notice the thoughts and images that come into your mind. As you notice each thought, imagine putting those words or pictures onto a leaf as it floats by on a stream. Put each thought that you notice onto a leaf, and watch it drift on by. There’s no need to look for the thoughts, or to remain alert waiting for them to come. Just let them come, and as they do, place them onto a leaf.

Your attention will wander, particularly so at first, and that’s okay – it’s what our mind does. As soon as you notice your mind wandering, pay attention to your breathing and then focus back to the thoughts, and placing them onto the leaves.

After a few minutes, take a few more deep breathes, and relax.

11: Find Something Bigger than Yourself

For some it may be religion.  For others, it’s through a form of spirituality.  And for others, it may be through math or science.  Regardless, we need to recognize that life is bigger than us.  Once you realise that you are not the soul focus of the universe, you become more connected to our world.

I love doing various types of meditation to find this connection.  It may be while sitting on the tube, while walking in nature or while sitting in my bedroom.  It doesn’t matter how I get that connection as long as it comes.  I have friends who find a connection through painting or writing.  Become focused, become mindful, find a way.  It’s tough in our current world to unplug as we’re constantly connected through mobile phones and computers.  How many of you find it tough to be away from any technology while on a holiday?  Can you do it?

Here’s a great Ted Talk by Andy Puddicombe about doing a mindfulness exercise in 10 minutes.

 

8: Increase Flow Experiences

According to Psychology Today, flow is a state of effortless concentration and enjoyment. I remember quite a few moments of flow in my life – while playing field hockey, getting married to my husband, while singing in front of a church audience. In a flow state, you feel almost as if time has slowed down. Nothing else comes between you and your task. It is a fine line and a balancing act. I think I best achieve flow while reading, as the world could almost blow up and I wouldn’t notice.

So how does one achieve flow? Flow is achieved when doing a task that may be a challenge but it’s one you can handle. Flow can be achieved if you fully concentrate on the task at hand and nothing else. I think flow can be hard to achieve in this day and age of trying to achieve so many things at once. How often are we truly focused?

Just two weekends ago, I went to a mindfulness day. Meditation was difficult, but I enjoyed it. I believe eventually, I will be able to get in the flow through being more mindful of what I’m doing and living in the moment.

If you’d like to read more, then check out Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.