Research shows the average person is in autopilot almost 50% of the time…..our attention is absorbed in our wandering minds and we are not really ‘present’ in our own lives.
– Harvard Gazette, 2010
Awareness and autopilot
In a car we can sometimes drive for miles “on automatic pilot,” without really being aware of what we are doing. In the same way, we may not be really “present,” moment-by-moment, for much of our lives: We can often be “miles away” without knowing it. On automatic pilot, we are more likely to have our “buttons pressed”.
Events around us – thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the mind (of which we may only be dimly aware) – can trigger old habits of thinking that are often unhelpful, and may lead to a worsening mood or negative state of mind.
By becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, from moment to moment, we give ourselves the possibility of greater freedom and choice; we do not have to go down the same old “mental ruts” that may have caused problems in the past.
The aim of this program is to increase awareness, so that we can respond ” in the moment” to actions with choice rather than reacting automatically. We do that by practicing to become more aware of where our attention is, and deliberately changing the focus of attention, over and over again.
To begin to explore how to step out of automatic pilot we brought attention to different parts of the body as a focus to anchor our awareness in the moment. We will also be training ourselves to put attention and awareness in different places at will. This is the aim of the body scan exercise, which forms your main home practice exercise this week.
Video –> Qualities of a good friend
The attitudinal foundations of Mindfulness practice include:
Taking the stance of an impartial witness to your own experience; notice the stream of a judging mind – not trying to stop it but just being aware of it.
Letting things unfold in their own time. A child may try to help a butterfly emerge by breaking open a chrysalis; but chances are the butterfly won’t benefit from this help. Being completely open to each moment: accepting its fullness, knowing that like the butterfly, things will emerge in their own time.
Beginner’s mind and curiosity
Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ’know’ stop us from seeing things as they really are – cultivating a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time; being receptive to new possibilities. Each moment is unique and contains unique possibilities.
Developing a basic trust in yourself and your feelings means trusting in your own authority and intuition, even if you make some ‘mistakes’ along the way. On the other hand, honouring your feelings means taking responsibility for yourself and your own wellbeing.
Meditation has no role other than for you to be yourself. The irony is you already are. Paying attention to how you are right now – observing this. The best way to achieve your own goals is to back off from striving and instead start to really focus on carefully seeing and accepting things as they are, moment by moment.
Seeing things as they actually are in the present. If you have a sore foot, accept you have a sore foot. We often waste a lot of time and energy denying what is fact. We are trying to force situations according to how we would like them to be. This creates more tension and prevents positive changes from occurring. Acceptance is not passive; it does not mean you have to be resigned to tolerate things. Acceptance is a willingness to see things as they are. You are much more likely to know what to do and have an inner conviction to act when you have a clear picture of what is actually happening.
This is a way of letting things be, of accepting things as they are. We let things go and we just watch. If we find it particularly difficult to let go of something because it has such a strong hold on our mind, we can direct our attention to what ‘holding’ feels like. Every time we notice the mind wandering and come back to the breath or body, we are practicing letting go.
Compassion and kindness
Bringing some compassion towards ourselves can have a very healing effect and can allow us to be more compassionate towards others. If we don’t have feelings of kindness or compassion for ourselves right now, we can have the intention to feel compassion for ourselves in the future. Cultivating patience and non- striving requires kindness towards ourselves.
Generosity and gratitude
Whether it’s the need to give to others, or perhaps give to ourselves more, how is it to cultivate this. As well as bringing gratitude to some of the things in our life we often take for granted.
Body Scan meditation
Finding a quiet, comfortable space, somewhere you won’t be disturbed for the next 30 minutes of this body scan meditation. If possible lying a mat on the floor or a bed and ensuring you have a blanket or enough warm clothing as the body can, when lying still, very quickly become cold. Or if lying down isn’t an option then sitting on a comfortable chair.
Audio of Body Scan meditation – with holding picture
Summary of session 1
During this session we brought attention to different parts of the body as a focus to anchor our awareness in the moment. We will also be training ourselves to put attention and awareness in different places at will. This is the aim of the body scan exercise, which forms your main home practice exercise this week.
Holding Picture with the words of the poem on it
Befriend who you are
Loving-kindness toward ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything. It means that we can still be crazy, we can still be angry. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whatever we are right now, just as we are. That’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.
Pema Chodron, ‘We Can Still Be Crazy’
Home practice following Session 1
1. Body Scan meditation (6 of 7 days)
2. Choose one routine activity in your daily life and make a deliberate effort to bring moment-to-moment awareness to that activity each time you do it. For example, brushing your teeth, showering, drying your body, getting dressed, eating, driving, taking out the rubbish, shopping etc. Simply zoom in on knowing what you are doing as you are actually doing it.
3. Eat at least one small meal ‘mindfully’, slow down and pay attention to only the experience of eating.
Home practice record form: Session 1
Record each time you practice on the home practice form.
Download the practice record form here.Home Practice Record Form