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Changing your mind. Saturday October 25, 2014

As part of the therapies I have been involved in, the counsellor wanted me to practise mindfulness/meditation to try and calm some of the galloping negative thoughts that get going through my head.

Now I am not good at sitting still doing "nothing" except focussing my thoughts. I think this is because my mother drummed in to me her mantra, "Don't waste time, work it to death" and so even when I'm watching TV I have to be doing something else as well. So between myself and the therapist, we came up with a few mindfulness techniques that I find I can do and I thought it might be helpful to share four of these with you over a few Moodscope blogs, this being the first.

Object mindfulness.

First, as its name suggests, you need to find an object! This can be something in your home, from your garden or from the street, park or fields. It can be animal, vegetable or mineral. It can be something you can hold, or something much bigger.

Start by just looking at the object. Don't touch, just look. Look really closely and stand back and look. Walk round the object and see it from all sides. Look at the colours, shapes, look at the variations of shadow, think about why it looks that way? Is it man made or natural? What forces have acted on it to make it the way it is?

Then touch it. If it is small enough, pick it up. Feel the weight of it. Run your fingers over it. Is it warm or cold? Does it have a rough or smooth surface? can you feel tool marks?

Smell it. Does it have a smell? What does it smell like?

Think about it. Does it have a purpose? How did it become the shape it is, does it fulfil its purpose? If it's organic why is it the shape it is?

Try to totally immerse yourself in the object. If you find your mind starting to wander then draw your thoughts gently back to the object. You may want to set a timer for doing this task or just let yourself come to a natural ending. Up to you.

A Moodscope member.

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G Sat, Oct 25th 2014 @ 6:28am

Thank you Penny for this post! When my therapist introduced me to this I had no idea how to do it even though she asked me questions about the object (I didn't know what to answer because my mind was occupied with my problem and negative emotions). I come to appreciate it as it reminds me how observant I was as a child, and I took things for granted as I grow older. Another mindfulness practice that my therapist showed me is "sound mindfulness". Close your eyes, start to look for three kinds of sound or noise. Once you found/identified the third sound, take a deep breath and exhale slowly as you open your eyes slowly, too. This often calms me down and a helpful "mindful stop" or "mindful pause" while going through daily life with anxiety. These practices are also helpful when you suddenly realise you are down---immediately look at the object in front of you or close your eyes look for the three sounds---you can stop your negative train of thoughts or forget about the things that make you down for a moment. Hopefully more Moodscopers find these practices helpful.

Anonymous Sat, Oct 25th 2014 @ 7:31am

I love the idea of doing this so thankyou for sharing your idea with us. Rosie

Hopeful One Sat, Oct 25th 2014 @ 8:08am

Thank you Penny - I am looking forward to the next instalment. But are we not getting things back to front here? To quote any Puddicombe in his book ' get some headspace' page 121 in my edition' to practice mindfulness in everyday life without even doing ten minutes of meditation everyday is a bit like trying to build the foundations of a house on loose gravel. It will work but it will not be anywhere near as stable as if you built it on solid ground . ' So make your excercise meaningful one needs to train on's mind by meditation first I am afraid.

Julia Sat, Oct 25th 2014 @ 8:29am

Penny, this is great for those of us who find the whole practice of meditation and mindfulness too daunting, yet we know it is so good for us to study and learn.I would hope that by realising the benefits of these simple short practices, we may eventually build on them and learn the basics/foundations of meditation that Hopeful One says is necessary. Are you saying Hopeful One that meditation is a whole different ball game to mindfulness? I have to say that I have benefited so much from short bouts of mindfulness, the sort that Penny writes about today that I am not going to be put off by guilt and thinking I am not doing it right! But I am sure theoretically you are correct Hopeful One; it's just that what works for me is such a revelation and here for keeps.

kornage Sat, Oct 25th 2014 @ 10:54am

+1 for Andy Puddicombe.
I had tried meditation on and (mostly) off for many years. About a year ago a random Irish fella on a forum mentioned Andy's "Headspace" website and I gave it a try. The first ten sessions are free but in those ten day I made more progress than ever before. Mostly because, as Julia has said, meditation seemed daunting. But it isn't -- all I needed was a guide. Andy's audio tracks are that guide.
I signed up for a year and I've just renewed my sub for a second year, which makes me laugh in a way because by the time you're meditating for longer periods the audio is mostly silence! But there are still little signposts there to keep things on track.
I think the main difference it's made is that before, if I told myself I was going to meditate and I missed a session I wasn't that bothered and the practice would soon slip completely. Now, if I skip a session, I notice its absence, I miss that little oasis of practice and I look forward to the next session. I'd post a link but don't know how, just google "headspace" and it should come up.

Julia Sat, Oct 25th 2014 @ 11:11am

Thanks Kornage. Interesting. I'll look up Headspace and andy Puddicombe. You have much to thank your "random Irish fella"! for ...made me laugh.

Anonymous Sat, Oct 25th 2014 @ 2:08pm

I recommend Eckhart Tolle
Jon Kabat-Zin

and this video:

All have been very helpful.

Hopeful One Sat, Oct 25th 2014 @ 3:57pm

Hi Julia - Meditation is a skill you learn by bringing awareness to your chosen target and focusing on it with a single concentration. Mindfulness is the application of this skill in everyday life. Although used interchangely they are not the same . If your short b outs of mindfulness benefit you than obviously carry on and don't be put off by guilt . All I am saying is that doing mindfulness with some form of meditation practice makes it less of a hit or miss . Meditation is not a different ball game but the foundation for mindfulness.

Julia Sat, Oct 25th 2014 @ 4:02pm

Thank you very much for explaining this.

Mary Sat, Oct 25th 2014 @ 6:12pm

Oh Penny, your mother and my mother both! I find it really really difficult to do nothing. Even your wonderful description of studying an object made me think "but only if it's for the purposes of research because I'm going to draw it.... I think I have long way to go!

Julia Sat, Oct 25th 2014 @ 7:48pm

I have given your blog much thought today Penny and really liked it. It's fine if you have 45 minutes a day or more to spend on learning and practising meditation but not many of us has this luxury. Many people can only really learn meditation if they go to weekend retreats and often find it difficult to keep up the daily ritual when they get back home. Monks and Buddhists of course spend their life learning forms of meditation but generally do not live and function in the outside world. For us less fortunate and time rich,we could all benefit from your simple suggestion for quieting our minds Penny and I am sure many Moodscopers are very grateful to you.

Hopeful One Sat, Oct 25th 2014 @ 9:42pm

Hi Julia- It is a misconception to think that one needs 45 minutes a day or need to go to a retreat to learn the skill of meditation . You do need at lest 10 minutes a day and a place where you are unlikely to be disturbed to begin with at least . You will be surprised to learn that many people do not even last for as long as 10 minutes so busy are their minds . Are you so busy that you cannot find 10 minutes of 'me time ' in your day? One way of measuring whether one is doing meditation successfully is to know whether one is distracted or not distracted by the our thoughts and feelings that pass through our minds. To do this count as one each inbreath and each out breath as two . When you reach ten go back to one and start again until your ten minutes are up( I use the timer on my mobile). Any time you go over ten then you are no longer mediating until you realise that or you may find you go to 5 counts and lose track of the next count and then you are not meditating either. Do it honestly and sincerely and hey presto you will get got the hang of it . It is only when you want to use your skill to find nirvana or enlightenment that you will A retreat or need some sort of guide or ' guru ' or a 'Roshi' if you want to do Zen meditation Be warned Zen is no piece of cake.

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