Be curious

Tomorrow is my first day back at Uni, starting again in Year 2 of an adult nursing degree.

Someone asked me last week “What are you excited about going back?”

“Err nothing- just angry, grumpy and irritated”.
(Which means I’m getting anxious and I don’t do uncertainty very well.)

So apologies if I haven’t been interacting for a while but I haven’t been very good company.

On reporting this to someone who knows me pretty well she said how about being curious tomorrow. Yess! I can definitely do curious.

I know tomorrow will be fine nothing bad is going to happen and yes I’m going to be curious…

Thich Nhat Hanh (2008) The Miracle of Mindfulness. London: Rider

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140 pages, a very manageable length. I felt that this would be an interesting follow-up to an 8 week MBSR course. This book was borrowed from the fabulous Devon Recovery Learning Community library 😀

A major focus was on using the breath to anchor our mindfulness practice and if this is something you are struggling this may provide some helpful ideas. Similarly with mindfulness of thoughts and thinking. There are also some practical ideas on sitting positions and a suggestion for how to structure a day of mindful practice very simply at home.

I grappled with Chapter 5 and the concept of the five aggregates and to be honest failed to grasp this. Undeterred I carried on reading.

The chapter on exercises in mindfulness has a number of suggestions and some ideas for contemplations, akin to loving kindness or compassionate meditations. There may be a reason why I had to smile when I reached “Compassion for the person you hate or despise the most” – no, really, yep afraid so.

I particularly liked the image in Chapter 4 of a pebble dropping into a river, sinking through the water and settling in the sand at the bottom of the river as you settle into your practice and into your body. As the pebble rests on the sand it is neither pushed nor pulled by the river. This is something that really caught me and I will integrate into my own practice.

Overall an interesting read that you can skim, dip in and dip out of or as I did and read cover to cover. Definitely a helpful supplement after a taught mindfulness course.

 

 

Matthew Johnstone (2015) The Little Book of Resilience. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd

 

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Matthew Johnstone author and illustrator of bestselling books including “I Had a Black Dog” describes himself as a passionate mental health and wellbeing advocate and has a website http://www.matthewjohnstone.com.au. I was very excited when his latest offering “The Little Book of  Resilience – How to bounce back from adversity and lead a fulfilling life” dropped through the letterbox.

This beautifully illustrated book suggests that our ideal life is one where the sun always shines, we are happy, healthy and fulfilled… We spend energy protecting ourselves from the realities of life but life doesn’t play fair. We put a lot of effort into regretting our past, maintaining the face we show the world, wanting things we don’t have… Life for most of us will have joys and sorrows and resilience is about how we respond to adversity.

Johnstone offers helpful perspectives such as “Thoughts are not facts”. Importantly he does not suggest that the advice offered is easy to put into practice, for example, “A vitally important virtue is patience. In this world of everything being instant, we expect the same when it comes to our difficulties.”

In Part II Johnstone identifies a number of important areas that need to be attended to if we want to build our resilience which include but are not limited to:

  • physical activity,
  • taking part,
  • helping others,
  • keep learning
  • taking notice

Incidentally these are the 5 ways to well-being promoted by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) see http://www.fivewaystowellbeing.org

This is followed by a list of websites for potentially relevant organisations offering information and support.

Finally there are a few empty pages for your own notes.

 

Mindfulness based stress reduction wk 4 – the physical barometer

Refllecting on the halfway point in our course:

The physical barometer. This grows out of noticing where sensations are experienced in the body during unpleasant experiences. I’ve mapped mine out above. If you want to tune in to your own physical barometer, the abdomen can be a helpful place to start, investigating whether sensations in the abdomen change during challenging events.

Still struggling with the breathing spaces / responsive pauses. I get swept along by the moment and only afterwards think ahh a responsive pause would have been helpful there.

I am learning to love the bodyscan – who would have guessed. You spend the first two weeks of the course thinking this is boring / dull / irritating then when you move on you find yourself missing it.

Adherence to home practice can be too tight, as well as too loose. Humm! That was me I wanted so much to engage with the course I was pushing too hard.

My ability to find pleasure in day to day life has definitely increased.

Susie had to have the last word and says after her initial view that mindfulness sucks (as it involved turfing her off the duvet) she is also learning to love the bodyscan 🐾 💤

Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) course wk 3

This is the first week I have really struggled with the homework. It isn’t called homework- we are “invited” to do home practice. This week it is three breathing spaces each day and one longer practice, alternating between the body scan and mindful movement. It is the breathing spaces  I find hard, my mind is still flitting about when I am trying to bring it back to focusing on my breathing. We are also keeping an unpleasant events diary, helping to understand the mind-body connection.

How do other people find mindful movement? I find it is easier to stay present than during the body scan where my mind skips off somewhere after the legs and rejoins the party here and there after I retrieve it from rehashing and rehearsing…

Our teacher has created a safe space and the group is lovely but still a little quiet. The venue is really unusual, it was a wool drying shed from when the city’s wealth owed much to the wool trade.

My mission is to build my resilience ready for my return to adult nurse training. I’m determined to throw myself into this course having attended a mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) course in 2011. I found that helpful and working on the principle of revisiting what has worked before, here I am.

One of my favourite places to take the dog

Wow! Suddenly Devon has gone green. I find walking through the woods next to the river feeds my soul. 

Slightly marred by Charlie, who doesn’t believe swimming is a proper activity for dogs, dropping his ball into a deep part of the river. This brought my practice of mindful breathing to an end. We follow the progress of the ball until it was lost to sight : ( 

Home now and Charlie is snoring contentedly on the sofa!