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Old 04-08-2015, 01:18 AM   #101
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Loving Kindness Meditation

We get a slightly more formal introduction to this practice, though really we don't learn a lot of theory behind it or anything that wasn't talked about in the day of mindfulness. Practicing compassion makes you more compassionate, towards yourself and towards others.

-- With this first step, there is a difference to this practice here than at the Day of Mindfulness. Choose a person who loves you. It can be anyone, living/dead/whatever. The compassionate phrases that we will be thinking about, instead of saying them to ourselves, we will imagine this person who loves us saying them to us. I choose my grandfather on my mom's side. He died a few years ago at age 93 (I think it was 93). He is the kindest person I've ever know, an easy choice if I'm looking for compassion. I don't remember what phrases we used here were. the instructor was guiding us through this. Similar things to what we did in the day of mindfulness. Begin by relaxing, focusing on your breathing. Think of the person you chose. Think of this person saying to you "May you be well", "May you be happy", and a couple other things. We're walked through this slowly, each phrase mentioned multiple times.

-- Because there isn't a whole lot different than in class, I'll keep this brief. The progression is to repeat this action for someone you love, then a neutral person, someone you interact with but wouldn't really think about in one way or another, a store worker, mailman, that type of thing.

-- The addition here is something mentioned in the day of mindfulness but not actually done. "Think of a person who causes you trouble and conflict. Not the most difficult person in the world, but someone who you have trouble interacting with". I won't be saying who I chose in case they somehow one day find my online identity (I don't exactly hide who I am that much here, someone who knows me IRL would figure this out pretty easily if they saw my post history here, or on reddit, where I am NOT radii, thank you very much) and end up here. Anyway, think of a person who causes you trouble, conflict. Wish these compassionate things on this person who is a bit of a negative in your life.

-- And lastly, express this same compassion for all living things.

This was a very emotional experience for myself, and for lots of people, the first time we did it at the day of mindfulness. Maybe because we hadn't done it before, maybe because it was done at the end of 6 hours of peaceful meditation and we were in a different state of mind, I dunno. Here there was not the same response.

That is the end of the last "official" class, we are all graduates of mindfulness based stress reduction and pain relief (the full name used in the handouts we get from the UNC folks). Even though the last class is a "bonus", I'm saving any sort of final thoughts/post mortem for after that class next Monday.

-- Also, I STILL have weeks of reading that I've done to write up, things that I've learned, or things that I've used to supplement what I've learned in class, that i do intend to write about. At this point I need to get that done just because I've said I would.

-- No more homework, and that is when things get difficult. Yet another place where this class mirrors my physical therapy experience in some way. Being done with pelvic floor physical therapy was SCARY. Having checkpoints, check-ins on a semi-regular basis made it very easy to do the 100 new things I learned how to do throughout my day. The instant I was only accountable to myself, it became just as easy to say "ok, this is no longer my top priority. So what if I don't use my standing desk at all today? I will do it tomorrow." and to have that cascade a little bit, despite benefits from physical therapy that I've described in near miraculous fashion. I need to accept that I will be further away from perfect without that prodding and without the regular check-ins with therapist/teacher, but that I honestly have a strong desire to work on building the things i've learned here into lifelong habits.
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Old 04-08-2015, 11:53 AM   #102
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: On Lake Harriet

Coming into this late, but just wanted to offer a big cheers and congratulations. I spent the better part of last night reading through this and it's really a remarkable journey. It's been suggested to me recently to explore mindfulness, so stumbling upon this was timely as well. Thanks for sharing it here.
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Old 04-08-2015, 04:06 PM   #103
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Originally Posted by digamma View Post
Coming into this late, but just wanted to offer a big cheers and congratulations. I spent the better part of last night reading through this and it's really a remarkable journey. It's been suggested to me recently to explore mindfulness, so stumbling upon this was timely as well. Thanks for sharing it here.

Thanks dig! If you do end up exploring mindfulness, whether through a course like this or some other means, you know where to find me if you ever want to chat about anything.
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Old 04-09-2015, 12:46 AM   #104
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Post Class Survey

Since I still have the bonus week of class left I'm still waiting to do an organized "closure" to this dynasty. But the research survey goes out here since this is the official end of the program, so there will be a lot of talk about what I have noticed changing over the last couple months.

I'm not reading anything I wrote in the pre-class survey before answering. But I have quoted my post where I did go through the survey questions that seemed most relevant to me and will be making some notes on my answers.

Quotes are from pre-class, my comments on any changes below.

I perceive my feelings and emotions without having to react to them - Never. I analyze everything.

New answer: Sometimes. I still get to analyze everything if I want, and believe me, I still do with many things. However, I have a new perspective here, and I do choose to use it with some frequency. Sometimes I am really able to allow myself to see my thoughts as just thoughts, and I can let them go by without having to go into crazy analytical mode, even in moments in the real world (ie. not in a formal meditation practice). Some things just aren't worth overthinking.

I tell myself I shouldn't be feeling the way I'm feeling - Often. The result of analyzing everything

New Answer: Never/Rarely. This is BY FAR the biggest immediate change I have noticed from taking this class. There is such a huge emphasis on the idea of being non-judgemental, on simply observing your thoughts and feelings during mindfulness practices. I spend time almost every day meditating - practicing. During this process, distractions are removed, and if I'm feeling bad, there's a good chance thoughts about it are gonna come. But I'm good at "following the rules" in meditation. The focus is on the breath. Notice the thought or feeling, do not judge it. Allow it to pass. Its not always easy, but I usually do this well.

So this seems to allow two different things to happen. One is that shitty feelings or thoughts that I might beat myself up for frequently get "dealt with" in meditation. I know they're lurking around. They won't sneak up on me. Also, there's a reason all these things are "practices". You practice them in formal mediation, and eventually, some of the ideas naturally carry over to the real world.

Also, so much of the "science talk" in class involves the unconscious mind and how powerful it is. Having this understanding when I have some thought or feeling that I "wish I didn't have" allows me to sometimes just say "well, this is happening, I probably can't stop it from happening, but at least I can avoid making it worse by adding another layer of stress by beating myself up for it".

When I'm walking, I deliberately notice the sensations of my body moving - Never.

Now: Occasionally - This "body awareness" thing is going to take time. But I'm starting to learn what I'm looking for, slowly.

When I have distressing thoughts or images I am able to just notice them without reacting - There are a number of questions similar to this. There is a clear aim of being able to observe, going back to that phrase "non judgemental". I answer in the extreme negative to all of these types of questions. I am measured. I don't have anger issues. But I do stop, and analyze the distressing thought, and actively decide what to do about it.

Now: Different answers to different questions. None of them get answered in the "extreme negative" anymore. There aren't huge changes here, but an uptick from "never" to "rarely" or "sometimes" (from 0/5 to 1 or 2/5). My measured, analytical mind is still the dominant force in my life. I've trusted it for a very, very long time. I still do. But, I've bought into the idea that many of my thoughts are just thoughts, one of those vague, random things that comes up in class over and over and eventually starts to make sense. So, sometimes I have a "distressing thought" and realize that its honestly just a thought that passed through my head that I can't do shit about. Now, if its stress about a situation, analytics are likely to take over, and I'm good with that. If its just some random bad thought/memory/whatever, or something I have no control over... and we don't have to be talking about something deeply distressing. Just minor stress is enough, there I notice an ability developing to let it go and not get wrapped up in it.

I think some of my emotions are bad or inappropriate and I shouldn't feel them. - There are a lot of questions like this. I answer slightly in the negative. I definitely have times where I say "I wish I didn't have that thought run through my head." I fuss at myself when I get "stuck" on a topic. Again, /shurg.

I find it hilarious to have /shrugged at this statement in the past. My answer has gone from slightly negative to slightly positive. But my perception of this has changed a lot. Having negative emotions is a stress in life. And again, we don't have to be talking about deep, dark things here. Little things add up. Adding judgement of what I'm thinking about, fussing at myself for letting my racing mind get stuck on a topic, these things actively generate additional stress for no reason. I'm much more calm about the things I don't like about myself, a nervous tic, the racing mind, noticing my thoughts wander from topic to topic aimlessly. These things still happen CONSTANTLY. Using mindfulness, I've learned to take pauses that sometimes slow these things down momentarily at times -- but only sometimes... sometimes my brain isn't going to slow down no matter what. The difference in beating myself up and wishing it wasn't that way vs noticing what's happening and accepting it is simply massive.

Lots of questions about being kind to yourself when you are suffering or being kind to yourself when you fail. In all cases I answer in the the extreme negative. I'm hard on myself. I expect myself to be good at things, and to succeed at anything I try. I frequently do not even consider this a flaw, if I'm honest. But I do recognize that I take it too far, my personality is too "all or nothing", etc.

Being kind during suffering vs being kind during failure are now separate ideas. If I feel like something isn't going my way, or if I'm hurting a bit... ok, no more exteme negative there, no more fussing at myself, there's a big change in my answers to those questions.

Now, if I fail at something, the analytical mind remains in power in the extreme there. Though I will say there is a better focus on "what can I do better next time" and a little less of the "way to go, dumbass".

In every other survey topic I've talked about here, I can describe having new options, or having a different perception available to me. In this one area, "failing at something", big or small, a game or a task at work, whatever, my view is the same. I'm competitive. I want to be right, I want to win, I want to get things done. If I don't, I don't want to accept that any more than I have to. I want to figure out what to do better next time, to figure out what went wrong this time. I still think this is, in every case I can think of, a good thing.

Those are the things I brought up when I answered the same questions before the class started. Interesting to see what's changed. Again, there will be a more organized set of thoughts on exactly what I feel i've gotten out of this class next week, this is a decent preview of some things I've been thinking about when i think about completing this course and this dynasty.

Last edited by Radii : 04-09-2015 at 12:54 AM.
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Old 04-15-2015, 12:15 PM   #105
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Sorry for the lack of updates. My final class was Monday but I haven't really taken the time to start writing the closing bits for this just yet. Today was root canal day, I see lots of hydrocodone in my immediate future.

I was kind of (ok, completely) zoned out for a couple sections of this last class, but I know what the high level general topics were, enough to be able to look up a thing or two online and summarize. Overall, it was a shorter class, we did a couple different types of meditations involving visualizations, and briefly touched on a couple topics that didn't come up during the previous 7 weeks.

I would expect the writeup on the class itself to go up Thursday or Friday, and then what I expect to be a very large set of impressions on the course as a whole, on my experiences over the last two months, on the ways I've noticed a difference in myself/my perceptions/my thought process as a result of what I've learned here, and what my plan is going forward with all of this. .. expect that over the weekend sometime.
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Old 04-16-2015, 11:50 PM   #106
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Bonus Class - April 13th, 2015

This is our 8th and final class. Called a bonus class because our instructor assured us that we learned everything in the main curriculum already, knowing that some people would be unable to attend this one. So the things here are likely things that would not necessarily come up in a normal 8 week course.

I believe the section on Self Talk may be pretty standard though, the instructor mentioned also that these classes all go in slightly different directions based on what the students share and ask for as we all start learning and experiencing things.

Visualization Meditation - Mountain

So these visualization meditations are apparently standardized and scripted. Here is what we did, maybe not word for word, but pretty close:

The whole thing was nice and relaxing. Though honestly at this point I enjoy the instructor's voice (very soothing in general, but down to earth, without feeling airy or spiritual), and the pacing whenever he guides us through new things.

There is a section mentioning..

seeing if you can bring the mountain into your own body sitting here so that your body and the mountain in your mindís eye become one

...this is a bit of a miss for me, as you might expect. The super abstract often is. It doesn't knock me out of the moment or make me lose my focus, but it doesn't "land" the way many other things we've done during various practices have.

Later on though:

In any season, it may find itself at times enshrouded in clouds or fog or pelted by
freezing rain. People may come to see the mountain and comment on how beautiful it is or
how itís not a good day to see the mountain, or that itís too cloudy or rainy or foggy or dark.

None of this matters to the mountain, which remains at all times its essential self. Clouds
may come and clouds may go, tourists may like it or not. The mountainís magnificence and
beauty are not changed one bit by whether people see it or not, seen or unseen, in sun or
clouds, broiling or frigid, day or night.

It just sits, being itself

This lands, and lands strongly. I find myself paying a lot more attention in this part, and find this description to resonate strongly with me. Sometimes with things like this I am not sure if its beneficial to overthink the why, but eh, I have thoughts, so they're getting shared. My first reaction to this is the knowledge that I am too self conscious in public, too easily embarrassed, I may not say things in a group setting that I *really* want to say because of this self consciousness.

But anyway, my gut reaction is that this is why this resonates w/ me. The mountain doesn't care, etc. I don't know though, and I'm not thinking about it past this, call it a change from this course. I had a reaction to this, and I noted it as part of my experience with this meditation, I don't really need to try too hard to figure out why.
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Old 04-16-2015, 11:56 PM   #107
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Join Date: Jul 2001

Mindful, by Mary Oliver

I didn't read the commentary after the poem on this site, hopefully its nothing inappropriate.

Daily Practice

Someone asked the instructor what his daily mindfulness practice is like. He describes a consistent morning routine:

-- Wake up, do some of the "office stretches" that we learned in an earlier week before getting out of bed. These are things like loosening up the wrists, ankles, neck, a small back stretch, then get up.
-- Shower
-- Sitting Meditation for 30 minutes
-- A few more gentle stretches for a few minutes that came from the sections we learned on "mindful yoga"
-- Breakfast, Off to work.

-- Work varies, but he describes frequently giving talks or teaching. During longer events, take relatively frequent breaks (I don't remember a timeframe but I'm guessing hourly). Give the students a break too. During the breaks, breathe, relax, think about something else, do some sort of stretching briefly that's appropriate for wherever you are.

-- Whenever working with people, practice "insight dialogue", the act of mindful speaking and listening, as often as possible. It seems like this practice is a huge part of how he interacts with others on a daily basis.

-- Nothing standard in the evenings.

-- A specific mention is made about the stretching, the idea of breaking this up throughout the day when there are free moments here and there, instead of having to try to scramble to find 20-30 minutes to do it all at once.

Followup Questions

-- A question is asked about caffeine and alcohol, does he try to eliminate these for a clearer mind. The answer is no, he's a craft beer enthusiast, and he drinks coffee daily, but does set a limit on the amount.

-- I ask (OMG THERE I GO TALKING AGAIN) if he always practices the same type of meditation, or if there is an intent to "mix it up". He says that he prefers the "choiceless awareness" meditation that we learned about last week (note: I couldn't remember the phrase, I described it as "open awareness" in last week's writeup), and that he tends to stick with that almost all the time.

-- I forget if it came up as a result of a specific question or not, but he talks a little about his own personal experience with meditation. Even after decades of doing this, its different every day. Sometimes there is a strong focus there, and sometimes his thoughts just won't stop, and everything is going a mile a minute. He does say that typically during a 30 minute meditation, even if things start out racing a mile a minute, at some point... estimating 15 minutes but unsure since there's no staring at a clock along the way... the thoughts will start to settle down and everything will slow down.

So a personal note here, I've very frequently, but not always, experienced the same thing, where I will notice my mind starting to slow down at some point while I'm meditating. I have typically been sticking to 15 minutes though, and realize that I do want to slowly work my way up to a half hour daily. I began this earlier today, setting my clock for 20 minutes instead of 15. Additionally, while I frequently notice things slowing down during the course of meditation, sometimes I notice the opposite. Sometimes I feel like I'm just ready to be done, and I start feeling very restless, and I can't seem to reign that in. Its different every day and doesn't necessarily seem to directly correlate to how I think I'm feeling when I start the process.
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Old 04-16-2015, 11:59 PM   #108
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Self Talk/Compassion

-- This is where the zoning out started that I mentioned in my previous post. I caught a lot of this though, I think. So none of this comes from looking anything up, its all stuff I remember. But, there may well have been things that I just completely missed out of this.

So Self Talk has the potential to be a big thing for me, it seems like it has the potential to be a big thing for everyone, at least everyone here. Self Talk is the voice in your head that says shit to you all the time. It can be positive, we talked about that a bit and a few people had examples of positive self talk, but obviously the big focus is on negative self talk.

Self Talk is basically any sort of "I'm not good enough" nagging voice that creeps in... whenever. Different people describe what this means to them. Personally, I have areas of my life where I have supreme confidence, but everywhere else, I tend to be more pessimistic or think less of myself than I probably should. A lot of this appears to be slowly changing as I get used to the fact that I'm 110 pounds lighter than I was a couple years ago, but its still an issue for sure. Speaking of that, its a big focal point of my own self talk. I still see myself and think of myself as the 360 pound dude, not the 250 pound guy who is still losing successfully. Its weird, but its also slowly changing.

-- A couple people offer things they've tried, from a stern "No" in reply to this voice of self talk, to finding something else in your head to listen to, turning the volume down on the negative voice and turning the volume up on the positive thing that's around there somewhere. That's surely not a skill i have right there.

-- The instructor brings this back to the idea of resistance. If you fight this negative talk in your head, it gets louder and is given more importance than it deserves. The suggested solution is, well, if you've read this entire dynasty by now, probably exactly what you'd expect. Acknowledge the self talk, perhaps even address it, like you are thanking your mind for offering its opinion in a sincere and compassionate way, and allow it to pass. Just like the discussion of pain, there is the idea that resistance makes things worse, but if you can accept that voice exists and calmly acknowledge it, you can lessen its strength.

"Dangers" of Mindfulness

We end the last section talking about compassion, and it segue's into a brief thought here. Regular mindfulness practice via meditation and all the other things we've learned in this class can have a couple effects on the opposite ends of a spectrum:

-- You build up an ego about the whole process. Oh, I've been meditating every day, I've been doing all these things, look at how great I am, look at how awesome I am. I'm so good at all of this. First of all, remember that huge non-judgemental tenent of mindfulness? Right. Also, how can you approach things with a real curiosity and with the beginner's mind tenant if you are convinced you're "excelling". Back to the idea that there is no specific aim of any of this, no mastery. You just work on things every day and the benefits will be there.

-- At the other end of the spectrum, with mindfulness practice, you become much more self aware. You see all your flaws, and you can't help but be hurt by them, or to see yourself in a very negative light.

The instructor mentions that most people tend towards one of these or the other, and that compassion and loving kindness is the solution to both sides, to keep your practice even.
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Old 04-17-2015, 12:15 AM   #109
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Join Date: Jul 2001
The Stuff I Completely Missed :P

-- There is a section on "Being vs Doing". You can google this and get lots of hits that go in lots of different directions. I don't think I can guess what we were talking about here based on google. Maybe I shouldn't even acknowledge this in this writeup Anyway, I was supremely distracted at this point because I had some stuff going on at the end of class and had totally stopped paying attention. Oops.

Visualization Meditation - Lake

This was the last thing we did in class. I didn't hear a single word of this either. Oops.

Lake Meditation Script

Its really impossible to give my thoughts on this one since I didn't actually experience it, so there's the link, and you can read it as well if you'd like!

The distractions were strong at the end, what can I say, it happens.

Class End/Closing Notes

Two final notes here as our last class ends:

1) The instructor mentions that he is available to us for one free coaching session at any time, be it a month from now or a year. A coaching session involves talking about our practice, asking any questions we'd like, discussing experiences or further practice, anything we want.

He mentions that this was always part of the deal, I think he does some "life coach" type stuff that leans heavily on mindfulness, he specifically mentions that he waits until the end to bring this up because it doesn't feel right using the class as an advertising tool for the work he does outside of this. A very nice contrast to the lady that I've met twice who has pitched a book and additional class each time.

2) One of the guys in the class sent out an e-mail to everyone late last week stating an interest in continuing to meet as a group on some sort of regular basis as a way to encourage and support continuing what we've learned here, and to talk about our experiences. It looks like there will be 10 of us doing this. Yup, us, myself included. Whether its a sign of how much I feel like I've gotten out of this class, or a sign of some legitimate growth and a bit of a lessening in my anxiety around a group (or something else entirely) I cannot say, but I have committed to meeting up to continue learning with this group of people. We're getting together in two weeks at the organizer's house in Chapel Hill.

Given that much of my writing about the orientation and first week was about how massively uncomfortable I felt about the group/social aspect of this class, that seems like an appropriate place to end things when talking about the last class.

Last edited by Radii : 04-17-2015 at 12:44 AM.
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Old 04-17-2015, 12:34 AM   #110
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So that was the last class, over the weekend I will work on organizing my thoughts about the entire experience and that will wrap this up!

Last edited by Radii : 04-17-2015 at 12:34 AM.
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Old 04-21-2015, 12:09 AM   #111
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Closing Thoughts

There's going to be a lot here to be said in closing I think. My intent here is to review each practice we learned in class, to touch on what I'm doing right now and what my hopes/intentions are as far as continuing to practice. Lastly, and probably most importantly, at least for dynasty purposes, what differences do I note in myself that I attribute to things I've learned in this class or from my actual practice with meditation so far.

Mindfulness Practices

-- I'll address these in the order in which we learned them for the most part.

Body Scan

I haven't done this in a long time. I'll talk more specifically about it when I get to what I'm doing right now and what I have some general aim to do in the future. This is the only practice that I pretty much require to be guided through. Everything else I can "do by myself". This one I need help. I find myself distracted during this more than with any other thing. More than any other practice, I go into this one with "expectations" the most. I know what I'm feeling on the surface. I know what's the most sore, what hurts the most, where I'm uncomfortable. Sometimes I struggle at all to get past that to observe what else is there for me.

I've commented a couple times that the practices that seem the most difficult may be practices I should dedicate some time to, they seem difficult for a reason that may be worth working on.

Mindful Eating

There are a couple practices where I have said "I already have other ways of dealing with this", or with the concerns a practice seems to aim to address. Mindful Eating seems a logical thing that someone who was extremely obese should maybe care about. But, honestly, I just don't, and have never for a moment been able to make myself care about this whenever I've tried it. Maybe I'll "re-discover" this at a later time in a different situation. For now, its just out.

Sitting Meditation

So I have a weird observation. Sitting Meditation/Mindfulness Meditation, it wasn't introduced with any sort of flourish. It wasn't the first thing we learned. It was introduced just as another thing you can do if you want. I find that interesting in retrospect. We started by learning to simply focus on our breath and acknowledge things that come up that distract from breath (usually thoughts, but sounds/sensations too). We've learned variations where we intentionally take the awareness away from the breath to these other things, thoughts/sounds/sensations/everything at once. Reading about mindfulness on the internet outside of class, seeing how many other things start with something similar to sitting meditation... this is now very obviously the core of daily practice. Do some people go through this class and decide they love the body scan and mindful eating and walking meditation but they hate this stupid sitting thing so they never do it again? Maybe... but that seems like its probably quite rare.

I enjoy this practice, a lot. I find it rewarding. I find it to be different every time I do it. Most strong reactions and strong experiences that I've had in my practice have come during this. Sometimes I sink into this and my 15 or 20 minutes goes by and my alarm goes off and I would have guessed that 3 minutes had gone by. Sure, that happens all the time when I'm on a big time autopilot. But to have that "time flies" experience when all I'm doing is sitting and breathing is fascinating. It doesn't happen often of course

Sometimes during this practice it feels like every bad feeling I've ever had decides to come up and hammer me over the head while I take away all my distractions. But it seems like those feelings are probably there for a reason, so I'll just observe them and let them be, and that feels rewarding too, even though it can be really emotional.

Most of the time, its not some amazing experience or some big thing worth writing down. Its just a thing I'm doing. But that feels good too.

And while I say all that, I recognize that I'm a complete newbie here still. There is so much more I have to experience and learn here, but even the very beginning of this process feels rewarding, and that's been nice.

Sitting Meditation Variations

So the "default" meditation is to simply focus on your breathing. Notice distractions as they come up, observe them, acknowledge them, return to the breath. That's it, that's the entire thing. But there are variations. You always start with your breath, but you can gently pull your focus from your breath and direct it elsewhere:

-- thoughts - my mind still races on me all the time, I'm just more ok with it than maybe i used to be. But that makes it very difficult for me to "aim" my focus at my thoughts, without just diving into them and getting distracted by them. This feels more "advanced" to me.

-- Sounds - This is an interesting thing to do. There are a lot of sounds everywhere. We did this at the day of mindfulness. Even though there was no speaking, total silence, there were still 25 people in a room, adjusting postures, breathing, air conditioning, etc. It was LOUD. That was a pretty neat experience.

-- Sensations - This gets dangerously close to that body awareness stuff for me. And I think we didn't actually do this in class, we just talked about it as an option?

-- Pain - Not specifically described as a sitting meditation technique, but when we discuss pain management that's basically what we discuss. A sitting meditation process where you gently direct your focus to your pain and play around with it.

-- Choiceless Awareness - This is the all encompassing "just follow along with whatever you happen to notice". There's an idea to just see what you do notice and allow yourself to go to it, not letting it pass by, but sitting with whatever comes up. This is complicated too. This seems more advanced, its just too easy if I try to think of things this way for me to just spiral off with my thoughts and never come back. Of course, the idea is to recognize when that happens, go back to the breath, and try again.

Meditating with pain I have specifically worked on a little here and there, but not in a concerted way yet, moreso just experimenting a few times. All of these other things I have really only done in a guided form in class, I haven't played with them much on my own.

Breathing Space

This was the first informal practice we learned. Informal meaning that its not planned, dedicated time to practice some form of mindfulness, instead its just something you decide to do in a moment.

I like the theory with this, a way to take a momentary break during your day. I also like the concept that its something you have to actively do over a minute or two at first, but you eventually learn to do it in seconds. In practice I have had a couple experiences with this where I said to myself "ok, your mind is really spinning right now, lets try this" and seen something happen as a result. I take a break, I breathe, I focus for a minute, then open back up and actually feel different.

Most of the time, though, not so much. But even with nothing that feels like a "result", it never feels like a bad thing to stop for a minute and breathe, so that's ok.

Walking Meditation

This is still at the top of the list of things that feels like hocus pocus, going back to a phrase that was used at the very start. Its weird. Its awkward, its funny looking. And its also body awareness. So I tend to not really care for it. Just like the body scan, its very possible that means I should look to do it more often. I have a really hard time doing this without having an expectation going into it, or without directing my focus entirely onto an area of discomfort, my right foot or left knee depending on how I'm feeling that day. These are all things that I would need to work on if I were to continue to do this. And I feel like I probably *should* try to find time to continue to do this. Will I? I dunno.

Mindful Yoga

Stretching is always good! Stretching mindfully is nice. Stretching slowly feels nice. So I do things from this category with some regularity. Its sometimes done "mindfully", but sometimes I admit I'm doing a few stretches I learned here while watching the latest episode of Mad Men. Listening to our instructor talk about his daily practice and working in stretching a little bit here and there throughout the day was helpful.

Loving Kindness Meditation

I've done this twice, guided both times. The first time at the day of mindfulness was a hell of an experience. A lot of people clearly had a really strong emotional response to this. I haven't tried to do this on my own, and haven't really thought about doing it on my own. Really though, that's only because it was the last thing we learned. I like this meditation, and I like the idea of doing something that has a focus on compassion, I don't think this is a "weak point" for me though, I certainly think of myself as a very compassionate person. So when I look at this growing list of things I could do on my own time, this doesn't seem to rise to the top.

Insight Dialogue

Also known as Mindful Speaking/Listening. Similar to mindful eating, this is something where I have done so much on my own to implement my own analytical thing that kind of mirrors this, that this process as a practice just feels incredibly awkward. I *never* speak without thinking, it just doesn't happen. I could be a better listener though, and I could see taking parts of this to remind myself to listen to the other person better in a conversation instead of starting my own internal dialogue about what I want to say next, etc.

-- So, back in the first week we were told that we would be learning a lot of things that we could try, and that some would resonate, and some wouldn't, and that we'd start to figure that out along the way. That we didn't have to like anything that we did, but that we were asked to just try things and be open-minded. And boy, this is indeed a LOT of stuff that we have done in the last two months.
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Old 04-21-2015, 12:12 AM   #112
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Join Date: Jul 2001
What I'm doing

So I've had about two weeks with no homework. Homework always makes it easy, right? There's a check-in process, a specific expectation of what we should be working on, even if it did get more and more open ended throughout the course. But now, we can do whatever we want. So we have this giant list of things from the previous post.

Remember, from the discussion in the bonus week, our instructor discussed his daily practice. He only mentioned 3 things. Mindful Yoga (stretching), Sitting Meditation, Insight Dialogue.

So anyway, since we stopped having specific homework:

-- I have been doing some stretching every day, though not always in a fashion that would be described as mindful. I'm trying to work towards copying the ideas from my instructor on stretching here and there for a couple minutes a number of times throughout the day.
-- Over the last two weeks there have only been two days that I haven't done at least 15 minutes of sitting meditation. This morning I did it for 25 minutes, working up to the 30 minute standard for most days.
-- I want to implement in my day is the use of breathing space to take breaks during the day, and to find moments to slow things down throughout the day. This is the most difficult thing for me to remember to do on a regular basis, because its not necessarily timed or planned.

If I try to do things on a schedule in the morning, its probably not going to happen. I hate mornings, and mindfulness is doing nothing to make me a morning person. I'm just likely to skip it. Instead, I'm looking to create space between work and play. I work from home as a software developer. I tend to spend much of my free time also on the computer. My current aim is to meditate after I'm done working for the day, before I start getting into any sort of hobby/gym/game/whatever.

-- When I read other people talk about mindfulness, I frequently read about people who are trying to just go all-in here. They want to completely overhaul their lives and to live every moment of every day mindfully. To *always* be in the present moment. I dunno. To me, that seems unreasonable. Its not a goal of mine. I'm not trying to put down other people's ideas or anything, and I have bought into tons of ideas from this class, but maybe not quite to that level.

One of the things I read for class that I never got around to summarizing here was a long list of ways to implement mindfulness into your daily life. Being mindful during mundane tasks, bringing yourself into the present instead of being off daydreaming while brushing your teeth, washing dishes, things like that. I honestly don't really have an aim to do that either. My "aim" instead is to be open minded, be open to the idea that my feelings about all this could grow over time, but right now I'm just looking for small easy ways to use this stuff in my days and see where it goes.

Other Potential Activities

-- I am going to be attending the first meeting with some of my classmates. We don't have a set long term plan for that. We're going to meet next Monday (4/27) and see what happens and figure out what we want to do. I think all of us are hoping to figure out something to do every couple weeks. I imagine us meditating together using a guided meditation off the CD we all got, and talking about our experiences, just a simple thing to encourage everyone to stick with it and have some people to talk with about things. But we don't have a specific plan so we shall see.

-- I haven't looked into meditation centers around the area, I'm curious about it, I may, unsure. We have a list of local centers that we were given along with our reading material. There are meditation groups on too. I'm a little scared of that though. The fact that I'm willing to go meet with the people from class who I am now mostly comfortable with is a pretty big thing for me. I'm not quite ready to go hang out with strangers outside of a classroom setting

-- The next Day of Mindfulness for the UNC programs is in June. The first one was such a positive experience that I feel like I will at least seriously consider this.

-- There are "advanced" courses taught at both UNC and Duke. I'm not interested in that yet, but I'm keeping that on the radar as well.
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Old 04-21-2015, 12:21 AM   #113
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Join Date: Jul 2001
How Have I changed as a result of learning about mindfulness

So, this is how we close out the dynasty.

I want to point out up front that I'm not some hugely changed person. Instead, I see a bunch of small things here and there, many of which may overlap, or I see ways that I am applying concepts I've learned here to analytical things. Maybe some of these turn into big things with more practice. Who knows where meditation will take me if I stick with it over the long term, which I really hope to do. I know just enough to be confidant that it will take me somewhere very positive.

I beat myself up less/fuss at myself less

So this is the big one for me. I'm not sure why this clicked for me so immediately, but it did. Both with big and little things. Big things being things where I feel like I'm failing, or not living up to my own standards, on some larger scale thing. Cheating on my diet, eating too much, knowing I could drop the final 25 pounds I have with ease if I were a bit more disciplined, but I haven't made it a priority. Going to the gym, sometimes I go 6 times a week, sometimes just once or twice. This had gotten really consistent, then faded off a bit. Working towards a deadline or goal at work. On smaller things, working on my mechanics in a video game, not being able to execute things I know I'm capable of. I have some bad habits I'm working on, the posture stuff in all kinds of settings. The nervous tic that won't seem to completely go away even though I can control it pretty darn well in front of other people. With all of these things any time I noticed them... and with the small habits that might be 10-20 times in a day, I would at best get annoyed at myself. Sometimes downright mad. So not only am I not doing what I want in a given moment, now I'm adding stress by fussing or yelling at myself. There's just no point in doing that. I still want to do everything well/right/perfect, so i still pay attention to these things, and I still try to do better, correct bad habits in the moment when I notice them, etc. But I don't give myself the additional stress that comes with an internal monologue of "WHY DO YOU KEEP FUCKING THIS UP".

This one just stopped... pretty much entirely, cold turkey. As I said, I don't really know what we did that got the idea across to me to stop this behavior, but I just don't do this anymore, at all. I can remember times where I'd get annoyed enough at myself that it would effect my mood.

On to the smaller things:

Overthinking/Analysis Craziness

One of the first things I talked about when I described myself in this dynasty is that I anaylze everything, I'm super logical and super analytical, and I don't think that's a bad thing. I still don't think its a bad thing in general, and I'll always be driven by logic over all. But now, I can use a lot of concepts I've learned in this class to anaylze better. Or to let something go instead of seriously overthinking.

-- A phrase that has come up throughout the class is viewing your "thoughts as thoughts". The idea being that so much of what races through your head is unconscious. That its a natural thing to do to fill in the gaps and create a story about what a conversation meant, what the other person was thinking. The other important piece of knowledge that I have comes from the section in the 2nd or 3rd week that I titled "the physiology of stress." Small stress created from small things because our unconscious mind is trying to protect us from danger is happening frequently throughout the day.

How does that stuff help me here? Its actually hard to point out detailed, specific examples. What I can say is that I have caught myself countless times in the last month saying to myself "huh, is this really worth the time I'm giving it in my head? This thing that's on my mind is actually pretty pointless, lets focus somewhere else".

Is that really mindfulness? Eh, I dunno. But its applying new understandings I have to take away the need to get stuck on things quite as much in my head, and that's a positive change.

Slowing Down

To put it simply, I am more aware of what's going on in my head. I may notice if I am thinking about 4 things at once, or just planning out the next day, or the next week, instead of paying any attention at all to what's happening right now. My mind still races around most of the time, I see hints that a long term meditation practice can give one some small control over that, but I'm not going out looking for it or anything. I have breathing space as an attempt at a "break". Sometimes after I do that my mind is immediately racing again. But still the momentary break is helpful. We learned a number of different ways in class that slowing down physically can help. Walk just a little slower, take a break racing from one distraction to another. Stop and do a little slow stretching.

A concrete example of a time when this worked, and worked perfectly: On a walk last week I had music playing and was thinking about something for work, what I was going to have for dinner, what I wanted to do after dinner later that night, and thinking about an e-mail I'd sent that hadn't been answered yet that was bothering me. Four things at once, none of which I could do anything about on my walk. Not unusual, and not really a huge problem on occasion. But in that moment I decided to see if I could do something different. I turned off my music, started walking at a slower pace, and decided I was going to make note of every tree I passed. Apply a little of that present awareness stuff. For whatever reason, in this moment, it worked completely. I stopped thinking about all of the stuff that was on my mind. I didn't have some transcendental experience or some "oh nature is amazing!" thing. It was still just a walk in an area I've walked 1000 times before. But my mind stopped wandering, I felt really, really calm. What is usually a 45 minute walk took 1 hour 15 minutes. I felt great the whole time.

That doesn't always happen. It doesn't always "work". And a walk on a nice evening is one of the easier things to bring mindfulness to. But it feels like the beginning of something.

I'm less rushed

This goes hand in hand with "slowing down", but its slightly different. I'm less interested in clinging to my distractions. I'm more willing to just hang out. To walk to the CVS near my house instead of driving, even if I've already gotten exercise that day. To take a little more time cooking even if it means a little less free time in the evenings. I used to find myself leaving the house for appointments at the last possible second, having to speed to be on time, or maybe even being late if there was any traffic problem. The idea of spending a single second more than necessary doing nothing, waiting on others, sounded terrible. Now I realize how much I hate that rushed feeling when I might be late, and if I get somewhere 10 minutes early, I can just close my eyes and focus on my breathing. Something akin to sitting meditation, though I'm not sure it "counts" in those settings. But it is calming, and I like doing it.

Body Awareness

I've mentioned this a ton, and it wasn't something I expected to even begin to get out of this class, but here it is. Its still a struggle for me. I still mostly notice pain, no pain, and nothing in between. But I can tell that I'm slowly... very, very slowly... becoming more aware of what parts of my body may be tense at any given time, even if they aren't hurting. I'm a little more aware of "pretty good" vs "perfect" posture, without having to get up and go stand against a wall to double-check myself. I'm a little more aware if I'm leaning forward or back, left or right when standing, if I'm putting more pressure/reliance on one area of my body to do a task than maybe I should. Again, I can't stress how small this is. Lets say from 0% awareness to 10%. But progressing up from 0% is nice! Months and months of physical therapy and massage therapy gets a lot of credit for this, but so do mindfulness practices where the focus is entirely to notice sensations in the body, the body scan and walking meditation.

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally - 2 months ago I could really only explain that definition by repeating what our instructor said about it. It didn't mean much of anything to me. Now, even though I may not choose to try to do it non-stop or anything, I do actually understand how much of my time is spent thinking about the past, or planning for the future, instead of just letting go and giving myself a moment here and there to be fully aware of what's happening right now. Sometimes, letting go of all of that stuff and really experiencing whatever is happening right now can be extremely rewarding.

That about wraps this up. In closing, I'll re-iterate that I haven't done anything magic in the last two months. 90% of my day is still exactly the same as it was before. But, Meditation feels like a pretty awesome thing to do on a regular basis. And, I have the ability to have a different perspective on many things that happen in life that I didn't have available to me before. I have a little more active choice to decide whether to stress about all kinds of things, big and small, and it feels like that has real potential to develop over time, if I keep doing this stuff, into something that I could potentially look back on as life changing. Maybe. Maybe not. I'll keep doing some of this stuff, and we'll see what happens!
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Old 02-20-2019, 06:19 PM   #114
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Austin, TX

Hi! How's it going with the meditation? I tend to read this in it's entirety, I'm fascinated by the many different programs out there for meditation. I'm all for trying different things to see what works.
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