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The Six Stages of a Mindful Swim…

by Tessa Wardley

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully engaged in the present moment, letting distractions pass as you focus on what you are doing right here and right now; making the most of life and living in the moment.

When we go for a dip in the wild world we have the perfect opportunity to engage with ourselves in the present moment.

The water and the wildlife combine with the physical activity of swimming to provide the perfect combination of factors to help disengage with the frustrations of the past and the worries of the future.

By engaging with the following steps you can make the most of your swim and be well on the path to zen.

STAGE 1 – On your way

As you travel to your swim savor the anticipation and make your preparations and approach into a meaningful ritual.

Think about why you have chosen to swim and what steps you have taken to make space in your day for this adventure.

Think about your journey to the water and dwell a moment on the water’s journey here – clouds, rock layers, rain, snow, ocean currents, river channels…

 

STAGE 2 – Stripping off

As you get to your wild swim take your time and enjoy every sensation as it develops.

Enjoy each moment.

As you shed your clothes, shed the stresses and constraints those clothes may signify, peel off the layers and get ready to leave it all behind.

Focus on the sensations of air on the skin and the earth between your toes.

Think about how you are feeling… you may feel excited or maybe you are anxious and trepidatious, whatever the sensation, they are beginning to displace the distractions of everyday life and you haven’t even hit the water yet.

Stage 3 – Teetering on the edge

Before you set off on your swim stop on the edge of the water, close your eyes and take a moment to breathe.

Breathing is one of the most automatic of actions, life-sustaining but often unnoticed; in-out, in-out.

Breathing control is fundamental to meditation and for swimming.

The first action of entering cold water is often to lose our breathing rhythm, we tense up and our breathing becomes shallow and irregular, sometimes we even forget to breathe for a bit.

Stand on the bank and focus on keeping your breathing regular and even, in through the nose and out through the mouth.

As you breath try counting your breaths….

Be aware of the air flooding into your body and expanding your chest.

Stage 4 – Get Immersed

As you relax into a steady breathing rhythm open your eyes and start to get in the water.

Try to maintain your breathing pattern as you lower yourself in.

Notice any tension around your diaphragm and chest and try to keep all the breathing muscles relaxed, lengthen your neck, push out your chest and allow the air to flow smoothly into your lungs.

Feel the sensation of the water on your skin and wriggle your toes into the ground to give yourself a good solid base.

Wild swimming challenges the body and the mind in ways we otherwise rarely experience, so start slowly and enjoy every challenge as it presents itself.

Feel every sensation and log it away as a bright memory to be taken home and cherished, to bring out and dwell on at the end of the day.

Stage 5 – Get swimming

Once you have relaxed and found a calm rhythm in your breathing, think about lifting your feet from the bottom, finding your buoyancy and starting to swim.

Continue to focus on your breathing.

Feel the air expanding your lungs as you breathe in and bubbling through the water as your breath out.

Whatever your stroke, you need to find your rhythm to get the most from your swim.

Swimming strokes that flow smoothly and rhythmically are the fastest and most energy-efficient; they are also essential to your mindfulness practice and to get in the flow.

If it helps swim to the rhythm of a song.

Let the beat dictate your breathing and fit your arm stroke to your breathing and the leg cadence will take care of itself.

Enjoy the marriage of your breathing and the stroke with the beat of the music.

Stretch out and have fun, just go with the flow.

Stage 6 – The afterglow

After your swim is when you will really start to reap the rewards.

Positive feelings flood your system as the endorphins surge around your body converting your pre-swim angst into post swim elation.

Feelings of well-being and positivity wash over you as you stretch out on the bank.

Focus on these emotions, try to keep them with you as long as possible, but know that whenever you swim you will always leave the water feeling better than you did when you arrived.

Just knowing that those positive feelings are only a dip away can be immensely reassuring.

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By Tessa Wardley, author of The Mindful Art of Wild Swimming: Reflections for Zen Seekers.  Published by Leaping Hare Press. Find in any good bookshop or online here.

 

 

 

 

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Interested in writing for Mindspace? Apply here.

Mindspace Training Feedback – Xoserve

Listen to Harina Basra from Corporate Responsibility within Xoserve talk about the Mindspace Training that is taking place within their organisation.

Apply for this training here.

Mindfulness and Cycling

The Ride of your Life.

by Nick Moore

The link between cycling and mental health has been recognised since the sport’s very earliest days.

The first true modern bicycle, the Rover Safety, rolled onto the road in 1885. Just 11 years later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, no less, was moved to write in an article for Scientific American:

‘When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking’. 

What he was really talking about, of course, was mindfulness: being entirely present, fully engaged with where you are and what you’re doing at that precise instant – and nothing else.

More than a century on, the bicycle remains a supremely effective, enjoyable and human way to maintain what the Roman poet Juvenal famously termed mens sana in corpore sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body.

“So whatever it consists of, your ride today will be enough. You don’t need to call it anything, get dressed up, pin on a number, record every detail, set a personal best or receive a free goody bag at the end. Nor do you need to film it in order to make it real. All that matters is that you were there.”

Unlike most other sports and activities, cycling is something you can take part in entirely at your own pace, alone or in company, and without any element of competition.

It requires little by way of specialist equipment, and no particular physical gifts.

There are no membership fees, no opening hours, no minimum commitment, and you can do it right from your own front door, any time of day (or night) all year round, whatever the weather. It is always there when you need it.

“By accepting whatever the elements throw at us, we grow as cyclists, and as people. It also helps us forge a deeper bond with the bicycle – as true partners, not just fair-weather friends.”

From a purely physiological perspective, riding a bike produces feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and cannabinoids in the brain.

Regular riding also helps keep hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in check, reducing your stress levels and enabling you to deal with anxiety more easily.

Scientists still don’t fully understand the mechanisms involved – but they and countless cyclists know beyond doubt that it works.

Unlike medical professionals, partners or therapists, the bicycle is a machine, so it is entirely neutral, impartial and non-judgemental.

The fact that it simply ‘is’ can help us simply ‘be’, too.   As it has no moods and requires no appointment, the bike stands ready to help us with whatever is on our mind at any given time.

We have no need for doctors or pharmaceuticals: we can be our own physician, and write our own, entirely natural prescription.

“The bike doesn’t care, the mind whispers, so why should we? Hence there is always the temptation to push that little bit harder, go that little bit further.  To do so mindfully is to find that precise point of balance between what we can do, and what we just can’t.”

Sometimes, that will be nothing more than a gentle spin around the block to settle the dust of a hectic day.

At other times, it might be an all-day marathon, a one-for-the-ages epic in a biblical downpour, or simply going full-bore for ten miles and leaving it all on the road.

The bike doesn’t mind. And if you don’t require it at all for a day, or a week, or half a lifetime, it’s happy to wait patiently until you do.

What’s more, quite apart from riding, almost every aspect of cycling can become a meditation.

Getting ready for a ride has its own rituals that switch us unconsciously from civilian to cyclist: a mental shift of gears, so to speak, in which we make a transition from one energy state to another; from the potential to the kinetic.

Making some basic pre-flight checks reconnects us physically and spiritually, elevating the bike from passive, servile machine to equal partner in the coming enterprise.

When we get home, giving the bike a quick rub-down, re-lube and once-over is a chance to decompress and gather our thoughts before re-entering ‘Real Life’.

Even a roadside puncture can be an opportunity for learning and growth, whether you fix it yourself or fall back on the kindness of strangers.

“Dealing with a puncture restores a sense of self-reliance and self-sufficiency we’re rapidly losing in today’s hi-tech world.”

The bike is all things to all people, and will be whatever you want and need it to be.

For many of us, it represents freedom: an escape from home, work, the phone and the inbox – a chance to drop out of time, regain our anonymity and disappear for a while.

It is about reconnecting with feelings, physical sensations and the world around us, confronting fears and limits, overcoming challenges and becoming self-reliant and independent – all fundamental to our mental wellbeing.

It allows us to recapture a sense of childlike wonder, turn back the clock to simpler, more innocent days; to be in nature, and gain new insights into the physical laws that shape our universe and our place within it.

“To be mindful is to identify, accept and understand what’s under our wheels right now. It is also to recapture the magic we knew and believed in as children. And how many things in our busy, rational lives can promise us a miracle like that?”

The awareness we develop on the bike can help us to detach ourselves from desire, regain perspective, escape entrenched thought patterns and view ourselves and the world more objectively.

It’s raining. It’s cold. This hill is steep. The bike is working normally. No value judgments, no good or bad, right or wrong. The moment is sufficient unto itself.

Enjoy the ride!

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Nick Moore is a cyclist and cycling journalist.
His new book, Mindful Thoughts for Cyclists (which is quoted in this post), is published by Leaping Hare Press and is available now.

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Apply to write for Mindspace here.
Read more posts.

 

Meditation and Painting

by Elsa Houghton

To practise meditation early in the day gives me enormous inner peace and stillness.

That feeling stays with me throughout the day, supporting me in everything it brings.

When I paint or draw pictures it seems that this same inner stillness helps me in making the work, it seems that I ‘draw’ from this inner source.

For me, painting and drawing is a silent process, mostly looking and making decisions.

Meditation is and has been of great benefit to me and my work.

It has given me increased confidence, made me more decisive and able to focus for long periods.

Problems in a piece of work are more easily overcome.

But it happens intuitively and wordlessly by feeling my way around the image, moment after moment, mark after mark, it’s completely absorbing.

When stepping back to look and assess it seems like I have been meditating in some way.

I am not saying that painting and meditating are the same thing.

I believe drawing or painting is one way of making your mind quiet when it is tired of the constant stream of thought going on, it is a way of shutting it up!

Most children draw and paint freely and are naturally without inhibitions about good or bad and get totally absorbed in it until you hear: ” Finished! ”

Then it’s handed it over, a present for you, they forget all about it and go on playing.  If we were lucky, we did that too in our childhood.

As adults, we can recognize and re-connect with that feeling of total absorption when we are doing ordinary daily tasks like gardening, sewing, cooking, polishing a floor and so on.

That’s when we are being mindful and the ordinary things we do, become extraordinary.

So, meditation is of great benefit to any artwork I do and for developing ideas for artwork.

But it is not a guarantee that it will always go well, nor of a successful outcome.

The pleasure is mostly in the doing.

I have been drawing and painting since childhood.

My first experience of meditation was in the late 1960 ‘s when meditation became really widespread thanks to The Beatles coming back from India where they had learnt meditation techniques from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  They advocated meditation as a path to inner and world peace.

Since that time I meditated on and off, reading and learning more.

Only for the last 15 years have I been a ‘serious’ meditator – meaning that I meditate every day.

By chance, I met Adam Dacey and started going to his classes on Buddhism, Zen and Mindful Meditation delivered with his boundless enthusiasm and humor.  Giving me the encouragement and determination to carry on.

Meditation is a wonderful and vital part of my daily life.

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Elsa Houghton is a talented artist/illustrator and former University lecturer.

You can see some of her work here.

Interested in writing for Mindspace? Apply here.

 

 

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Mindfulness Practices for Urban Dwellers

by Keri Badach

If you are an urban dweller, you can probably relate to the chaos that comes with city living.

We are constantly surrounded by all kinds of distractions coming at us from every direction and assaulting all our senses.

How do we get calm in the midst of the bright lights and incessant sounds of the city, so we don’t get swept away in a sea of distractions?

Having a daily, formal mindful meditation practice enables us to focus, so we can become grounded and act intentionally.

However, we can do even better by taking our practice off the cushion into our everyday experiences.

Instead of just sitting and meditating for 5-10 minutes a day, we can also find moments to be mindful throughout the day by actually paying attention to the objects around us.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

    • Feel the water kiss your face during your morning shower, as you wash away the activities of yesterday.
    • Get out the kinks caused by your stiff mattress with some mindful stretching.  Breathe in as you expand your body, breathe out as you contract.
    • Take time to sit and prepare a healthy breakfast.
      Whether it’s at home or in your office cubicle, take a moment to reflect with gratitude on all it took to get your food to your belly.
      Take the time to see, feel, smell, touch and taste your bounty.
    • Walking down the same street can seem like the same experience every day, but every time is actually a completely new experience.
      Really pay attention to all the sensations in your body and everything around you.  Challenge yourself to notice something new.
    • Focus your attention on your footsteps as you rush along to compete with the morning crowds.
      Or instead, place your attention on the sounds of emergency vehicle sirens, car horns and endless tidal waves of verbal chatter.
    • Take a moment to stop and smell the delicious aromas coming from the food cart vendors, or the whiff coming from your cup of joe or matcha latte du jour.
    • When you’re waiting for the subway to come, instead of reaching for your phone or pacing anxiously across the platform, feel your feet firmly planted on the ground and do a quick body scan, noticing how you feel in your body.
    • When you arrive at the office, take a breath as you reach for the door knob and perhaps try to develop a sense of appreciation, knowing that your growing peace and calm will benefit all those you interact with.
    • In your work meetings and/or conversations with friends and colleagues, actually listen to what people are saying, without thinking of what to say next.
    • Single-task.  (Studies repeatedly show you’ll actually be more productive and make fewer mistakes than when you’re multi-tasking.)
    • When you’re waiting in line to buy your lunch salad or green smoothie, rather than continuously checking your watch, bring your attention to the natural sensation of your breath to take your mind out of any stress from the morning or anxieties about the afternoon.
    • After work, prioritize some self-care activities on your to-do list.
      Take a short walk in the park, move your body, put on music and dance like no one is watching, work on a creative project and/or take a hot bath.
    • As you lie in bed to close out the night, take a moment to reflect with gratitude on some of the wonderful things you experienced during the day, feel the cozy wool blanket swallowing you up and then allow the rising and falling of your hands against your stomach, lull you into a deep slumber
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Article by Keri Badach.
Keri lives in New York City and works at Colombia Business School.

Keri has taken the Mindspace training programme and is now teaching in Upper West Side, Manhattan.

Visit Keri’s website here.

Interested in writing for Mindspace? Apply here.

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Why Mindfulness can help you if you are a busy Mum (working or not).

by Fabienne Vailes

I discovered mindfulness after the birth of my second child who will turn seven next month.

When we came home the next day, I remember the distinctive feeling and worry about not being able to cope and my emotions being all over the place.

These feelings stayed with me for a long time and led me to a series of training courses (first NLP – practitioner and Master practitioner).

I was introduced to Adam by a friend who explained all the great work Mindspace does with introducing Mindfulness to schools.

I am a language teacher so this really sparked my interest.

In 2012, I embarked on a real journey and took my first steps into Mindfulness.

I developed my own regular practice and trained with Adam to be able to teach and lead my own meditations.

To say that Mindfulness has completely changed my life is an understatement.

As a busy mum of two children, who works full-time, mindfulness has brought me out of my life on autopilot.

I now get up early every day and meditate for fifteen-minutes before every one gets up and I also try to meditate in the evening before going to bed.

Some days I don’t do as much but I definitely see the difference if I don’t create time to sit down and BE.

Giving myself ‘me time’ and a ‘space to BE’ has become the bedrock of my practice.

Initially, the thought of taking fifteen-minutes out of my ‘busy’ schedule was completely inconceivable and I often thought I ‘didn’t have time to meditate’.

Now I know that every minute I give myself to appreciate the now and the present moment will benefit not only myself but also all those around me with whom I interact on a daily basis. If I am much more present, my relationships improve. It’s a win-win situation.

Mindfulness is the non-judgemental awareness of the present moment.

It requires us to focus on the object of our meditation single-pointedly and to bring our attention back to it every time our mind wanders (which happens very often and is completely normal, by the way).

My favourite meditations are mindful listening and mindful breathing which require to listen to the sounds around us (like the ticking of the clock as I type this or the sounds of the birds on this lovely sunny and bright spring morning) or to notice the sensation of our breath in our body (the slightly warmer air as it comes out of our nostrils and the colder air as we breathe in) respectively.

Meditating makes me feel alive, alert, and vibrant.

It also makes me aware of my connections to others, to nature and most importantly that everything is transient and that change is the only constant.

Every day I recognise that the only guarantee is this moment, right now and it makes me want to appreciate every minute I have because I don’t know what the future holds (and I also know that there’s no guarantee tomorrow will come).

I also love practising gratitude and my boys and I have a great game we play every night.

We look at 3 to 5 things that went well during our day and what we are grateful for.

It cannot be the same things every day and it certainly makes us appreciate how lucky we are and how many great things there are in our lives rather than moan about what went wrong and what we don’t like in our lives.

Finally, I believe that mindfulness has become a ‘way of life’.

I also try to introduce several moments in the day when I stop and notice either the sounds around me, my breath or I simply close my eyes and ‘be’ whilst I am making a cup of tea and am waiting for my tea to ‘brew’.

Many of my friends and family tell me how much I have changed in these last 7 years. I agree with them.

Mindfulness has made me aware, more appreciative of myself, my family, friends and all the things I have in my life. I said before, there is no way I would want to go back to my previous way of living on autopilot, not aware of my thoughts and emotions.

There is no right way or wrong way of practising Mindfulness.

The main thing is to be willing to try and find what works for you in your busy schedule and to notice the changes and benefits it brings into your life.

All it requires us to do is to ‘sit and be.

It can be for 1 minute only at the beginning.

Surely we can all find one minute to give ourselves when we give others most of our time throughout the day.

We are called ‘human beings’ not ‘human doings’ but in this frantic world with the constant connection via the Internet, our phones, social media we seem to have forgotten.

I truly believe that when we stop and are more, we start enjoying life much more. Why don’t you give it a go?

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Fabienne Vailes is Deputy Language Director in French at Bristol University and teaches Mindfulness to Students at the University, she has translated and recorded a series of Mindspace meditations into the French Language.

You can visit her website here.

 

 

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Interested in writing an article for mindspace? Apply here.

News from Mindspace – 19th April

Dear friends,

Hope that you had a relaxing Easter break and gave yourself some Mindspace!

Great news – Mindspace Training is now available online for your team!

If you are interested in the online training that we have carefully designed to help your staff increase mindfulness and resilience, then please fill in this form.
We look forward to hearing from you.

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We have engaging new articles, by some great writers over on the Mindspace website.

Mindfulness for all Ages by Neuroscientist, Daniel Fulton.

Mindfulness and Physiotherapy by Physiotherapist, Sarah Duncton.

Meditation for Beauty by Beauty Therapist, Cassie Brewer.

Clear Water Meditation audio and article.

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Next week live classes and retreats start across the Midlands and London.
This includes an early morning and after-work session in Birmingham.

If you live further afield you can now follow them online.
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Follow on Facebook for daily updates.

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Have a good one and hope to see you soon.

Best wishes

Adam Dacey

Mindspace Training Request

Clear Water

Listen to the article.  Read below the player.

by Adam Dacey

Many of the mindful meditations that are offered in our eight week mindful beginners course are simple to understand and appreciate, the explanations are straightforward and direct, delivered in everyday language, free from jargon.

The just sitting practice which has been explored in the article – The Best Meditation Practice for a Busy Mind – entails us just sitting and observing what is happening.  In some respect, not-doing.

In the mindful breathing training, we try to simply abide with the sensation of the breathing, following the process as it enters and leaves our body.

The challenge comes in trying to step back and not believe the complex thoughts that arise in our mind.  These conceptions are often related to our meditation ability.  Judging our practice and progress.

Believing any preconceptions that we may have about meditation practice can lead to worry.

Our stressed and anxious thoughts can convince us that we need to do more than simply follow the instructions or that we are not suited to the training.

Or we may recall previous meditation instructions learned, which offer a slightly different explanation – thus creating confusion in our mind.

Our mind is like water in a lake, the base of the lake is muddied, the appearance is clear if the water is not disturbed.

If the water is disturbed by the movement of over thinking or applying too much effort to gain experience, then the water of our mind is no longer clear.

Less is often more and this applies to mindful meditation.

As Yoda stated; ‘You must unlearn, what you have learned.’

Letting go of any thoughts that we may have about our practice and allowing the simplicity of the training to influence us.

The key to making progress and experiencing first-hand, all the well documented benefits of meditation practice, is being able to establish a habit over time, which will start to influence our way of thinking and redirect our mind.

We begin to settle into the simplicity of the practice.  The noise in our head regarding the practice is not pushed to one side, it naturally pacifies as we sit.

One comment that is often made about meditation, especially from beginners, is ‘I am finding it hard.’

With an understanding of our mind, we can appreciate that this is just a thought passing, we can believe it or let it pass.

The same can be said for a mind that thinks ‘this is boring.’
It is just a state of mind, we can believe it and follow the thought or let it pass.

The ability to let the thought pass comes with being able to step back in our practice.

Our mind is continually making discrimination about our self and the world around us, these can often lead to judgements.

Mindfulness is a non-judgemental awareness.

We are training in being able to develop this ability.

It is natural to have thoughts arising in our practice saying, ‘I am not doing this correctly’, or ‘I am not good at this.’  We can learn to let them pass.

The instructions are simple, the practice becomes easy with familiarity.

Familiarity arises overtime.

With mindful meditation, the key is being able to patiently dwell in the moment and let whatever judgements and commentary pass, the mud in our mind settles and with patience, the clear-water of our mind will arise naturally.

Take the eight-week online mindful course here.

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Interested in writing an article for mindspace? Apply here.

Mindfulness and your Pets

Today is #NationalPetDay !

Let’s take a look at Harvard’s Health team, great post on how spending time walking with your dog can help you with your Mindfulness practice – take a look here.

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