Here is a outline of the typical syllabus that we cover in our courses.
We spend much our time on “automatic pilot,” with our thoughts compulsively following habitual patterns that reinforce distressing emotional states. Mindfulness begins when we recognize our tendency to be on automatic pilot, and make a commitment to stepping out of it in order to be aware “in the moment.” As we practice deliberately becoming more aware of our bodies, we notice the strength of our mental and emotional habits, and realize that this simple shift to mindfulness can be very rewarding, but can also be hard to maintain.
“Dealing with barriers.”
As we continue to focus our awareness on the body, we see the chatter of the mind more clearly, and begin to notice how our thoughts shape our emotional experience. In the second session we deal with the issues involved in setting up a regular practice of mindfulness meditation, including problems that participants have experienced in their daily practice.
“Mindfulness of the Breath.”
As we learn to accept the seemingly endless chatter of the mind, we discover that intentionally bringing our awareness to the breath helps us to become calmer and less scattered. We begin to notice how the breath and emotional states are interrelated, and how an awareness of the breath leads to greater emotional peace.
The scattered state of the mind is related to our tendency to want to escape unpleasant experiences and to cling to pleasant experiences — reactions that happen automatically. Mindfulness offers a way of relating to our experience with more deliberate awareness and equanimity. We learn not to become despondent about unpleasant experiences nor to cling to pleasant ones. Instead we find a calmer and more stable place from which to relate to our experiences.
Relating differently to our experience involves learning to “allow it to be” just as it is, without making harsh judgments about it or trying to make it different. This kind of attitude allows us to be kinder to ourselves, avoiding blame. It also allows us to develop more wisdom, as we learn to see what, if anything, does need to change. We learn to extend the “calmer and more stable place” that we have previously connected with.
“Cultivating patience and kindness.”
Condemning ourselves for being less than perfect leads to a great deal of wasted energy and inner stress. It also leads inexorably to conflicts with others, since we condemn in others what we dislikein ourselves. With mindfulness, we can learn to cultivate more accepting, patient, and kind emotional responses to our experience. This helps us to have more appreciation for ourselves and others, and helps us to overcome conflicts with others.
“Thoughts are not facts.”
Negative thoughts induce negative moods, and vice versa. Mindfulness allows us to realize that our thoughts are just thoughts, and that they are not objective descriptions of how the world is. This realization liberates us, allowing us to stop our thoughts from inducing emotions of frustration, anger, despondency, depression, etc.
“Using what has been learned.”
An ongoing mindfulness practice is a valuable support for a balanced life. Appreciating the benefits that we have experienced so far, and formulating plans to maintain the momentum of our practice will help us to develop the motivation to take care of ourselves in future.
For more details, contact us.