Seasons Greetings to you all!
This time of year, as in the last session of the 8 week course, it is a time for reflecting on the past as well as looking forwards to the future.
A lot has happened with TMG in 2018, and a lot more is already planned for 2019!
Tenterden's Newest Charity
The biggest news to tell you is that we are now Tenterden and Mindfulness' newest charity!
The decision to apply to become a charity was made some time ago, but these sorts of things take time and quite a bit of work. The reason for becoming a charity was to make it clear what our objectives as a group are: to improve health and well-being through supporting Mindfulness practice and possibly research into Mindfulness in future, and to clarify that TMG has been established purely for charitable purposes for the public benefit.
I am very grateful to the current Board of Trustees, the committee who came before them and to all of you for enabling this to happen. So what is next?
Well, as I keep banging on about (!), Mindfulness really is all about the practice and the learning that comes from stepping back and noticing what's going on. Easy eh? Well not really and my experience this morning may illuminate why I still practice , and why you are still reading this.
I am on leave this week and had planned various pre-Christmas activities. The sensation of the scratchy throat on Monday heralded the ensuing cold, cough and aches that always seem to occur when I have time off - quite amazing how in some way the body's immune system knows when to let it's guard down - or maybe that's just me! Anyway, it's not much fun having a cold - well technically it's ManFlu, whatever my wife says, and I have a few more letters after my name so I must be right on that one!
I woke up this morning feeling tired, fairly miserable and not very mindful. In fact the thoughts of a wasted day, about whether I was getting enough attention from those around me,the feelings of tiredness, sneezing, painful coughing and a heavy head etc were building and before I'd even rose from my bed the mood of irritation, frustration and resignation had set in.
My wife and I had planned a morning at a spa followed by some Christmas shopping, but not wishing to sneeze all over the therapist, I had cancelled my session the day before. In the mood of this morning I could not see beyond just staying at home and probably feeling pretty miserable most of the day. I knew this wasn't going to be helpful, but it was where I was at.
When we get into such moods, as you may recollect from the course, the motivation to do what may help us is often lacking, so we need to act BEFORE we may FEEL like it. So I decided to do a morning practice.
I often sit in silence now, which has something that has changed in my own practice over time. But I use the same principles that we all learnt during the 8 week course, and the biggest thing is to allow whatever is there to be there and to look at it. And when I stopped, there was a lot to look at.
Many of the lessons of the 8 week course were there in all their glory. We are continually forgetting and then relearning those lessons each time we practice. I also learnt again that the most memorable lessons often arise on the ground of difficult experiences, like this morning. So what did I notice?
How the sensations of a heavy head, aching body etc can fuel negative thoughts, which fuels negative moods, which affects our behaviours and how easy it is to keep throwing those logs on the fire.
That by stopping throwing the logs on, by sitting and just noticing what was going on, allowed those flames to settle. Moods, feeling etc change and the natural way of things is for them to pass - if we don't keep them going ourselves and get busy about it.
That more frustrated with myself about how I was acting this morning, how others were acting etc (I'm a Mindfulness teacher for goodness sake!) was not helping and that actually the key to it all was to bring that quality of kindness to my experience, which came when I paused and directly sensed what was going on.
That when we are tired, or worried, or feeling annoyed, or doubting, that is the time when it is most difficult to be mindful and yet that is when we have so much to gain.
And so as I sat I noticed some thing shifting, not because I was hoping the practice would change things, but just because of how I was relating to my experiences changed.
And the outcome? Well the morning has taken on a whole different shade to how I had thought it would pan out just 2 hours ago. I dropped my wife off at the spa and popped into John Lewis to sip a flat white as I write this blog. 2 hours ago it was another groan task to do, yet now is a wonderful opportunity to share something which has been so helpful in my life. And the shopping is back on!
I still have a heavy head, I still ache, I am still sneezing into my coffee and I may head home for a mince pie by the fire a little earlier than planned (I'm not a great shopping fan), but that practice this morning, those few minutes, transformed my day. It's changed how I relate to my experience, and for me that is the greatest gift I could receive this Christmas.
Tomorrow I may forget again which is why it is so helpful to keep this practice going. And this is where TMG can help ?
As well as the monthly sitting groups, where we are fortunate to have many excellent local teachers offering their own perspectives on Mindfulness, we are all set to trial another opportunity to practice together at a different time and day, as I am aware many people find the evening sitting groups difficult attend.
The Saturday Sit will be a shorter 45 minute session starting at 08.15 am on Saturday mornings and ending by 09:00 am. They will be held in the same place as the regular sitting groups - downstairs at West View. I will take this as an opportunity to lead a practice or maybe play some guided practices from world renowned Mindfulness teachers. I am hoping to run this twice a month initially, and Penny, our administrator, will send out a reminder a few days before each session as well as posting the meeting dates on our website.
The first one will take place on Saturday 12th January 2019, followed by another on 26th January. Practicing as a group can be really supportive and this session will be focused on the practice alone. It can be interesting to see how starting the weekend with a period of stillness can impact on your day and hopefully is at a time that still allows for whatever you normally have planned on a weekend.
As for the monthly groups they will continue to be held downstairs at West View (see our diary page for dates) and just turn up if you can make it.
As a charity we do ask for donations,as you are able, to help support the work we do. For example, we offer bursaries to people who may otherwise not be able to afford our 8 week courses, and where external teachers lead our sitting group, the costs to TMG are £160 per session.
We want to continue to expand what we can offer to our group and want to be able to use the best possible resources. Your support is much appreciated, and you can be reassured that one of the main tasks of our Trustees is to ensure that all funds are used appropriately and in the best interests of the charity.
Stress Reduction & Compassionate Living Courses
One of the other ways to deepen your practice can be to consider taking another 8 week course:
Barbara Hussong is teaching a Compassionate Living follow-on course, for those of you with an established daily practice, in March 2019, which might be a lovely Christmas present to yourself.Click here for more details.
Many people who have done a 2nd course report how it can really help refresh what was originally learnt and can illuminate their practice of Mindfulness in new ways. Details for both courses, and lots more, are on the website.
There is always something to learn, no matter what stage you are at, which is why the Mindfulness path is not something you ever reach the end of. And that path is always there to be rejoined if you've stepped off of it for whatever reason.
I will end with a quote from the end of session 8 of the Frantic World course, which I have just finished teaching the teachers at St Michaels school...
" Practise as if your life depended on it, for in many ways it does. For then you will be able to live more fully the life that you have, and live it as if it truly mattered."
We are always practising something. What are you going to practise in 2019?
With very best wishes