'This Way Up' Programme materials and resources
Session 6: Taking Mindfulness into your Future
Keeping mindfulness alive
Mindfulness is a skill, and like any skill, regular practice helps keep it fresh and potent. To keep your mindfulness practice alive, you can make a few simple mindful activities a regular part of your daily routine. These don’t need to take any extra time, but they can really help you stay more present and to make wise choices, from moment to moment. For example:
On waking and before going to sleep, observe five mindful breaths.
Taking a few mindful breaths when you need to
Mindful eating - feel the food’s nourishment, taste and smell it
Bringing simple mindful awareness to routine physical activities
Using the three step breathing space – in as little as one minute
Practising mindfulness in ‘dead’ time – e.g. when queuing, or waiting for a train or bus, etc.
Making it your own
The ultimate aim of mindfulness is for you to lead your life in a way that feels right and meaningful to you – rather than according to some preconceived idea about how you should live. So as you carry on practising, remain open to which particular techniques work for you, and feel free to adapt them. It needs to feel alive and creative. So enjoy making it your own.
Practising with other people
Practising mindfulness alongside other people can help you keep up motivation – and you can learn from each other. You could do that with a group of people you already know, or join a meditation group in your area. Or you could do more formal training at a public centre. Some internet research should throw up some options in your local area.
It could be really helpful to keep reflecting and writing about what are ‘up’ and ‘down’ activities for you. Jot down thoughts in a notebook. This is like your ‘life manual’ – your guide for yourself on how best to live your life. Eventually you could write it all down in some kind of logical order if that’s helpful.
Selecting a meditation for each occasion
You may find that you want to keep listening to the guided audio meditations, and to choose which one to listen to at different times:
‘Waking up to yourself’ meditation: if you get a sense that you need just to re-establish some basic awareness
‘Working with thoughts’ meditation: if you notice that you’re caught up in a lot of negative thoughts
‘Acceptance’ meditation: if you’re aware that you’re finding it difficult to stay with something difficult
‘Wise choices’ meditation: if there’s a particular issue that’s troubling you that you need to get some fresh perspectives on
After a while you may not want to listen to the audio versions. Instead you could just set a timer for however long you want to meditate and follow the steps in your own mind in silence.
Advanced meditation – ‘open awareness’
As you mature with mindfulness, a more advanced approach you might try is called ‘open awareness’. This starts with the A of the ABC – grounding yourself in awareness of your breath and body (A). Then for the rest of the meditation, you stand back from your experience and simply observe what particularly calls for your attention – thoughts, memories, images, body sensations or emotions. Whatever comes up, make this the focus of the meditation. Turn towards it and give it more space. See what it might be trying to communicate to you. Then, when it’s no longer calling for your attention, return to awareness of the body/breath – until the next significant thing comes into your awareness.
In taking this approach, you are flexing two vital complementary aspects of mindfulness: focused awareness (depth) and broad awareness (breadth). You are reinforcing the essential mindfulness point that everything that comes up is worthy of attention. This also applies to many common difficulties that people experience in meditation including: drowsiness, low concentration, boredom, anxiety, fear, restlessness etc. They are not ‘problems’ to be avoided or fought off. So you can just allow yourself to notice what they feel like in your body. By doing this, you can find out something interesting about your usual patterns of thoughts and feelings.
It’s best to do this meditation without any audio guidance, so there’s no guided meditation for this. So you can just sit in silence with a timer. If you find this approach to meditation hard at first, you can always return to a more focused awareness of your body and breath.
Ongoing Home Practice
1. Meditation – work with a combination of any of the main meditations – either with or without the audio guided versions.
2. Daily mindfulness – refer to the suggestions above
3. Getting to know yourself better – keep writing your ‘life manual’, as described previously.
4. Keep doing something different – use your imagination!
Mindful movement video