Posts by Vidyamala

Spend mindful time in nature to relax and reduce stress

The natural world is a powerful stress reliever and mood booster. It puts things in perspective and can right wrongs, calm anger and soothe frayed nerves. Spend a little time each day with nature, aware of the different feelings and sensations of the breath in your body, as well as all your other senses, and you can give yourself a little of this natural healing – for free. Just nip out into the garden, find a pretty local park or open space or, if you have time, head off to the coast or the moors. If you can’t get outside for any reason – maybe it’s horrible weather or you haven’t got much time – then you could sit quietly and look out of the window, or you could spend time looking at an indoor plant and really notice all the colours and textures. Wherever you are, your aim is simply to take in the natural surroundings as mindfully as you can.

Start by spending a few minutes absorbing the scene. What can you see, hear and smell? Does the air have a taste? How do the earth, grass and tree bark feel? Are they rough, smooth, soft or slippery? Close your eyes and focus on the sounds. Soak up the different ones. Can you hear the wind? Or perhaps cars in the distance? Can you hear insects, birdsong or the scampering of small animals? Notice the rise and fall of each individual sound. Mentally flick between them.

Now sit down. Can you feel the weight of your body settling onto the seat, park bench or whatever you’re sitting on? Can you give your weight up to gravity, so that you feel a sense of rest? Can you feel the movement of the breath in your whole body – the front, the back and the sides? Can you feel how the breath is always changing, just as the sounds do? Can you let any sensations of discomfort in the body also come and go as the moments pass? See if you can have a more fluid experience of both your body and the world around you.

Now stand and take a short walk. Feel the sensations underfoot and notice the movement of your muscles and joints. Feel the gentle swaying of your limbs. Experiment with walking at different speeds and notice how this feels. Let your breath flow as naturally as you can while you move.

As you do this exercise, notice the relationship between direct sensory awareness and thinking: when you’re immersed in savoring your senses, do you find you think less? And if you ‘come to’ at some stage and notice you’ve been lost in thinking – say, rehearsing an argument or worrying about something – can you see how your direct sensory experience faded into the background while you were lost in thought?

If you’re interested in Vidyamala’s “Mindfulness for Women” online course, which starts Jan 1, 2018, you can read more or enroll here.

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Engage. Connect. Act.

Vidyamala’s online course, Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’, starts Jan 1. Click here now to enroll!

After the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017, we saw the emergence of a phenomenal up-rising culminating in the ‘Women’s March’ on Washington and the partner ‘Sister Marches’ that happened all around the world attracting millions of peaceful marchers.

As I watched these extraordinary gatherings unfold on the news and media I was astounded and moved to tears. Social media can be used for ill – think ‘fake news’, bullying, irrational tweets from Trump; but it can also be used for good – which is what we are seeing with the rise of the Women’s Marches.

It started with one woman, Teresa Shook of Hawaii. On the night after Donald Trump’s election she went on facebook and posted a message. She wrote the first thing that came to mind: “I think we should march”. After getting a response to her post from a single woman in the chatroom, Shook created a private Facebook event page for the march and invited a few dozen online friends to join before going to sleep. Overnight, a link to Shook’s event page was posted in Pantsuit Nation and other groups.

“When I woke, up it had gone ballistic,” Shook said. Women from across the United States contacted Shook and began to guide the effort. Now organizers credit Shook’s quiet plea with igniting what was the largest demonstration in the nation’s capital related to a presidential election.

Out of such small beginnings has come this global phenomenon, which would be unlikely to have occurred without social media. This is something to truly celebrate – the remarkable women behind the Women’s Marches harnessed the tools at their fingertips – I take this as inspiration to never be silent in the face of violence, bullying and pain.

Women have gained an enormous amount in the West over recent decades but there is still so much more to do. And women in the developing world are still often painfully discriminated against. In my book ‘Mindfulness for Women’ I list some scary stats:

  • Women account for two-thirds of all working hours and produce half the world’s food, but earn only 10 per cent of global income and own just 1 per cent of the world’s property.
  • Though women make up half the global population, they represent 70 per cent of the world’s poor.
  • Women and girls aged fifteen to forty-four are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than they are from war, cancer, malaria and traffic accidents.
  • At least one in three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in her lifetime.
  • Between 1.5 million and 3 million girls and women die each year because of gender-based violence.
  • Between 700,000 and 4 million girls and women are sold into prostitution each year.
  • Ninety-nine per cent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, with women dying of pregnancy-related causes at a rate of one every minute.
  • Women account for nearly two-thirds of the world’s 780million people who cannot read.
  • Forty-one million girls worldwide are still denied a primary education.
  • Globally, only one in five parliamentarians is a woman*

Many people are campaigning brilliantly on behalf of women and girls – think Michelle Obama and her work with ‘Let Girls Learn’; and Malala Yousafzai. We may not think we are as talented or brilliant as they are – indeed they are remarkable. But we can all play a part and use our voice in whatever way we can.

History shows us time and again that huge change comes about through millions of tiny acts. The achievements of mass movements such as the Civil Rights movement in the USA in the 1960s were the result of millions of tiny, almost imperceptible acts that led to society becoming convulsed by change. Similarly, the suffragettes campaigned together to get women the vote. They succeeded in the UK in 1918, and now, less than 100 years later, women lead nations.

When asked, ‘How does social change happen?’ the South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu replied: ‘It is because individuals are connected – you and you and you – this becomes a coalition, which becomes a movement. This is how apartheid was overcome.’

This is what we are seeing with the rising of such movements as the ‘Women’s and Sister Marches’ all over the world. And let’s make sure the momentum is maintained.

Engage. Connect. Act. Such a great thing to celebrate. Let’s keep it up.

Click here to learn about Vidyamala’s online course, Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’, which starts Jan 1.

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A taste of mindfulness

Vidyamala’s online course, Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’, starts Jan 1. Click here now to enroll!

Get yourself into a comfortable posture. You can be sitting or lying down, it’s up to you. Relax for a moment to allow yourself to settle. Now, notice how your body feels. What physical sensations are you experiencing at this moment? Maybe you feel pressure between your bottom and the chair you’re sitting on or the floor beneath you. What does this feel like? For a few moments, just be open to any sensations in your body, experiencing them with an attitude of kindly curiosity.

Now take a moment to listen to any sounds you can hear. Observe their quality, register and volume, and how you instinctively respond to them. You may feel an urge to try to identify where they are coming from, but try to park that for a moment and instead simply notice the sounds as sounds.

Your mind might also ‘fly out the window’ towards the sounds. See if you can let the sounds come towards you instead, keeping your awareness inside your body as the sounds flow in through your hearing sense. If you’re in a very quiet environment, then notice the silence.

Now notice your breath. What does it feel like? What parts of your body move as you breathe and how many different movements can you feel? See if you can rest your awareness ‘inside’ the movement and sensations of breathing, rather than observing them as an onlooker. Is it pleasant or unpleasant to inhabit your breathing in this way?

Now allow your awareness to focus on your emotions. How would you describe how you are feeling overall? Are you happy, content, sad, irritated or calm – or is it hard to be entirely sure what you are feeling? Take note of any thoughts that pass through your mind. Ask yourself, what am I thinking? Rest your attention on your thoughts for a few moments: see if you can look ‘at’ your thoughts as they flow through your mind rather than ‘from’ them.

Now spend a few moments resting quietly as you allow your awareness to rest inside the sensations and movements of the breath in your body; and any thoughts, sounds and feelings as they come and go. There’s no need to look for a special experience. Simply notice what is actually happening, moment by moment.

OK, so this may not have been the most extraordinary of experiences, but, if you have engaged with this exercise to any level, congratulations – you have just had your first experience of mindfulness, and have started your journey towards enhancing your awareness of life. The implications of this are immense. It means you can move from ‘autopilot’ – being driven by habits as you drift from one thing to the next – to experiencing life as a stream of creative possibilities and choice.

Vidyamala’s online course, Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’, starts Jan 1. Click here now to enroll!

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An easy mindfulness practice to help you relax

woman drinking coffee

Vidyamala’s online course, Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’, starts March 1.

Do you always live to – or beyond – your limits? Would you get less done if you took regular breaks?

Many people live in a ‘boom and bust’ way, otherwise known as the overactivity–underactivity cycle. To varying degrees, many of us swing between high energy and low energy.

We do less when we are feeling tired and unmotivated; then, when we feel more energetic, we hectically try to catch up on all the things that we’ve got behind with and end up overdoing it and getting stressed out. This tips us straight back into feeling exhausted and strained again, and so things on the list don’t get done as we are so tired, until there is another blitz on a good day. And so the cycle goes on. And on. And on.

Clearly it’s not such a great way to live and you could try something radical and take breaks before you need them. And we’re not talking about going to bed for the afternoon here or booking a two-week holiday in the sun; it’s a case of simply practising simple mindfulness exercises regularly or standing up to stretch from time to time when working at your desk.

The mindfulness exercise below is an easy way to take a break during your day and practice mindfulness at the same time. Pausing and paying attention to the simple act of boiling the kettle, will help you to break the boom-and-bust cycle that is making you feel so exhausted and strained. Instead of rushing and then going on to the next thing, or having a whirring mind as you make your tea – let your kettle boiling activity be an opportunity to experience your body and your senses and to have some moments of peace and calm. Try and do this meditation each time you stop for tea or coffee.

Boiling a kettle of water is one of those things that we all do several times a day without a moment’s thought. So try paying full mindful attention to filling and boiling a kettle of water.

As you lift the kettle to fill it, how heavy does it feel? Do you fill it via the spout or do you open the lid? Is the lid stiff? Pay full attention as the water swills out of the tap and into the kettle.

Does it hiss and bubble? Does it smell? We are so accustomed to the smell of water that we no longer notice it. Try to imagine how strong the smell of moisture would be if you had just spent a week in a desert. Spend a few moments thinking about how the water reached you. The rain falling on the distant mountains, trickling through rock and soil, until it eventually reaches a stream. Imagine the reservoir, the water-treatment works, the pipelines. Now, imagine all of the engineers and maintenance workers who designed, built and maintained the water network.

Think of the people involved in producing and distributing the electricity; the people growing and distributing the tea, coffee or cocoa that you will use to make your drink. We are all interconnected on myriad levels. And this is just for a cup of tea.

As you return the kettle to the work surface or cooker, pay close attention to your own movements. Were you aware of those movements or did they ‘just happen’? Likewise, did you consciously flick the electric switch to ‘On’ or light the cooker – or did your autopilot take care of things?

Now, listen as the kettle begins to heat. What can you hear? Close your eyes and drink in the sounds. Check in with yourself.

What mode of mind are you operating in? After a few moments, see if you can notice the first stirrings of impatience. Where in the body are they to be found? What do they feel like? Do they feel like a force trying to break out and exert control? Does your breath become constricted in some way? Habits of impatience can be compelling.

When the kettle has almost boiled, what do you do? Do you wait until the thermostat clicks off – or do you rush in and pour the water before it is boiled? See if you can be patient and wait for the thermostat to click off before mindfully lifting the kettle, being aware of your breath as you pour the water.

Spend a moment considering if there are other aspects of daily life that could also be used to cultivate mindfulness. Such ‘everyday mindfulness’ can be at least as important as the formal meditations.

Now take your cup of tea, coffee or cocoa and relax. You’ve earned it.

Vidyamala’s online course, Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’, starts March 1. Click here for details.

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When in doubt, breathe out – the power of breathing properly

woman breathing

Vidyamala’s online course, Mindfulness for Women, starts March 1. Click here for details.

Breathing properly is immediately helpful because the first thing most of us do when experiencing stress and pain – be it mental, emotional or physical – is inhibit our breathing. Try this short exercise:

Make a fist with one hand. Notice what’s happened to your breathing. You’ll probably notice you’re holding it. Now imagine breathing into the fist. What does it want to do? You’ll probably find it wants to release a little.

The fist in this exercise is a metaphor for any kind of discomfort or stress. When we are not aware, we automatically tense against the stresses of life with associated breath holding. Then follows a vicious cycle of more tension, more breath holding, more discomfort, more tension etc, perhaps physical symptoms such as headaches and tension in the neck, back and shoulders or gut problems. Many of these can be eased by simply becoming aware of your breathing patterns and consciously directing the breath into the cycle of contraction. Gradually the tension will gradually soften and the stress will ease.

Breath holding manifests in a range of ways and shallow breathing, breath-holding or over-breathing are the most common dysfunctions. At the keyboard, for example, we tend to breathe as if permanently in fight/flight/freeze mode, causing all the hormonal imbalances that come with this. You could think of it as ‘screen apnoea’. Like sleep apnoea, a condition characterised by pauses in breathing while asleep, it alters our breathing; in this case causing shallow breathing from the upper chest or infrequent breathing. Unsurprisingly, this has negative consequences for health.

You may live with a lot of perceived pressure, perhaps in the workplace, or you may just have poor posture and ergonomics; sitting for hour after hour with your shoulders hunched. Or you may just be desperate for a break! Whatever the cause, breathing-pattern disorders can result.

Breathing is the number-one physiological function that humans do, affecting your heart rate, your gut, your blood pressure, your digestion and your musculoskeletal system. Therefore, changing your breath consciously, using mindfulness and awareness, is one of the most powerful things you can do to assist your body’s physiology. It can have a massive impact on your health; reducing headaches and shoulder pain and strengthening your core.

How is your breathing at this moment? Commonly, when we are stressed, we fail to exhale completely. So, try it now:

  • Breathe out fully, and feel the little pause at the end of the exhale.
  • Spend a few moments with the breath, allowing it to flow naturally all the way in and all the way out of the body. Notice what it feels like.

To help you remember to do this throughout the day, stick a green dot somewhere around the house where you’ll see it regularly. Or if you work at a computer you could stick the green dot to the side of the screen. Every time you see the dot, breathe out. Relax your jaw. Breathe in through your nose and then out of your nose. Pause. Allow the next in-breath to gather naturally, like a wave gathering in the sea before it flows up the beach. Breathe in and then breathe out fully. Repeat a few times.

Click here for details of Vidyamala’s online course, Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’

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Mindfulness for Women: Claire’s diary

Vidyamala Burch

Vidyamala’s course, “Mindfulness for Women,” starts March 1, 2017

The Mindfulness for Women online course, starting March 1 on Wildmind, is based on the book I co-wrote with Journalist Claire Irvin. Claire hadn’t meditated before we worked on this project so she gamely kept a diary of her efforts which are accessible, often hilarious, and moving. Here’s her diary of her first attempt to meditate:

Claire’s Diary Week One: Body Scan

It’s 9.30 on a dark early-spring evening. My husband Stuart is away and I’ve finally got Amelie, six, to go to bed (she will take any opportunity to delay bedtime, and an absent parent is as good an excuse as any). On a normal weekday I’d be starting to think about bed myself (early bedtimes are the only way I cope with the hectic pace of my life), but tonight I’m a bit wired, and also secretly relishing the quiet in the house. I think guiltily of my promise to Vidyamala to start my mindfulness journey, but quickly push the thought away. I sit down in front of the TV and am suddenly filled with resolve (plus, I won’t lie, there’s nothing on telly and the idea of lying down is very appealing). I decamp upstairs to my bed and press play on my meditation recording, and Vidyamala’s calm, gently lilting voice fills the room.

 

I immediately feel myself relax. This isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be . . . I listen for a few more seconds and then get distracted by a noise in the garden. It’s a cat, by the sounds of it, climbing up the side of the shed. I resist the urge to get up and look. But it makes me wonder if I’ve locked up properly outside, and it’s a couple of moments before I can pull myself back to the meditation.

 

I cringe a bit at the mention of my belly. I hate this word and, like many women, hate focusing on my tummy at all. But as I feel my breath echo in my pelvic floor and my lower back, I begin to feel like a star pupil. I can do this! To say I’m pleased with myself is an understatement. I hear another noise outside, in the front this time, and I tense up again and wonder what it is.

 

Vidyamala is now asking me to relax my face. Oops! My face is very tense. Like, really tense. I relax it: my jaw, my teeth, the set of my mouth. As soon as I relax one part of it, another tenses up again. I get distracted thinking about the irony of having to work harder at being relaxed. I make myself laugh, then realise I’ve missed the next few moments of the meditation. Must do better next time.

 

Afterwards, I decide I should go to bed. I notice how much more relaxed I am. Despite Stuart being away, which normally makes me edgy, I sleep like a baby.

Click here to register for the Mindfulness for Women online course, starting March 1.

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How mindfulness can help all women achieve their potential

Vidyamala Burch

I am proud to come from New Zealand, which in 1893 became the first country in the world in which women gained the right to vote. More recently, New Zealand was also the first democracy to have all key Government roles fulfilled by women, e.g. Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Governor General. I also come from a long tradition of strong women and I feel I owe it to my courageous and heroic forebears to do all that I can to stand tall and true in my own life.

I want to let other women know about how mindfulness has transformed my life over the past thirty years, and how it can transform their lives as well, which is why I decided to write ‘Mindfulness for Women‘.

As I worked on the book I realised that for me personally, many of the themes stemmed from pride in my NZ heritage as a woman. I also came to see it as a tribute to all the wonderful and gutsy women who have populated my life, from my grandmother, my numerous leggy and confident aunts, my mother and my three amazing sisters; to the key friendships formed in my all-girls high school and the women’s Buddhist communities that I have been involved with for decades. Many of these friendships are still going strong today.

I have met women who have achieved incredible things. I am not just talking about careers or outward achievements, but women who in very difficult circumstances – whether illness, pain or other life situations – have managed to create a satisfying and joyful life for themselves through practising mindfulness and the associated qualities of kindness and compassion. This is why I am deeply passionate about women being able to use mindfulness to fulfil their potential.

At school in New Zealand in the seventies, girls were encouraged to dream big and to understand that obstacles were there to be overcome. At that time I was super-fit. I adored the mountains and wilderness and my dream was to be a wildlife ranger. But there was a hitch. The New Zealand Wildlife Service didn’t employ women but I wasn’t going to be deterred. At 15 years old I went to see a Director at their head office and asked what I would have to do to convince him to employ me. He told me to get a very good qualification, which was when I decided to become a veterinary surgeon in the knowledge that this would be the ideal skill to have when working with the magnificent creatures I would be living amongst in the mountains and the sea.

Check out Vidyamala’s online course, “Mindfulness for Women,” starting March 1, 2017

I was happy to co-write Mindfulness for Women with a journalist, Claire Irvin, a dynamic magazine editor with her finger on the pulse of many of the issues facing modern women. Claire’s experience will also resonate with many readers: like many younger women she juggles a full-on career with bringing up her two small children. She has to balance countless demands and organise her life with military precision.

To Claire, mindfulness and meditation were initially just more things to add to the never-ending ‘to-do’ list. But, as we worked together, Claire became increasingly curious about mindfulness and decided to keep a practice diary. This has become an integral part of the book and I am sure many women will relate to Claire’s experience of initial resistance followed by genuine excitement as she began to reap the fruits of taking time each day to stop and get to know her own mind and heart. Also essential to this book are our moving and gritty case studies of women who have found mindfulness, sometimes in the most harrowing of circumstances.

My wish is for women from all walks of life to read the book and discover that inner peace is only a breath away. To find self-belief and to stand tall as they go about their lives. Most of all, my wish is that we recognise how we are continually shaping the world with our thoughts and actions and that, with the help of mindfulness, we can become positive agents of change and transformation in the world. This is what IWD is all about: women believing in themselves and other women and campaigning to make the world a better place for women living today as well as future generations.

Click here to learn more about my online course, Mindfulness for Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to ‘Be’, starting March 1, 2017.

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Mindfulness and chronic pain: every moment is a new chance

Pain always seems worse at night. Something about the silence amplifies the suffering. Even after you’ve taken the maximum dose of painkillers, the aching soon returns with a vengeance. You want to do something, anything, to stop the pain, but whatever you try seems to fail. Moving hurts. Doing nothing hurts. Ignoring it hurts. But it’s not just the pain that hurts; your mind can start to suffer as you desperately try to find a way of escaping. Pointed and bitter questions can begin nagging at your soul: What will happen if I don’t recover? What if it gets worse? I can’t cope with this. Please, I just want it to stop. . . .

You Are Not Your Pain Vidyamala BurchWe wrote this book to help you cope with pain, illness, and stress in times such as these. It will teach you how to reduce your suffering progressively, so that you can begin living life to the fullest once again. It may not completely eliminate your suffering, but it will ensure that it no longer dominates your life. You’ll discover that it is possible to be at peace, even if illness and pain are unavoidable, and to enjoy a fulfilling life.

We know this to be true because we have both experienced terrible injuries and used an ancient form of meditation known as mindfulness to ease our suffering. The techniques in this book have been proven to work by doctors and scientists in universities around the world. Mindfulness is so effective that doctors and specialist pain clinics now refer their patients to our Breathworks center in Manchester, UK, and to courses run by our affiliated trainers around the world. Every day we help people find peace amid their suffering.

This book and the accompanying CD reveal a series of simple practices that you can incorporate into daily life to significantly reduce your pain, anguish, and stress. They are built on Mindfulness-Based Pain Management (MBPM), which has its roots in the groundbreaking work of Dr. Jon  Kabat- Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. The MBPM program itself was developed by Vidyamala Burch (coauthor of this book) as a means of coping with the after effects of two serious accidents. Although originally designed to reduce physical pain and suffering, it has proven to be an effective stress-reduction technique as well. The core mindfulness meditation techniques have been shown in many clinical trials to be at least as effective as drugs or counseling for relieving anxiety, stress, and depression.

When it comes to pain, clinical trials show that mindfulness can be as effective as the most commonly prescribed painkillers, and some studies have shown it to be as powerful as morphine. Imaging studies show that it soothes the brain patterns underlying pain, and over time, these changes take root and alter the structure of the brain itself so that you no longer feel pain with the same intensity. And when it does arise, the pain no longer dominates your life. Many people report that their pain declines to such a degree that they barely notice it at all.

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Pleasure and pain: the worldly winds

Vidyamala talks about the worldly winds of pleasure and pain as part of the Triratna Buddhist Community’s International Urban Retreat, where for one week (8 – 15 October, 2011) people around the world at Triratna centers intensify their practice while staying their your home situation. The Urban Retreat is about learning to make Buddhist practice real and effective in daily life.

You can see more Triratna videos at from Vimeo.com.

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“Mindfulness for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your Life,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your LifeVidyamala, a long-term pain sufferer, rejoices in a new offering from Jon Kabat-Zinn, but experiences regret it wasn’t available years ago.

I was delighted to to be asked to review this new offering from the founder of mindfulness in healthcare: Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is a two-CD audio book combining extensive background information with guided meditations.

Disc One (session one)

The first CD (or session as the CD is labeled) is entirely taken up with short lectures on various aspects of applying mindfulness to chronic pain of any sort. I listened avidly and welcomed everything he had to say and feel. Jon comes across with real depth and understanding of what it is like to apply mindfulness to pain.

As someone who uses mindfulness and meditation to manage chronic back pain myself, I felt a pang that this material was not available 25 years ago when I was first learning to meditate. I’m sure it would have made my journey a lot easier and more effective as he deals very directly with the mystery of how to be with experience when it is painful. One phrase I particularly liked was “tuning IN trumps tuning OUT”. In other words: if we can resist the natural response of endless distraction and aversion to pain and engage with the pain directly, then the overall suffering will diminish greatly.

Title: Mindfulness for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your Life
Author: Jon Kabat-Zinn
Publisher: Sounds True
Content: 2 CDs
ISBN: 1-59179-740-3
Available from: Sounds True and Amazon.com.

He also makes the crucial distinction between pain and suffering: Pain is the sensations of discomfort that may be unavoidable; suffering is the ways we react to pain that just makes it worse. All the information on the CD offers deep and profound ways to learn to be with the pain and to eliminate the suffering. He also draws on his own experience of applying mindfulness to pain within a clinical setting at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He refers to research studies and this gives the CD credibility. I was particularly interested to hear about studies that show mindfulness is more effective than distraction when trying to live with severe pain.

The tracks on Disc one are as follows:
Track 1: Introduction
Track 2: Diving right in – Jon begins with an awareness of your body and everything around you.
Track 3: Learning to live with pain – Living with pain is a workable process if you are willing to do daily work. Pain may be unavoidable, but suffering is optional. You have nothing to lose in walking this path.
Track 4: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) – a detailed description of the MBSR programme and scientific basis of this work as part of new field of medicine: Mind/body or Integrative medicine.
Track 5: Seven principles for working with pain –

Principle 1: There is more right with you than wrong with you and mindfulness will help mobilize inner resources.
Principle 2: The Power of Now (vs living in the past or future.)
Principle 3: The “Now” is not always exactly what we want. We usually want something different.
Principle 4: If experience is not what we want, we usually respond in two ways –- either denial or overwhelm.
Principle 5: Mindfulness offers a third way – turning toward what we most fear to feel and open gradually to its experiences. Learn resilience.
Principle 6: Open to experience moment-to-moment with kindness toward oneself without judging the experience (try not to judge or react automatically), Working with mindfulness helps it to become our new default setting.
Principle 7: we are not “fixing” anything, we are just dealing with it in the present moment.

Track 6: Cultivating mindfulness – Jon suggests we listen to this CD until it becomes second nature to us, along with using the second CD to practice with. He offers some tips in terms of finding a quiet place to practice, etc.

Disc Two (session two)

The second session is devoted to guided practices with instruction. Jon has a very pleasant voice and his many years experience of meditation teaching are immediately obvious. The content is precise and subtle. He does talk a lot, but there is a period of silence at the end of each track where the listener can try to put the instructions in to practice for themselves.

The tracks on Disc two are as follows:
Track 1: Introduction
Track 2: The power of disciplined practice – some comments on how to deal with boredom and impatience. Just actively participate in the meditation process, even if you don’t feel like it. The value will come with the repetitive practice.
Track 3: Mindfulness of breathing guided meditation with introduction as to how to best engage with the breath. This track may be particularly useful to those learning to meditate.
Track 4: Working with pain meditation – showing you how to work with your pain through meditation. These are brief meditations in between instructions. Various strategies are introduced and then there is a silent period to try putting them into practice.
Track 5: Working with thoughts and emotions meditation – particularly thoughts and emotions about the pain.
Track 6: Resting in awareness: a three-minute mindful pause meditation
Track 7: A 20 minute body scan.
Track 8: Mindfulness in everyday life.

I highly recommend this 2 CD set for anyone wanting to learn powerful and effective ways to work with chronic pain, or indeed any manifestation of the difficult side of life.

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