John Alex Murphy

Mindfulness: Week 8 – Your wild and precious life

John Alex Murphy, The Province: “Week Eight is the rest of your life!”

As I read this bold statement in the last chapter of my Mindfulness book, I was briefly taken aback, but then it made complete sense.

After all, my mindfulness meditation experiences over the past seven weeks have been amazing. I am now able to self-manage my thoughts and spend more time living mindfully in the present moment. As a result, I feel calm and more at peace with my life exactly as it is right now.

I have also discovered that mindfulness meditation is an extremely effective tool for self-managing my…

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Mindfulness: Week 5 – exploring difficulty

John Alex Murphy, The Province: This past week’s Mindfulness meditation introduced a new way of dealing with difficult thoughts that was radically different and initially quite disconcerting for me.

I should initially mention that this past long-weekend, my family and I went on our first 3-day backpacking trip together in Skagit Valley Provincial Park, a spectacular mountain wilderness area about 200 kilometers east of Vancouver. It’s a beautiful place to spend time in nature. As it turned out, it’s also an exquisite place to meditate.

I was excited to start another new week of my eight-week Mindfulness course. So at the end of our …

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Mindfulness: Week 4 – sounds and thoughts and a poem

John Alex Murphy, The Province: I was blessed with many peaceful meditations, some moments of profound insight and a few fond memories of my Mother during Week 4 of my amazing eight-week mindfulness meditation journey.

This week’s daily practice was comprised of the “Breath and Body” meditation, and “The Three-Minute Breathing Space” meditation. Although this was my second week of practice with these two meditations, I still enjoyed a new and exciting voyage of self-discovery every time I meditated.

My Week 4 practice also included an eight-minute meditation entitled Sounds and Thoughts that proved to be enlightening for me. Let me share with you …

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Mindfulness: Week 3 – The amazing three-minute breathing space

John Alex Murphy, The Province: Week 3 has been a breakthrough week for me. When I started my eight-week mindfulness meditation course, I suspected that it would eventually help alleviate my chronic pain. However, I did not expect that help would come as soon as this, and in such a dramatic fashion.

First, a quick update on my ongoing struggle with scheduled daily meditation times. I have decided that it actually worked better for me to not have a schedule. This past week, I have been doing my daily meditations when the need arises and when time allows. It’s working fine so I will …

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Mindfulness: Week 2 – The Body Scan

John Alex Murphy, The Province: I have really enjoyed completing Week 2 of my eight-week mindfulness meditation course. However, it has been quite challenging at times.

Upon reflection, it’s been an exceptionally busy week around our house, and I have found it difficult to find some quiet time for my two daily meditations.

After some thought, I have decided that my meditation times during Week 1 did not work well at all for Week 2. So I am planning to try different times for my upcoming Week 3.

I will do my morning meditations after I get up, but before having breakfast with Marjory and the kids. As for my evening meditations, I will do them earlier too, after the kids are asleep, but before we retire for the night.

Although it may take some time for me to find meditation times that work for me, I am comfortable going through the process and know it will be well worth it!

I started my Week 2 meditations by lying comfortably on my bed and closing my eyes. My trusted meditation guide first explained that the intention is to spend time with each region of the body, cultivating an awareness of what is already here.

Then I reminded myself that I am not trying to ‘get anywhere’, or striving to achieve any special state. Additionally, that I am not looking for anything special to happen, but allowing things to be just as I find them.

First, I acknowledged the sensations that I felt from my entire body as a whole, and from the contact between my body and what was supporting me. Then I brought my attention to the sensations of the breath in my abdomen, and stayed there for a short while, resting on the sensations of the breath.

Moving my attention down to my feet, I then noticed the sensations in my toes, the soles of my feet, my heels, and the top of my feet.

Again, I reminded myself not to have expectations, and that there is no right way to feel. I must simply acknowledge the sensations that are there already. If there are no sensations, that’s totally okay too. I will register a blank for that region and then move my attention elsewhere.

After focusing on my feet for a short period, I took in a deep breath, and then on the out-breath, I gently ‘let my feet go’ and they quietly ‘dissolved’ in awareness.

Then I slowly worked my way up from my feet to other regions of my body. As with the feet, I focused my attention on these regions, and then ‘let them go’.

Periodically during the meditation, my mind would wander off the breath, and thinking about memories, plans, worries or daydreams. I took great care not to judge myself, or to be upset with myself. I simply registered that my mind had wandered, and then gently escorted my attention back to the breath.

Several times, I would imagine that I was filling a region of my body with life-enriching oxygen on my in-breath. Then on the out-breath, I would let the expended breath flow out of that region. I finished my body scan by imagining my breath flowing in and out of my head and then my entire body.

The awareness and sensations realized from this week’s meditations were exhilarating and transcendental!

As mentioned, this past week has been a challenge for me. However, I gather that the second week of the eight-week plan is challenging for many people.

The body scan requires the mind to focus its attention on many regions of the body for relatively long periods of time. It takes time and lots of energy for the mind to reconnect with the body.

Given that my ongoing mindfulness meditation practice may well be hard work at times, I have now concluded that I must ensure that my mind gets adequate rest during the week, above and beyond getting a solid sleep each night!

Then, somewhat fortuitously, I received a tweet this week from Elisha Goldstein Ph.D. that linked me to an article he wrote about why and how to rest the mind.

Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist, the author of ‘The Now Effect’ and co-author of ‘A Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Workbook’.

In his article, entitled ‘7 Tips to Create the Essential Habit of Resting’, Dr. Goldstein discusses why the brain needs rest, and suggests the following activities to help rest the brain:

– Go out in nature
– Engage in a hobby
– Do a mindful check-in
– Read a book
– Listen to music
– Take a bath
– Count your blessings

These seem excellent ideas for resting the brain, but as Dr. Goldstein points out, they are only effective if you actually do them.
Meditation grove – Mundy Park

Meditation grove – Mundy Park

What especially resonated with me was his running analogy at the beginning of the article.

As Dr. Goldstein points out in the analogy, when someone is training for a marathon, any credible trainer would emphasize the importance of resting the body. If you don’t, the probability goes up for injury.

Similarly, given our hectic lives, if our minds do not get proper rest (besides good sleep), we are likely to burn out with symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression.

I have been a runner for over 30 years, and have completed 9 marathons and many other half-marathon and 10K races, so I fully comprehend these words of wisdom.

Thank you, Dr. Goldstein. Your analogy makes total sense to me, especially after my week. I will ensure that I take the time to rest my mind in future, doing some of the activities you suggest.

In fact, I will start right away by reading more of my latest book that I haven’t found the time to read lately. It’s a terrific book, entitled ‘Into the Silence’ by Wade Davis. It’s an extremely well-researched, true story about the Great War, Mallory, and the conquest of Everest. I highly recommend it.

Dr. Goldstein’s timely article is highly recommended too! Here’s the link.

Given this week’s challenges, my daily meditations definitely helped me stay calm, feel less stressed, and better able to cope with the busy times at home.

As for the future, I look forward to Week 3 of my eight-week mindfulness course this coming week and to getting lots of physical and mental rest too.

Thank you again to Mark Williams and Danny Penman for writing the book that inspired me to start on this exciting eight-week journey towards mindfulness.

You can find out more about their book “Mindfulness: An eight-week plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” at http://www.franticworld.com.

I look forward to sharing more Mindfulness experiences with you in my next blog.

Namaste,

John

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

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