Having overcome my fears and throwing myself into the world of mindfulness, I was looking forward to this week’s session. Although I was reserving judgement until I had been to more than one class. I was curious to see if we would do something different or if the exercises would be more or less the same as last week.
The evening does not begin well when I can’t find a parking space and have to circle the car park before practically abandoning my car and running into the venue. The class has already begun and I make my apologies and take the only seat left. As we are lead into a short practice exercise, I can hear my heart beating out of my chest and it feels quite different to the calming experience I had last week. I begin to settle but it does make me realise that there will be times when being mindful will be much more challenging than others.
We have a group chat about how things have gone for us over the past week. Some people have done the exercises every day while others struggle to find time amid the daily grind of work or family duties. It is clear however, that we were all very committed and some people are already reporting positive changes in attitude and being less reactive in stressful situations.
Then comes the ‘Mindful Eating’ exercise. I thought I knew what to expect with this one because it’s well publicised that you should chew your food slowly and be conscious of what goes in your mouth. We are all given some dried fruit in our hand and are waiting excitedly to see what comes next. We move the fruit around in our hand feeling the texture and noting the shape and colour. Then we have to put it up to our ear and move it around to see what noise it makes (yes really!). Lastly, we smell the fruit and then place it in our mouth without chewing it. While this whole procedure has taken less than a minute and seems a bit strange, I have to admit that inside my mouth is salivating at the thought of eating that bit of fruit. Never before have I wanted to eat a sultana so badly. Julie explains that by involving all of our senses, the whole experience of eating is taken to a new level. This makes a lot of sense now and I’ll definitely use this method when I feel the temptation to work my way through a packet of biscuits or sweets.
The next exercise is the Body Scan practice. We replace our seats with yoga mats and grab a pillow and blanket. I tell the lady beside me that I’m certain I’ll fall asleep because I’m feeling quite tired this week and it won’t take much. Julie begins the exercise and tells us to bring awareness to our toes, then our feet…..then I wake myself up with a big snore. My mind drifts off again a bit and again I wake up with a bit of a snort. How embarrassing! Now I’m much more aware and am actively making sure that I don’t go to sleep again. I find it a bit amusing as all around me I can hear people snoring gently and I’m glad I’m not the only one. As Julie guides us through the muscles in the back, I suddenly feel some strain there. As we move to the shoulders, I have the same sensation and I realise that these are the areas where my tension is hiding. I take some deep breaths and focus on relaxing my back and shoulders until I feel more relaxed. This is obviously similar to the experience I had with my breathing last week and again I’m amazed that you can be so oblivious to things happening within your own body.
The last practice of the night is the first step of a Kindness practice. I choose to keep my yoga mat for this to see if it feels any better to being on a chair. The idea here is to think of an experience where someone has been kind to you. I think about my husband and a time recently where he was very supportive to me. We have to hold on to this feeling and acknowledge the sensation of how this feels in the body. Then we’re told to think of an example where we have been kind to someone else and do the same. I have more than one instance and it occurs to me that I’m naturally kind to others. We have a short discussion as a group and someone else remarks that this is how they felt too.
When we leave, I’ve really enjoyed the session again and I’m pleasantly surprised at the variety of things we’ve practised. I certainly have a lot to think about until next week.
Over the week, I only manage to do the Body Scan once but I don’t have the same tension in my back or upper body. It’s the weekend and I wonder if it’s because I’m less stressed. I promise myself to make the time at least once a week to do this practice. It takes around 30 minutes and I think it probably works best if you can give it full commitment and focus.
I am able to do the Kindness practice a couple more times and am a bit disappointed at the results. I struggle to think of situations where people are kind to me. This makes me feel frustrated and a little bit sad. Am I expecting too much? Perhaps I am looking for grand gestures when in fact simple acts of kindness are going unnoticed by me. I am sure my awareness will grow the more I continue with this practice so I’m not going to rule it out.
My worries about mindfulness being a bit repetitive are clearly unfounded. There is actually so much to take in and I’m sure there’s more to come. I think of the saying ‘good things take time’ and I’m already curious to see what next week will bring.