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So here we are again, into 2020 with more mindful musings from over Pendle Hill way. A reminder about what this mindfulness stuff is all about…

  • Mindfulness is about being in the present moment and noticing what is happening while it’s happening.
  • It’s about being on our own side with kindness when it’s a difficult moment.
  • It’s about pausing to take in the good in enjoyable moments.
  • It’s about not living our whole life on automatic pilot.

I had a sharp reminder about being in the present moment recently as I walked down one of Colne’s lovely steep – but often slippery – cobbled streets. This time last year I cracked my head when I did a slide while out dog walking in icy conditions. I recalled this ‘adventure’ while I was back down that particular street in the rain and then I began to get a bit jittery about what might happen if I slipped again… this time I might not bounce and then I’d end up in a queue in Accident and Emergency. Maybe I’d hurt myself badly this time. And my anxious thought stream was running away. Then I had a mindful moment! I realised that I was so completely caught up my thoughts about the past and future that I certainly wasn’t in the present moment – I was mind full rather than mindful. Coming back into the present moment would enhance my ability to stay upright on the slippery street. So, I took a breath and came out of my busy head and back into my body. I was better able to pay attention to where my feet were going and, in case you’re interested, the dog and I enjoyed our walk and we both made it home in one piece. This is just one example but I am sure that you can think of situations in your daily life where a more mindful approach could work.

Rob Nairn, the founder of the Mindfulness Association, describes mindfulness as “noticing what’s happening while it’s happening,” pointing out that most people are never present in the moment, distracted as they are by thoughts, worries and stress. Sound familiar? We live so much of our life on autopilot that that we can miss out on the little bits of pleasantness in our daily lives. So, here’s an invitation to have a mindful moment or two with a cup of tea…

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  • To begin just hold the cup in your hand and gaze at it.
  • Notice the colours, the reflections, the steam coming off it.
  • Feel the sensations of the cup in your hand.
  • Bring it up to your nose and notice whether there are any strong or subtle aromas.
  • Be curious about any urges to drink or thoughts about what you are doing.
  • Bring the cup up to your lips and take a sip. What does that feel like?
  • Feel the liquid slip down your throat and the satisfaction as you swallow.

How was that? Difficult to stay in the present moment without the mind wandering off somewhere? If you’re anything like me you probably usually drink your tea on autopilot while thinking about what you’ve got to do next, reading an email, watching TV or talking to someone. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the ‘father’ of Western mindfulness, describes mindfulness as “paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally.” The ‘nonjudgementally’ bit is important, particularly if we get into selfcriticism when our minds wander off when we practice mindfulness and we beat ourselves up for not being able to stay present with something as simple as drinking a cuppa. Our minds are always wandering off. It’s part of the human condition and we are experts at mind wandering. However, setting an intention to practise moments of being present in little ways in our everyday activities strengthens our mindfulness muscle.

“DRINK YOUR TEA SLOWLY AND REVERENTLY, AS IF IT IS THE AXIS ON WHICH THE WORLD EARTH REVOLVES – SLOWLY, EVENLY, WITHOUT RUSHING TOWARD THE FUTURE. LIVE THE ACTUAL MOMENT. ONLY THIS MOMENT IS LIFE”

Returning to the idea of ‘mind fullness’, I recently read an article by the psychologist Rick Hanson. He was writing about being mind full of the good. He pointed out that, because of the brain’s negativity bias, the brain is “good at learning from bad experiences but relatively bad at learning from good ones – even though learning from good experiences is the main way to grow the inner strengths we all need.” The inner strengths he is referring to include resilience, compassion, gratitude, self-worth and insight.

Melva Burton Photo: Alex Cowland

He suggests that we set an intention to notice the little bits of good stuff that are going on for us: feeling a bit of ease, relief, pleasure, connection, warmth, determination, confidence, clarity etc. Then, focusing on that good experience really enjoy it, stay with it for five, ten or more seconds and get a sense of it really landing in the body. This installs the experience in the brain. He describes this as positive neuroplasticity and a way of developing more inner strengths to help us deal with the negative stuff that is all around. He adds that, “much as a cup of water is filled drop by drop, you’ll be changing your brain and your life for the better.”

What do you reckon to all of that? A bit of mumbo jumbo? Or might there be a bit of truth somewhere in there? I know for sure that I am very aware of all the negative stuff that is going on in the world right now and the impact that has on me. Ok, so installing the good stuff in my brain isn’t going to stop the impact of climate change, the poverty and suffering that is around or the political upsets. However, if it makes me feel more emotionally balanced and resourceful then I am better placed to deal with it all and I’ll have more to offer others. Maybe the good might spread in widening ripples. Every bit counts. That’s a theme that for my new little passion for 2020 as I work on my Kindfulness Project. More about this next time round. In the meant time take in the good.

Melva will be running The Kindfulness Project over six weeks at Trawden Community Centre commencing on the Monday 10th February. The project will help you discover the benefits of introducing mindfulness, kindness and compassion into your days. For more information contact Melva on 07962 185691 / melvaburton@yahoo.co.uk

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