Tag Archives: meditation

10 moments to remind you to pause for a few minutes every day

MOMENTS

1. Stopping at a traffic light.
2. Arriving at your office every morning.
3. Turning on your computer.
4. A call from your boyfriend.
5. Setting the alarm of your mobile phone at a particular time.
6. Stopping for a cup of coffee or a cup of tea.
7. Changing into your workout gear.
8. Having a shower after your workout.
9. Unlocking the door of your house when you get back home.
10. Undressing and changing into comfortable clothing before dinner.

Stop

STOP PARAR MINDFULNESS

“When I was a young monk in Vietnam, each village temple had a big bell, like those in Christian churches in Europe and the United States. Whenever the bell was invited to sound, all the villagers would stop what they were doing and pause for a few moments to breath in and out in mindfulness. At Plum Village, the community where I live in France, we do the same. Every time we hear the bell, we go back to ourselves and enjoy our breathing. When we breathe in, we silently say, “Listen, listen”, and when we breathe out, we say, “This wonderful sound brings me back to my true home”.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese monk, one of the best advocates of mindfulness, founder of Plum Village.
YourTrue Home. The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh. Boston & London: Shambala;2011.


What could be your personal reminder to stop for a few minutes during the day?

Practicing mindful yoga

Mindful Yoga

“Through the practice of mindful yoga, we can expand and deepen our sense of what it means to inhabit the body and develop a richer and more nuanced sense of the lived body in the lived moment”

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Coming to Our Senses. Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness. New York: Hyperion, 2005.

“It is a profound meditation practice, especially when practiced mindfully, and develops strength, balance, and flexibility of mind even as it is developing those same capacities at the level of the body”

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Coming to Our Senses. Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness. New York: Hyperion, 2005.

Yesterday morning, today

JAIME GIL DE BIEDMA

Yesterday morning, today

You rest your temple against
the open window pane
watching rain falling down
over the ocean.

In a split-second image-
your body outlined
serely in half-light, still
naked from the night.

And then you turn toward me,
smiling. I´m thinking
so much has changed but this
is how I remember you.

Jaime Gil de Biedma, Spanish poet and writer, 1929-1990

Falling asleep during the body scan

body scan thailand

I am sure that every one of us has fallen asleep or has dozed off at least once while trying to meditate…

I must admit this has happened to me a good number of times. This is especially so whenever I do the body scan.

It does not matter what time of the day it is, there’s one point where my mind disconnects completely. I am on the left leg, and all of a sudden I am on the right hand, not being quite sure what has happened…

At the beginning I must say I felt quite guilty about it, especially if I had snored, or I thought I had snored…

I felt bad, and that made me be on guard during my next body scan. Would that happen again…? Would the person lying next to me complain of my snoring?

Then I realised that falling asleep could be part of the process, of the experience, of my experience… and as such, I just had to embrace it, to accept it. I had and have to treat myself with kindness and gentleness, also when I meditate…

Having said so, I was taught a couple of tricks that have proved really helpful. One is doing the body scan with my eyes open. Second, if I still feel tired, I raise my arms, and try to maintain them raised for a while. This helps me just for a while, because shortly after I have started doing so, I get cramps in my arms…

And if in spite of these hints, I still fall asleep, I try to treat myself with gentleness… Catching up with the body scan wherever in the body the rest of the group is.

And trying to live in the moment the rest of the time that is left before the body scan comes to an end…

Practising the body scan

Body scan. Thailand

“We can surrender completely to the embrace of gravity, and let go into the floor or mat or bed and let it do the work. Sometimes it can feel like you are floating, and that can be very pleasant and increase your motivation for taking up residence in your body and in the present moment.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Coming to Our Senses. Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness. New York: Hyperion, 2005.

“All you need to do is lie here and feel different regions of your body and then let go of them. The body scan is systematic in the sense that we move through the various regions of the body in a particular order. But there is no one way to do it. It could be done scanning from head to feet or from feet to head or from side to side for that matter.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion, 1994.

Don’t go back to sleep

Sleep Rumi

Don’t go back to sleep

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill.
Where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

Rumi, sufí, persian, IVth century a.C..

Barcelona will host the first ever MindfulGay workshop!

WORKSHOP BARCELONA MINDFULGAY

It’s such a honor to share that our first MindfulGay workshop will be held in Barcelona, Spain, from the 21st of April to the 8th of June of 2015.

Please, read the information below and write us if you have any doubt or want to join us along this 8 weeks MBSR workshop.

Sign up in http://www.mindfulgay-training.com

Next workshops worldwide will be added very soon, so stay tunned!

Good starting points

MINDFULNESS GAY MSBR

Anyone interested in Mindfulness and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) should start by looking at these three links:

1. The Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where it all started more than 30 years ago. It is the world reference point for Mindfulness, MBSR, and Mindfulness Education in general.

http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/

2. Mindfulness Meditation NYC is a collaborative of MBSR teachers offering classes in the NYC area. It is a great source of information for anyone who wants to know about Mindfulness and MBSR, regardless of their location.

http://www.mindfulnessmeditationnyc.com/

3. The Center for Mindfulness research and Practice at Bangor University in Wales, United Kingdom, is one of the leading centres for teaching and research on Mindfulness in Europe and throughout the world. Their courses and workshops complement perfectly those offered in different centres in the United States.

http://www.bangor.ac.uk/mindfulness/

Three Joyful Mysteries

LUIS CERNUDA TRES MISTERIOS GOZOSOS

The singing of the birds, at dawn,
When the day is mildest,
Happy to be alive, already slips
Between sleep, and the contagious
Joy of one waking to the new day.

Happy smiling at his poor
And broken toy, in the door
Of the house the little child plays alone
By himself, and in happy
Ignorance, enjoys being alive.

The poet, dreaming upon the paper,
His unfinished poem,
Finds it beautiful, rejoices and thinks
With good reason and madness
That nothing matters, his poem exists.

Luis Cernuda, Spanish poet (1902-1963)

Walking meditation at Paris airport

walking meditation airport mindfulness

I have always being scared of practising walking meditation in public spaces. I think people will stare at me. I am afraid of looking like some sort of walking ghost.

I decided I wanted to do something about it, so with the prospect of my trip to New York for New Year’s Eve, I told myself I would do a walking meditation at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, while changing planes and terminals, arriving from Valencia on my way to New York.

Going through a big airport, from one terminal to another, waiting in long lines, going through immigration, through security, is not the most relaxing thing in the world, and it can be a rather stressful situation, especially if connecting times are tight.

Although I had plenty of time between flights, I tried to live my experience in a completely different way, being mindful, being aware of each step.

Going out of the plane, walking along the airbridge towards the terminal…

Being aware of my breath while I walk, the air coming in and going out, and at the same time being aware of my hips, my legs, my feet…

Concentrating on my foot lifting as the other touches the floor. Feeling that contact. The skin against the sock, the sock against the shoe, the shoe against the floor. Only this exists at this particular moment. Savouring it.

Being aware when my mind wanders, wanting to complain about how heavy my bags are, on how long the immigration lines are, or if someone tries to bypass the queue…

Going back to my breathing and to the movement of my legs, and my feet. Finding refuge and peace at these anchors.
Trying to bring this awareness to my posture, to my body when I am standing in a line, or observing the planes on the runway.

And doing this with gentleness, without any judgement.

Finally getting into the big bird, finding my seat, taking my place… realising that I feel different to other trips, I feel at peace, I feel well.

Mission accomplished! I say to myself. You’ve managed to do it and it has been great…!

About walking meditation

walking meditation

‘In traditional monastic settings, periods of sitting meditation are interspersed with periods of walking meditation. They are the same practice. The walking is just as good as the sitting. What is important is how you keep your mind. In formal walking meditation you attend to the walking itself.’

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. (1994)

‘We have to awaken ourselves to the truth that we are here, alive. We are here making steps on this beautiful planet. This is already performing a miracle. But we have to be here in order for the miracle to be possible. We have to bring ourselves back to the here and the now. Therefore, each step we take becomes a miracle. If you are able to walk like that, each step will be very nourishing and healing. You walk as if you kiss the earth with your feet, as if you massage the earth with your feet. There is a lot of love in that practice of walking meditation.’

Thich Nhat Hanh
Your true home. The everyday wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh. (2011)

‘Peace is every step’

Thich Nhat Hanh
Peace is every step: The path of mindfulness in everyday life. (1991)

The guest house

The guest house MindfulGay

The guest house

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

Interview to Scott Dillard, convener at the 2014 Gay Spirit Visions Fall Conference

Scott Dillard

Scott Dillard has been an active member of Gay Spirit Visions for a number of years, and he was the convener at the 2014 Fall Conference which took place in September at The Mountain in North Carolina, USA.

Hi Scott, it is a pleasure and an honour to have you with us today. Could you tell the readers of MindfulGay what Gay Spirit Visions (GSV) is, and what is its main purpose?
The main purpose of Gay Spirit Visions is to host conferences three times a year (fall, winter, and spring) for men who love men and are on a spiritual path.

How many years have you been gathering for, first once a year in the fall, and then three times a year, winter, spring and fall? Why this time, was it so special?
We have been gathering for 25 years in the fall but not as long during the winter or spring. This year was very special because of the 25th anniversary which was a time for us to take stock of where we have been, where we are now, and where we wish to go next.

You have always been meeting at The Mountain in the mountains of North Carolina, do you think the special energy that place has makes the meeting so unique…?
I have a long history with The Mountain since I used to be on the faculty and then was Dean of The Mountain School for Congregational Leadership which is a leadership school for lay leaders in the Unitarian Universalist Church. I’ve also hosted for a number of years a group of actors/performers who come to The Mountain to new performance workshops. And, I must say, that ´The Mountain` is a special place that is welcoming to so many kinds of groups. I do think that the mission of the place leads them to embracing and holding in love whoever comes to the retreat center. That and the beautiful natural setting make it very special and sacred. I do believe that GSV has imbued our own special energy into the place that adds to the loving embrace that is practiced by The Mountain.

Many of the men come from the states of Georgia and North Carolina. Some of them live in small communities…? Does this strengthen the feeling of brotherhood and community…?
I think that for all of the men who come, regardless of where, there is a sense of a larger community of men out there beyond their geographical location. I’m sure it is a godsend to men who are a bit more isolated in very small communities to have a gathering place that puts them in the center of the universe rather than at the margins of their smaller town.

Could you inform the readers what types of activities they will be able to attend to if they decide to come to a GSV conference?
At a typical fall conference you will often times hear a keynote speaker who is there to examine the theme of the conference. You will always be put into a small group that meets throughout the conference. These small groups help process the information and experience of the conference. There is always a dance and a talent show. Often times there are workshops to choose from, labyrinth walks, and spontaneous offerings from the men in attendance.
Of course, the winter and spring conferences are a bit different. They are shorter than the autumn one and they have their own flavor. The winter is more contemplative and meditative and the spring has a looser structure and changing features.

Spirituality is an important part of the GSV Conferences. Are men from all kind of religions welcome to the conferences…?
Men from all religions and spiritual paths are welcome at the conference. We come from many faiths many journeys. We gather to learn from each other and to support one another as we seek meaning and connection.

I understand Gay Spirit Visions is a non-profit organisation, and all the people who are involved in the organisation and planning of the different activities are doing it in a completely altruistic way. Is that true?
Yes, it is a totally volunteer organization. There is a council that oversees the business of the group and plans the conferences. These men serve for a limited time and then are replaced by others associated with GSV. In addition, there are many committees staffed by men from across the country who contribute to the success of the conferences by handling different aspects of the gatherings such as ritual, alter spaces, entertainment, and small groups.

What did it mean to you and to the rest of the attendees at the conference to have John Stasio, founder of Easton Mountain, as guest speaker?
I was delighted to have John attend and speak with us. I met John a number of years ago at a conference of gay spiritual leaders and then was fortunate enough to present a performance at his Easton Mountain retreat center. Interestingly enough, John by coincidence was at my ordination as an Interfaith Minister in NYC. He was looking at going to the same seminary as I was graduating from and had no idea I was being ordained when he attended the ceremony. When I decided that our Fall Conference theme would be ‘community’, John was the first person I thought of inviting as a speaker since he has lived in community for many years at Easton Mountain. The feedback I have gotten from the men in attendance has been very positive. John spoke to our hearts and even challenged us to think in bigger and more ambitious ways as an organization.

Now that several days have passed since the end of the conference, what feelings and memories have you got inside of you after being convener of the conference?
The image that sticks in my mind was at the very end of the conference. There was a young man who was volunteering at The Mountain who came to our closing circle. When I led the men into a spiral with our bodies and I looked up from the center there was that young man looking at me and he was just sobbing and smiling and was so overcome with the experience. I reached out my hand to him and held it through our singing and mouthed the words to him “It will all be alright”. He shook his head yes at me and smiled through his tears. To me that is what GSV is all about. It is a place where we save each other from isolation and loneliness and we help men feel whole and alive. In that moment with that young man I felt like I had done my job right. I had held the space for him to enter into and to be embraced and loved by his brothers. He was home.

Thank you so much Scott for your time. It was a real delight to have you with us.

Mountains and mindfulness

man meditating

After coming from ‘The Mountain’ in North Carolina, nestled deep in the Appalachian Mountains, the image of a mountain is vivid in my mind. It made me think how important the notion of it is in Mindfulness and MBSR.

Frequently when we do Sitting Meditation, crossed legged on the floor, or sitting on a chair, we use the image of a mountain, emerging with majesty, with dignity, like us, sitting in an upright position in a dignified posture, aware of our breathing, rooted, motionless, oblivious to what is happening around. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “by becoming the mountain in our meditation, we can link up with its strength and stability, and adopt them for our own”.

We also use the parallelism with a mountain when we do Mindful yoga. Standing with our feet shoulder-width apart, our arms parallel to our body. Our spine erect, standing with dignity, focusing our awareness on the connection with the floor. Being with our feet grounded, anchored, stable, like a mountain emerging from the earth. Going back to it again and again when we connect from one posture to the next while we practise Mindful movement. Knowing that we can come back to it frequently throughout the day, whatever we are doing, wherever we may be. Feeling secure, feeling connected, feeling rooted, feeling present.

Let the mountains inspire us, men who love men, while we practise Mindfulness meditation, let’s have them present in our imagination, in our mind, in our body.

Sources:
Kabat-Zinn, John. Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion, 1994.

Meditating open air

open air

Meditating open-air.

Feeling connected to the earth, feeling grounded, feeling rooted.

The wind blowing in your face.

Listening to the sound of water, the power of water, water falling into the void.

Blending with nature.

Becoming merged with it.

Becoming one.

By Manuel Grau (in the picture), founder at MindfulGay

Mindful Yoga

mindful movement

Mindful yoga or mindful movement is one of the formal meditation practices used in MBSR – Mindfulness-based stress reduction.

People frequently wonder what  yoga, or movement in general, has to do with meditation.
The purpose of it is to bring awareness to movement. Being conscious of what is happening to our body, and in our body when we move.

Although we call it yoga, it is not exactly yoga. It takes movements and postures from that discipline, but also from qi gong, tai chi, dance, or even from everyday life, and adds an element of awareness and consciousness to it…
It can be done standing or lying down. Most of the time it is done with our eyes open, but some movements can also be performed with our eyes closed, what may deliver a different dimension to the movement.

Do we have to be extremely fit in order to do the different movements? Not at all! This is the beauty of it, there´s always some sort of movement that every one of us can do. It doesn´t matter if we exercise regularly or not, if we have our four limbs or not, if our mobility is impaired or not. It is a matter of being aware of that particular movement, at that particular time, even if it is barely a movement.

It is not a competition between the people in the room, nor a competition with ourselves, it is just a matter of living the moment, experiencing our experience, as we do when we practice sitting meditation or the body scan.

Listening and self respect are also vital here.

Listening to corporal signs, listening to what our body is telling us… How far can we reach? When do we have to stop? When do we have to go back  to the starting position?

Self respect: we all have to learn how to respect our body, and be aware of our limits.

Limits that differ from person to person; limits that within ourselves may vary from day to day, or even, from moment to moment…

While we practice mindful yoga or mindful movement, nothing else exists.  Ourselves, our bodies, that particular movement, experiencing it, listening to it, embodying it….

We may have raised our hands  and  arms thousands of times in our life, but when we do it with awareness, we reach a new dimension that probably we never thought  could exist.

Walking meditation

walking meditation mindfulness

Walking is something we all do every day. But in most cases, we do it automatically, without thinking on the added value it can bring us.

Jon Kabat-Zin wanted to give a new meaning to walking, so he introduced the walking meditation within the formal practices that form the MBSR – Mindfulness-based stress reduction.

Practicing walking meditation is as simple as walking, but while you do it, you can add to the meditation other stimuli, p.e., what you see, what you feel, the smells, the feel of your feet when they get in touch with the ground… what you should avoid is not to try getting caught for other thoughts that alienate us from cultivating our inner observation.

It may be difficult at the beginning: for many years we have used our legs mechanically likely you could even feel awkward during the activity. You can set your eyes straight ahead or you can look down and see how the foot up from the floor and back down, and feel the rhythm of your steps.

Any time is good for practicing walking meditation: in small displacements, at home, in a park, in the way to or back from work … there’s always a good chance to make that path a chance to meditate. Walking as a practice itself, try not to treat it as a further goal, as we usually do during our busy daily life.

Take your time. Do not run. Only wander without looking for a goal, not a destination, without the intention of reaching a particular location. If, for example, you put it into practice during a journey that you are used to do it in 5 minutes, allow yourself to do it in double time and practice walking meditation for 10 minutes.

Before starting practice, think about breathing slowly during those two or three initial steps to accustom your body and mind to this new way of walking. The soles should focus your attention: be aware of the contact between them and the ground you walk on.

You have to control your breathing. Make it mild and slow. It will help you to reduce the effects of stress and facilitate meditation. Make deep but slow breaths inhaling air through the nose and exhaling through your mouth.

And, most important advice: do it lively. Don’t think about a minimum or maximum time for practicing this meditation. And at the end, take a moment for reflect on what you have done, how through the practice, you have found serenity, peace, inner joy.

Body scan

body scan mindfulness

When we hear the term body scan, it can conjure up all sorts of thoughts and mental associations.

Body scan is one of the formal meditation practices which are part of mindfulness-based stress reduction or MBSR, and it is the first kind of meditation which is taught in the MBSR course.

It is a type of lying down meditation in which we focus our attention on the different parts of our body, in a systematic way.

Usually it is done lying down on a mat , with our arms parallel to the body. But it can also be done sitting down, or adopting other positions like, the astronaut pose (body on the floor, and knees bent on a chair).

While we do the body scan, our eyes are usually closed, but if this makes us feel uncomfortable, or we feel that we are falling asleep, we can leave them open.

While we are lying down, relaxation can occur, but it’s not the ultimate goal of this meditation. Throughout the exercise, we are invited to stay alert and awake. But again, if we happen to fall asleep, it is okay, we just resume the exercise in the part of the body where we were just before our attention drifted away.

We do not pretend to change anything, or achieve any particular goal, just being aware of how we are and what we feel as we check each area of our bodies.

In the body scan, we go through the different parts of the body, acknowledging what is happening in that particular point, in that particular moment. Accepting whatever sensation or feeling we may have, or accepting (why not?) that there is no particular sensation or feeling.

We move our awareness through the different parts of our body, following a particular order, but there is no one best way of doing it. We can start from the toes and end on the head, or the other way around.

Again as what happens with sitting meditation, it is a matter of experiencing the experience, accepting whatever is there for us in the here and now.