It is with sadness that I write that the Friday morning meditation group is cancelled tomorrow. However….. I am finally getting all modern and going online from next week. 25€ for 4 sessions, if you’ve not been able to make the group due to distance now is your chance.
I am also adding a new weekly group, the Monday Morning Mindful Mingle, a Compassion Focused Therapy based weekly check in from the comfort of your own home, pyjamas and a cup of coffee as your accessory welcomed.
In the session we explored different ways of sitting for the sitting practice, including the use of props and cushions to support our comfort within the practice. Sitting for long periods is not comfortable, but we can make the experience simpler by ensuring we are stay in a position our body can maintain. Meditation stools, bolsters of various sizes and cushions under our feet or behind our lower backs can make all the difference. Ultimately you want a self-supporting spine and your knees lower than your hips. If you’re using a chair both feet should be flat on the floor. For more information you can read some hints and tips here.
You’ll find a guided sitting practice here, it’s number 3 on the list.
As always we finished with a tea, this month it’s a purple leaf, Sheng puerh. Any infusion can be used as a finish to the practice, acting as a transition from the stillness of the practice to whatever you have left to do with your day.
Autumnal leaves greeting us for The Weekly Meditation Atelier in Pézenas. The leaves are slowly shifting to reds, browns and yellows.
We began our practice with a breathing technique that can be added to our mindfulness tool kit, if practiced regularly it can be something we access when under stress to support us respond more wisely that we might. It works to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the body’s rest and digestion response when the body is relaxed, resting, or feeding. It basically undoes the work of sympathetic division after a stressful situation. The parasympathetic nervous system decreases respiration and heart rate and increases digestion.
Begin by drawing your attention to the breath, simply following the in breath and out breath.
Then move your focus to breathing in for 4 counts, holding for 2 counts, breathing out for 4 counts and holding for 2. Repeat for 2 minutes.
From here you are can extend this sequence to breathing in for 4, holding for the count of 2 and breathing out to the count of 5, holding for 2 and repeating.
You can rest with this rhythm or extend to breathing out for 6 counts, then 7, and then 8 if this is within your range.
Remember to listen to YOUR body, this is not a competition. The aim of this technique is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system using the outbreath, this is activated at 4 counts of the outbreath and staying at this count is absolutely ok.
This week we did a movement and sensory practice, unfortunately I don’t have a recording of this practice but you are welcome to try this practice in place of the session held today. We closed with a purple leaf Sheng puerh tea you can read more about here.
The meditation practice was closed with a poem about kindness.
This week I introduced the pause, a simple mindfulness technique. Simply stopping and observing three breaths, following the inbreath and our breath 3 times. Allowing us to press pause and connect to the present moment. An opportunity to retrain those neurons and offer a space to react and respond differently when under stress. If we practice when we aren’t stressed, we can more easily access this coping strategy when we are.
Stop what you are doing for a moment.
Take 3 mindful breaths, simply feeling the breath coming in and going out of your body.
Go back to whatever you were doing.
Prescribed for use 3 regular times a day and use as necessary.
Ideal for moments of encounters with bad drivers and in shopping queues when the customer in front gets out their cheque book and coupons.
From the pause we then undertook the body scan, you’ll find it in the resources, meditations online if you would like to try it at home here (number 1). The body scan is about training ourselves to put attention and awareness in different places at will – as a focus to anchor our awareness in the moment. Mindfulness is not about trying to get anywhere, but simply being aware of where you are, and allowing yourself to BE where and AS you are. The practice was closed with this poem by Portia Nelson whom I am sure we can all relate to…..
Our tea this month is a Purple Leaf Sheng Puerh, harvested. Spring 2019, grown by Li Shu Lin and family in the Nannou Mountain, Yunnan, China. Purple tea is made from leaves that are high in anthocyanin, an antioxidant also found in blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. This tea was made with hand picked purple leaves from a field of cultivated purple tea trees. The tea trees on Li Shu Lin’s land have never had any added manures, pesticides or soil additives of any kind, and thrive completely on their own in their natural environment.
The tea is brewed in boiling water and steeped fro 1-2 minutes and can be brewed fro 3+ infusions to fully extract the many layers of the flavour.
Stereotypes are often their for a reason. I am British and tea is one of my things. Though my French husband is more likely to drink the typical variety you’ll be offered than myself. We call it ‘normal’, the rest of the world calls it ‘English Breakfast’. It involves plonking a tea bag in a cup, boiling a kettle, pouring the water over the bag and shortly after removing the bag, squeezing it against the side and then adding cold, fresh milk from the fridge (no home ever has the long life milk commonly offered in France). On receiving the cup of tea you’ll say something along the lines of ‘Mmmmmm a nice cup of hot tea’.
Whilst I do enjoy a cup of ‘normal’ tea, it’s not what is on offer in The Weekly Meditation Atelier. At the close of the mindful compassion based meditation we transition from the formal practice to an activity based meditation, easing ourselves gently into the close of the session and into our daily lives. It cultivates a sense of continuing to embody mindfulness and present moment awareness into our daily lives. Anything can be a meditation if we put our attention to it. The tea meditation is a way of demonstrating this, of remaining in companionable silence together as the vessels are warmed with hot water, the tea is woken up, the water is poured and the tea is served. The movements, sounds, colours, smells, sensations and finally taste. These can all be observed and model a way of bringing presence into our daily activities, the moments that make up our lives. A mundane activity can be turned around into a sensory based meditation, grounding you in the present moment.
Every tea comes from the same plant, Camellia Sisensis, each country, mountain, village and even family produce different batches of tea. Fine teas are of interest to me and I source ecological and small batch varieties from around the world to offer in the sessions. The tea meditation draws inspiration from the Japanese tea ceremony, which are quietly reflective ceremonies where the preparation of tea takes place in silence. Each month I introduce a new tea and each week it’ll offer a different experience, as you’ll discover. No breath is the same, no cup of tea will be either.
As an Occupational Therapist activity is the pivotal part of interventions, and the tea meditation allows me to weave this in. Modeling how you too can make simple activities a moment to pause, recentre and connect to yourself. To take time to observe and listen to your body and identifying it’s needs. In this way you move away from the thinking mind to the being mind. Allowing you to manage stress, anxiety or whatever difficulties you may be experiencing, giving space to experience sensations as they are, without the stories and judgements and opening a door to the healing that lies within you.
I hope this has been a helpful explanation of the tea meditation and why I have chosen to add it to the atelier. It’s not something that I have experienced within any other meditation class I have attended. I enjoy exploring the teas with you all very much. If you have any questions or would like me to write about specific topics do leave a comment below or get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
This weeks meditation atelier we practiced a compassion based sitting meditation which you can find here, scroll down and you’ll see it at number 4. You’ll find the poem here.
P.S I am expecting some comments on the ritual of the British cup of tea as this is a hotly debated topic…. mug or cup of tea for example…. some people put milk in WITH the teabag still in the cup….. others will always use a tea pot and then the debate moves into the ‘milk or tea’ in the cup first. It’s a very intricate affair and assumptions will be made about what sort of person you are by the tea you make or drink.
In this weeks meditation session we explored the sitting practice, followed by a short story this week instead of a poem. Do you remember the last time you were read a story? If it’s something you’d like to try again you can find some lovely ones on the Calm website here. They’re specifically sleep stories, if you know of anyone else who reads out short stories that you could recommend get in touch.
Within this weeks session we briefly touched on home practice. If you want to see the changes that can arrive in your life from mindfulness training, you need to practice regularly, ideally daily. The evidence points to 20-40 minutes everyday, but 10 minutes is going to be enough to bring about new neural pathways in the brain. These new pathways give you the opportunity to respond differently when under stress.
One thing that can help is using online guided practices or timers. Calm is an online meditation space that I have enjoyed, though more recently I have been using Insight Timer and Petit Bambou as I have been focusing on building my French vocabulary and they have the option of French language.
You also have access to the mindful compassion based meditations that I teach here, password Wellbeing2020 (this gets updated regularly so if it doesn’t work please email).
Another way to get you to practice is setting up an inviting space. Above is a little window into where I practice. There are no designated rooms in my house, but I’ve found a nook. When I lived in with my family in a small flat in London I didn’t have the luxury of a nook so I simply set up a mat, my meditation stool, my favourite blanket over my shoulders and would light a candle (scented tealights were a favourite). If I had time I’d journal afterwards with a cup of tea, though more often than not that wasn’t available to me. Working with what you have is important, give a sense of ritual and ceremony to the experience. You deserve this space.
Some other useful tips are to have a regular time of day, building up this habit, overtime it becomes like brushing your teeth, if you don’t do it you just don’t feel right.
Build up the time, one minute at a time could be enough. Begin with a 1 minute meditation each morning, the following week build it to 2 minutes, then gradually increase the time. You may find yourself practicing for longer, but setting a realistic goal that you can attain consistently will increase your success and the likelihood that you’ll maintain a regular meditation practice that’s not daunting.
So you’ve got one minute set aside. The invitation is to simply follow the breath in and out, finding a point most vivid for you in this practice. One minute, breathing in and breathing out, noting the sensations that you find.
Note where it was and then throughout the day in moments of stress you have an anchor to ground yourself in the present moment.
Home practice plan:
Create a physical space to practice, be creative, make it inviting
Allocate a regular time slot
Set aside one minute a day to be there for to begin with
Find a point within the breath where the sensations stand out
Continue to follow the breath
Repeat for one minute
Let me know how you get on, or do get in contact with any questions email@example.com.
Preparing myself for work earlier I crammed the many items into various vessels. I will streamline this I am sure, but I’m a ‘you never know’ sort of person. I have wished to be a minimalist for many years. But I’m just not, I feel my mindfulness practice has allowed me to embrace myself in all of my messiness. I love having knickknacks and bits and bobs lying around. I carry folders and books, journals, diaries and magazines. I don’t travel lightly, but I do it beautifully and sparking lots of joy along the way. I love how the poem you’ll encounter later in the post references having lots of things just incase. Whilst I on the other hand don’t want to carry less, I do so with the same light energy Nadine talks of.
Following the second week in the new venue, I feel I am finding my flow with running the group in the space. It’s beautiful here. The sessions start at 10am and finish at 11am. You can park after the red and white barrier leading to a private road (to the left of the picture), simply life the pin out and push the gate, then close it after you have parked. Enter through the gate pictured and you’ll find me in the barn to the left, the building covered in ivy. Simply wear a mask into the room and you are welcome to then remove it when you arrive at your seat. If you arrive a little after the time, just settle into the practice as you can.
This weeks practice was movement based, we began by connecting to our bodies and breath and moved into some gentle and simple movements exploring our limits and edges, our boundaries. Spending this time focusing in the present moment allows us to observe our habits and tendencies, it’s a very powerful and tender practice. If this is something you’d like to explore at home you can find the practice in the online area, this is password protected, email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
I invite you to read this weeks poem to yourself (pictured below).
The tea I served was an Amber Oolong, grown in Nepal. The tea is light and malty with a mature tasting sweetness to it. It was the same tea as last week, where I brewed it in a shorter infusion yielding softer floral notes than this week which was much more malty in taste.
My photo does it no justice, though it gives me the opportunity to share one of my favourite new rituals. My post group office is a cafe in Pézenas that I adore and reminds me of one of the many reasons we moved here.
This week saw the start of the weekly meditation atelier in it’s new venue, 26 Rue de Castelnau, Pézenas, 10-11am.
We began with an introduction to the practices, the space and then moved into a body scan, an opportunity to explore and be with our bodies. To close the practice I read the poem above. Each week I will post the poem here and offer a little invitation to pause and simply read it wherever you find time within your day, maybe with a cup of tea.
A home practice of undertaking an everyday task mindfully over the week was recommended, being with the sensations and colours, textures and being fully present for the few minutes the task takes up. Brushing teeth, making a cup of tea, rearranging a stack of papers. Anything can be practiced mindfully.
Keep it simple.
So until next week, may you be well, may you be at ease and may you be kind to yourself and others.
The latest newsletter has just been sent out, including details on dates for half day retreats in September, the Friday morning Meditation Atelier at a new venue in Pézenas and a Goal Setting and Vision Board Atelier session 24th September… Plus do you have a mutuelle? You could be entitled to reimbursements on individual sessions. Details in the latest newsletter, which can be found here.