Initial Circle

THEME: DRUDGERY & DELIGHT

WELCOME: The first circle offers a chance to reinforce the intention and address any needs or questions from the group.

7:00 is a half hour designated for snack & chat (and late arrivals).

7:30 a bell or signal is made and everyone moves to the circle area: sofa, chairs, floor, pillows, cushions, etc. Tea and water is fine, but try to keep food out of this part.

Once everybody gets settled, the facilitator gives a warm welcome, thanks everybody for their willingness to build something new, and makes sure everyone is comfortable. She reviews the basic agenda, reminds that phones should be off, etc.

 
 
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CHECK-IN: Let’s go around the room to share our name and give a brief explanation of what has brought us here. What is the intention in joining this circle? It’s important that we listen without comments. We will each start with “My name is… and I am here to…”


MINDFUL PRACTICE: We are going to start by discussing what mindfulness is not. Many think “Oh, it’s meditation. It’s Buddhism. It’s sitting and thinking about nothing. It’s hard. It requires 20 minutes or more of practice each day.”

There are many forms of meditation and they are all tied to mindfulness. We will be practicing some of those methods so you can decide if any work well for you. Actually, mindfulness is simply being aware of “this” -  thoughts, feelings, and experiences occurring in the present moment. It’s the key to how you communicate to yourself and others. It’s slowing down and using space to feel. It’s tracking mental or physical tendencies so you can reduce struggle and worry and be more aligned with what is going on right in front of you or inside you.

What starts off as drudgery (sitting in awareness can feel like work), becomes delight as the practice continues. Having a few minutes with yourself in “this moment” can be a sanctuary.

For today’s practice, we will start small, with sound. For one minute, we will close our eyes and simply take in every sound we can hear. Focus on sounds near and far, like a symphony. You may even hear internal sounds (like ringing in your ears). Don’t worry about expectations. Just focus on the experience.  Ready? (set 1 minute timer)

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SHARE: How was that? What did you hear? Were you thinking during that time?

It is perfectly natural to think. With more practice, you will be able to settle your mind a bit more, but know that thoughts will arise and you will learn to acknowledge them and use them as guidance.  

Next, you will be guided through a different mindful practice, a body scan.

 

Notice how you are sitting. Sit with the head aligned with the spine. If you’re in a chair, place both feet flat on the ground. Hands can rest on the lap. (There is no expectation to sit in lotus like you see yogis do.)

  1. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths.

  2. Starting with your head, as you breathe, release any tension you in your forehead... eyes... jaw... and neck. With each exhale - let go.

  3. Move to your shoulders. Are they up? Drop them. Let your back relax. Feel the breath move easily in and out.

  4. Relax the belly...breathe so the bottom of your lungs are taking in air. Hold it for a second … release through your nose... Feel your back touching the chair.

  5. Let go of any tension in your arms and fingers.

  6. Notice your buttocks and thighs... Are you gripping or holding?... Let go.

  7. Keep breathing and feel your body experience the inhalation and exhalation…

  8. Relax your feet and toes...

  9. Feel your whole body in a totally relaxed state. (Let a few minutes pass).

  10. When you’re ready, place your hands together. Rub them as you slowly open your eyes.

  11. Use the palms of your hands to gently rub your face or head.

  12. Slowly rise. Stretch your hands and toes. Rotate your head and neck gently.

SHARE: How did that feel? Was it easy? Hard? There is no judgement, only experience and awareness. Did thoughts pop into your head? That happens and it’s natural. That is what our brains do.

When you notice a thought, you can say “thought” and return to the focus of breath or body. You’re not doing it “wrong” - being aware of thoughts is the key. Much of our day is spent without realizing what we’re thinking. Mindfulness is being aware of thoughts, understanding patterns, noticing how they affect our bodies and our response to experiences. This is very empowering.

CONSIDER: Gratitude plays a big role in mindfulness. Experiences are formed by the ideas we attach to them. What we think can be the difference between Drudgery & Delight.

Ellen Langer, mother of mindfulness, a social psychologist at Harvard University, spent over 35 years studying mindfulness. “In one study, we had people read and evaluate cartoons, as either a work or play task. Those doing it as work didn’t enjoy it (compared to the play group).

One group perceived it as drudgery, the other as delight. Bringing gratitude to the simple things we do, can turn work into play. It can habituate joy.

 

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JOURNAL: Identify something you’ve done recently, maybe something routine, that you attach negative thoughts to:  annoyance, boredom, impatience, dull. Write down all the “ick” stuff about it. (example: grocery shopping is stressful and tedious)

Can you meet that same experience with gratitude? What might you acknowledge that opens up the positive sides of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it?

SHARE: Each person will describe the task, what negative thoughts (drudgery) were attached to it, what positive thoughts (delight) are as worthy, and how she feels about applying those new thoughts each time she does this task.

CLOSING: Remember, you can sit and simply listen to the world for a couple of minutes.  You can do a body scan anytime, anywhere (except driving). You can relax places in your body where you’re tense by taking 2 minutes to sit, breathe, and release tension. When something feels like drudgery, replace those thoughts with gratitude, see if you can find delight. Do not do the blame/shame game. You are doing your best - and so are others.