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. Try to sit with the head aligned with the spine. If you’re in a chair, place both feet flat on the ground. Hands can be placed on the lap. (There is no expectation to sit in lotus like you see yogis do.) It’s important you are seated, or lying down if needed, so that you can let go of every muscle.

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

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

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

  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. Focus on your arms - let go of any tension in your arms, fingers.

  6. Notice your buttocks and thighs... Are you gripping or holding?... Let it 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? If so, again - 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 away of your thoughts is the key. Much of our day is spent thinking without realizing what we’re thinking about. So mindfulness is being aware of thoughts, which leads to 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, is a social psychologist at Harvard University. She has 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). They wanted a lot more money to do more of the task.”

One group perceived it as drudgery, the other as delight. “I think people feel that being really happy in this deep way, not that you’ve just won an award or bought something new — they think this is something one should experience sometimes; if you experience it more than others, you’re lucky. I think it should be the way you are all the time.”

 

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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.

Consider how can you meet that same experience with gratitude? What might you say about that experience that opens up the positive sides of what you are doing and why you are 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 do a quick sit and simply listen.  You can do a body scan at anytime, anywhere (except driving). You can just do a quick scan of the places in your body where you’re most tense. Take 2 minutes to sit, breathe, release tension. And when something feels like drudgery, replace those thoughts with some gratitude, see if you can find delight. If you can’t always make it happen, it’s okay! Do not do the blame/shame game. You are doing your best - and so are others.