Exploring the Link between Mindfulness and Decision-Making.
When facilitating mindfulness groups, I always encourage and invite participants to experiment with their postures and make adjustments as needed. I have observed that many individuals make skillful use of this opportunity. However, some individuals struggle with feeling trapped and unable to move their bodies during the practice, which limits their ability to fully engage in meditation. Despite their difficulties, they persist with the practice and work hard to contain their suffering internally.
I wanted to delve deeper into the reasons why individuals experience difficulty when faced with making choices.
Choice is a fundamental aspect of human experience.
From the moment we wake up in the morning, we are faced with a multitude of choices, both big and small. Yet, when it comes to our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, we often feel like we have no control over what happens to us. However, research has shown that we always have a choice, even in the most difficult and challenging situations. In this article, we will explore the concept of choice and how it relates to mindfulness and personal growth.
What is research saying?
One of the most ground-breaking studies on the power of choice was conducted by psychologist Martin Seligman. In the 1960s, Seligman conducted a series of experiments with dogs, where he exposed them to electric shocks that they couldn’t avoid. As a result, the dogs learned to become passive and helpless, even when presented with opportunities to escape the shocks. Seligman called this phenomenon “learned helplessness,” and it has been extensively studied in humans as well.
Seligman also discovered that the dogs could be taught to become active and resilient if they were given an opportunity to control their environment. This led him to develop the concept of “learned optimism,” where individuals can learn to reframe their experiences in a more positive light by focusing on the choices available to them.
In essence, this research demonstrates that even in situations where we feel helpless and trapped, we always have a choice.
We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to those experiences.
Too much choice can be overwhelming.
A study conducted by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper found that too much choice can be overwhelming and lead to decreased satisfaction. In the study, they set up a tasting booth with either 6 or 24 varieties of jam. While more people were drawn to the booth with 24 jams, only 3% of those who stopped made a purchase. In contrast, 30% of those who stopped at the booth with 6 jams made a purchase.
Another study found that the perception of choice can influence our physiological responses. Participants were asked to complete a task and were given either a choice or no choice in how to complete it. The group that was given a choice showed decreased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, while the group that was not given a choice showed increased levels.
Furthermore, researchers have found that the way in which we frame our choices can impact our decision-making. For example, framing a decision as a loss can make us more risk-averse, while framing it as a gain can make us more likely to take risks.
Overall, the research suggests that choice is a complex and multifaceted concept, and that our perception and experience of choice can impact our behaviour and well-being in a variety of ways.
How can mindfulness help? Exploring the Link between Mindfulness and Decision-Making.
So, how does this concept of choice relate to mindfulness? Mindfulness is all about becoming aware of our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in the present moment, without judgment or reaction. By cultivating a mindfulness practice, we can learn to recognize the choices available to us in each moment. This can help us to break free from habitual patterns of thinking and reacting and to respond in more intentional and skillful ways.
For example, let’s say you’re in a stressful situation at work and you notice yourself starting to feel overwhelmed and anxious. In that moment, you have a choice. You could choose to react by getting defensive, shutting down, or lashing out at others. Alternatively, you could choose to respond by taking a deep breath, recognizing your emotions, and practicing self-compassion. This second option may be more challenging, but ultimately it can lead to greater personal growth and resilience.
Of course, recognising our choices is often easier said than done. It’s important to acknowledge that we may have internal barriers that make it difficult to see our choices clearly. These barriers can include past trauma, negative self-talk, and limiting beliefs. By working with a therapist or mindfulness teacher, we can learn to identify these barriers and develop strategies for overcoming them.
In conclusion, the concept of choice is a powerful tool for personal growth and transformation. Through mindfulness and other contemplative practices, we can learn to recognise our choices in each moment and to respond with greater intention and skill. As Seligman’s research demonstrates, we may not always be able to control what happens to us, but we can always control how we respond. By embracing our choices and cultivating a mindset of learned optimism, we can develop greater resilience and well-being in our lives.
Tips for mindfulness practice: are you interested in mindfulness but not sure where to start? If so, you can develop a mindfulness practice routine to reduce stress, improve focus, and cultivate a greater sense of well-being. Here are five tips to help you get started with your mindfulness practice:
1 Set aside time for your mindfulness practice
To start a mindfulness practice routine, you should set aside time for your practice as the first step. Consistency is key, even if it’s just 5-10 minutes per day. Commit to practicing at the same time every day, whether it’s first thing in the morning or before bed at night. Choose a time that works for you.
2 Find a comfortable space when practicing mindfulness
When starting out with mindfulness, finding a comfortable and distraction-free space is crucial. Choose a quiet room or outdoor area where you won’t be interrupted, and ensure you have a comfortable cushion or seat to sit on. If you choose to practice outside, seek out a location with a beautiful view or calming natural surroundings.
3 Focus on your breath
Learning to focus on the present moment is a core principle of mindfulness. To achieve this, try focusing on your breath as you practice. Begin by taking a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then, let your breath settle into its natural rhythm. As you sit and breathe, pay attention to the sensations in your body and mind, without being judgmental or distracted.
4 Use guided mindfulness meditations
Using guided meditations can be a helpful tool for those new to mindfulness. Many apps and websites, such as Calm, and Insight Timer, offer free guided meditations for beginners. Choose a guided meditation that resonates with you and commit to practicing it daily for a week or two. You can find guided meditations on various platforms mindfulness2go soundcloud.
5 Be patient and kind with yourself
Remember that starting a mindfulness practice routine is a process that requires time and patience to develop. If you find your mind wandering or your practice difficult at first, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, approach your practice with curiosity and kindness, and view every moment of mindfulness as an opportunity to learn and grow. By setting aside time, finding a comfortable space, focusing on your breath, using guided meditations, and being patient and kind with yourself, you can begin to develop a sustainable mindfulness practice that supports your overall well-being.
As a child, I was always drawn to water and aquatic environments. I vividly recall wandering into a lake at a young age, unable to swim but captivated by the allure of the water. Thankfully, a kind stranger saw me struggling and rescued me from the depths. Fast forward several decades, and at the age of 48, I was diagnosed with cancer. During my treatment, one of my oncologists emphasized the importance of staying active, noting that rest doesn’t always mean lying on the couch. This advice inspired me to return to the water, to rediscover the calming and restorative benefits that I had loved as a child.
Nowadays, I regularly go for swims and immerse myself in the ocean, which previously caused me anxiety until I underwent EMDR therapy. However, I recognize that not everyone needs to physically enter the water to experience its positive effects. Simply gazing out at a nearby body of water, whether it’s a lake, river, or ocean, can bring feelings of calm, peace, and expansiveness. Alternatively, walking through a green space and admiring the trees or looking up at the sky can have similar benefits.
I encourage anyone who feels exhausted, anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed to consider seeking solace in the natural world. Even if you don’t have easy access to water, taking a few moments to connect with nature can help you find a greater sense of ease and well-being.
The therapeutic practice known as “blue space therapy” is similar to its green counterpart, this approach centres on the benefits of spending time in natural environments. Personally, I find solace and tranquillity in the vastness of the ocean, where my mind and body are able to unwind and rejuvenate. As I gaze upon the seemingly endless expanse of water, I am struck by the sky’s magnificent display of colours, which subtly shift and blend together, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.
Blue space therapy is a therapeutic practice that involves spending time in natural aquatic environments, such as oceans, lakes, rivers, or even swimming pools. The goal of this therapy is to promote physical and mental well-being by taking advantage of the calming and restorative effects of water. Similar to green space therapy, which emphasises the benefits of spending time in nature, blue space therapy recognizes the healing properties of natural environments and encourages individuals to connect with them to improve their overall health and wellness.
Experiencing loneliness can be incredibly challenging as it involves complex emotional states characterized by feelings of sadness, grief, and isolation. Loneliness permeates the physical body, causing the heart to ache and the mind to struggle with regulating worries, judgments, and rumination.
It mirrors symptoms of depression and may even manifest as depression itself. And results from disconnection and is characterised by the absence of companionship, conversation, and connection with others.
It’s important to note that loneliness does not necessarily result from being alone. Rather, it stems from the quality of the connection and relationships individuals have with themselves and others.
Mark Twain’s quote, “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself
True loneliness is not simply about being alone, but rather it is a state of mind where one is unable to find comfort and peace within themselves.
A poignant reminder
The relationship we have with ourselves is just as important as the relationships we have with others. When we are unable to be at peace with ourselves, it can lead to
a deep sense of loneliness,
Cultivate self-acceptance and self-compassion
Can help us to develop a healthy relationship with ourselves and reduce the risk of feeling lonely.
Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Bring to mind the feeling of loneliness that you are currently experiencing. Allow yourself to fully feel it and acknowledge it without judgment.
Repeat the following words to yourself, either in your head or out loud: “May I be kind to myself. May I give myself the compassion I need in this moment.”
Imagine a warm, comforting light surrounding you. Feel the warmth spreading throughout your body and soothing your mind.
Repeat the following words to yourself: “I am not alone in this. Many people experience feelings of loneliness. I am a worthy and deserving person, just as I am.”
Think about a time when you showed compassion to someone else. Recall the feeling of kindness and understanding that you had in that moment. Now, direct that same compassion towards yourself.
Repeat the following words to yourself: “I forgive myself for any mistakes or shortcomings I may have. I am worthy of love and compassion, regardless of my perceived flaws or shortcomings.”
Take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to sink into this feeling of self-compassion. Stay here as long as you need.
When you are ready, slowly open your eyes and return to your day. Remember to carry the feeling of self-compassion with you as you go about your day.
This meditation can be practiced whenever you are feeling lonely or in need of self-compassion. It can help you to cultivate feelings of kindness and understanding towards yourself, reducing feelings of loneliness and increasing feelings of wellbeing.
When we are comfortable with who we are, we are better equipped to form meaningful connections with others and experience true companionship.
You say you want to be happy. You say you want to live well. You say you want to be satisfied. But you’re not I can tell. If you only had this one thing. More time, more money, more of that. But, when you do, peace it doesn’t bring. No matter what you have. It never seems to be enough. I want you to be happy. I want you to live well. I want you to be satisfied. I want to give you peace. Be content with who I am content with who you are. Be content with what you have and where you are . I am the one who can be your true happiness. I can help you see how much you are blessed. I have you right where you need to be. I have a plan a future that you don’t yet see. You worry about what lies ahead. But you miss what I’ve just said. Be okay to live in today to live right now. Things tend to work out someway somehow. Be content to stay with me. Place your hand in mine. Listen grow and learn to see the sign. Be content to walk with me. As we travel along the way. Be content to rest in me. To be silent and to pray. Lay your burden down place your troubles at my feet. Trust that I am in control I will give you what you need. Be content to sit with me. To speak not, but be still. Be content to cry with me. For I too cried upon the hill. Be content to laugh with me. To dance and sing and run. And celebrate with me when I find the lost one. Be content with me for I am more than enough. I won’t leave you when things get tough. I softly call your name in the middle of the storm. Cry out to me and I will keep you safe and warm. When you wonder when you doubt. That there is any way out. Cling to me and you will see. The sun slowly begin to appear. You will know and you will grow. There is nothing you need to fear. Be content with me my child. Let me be enough for you.
This poem ‘Be Content’ by ShowYouLove invites us to create contentment and finding peace in our current circumstances. Be content with who you are, where you are, and what you have. Striving is not making you content, so let go of it. Attitudes like curiosity, trust, beginner’s mind will help you developing a greater sense of contentment.
The art of loving-kindness meditation involves being present with oneself and others in a compassionate and loving way. Just as with any art, it takes time and practice to master the technique. It is a form of metta meditation that helps train the mind to be more loving and kind. LKZ involves wishing happiness for all beings and recognizing that suffering can be relieved through compassion and loving-kindness. When we practice these techniques, we can shift from reactivity to responsiveness and find healing.
Remember that the practice of loving-kindness is not about achieving a certain result or outcome, but rather about cultivating a sense of care, connection, comfort, and nourishment within yourself and towards others. With regular practice, you may find that your ability to offer loving-kindness and compassion to yourself and others increases, and that you are better able to navigate challenging situations with a sense of calm and clarity.
One thing to keep in mind as you practice loving-kindness meditation is that it is not necessary to force yourself to feel a certain way. It is common for people to feel resistant to offering love and compassion to themselves or others, especially when they are experiencing difficult emotions or situations. It is important to remember that the practice of loving-kindness is not about trying to suppress or ignore negative emotions, but rather about finding a way to hold them with care and understanding.
As mentioned before, you may find it challenging to offer loving-kindness to yourself or others, try starting with small acts of kindness and compassion, and gradually build up from there. It can also be helpful to seek the guidance of a qualified meditation instructor or therapist who can offer support and guidance as you develop your practice.
Also, if you feel overwhelmed, it is important to prioritise safety and take time to anchor and ground yourself. It is also important to remember that taking care of yourself through self-compassion is an act of loving-kindness. Consider listening to guided instructions or meditations as a starting point, and allow yourself time to find your own voice in the practice.
Origin of Loving-Kindness
Loving-kindness meditation, also known as metta meditation, is a traditional Buddhist practice that has been practiced for centuries in various forms. It is a form of concentration meditation that involves focusing the mind on feelings of love, care, and compassion towards oneself and others.
It’s been widely practiced by Buddhists as a way to cultivate positive emotions and to promote well-being and compassion for all beings. In recent years, the practice of loving-kindness meditation has also gained popularity in non-Buddhist contexts as a means of stress reduction and for promoting mental and emotional well-being.
The intention of the practice is to cultivate feelings of love and connection with all beings, regardless of whether we have a personal relationship with them or not.
Loving-kindness meditation can be a helpful tool
dealing with stress
cultivates feelings of care, connection, and compassion;
counteracts feelings of anxiety and stress.
shifts our perspective and to recognise that we are not alone in our struggles (common humanity)
cultivates a sense of connection and support that can help to alleviate stress and promote well-being.
How to integrate the practice?
There are many ways to incorporate the practice of loving-kindness meditation into a secular setting. 1: Set aside dedicated time for the practice, either individually or in a group. This can involve sitting quietly and focusing on feelings of love and compassion towards oneself and others, using phrases or words that resonate with you. It can also be helpful to incorporate relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or mindful body awareness, to enhance the effectiveness of the meditation. It helps you with grounding and when feeling overwhelmed.
2: Small acts of kindness and compassion towards oneself and others: offering words of support and encouragement to a friend or colleague, or simply taking a moment to pause and offer kind thoughts towards oneself. By making a conscious effort to cultivate feelings of love and compassion on a daily basis, you can create a sense of connection and support that can help to reduce stress and promote well-being.
Finding the right words and phrases to use in loving-kindness meditation can be challenging at first. It may be helpful to consider what you need and what words you would like to hear from others, and to convert those into wishes for yourself. It is important to take your time and not rush the process, and to remember that the practice is about evoking goodwill, not necessarily good feelings.
Feel free to use below instructions to practice loving-kindness meditation
Find a comfortable seated position and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths, allowing yourself to settle into the present moment.
Bring to mind someone you love and care for deeply. It could be a family member, friend, or even a beloved pet. As you think of this person, silently repeat the following phrases to yourself:
“May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you live with ease.”
As you repeat these phrases, try to sincerely wish for this person’s well-being and happiness. Notice any feelings of warmth or care that arise in your heart.
Next, bring to mind a neutral person, someone you do not have strong feelings towards, such as a grocery store clerk or a stranger on the street. Repeat the same phrases to yourself, silently wishing for this person’s well-being:
“May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you live with ease.”
Now, bring to mind someone you are currently in conflict with or who has caused you difficulty. It might be someone you are currently in disagreement with, or someone from your past who has hurt you. As you think of this person, try to hold them in your mind with care and compassion, silently repeating the phrases:
“May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you live with ease.”
Notice any resistance or difficulty that arises as you offer these wishes. It is natural to have difficulty with this step, but try to bring a sense of curiosity and openness to any difficult emotions that arise.
Finally, bring to mind all beings everywhere, including yourself. Repeat the phrases to yourself, silently wishing for the well-being and happiness of all beings:
“May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be safe. May all beings live with ease.”
Take a few moments to rest in this sense of connectedness and care for all beings. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes, bringing your attention back to the present moment.
Remember, the practice of loving-kindness meditation is not about achieving a certain result or outcome, but rather about cultivating a sense of care and connection within ourselves and towards others. With regular practice, you may find that your ability to offer loving-kindness and compassion to yourself and others increases, and that you are better able to navigate challenging situations with a sense of calm and clarity.
What if the phrases don’t work for you? No problem, develop your own.
Create personalised phrases that resonate with you personally. This can help you to make the practice feel more authentic, relatable, and meaningful.
There are a few different ways you can go about developing your own loving-kindness phrases:
Reflect on your own needs and desires: Take some time to think about what you need in order to feel happy, healthy, and fulfilled. Consider what words or phrases would be most comforting or supportive for you to hear. You might also think about what you would like to hear from others, and try to express those same sentiments as wishes for yourself.
Consider your values and intentions: Reflect on the values and intentions that are most important to you, and try to craft phrases that reflect those values. For example, if compassion is an important value for you, you might include phrases that express a desire for all beings to be free from suffering.
Keep it simple and clear: It can be helpful to keep your phrases simple and clear, rather than trying to use overly complex or abstract language. This can help to make the practice more accessible and easier to remember.
Experiment and find what works for you: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different phrases and see what works best for you. You might find that certain phrases feel more resonant or meaningful than others, and that’s okay. The important thing is to find words and phrases that feel authentic and meaningful to you.
Anything else to keep in mind?
There is no specific reason why you should not practice loving-kindness meditation, as it is a tool that can be helpful for people of all ages and backgrounds. However, as with any meditation practice, it is important to approach it with care and sensitivity, and to be mindful of your own needs and limitations.
If you are currently experiencing severe mental or emotional distress, it is important to seek the support of a qualified mental health professional before beginning any meditation practice. Loving-kindness meditation can be a powerful tool for promoting well-being, but it is not a replacement for professional care when it is needed.
It is also important to be mindful of your own energy levels and capacity for self-care when considering whether or not to practice loving-kindness meditation. If you are feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, it may be helpful to take a break from the practice and focus on taking care of yourself. Remember, the practice of loving-kindness meditation is not about achieving a certain result or outcome, but rather about cultivating a sense of care and connection within ourselves and towards others. It is important to listen to your own needs and to prioritize self-care when needed.
To me loving-kindness meditation has the potential to create positive ripple effects in the world by fostering a sense of care and connection within ourselves and towards others. As we all learn to extend love and compassion to ourselves and others, we may find that we are better able to contribute to creating a more loving and supportive society for all beings. This can be especially important in today’s world, where there is often a lack of understanding and connection between people from different backgrounds or walks of life.
By growing a like-minded community that practices loving-kindness meditation, we can create a supportive network of individuals who are committed to cultivating care and compassion in their daily lives. This not only benefits you within your community, but also has the potential to positively impact our wider world. As more people learn to extend loving-kindness to themselves and others, we may see a reduction in conflict and an increase in understanding and cooperation between people.
In short, loving-kindness meditation is a very important practice for personal and societal growth, as it helps to cultivate a sense of care and connection that can have positive ripple effects on the world around us.
The retreat day offers a valuable chance to gain deeper understanding of the fleeting nature of our mental and physical states. Through utilizing techniques such as MBSR, MBCT, MSC, MiCBT, and mindfulness, participants will have the opportunity to expand upon their mindfulness-based practices beyond formal programs.
The retreat aims to aid individuals in cultivating mindfulness in all aspects of their lives, emphasizing the importance of being present and non-doing in each moment. Through the practice of mindfulness meditation, participants will be encouraged to approach all experiences, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, with openness.
Each exercise presents an opportunity to develop equanimity and it is important to keep this in mind when engaging with one’s experience in the moment. It is not necessary to be a highly skilled meditator or to exert excessive effort, rather, by adhering to certain principles, individuals can cultivate a sense of equanimity.
Why should I attend?
This immersive day presents a valuable chance to attend to one’s personal well-being, delving into the experience of non-action. It serves as an occasion for simply being with the constantly evolving present moment and its nuances. The day of mindfulness is a unique opportunity to break away from the distractions of daily life and attentively observe what arises, attentively noting the quality of engagement with this ever-changing experience. Throughout the day, one has the opportunity to non-judgmentally dwell within the shifting landscape of the mind.
How is this day structured?
The day of mindfulness serves as a comprehensive guide, leading one through various mindfulness meditation techniques, including seated meditation, ambulatory meditation, and mindful movement. During the course of the day, various meditations will be introduced with preliminary instructions, followed by a period of silent practice.
The day of mindfulness is often referred to as a “silent retreat day” due to the emphasis on silence throughout the experience. This aspect of the retreat encourages participants to abstain from socializing or initiating contact with others during the course of the day. The practice of silence should be regarded as both a personal gift and an act of generosity towards oneself and others. The reduction of verbal and nonverbal communication, such as less eye contact, allows for deeper introspection and a reduction of external distractions that may interfere with the mindfulness experience.
The practicing community (sangha) and can I bring a friend?
This day of mindfulness is geared towards individuals who are already practicing mindfulness, seeking to reconnect with or reinvigorate their mindfulness skills, or desiring to spend a day in an environment of guided and unguided silent meditations. It is possible to attend the retreat with a friend, partner, or family member, however, they must have completed an MBSR/MBCT/MSC/MiCBT/MBP program or have extensive experience with mindfulness meditation. It is important to note that this retreat is not intended as an introduction to mindfulness and requires advanced skills and the capability to partake in silent meditation with guidance.
How to set up for this online retreat?
A Mug for tea/coffee
Lunch: please note there is no lunch catering, no fridge; please bring vegetarian meal only.
Bring mats, cushions, blankets, or any other items to help in your practice. There are chairs too in case you prefer to sit on a chair.
Sun cream, umbrella (or rain coat just in case), sun glasses (will do walking meditation outdoors).
Comfortable clothes, wear loose fitting clothes, perhaps bring socks as temperatures may fluctuate.