Everyday Mindfulness 10 Week Program

chrisReck

Why take the Everyday Mindfulness 10-Week Program?

Because of the benefits. 

These include:
• Reducing stress.

• Alleviating anxiety or depression.

• Building self-awareness.

• Developing emotional regulation skills.

• Growing in self-compassion.

• Feeling more present and connected to yourself and others.

• Achieving peak performance.

• Sharpening cognitive function.

• Growing in mental, emotional, and spiritual health.


My goal is to support you in growing a mindfulness practice that makes sense for you through evidence-based techniques in a concise and comprehensive way that will allow you to quickly integrate mindfulness into your personal and professional life. For instance, in your professional life, it might mean integrating mindfulness into your company’s professional development, your current consulting or coaching offers, your therapeutic practices, or your teaching repertoire. In your personal life, it might mean bringing everyday mindfulness into relationships with your children, your partner, your parents, your siblings, or your neighbors. Ultimately, by sharing these practices with just one or two people you can offer tremendous healing and resilience for yourself and to the people who are significant to you in your life. Why wouldn’t you want to invest in such an opportunity?

After all, what are the alternatives? 
They are the negative consequences of a lack of mindful awareness.

These can include:

• Carrying tension and stress in the body, or holding on to unpleasant moments.

• Missing out on positive or pleasant moments.

• Missing information to make good decisions.

• Losing objectivity due to mood-changing interactions.

What is Mindfulness? 

The tenets of mindfulness stretch back to Vipassana, an ancient Indian meditation technique, rooted in self-observation and seeing things as they truly are.Today, mindfulness practices are grounded in both ancient teachings and modern science. Neuroscience, psychology, and physiology research all contribute to our understanding of how the body responds to its environment, stimulus, other people, and our own thoughts. Research into self-compassion (Serpa and Wolf, 64) suggests a relationship between self-compassion and lowered depression, anxiety, and perceived stress, in addition to self-compassion supporting health, health-related behaviors, managing chronic pain, and defending against the emotional impact of illness

I always return to this definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). 

“Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.”

I want to emphasize the non-judgmental aspect of paying attention to the present moment. Our goal is to allow our experience, our emotions, and our thoughts to simply be. That means we acknowledge and witness without trying to fix, react, cope, or medicate what is happening in the moment. 

How often do we feel guilty for what we’re feeling? Or grow anxious about our own thoughts? 

Awareness infused with judgment is not mindfulness. 

Non-judgmental moment-to-moment awareness of our experience is truly healing and empowering.
When we can encounter the moment, pleasant or unpleasant, with an open sense of curiosity, this will be our paradigm shift.

Mindfulness is cultivating process, not outcomes

Of course, we all want to find calm, creative openness and presence. We want to de-stress, relieve anxiety, and feel better. But be careful about focusing too much on those outcomes. Mindfulness is about the now, not fixing what’s in the way of achieving what we want. In fact, mindfulness is not about achieving anything. The paradox is that focusing on the process and cultivating a mindfulness practice will get us to the outcome faster.

Being present and attentive to what’s going on inside us requires simply being in our bodies. This is more challenging than it sounds. We’re used to experiencing our body through our heads, whether in the form of negative self-talk, rushing to diagnose, or trying to fix the experience. Can we instead truly be in our bodies? Can we notice and sit with our anxiety, shame, fatigue, depression, anger, stress, or joy? Can we be in the moment with openness and curiosity instead of fuelling the story behind it with blame, resentment, or fear?

The answer is yes, we can. In time and with practice, we can all achieve mindfulness and enjoy its many benefits.

You are already mindful
Mindfulness is about remembering a capacity already within you. Essentially, it starts with this breath, this body, right now. All the moments you have lived have evaporated. You are the product of the accumulated moments you have experienced up to this moment now. These moments are often used by the mind to create a narrative of you that is far removed from the real you. Mindfulness invites you to seek the other story within the story you are telling yourself about your life. To illustrate this, let me share my own journey into mindfulness.

My story

I was a sensitive, withdrawn boy. Looking back, I realise that my sensitivity was really a gift, but it got siphoned by circumstances in my life, namely family illness that was chronic and debilitative for myself, my mother, my sisters, and my poor father who was cruelly struck down at an early age with multiple sclerosis. Added to this was my exposure to a school education where some of the teachers were brutal and ignorant. For instance, I had a form tutor who frightened, threatened, and abused students. He was later imprisoned for this. I experienced shame and trauma in that school. I didn't know it was shame and trauma until later in life, I just thought I was an unhappy kid who felt profoundly uncomfortable in his body, little knowing that discomfort was my nervous system trying to protect me. For me the co-joined experiences of my father's illness and the tormenting teachers who ran my school left me anxious, depressed, and ruminative. I retreated into an inner world of trepidation, anxiety, and fear. I could hear the ‘voice’ in my head taking shape, casting doubt, worry, and wariness. Relationships were difficult for me. I had an anxiety attachment style. I found myself becoming attached to seeking approval and pleasing rather than seeking my authentic self. I also sought relief through drinking, possibly to soothe my troubled, perplexed, and confused sense of self. However, there was always this sense within me of

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination
Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
Over and over announcing your place
In the family of things. *


Despite what my mind was telling me about my situation and challenges I always had a sense of being in the family of things, the family of interconnectedness.

At the time of coming home to mindfulness
, I was a high school teacher drawn to the research of Carol Dweck on how to change your mindset from one that is ‘fixed’ to one that has ‘growth’. I started to introduce ‘mindset’ strategies into my teaching, then started to research Ellen Langer’s work on mindfulness. I was curious to learn more about what Langer describes as the process of actively noticing new things, and how it puts you in the present and makes you more sensitive to context and perspective. I made further inquiries and came across a class being offered in my hometown called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). I enrolled in its 8-week course. There was meditation involved. This intrigued me. It felt calming. However, after each meditation I wanted to evaluate, analyze, and interpret my experience – all the things good students and teachers do, right? But the teacher (Adrian Wright) focused more on enquiring into feelings, sensations, and thoughts as they ‘appeared’ or ‘landed’ in the body. He also encouraged us to practice his recorded guided meditations at home in between the sessions. I tried to do this but failed spectacularly. I was supposed to non-judgementally focus on sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arose for me during meditation ‘practice’, but often I found myself fixating on thoughts, focusing on getting my posture right, or just falling asleep. I felt some shame about this like I couldn’t get this mindfulness thing ‘right’. However, by about week 5, I started to relax into meditation. I became less interested in the possible ‘outcome’ of the meditation – like needing to relax, find peace, or achieve a state of calmness – and instead started ‘opening up’ to my experience, whether the experience was an itch or a particularly irksome thought. I was beginning to get an experiential sense of what non-judgemental awareness was all about. I was beginning to feel and experience myself rather than getting caught up in thoughts.


However, I still wanted to interpret my experience. I wanted to connect my experience to all sorts of ideas, words, and images that were popping up in my head. I also started reflecting upon the mindfulness of writers and philosophers; connecting their ideas with what Adrian was teaching me about the attitudinal foundations of mindfulness. I connected non-judgemental awareness with Keats’s Negative Capability where the temporary beauty of a passing moment is more important than figuring out why or how that moment exists. I wanted to discuss this with Adrian, who also happened to have a day job as an English teacher. He gave me an even more pertinent quote, one taken from a James Joyce short story entitled, ‘A Painful Case’, in which the protagonist, a Mr. Duffy, is described by Joyce’s narrator as ‘living a little distance from his body’. This was the moment I realized that a lot of my own anxieties, worries, and ruminations came precisely from the short distance I was living from my body. I also realized that Adrian was politely using a literary reference to point out what my own issue might be: I was spending too much time in my head, and that I needed to come home to the body. Then Adrian did something that I will always be grateful to him for: he invited me to take the MBSR again. He said he was teaching it in a few weeks’ time, and would I like to come along and participate for free? The second time I took the MBSR I wholeheartedly invited my body along for the ride.

My credentials

Since taking that second course with Adrian I have gone on to train to teach the MBSR as well as train to teach elementary students, secondary students, and schoolteachers in mindfulness. I also undertook postgraduate research at Cambridge University into how mindful attention can frame agency and identity for a teacher in a high school and I have had the good fortune to train with the highly respected author and mindfulness teacher Sarah Silverton in order to deliver her mindfulness program called ‘The Present’.

Everyday Mindfulness Course Information 
Session1: Introduction to Mindfulness

Beginning a course and personal practice in mindfulness begins with experience more than information. In this first session, you will be given an introduction to what exactly mindfulness is and the benefits of mindfulness practice. You will be invited to experience mindfulness for yourself so you can develop your own personal insight into its benefits through mindfulness practice.

The intention of this session is to:

• Understand the physical and emotional benefits of mindfulness practice.

• Complete a Breath Awareness Meditation.

• Understand the definitions of “focused attention” and “the present moment.”

• Complete a Grounding Meditation.

• Complete a Feel Your Feet Meditation.

• Review the importance of daily practice.


You can access the first session here. 



Session 2: Mindfulness of the Body

Too often, we live disconnected from our bodies, mostly because we tend to think that our minds can out-think and out-will our bodies. We mistakenly believe our minds are in control. All this despite the evidence presented when we get sick or discover that we cannot control our anxiety or depression. In reality, our thoughts and emotions live in our bodies. Our minds and bodies together comprise our whole self and sense of wellbeing.

Our bodies are designed to communicate with us and give us valuable, if not life-saving information. And our ability to feel truly present, alive and part of our environment depends on our connection with our senses. We can’t simply think our way to mindfulness. Only when we can understand, describe, and access our bodies, can we live mindfully.

The purpose of this session is to help deepen or re-establish connection with our bodies by noticing sensations and emotions both pleasant and unpleasant. However, be watchful for levels of discomfort, and when that may cross over into distress. Are you aware of past trauma that may make mindfulness of the body frightening or difficult? Self-acceptance is key here and knowing your boundaries and limitations. Modifications in practice will be offered to help you find a practice that is trauma-sensitive. 

The intention of this session is to:

• Self-assess for trauma, triggers, or other physical concerns with body-centered mindfulness.

• Connect body and mind in a guided body scan.

• Make space for pain and discomfort.

• Complete a mindful walking exercise.

• Complete a mindful listening exercise.


Session 3: Mindfulness of Emotions

In Session 2, we touched on the pleasant and unpleasant emotions that might arise during a meditation, particularly one like a body scan. Here in Session 3, you are going to be guided in developing your mindfulness practice to include welcoming all emotions. You will do this by building emotional awareness, naming emotions, managing emotions, and trying several practices that will encourage open awareness and neutral observation of your feelings.

One of the most important goals is to help you understand that emotions are normal and necessary, and to not be feared. The other main goal of the session is to show that emotional awareness can be empowering, helping us separate how we feel from who we are and thereby finding greater balance and freedom.

The intention of this session is to:

• Define and understand “emotional awareness.”

• Complete a short emotional meditation practice.

• Complete a longer emotional body scan.

• Complete a guided self-awareness journal exercise.

• Define and understand “self-management.”

• Complete a self-management guided practice.


Session 4: Being with what’s Difficult

Unpleasant feelings, sensations, thoughts, or memories are common things we all must face when learning or practicing mindfulness. They are part of our full human experience, and can be safely welcomed, noticed, and let go as we learn to be open to the present moment. The open awareness of mindfulness means we meet the unpleasant or difficult without evaluating or judging.

This session will help you continue to build tolerance and the ability to self-manage by inviting and encountering a range of feelings and sensations—from unpleasant to neutral to pleasant. Rather than evaluating them as good/bad or ranking them, you will learn to label, observe, and release them.

The intention of this session is to:

• Define
“judgment” and understand how it is an obstacle to mindfulness.

• Define and understand managing unpleasant emotions.

• Build tolerance for experiencing unpleasant emotions and sensations.

• Practice sitting with a difficulty without solving it.

• Understand resistance and avoidance to unpleasant emotions or sensations.

• Practice labeling “unpleasant,” “neutral,” and “pleasant” experiences.

Session 5: Loving Kindness and Compassion

For the first four sessions, we have been focusing on calling attention to the present moment and noticing without judgment. In Session 5, the focus will turn toward an intentional calling up of good will, kindness, generosity, and compassion. Beginning with yourself, you will practice offering loving kindness and compassion in response to your self-criticisms. The goal is not to eliminate self-critical thoughts, but to allow you to acknowledge them without avoidance, then meet them with loving kindness. Practices will then extend this loving kindness stance to others, which carries the benefit of fostering deeper connection to all humans in their shared experience of suffering and need for compassion.

The intention of this session is to:

• Understand the terms inner critic; compassion; self-compassion; loving-kindness; empathy.

• Distinguish between inner critic phrases and self-compassion phrases.

• Understand the benefits and resilience gained from self-compassion and loving-kindness.

• Journal to discover your inner critic’s language and target areas.

• Connect more deeply with others through the commonality of suffering.

• Practice and model empathetic listening and emotional mirroring.


Session 6: Mindfulness for Communication and Leadership

There are two related topics for this session: communication and leadership. In the past five sessions, mindfulness—non-judgmental moment-to-moment awareness—has offered ways to help acknowledge difficult emotions and sensations, build tolerance for them, and offer the self a sense of loving-kindness and compassion. In today’s session, mindful awareness and practices are designed to extend beyond the individual and into relationships and interactions with others. We can bring mindfulness to how we relate, converse, and help others.

Ultimately, participants will explore means of building compassion for others with healthy boundaries. The goal is not to lose the self in an attempt to offer compassion. Nor is it to see communications with the desired outcome of “winning.” Mindfulness with others encourages acceptance, empathy, compassion, and truly serving the person and the situation.

The intention of this session is to:

• Understand the distinction between “compassion” and “empathetic distress.”

• Practice a guided mindful conversation.

• Practice mindful listening.

• Understand the 3 levels of a difficult conversation.

• Understand and apply methods to prepare for difficult conversations.

• Practice a Compassion “just like me” meditation for empathy and healthy boundaries.


Session 7: Resilience

It’s good to remind ourselves that resilience isn’t a one-time goal. Like mindfulness itself, resilience is a capacity and a continuous practice. We don’t just become resilient one day and stay that way forever. We’re not trying to become impervious to pain or distress. Rather, we live in a cycle: we build resilience, strengthen it, rely on it to withstand challenges, then strengthen it again.

The practices in this session are intended to explore resilience not as a “toughening up” to take on difficulty like a battle, but as a mindset that helps us maintain calm, balance, clarity, and kindness in the face of challenges. Strength and fortitude are inner resources that allow us to offer compassion.

The intention of this session is to:

• Understand the definition of “resilience”; “emotional resilience”; “cognitive resilience”; and “inner calm.”

• Reframe disappointment and setbacks as normal occurrences that can be met with compassion and loving-kindness.

• Understand the components of RAIN and practice applying the steps in a resilience meditation.

• Acknowledge negative self-talk and meet it with empathy and compassion

• Strategically prepare phrases or mantras for anchor phrases.


Session 8: Mindfulness for Anxiety

A common goal for mindfulness practices is to alleviate anxiety. Open awareness of the present can help relieve us from anxiety’s obsession with the future, and the racing, spinning feelings that accompany it. Our goals in this session include understanding anxiety, noticing how it manifests in sensations, emotions, and thoughts, and practicing several different ways to manage it gently and compassionately. The information in this session is not meant to diagnose or clinically treat any form of anxiety. However, the practices are designed to help bring calm, grounded, present-moment awareness to anxious moments.

The intention of this session is to:

• Understand the definition of “anxiety.”

• Understand the distinctions among “anxiety,” “fear,” “worry,” and “rumination.”

• Identify sources of anxiety and anxiety triggers.

• Locate and rate anxiety in the body.

• Separate anxious thoughts from emotions, sensations, and the self.


Session 9: Mindfulness for Work and Career

Depending on one’s workplace, mindfulness for work and career can mean many different things. Your work experience could include corporate settings, job sites, classrooms, in-home, volunteer venues, and many others. The place of work isn’t so much the focus of communication, relationships, and self-awareness.

Too often, we work with a sense of black-and-white thinking about right and wrong, good and bad, powerful and powerless—all this can lead to judgment rather than mindful awareness of the present. The focus for this session is how to relate to others in their work role, whatever that role happens to be.

The intention of this session is to:

• Recognize the areas we control and areas we do not control.

• Practice finding balance in body posture, breath, alertness, and positive/negative external experiences.

• Understand the negative effects of distraction.

• Practice finding interconnectedness with others.

• Practice mindfulness of speech.

• Practice saying “yes” and “no” with integrity.


Session 10: Moving Forward Mindfully

For this final session, we will help you think about the future of your mindfulness practice. The goal is for you to carry forward the skills, techniques, stamina, and eagerness to meditate daily and use mindfulness techniques when you encounter stress or conflict. This course can be seen as the beginning of your journey, the foundation of continued growth and learning. Know that not everything you learned or experienced will be taken forward, but everything offered in this course has helped expand your understanding and awareness.

The intention of this session is to:

• Understand the importance of daily practice.

• Reflect on the practices and tools that have been helpful so far, and how they envision incorporating course materials into their daily lives.

• Make a personal mindfulness plan of action.

• Practice offering care to others and the self.

• Practice visualizing a beautiful place.

• Practice finding the higher self. 


* Excerpt from the poem ‘Wild Geese’, by Mary Oliver.



Meditation for Calm and Coherence

chrisReck

Breathing in a calm and coherent way can have a positive impact on your mind. Hopefully, you’ll start to experience this through this practice. 

Find a place where you can sit comfortably upright and relaxed. Either on a cushion, a stool, or a chair. Ideally, sitting so that your knees are level with, or below, your waist. Get a sense of the spine upright, supporting you. This will help to keep your mind focused and alert. Let your hands rest on your lap or your legs. Whatever feels most comfortable for you. 

Neuroscience shows that something as simple as a slight shift in posture can, by triggering neurophysiological circuits, change how we react to the world, how we organize thoughts, and how we motivate ourselves.

What we’re doing here is a neurophysiological intervention which – through intention and commitment – can help you achieve a calm state of mind.

First, bring your attention to your breath.

Notice how you are breathing at this moment.

There are two key features of the breath that will bring you into a calm and coherent state.

The first involves your full diaphragm, by breathing into your belly.

So, if you place one hand on your stomach you should feel it rising with your in-breath and falling with your out-breath.

Feel this for a few breaths.

You might notice now that the mind is settling down a bit.

You are activating one branch of your parasympathetic nervous system, your ‘rest and digest’ mode.

Carry on taking smooth breaths into the belly.

You might start noticing the calming effect on the mind.

Keep practicing for the next 30 seconds or so.

Now we want to bring in the second feature of this practice.

This involves counting a fixed sequence of the in-breath and the out-breath.

We will count 4 on the in-breath and 6 on the out-breath.

We will inhale first

In 2-3-4.

And out 2, 3,4,5,6.

In 2,3,4

And out 2,3,4,5,6.

In 2,3,4.

And out 2,3,4,5,6.

Keep breathing to this sequence of 4 on the in-breath and 6 on the out-breath.

Feel the flow.

Breathing into your belly.

Alert and relaxed.

Enjoy the breath.

Notice where it feels good in the body.

The mind can be calmed by the shape of your breath.

Enjoy calming your mind.

Enjoy the confidence and clarity that arrives for you as you calm your mind in this way.

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