Session length - 2 hours
Opening practice - focus on the body - 20 minutes
Enquiry process - participants feed back on their experience of of the opening practice. Course leader highlights key mindfulness themes that may be present in their experience of their practice.
Particpants also feed back their experience of undertaking mindfulness practices in the week since the previous session. 20 minutes
Introduce idea of 8 key emotions and their corresponding physical manifestations in terms of body posture, eye shape and movement. 15 minutes.
Gratitude exercise - writing down "reasons to be cheerful" in workbook. Feedback to group, as appropriate. 15 minutes.
Positive events exercise - observation of images and observation of physical, intellectual and emotional responses to these stimuli. 15 minutes.
Introduction of breathing meditation - 20 minutes.
Discussion of intentions of home practice, and barriers to home practice. 15 minutes.
It is standard practice for mindfulness sessions to be conducted with an understanding that what is shared in the sessions is treated as confidential; thus it is hoped that participants are encouraged to be as honest as they can be, feeling that the session offers a "safe space". I try to ensure a balance and flow to the sessions. Participants need to experience the formal meditation practices during the sessions, but also need an opportunity to articulate their questions and validate their experiences. For this reason there are always "enquiry" sessions after each practice - this allows participants to share their feelings about what they have experienced. Honest reflection is encouraged, both positive and negative; indeed, it is often if an experience has proved challenging that there is the seed of interesting learning. Participants may have found, for example, that it was very difficult to focus on their bodies during the body scan practice, or they may have found it fairly straightforward - both reactions are valid but the difference of different individuals' experiences can prove challenging at first.
I try to illustrate points made in a practical way - thus the image above of the woman with the red hair is to show the body gesture for "shock"; thus participants are encouraged to see how clearly emotions are expressed in physical gestures. There are two reasons for this - firstly to try to become more self aware with how one is expressing emotion within the body (it can be quite subtle), but also to suggest that physical gestures reflect back into feelings - ie if your body shape is suggesting a particular emotion, that in turn encourages that emotion; put very simply, if you put a smile on your face, you may feel happier. This is illustrated with the hot cross bun image (used by the Mindfulness in Schools Project).
Additionally, I explain that part of the reason for the positive experiences diary is that the amygdala in the brain is deliberately evolutionarily skewed to deal with danger - if you are caught once by a predator you are dead, so you want to be absolutely certain that you are dealing with that potential threat thoroughly. However, in modern life the threats are not so great, but the brain is still biased towards looking to the negative - therefore a positive events diary and consciously looking for positive experiences can change our everyday experience.
“I have found things do not get under my skin in the way they used to. If my children are making a noise, I am better able to deal with the situation calmly and effectively” LT Walton
“I used Mindfulness practices during my A level physics exam. I gained an A in the paper that I had previously only gained a C in, and the mindfulness was very helpful in keeping me calm and focussed”. PS Esher