A Beginner’s Journey into Mindfulness

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My Mindfulness Journal

Here is my mindfulness journal I wrote 3 weeks ago for the MBCT teacher training course with The British Mindfulness Institute.

I was a little reluctant to put it online because it’s a bit personal but I think it’s good to be transparent and provide a longer more detailed insight than the snippets I post on Instagram.

Journal as of late September 2018

I started meditating almost exactly one year ago; I was motivated to start after hearing about the potential benefits from acquaintances and reading books such as Dan Harris’ 10% Happier. However, I felt I needed a helping hand with the actual practice. So I sought out advice on the internet. On the popular internet forum, Reddit, many users were recommending a free meditation app called Insight Timer, which I downloaded and began exploring. I spent a few weeks trying different guided meditations; taking a look into the new releases each day.

Looking back, I did not have a set direction with what I practiced. I simply picked a meditation based off what I felt like I required at the time. This would often mean picking a meditation that helped with feelings of stress; also those focussed around creating positive future projections. At the time and, in fact for a lengthy period, I was struggling to settle on where I wanted to take my working career. For the past six years, I had been a professional poker player; something that I enjoyed doing for a long time. But my fulfilment from playing had waned over the past 18 months.

Eventually, I settled on a guided meditation that I both enjoyed and found benefit from practicing: the “Inner Buddha” meditation from stressfit; a 20-minute meditation that focuses on creating space from your thoughts. I would do this daily after my morning coffee; lying down in bed.

What I observed was that, throughout the day, I was able to notice random “windows” of mindfulness and coming back to the present moment. From experiencing these benefits for myself, I started to become more convinced about the positive impact meditation could provide to my life. Also, that a structured and repetitive approach to meditation had real merit. So I decided to take The British Mindfulness Institute 8 Week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course in June 2018.

I enjoyed the course enormously. I found it highly valuable to gain knowledge about the different psychology models that have uses in real life; as well as seeing information about the scientific studies supporting mindfulness meditation.

Now, I view meditation as an integral part of my life. I begin my formal practice soon after I wake up with a:

  • 10-15 minute timed, non-guided meditation with the breath as the sole anchor;
  • 7 minute Loving Kindness Meditation from the MBSR course;
  • 6-10 minute guided walking meditation from the Insight Timer app.

I also undertake a mental gratitude practice, thinking of 5 things that I am grateful for. I prefer to keep these as simple as possible; for example, being thankful for basic resources such as a stable shelter, electricity and running water.

Throughout the day I look to practice informal meditation with each “non-essential thinking” task I carry out. For example, when I:

  • Wash the dishes;
  • Shower;
  • Walk to work.

After work, if I feel particularly stressed, I make the time to do another timed non-guided meditation; to explore what I am feeling in the different parts of my body.

If, otherwise, bad or negative moods do arise, I like to do the 3 Minute Mindfulness of Breath Meditation from the MBSR course. Although, I have to admit, these moods and feelings are becoming rarer as I have been practicing where to place to place my attention so that when negative feelings do arise, I am becoming more proficient at recognising and acknowledging them before directing my attention and thoughts away.

In my personal life, I have noticed that I have become more self-aware, especially at identifying what triggers moods of annoyance, frustration and anger. For example, I have started to identify the physiological responses that arise when I become overly hungry. When I do feel hungry I can become “hangry”. I have a tendency to feel irritable and agitated, which can lead me to become snappy and angry. Over the past few weeks, I have noticed I am able to identify the associated bodily responses, which has helped tremendously.

Also, more personally, I have recognised that when I have had disagreements and arguments with my girlfriend they have often been due to personal underlying feelings of jealousy. What I have gained an appreciation for is that these feelings will inevitably spring up again (as they likely lie in a subconscious space). And that, instead of denying them and wishing they were not there a better more effective approach is simply to identify the feelings (putting pride aside) for what they truly are.

Other than this, I have recently been to two 50 minute silent meditations at my local Buddhist centre, The Jamyang, in Elephant and Castle. This is something I plan to do weekly, having experienced the “lightness” and clear-headedness this longer meditation practice brings.

Further, I have read and continue to read several books over the past few months related to meditation and mindfulness. Two or three books I have read I have found to be particularly insightful and full of beneficial knowledge

Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of them. I listened to the audiobook halfway through the MBSR course and the overall sentiment of the book really hit home. I especially found value in the early descriptions of what mindfulness is; the simplicity of continually bringing one’s attention to the present moment: the only moment where we truly experience life.

The other book of special note has been MBCT for Depression (required reading for the teacher training course). I have found the key concepts of “thinking” mode vs “being” mode, turning towards feelings and exploring physiological responses from emotions personally beneficial. Not to mention, I am aware that an insight into the attitude, qualities and perspective of effective mindfulness teachers will provide useful guidance for the future.

Going forward I have two overall goals; both for my meditation practice and learning and development:

  1. Improve my level of concentration by practicing being aware of my attention lies as often as I can throughout each day. In particular, looking to pay full attention in social conversations. As well as undertaking daily breath-anchored meditation and mindfully completely daily tasks.
  2. Gain a grounded understanding of what makes a great mindfulness teacher. As well as gaining a natural affinity for the type of responses to provide for the unique range of questions that will be asked.