Welcome to the May 2021 edition of The Mindful Moment Newsletter! The Mindfulness Teachers Association of Ireland is delighted to be offering this newsletter which is for anyone interested in mindfulness.
This month we welcome James Baraz (Spirit Rock) to facilitate an online workshop on May 10th. This offering is free of charge, and all are welcome. More information and sign up below.
If you are interested in learning more about meditation and mindfulness there are lots of courses facilitated by highly qualified teachers starting soon for you, or for your workplace. For more information click the link below.
Why is it so hard to break unhelpful habits? In this newsletter read more on how mindfulness, rather than will power alone can help us. Let us know how you get on!
We hope you find the information and practices in this newsletter helpful.
The Mindfulness Teachers Association of Ireland.
Awakening Joy Workshop with James Baraz- Founder and Senior Teacher in Spirit Rock.
A free mini workshop on ‘Awakening Joy’ is being held for MTAI members & the public on Monday 10th May from 7- 8:30pm led by James Baraz.
True happiness is not about acquiring anything but rather opening to the natural joy and aliveness right inside you. Today, as we are bombarded with messages that heighten our fear and sadness about the world, more than ever it is vital to understand the importance of joy as a central aspect of mindfulness practice. We need to remember how to stay connected to that place inside that makes life worth living. In this presentation James will share the essential principles and some experiential practices from his popular 5-month online Awakening Joy course taken by thousands since 2003.
Live guided mindfulness practices on Zoom with MTAI.
MTAI continue to facilitate free drop in sessions three times a week. The sessions have been taking place for almost one year now! These guided mindfulness sessions are facilitated by accredited mindfulness teachers. They take place on
- Monday 9 – 9.30 am
- Wednesday 9 – 9.30 pm
- Friday 9 – 9.30 am
Suitable for those new to mindfulness as well as those with an established practice. Please feel free to join with your camera on or off, and for as long or as little of the session as you like. Some of our guided drop in sessions have been recorded, and you can find them on our You Tube channel here
Words of Wisdom.
Each Newsletter we share a quote to help inspire us, and remind us why we chose to practice mindfulness.
Feet on the Floor Meditation
A brief, but potent practice to help ground us-literally and figuratively!
When you notice that you’re caught up in worry/ruminating/any thoughts that are feeling like they’re probably unhelpful…
- Direct your attention into the soles of your feet.
- You can do this sitting with feet flat on the floor, or standing.
- Notice as much about the soles of your feet as possible in this moment-almost as if you’re feeling them for the first time.
- You might be noticing the sense of pressure or touch between your feet and the ground. The temperature of the soles of the feet…are they warm, cold, hot?
- Can you feel your socks, or maybe your skin? The firmness/softness of the floor?
- If you wriggle your toes a little can you feel that too?
Or perhaps exploring rocking back and forth between the ball of the foot and the heel? Can you feel those sensations of pressure changing under your foot?
We don’t need to practice formal meditation to be mindful in our day. We can drop into sensations of the feet on the floor at any point if we feel a little lost in our thoughts, or our feelings. The body is always in the present moment. Which is quite handy really.
Mindfulness and Breaking Bad Habits
Dr Jud Brewer, who is a mindfulness teacher, psychiatrist and researcher at Yale, MIT and Brown University, has researched how our brains form unhelpful habits, and addictions and why these are so hard to break. He examined the specific skills needed to create lasting change which can help many of us even with our “everyday addictions” such as social media!
In particular he researched smoking. He investigated if mindfulness skills such as being curious and really paying attention while smoking, could help smokers quit? The research is interesting and shows that using mindfulness is slightly more helpful than other regular approaches to quit smoking.
When we look at addictions and behaviours, we need to come back to our basic nervous system and look at what is called positive and negative reinforcement. For example, we used to link smoking with being ‘cool’, sugar with survival, and now maybe the buzz of social media with belonging, a powerful universal need.
We have what is called a ‘context dependent memory’, and so we remember the first time we got a buzz from using Instagram, Tik Tok, ice-cream, alcohol and so on. It gave us a lift and engaged us.
So how come it is so hard to stop checking Instagram, having another bar of chocolate or another cigarette? Even when we know something is not good for our mental, emotional or physical health, even with our best intentions, why is it still really challenging? Will power, it seems, is much weaker than we think. The key, Dr Brewer explains, is that our brains associate a good feeling with the negative habit. So we need to engage differently, as merely knowing something like smoking is not good, and fighting not to do it, does not work so well.
When we are feeling stressed and upset and we see the phone, the drink or cigarette, the brain tells us in order to feel better, do this, drink this, or smoke that and you will be rewarded with that good feeling that brain associates with the original memory. We might think of this as a way to soothe and relax ourselves, and often it does so, but temporarily.
Another aspect of when we are stressed, is that the pre frontal cortex goes off line. This means that we are less able to choose skilfully, we are less creative and have less access to memory e.g. around our good intentions. So inevitably, when we’re stressed or overwhelmed we fall easily back into our habits.
What the research shows is that instead of trying to fight this impulse with willpower, if instead we can get curious then the pre-frontal cortex comes online again. This allows us to make a choice rather than fighting with ourselves which often increases guilt, anger, shame and disappointment and these emotions are associated with relapse of the habit.
On one course many years ago a participant who was in a public health role, found that during an 8 week mindfulness course she quit smoking. She started to smoke mindfully and to her astonishment she discovered she didn’t like the taste or effect of the smoking. She realised the hit was so temporary compared to the unpleasant experience of smoking itself. She had known cognitively that smoking was bad for her and had not been able to quit just using “force”, but when she applied mindfulness her experience of smoking changed.
In Dr Brewer’s clinic he tells people to keep smoking but to be really curious when smoking. What emerged was that using mindfulness, and being curious, has a better success rate than the usual approaches. Without effort, participants became disenchanted with the habit.
Something to watch!
Dr. Jud Brewer speaks about the exciting research on the utilisation of mindfulness to break habits such as smoking.
Using mindfulness to break unhealthy habits