Week 5

When confronted with negative emotions and/or pain, you have basically two choices: (1) turn away from the difficulty (e.g., distract yourself in order to reduce negative feelings) or (2) turn toward it (e.g., mindfully focus on a negative sensation).

During week 3, you deliberately experienced unpleasant events in a mindful way using an informal technique. In week 5, you'll be introduced to two formal techniques (turning toward difficult emotions, turning toward pain) so you can practice for longer with these types of experiences. One of the informal techniques deal with the same topic (difficult emotions or difficult pain), and the other is a great practice that you can easily do everyday: walking meditation.           

Turning Toward Meditation

In this type of meditation, we intentionally explore the negative object rather than move away from it. The object is not seen as a challenge. It's seen as an opportunity to practice mindfulness and develop equanimity.

If you want to work on an issue that is primarily emotional, do the meditation for difficult emotions. If the issue is physical, do the meditation for physical pain. Otherwise, practice sitting meditation and be grateful! 

Turn toward the Practice Log! Many people turn away from the practice log and decide to do only the practices. If that's your case, I'd suggest you complete the practice log for a few weeks. You may find out that, as a consequence of having to write your impressions again and again after the practice, your mind becomes more concentrated, and you start noticing more and more things. 

Dealing with Difficult Emotions or Physical Pain

The first informal practice this week involves dealing with difficulties (emotional or physical). Choose one:

Option 1: Turning Toward Difficult Emotions

  • a) Bring your attention to the body. Breath mindfully. 

  • b) Put a label on your feeling. Is it anger, fear, sadness? Say "A feeling is being noticed". 

  • c) Relax. Notice how your body feels. Allow what you are noticing to just be there, letting your awareness gently rest there. See if you can soften your reaction to the difficulty with gentle breaths. You might even place your hand where in the body you’re physically feeling the difficulty the most, or, on your heart or belly, meeting this experience with kindness, recognizing that this would be painful for anybody, holding it and yourself gently and with compassion.

  • d) Without trying to push the difficult issue away, see if you can think of something positive in your life.

  • e) Let your attention now move to the outside world, taking in the sights and sounds around you.

Option 2:  Turning Toward Physical Pain

  • a) Bring your attention to the body. Breath mindfully.

  • b) How would you describe the sensation? Avoid calling it “pain”. Is it burning, tight, achy? How big is it? If notice a feeling put a label on it.

  • c) Relax. See if you can let the area just beyond the edge soften, without trying to change the area of discomfort itself, just putting your attention at the edges, letting there be a softening there. See if you can soften your reaction to the difficulty, with gentle breaths. You might even place your hand where in the body you’re physically feeling the difficulty the most, or, on your heart or belly, meeting this experience with kindness, recognizing that this would be painful for anybody, holding it and yourself gently and with compassion.

  • d) Without trying to push the difficult sensations away, scan your body for neutral or even pleasurable sensations. It could be a sense of warmth in your hands, a pleasant tingling somewhere in your body, or maybe a sense of release as you sink into your support. If you’re having difficulty finding someplace that feels okay, you might gently place your hand somewhere, for instance, on your shoulder or chest or head, the way you might to comfort someone you cared about, and if that touch felt comforting, sensing into that area. Or, you might find something that’s pleasant in your immediate environment, like a plant, or a ray of sunlight, a piece of art, or a photo.

  • e) Let your attention now move to the outside world, taking in the sights and sounds around you.

If there were no unwanted difficulties today, take the time to feel gratitude for this. Write it down in your Practice Log.

Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is one of the most useful and grounding ways of attending to our body. It's a simple and universal practice for developing calm and embodied awareness. These are the instructions:

 

Let yourself walk with a sense of ease and dignity. Pay attention to your body. With each step feel the sensations of lifting your foot and leg off of the earth. Then mindfully place your foot back down. Feel each step mindfully as you walk. If your mind wanders, gently return your attention to the body.

Practice at home first, walking slowly. You can then extend your mindful walking to any situation (e.g., when you go shopping, whenever you walk down the street or walk to or from your car).

You can learn to enjoy walking for its own sake instead of the usual planning and thinking and, in this simple way, begin to be truly present, to bring your body, heart and mind together as your move through your life. Remember to feel grateful for having the opportunity to walk. 

Register your impressions in the Practice Log.

Ready for the next revolution? Click here to start week 6. 

If you want the Certificate of Completion, please send your Practice Log (subject line: "MBSR week 5"). 

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