The wisdom of the body
By Dr Liz Sparkes
Your body holds a lot of answers, a lot of wisdom. All of the experiences that we have, people we meet, and the things we are told create a series of reactions within the body. Spending so much time in the mind often reduces the amount of awareness we have about how our body is responding to the environment.
Emotions that we find too tough to process at the time take themselves into the body. Trapped emotions might show themselves in the form of a discomfort, or even pain, or we may be completely unaware until we begin to explore.
Dr Liz Sparkes
“The cure for the pain is in the pain.” ~Rumi
The Latin derivative for the word emotion, ‘emotere’, literally means energy in motion. We can find ourselves searching for a cure, when actually what we are looking for can be found right here, within our physical body. We can notice the energy in our bodies change when we experience strong emotions. Dr Candace Pert has written about how memories impact our physical body, “Your body is your subconscious mind. Our physical body can be changed by the emotions we experience.”
We know that the amount of pain we experience is influenced greatly by the emotions that we experience. The interaction between painful stimulus and emotional mind-set is now well documented. As research continues to move forward there are more reports of body-workers, physical therapists and alternative healing therapists experiencing emotional release from clients leading to improved physical health. The idea of tissue memory is becoming more prominent. Experiences, both good and bad can be stored within the tissues and organs of the body, therefore impacting our physical health. Read More
Mindfulness – and how to work with panic attacks
Around 10 years ago I spent a month in Nepal with Gaynor my wife trekking the Himalayas, it was a good trip. Whilst there I must have contracted some sort of virus which my body didn’t like.
One evening whilst having a meal together I felt awful, I was sick and needed to go to the bathroom.
I actually passed out and my wife got me back safely to our hotel. The next day there was so no sign of anything amiss.
I had another ‘attack’ whilst teaching in meditation a few months after getting home, but because I was teaching meditation I just asked the group to have a silent period, the ‘attack’ passed after a few minutes. This ‘attack’ though was nothing like the one in Nepal, I just felt a little faint but knew it was connected. After a few minutes, it passed and all was well again.
A couple of years after getting back I had the ‘big one.’ I am actually not sure if it was connected to the first episode in Nepal but felt very similar.
Written by Radio Presenter Naomi Kent
I listen to Surya’s Monday morning meditation on Facebook as he guides us to, “Drop into the body”. And it feels like a drop. I’m off to Krakow this summer and a friend recommended I go to some underground caves, which involves a dabble in pot-holing to get there. So now I don’t meditate as often, coming into the body feels like delving into the depths of a cave, with a hint of trepidation at what might be lurking around the next corner. After the initial drop, I’m fine – which I imagine is similar to the actual cave experience – but I’m definitely more tentative when it’s time to ‘come home to the body’ compared to when I was regularly practising throughout my course. Read More
The Three Pillars of Mindfulness Teaching
Mindfulness is now being taught in so many ways, in so many settings and by many different people.
Mindfulness to me is something of beauty. Although it is not a thing, an object, to me it is still beautiful. I often use the image of a jewel to illustrate mindfulness in teaching. A jewel has many facets, you turn the jewel a fraction and there is another facet, shimmering right at you. When running a course, or a series of workshops what we are really doing is exploring the jewel of mindfulness or awareness, and it is something we explore for the rest of our lives if we commit ourselves to it.
Before I go onto the three pillars of teaching I just want to mention two aspects of mindfulness or as I often refer to it, awareness. I use them interchangeably.
There is the practice of mindfulness, this is where we sit down, and practice the mindfulness of breathing, or the body scan, for example. We also bring mindfulness to our everyday activities. This is one aspect, this is mindfulness as a practice, as something we endeavour to do.
Another aspect of mindfulness is what I call the container of our life. This is not a practice. If we don’t understand this other aspect of mindfulness then our teaching will be unbalanced and very limited, in some cases it will just put people off practising, because people will try too hard, they think it is something they don’t already have. Read More
The Problem with Secular Mindfulness
All plants and trees are healthier and stronger when they have healthy roots, they have more stability if those roots reach deep into the earth.
If we take a plant out of the earth and lay it on the ground it doesn’t take long before it withers and dies.
Mindfulness is like a tree, it too has roots, and its roots go very deep into the Buddhist tradition. Roots which go back 2500 years.
The roots of mindfulness give it a dimension which it misses when taught in a more secular setting without reference and understanding of those roots.
The Buddha discovered a path to a life free from suffering. Not free from pain, as it is good to distinguish between the two. Pain is what happens to us, suffering in the way I speak of it, is what we do in our head. It is our judgements, opinions, and views about life that is our problem.
Mindfulness has it is roots in what we call the Four Noble Truths.
1, The truth of dukkha and it existence in each of our lives (Suffering or Dissatisfaction) Read More
Look again- it is not what it seems…by Dr Liz Sparkes
We have become accustomed to think in certain ways and often see things in fixed patterns. It’s hard not to make assumptions and to stay in patterns of thoughts and behaviours. Situations and circumstances are often shaped by the way we think. It’s important to try to break free from this way of viewing the world, to see more clearly, the way things actually are. We construct our world through our thoughts and in this way can make things appear negative or positive just by our thinking.
An example of an opportunity to see things for what they actually are came along for me a few years ago. There isn’t a gentle way to explain. I was travelling down a road near to my house in my car when I was hit from behind by a lorry. The experience was absolutely terrifying and I was lucky to walk away physically uninjured. Unfortunately other people were very hurt. The weeks and months that passed following this were seriously hard. I experienced a serious bout of post-traumatic stress and my body reacted quite badly to the shock for quite some time. The flashbacks and trauma were trying at times. There were moments where I thought I was going to completely psychologically lose it. The support I received by the police and my family and friends was outstanding!
After some time I was contacted by probation about the possibility of meeting the lorry driver as part of his recovery and rehabilitation. He was being released from prison and this was a suggested process that would benefit the victims as well as the lorry driver. Without hesitation I agreed. Unfortunately none of the other people involved in the crash decided to meet with the lorry driver, and I can quite understand this decision.
A few of my friends and family thought it might not be the greatest idea I have ever had. It was a dark November evening and I was eight months pregnant when I was eventually sat waiting to meet this man who had ploughed into my car. I can’t lie, I had a moment of fight or flight and very nearly legged it. The whole process was supported very well by the probation officers and my husband was with me too. When he entered the room he took one look at me and burst into floods of tears and left the room. I knew then that this man had suffered more than I ever had over the crash, I could see the pure pain he was in. Once he returned a discussion took place with the probation officers managing the meeting. I was able to talk about the crash and the aftermath from my point of view and he was able to tell me about it from his experience. He had definitely suffered a series of unfortunate events and he had never had any intention of hurting anyone. He explained his pain and sorrow and all of the things that he had since done to try to right the wrong.
This was one of the most healing experiences I have ever had. I also know it was mutually healing as he couldn’t thank me enough for the opportunity to say his story and how sorry he was. He couldn’t turn back time but he wanted to. When I left the meeting something had left me, the fear and pain of the experience. The peace that I felt was amazing and I felt that I could finally close the door on that period in my life and move on.
During the preparation for this meeting and during my recovery, meditation and mindfulness was essential. Without meditation I am not sure if I would have had the courage to go through with the experience of meeting the lorry driver. Things are not always what they seem and taking the time to calm the mind can support a clearer view of things. Also practicing compassion meditation increases understanding of others situations and develops courage within ourselves. Regular practice reduces judgement towards ourselves and others. Meditation can really enable a change in too much fixed thinking, we can meet challenges with less preconceptions. Being free of a chaotic mind develops us in so many ways.
By Teresa Costa
Nanpantan Hall, my retreat experience
I am on a plane to Italy finally writing about my Nanpantan Hall Mindfulness Retreat experience.The day before the start of the Retreat, a problem arose that nearly convinced me that I should stay at home and sort it out. Instead, I decided to go following my daughter’s encouragement. Somehow I knew that staying at home was not the cure and would not address the source: myself.
The Retreat had run smoothly, nothing felt difficult. I enjoyed every day; the silence, the compassion meditations and the time spent mindful walking and stretching.The meals were delicious and I truly enjoyed sitting together as a community. The problem I brought to the retreat was gradually shrinking. Mindfulness had helped me to increase the confidence I needed in order to attract the solution. I was quite pleased with myself. Read More