REMED 2018 – This is my Mind!
(Presentation notes from REMED 2018)
Welcome to the session on mindfulness and mindful meditation using drawing and writing.
After many meaningful presentations today our minds are racing, thinking of the ways we can apply what we have learnt in our classroom or school situations, or possibly we are focused on the half term weekend ahead of us and perhaps a weekend away in the Drakensberg, or at the beach.
To assist us to clear our minds. I would like to start with a breathing activity. I would like to ask each of you to find a comfortable position in your seat with both feet on the floor and your back straight with your hands placed upon your knees or thighs. What we are going to do is to focus on our breathing and explicitly inhaling and exhaling. I do not want you to control your breathing instead focus on the act of breathing. What we will do is to count the number of breaths we take in and out over a short period. There will be periods where you lose focus on your breathing, and I ask that you be nonjudgemental on your self and merely start counting again one. You may either pick a spot on the floor in front of you, or you may close your eyes and count your breaths. Please only count to 10 and then start again at one. We will perform this breathing activity for a 3 to 4 minute period.
Now we have cleared our minds, and hopefully, you will be able to focus more clearly on the presentation I am about to deliver.
I would briefly like to share why I became interested in mindfulness as I feel it is an essential perspective for you the participants to understand my chosen journey to using mindfulness, and mindful meditation using drawing and writing. On 29 September 2015, I had arrived at work as usual at about six-thirty, I had headed to my office, set up my computer and was busy clearing mail that had arrived overnight, I had not slept well the night before and had a faint, lightheaded feeling and thought I had better go and ask our resident paramedic just to check my blood pressure quickly. He attached a blood pressure cuff and started the process of testing my blood pressure, knowing Michael well the look on his face was a tell-tale sign. He suggested I phoned my wife and inform her that he was taking me to the Morningside Clinic, with blood pressure of 190/160 I spent the majority of the day, I spent the majority of my day in the emergency room, attached to an EEG machine and then visited a cardiologist. My blood pressure returned to normal, and the cardiologist could not find any problems with my heart or circulation. They recommended I took two days off and was to monitor my blood pressure and EEG with a machine strapped to my waist. This was the start of a number of tests and examinations by a variety of doctors, including a cardiologist and a pulmonologist, and nephrologist, a neurosurgeon and a neurologist. By 15 November I had spent 21 days in and out of hospital, and finally, the nephrologist and physician overseeing my treatment said to me “I think it’s all in your head” and recommended that I see a psychiatrist. Effectively I had a nervous breakdown and would need to spend six weeks separated from my digital devices. If you know me well, this would be one of the most challenging things for me to achieve as I am often connected to some form of device.
All of a sudden I was able to have time to read books without interruption from social media, mail, WhatsApp, U-tube, Apple music, and notifications about activity and when to move. I had begged the psychiatrist not to put me into a psych ward and that I would behave myself at home, in this period I was visited by the author of the book “Life less lived”, who recommended reading the book, “Feeling good, the new mood therapy.” I would visit my psychologist and psychiatrist on a weekly basis for the next six weeks; however, I was genuinely struggling to do without my devices and technology as I had become reliant on them. My psychologist recommended seeing an art therapist, and this is when I started drawing and using mindful drawing as part of my treatment. The Feeling Good book spoke about journal writing and gratitude journaling, this where my writing journey began.
Today’s presentation is about my journey using these tools and how I believe they will benefit each of you here this afternoon.
As modern humans, in today’s, technological society, there is no doubt that our minds are conditioned for overactivity. They jump around from one thing to another, constantly stimulated or even overstimulated, by a barrage of media, social media, TV, Internet, traffic, crowds, work, busy work lives and family lives.
The truth is that most of us unless we make a special effort have very few moments of silence, tranquillity or peace in our days. It is harder than ever for us to find a space to calm and quiet our minds we are probably the generation most in need of doing so. Our objective of mindful practice is to get our overactive mind to settle and focus.
The distinction between thinking and being is important. Our goal of practice is to achieve absorption – this happens when we move out of our thinking mind and into the being mind, away from analysing, conceptualising, telling stories in our heads or trying to work things out. Absorption is about being at one with something and just doing it as if it’s the only thing in the world. Being inflow is something that all creative people – every person who is engaged in a creative activity will recognise. When we are in flow, we are entirely at one with the action.
When our thinking minds are quieted, when we are absorbed in the flow of drawing or writing or merely being, something quite magical begins to happen. Less preoccupied with the world of thinking and planning in our heads we begin to notice the world around us.
Vincent Van Gogh says the following “I sometimes think there’s nothing so delightful as drawing.”
James Patterson – “do not sit there like, oh I don’t feel like it today. I don’t feel like it tomorrow. – Feel like it! Do it! Force yourself! Create passion and habit.”
During today’s presentation, we will look at what is mindfulness and how can we use mindfulness as educators, administrators and support personnel to ensure that we quieten our minds.
Mindfulness, is being away and undistracted in the present moment and observing life as it unfolds without analysis or judgement. It is about focusing attention on the here and now, rather than thinking about the past worrying about the future. Linked to mindfulness, is mindful meditation this is one of the most effective ways of teaching us to pay attention, to be more mindful is not about clearing our minds but rather focusing our attention on the present moment; being aware of and acknowledging our present thoughts and actions without judging them in any way. If our minds wander during meditation, the mindful response is to recognise what is happening and gently bring our attention back to the present moment, or the task at hand.
Mindful practice can be split into three areas that will focus on mindful breathing, mindful action, and mindful writing. We have already performed an activity, using mindful breathing. Here we learn its a natural, peaceful state. In this type of meditation, you do not force the mind to become, but learn to let go of the noise in your head.
Mindful action involves focusing our attention on a particular activity The urge to think – and write in your head -will be even greater than with breathing or walking meditations. There are so many story opportunities hidden within our interactions with the world however while performing mindful action meditation when you notice your mind starting to run away, label your thoughts thinking and return to observing your actions.
Mindful writing can be seen as unleashing your creative thinking through meditation, observing the world around you and narrating the world mindfully. While writing about a particular event, we may become so lost in our daydreams that our thoughts become entangled and we miss the sights and sounds and smells that are outside our heads.
Mindfulness has become an extremely lucrative business within the United States, it is currently thought to be a billion-dollar section of the economy. It has been shown to reduce stress and promote growth and healing. Concerning stress reduction, mindful writing participants who wrote about core values prior to a stressful event showed no increase in stress…reminding themselves of the most valued strengths protected them from anxiety. Briefly writing about personal values can buffer the adverse effects of chronic stress on performance and improve problem-solving…
With regards to growth and healing, if I tell and hear stories that help you see yourself in positive ways you will begin to understand your own stories of optimism, initially our writing may focus on the negative stories, however, if we focus on writing positive stories, about personal values, this increases feelings of self compassion which promote positive social behaviours. Personal journal, diary, or first draft writing can have an intensely cathartic or gently illuminating effect on the writer.
Everyone can draw and write – we must ignore the negative voice in our heads, being creative and drawing and writing it’s entirely natural for us. We must hold onto our childlike curiosity and enjoyment that we all experienced when we were young. Picasso says the following “all children are artists – the problem is how to retain an artist once he grows up.”
The writing timeline:
It is imperative to create a habit of writing, purchase yourself a writing notebook, establish a consistent time for writing, perform writing sprints, read and reflect on your writing. We may want to use writing prompts in order to assist with our writing.
A writing sprint is quite simply, a predefined length of time when you do nothing but write. The goal of a writing sprint is to get you into the flow state, where your brain will naturally focus on the activity of writing, you will write to the exclusivity of all else.
We are not the victim. As human beings, we often take the role of the victim, and this can be deeply ingrained in our self-image. We have constant feelings of misery and helplessness. Victimisation can be like a grey cloak that surrounds us, both attracting that which will victimise us and causing us to generate the feelings of victimisation. We have an incredible, almost impressive ability to find misery in any situation, even the most ideal circumstances. Claim responsibility for yourself!
Writing prompts: (Adapted from Michael Hyatt:)
What did I do yesterday? (Highs and lows – events you want to remember)
What am I thankful for right now? (begin day with a sense of abundance and gratitude)
How am I feeling right now? (Check in on yourself)
What did I read? (List anything that has been read.)
What one thing must I accomplish today or tomorrow?
I would like to spend time creating mindful doodling. Doodling is drawing without any particular object in mind, no destination, no aspiration.
- Here is a simple drawing exercise, this will take about five minutes.
- Get a piece of A4 paper and a pen or pencil. Sit comfortably holding your pencil. Keep the tip resting on the page and close your eyes.
- Take a few moments to focus on feeling your pencil between your fingers. This is something we do almost every day – we write, we scribble, we sign our name, but very rarely do we pay attention to how it actually feels to hold a pen or pencil in hand.
- See if you can notice the different places the pencil presses against your skin is it resting on a knuckle or on the soft pads of your fingers? Is it rough or smooth? How does it feel? Experiment with how you hold the pencil. Are you holding it tightly with a loose and relaxed grip? Can you loosen or tighten your hold, so it feels poised yet still relaxed?
- Start to make some simple shapes on the page – all the time keeping your eyes closed, creating a shape only because it feels good to make them.
- Keep your eyes closed. Resist the urge to peak, don’t try to draw anything in particular, you are just doodling just making marks, just making marks that feel intuitive and enjoyable to make. When you feel yourself getting a little more tired or bored, change your focus and draw another shape. Keep coming back to the sensation of your hand drawing brushing against the paper, holding the pencil. Keep drawing – keep DOODLING just what feels right, this shapes you think you instinctively want to create.