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A Reflection on Personal Practice Mentoring

The following is a post written by a mentee and shared recently with the Mindfulness Network.

For further information about personal practice mentoring:https://www.mindfulness-supervision.org.uk/personal-practice-mentoring/

“I’ve been practising mindfulness since I did my ten-week course with a local Buddhist centre in 2004. I came to mindfulness because I felt a desire in myself to experience life in a new way – a way that was more open to awareness of the experiences of life as they unfolded. Since then, I have undertaken various mindfulness training courses and retreats. In 2016, I completed the distance learning MBSR course with Bangor as a refresher. Afterwards I found it difficult to find people to practise with and so when an opportunity arose to take part in personal practice mentoring I jumped at the chance.

A mentoring session is a very gentle experience and has evolved into its present structure as a result of a dialogue between the mentee and the mentor. My overriding experience of the process is that it is centred around the needs of the person receiving the mentoring. The mentor acts as guide and facilitator and allows the person receiving mentoring to navigate their own course.

Each session is an hour in length and I usually have one session per month, although at times I prefer to have two sessions if I am working through some more complex experiences. We begin with a short check-in to see where I am at and then move into a time of guided meditation. This mediation is always focused on what is most relevant and necessary for me right now and is based upon what I have told the mentor that I would like the session to be. After the meditation, we spend the remainder of the session reflecting on the experience – searching for the nuances at the edges of my experiences. We finish by exploring what might be helpful to me to allow my practice to deepen.

For me, the benefits have been immense. The personal practice mentoring sessions have become an island in an often turbulent and fast flowing river of experience. They have been an opportunity to deepen my practice and to weave it into the fabric of my daily life. Most of all, practice mentoring has been an opportunity to remain engaged with practice in a way that I never could have done alone. My mentor is a person I can trust and whose wisdom and generosity of spirit I deeply value.

I would highly recommend personal practice mentoring to anyone who wishes to deepen practice and integrate it into their daily lives. In short, I’d recommend it to anyone who really wants to live a mindful life.”


Fr Martin Bennett OFM Capuchin is a Capuchin Franciscan Priest, Chaplain, Life Coach and Mindfulness Practitioner.


A Fearless Heart

Heart stoneA book I am currently reading and greatly enjoying is “A Fearless Heart” by Thubten Jinpa. Thupten Jinpa has been the principal English translator to the Dalai Lama for nearly thirty years. He is an adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University, Montreal, and chairman of the Mind and Life Institute, which is dedicated to promoting collaboration between the sciences and contemplative knowledge, especially Buddhism.

The book shows us how and why compassion is the key to greater well- being and how  we all can train our capacity for compassion so that we can become more resilient to the inevitable challenges that life presents us with. The book is full of thoughtful reflection and practical exercises that are based on the Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) that he has helped to create at Stanford University School of Medicine. It is a book infused with gentle wisdom and penetrating insight. Drawing on Buddhist and western psychology, it describes very clearly why compassion is so essential to our well-being, and how it can be accessed and touched and experienced right in the heart and reality of everyday life, rather than viewed as an ideal or concept or aspiration that is somehow beyond our reach. It describes simple practices that can be developed as a way of building compassion for ourselves and others in profound but simple ways.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the 8 week  Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction progamme that I teach termly in central Newcastle upon Tyne, describes it as “the bravest, clearest, and most engaging book I know on why we need to cultivate compassion”. In his introduction, Thubten Jinpa writes: “Even at the height of our autonomy as adults, the presence of another’s affection powerfully defines our happiness or misery. This is human nature – we’re vulnerable and it’s a good thing. A fearless heart embraces this fundamental truth of our human condition. We can develop the courage to see and be more compassionately in the world, live our lives with our hearts wide open to the pain – and joy – of being human on this planet. As utterly social and moral creatures, we each yearn to be recognized and valued. We long to matter, especially in the lives of those whom we love. We like to believe that our existence serves  a purpose. We are “meaning-seeking” creatures. It’s through connecting with other people, actually making a difference to others, and bringing joy in to their lives that we make our own lives matter, that we bring worth and purpose to our lives. This is the power of compasion.”

Making the most of it

bees on comb

 

Here in the uplands of the Northumberland National Park, the heather is flowering at its peak. The fells have taken on their full stain of purple, great pools of deep colour, like cloud shadow passing over the landscape. In the recent fine weather, I took some moments to watch our bees flying at full capacity, to-ing and fro-ing from the heather on the fells above our house. Our six hives are situated at the edge of deciduous woodland, facing south and to the moorland  above. A shepherds hut overlooks the row of hives, which also serves as a kind of observation hide, from which I can closely observe the bees’ activity throughout the year. But on this glorious hot afternoon, I have pulled a bench out in front of the hut, so I’m sitting directly behind rank of the hives at a short distance, getting as close as I can, looking out over hives to the meadow, a sea of tall, moving grasses.

There is something deeply thrilling about watching the bees, as they are today, at the height of their activity. From deep within the hive, a huge swelling hum resonates – the intense sound of thousands of honey bees active on the combs and frames ranked side by side within the boxes, in a throng of concentrated activity. In this afternoon heat, the air in front of the hives is a kaleidoscope of flight paths, the zig-zagging of bees in and out of the hives to and from their various trajectories on the heather and meadow flowers.  The colonies are united in purpose and working to full capacity while the weather conditions permit.

Heather is the bees final and essential crop before winter and there is a urgency in their activity, to build vital stores while they can. The flowering period of heather is short and weather dependent. When the bees are working on the heather, it is best to leave them uninterrupted to get on with it. Even the most mild- natured bees get especially irritable and agitated if the hives are entered for any bee-keeping procedures during this vital period. It is not wise to thwart the bees unnecessarily. Today, in the warm, late afternoon sunshine,  they are focussed and unfussed by my presence sitting quietly behind their ranks. An occasional bee buzzes lazily before me, checking me out, but I am completely safe sitting here, facing outwards behind them.

It is inspiring to be so close to this hub of purposeful activity on this late summer’s afternoon, each bee contributing to the health and well-being of the hives, each flight an expression of their united intention, serving the colony as a whole. Today the cohesive organisation of these communities is manifesting  in its maximum glory. At the peak of their activity, the fullest potential of the colonies is being actualised from within to without and there is a sense  of complete harmony witnessing this climax of their productive endeavour. The air hangs with the scent of honey, gold bullion locked up in the vaults of the hives.

Watching the bees, I  am fascinated and  humbled by the wisdom of their  levels of social co-operation and organisation, their ability to align so completely  with the prevailing weather conditions, their absolute presence and focus in the moment, drawing from nature what is there to be drawn upon, each bee following its own flight path and completed journey to and from the hive, over and over, as long as the weather and flying conditions hold.

I reflect that as humans, the gift of mindful awareness similarly has an agency of purpose, and allows us to actualise our fullest potential as human beings, bringing us conscious connection with the world we inhabit and are part of , the breathing in of experience through the senses and the mind’s clear mirror. With mindful awareness we engage with the world responsively and with choice, opening to the limitless possibilities of life’s unfolding, in a million consciously lived moments, like the million flights of the honey bees to the heather this hot August afternoon, making the most of it, and returning with gold.

Gwennie Fraser lives in Northumberland National Park and teaches mindfulness in North-East England, including Northumberland and Newcastle upon Tyne.

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness course in central Newcastle upon Tyne

The next 8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course will be commencing on 26th April on Tuesday evenings  from 6.30 to 8.30pm at the Mercure Newcastle County Hotel on Neville St, Newcastle upon Tyne, immediately opposite central Station. Booking is now open and full course and booking information can be found on the courses page of this website.

The 8 week course offers a unique opportunity to develop a strong personal foundation of mindfulness practice in everyday life. At times of stress we can feel overwhelmed and react in ways that are automatic and reinforce unhelpful patterns, leaving us feeling stuck. Bringing awareness and acceptance to our immediate experience can help us to notice stress developing, and to respond skilfully. The aim of this course is to learn new ways of handling challenging physical sensations, emotions, moods and life situations by helping us to access our own powerful inner resources, developing greater awareness, understanding and resilience.

Mindfulness practice can support us in moving from reactivity and being caught up in trying to fix or solve our difficulties, to responding to life’s challenges with greater wisdom, skill, kindness and self-care. By being present in more of our moments, we can open to more skilful responses, choices and possibilities and enrich our experience of life, reconnecting with ourselves so that we can  live more fully and clearly.

The course is completely secular and takes place in the supportive learning environment of a group, with time within sessions to share and  reflect on individual experiences of practice.No previous meditation experience is required.  Participants are encouraged to commit to a daily home practice sessions which is supported by guided practices on CDs. The cost of the course includes a full set of CDs with guided practices for use at home, course handbook, in between session practice support from your teacher if required, and the opportunity to deepen and integrate learning from the course with a day of mindfulness practice after week 7, on Sunday 19th June  at Newton and Bywell Community Hall, Stocksfield (15 miles from Newcastle).

Following the course, participants are offered the opportunity to attend monthly practice support sessions, further days of retreat and an annual residential retreat in rural Northumberland.

“Anyone can learn mindfulness. It’s simple, you can practise it anywhere, and the results can be life-changing.”

Be Mindful ( www.bemindful.co.uk)