Awareness of Breathing. The antidote to living in our heads.

This is a guided awareness of breathing practice. The intention is to become aware of the tactile sensations of breathing from moment to moment: Paying attention and noticing the breath in movement and in stillness. This formal sitting practice can be done sitting on the floor, a mat, a cushion, a meditation bench or a chair.

The meditation provides an internal focus for attention. The breath and the body – as well as other foci – can be developed as an anchor to the present in the ocean of moving attention. Bringing back attention on purpose and moment-to-moment – gently and without judging. Perhaps noticing where attention has been pulled.

The breath as a symbol and direct experience of the arising and passing of all. The antidote to living in our heads. Helping to develop a skillset to detect the movement of attention – often triggered by obstacles and situations – as well as seeing reality as a construct and lastly to train the attentional muscle in holding a focus and bringing it back to the focus.

Guided Bodyscan Meditation

Going into a guided body scan meditation. Holding the intention to explore sensations in the body as they arise. Doing so by placing and moving attention throughout the body.

Guided Bodyscan Meditation MBCT

“… Taking a few moments to settle in. Lying down on your back on the floor, on a mat or on a bed. Or allowing yourself to sit up on a chair or a cushion if that is more available to you.

Bringing attention to the body where it makes contact. Perhaps noticing sensations of pressure, heaviness, lightness or no sensation.

Bringing awareness to the entire body: front, back, to the sides and everything between. Maybe feeling calmness, tension, ease or restlessness. The task is simply to notice and pay attention to the body as it is – right now, in this moment.

Now bringing attention to Breathing. Wherever the breath presents itself most dominantly, most vividly. Making this the focus of your attention.

On an out breath, now letting the breath reside in the background and on an in breath moving attention to the back, the sides and the top of the head. Noticing any body sensations as they present themselves here. Sensations can be warmth, dryness, tingling, heaviness or pressure. You may notice to register a blank, no sensation or numbness. Then simply noticing that.

Whenever attention is being pulled, the mind wanders – noticing where it went and then gently escorting it back to the focus. Here, the back, the sides and the top of your head.

One Mind, Two Systems

Gaining insight in troubled times with Paul Loomans’ Time Surfing

Paul Loomans’ Zen approach to keeping time on your side is a refreshing and reassuring read with an unconventional perspective on time management. Unfortunately the unhandy landscape format, which might have been chosen to underline the unconventionality of the book, does not contribute to keep itself on your side.

This easy to read guidebook written addresses modern life time pressures and how to better deal with them. Loomans unfolds his own seven steps method that anchors in intuition and empowers readers to drop lists and other structured approaches.

The author differentiates between two systematically different approaches to managing your time. The first one is the accelerated, fast paced DOING that manages life with our heads. The second one is the slower paced, reflecting SENSING that comes from within us.

The last part of the book is dedicated to very practical applications in everyday life: understanding procrastination and deadlines; handling email mindfully, being master or servant of your smartphone and others.

I like a lot that his approach really is an alternative to the “getting things done” (GTD) and time management paradigms, which all proclaim more of the same. Namely that you can get things done by gathering tasks, detailing tasks and by then organizing them using tools and apps.

Contrary to this, the zen monk lays out how your experiencing self is able to manage your day, your personal as well as your work matters by cultivating intuition. Wait! Before your inner voice now goes off and says things like “oh well, intuition – that’s just an umbrella term for wishy-washy”, try to take this in:

“It is about using feelings and the awareness of how you relate to tasks in order to get them done. That is entirely different from letting lists determine your life!”

Remember the title “Time SURFING”? so don’t forget that it is all about the ride. There is no ride without a sense of ease and confidence. Without those whatever you do, soon becomes a bad trip. Use lists not to determine what you have to do, but as checklists to help you not to forget things. Your sense of ease will increase over time.

The house of love (Loomans calls it The four storey house) has a basement where our emotions live. Emotions are our bodies ancient, yet extraordinarily relevant communication system permanently transmitting signals from underneath. They can guide us to come to terms with whatever arises.

Background programs are rumination and worry we carry and accumulate in a day, a week or for months on end. Much like too many apps open on your phone or computer these programs eat into your capacity to function and hence bring your performance down. Address the emotional message of each background program. Not the content.

With regard to Deadlines he describes the unhealthy pattern of the procrastination monster: chronicle stress due to relying on your body’s survival system might in the short run help you to get things done and to deliver, but it does so in CLOSED state of mind and body.

Paying attention to transitions from project to project and to how to start a new project with an OPEN attitude allows us to surf time smoothly rather than paddle it gruffly.

Brexit Yoga: Feel the stretch

Mindful Movement practices allow us to bring awareness to body experience in stillness and in motion. Take a few minutes out of your hectic schedule to indulge in a spot of yoga with a difference. Make sure you work within your limitations. Please decide for yourself how far you can go and step out of the practice if pain becomes overwhelming.

Let me introduce you to Brexit Yoga, an unnervingly accurate summary of the delicate political situation in the UK told through a soothing yoga class. It will make you smile!

Is there a serious message to be learnt? Yes, we think there’s something here that can be applied to our everyday lives. Movement is a wonderful way to anchor yourself in the present moment. Whilst this yoga class was designed with humour and pokes a bit of fun at the current trendiness of yoga, it does demonstrate that by slowing down and moving intentionally, you can bring a calm to any situation.

The ancient practice of yoga aligns breath, body and mind with the movements and poses acting as vehicles to direct attention to inner experience remaining aware of the outside world, taking you deeper into meditation and being more mindful of your actions.

What benefits does yoga and mindfulness have?

Both practices have been linked to a huge range of health benefits, both physical and psychological. As well as the obvious fitness benefits of yoga, like increased core strength and flexibility. Yoga and mindfulness may also help increase levels of serotonin and lower cortisol levels, as shown in a 2014 study at the University of Wisconsin by Richard Davidson, PhD Center for Healthy Minds (Front. Psychol., 24 October 2014). Mindful Movement is part and parcel of the successful standard Mindfulness programs such as Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Training (MBCT).

So, what does this means for you? You may find yourself feeling happier and dealing with stress better by simply allowing yourself to connect with the present moment. The present holds rich information about what is going on in and around you. In Body, Mind, Emotion and Behaviour.

Ultimately, making time to take a yoga class or a mindful break is making time for self-care. Whether you’re mulling over a serious topic, or worrying about your children, you can use the concept of the Brexit Yoga to slow down your movements, pause and be mindful of you next move, whether that be a yoga pose, a difficult discussion, or making the choice to spend quality time with your family. Whatever it is, you’ll be taking a step in the right direction.

Improve your emotional balance in the New Year!

You can improve your emotional balance in the New Year by joining the MBCT program in a boutique group setting.

Pig practice in yoga

There are 2 slots left to join Sebastian’s Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) program in February.

This solidly composed program was particularly designed for people who know themselves having periods of depressed mood, downward spirals of anxiety and recurring negative thinking patterns.

Mindfulness-based programs have become more and more popular and are often held in large spaces with a mass atmosphere. However, I will keep the group size below 10 participants for a more boutique-like learning.

Please register asap.

Flow and open awareness – Do we need it?

Does flow equal mindfulness?

Is flow the ultimate mindfulness champion?

Where is the open awareness in flow?

When teaching mindfulness I often come across the question if a very focused mind is the same as a mind in flow experience OR if flow is the advancement of focus?

Flow as perpetual motion machine (Perpetuum Mobile)

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Professor of Psychology and Management, Flow is the a state of mind in which we are fully concentrated on the present, that happens outside of everyday reality. It involves knowing of the task at hand and the ability to monitor how well we are doing, knowing that our skills are adequate. It furthermore comes with a sense of serenity and timelessness – no worries and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego. Ultimately, whatever produces flow becomes it’s own reward.

Mindfulness Meditation converges into Flow

Dr. Brewer – see podcast below – says that Mindfulness coverges into Flow like be a progressed state of meditation on the same continuum. Meditative states can have very focused attention – that depends on how you meditate.

Running down a trail can have a very single-pointed attention, but it can also have much broader awareness – taking in and connecting with more detail. Depending on the speed you are going, you simply might not be able to be aware of birds chirping or other things in your environment that you would be easily aware of at a slower pace.

In flow there will be much more clarity of direction and blending in with your surroundings in a sense of oneness.

The Aperture of Awareness in Flow

In a more general view, in flow there is open awareness of whatever is arising. “I am wondering if the aperture narrows or broadens as the conditions dictate – more so than flow being defined as a narrower or broadened state.” Staying in the photography analogy this means that we are naturally losing depth of field the faster paced our flow activity is becoming.

This leads to me understanding FLOW at a higher level. Taking the aperture and depth of field analogy into account, any flow experience then must mean to be an experience with more potent sensors (i.e. higher amount of megapixels, sharper lenses, better image stabilisation, etc.).

Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation then becomes the path to more potent senses altogether – broadening and sharpening the access to our human faculty.

Judson Brewer on Flowstate Podcast

While writing this blog, more questions arose that I intend to address further down the road:

Is flow the same for masculine and feminine energy and polarity?

Are trips on psychedelic drugs flow states?

Is flow the same as purpose in life?

How selfish am I acting while dissolving my self in a flow activity?

ref: https://itunes.apple.com/hk/podcast/tfpp-flowstate-collective/id1049563447?l=en&mt=2&i=1000414046379

Spoken Retreat, non-silent non-smoking

After many years of attending shorter and longer silent retreats, I came across an invitation to a spoken retreat and spontaneously registered myself because I was curious to find out what to expect. The brochure said “A spoken retreat follows the structure and format of most silent retreats with the main exception being, that the participants are strongly encourage to verbalise their minds!” Needless to say, each of the participants had to attend a short intake interview by phone and was then provided all details and instructions via an audio-file sent by email.

“All participants are strongly encouraged to express themselves verbally at all times – being on their own or with others.”

SPEAKING BY YOURSELF

As best you can put your mind’s inner commentary into words. Speak out loud what you think as often and as long as you can stay focused. Whenever you fall into silence, congratulate yourself and gently bring back the tone of your voice. Experiment with tonality, melody and volume. When your mind fatigues, start to speak to yourself and with yourself. Do it with kindness. Talk about anything you like or dislike – things you want or need to do and all the things you don’t want to do. Follow through with each train of thought arguing with yourself vigorously to dissect where your preferences and action tendencies come from and what they are based on.

SPEAKING TO OTHERS

In this retreat we cultivate speaking “to” rather than “with” others. Speaking to others means that we encourage you to speak about yourself, revealing some of your moment-to-moment awareness with each statement. Do not ask questions. If you feel the urge to ask a questions, perhaps you can work your way around it. Say “I wonder how you feel today?” Or “I am so anxious standing next to you, that I want to overcome my sense of awkwardness by asking you if you like the vegetarian food.”

THE SPOKEN RETREAT DIALOGUE

Use “I statements” as best you can. Repeat what your counterpart said and then add your own observation of the world and yourself. Example: The other person says “I like how green the gras is here.” You say “You like how green the gras is. I went to the other side this morning and found that it is even greener there.” And so on.

THE SPOKEN RETREAT GROUP CONVERSATION

Similar to the Spoken Retreat Dialogue (R), the Spoken Retreat Group Conversation was developed to increase the depth and richness of the retreat experience. When one group member makes an “I statement” all other group members need to repeat the statement and then make a judging comment based on their own view and experience. Which then in turn is again repeated by each group member. Smaller groups are preferable here for obvious reasons.

MEDITATIONS

Mindful Talking. Choose any thought that comes up in your mind and speak it, out loud. Again and again. Let’s say your thought is “I wish Arsenal wins anything this season”. Try as best you can to fully concentrate on that though and speak it out loud to yourself again and again. Slowly savouring every word. Enquire into each syllable, each word, the sound, the way you produce it, the meaning – of each word, of parts of the sentence, of the whole sentence. Find words with the same meaning for each word in the sentence: “I, myself, me, self, …”; “Wish, desire, want, aspire, crave, …”. When your mind gets distracted – for example by thinking of another football club like Middlesborough for example – say “Thinking, Thinking, Thinking” and bring your attention gently back to your phrase. If your mind drifts to images – say your favorite players holding a cup on a presentation ceremony – say “Imagining, Imagining, Imagining” and then bring back your attention gently and with kindness to your sentence. Take a fresh interest in your sentence and continue your mindful talking. If you notice any feelings arising such as warmth, fuzziness or hatred – say “Feeling, Feeling, Feeling”.

Take it from here!

Inspire Wellness Talks

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Inspire Wellness is a 6 part series of lectures exploring the effects of lifestyle on our health and what we can do to slow down aging. Experts from some of Hong Kong’s largest institutions in health and wellness will be sharing their research and knowledge in the areas of sleep, stress management, brain health, movement, beauty, nutrition, mental and physical well being. You will be leaving with practical tips to gain control over your health now and prevent aging diseases in the future.

Read more …

 

My upcoming Events in Central Hong Kong

Check out the upcoming events for ambitious people with limited time. 
FOCUS TRAINING AND ATTENTION GYM

Increases attention and awareness helps us to be the way we want to be at work and with close ones. The focus training is 3-hr workshop to introduce you to simple practices and give answers to the most common challenges for your concentration, empathy and emotional balance. It’s meant to refresh your insight and understanding of how to train and maintain your attention throughout challenging days and long weeks.

Learn how to use simple and effective concentration practices to benefit from increased awareness in your daily actions and interactions. Understand and apply insight for mental strength and emotional balance.

Date: Saturday 4 June 2016

Location: Central Hong Kong

Facilitator: Sebastian Droesler

Cost: HKD350.-

Details & Registration: Just Focus

MINDFUL MEN’S GROUP mini

This men’s group enables men who want to address issues and phases of their lives in a group of likeminded others. This is a great opportunity to experience the benefits of a closed group within a shorter timeframe. You will learn to reflect and engage with yourself and others in a much more effective and effcient way. The group will produce an in-depth richness of stories and experiences.

Why purpose, feminine energy, nothingness and other men can inspire us and make us mad at times. How to resolve issues in relationships, at work and with yourself.

4x Wednesdays 1, 8, 15, 22 June 2016

Location: Central Hong Kong

Facilitator: Sebastian Droesler

Cost: HKD1600.-

Details & Registration: Men’s Group

RELATIONSHIP CLINIC

Increased awareness and understanding of your ‘signature’ behaviour, perceptions and emotional responses in relationships helps us getting the love we want. This 3-hr workshop is for everyone who want to understand for her or himself the way he/she operates with partners or spouses. You will be able to find out how much power we have to change the way we interact. The chance to uproot fights and arguments fundamentally motivates each of us!

Workshop for individuals and couples who want to get a basic understanding of their relationship ‘style’ and how they can change to improve their relationship skills. Based on the Emotion Focused Therapy approach.

Date: Saturday 18 June 2016

Location: Central Hong Kong

Facilitator: Sebastian Droesler

Cost: HKD400.-

please contact Sebastian