Monday, 18 January 2010

Mindfulness and Meditation (1)

To Christchurch, Clarendon Park Road, this evening, for the first session of the new season's Faiths Awareness programme, run by Christians Aware. I enjoyed the course they ran at the same venue in the autumn, "Exploring the Diversity of Hinduism" (see earlier blog entry, "top ten 2009: special mentions").

This new course looks right up my street: a subject in which I've long been interested, with a useful practical dimension to it. I was surprised to see that there were only two people there who had been on the Hinduism course - a dozen or so faces were new to me. I was more surprised, though, to see that the course tutor was Ian Grayling, who had taught me on the Professional Certificate in Education with Leicester University several years ago. Ian is currently Executive Director of the East Midlands Centre for Excellence in Teacher Training (EMCETT), based at South Leicestershire College. He describes himself this evening as a practising Buddhist, living a contemplative life and adhering to a set of universal values. He said that, as far as he's concerned, mindfulness could be described from the standpoint of psychology, physiology or faith and it would be the same thing from each of these perspectives.

Ian (and his colleague Kevin Commons, also attending) are members of the Serene Reflection Meditation Group.

The course will make use of a range of delivery techniques, including hands-on activities. The aim will be to promote active and reflective earning in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. More specifically, the programme seeks to enable us to:
  • use a range of mindfulness skills in daily life;
  • increase our knowledge of ourselves, and awareness of ourselves in relation to others;
  • develop a positive attitude to the simple activities of daily life;
  • value stillness.

As an ice breaker activity, we are asked to write, on a PostIt note, one thing that we would say about ourselves that helps define who we are - one think about us that we think other people wouldn't know. Then we had to fold it up tight and throw it on the floor in the middle of the room. Ian unfolded the notes, read them aloud and we had to try and guess who had written each one. Here's a few of them:
"Meditation gave me the insight to manage difficulties at work and eventually led me to move to a new job."
"Through using my senses I can love others more."
"I lead a hectic life; I may appear calm but there is always a tension in me between mental activity and inwardly closing my eyes due to God's presence."
"Love for Africa through being brought up on a farm."
"A retired insurance broker."
"I enjoy riding my bike."
"I love questions, running every morning and being loved."
"I don't think there is one thing only that I am, and being is richness."
"I am silenced by being questioned."
"Searching for inner peace and calmness."
"The fact that I'm an identical twin has affected my life in certain ways."
"I once sang 'Mary's Born Child' on stage at the age of 4 in a crowded theatre."
"I love teasing."
"I recently found out that I am half an inch taller than I thought I was."
"Quite independent."
"Born in Yorkshire and didn't leave willingly."

Can you identify mine from the list above, faithful reader? Since I only knew three people attending, I didn't have much chance. A further complication would have arisen from the fact that those who might regard themselves as introverted may have written something about their outward-facing selves and vice versa - since they are meant to be things that we thought others wouldn't know about ourselves. A bit of a double-bluff - even on ourselves!

This led us to consider together the many ways of defining who we are, what we are: by our occupation; by where we were brought up; by how we were brought up; by our social networks; by our family; by how other people treat us (especially in childhood, by teachers, parents, siblings); by our beliefs and values.

As well as being an introduction to the course, this evening's meeting is devoted to establishing ground rules for the conduct of future sessions. The weeks ahead are laid out as follows:
  • Session 2 (25 Jan) Seeing (using perception and drawing exercises)
  • Session 3 (1 Feb) Listening (using activities to explore attention and deep listening)
  • Session 4 (8 Feb) The Other Senses (using exercises related to the other senses - followed by half term week)
  • Session 5 (22 Feb) Thinking and Feeling (material about the three levels of the brain)
  • Session 6 (1 Mar) Beliefs and Values (exploring individual perspectives)
  • Session 7 (8 Mar) Pointing Beyond Thinking and Feeling (the place of meditation or contemplation)
  • Session 8 (15 Mar) The Faith Specific Context (representing all faiths and none) 

1 comment:

  1. I'll guess that yours was...

    "I recently found out that I am half an inch taller than I thought I was."

    but it should have been...

    "I love teasing"