5 MINDFULNESS TRAININGS

ORDER OF INTERBEING

 
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An Introduction to the Five Mindfulness Trainings from Thich Nhat Hanh



The Five Mindfulness Trainings are one of the most concrete ways to practice mindfulness. They are nonsectarian, and their nature is universal. They are true practices of compassion and understanding. All spiritual traditions have their equivalent to the Five Mindfulness Trainings.


The first training is to protect life, to decrease violence in oneself, in the family and in society. The second training is to practice social justice, generosity, not stealing and not exploiting other living beings. The third is the practice of responsible sexual behavior in order to protect individuals, couples, families and children. The fourth is the practice of deep listening and loving speech to restore communication and reconcile. The fifth is about mindful consumption, to help us not bring toxins and poisons into our body or mind. The Five Mindfulness


Trainings are based on the precepts developed during the time of the Buddha to be the foundation of practice for the entire lay practice community. I have translated these precepts for modern times, because mindfulness is at the foundation of each one of them. With mindfulness, we are aware of what is going on in our bodies, our feelings, our minds and the world, and we avoid doing harm to ourselves and others.


Mindfulness protects us, our families and our society. When we are mindful, we can see that by refraining from doing one thing, we can prevent another thing from happening. We arrive at our own unique insight. It is not something imposed on us by an outside authority. Practicing the mindfulness trainings, therefore, helps us be more calm and concentrated, and brings more insight and enlightenment. Thich Nhat Hanh, Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices (2009)

 

Over the past seven sessions we have focused primarily on challenging experiences and explored how mindfulness and self-compassion can transform these experiences into something positive. After all, compassion is a positive emotion.


As we all know, life is a mixture of good and challenging experiences, bitter and sweet moments. This session will focus on how to get the most out of the positive experiences in our lives and our positive qualities. We need to remember to water seeds of joy and savor the good moments and experiences so we can sustain the energy and optimism required for compassion training. 


As we noted earlier in the course, we are all hardwired to scan our environment for what is wrong. The default mode network in the brain is always scanning for problems in the past and in the future. Evolutionary psychologists have referred to this as the negativity bias. When we experience negative emotions such as anger or fear, our perceptual field help us focus on survival.  As Dr. Rick Hanson eloquently captured, "We are velcro for bad experiences and Teflon for good ones."


In contrast, positive emotions such as love and joy broaden our awareness to notice new opportunities. Because we all have a strong negativity bias, we need to intentionally pay attention to positive experiences to accurately perceive our world and ourselves. 


The three ways to correct for the negativity bias include: Savoring, Gratitude, and Self-Appreciation. 

 

SAVORING & GRATITUDE

 

Savoring is mindfulness of positive experiences. It refers to recognizing pleasant experiences, allowing oneself to be drawn into it, lingering with it, and letting it go. Research indicates that this simple practice can greatly increase happiness and life satisfaction.


Gratitude means appreciating the good things that life has given us. If we just focus on what we want but don't have, we will remain in a negative state of mind. Ample research shows that gratitude practice enhances wellbeing (e.g., gratitude diary, counting blessings, gratitude letter writing). 


Some findings from research include:


  • Keeping a gratitude diary for two weeks produced sustained reductions in perceived stress (28 percent) and depression (16 percent) in healthcare practitioners.

  • Counting blessings at the end of the day for two weeks reduces the impact of daily stress and increases overall wellbeing. 

  • Dietary fat intake is reduced by as much as 25 percent when people are keeping a gratitude journal.

  • Gratitude practice is related to 23 percent reduction of stress hormone, cortisol.


Gratitude is a wisdom practice. When we practice gratitude, we are acknowledging the many factors, large and small, that contribute to our lives. We think of gratitude as the texture of wisdom, how wisdom feels.


Gratitude is also a relational practice that help us connect with life. The joy that arises from gratitude may be attributed in part to freedom from the illusion of separateness. 

 

SAVORING & GRATITUDE

 

Savoring is mindfulness of positive experiences. It refers to recognizing pleasant experiences, allowing oneself to be drawn into it, lingering with it, and letting it go. Research indicates that this simple practice can greatly increase happiness and life satisfaction.


Gratitude means appreciating the good things that life has given us. If we just focus on what we want but don't have, we will remain in a negative state of mind. Ample research shows that gratitude practice enhances wellbeing (e.g., gratitude diary, counting blessings, gratitude letter writing). 


Some findings from research include:


  • Keeping a gratitude diary for two weeks produced sustained reductions in perceived stress (28 percent) and depression (16 percent) in healthcare practitioners.

  • Counting blessings at the end of the day for two weeks reduces the impact of daily stress and increases overall wellbeing. 

  • Dietary fat intake is reduced by as much as 25 percent when people are keeping a gratitude journal.

  • Gratitude practice is related to 23 percent reduction of stress hormone, cortisol.


Gratitude is a wisdom practice. When we practice gratitude, we are acknowledging the many factors, large and small, that contribute to our lives. We think of gratitude as the texture of wisdom, how wisdom feels.


Gratitude is also a relational practice that help us connect with life. The joy that arises from gratitude may be attributed in part to freedom from the illusion of separateness. 

 

SELF-APPRECIATION

 

Self-appreciation is the third practice we use in MSC for cultivating happiness. Savoring and gratitude provide a foundation for self-appreciation. Appreciating our good qualities means that we have a the capacity to savor them, and we need gratitude toward those who have helped us in order to appreciate our strengths without feeling vulnerable or alone. 


We can be grateful for many things in our lives, large and small, but we are rarely grateful for the positive qualities in ourselves. We tend to criticize ourselves and focus on our inadequacies, and take our good qualities for granted. This gives us a skewed perspective of who we are.


Have you noticed how challenging it can be to receive a compliment? Ordinarily, when we receive a complement, it bounces right off us, but when we receive the slightest negative feedback, we fixate on it. It feels uncomfortable to even think about what’s good about ourselves. We know that if we have a negative experience, it takes at least five positive interactions to counteract this experience.

Remember: Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.


There are two insights that can help us feel less separate and alone and thereby more able to appreciate our good qualities:


Common Humanity: Remembering that everyone has strengths and good qualities. Bringing awareness that having some good qualities does not meant that we are better than others: "I may be better at this and you may be better at that."


Interdependent Causality: This refer to the fact that our strength and good qualities are due, at least in part, to multiple factors outside ourselves, including the beneficial influence that others have on us. By recognizing the contribution of others, we can begin to feel connected even as we recognize our strengths. 


Finally, if we apply the three components of self-compassion to our positive qualities (as well as negative ones), we can appreciate ourselves more fully. 


Mindfulness - We need to be mindful of our good qualities rather than take them for granted.


Self-Kindness - We need to be kind to ourselves by expressing our appreciation.


Common Humanity - We need to remember that all people have good qualities so we do not feel separate from or superior to others.

 
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The Word

by Tony Hoagland 


Down near the bottom

of the crossed-out list

of things you have to do today,


Between "green thread"

and "broccoli" you find

that you have penciled "sunlight"


Resting on the safe, the word

is beautiful. It touches you

as if you had a friend


and sunlight were a present

they had sent from someplace distant

as this morning to cheer you up,


and to remind you that,

among other duties, pleasure 

is a thing


that also needs accomplishing.

Do you remember?

that time and light are kinds


of love, and love

is no less practical

than a coffee grinder


or a safety spare tire?

Tomorrow you may be utterly

without a clue,


but today you get a telegram

from the heart in exile,

proclaiming that the kingdom


still exists

the kind and queen alive,

still speaking to their children,


to anyone among them

who can find time

to sit out in the sun and listen.

 
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A Return to Love (excerpt)  

By Marianne Williamson


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, 

talented, fabulous?”

Actually, who are you not to be?

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people

won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do…

And as we let our own light shine,

we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence

Automatically liberates others.

 
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TIPS FOR MAINTAINING YOUR PRACTICE

 

Make sure your practice is as pleasant as possible.



Start Small - short practices can make a big difference.


Practice during daily life, when you need it most.


Be self-compassionate when your practice lapses and start anew.


Let go of unnecessary effort.


Pick a consistent time to practice each day.


Use guided meditation, read books, or keep a journal.


Go on a retreat.


Stay connected, practice in community.


Remember that mindfulness and self-compassion practices are a lifelong endeavor. For all of us, our best teacher is our authentic experience, and the most appropriate practices are the ones we find ourselves most committed to. 

 
 
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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

 

For a New Beginning

by John O'Donahue


In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.


For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.


It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.


Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.


Though your destination is not yet clear,

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning 

That is at one with your life's desire.


Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.