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Wise Online – Week 1

 

Welcome to the Wise program. Cultivating awareness is scientifically proven. In fact, this eight week program has been modelled from the famous MBSR and MBCT (Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy) courses which have appeared in over 8000 medical journals, stating the researched and proven benefits. We know that eight weeks of mindfulness training results in neuroplasticity where the neural pathways are altered and reshaped. This can result in wonderful changes such as reduced stress, anxiety, pain and depression, as well as improved sleep, happiness, compassion and relaxation.

The next eight weeks is like putting a lab coat on and experimenting with your own body and mind to see what grows. Just like going to the gym for your body, this is an eight week training program for your mind. By committing to this program you have given yourself a wonderful opportunity to see how good you can feel from the inside out. It is important to keep an open, curious attitude to the next eight weeks and be kind to yourself- there is no need to judge yourself if you find any of the practices difficult. The key here is to carve out regular time each day for self-care and practice. Just like playing an instrument or learning a new skill, what we practice we get good at.  

If you have any questions along the way or need any extra support I am available on the email sally.cumming@engagehealth.com.au or you can call me on 0401358309.

Program Format

You will notice each week there is an opportunity for practice.

Formal practice means listening to the specific recording for that week. It helps to record in the practice log what you noticed, what came up for you, including any thoughts, emotions or sensations that you noticed during the exercise. It will be harder to reconstruct later so it is a good idea to jot down what you noticed immediately after. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers, let your experience be the experience. You may like to download other apps that support your practice. I highly recommend Insight timer, a free meditation app https://insighttimer.com.

Informal practice means performing a daily activity that doesn’t take any extra time. As above, it is good to jot down a few notes regarding your thoughts, feelings, and sensations as you perform each informal practice task.

 

It is important to measure your progress throughout the course. To begin your journey please complete the MAAS (Mindfulness Awareness Attention Scale). This survey is a measure of your current level of mindfulness and will be completed at the end of the course in week eight. Completing this task also creates an awareness of moments in your life when you may be on ‘auto-pilot’ and ‘mindless’ (i.e. not paying attention).

The higher the score, the higher the level of mindfulness. Divide your total score by 15 to get the MAAS Score.

Please click here to fill out the MAAS form

Category MAAS Score (Average)
Average Score 3.86
Highest Possible Score 6
Lowest Possible Score 1 

 

Week 1- Calm, Focus, Clarity

When we are on ‘auto-pilot’ our attention is absorbed in our wandering mind and we are not ‘present’ in our own lives. Research shows we are on auto-pilot or ‘mindless’ 47% of the time.

The fundamental change that mindfulness brings is one of ‘falling awake’ rather than being lulled by habitual complacency. Week 1 of the Wise program involves calming the mind and allowing the mind to grow quieter and more spacious. This can bring into awareness workings of the mind that are ordinarily unconscious.

We can learn to use the breath as an anchor to stabilise and ground ourselves in the present moment. With practice, we can learn to sustain ourselves amidst the pull of negative emotions and turbulence in our lives, allowing us to gain wisdom and insight into our behaviours, emotions and even values.

It is important to not be thinking about breathing during our mindfulness practice, but really feeling the breath. See if you can tune into all of the sensations associated with the full cycle of breathing and what it feels like to be breathing. This will awaken the senses, in particular, the sense of touch. Perhaps feel the air moving through the nostrils, at the rib cage or notice the feeling of the belly rising and falling with each breath in and out.

 

Every time you notice your mind has wandered and you bring your attention back to the breath, you strengthen your mental muscle (the pre-frontal cortex). This is like doing a mental rep, or a bicep-curl for your brain. The more we practice this, the stronger our pre-frontal cortex will get. This part of the brain is crucial for executive function such as attention, focus, decision making, emotional regulation, inhibiting impulses, critical thinking and planning.

 

What is occurring when thinking as opposed to sensing?

 

Thinking Vs Sensing

Thinking Sensing
Is active Is more passive
Involves past and future Is in the present
Is complex and fast Is simpler and slower
Has high emotional charge Has low emotional charge
Is stimulating Is relaxing
Burns energy Conserves energy
Tightens the body Relaxes the muscles of the body

If you focus on the breath, on the sounds around you, or on the food you are eating, you might marginalise the thoughts relating to the past and the future. Your blood flow literally drains away from those parts of the brain that are involved in cerebral thought. You enhance your sensory awareness at the expense of thinking.

When you try and be in the ‘present’ your mind will often detour back to thinking, but even intermittent focus on a sensual object will relax you. The thoughts won’t disappear completely but they become less impactful and weaker. The reason being is that if we don’t feed them, they don’t stimulate a stress response. There is nothing imaginary about this mental shift from a thinking mode to a sensing mode.

The real meditation is your life, and how you inhabit it moment by moment.

 

WEEKLY PRACTICE TASKS

INFORMAL PRACTICE- Simple Awareness

The informal task this week is to bring mindful awareness to otherwise routine activities that you might usually do without paying much attention. For example, each day notice what happens when you pay attention to a daily task such as cleaning, washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, showering, driving, making lunches etc. Allow yourself to be curious and surprised by this task.

Write a few words to remind you of your impressions in your journal. Remember to jot this down information down straight away each day.

FORMAL PRACTICE-Attention Training 

Between now and next week, there is an opportunity to practice the Week 1 recording. Don’t expect anything in particular from this exercise. See if you can give up all expectations about it and just let your experience be your experience.  Write a few words to remind you of your impressions:

  • What came up?
  • How did it feel?
  • What did you notice in terms of physical sensations, emotions, thoughts?

Example: “When I practiced the recording I was feeling tired, hurried and rushed. I noticed that my mind was wandering to my “to-do list” and it was difficult to concentrate on my breath. I noticed my heart was beating a little faster at times and I had some physical pain in my neck and shoulders that I hadn’t noticed before. Now that I have done the recording I feel proud that I made myself do this exercise daily.”

Week 1: Calm, Focus, Clarity (8 min)

Practice Log