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Balanced meditation practice: an overview

Taking our attention inwards can be done helpfully in so many ways.  We can relax; we can be mindfully aware; we can use visualisations; we can deeply savour present time experience; we can process difficulties from our pasts or prepare ourselves for challenges in the future.  There are so many useful ways of using our minds to help ourselves.  In the diagram below, one can think of "mindfulness' as representing "content irrelevant" - it's how we're relating to mind-body content rather than what the mind-body content is that's important.  "Exploring & processing" however is very much "content relevant" - whether one is gaining perspective by seeing what the content is and "naming" it, or seeing what the content is and learning from it (as in focusing).

Mindful self-compassion: affectionate breathing meditation

I'm just back from a five day Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) retreat in Iceland with Chris Germer & Christine Brahler.  MSC teaches a whole host of meditation practices, with three underlined as core meditations.  These three are Affectionate Breathing, Loving-Kindness for Ourselves, and Giving & Receiving Compassion.  In this post I talk a bit more about the initial core meditation practice - Affectionate Breathing.

Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (3rd post): embodied values & goodwill

I have already written a couple of blog posts "Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (1st post): mindfulness & naming" and "Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (2nd post): touch & affectionate releasing" where we have taken our attention inwards, noting & naming our internal state/our internal weather, and responding to this inner state with settling touch, self-compassion & relaxation.  These posts have introduced nine suggestions that potentially upgrade a more standard breathing space practice.

Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (2nd post): touch & affectionate releasing

I recently wrote a blog post "Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (1st post): mindfulness & naming" where I commented that if the thousands of recent research papers on mindfulness, emotion regulation & related subjects couldn't help us improve on the helpfulness of brief meditation practices, then science hasn't been doing its job adequately.  I went on to describe five possible upgrades saying that, if you're interested in trying out these ideas, maybe just explore a few at a time.  In this post I mention a further four upgrade options.  As with the first five suggestions, build up step by step, experimenting with what works well for you personally.

Upgrading the 'breathing space' meditation, some research-based suggestions (1st post): mindfulness & naming

Many forms of stress management & meditation teach brief "breathing space" exercises that can be used to bring oneself into the present in a variety of helpful ways.  These seem to have been particularly popularised by the 3 minute breathing space exercise (3MBS) taught in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  Zindel Segal (one of MBCT's developers) describes the development of this Widen-Narrow-Widen attentional sequence in this short online article.

Paired meditation deepens interpersonal connection: how to go about it

Yesterday I wrote the blog post "Paired meditation deepens interpersonal connection: Tania Singer's wonderful ReSource project" which introduced & overviewed the recent, very impressive ReSource Project.  I also discussed the associated JAMA Psychiatry research paper "Effects of contemplative dyads on engagement and perceived social connectedness over nine months of mental training: a randomized controlled trial" with its abstract including the comments "Secularized classical meditation training programs address social cognition, but practice typically occurs alone.

Paired meditation deepens interpersonal connection: Tania Singer's wonderful ReSource project

Yesterday I was skimming through the JAMA Psychiatry journal and I got hijacked by Kok & Singer's recent article "Effects of contemplative dyads on engagement and perceived social connectedness over nine months of mental training: a randomized controlled trial".  The abstract reads - "Importance  Loneliness is a risk factor for depression and other illnesses and may be caused and reinforced by maladaptive social cognition. Secularized classical meditation training programs address social cognition, but practice typically occurs alone.

Birmingham BABCP conference: first day - decentering, compassion, insomnia, social anxiety, sp/sr & barbecue (3rd post)

This is a quick overview of the first full day of the annual BABCP summer conference in Birmingham.  I intend to return to some of the key learning points in later posts.  I've already written about the pre-conference workshop I went to on "Emotion regulation" in a couple of earlier posts. Apparently the conference itself offers 37 symposia, 5 panel discussions, 3 clinical roundtables, multiple poster sessions, 13 skills classes, numerous special interest group & branch meetings, and 18 keynote addresses - all over the course of two and a half days here on the University of Birmingham campus. The freely downloadable 101 page abstracts book gives a great sense of what's on offer.

Could increasing our compassion for others be even more "therapeutic" than increasing our self-compassion?

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."  Ralph Waldo Emerson

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."   Viktor Frankl  

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