Last updated on 5th February 2018
These 'homework' instructions are phrased to fit with the "Compassion, wisdom & wellbeing: 8 week training" that we're running. If you're going through this material independently of the structured group format, of course you can pace it to suit yourself and you may take longer or shorter than a week to do the 'homework' between the content sessions. I've written about the first evening of the course in "Compassion, wisdom & wellbeing: 1st session content". This blog post describes seven homework tasks it would be great if you would complete before the 2nd session of the course ... and that will make it more likely that you'll get really worthwhile benefit from doing this training. They should take about 30 to 40 minutes in total per day. Time is amazingly democratic - the richest & poorest amongst us all get the same 24 hour allocation per day. It's an important question to ask ourselves at the start of the training - "Is a really good opportunity to make a significant improvement in our own wellbeing & the wellbeing of those we love, worth 30 to 40 minutes of our time each day over the next 7 weeks?" In many ways what really makes the difference between benefitting very considerably from this material or merely finding it of transient interest is not the eight teaching evenings, it is actually our commitment to the 'homework' between the evenings. So here are the eight requests:
1.) Please go over the course content again and jot down notes on the Session 1 reflection sheet highlighting what was most important for you about this 1st session. Return to this reflection sheet at the end of the week to note any helpful points that have emerged from the homework practice. At the end of the whole training, you should have eight completed reflection sheets which will give you a quick reminder of what was most personally interesting & useful for you about the course.
2.) Pretty much every day, practise the 'formal' 10-15 minute Compassion cultivation meditation for the week. Try keeping a note of whether you practise or not on this Four-week record sheet. You can note details of the other work you're doing during the week (see below) on this sheet as well ... and jot down any comments you want to make on the back of the sheet or on the reflection sheet.
3.) Three times daily, practise a brief, 12-breath (3 minute) mini-meditation. Here's a twelve & a half minute MP3 recording that describes how to do this. Try to link the practice to established events in your day, for example I typically practise straight after breakfast, straight after lunch, and in my bath at night. See what fits with your routine. It's certainly very possible to practise on a bus or train, in the loo, standing in a (longish) queue, or even when you're walking. If you want to know more about the background to this practice, see the post "Upgrading the 'breathing space meditation', some research-based suggestions (1st post): mindfulness & naming". The sequence followed in these upgrading suggestions is a little different from the sequence used on this course, but the underlying research rationale is much the same.
4.) Write down a quotation that you find inspiring about the central importance of love, kindness, compassion, altruism, goodwill, benevolence, beneficence or whatever words fit for you to describe this open-heartedness. You may well have a quotation or quotations on this theme that you know and want to use. If you'd like some additional options, see this Using physical reminders to 'wake up' (heart) sheet. Write it on a piece of paper or card and carry it with you all week - in your pocket or bag or on your desk during the day, and under your pillow or by your bed at night. Read it. Learn it. Let it soak in.
5.) Complete three 10 minute writing exercises during the week - Values writing 1, Values writing 2 and Values writing 3 - the research abstracts on the back of these writing exercise sheets illustrates the helpfulness of this method.
6.) Fill in the left hand column on this Funeral speeches sheet. We will be completing this handout more fully over the next couple of weeks, but for now just fill in the left column listing the main roles in your life. Examples would be son/daughter, partner, parent, relative, friend, work (this may involve more than one role), homemaker, admin, particular hobbies/interests, self-care, etc. Self-care covers areas like exercise, diet, sleep, dependencies, meditation, time in nature, and so on. Again you might want to put self-care as just one role, or as more than one. Pretty much all of your day's activities should be classifiable under one or more of your roles. You could break the roles down into smaller & smaller "speciality areas", but for this exercise please try to keep to eight roles or less. Filling in them now, means you can "hit the ground running" when we look more at this Funeral speeches exercise at the next weekly meeting.
7.) Go back to the course questionnaires post and briefly review what assessments you want to fill in. It may well be useful to download the Twenty item values inventory (TwIVI) with background Scoring suggestions and Norms down at the bottom of the page. As the 10 minute video on values illustrates, it looks particularly sensible to grow our connections with what the TwIVI calls values of Benevolence, Universalism & Self-Direction.
Good luck with this journey. It can be fascinating, fun, heart-warming & hugely worthwhile.