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Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (sixth post)

This is the sixth - and a rather longer - Moroccan post.  It looks a little at mindfulness and interpersonal conflict. 

The

And after the siesta yesterday, we walked (again without the camels) up to the top of the highest "singing dune" (so-called because of the noise it sometimes makes in the wind).  We sat with the sun setting and then ran wildly down the steep, maybe 300 foot or so, slope of the dune.  Then back through the diminishing light to the camp.

There are two big tents - one for our five Berber guides - and the other for some of us.  We also have a couple of smaller two-man tents we can put up, if we want to ... and there's the special option too of sleeping out under the amazing stars!

Several of us have talked of seeing this trip as involving three intertwined themes - deepening our relationship with ourselves, deepening our relationship with the landscape, and deepening our relationship with each other.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (fifth post)

This fifth Moroccan post is written two days into the desert walk with the mindfulness practice beginning to deepen.

Resting by the camels

This is the second full day in the desert.  We've been here about 48 hours.  Now is post-lunch siesta time.  Walking meditatively this morning was much easier than yesterday's walk.  I'm not wearing a watch, but I'd guess we walked initially today for between 1½ to 2 hours.  We then stopped in the shade of a tamarisk tree mound for water, nuts and raisins.  The mound was a bit small to shade our whole group - there are eight of us and five Berber guides.  I and the camels seem a bit more relaxed around each other after two days travelling together, so I simply sat in shade thrown by one of the resting camels.  It turned its neck to look at me with intelligent, inquisitive eyes and then seemed fine having me for company. 

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (fourth post)

This brief fourth Moroccan blog post describes some of the first day in the desert.

a few clouds catching the sunlight

Waking this morning in the encampment ... desert dawn ... a few clouds catching the sunlight ... people slowly emerge from their tents.  Camels wandering.  Packing up gradually.  Breakfast.  Then heading out through scattered tamarisk trees.  We've agreed we'll try walking mostly in silence.  Settling.  Relaxing the body.  Being aware of the surroundings.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (third post)

This is the third Moroccan blog post.  It introduces some ideas about mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), self-criticism and problem solving.

So yesterday we drove East and South from Marrakech across the Atlas - the road, our driver said, winding up to over 6,500 feet (about 2,000 meters) before heading back down to the plain that eventually after many kilometers will become the Sahara.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (second post)

This is the second of 11 blog posts about going to Morocco to walk "mindfully" in the Sahara desert.  This post covers the arrival in Marrakech.

5.00am - the calls of the muezzin increase in volume. This seems a good time to meditate. All around, here in the Marrakech medina, many others will be praying.

... and now it's over an hour later. I sat quietly listening. The cocks crew lustily as the muezzin calls ebbed away. Normally in Edinburgh I would be up at this time. It's quite a solitary, quiet time of day. Interesting just now, comforting in a way, to feel the sincere activity of many in this city at that early hour.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (first post)

This is the first of 11 blog posts about going to Morocco to walk "mindfully" in the Sahara desert.  This post gives a bit of background to the trip.

6.00am - the old clock has just sounded in my cousin's house in London. We arrived yesterday evening, flew down from Edinburgh, came across London, had a great meal with my cousin, his wife, their daughter, and dear Kieran, our son, who'd cycled over from his flat further East. I woke this morning an hour or so ago and lay thinking about the trip ahead. At 8.00am, Catero, my wife, and I are due to head down to Victoria and take a train out to Gatwick airport. Hopefully we'll meet up with four friends there and catch a plane to Marrakech. We should then get together with a couple more friends at the little hotel we've booked in the Medina. Tomorrow we're due to be picked up by two 4x4's and driven over the Atlas mountains down towards the Sahara desert.

Ways of coping: theory & personal experience

In blog postings earlier this month, I've talked about supporting my Mum after her recent couple of strokes.  She's been shipped through three different hospitals and now is more peaceful in a nursing home.  It's sad - very sad at times - and it's great that she seems more comfortable, better looked after, and more content.  I definitely feel easier too.  Less weight on my shoulders, less emotional aching.

Recent research: two papers on mindfulness & four on sleep

Here are two papers on mindfulness and four on sleep.  The Kuyken et al paper is important.  It compares mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) with continuation antidepressants in the prevention of relapse in recurrent depression.  The results are great - "Relapse/recurrence rates over 15-month follow-ups in MBCT were 47%, compared with 60% in the m-ADM (maintenance antidepressant) group (hazard ratio = 0.63; 95% confidence interval: 0.39 to 1.04).  MBCT was more effective than m-ADM in reducing residual depressive symptoms and psychiatric comorbidity and in improving quality of life in the physical and psychological domains."  I have been cautious in my enthusiasm for MBCT (see previous post) but this is exactly the kind of research that we need to help clarify MBCT's potential further.  The second paper on mindfulness is lower key.  It is a mention of its potential in enhancing sexuality.  It makes sense - see last month's posts on the effects of meditation training on experiencing positive emotions - but the relevant research is still in its early stages. 

Barbara Fredrickson’s recent research study on loving-kindness meditation (third post)

What are some implications for using forms of mind training for ourselves and for teaching others?  Reading this research study leads me to think about optimum amount of time spent practising these methods, the importance of encouraging application during daily life.  I discuss these issues in this blog posting.  It would also be fascinating and helpful to look at the challenge of maintaining the practices over time, and to consider how different forms of mind training can be directed at different targets - for example, easing symptoms, encouraging particular positive emotions (e.g. compassion, gratitude & contentment), targeting specific key wellbeing needs (e.g. self-determination theory's autonomy, competence & relatedness), and helping people live their personal values.

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