Susanna Alyce 01263 740392

email: susanna@yoga-meditation-relaxation.co.uk

These links give some background to mindfulness:

Mark Williams. The science of mindfulness 


I can’t meditate! Why can’t I get calm?

If you are living with trauma, please consider this comment before reading the FAQs.

Trauma-informed considerations: The FAQs arise from habitual patterns in meditators’ ways of coping. As a trauma survivor, your habitual patterns may have helped you to cope and stay safe while trauma has been present in your body and mind. Coping mechanisms are GOOD THINGS – like scaffolding holding a building safely while it is being reconstructed after an earthquake.

It is not helpful to dismantle the scaffolding before the building is in place. The trauma-informed practices on this website will help you build strong foundations. Placing brick on brick gradually will make the building strong enough to take the scaffolding away. Read the answers to the FAQs to see if the suggestions might be helpful to you or not. If you are not sure, you may like to consider attending a Zoom Q and A. Try out the practices slowly, and drop them if they are not helping you. This will have the additional benefit of growing self-trust. Your body will help you to know when you are ready to stretch a little further, to swim out a little deeper.

If you have a question, feel free to attend a Zoom Q and A, or email it to me. If the same question keeps getting asked, I will add it to the FAQs page.

1. I’m trying so hard, I really am, but I never get calm

The issue: goal-setting
It’s the ‘trying hard’ to get calm that stands between you and calm. Our minds are super-competent gadgets, and when we set a goal (eg “I must get calm”), our minds simultaneously switch on a facility to measure our progress. (It might be helpful to think of this like virus software on your computer, which runs all the time you are using other apps). And our minds are not good at multi-tasking, so then our attention keeps moving from the guidance of the meditation to the measuring. So when we find that we are not yet calm, or not as calm as we wanted to be or as we imagine we should be, yet another mind-app comes online – the ‘inner critic’. This is the self-judgement ability. Now we are telling ourselves: “This isn’t working”, or “You’re not doing it right”, or “Everyone else can do this, why am I so useless?” And now we are even further from the calm we so desire! We either give up, or spend the meditation getting all tight and knotted up.

Some things to experiment with:
While it’s useful to have a reason or motivation that gets us to sit down and meditate, once the bell rings it is essential that we drop the fixed ‘goal’. Calmness emerges in its own way and in its own time if our approach is a bit softer. It’s a motivation now, not a goal. An image may help: meditation is less like needing to score goals and win the match and believing that’s the only thing that will make playing football worthwhile. Instead, it’s more like seeing the playing as the thing – an opportunity to get fit, run around, kick a ball with mates, have fun and enjoy the entire time you’re there. This is about an attitude of acceptance, curiosity and approaching (see videos).

2. I keep getting distracted. My mind is too busy to meditate

The issue:
Minds love a bit of empty space. They can use it to do all sorts of tasks, such as think through recent events (the past) and think up solutions to issues (the future). They can daydream hopes and wishes or fears (longer-term imaginings), and make plans for the future (longer-term solutions). They can reflect on the distant past, and wonder about how we might have done things differently. This is just a simple overview, but it gives the gist of just how much scope there is for the mind.
In addition, as we sit, the world around us can be distracting. Our 5 senses react to sounds, smells and sights.
Then, any of the above will trigger body sensations – the urge to go and empty the bleeping washing machine, or shout at the barking dog.
And the mind and the body also trigger ‘felt-sense’ or emotions too – anger at the dog, frustration at the amount of housework, anxiety about the future, guilt about the past….
The list of things that arrive into a meditation is quite literally endless!

Some things to experiment with:
Acceptance may help. Some say acceptance solves it all. Accepting that we will be distracted means we drop the disappointment that we got distracted. The meditation becomes a time of beginning again, coming back, recognising ‘now’, and experiencing moments of suddenly coming ‘awake’ or ‘present’ again.
Meditation becomes a practice of growing the muscle of being able to choose how to spend this moment of life.
It’s gold dust – because the ability to notice we have been distracted and to come back to what is happening right now with clarity and focus is the key to creating a life of wonderful joy-filled moments. Also (possibly more importantly), to be able to see clearly what is distressing us, and have the clartity of mind to know how to help ourselves with that difficulty.

When the muscle of becoming awake gets stronger, we have developed the means to ?????
Needs finishing ****

3. I keep falling asleep. That droning voice doesn’t help

The issue
Firstly, are you getting enough sleep? It could be that your body and mind need a deep rest. If so, you may wish to try the savasana audio recording for a while and use the 30-minute slot you’ve set aside for meditation to replenish yourself instead.

Some things to experiment with:
a) Avoid using the meditation audio tracks as a means of falling asleep. This could ‘programme’ you to sleep, and ultimately mindfulness is most certainly about the opposite – paying attention. And to do that we need to be awake!
b) Decide how many days to use the slot you’ve freed up for meditation as ‘nap-treat’ time. This way you don’t forget or give up on your original intention to investigate meditation as a helpful tool.
c) Don’t use the audio tracks to nap after 12 midday. This may refresh you so much that you then struggle to fall asleep at night time. You don’t want to add to the problem. However, it is OK to use the savasana audio during the night time if you find it helpful. Experiment with volume,  ear-phones etc in advance, so as not to thoroughly wake yourself setting all it up at 4am!

Secondly, if you are getting enough sleep but just keep nodding off or drifting off during meditation, it is usually because of a drop in energy levels, and you are getting too relaxed. To pay attention you need to keep some energy in the system. Experiment with these:
a) Check your posture: have you slumped? If your spine is upright yet at-ease, this facilitates ‘awakeness’.
b) When you start to drift, stretch a little. Stretch the chest up towards the ceiling (minding not to fling the head back – take care of your neck) and open your arms out to the sides. Stretch open fingers and thumbs, clench, then stretch open again. Return to your original meditation position.
c) Stand up and do a short standing meditation (see audio) before sitting down again.
d) Take a sip of a drink.

4. My body goes berserk and needs to move. I’m so restless

The issue
The body can have a mind of its own. It expresses its wishes through sensation. It can also express the wishes of the mind through sensation. While part of the mind is saying, “Let’s meditate”, another part (maybe a more self-protective or defended part) might be saying, “Nooooooooo! Let’s not”.

Some things to experiment with:
Avoid the idea of “If I make my breath longer, then I will calm down”, because that might (probably will) trigger the measuring mind (see video). Instead, it is helpful to engage a mindful curiosity: extend the outbreath and notice after a few breaths how the restlessness is showing up now?
Secondly, see if feeling into the restlessness is interesting. It’s almost as if you are sitting like a mountain and the animals are grazing on the slopes, or the birds flying in the tress are restless.
Thirdly, offer kindness (see befriending practice) towards the restlessness.
Fourthly, change from a sitting meditation to a standing meditation. Notice how the restlessness feels inside a standing body. OR shift to a slow walking meditation of about 5 paces in one direction before turning around to walk the 5 paces back. Repeat (see walking meditation video).

5. Can this stuff honestly help me? I have an angry mind - how can feeling my toes help?

The issue
Maybe you are feeling threatened in real life? Whatever is in our lives, our hearts or our minds will show up in our meditations.
Irritation, anger, ill-will, fury, fighting, whatever word we have for it – it needs some space to be listened to. Telling it to “Shut up!” might make it more angry, rejected, hurt or defensive. Like pushing a rubber duck down under the water in the bath, it will pop up elsewhere. The deeper we push it down, the more force it will pop up with.

Rejecting part of our self with judgements and self-criticism can make things worse.
Some things to experiment with:
a) See if either the “acceptance” or the “distractions” meditation helps.
b) Find your grounding. Place a gentle hand on the chest and say, “I hear you”, “You are allowed to be here”.

6. It’s so boring

The issue
The mind is telling us it’s boring. And the mind is believing its own story of boring-ness. Emo Philips once said: “I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realised who was telling me this.”

Some things to experiment with:
If you notice you are bored, try suspending the dialogue of comments saying “It’s boring”, and engage a direct curiosity into where in the body those sensations of ‘boring’ are showing up. When the mind says “This is boring”, how does the body feel? Not “I feel OK, or not OK” – what specific sensations in which specific regions of the body have sensations of boredom? And what are those sensations? Feeling into boredom can be fascinating!

What if there are no sensations available? Feeling into ‘no sensation’ can be an experience in itself. If is there a numbness, a restlessness or a tired lethargy, explore developing your curiosity about those experiences as sensations.  Go a little deeper. Become doubly-curious about the width, depth, breadth of any sensations. Use the ‘engaging with difficulty’ video.

7. I have so much to do. Surely if I stop wasting time sitting here and go and do “x”, that would make me calmer than trying to get calm?

The issue
Short-term gains versus longer-term gains. And short-term gains over short-term costs.

Somethings to experiment with:
By leaving the meditation before the concluding bell you
Notice whether this thought (“I have so much to do, I must stop now”) is masking another drive within yourself to go and