MF 9 Carol Grever – When Your Spouse Comes Out – How Meditation Helped Heal

MF 9 Carol Grever – When Your Spouse Comes Out – How Meditation Helped Heal

Interview with Carol Grever, author of My Husband Is Gay: A Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Crisis, Glimpses: A Memoir in Poetry, When Your Spouse Comes Out: A Straight Mate’s Recovery Manual, Memory Quilt: A Family Narrative. Carol is a straight spouse recovery expert, as well as a practitioner and teacher of Buddhism.

This is a summary (not a full transcript) of the interview

What brought you to a meditation practice?

It was chaos in her personal life that brought Carol to a meditation practice. She says that her former husband came out after 30 years of marriage, so the rug was pulled out. He was in a relationship with another man, unbeknownst to her for most of the marriage. He led a double life for almost all of those years. He said to her that he had, “homosexual tendencies”. But he had acted on them for a long, long time.

She was also looking for meaning in her life.

Meditation became her refuge. It was a way to let go, to be in the moment, not to go back to the “what ifs”, and “how stupid I am”. She could get into the present moment.

This transition didn’t just go from one day to the next right?

They put their personal life on the back-burner. They had a business, and it took about 4 years, before they lived apart. In the beginning of that, they tried to make their marriage work. They decided then to separate, being unable to make it work.

She was taking Shambala weekend retreat training in a retreat setting during those 4 years of struggle. It’s typically 8 hours of meditation training. That is how she kept her sanity through meditation practice.

What were some of the breakthroughs during these meditation intensives?

Staying in the present moment is very important. And not trying to go back and second-guess everything.

Learned to follow the breath, “If you can stay and follow your breath, whatever is happening, will pass.”

The concept of impermanence became real. Whatever it is, will pass.

She was learning about the depth of her own spirit. She was feeling mostly sadness. She was in deep grief, felt betrayed, angry at times.  As if someone dear had died. In a way that had happened, because the man she thought she knew was not the same man.

Was this one of the reasons you were drawn to Pema Chodron as a teacher, she often talks about these things, having the rug pulled under from you, impermanence, groundlessness, the certainty of uncertainty, everything falling apart, and so on.

Yes, she went through a similar experience before she became a nun. Her husband also ran away with another woman. That gave her a depth of understanding for situations like Carol’s.

Pema told Carol the first time they met, that, “having the rug pulled out could be very good news”. Carol was in the depth of her sorrow, so thought it was crazy at first. Pema also said, this is an opportunity to grow. So she started looking at the event that way from now on.

She also started studying meditation with meditation teacher, Dale Asrael of Naropa University. She is a wonderful teacher, that is how she began. She then went to the Rocky mountain dharma center, and got connected with Pema Chodron. She further did the Shambala training.

Carol also leads a Dharma reading discussion group, a small Sangha, or community. That is also very important to her, along with lojang practice, and meditation. She does work with straight spouses, and interviewed hundreds of straight spouses, which is how her books came about.

What insights did she get after she started seeing the events as an opportunity?

Carol learned how strong she can be, she felt devalued at first, unworthy, there must be something wrong with her. She was blaming herself at the beginning.

She learned through these quiet times, that this had nothing to do with her (that her husband is gay). It had to do with her husband needing to become more authentic in his own life. She came to appreciate that, that was one of the real benefits of a meditation practice. She could sit with it, and begin to understand it.

This doesn’t have to remain a crisis. She came to see that they could both come through it.

So you developed compassion then for this struggle for authenticity? We all struggle to with being authentic due to society’s, parents, etc expectations. 

Yes, you learn to forgive, forgive what came before. And understand that the other person was doing what they thought they had to do. Her husband is now free, authentic, and married to his male partner. They both now have a wonderful life.

“We had to free each other”.

And understand the motivations in order to pass through it and heal. And forgiveness is a big part of that.

How do you see your practice now?

She has learned that service is the real reward, and is the real path.  She took up the Mahayana Bodhisattva vow as a Buddhist. The gist of that is that to exchange self for other. To put yourself in the other person’s place. It’s about service.

Since then she has devoted her time to service working through the blog, and doing peer counseling, and working with straight spouses.  The books are also part of that. She writes and teaches in this dharma group. She feels she has a sort of perfect circle of activities to act out the Bodhisatva’s vow.

You’ve written a book of poetry as well, where you talk about how your sense of self changed, could you read a couple of poems?

She realized she had a kind of record of turning points through her lifetime. Some are through her experience as a straight spouse, and some as a Buddhist.

She reads from, “Glimpses: a memoir in poetry”.

This first poem is about looking back (a record of turning points):

Retrospection 

(some sentences from this poem)

..What was certain wasn’t..
..Tree ornaments lovingly hung.. radiate moving memories..
..Time passed, prior life with it.
..Lives transformed..
..What was certain..wasn’t..
..It happens this way…another year, another begins.
…We pack away the past..
…out of sight, but always present.
…Ornaments and delusions, keen reminders of all we were, when we thought we knew.

It kind of captures the movement of this life. Everything changes. It’s not bad.. it’s how we grow, it’s how we learn..cannot escape impermanence, it’s not all bad, and these reminders are really precious.

She just read Thich Nhat Hanh’s, “No death, no fear”. She talks about photographs of yourself, how they are the same, yet totally different. It demonstrates the movement of life.

She also reads the poem, “On Separation”. 

..Root bound no more..
..Total change required..
..circling inner walls..
..Confinement slashed..
..Wounded but vital..
..Timid new roots push tenderly past outgrown patterns..
..Boundaries fall, rawness feeds renewal…

Renewal is a daily recurrence. Clinging to non-movement. Friction and clinging cause so much pain, trying to stop the movement.

Granny Hiphop

My hair is graying..
My mind is straying..
It’s not too late to contemplate..
To heal all hate…and mend my faith
My days are free..to just be me..

It’s truthful, it’s authenticity. She sees that in her own life, how in business how she was trying to Be who she was not. She kept the front up, and it was exhausting. When she was done with the business, and she sold it. Her first thoughts were after this business, “Who am I”? She didn’t even really know.

Now she is beginning to get a feel for something greater than what she thought she was at that time. She now sees her as part of a bigger whole, the ultimate.

She really wants and is becoming more real now, authentic.

Resources

Books Authored by Carol Grever (Click on the images below to purchase)

What do people in a situation where they discover that their spouse is not straight. A combination of therapy, spouse recovery, and spiritual practice?

Yes.

When you’re sick of hearing the stories, which is a sign of growth. Then you can move into a longer term therapy, you can do a long-term recovery.

Is this still as much an issue?

Yes, social pressure, career pressure, religious pressure is still very much an issue keeping gays and lesbians from coming out. Still a lot of prejudice in the work force, difficulty in advancing.  Carol knows this, because her books and offerings still help many people.

MF 007 Sister Florence Franciscan with Kairos Retreat Center

MF 007 Sister Florence Franciscan with Kairos Retreat Center

Interview with Sister Florence, a practicing Franciscan for 40+ years. She founded Kairos Contemplative and Meditation Retreat Center

This is a summary (not a full transcript) of the interview 

How did Sister Florence get started with a spiritual practice? She started reading about catholic needs for houses of prayer. She wanted to have a place for retreat. She got approved to look  into houses of prayer. She went to Detroit to help figure this out.

It is like a dream to Florence, she was not the carpenter, or organizer, but helping hands came to do what needed to be done. She credits God with wanting the work done. She wanted a place out in the country. In 1976 she bought the place in the Northwest for $51K, with 27 acres. Her intent was to offer a place, (she believes we’re all directed by our unique history) the silence will be number one, withdrawal time from the busyness.

She makes a home for groups and individuals. With groups “they’re already on the train”, they respect and honor that. For individuals they make a home, and provide love and caring, so that they too know the “truth of their own wonderful being”. She and Rita want to do “God’s work”.

How did you pick the name Kairos?

14:30: She asked for input, and then she went to the chapel and picked up a book. And the author used the word Kairos in contrast to Chronos. Kairos is always momentary, always present moment. No past, no future, can’t use either. Present moment is the sacred of saintly living. She can pray sweeping the floor, or whatever else task. Inner attitude of service and love. It’s an atmosphere more than telling.

16:00: What is your meditation practice like? 

They start their day with quiet contemplation, reads scriptures, and then listen to various sound good teachers on spiritual practice. Some is Tibetan, or Buddha, some Christian. They are just here to facilitate in whatever way that occurs to them. Being human, we like to feel good and accomplished.

There’s an inner attitude that says that whatever the moment holds, you hold it in a prayerful way. Because to want the pleasures or the consolations, and they don’t come, then we usually don’t go back. We want things to satisfy the human person.

We learn to live the way of the cross, resurrection joy. To enter the human suffering. There is a place for us, because of our fidelity to the journey. A lot of that is just plugging away. We may not get anything for weeks or months. Don’t expect anything, receive what is given, with thanks. Everything has a purpose.

20:00 What is your advice for folks who go to retreats, and they losen up destructive habit patterns, but then they struggle a week later when they’re out of the retreat. What do you do when you struggle to integrate what you learn into their daily life?

  • “You have to will it, you must find a way to enter the silence.
  • Let nature teach you the wisdom, that is within nature
  • To broaden the inner scope.
  • We’re here for one another
  • What you do, or you do.. Ups me, or Down’s me.
  • We’re one human spirit in different bodies.
  • If you chose to continue in this, it’s important to watch your judgments.
  • Say Yes to the moment, no matter whether it is painful, or whether it is glorious.
  • We vacillate between good and down, but if we enter all , we enter the suffering of Christ.
  • You clear the mind, and sit in a state of receptivity, “get behind the thinking mind”.
  • If we stay true to the course, we’ll change.
  • We’re more than our bodies, we’re more than our thinking mind.

We don’t get it because there are so many distractions, materialities, and other things that draw us. We complicate things by putting our time and effort into things that are passing. It just means the journey has to go on.

We put our wisdom traditions in a pot and mix it together. We touch that sacred moment, wed the human spirit to that person. It’s a sacred moment. I haven’t come anywhere in 45 years, I’m still very much as I was, but my insights taught me to be faithful to the journey, don’t seek the good, don’t seek the destructive. But put your spiritual eyes towards “God”. She talks about Finley and how she likes listening to this teacher.

24:30 How has this practice helped you through times of struggle?

Yes, because you know everything is transitory, everything passes.  Next second it’s gone. But what people struggle with is how things emotionally grab them. You are not your emotion. Repetitive negative reactions depend on how they were wounded. So much pain for some people. Sometimes she’ll recommend someone with suffering first go to a therapist, counseling, before taking the next step with them.

No matter who she is, does not make her better than anybody else. Because the infinite love has no time to look at sinfulness. The brokenness that we walk in through our live. Everyone has a place where nothing has ever invaded, it’s sacred, the temple of our bodies. You don’t talk this way in Buddhism, but you seek the way beyond thinking.

27:30 The kingdom is spread right here, nirvana is right here, the kingdom is within already, what happens if people don’t realize that it’s already here?

Sin for her is contrary to love, but we’re all broken, we all have our shortcomings. Some of the most wonderful people she knows are recovering alcoholics.

We have pictures and words of God, but of course none of that is really god, we really don’t know. All unloving things in the world, are because of human pain. We don’t know what we say is heard. We all hear the same things differently because of our backgrounds. If we all do something loving, we help lift them up.

32:00 Violence in life

33:00 What has she learned from all the groups that have come to Kairos. 

We can find a way to let them to who they are. Everything good is given. We were at one (Adam and Eve), but we thought we could do it on our own. But we can’t. We can see after a while that there was a purpose for that. In order to see light you have to go into the dark. And that is why in groups you can do it, without having to do it alone.

34:00 Sister Florence then talks about her parents. Her father gave her the spirit to simply let things be, and to know love. Her mother made her do things she didn’t want to do, which was also good. You become that love, let it through you. She never met a person that she didn’t like. She may not like their dress, etc, but she never met a person that she didn’t reverence.

36:20 What do you say to folks who don’t have time to go to retreats? What advice do you have for them?

  • Take walks, and feel the in-breath and out-breath,
  • Let the body be an instrument of quieting
  • Take a scripture, or Zen reading, and sit 15-20 minutes, and stop when something strikes you, and then stop and journal it.
  • Journaling helps us objectify our inner thinking. After a week or 2-3 you start to see growth.
  • She gives some examples
  • You have to work at it, not as a labor, but a labor of love.
  • Do it daily
  • What do you do with the time you’ve been given, those 24 hours?
  • Put away your gizmos away for a small period of time every day
  • Just let “God” love you, don’t worry about deserving the love, or doing praying to “get something”.
  • Mentions the Prodigal Son. The last verse is the most powerful, I’ve done everything you wanted me to do, but you didn’t give me a feast. “Son, all these years I’ve given you everything I have”. Right now, every moment God is loving us. When we know God’s love, we will see a new creation.

She’s positive at the end, and thinks we’ll get through as a human species.

 

MF 006 Russell Kolts – Compassion Focused Therapy Interview

MF 006 Russell Kolts – Compassion Focused Therapy Interview

Russell Kolts Compassion Focused Therapy Interview

This is a summary (not a full transcript) of the interview with author and professor Russell Kolts

Russell began with an intense study of Buddhism; reading, meditation, and doing retreats after three years, he realized that a compassionate, mindfulness practice had been life changing.

He says that it was the birth of his child about how he was motivated to start a a meditation mindfulness practice after his son was born. He taught compassionate therapy, and since he struggled with negative emotions in his own life such as anger, and irritability. He observed himself not following his own advice. So he deepened his practice.  He realized, “if you want your child to become a good parent, become the person you want your child to be”. What message do your children get from their parents? So he started doing meditation practices, and learning from Buddhist teachers like the Dalai Lama.

He was then later also more able to bring what he learned in his meditation practice  and into his psychotherapy work work, by focusing on, “Compassion  Focused Therapy”. He then had a scientific scaffolding for working with the mind.

Some examples of practices that would work for him in the moment during.

  • Mindfulness meditation helps notice what is moving in the mind, such as anger and irritation. This practice helped him recognize it earlier, so just by naming the emotion, it reduces it’s hold on the person.
  • Meditation and cultivation of compassion have  gradually transformed his experience so that the destructive emotions came up less, due to ongoing work with with deep awareness.
  • Switching out from “that’s a bad emotion” and judgments, looking more deeply, what’s going on here, and other habitual responses.
  • Working with close family members shows that it is not easy to not be reactive.

Insight is hugely trans-formative

From a scientific perspective, those destructive threat emotions such as anger and fear where designed by evolution, so we can make a rapid response.

The compassion work is by seeing how the threatening person also wants to be happy and maybe our goals conflict at that moment. And at that moment. Shifting from judging and labeling to understanding.

Things don’t always go your way. It takes practice to react with compassion and understanding.

He brings mindfulness and compassion into his classes. He has a course on Compassion Focused Therapy, which involves compassion meditation and mindfulness meditation. Students are meditating in the class, because there is just no other way to learn about it.

He sees how it affects the classroom, students feel safer, they can think better, and more reflectively, and they can have dialogue, since there is a container there. It helps the students with difficult course subjects, helps them to center themselves. They don’t necessarily struggle with the problem, but more with the idea, a self-limiting belief. “There’s something wrong with me” is the most threatening idea, very distracting. Meditation helps you recognize these experiences that come and go in the mind, and not necessarily see them as real or true. Notice them, and let them go.

Slowing down their breathing helps the students. They’re not just techniques on the pillow, but at some point it needs to come off the meditation cushion. At some point it has to come into our lives, and begin to transform. It begins to happen behaviorally, and neurologically.

Other Benefits of meditation practices

Russell thinks that because the world moves so quickly, we’re constantly connected. When he was growing up there were just 4 TV channels, now hundreds, tweeting etc, is all wonderful and convenient. But we’re training our brains and minds to expect a certain high level  of stimulation. And we’re not designed to function like this all the time. Just sitting and breathing is hard enough! We’ve trained our brains to expect this level of stimulation. To just sit and do only one thing. If you can’t even sit for 5 minutes, its a sign to learn to slow down and be here now, with full focus of one’s mind. And maybe that’s reading, listening, and be fully present is tremendously powerful. If you want to be really good at something, you can’t be dividing your attention. It’s too stressful to maintain that kind of fragmented attention.

We just need to learn to slow down. He orients students on the front end that this is going to be uncomfortable at first to meditate. Key is to start very small, may start with a minute or two minutes, and go up from there. One of the biggest impediments is expectations. Folks don’t realize that it is actually very difficult. So they get frustrated with themselves, and they give up. In the West particularly we move into this self-criticism.

1. One thing we’re doing is to stabilize our attention

2. Training ourselves to see mental experiences and feelings as mental events, and not necessarily the stuff of reality

3. Training ourselves to notice the movement in the mind. Mentions giving a ticker for a finger biter, which helps train themselves to notice when they start doing the biting. Same with mindfulness. From this perspective the distractions are not a problem at all. These are opportunities to notice movement in the mind.

Russell’s focus right now is Compassion Focused Therapy to help people with emotions like anger. He’s currently working on “CFT made simple”, to help clinicians help their clients. They’re doing more research to demonstrate it’s effectiveness. It really helps that the science is beginning to be there, they now have data to demonstrate it.

He’s starting to see increasing interest in institutions. Lots of misconceptions still about compassion, it’s not being “sweet and nice all the time”.

Compassion is really about developing the courage to come face to face with suffering. Click To Tweet

Being sensitive to suffering and help out in an enduring way. It is still hard to pursue compassionate agendas in politics, because the money is not yet going there. We can have both, compassion and a good bottom line.

If you’re interacting with compassion and mindfulness, you can spread that pro-social stuff.

Training ourselves to notice movement in the mind Click To Tweet

Russell Kolts one tip for dealing with an oncoming destructive emotion.

  • When we notice, “I’m getting angry, anxious, etc”. Take 30 seconds to a minute. Slowing down the in-breath (in CFT it is called “soothing rhythm breathing”) and the out-breath. And after that ask yourself the question, “what would be most helpful in this situation”? What would I want them to understand? Slowing down the breaths doesn’t make the problem go away, it just softens, gives “that thread stuff”, gives it some space.

Resources:

http://compassionatemind.net

http://ewu.edu/

Books by Russell Kolts

(A gorgeous sunset we had in Anza-Borrego a few days ago)

MF 005 Mary Webster Vipassana Meditation Teacher Interview

MF 005 Mary Webster Vipassana Meditation Teacher Interview

Mary Webster Vipassana Meditation Teacher Interview

This is a summary of the interview with Vipassana teacher and practitioner Mary Webster

Mary Webster talks about growing up as an introspective and day dreaming child. Later in life she picked a career in mental health nursing. She noticed her mind was in an either/or right/wrong mind set. And this black/white thinking bothered her, and h ow it affected her and raising kids. This is how she got into meditation, went into her first 3 day meditation retreat in 1995.

She joined a Vipassana tradition, called re-collective awareness, which is a form of Vipassana meditation.   It is based on the 4 foundations of mindfulness. She talks about how it is an unstructured tradition, so a lot of thoughts come in. But then they look at it afterwards to examine conditioning. They look at the way the mind works in terms of habitual thinking, making assumptions, like “this or that” thinking.

She’s learned to be more open and nuanced in her thinking, and is better able to examine her thinking habit patterns.

She learned that it was a beautiful how not being so sure of one’s position allows you to open up and hear other people’s thinking. Which helps tremendously when communicating and dialog with others, such as your kids. It allows for a different relationship to develop.

It’s really an exploration what is going on in our minds.

Mary talks about some of the personal benefits of her meditation. For example being a lot less self-critical. Letting go of perfectionism, she could see how this is just a construction, this illusory goal of perfection. She could see through the delusion, that there is no such thing or state of perfection.

Her meditation practice opened her up to her humanness and her own suffering, which is part of being human. We each have our own, and meditation practice helps us deal and incorporate. She felt OK and learned compassion for herself to be a human being. Which in turn allowed her to be more compassion for those around her, to be more friendly, and more open to ideas.

She then talks about her role as teacher, and what she sees her students struggle. But she also sees how we all suffer in a similar way.

Holding on to something so tightly, a sense of our-self, a sense of how things are supposed to be.  That we somehow solidify our experience, and don’t allow for an exploration of the movement that is around that solidity. We tend to hold fast in a certain way.” (11 min)

The work with students is around what is held solid?  So then they explore what the mind was doing with the student. What was exactly happening? A lot of this work is breaking down words. Like breaking down the word “perfect”. How does this example of a word show up in one’s life, how does it “hook” you. Breaking down the experience in less defined way, and more full of the experience, not to shortcut our life so much.

She talks about the stories, the narratives, we have made up about our lives (or life-sentences we give ourselves).

She says Buddhism is one huge investigation, a way of examining our lives. It calls into question everything. Meditation allows you to examine life at a gentler pace.

She talks about how our set ways we have, set us apart. This sense of separateness is setting up ourselves into a position, so everything becomes positional. In the flowing river of life, that would be the log that gets stuck in the middle, and then everything has to adjust around it. She talks about shifting that, working with the knowledge of conditionality, so we can take up and promote more wholesome conditions.

She also asks what conditions help us, what conditions do we put in our lives? What conditions help us continue our practice? Watching what we put into our minds and then noticing how this influences and affects us afterwards.

She talks about the importance of taking some time out every day for self-reflection and meditation. Retreats are even better.

What is production, is it only “work put out”? Or is it more than that? We get caught in thinking, “if I’m not producing something that shows, then it’s not worthwhile.” She uses the example of Einstein taking naps and end up more productive.

Mary Webster’s tips for starting a home meditation practice.

  • Being gentle with yourself
  • Trying various times to practice
  • Try to meditate like when most upset.
  • Read a little bit of Dharma (wisdom) every day if possible, just let the words enter in even if you don’t necessarily understand.
  • “Conditions are the companions you have along the way”
  • She talks about how it helps to discuss with fellow practitioners, to have a supportive group if possible.
  • If you can’t find companions, “be your own companion”, do journaling after your meditation, write down what you can remember, which also helps your memory. So we can be our own friend. The journals can also be shared with a teacher through phone, skype or other means online these days.

Resources:

http://skillfulmeditation.org/

http://spokanevipassana.com

 

Meditation Practice during Intense Change

It has been a few months since I wrote a post. The previous posts have been more general information. In this post I would like to share a more personal perspective on having a meditation practice during times of much change.

It is during times of massive change in one’s life, that a meditation practice can be very grounding and helpful. When everything is going well in one’s life, no one is sick or dying, jobs are great, kids are doing well, etc, there sometimes is not a great desire to meditate, since stress levels are low.

However, that is a great time to start to meditate, since it will help build your immune system, and mental health, for those more turbulent times when you do need it that stability and solidity, and on occasion equanimity, that comes with a long-term practice.

In the past three months, I quit my job without having another job lined up, and we’re selling our house and property. We also adopted another dog, bringing up our total of rescue dogs at this time to 4. Meanwhile, my wife is quite sick with her lung disease (which is the main reason we’re moving to a desert climate). A steady job, with sick leave and medical benefits and good pay is not easy to give up, in exchange for a life of uncertainty.

However, this is one of the things that a meditation practice helped me with; to become familiar and more comfortable with change and uncertainty.

That said, I did save during my past years, and both my wife and I were good money managers, and frugal in many ways. So that when this day came, we’d have a cushion or buffer. Quitting one’s job in a strategic way is different from quitting a job in a more spontaneous way. That said though, my attachment to the security of a regular job and the familiar work family is still a struggle internally. Physiologically, I also notice changes, such as increased stomach acid production and resulting pains in the past couple of years building up to this change. It is as though the body is reflecting this mental resistance as well.

Due to the amount of work required to get this property in shape to sell, the average day  has been about 12 hour, week in and week out. Each day nevertheless for me has  started out with 45 minutes to an hour of sitting meditation. Followed by a walking meditation (dogs need their walk anyway), and also a moving meditation, Tai Chi, as well as some stretching to help my core, shoulders and back. The importance for me in starting out the day with taking care of the body-mind. With a sitting meditation, is that this is a opportune time in which the body and mind are still in a state of awakening, a little less hyper then the rest of the day.

Once awake, the mind comes up with lists of things that have to be done, as well as the pressure to keep moving, so that income  can come again soon. The body wants to get moving and take action on these instructions from the brain. As someone who’s job in the last 15 years or so has had a mostly sedentary job in front of a computer, being physical, moving around, and fixing things has been a very welcome change. Nevertheless, when you have a house that needs a lot of things done, things still can get stressful, with this constant sense of urgency, with more money going out, and very little money coming in. As well as the smell and cool air of fall approaching closer.

I’ve found that adding a couple more mini-meditations, or a 10 minute relaxation in the middle of the day, can be very helpful in balancing the workday as well. I probably did not do this enough, instead being completely absorbed in each task and forgetting about the time passing, until it would get dark on many days.

The meditations themselves have also had a different quality to them, the silence that is there periodically interrupted by a mind wanting to bring up another thing that needs fixing, and a sense of unknown about the future. All in all, this is an interesting and exiting time to pull up the anchor, and see what’s out there in the vast ocean of possibility.

Mindfulness Bell – Listening to the Sound of the Bell

A Mindfulness Bell sound is a wonderful mindfulness aid. Repeated throughout your day, this sound can be a great way to stop and pay attention and be present for one’s life. There are many shapes and forms of bell sounds  available online. I’ll put some options in the bottom of this post. Bells and gong sounds tend to be used, rather than say a loud clang sound, because of the bell’s prolonged sound, which is attention getting, and pleasant as well, reasons to stop and pay attention.

In the west we may be more likely used to church bells, which can reach far, due to them being up high in a clock tower.  Here too, this sound can be used as an opportunity to stop briefly what you’re doing just to listen and experience the present moment. In Buddhist culture, a bell or gong is more typically used.

Practicing breathing with the sound of the mindfulness bell

That said, I think many of us in the west do tend to tune the sounds out, so some conscious effort and intention is needed in order to benefit from the invitation of the bells. When you hear the sound of the bell, try to focus on taking 3-10 breaths. Not forced, but just conscious breaths. Letting the belly expand on the in breath, and empty out on the out breath. To get the most out of this mini meditation, it is best to stop whatever you’re doing, and simply stand, or sit without getting distracted. Try doing this for a minute or so, or whenever the sound fades away. Just 10 relaxing breaths can help us feel energized again and feel refreshed.

Using a mindfulness bell in front of a computer

If listening to the mindfulness bell when working at a computer, it may be of help to close your eyes for the duration of the meditation. Eyes tire of watching a computer screen all day, so small breaks for the eyes can be very beneficial. It is also a great opportunity to do a body scan, or check to make sure you are sitting in the best posture. Especially for folks working on a computer, it is helpful to pay attention to the neck and head. They have a tendency to lean forward into the screen over time. So another good reason to use a mindfulness bell, is that you can check your posture and make sure your shoulders are not tightening up from repetitive actions. When typing on your keyboard, the arms should ideally be relaxed, so that the shoulders are not going up, which creates tensions.

Using a mindfulness bell when doing other things

If you’re using a mindfulness bell when going about business in the house, or elsewhere, then a good approach when hearing the bell sound would be to take a mini break, and stop. This doesn’t have to be conspicuous if in a public place, you can simply stop to look around and take 3 deep and conscious breaths. Here too, you have an opportunity to check for internal posture, are you upright and are your shoulders relaxed? What was the breathing like right as the bell sounded? If the breathing was shallow, that is all the more reason to take a time-out and let the breathing return to a relaxed natural state. It is totally normal that our breathing goes out of whack in the busy type of world and times we live on, so there is no need to get discouraged when the breathing is found to be shallow and tight. It is just a reminder that we do need to take care of our breathing regularly. And if a mindfulness bell help with this, than that is one more great aid in this mindfulness practice.

Below is a list of some options  for mindfulness bells.

YouTube Mindfulness Bells

Mindfulness Apps

Since these Apps will change over time, describing them below would quickly become inaccurate information. Some are very simple, a random bell (or through specified interval) or buzzer throughout the day. Some have added guided meditations and instructions, visualizations, and even added videos or podcasts.  My recommendation would be to check each of these Apps out first, read their description and revision information, and if possible try the free version. Also, check the reviews and ratings when you find the App in iTunes or the Google Android Play store. The ratings will quickly tell you what features people like, what’s missing, and whether it is an App you wish to purchase. Note that the Apps below are in quotations, as that is the actual name of each Mindfulness or Meditation App.

Android and iPhone

  • “Meditation Mindfulness Timer”
  • “Mindfulness Bell”
  • “Meditation Helper”
  • “Walking Meditations” (iPhone)
  • Insight Timer” (Amazon)
  • “Quiet Time” (iPhone)
  • “The Mindfulness App” (Android and iPhone)
  • “Simply Being” (Android and iPhone)
  • “Headspace” (Android and iPhone)
  • “Meditate” (Android and iPhone)
  • “Mindfulness Meditation” (Android and iPhone)
  • “Calm” (Currently iPhone only)
  • “Breathe2Relax” (Android and iPhone)
  • “Buddhist Meditation Trainer” (Currently Android only)
  • “Omvana” (Currently iPhone only)
  • “Take a Break!” (Android and iPhone)
  • “Buddhify” (Currently iPhone only)
  • “Smiling Mind”(Currently iPhone only)
  • “Simply Being” (Currently iPhone only)

There are a number of physical meditation timers as well that you can use as mindfulness timers (See here) as well. Hope this helps, and I’d love to here in the comments below if you use an App or mindfulness aid that helps you!

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