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Expanding and maintaining your practice

Watch Craig and Richard provide an overview of how you can expand and maintain your mindfulness practice throughout the course.
CRAIG HASSED: As many learners might have discovered, establishing a regular mindfulness practice is not so easy. There are a lot of things working against us, the pace of life, the distractions, the multitasking, just the force of habit, just the forgetting. And so what we’re going to try and explore is a little bit about how can we establish and maintain our regular mindfulness practice. Richard?
RICHARD CHAMBERS: Meditation is probably the foundation. Well, that’s not the– it’s not the whole picture. Meditation is definitely the foundation of a mindfulness practice. And so to have a regular daily mindfulness meditation practice is super important. And there’s no perfect time to meditate. It’s really about finding the time that works best for you. A suggestion that we make is that you might want to experiment with doing it first thing in the morning and last thing at night, so that you can bookend the day with meditation. And then just have mindful moments throughout the day, starting small.
Five minutes at a time seems to produce really noticeable effects, so just maybe five minutes in the morning before heading off to work or school or getting the kids ready or whatever it is that you’re doing, and then five minutes, maybe just when you get home, before hopping into bed. And really just getting that regularity happening, noticing the obstacles that get in the way, noticing how busyness or making excuses or putting it off can all get in the way of actually establishing a practice, and just working with them. Even just bringing mindfulness to the obstacles is in itself a mindfulness practice and can help us to get a meditation practice going.
Doing it in community, just doing it with somebody else or maybe joining a group, finding a course some where, finding some kind of community of people who are meditating and practising is also really helpful.
CRAIG HASSED: And some of the other things that we really need to do is to value it and to actually understand why we need to do it. And reflecting on the cost of being unmindful in our day to day life can be pretty helpful. Not always comfortable, but can be very helpful, so that we’ve got that kind of motivation to practise, even when the resistance arises. We can use habit. It can be used against us, but also, once we establish a habit, it can very much work for us.
And being curious and being patient enough, so that when the benefits of mindfulness start to kick in, we’ve gotten over those sort of rocky periods while it feels like hard work and it’s not so easy.
RICHARD CHAMBERS: In the beginning, even though it might seem a little bit self-indulgent to take time out of our day just to sit and do nothing, if we pay attention, we actually find that we become much more present with other people. We become less reactive, better communicators, more empathic, more compassionate. So it really starts to ripple out and very positively affect the people around us, whether at work or at home or just in society in general.
CRAIG HASSED: Yes, because it seems like it’s a lot of nothing. But that time taken to sharpen the axe, for example, can save a huge amount of time in terms of being more productive and effective when we’re actually trying to work and cut the wood in our life and carry the water.
RICHARD CHAMBERS: If you give me four hours to chop down a tree, isn’t it that, said Abraham Lincoln, I’d spend the first two sharpening the axe?
CRAIG HASSED: Something like that.
RICHARD CHAMBERS: Something like that?
CRAIG HASSED: It could be three, I don’t know.
CRAIG HASSED: So we’ll try and give you some tips. Because this is very important to establish, to help you to take your mindfulness practice forward, long after this course is finished.

Watch Craig and Richard provide an overview of how you can expand and maintain your mindfulness practice throughout the course, and long after the course has finished.

We recommend that you keep a record of your personal mindfulness practice.

Why keep a mindfulness practice record?

Keeping a practice record is in itself a mindful activity. The process of writing about your mindfulness experiences is an invaluable way of increasing your awareness of your mindfulness development.

Keeping a regular practice record will also encourage you to pause and reflect upon the mindful activities you have completed. These might be:

  • The formal mindfulness meditation exercises we will introduce you to in this course.
  • Moments of informal mindfulness, such as pausing to really taste your meals, noticing birdsong on your way to work or school, or feeling the water on your skin as you take a shower. Simply bringing curiosity to everyday activities and engaging with them fully. You may like to experiment with a few of them, or you may prefer to pick one each day.
  • Opportunities for you to be more mindful at work, in your studies or in your social life. Maybe you made a very conscious effort to avoid unhelpful multi-tasking, or not to be drawn into the distractions around you so you could focus on the task of greatest importance to you. Or maybe you simply listened to a friend with undivided attention.
  • The effects of being unmindful (on your wellbeing and performance).

The mindfulness practice record template

We’ve created a simple template (available from Downloads) you may like to print and then use to help you document your mindfulness activities through the day. You can then reflect on these activities.

Mindfulness is a very personal experience, and you should also reflect on what strategies and exercises worked for you, and which ones were less successful or require more practice. The aim of this is learning, rather than criticising ourselves for not getting it right.

Mindfulness is about being curious and accepting, rather than judgmental, and your practice record could reflect this approach.

Your practice record is personal

The purpose of the practice record is to encourage you to reflect honestly on your mindfulness experiences. Over the duration of the course, you may well find that your experiences and your feelings change.

Your practice record is a valuable means of looking back over these changes, reflecting on where you have come from and where you want to go to.

What’s the difference between my practice record and the discussions in the course?

Discussions are central to your experience in this course. It is very powerful to feel that you are learning about mindfulness not as an individual, but as part of a group of learners who share a common interest. We want the discussions to be open and engaging, and we will be encouraging you to share your ideas, insights, thoughts and feelings. We will work together to keep the discussions positive, inclusive and supportive.

However, by definition, the discussions in this course are public. This is the key difference between the discussions and your practice record. You should see the discussions as your public voice, but your practice record is your private voice.

Track your progress

Keeping a practice record is optional, and we are not going to set any expectations of how often you write in it, or how much you need to write. However, keeping a practice record is a very powerful learning tool.

The reflections you gather will make you more aware of your progress towards cultivating a more mindful life, and the achievements you should be proud of.

The ADEPT model for behaviour change

In the Downloads section, Craig has included a PDF that provides an overview of how to be ADEPT (Attention, Decision, Effort, Perseverance and Tolerance) at changing a habit. This is a model for behaviour change, and a useful way for thinking about how you can make the changes you want to make in your life.

Five tips for maintaining a mindfulness practice over time

Also consider watching a Mindful Moment from Craig and Richard, where they share five tips for maintaining a mindfulness practise over time. We hope you find it useful!

If you would like more mindfulness content from the team, you may like to subscribe to our Monash Mindfulness YouTube channel so you’re the first to find out when new feedback videos Mindful Moments are uploaded!

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Maintaining a Mindful Life

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