What's the + in Mindfulness+

October 10, 2017

Episode 3: What's the + in Mindfulness+

Is it just a catchy name, or is there something behind the "+"? Thomas introduces the study of adult development in this show and explains how different kinds of mindfulness are beneficial to us at different times in life. To conclude, he guides a meditation that is specifically designed for adults who feel tormented by their monkey mind. Go ahead, listen. Tame that monkey.

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Hello and welcome to Mindfulness+. I'm your host, Thomas McConkie, and would like to thank you for listening today. A topic of this show today is the title of this podcast: Mindfulness+. What's with the "+"? So I think it sounds good, Mindfulness+, It's got a ring to it, but there's actually a significant meaning behind the plus. When I say Mindfulness+ I'm talking about bringing the field of adult development together with mindfulness. 

What's adult development? Let me talk about this for a moment. This has been a fascinating area of learning and research for me the past ten years and what we're finding is that our knowledge about adult development has significant implications for how we practice mindfulness and how we derive benefit from a mindfulness practice. So let me give you a bit of a crash course on adult development. 

For most of human history, we have intuitively known that children develop from the moment they're born. They physically start to grow. They learn to walk, they learn to talk, the changes that children undergo are dramatic. If you've had a nephew or raised children of your own you'll know that day to day and week to week they're making these major breakthroughs developmentally and you don't need a PH.D in psychology to know that children are growing. But what happened was back around the late 60's and early 70’s is a number of researchers and developmental psychologists started to notice that they were seeing evidence in their experiments that adults beyond childhood and adolescence and full fledged adulthood, were still making breakthroughs developmentally. They were changing significantly in ways that we just hadn't noticed before. And this is interesting because it also coincided with the development of technology and neuroimaging. For the first time in human history we had the technology to image the brain and actually see that the adult brain was changing. So what we thought was static, what we thought was just this kind of monolithic stage of adulthood that we all arrive at and just coast from there.. what we're discovering is that adults continue to develop throughout a life span.They continue to grow in to qualities and manifest different kinds of skills and competencies that weren't there before. So this is revolutionary and it's a big deal, it's been a major area of research in psychology for the last fifty years and we're continuing to learn a lot about what it means that adults continue to develop. 

So how does this adult development relate to mindfulness? Mindfulness practice dates back thousands of years and for those thousands of years people have been practicing mindfulness in a more or less consistent way. What's fascinating now is that through the insights of modern science and western developmental psychology, we know that different kinds of mindfulness will be appropriate for different kinds of adults at different times. What that amounts to is that if you're interested in starting a mindfulness practice and you want to derive benefit from that practice we now know a lot about what kinds of mindfulness practice will be more helpful to you as an individual given your very unique circumstances and conditions in life. 

Let me give you one basic example just to paint a bit of a picture, here: there's a lot of talk now amidst the mindfulness revolution about "how do we get mindfulness in to schools”. A question I get a lot as a teacher: how do I teach my children mindfulness? This is a perfect application of our developmental insights. It tends to be much more effective to start children/adolescents with body based mindfulness techniques as opposed to other kinds of mindfulness approaches. So when I say body-based, that could be working with the breath. Paying attention to the breath is a somatic based mindfulness practice and it's one that young children tend to have immediate access to. It's quite intuitive for us to focus on the breath and just feel the pleasure and rhythm of breathing. Or it could be mindful movement, something like yoga. Young children and adolescents respond to mindful movement well, again, because it's based in the body and it's something that's concrete and relatable to them. 

An example of an application of mindfulness to an adult would be mindfulness of the thinking mind. Bringing mindful awareness to the thought process. Whereas a child can really benefit from a body-based mindfulness practice, some adults, often times adults report to me that one of their biggest frustrations and challenges is that they have this constant inner monologue, inner commentary going on and they're thinking mind is driving them crazy. So there are techniques that we can bring to the thinking mind that help us clarify the thought process; calm the thinking mind, and those practices would be, I would say, perhaps less intuitive or accessible or beneficial to young children.

And let me just make a comment here: I'm not suggesting that adults can't greatly benefit from a body-based mindfulness practice. All I want to do here today in the show is to point out that there are many different ways to practice mindfulness and depending on where we are in our personal development and the circumstances of our lives, we have different options for practicing mindfulness in a way that allows us to derive maximum benefit. 

After the break we're going to do just that because I'm going to assume that most of the people listening to this show are somewhere in adulthood. We might have some youngsters out there which would be amazing and I will certainly dedicate a show to you later on, but today we're going to work with a mindfulness practice that tends to be very beneficial for adults and it involves bringing a more full mindful awareness to the feeling body. So we're developing a feeling awareness by really saturating the body with awareness which in turn will tend to take a lot of the drivenness out of the thought process. It will tend to cool off the activity of the mind and it will bring us into a deeper, intuitive feeling sense, even wisdom in the body. So when we're back, we will explore that, together. Looking forward to that, everybody.

Thank you for listening to Mindfulness+. If you get benefit from this show, please pay it forward by sharing with a friend, your loved ones, and taking a moment to go to ITUNES and giving us a rating which will help people everywhere discover this life changing practice.



Welcome back from break, everybody. You're listening to Mindfulness+, my name is Thomas McConkie and I'm your host. 

Here in the second half of the show we'll be doing a little bit of guided practice. It's one thing to talk about these concepts, it's another to experience them directly, so what I like to do in every show is introduce a concept, explain a certain aspect of a mindfulness practice, make clear how it can benefit you, and then we actually get right in to it, we get right in to the benefits. It's like having a personal mindfulness trainer in your pocket... hopefully. Unless you're on a desktop, but you get the idea.

So I'll invite you to settle in wherever you are and encourage you to come to stillness if that's possible where you are. If you're at your home, you can find a seat, a chair, a couch, or if you're somewhere outside you can just find somewhere where you can settle in. You can start by bringing awareness to the breath. But rather than simply breathing in through the nose, the mouth, I want you to imagine that every single pour in your body were breathing oxygen in and bringing you vitality and life. Every single square inch of your body breathing in. And every single pour in your body also breathing out. Expelling any waste. Letting go of anything you don't need. And you can already start to taste the stillness, notice the settled quality in the body, in your awareness. And you can just allow your awareness to flow with the sensations of the body in this moment. As though the sensations in your body were like a river, flowing, twisting, turning, moment to moment, and you were just in the stream of the sensation along for the ride. Notice where in your body in this moment sensation feels more bright, More obvious. And you can just notice.

Likewise you can notice where in your body sensation feels more dim and more quiet. And just as a river is never the same moment to moment as it flows, always new water flowing through the channel, notice the sensation flowing through your body is never the same moment to moment. Where sensation was bright a moment ago, it may be dim now. Where sensation was more dim, it might be coming to life and growing brighter. Just stay with this another moment. See if you can do this with even more ease. Have fun with it and let your awareness just flow with the sensations of the body in this moment. Like a river winding its way back to the sea. And you can start to let that go, just relaxing your attention, not making any special effort now, opening your eyes if you've closed your eyes and just taking a final moment before you leap back in to action. You can just notice the afterglow. Just take in the way you feel in this moment after a few minutes of settling in and bringing awareness to physical sensation. Developing feeling awareness just by paying attention to it. 

As you do this exercise overtime, you'll notice that you feel more awake and more aware through the body. You'll notice that your thought process pesters you less and serves you more. Like anything, it's a matter of practice, of exercise, and if you keep it up it will change your life. Thanks so much for joining today. My name is Thomas McConkie and this is Mindfulness +. I look forward to seeing you again.