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Start here to explore the practices of mindfulness and compassion.

See also Articles and Research for background on what mindfulness is and how it works.

A Blog About Practice


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  • 1 Apr 2018 11:46 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Oori Silberstein

    The fundamental question of Mindfulness is what is happening in this moment?  Asking this question sincerely in any moment has the potential to create space and choice in moments of difficulty and stress. Mindfulness practice can turn stressful moments into moments of relaxation and relief. And over time, with regular practice and patience, mindfulness can be fundamentally transformative and healing.  But sometimes challenging and difficult emotions are larger than our mindfulness in the moment and we need something more.  

    Finding our balance amidst strong emotions like sadness, self-judgment, grief, anger, shame, embarrassment, negative mood, depression or anxiety (to name a few) often takes more than simple mindfulness in the moment. This is true for everybody, from relative beginners to seasoned meditation teachers.  At such times, therapeutic intervention with a professional can be an excellent and beneficial thing to do. I myself have benefitted greatly from therapy at various times throughout my 18 years as a meditator.  

    Bringing in kindness
    Giving and receiving

    In our personal practice, when encountering and trying to navigate our way through difficult experiences and feelings, it is extremely helpful to learn how to bring kindness and care to ourselves in a genuine and effective way.  And this is what the practice of Mindful Self-Compassion, or MSC, offers.  In the same way that Mindfulness helps us access and strengthen the mind’s natural capacity to be present and wise, MSC helps us access and strengthen the heart’s natural capacity to be kind and caring.

    Meeting difficulty or stress with kindness is what we mean by compassion.   Can you think of a time when someone was there for you in a moment of difficulty without trying to change you or fix you?  Perhaps a teacher, a good friend or a grandparent-type figure who just let you be how you were in the moment of difficulty?  When someone is genuinely kind and accepting towards us in the midst of our difficulty it can be very supportive and healing. 

    In addition to feeling compassion from others we can also feel it towards others. For example, when we see a small child fall and get hurt our heart may naturally respond with care and kindness.  Compassion is a natural movement of our heart when we are relaxed and seeing clearly.

    Mindful Self-Compassion teaches us how to combine these two natural instincts, of giving and receiving compassion, in a way that strengthens our ability to navigate difficult emotions.  It uses mindfulness to notice when we are experiencing difficulty, and gives us tools to access our own capacity to be kind and compassionate towards ourselves in such moments. 

    If all of this sounds a bit awkward, or even a bit unbelievable, you are not alone.  Most of us have been taught negative myths about self-kindness.  I was personally quite skeptical of this practice initially.  I did not believe I could really befriend myself in a satisfying and genuine way.  “That only happens when the friend is another person” I thought.  And I went to MSC class with lots of doubts and reasons why it was wrong or impossible to do this.   But what I learned, with the support of a good teacher, was that I am capable of offering myself exactly the kind of support and compassion I need.  And MSC has become a central part of my practice and daily life.  When mindfulness asks What is happening in this moment and the answer is that we are experiencing difficulty, we can then ask the fundamental question of MSC: What do I need in this moment?  And with the skills and practices of MSC, we learn to give ourselves exactly what we need in moments of difficulty, in a way that is genuinely satisfying and healing.  

  • 16 Mar 2018 12:02 PM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Michael Kelberer

    Many mindfulness teachers (including ours) consider compassion the "other wing of mindfulness." Mindfulness helps create the space in which compassion can arise; and an emphasis on compassion can help "warm up" mindfulness into something we might call "heartfulness."

    The body of evidence is larger for “regular” mindfulness (that taught in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes), but the scientific support for the benefits of practicing compassion is compelling.

    For starters, the benefits of Loving-Kindness practices appear pretty quickly, and have staying power: greater empathy towards others, greater generosity, greater resilience in emotionally fraught situation. For another, Loving-Kindness practices show real promise in the treatment of PTSD and other traumas.

    The basic practice

    Loving-Kindness practice falls under the category of “cultivation practices,” where imagery and poetry are used to cultivate a desirable trait. In this case, you bring to mind the image of another being, which might be yourself, and wish them well by repeating phrases of goodwill silently to yourself. Example phrases are:

    May you (I, we) be happy and joyful

    May you (I, we) feel safe and secure

    May you (I, we) be strong and healthy

    May you (I, we) live with ease

    Variations

    The classic sequence is to start with someone (or thing) very dear to you, spend a couple of minutes wishing them well using the above or your own phrases, then picture someone less close but friendly and do the same, then repeat with a neutral party, then (if you’re up for it) picking someone you have a difficult relationship and repeating the process for them.

    Another (the you-we-I sequence) starts with a dear one, then you add yourself to the image and do a “We” sequence a few times, then bid your dear one goodbye and wish yourself well with a few “I” sequences.

    Guided meditations

    There is a large variety of compassion practices (including the above) on our website, and on Insight Timer.


  • 22 Feb 2018 11:49 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Michael Kelberer

    From an article by the Greater Good Science Center

    Gratitude is a recognition that:

    • There's goodness in our lives, gifts or benefits that we enjoy (and might often take for granted.
    • This goodness is often due to the actions of another person. When we're graeful, we recognize the intention and effort that went into those actions on our behalf,and the benefits they gave us.

      Research shows that: 

    • Gratefulness increases happiness and life satisfaction.
    • Grateful people are more resilient to stress.
    • Grateful people get along better with others.
    • Grateful people are less depressed.
    • Grateful people achieve more.
    • Grateful people are more helpful and generous.

    Gratitude meditations on Insight Timer: 

    There are quite a few - here are two to get your started:
    Gratitude Meditation (14 min) by Sarah McLean
    Peaceful and Relaxed (15 min): Gratitude Meditation by Mellisa Dormoy


  • 16 Jan 2018 12:01 PM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Michael Kelberer

    The basic practice

    After settling into your meditation posture, begin to pay attention to the sounds arriving to your ears. You'll probably be focused on the loud, intense sounds at first, but gradually see if you can make room in your awareness for all the softer sounds as well. And sounds in the distance as well as sounds nearby. 

    You'll probably notice right away that your mind has a natural tendency to immediately hijack the listening process. It might label the sounds you're hearing (sound of car driving by), and then attach a story of some kind (that driver is going really fast), express a preference (I wish the traffic were quieter), or bring forth a memory (reminds me of my old Volvo).

    Simply notice these mental efforts as they occur, and realize that by capturing your awareness they probably didn't allow you to hear the next sounds that came up. See if you can gently return your awareness to the sounds themselves - their timber, their pitch, their volume. Pure sounds, without analysis or judgment.

    As your mind relaxes you may find that your awareness of the soundscape becomes richer and more varied, that many seemingly simple sounds are in fact made up of many tiny sound effects occurring together.

    Listening Meditation by Tim Burnett

    On our website: Listening Meditation

    This meditation is also on Insight Timer: search on Mindfulness Northwest

  • 1 Jan 2018 11:50 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    There's plenty of research showing that sustained practice over time yields the most benefits to the practitioner. No real surprise there. And there's nothing (for most of us) like a regular group/community to provide us with the support, motivation and accountability to keep our home practice going.

    Here are some groups that meet regularly (or soon will);

    Bellingham area:

    Free Drop-in class: Meets Thursday evenings starting February 1st. Mostly practice, with some instruction. Suitable for beginners. Click here for more.

    Other groups: Check our website for more: Mindfulness Practice in Bellingham.

    Seattle area: There are quite a few Mindfulness groups that meet regularly and are free. More information on our website: Mindfulness Practice in Seattle.


  • 15 Dec 2017 11:59 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Michael Kelberer

    The basic practice:

    While meditating, when you notice that your mind has wandered off, pause and notice where your mind has gone, giving that place a brief label. This label can be simple to begin with: "Thinking" "Strong Sensation" "Daydreaming." What tends to captivate your mind the most? 

    As your labeling practice strengthens, you can consider allowing your labeling to become more refined: "Envying" "Disliking" "Reliving" "Future-tripping" "Fearing." 

    It's easy to get judgmental about how and where our mind wanders. It can be helpful to remember that wandering is what the mind was designed to do. It's not about fixing the wandering, but becoming more aware of it.

    This can be particularly helpful as we take the labeling practice off the cushion and into life. Then we can add some curiosity about when the wandering has been helpful or not. Sometimes it is.

    "A note on Noting" by Stephen Levine: On our Learning blog

    Meditations on Insight Timer:

    Noting your emotions by Kristin Neff (of Mindful Self-Compassion fame)

    Mental Noting by mPeak

    Mental Noting Practice by Mindspace

    And this one is an Open Awareness practice, but Tim incorporates a Labeling practice within it:

    Open Awareness by Mindfulness Northwest


  • 1 Dec 2017 11:52 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Michael Kelberer

    One way we can expand and deepen our secular mindfulness and compassion practices is by exploring the Buddhist roots from which they grew. The basic secular practices are generally described in terms of modern science. The Buddhist roots go back 2,500 years, and can provide a lot of depth and nuance simply not available in the secular texts.

    As you may know, Tim (Burnett, Mindfulness Northwest guiding teacher) and his co-leaders have been exploring these roots at our longer retreats for a couple of years. Some of these "Roots" talks can be found on our website: https://mindfulnessnorthwest.com/roots.

    For a broader dive, there is a nice library of Dharma Talks by Tim (as Guiding Teacher of the Red Cedar Zen Community) and visiting Zen Priests on the Red Cedar Zen Community website: https://www.redcedarzen.org/Dharma-Talks.

    An update on the science

    Not to diminish the importance of the growing body of science supporting our mindfulness practices! There are a couple of articles in the current Lion's Roar magazine on "what we know and what we don't" - a look at which of the more than 6,000 research papers on mindfulness really stand on solid ground. One of those is available on the Greater Good website: The State of Mindfulness Science. 


  • 15 Nov 2017 11:57 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Michael Kelberer

    Sitting Practice

    You can divide meditation practices into two categories based on what is in the foreground and what is in the background of the mind:

    Concentration Practice:  We hold a single object (the breath, body sensations, sounds) clearly in the foreground with all other sensory (including mental) objects in the background.

    Open Awareness Practice: Allow objects to arise into the foreground, be observed, and drop back into the background without judging, choosing or clinging to any of them. 

    You can find a nice set of guided concentration practices, and one open awareness practice on our website here: Sitting Meditation


  • 1 Nov 2017 11:53 AM | Michael Kelberer (Administrator)

    by Michael Kelberer

    So called "informal practices" are often overlooked by practitioners, but research has shown that they can have a powerful effect on both the practitioner and the people around them. Here's a link to a page on our website that describes four of them: Two Feet and a Breath, R.A.I.N., STOP, and a 3-minute mindfulness of breathing practice:

    Informal Practices

    Try one now:

    Take a quick scan of how you're doing: body, mind, mood.

    Then place your feet flat on the floor, feeling into the solid connection between them and the ground. Take a slow breath in. And a slow exhale out.

    Now how are you doing?

    That's it - the Two Feet and a Breath practice :-)


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