5.01 Outline – text

“Responsive thinking and the midway assessment”

Lesson Five

Outline: This 2.5 hour session marks the halfway point in the course.

It emphasizes the capacity of participants to adapt more rapidly to everyday challenges. Experiential practice of mindfulness continues with a focus on emotional coping strategies.

A central element of lesson five is oriented around our capacity to recover more rapidly from stressful encounters when they occur.

Strategies continue to be developed with emphasis on the growing capacity to pay attention more precisely to a variety of physical and mental perceptions. To use this mindful attention as a way of deliberately intervening in previous habitual behaviors and choosing more effective responses.

Daily mindfulness practice is assigned, with an emphasis on the observation of daily life without judgement.

Theme One: Reactive Thinking Vs Responsive Thinking

Experiencing being stuck in one’s habitual thought patterns about one’s Life

Investigation of unpleasant and pleasant reactivity in the ways people often cope with stressful events.

Honoring that these coping methods may have been protective and supported survival, and are now counter-evolutionary and limiting, if not destructive.

Theme Two: Choiceless Awareness

Connecting mindfulness with perception in the critical moment (the moment of conscious contact), and with the arising of reactive physical sensations, emotions, cognitions and behaviors.

Emphasis on attentiveness to the capacity to respond rather than to react to stressful situations.

Explore the effect of emotional reactivity in health and illness. Learning to honor the full range of emotions and when called for, to express them with clarity and respect for self and other.

Typical Class Sequence:

Standing Yoga

Sitting Meditation

Bringing bare attention to the body, sounds, emotions and thoughts as “events” in consciousness. Distinguishing the event from the content and then choiceless awareness. Stillness is emphasized.

Reflection: What am I learning?

The program is half-over today. Pause and take stock:

  • How has it been going so far?
  • How does it show up in my life?
  • Am I willing to recommit for the second half of the course?
  • How am I engaging with this program in terms of commitment to weekly classes and daily practice?

Note: Mindfulness growth is non-linear. Letting go of expectations for the second half based on experience of the first half of course.

Invitation:
An invitation to practice and take each moment as a new beginning; a fresh opportunity to be fully engaged, fully alive.

Reflection:
Inquire into experiences practicing the meditation and yoga home practice, as well as the new meditation introduced at the beginning of class.

Reflections:
Explore
observations of reacting to stressful events during the week. Note habitual behavioral patterns, thoughts and emotions associated with the feeling of being stuck in these conditioned reactions. Include patterns that arise during meditation practice.

Introducing the possibility of responding with awareness in these moments, rather than reacting automatically. In making the distinction between reacting and responding, emphasize that in many situations, reacting is skillful. It’s not the stress, but how you handle it, which dictates its effects on the mind and the body (within limits).

Note: The new Sitting Meditation recording has more silence on it to allow us to practice more deeply on our own in between the guided instructions.

Home Practice Assignment:

• New Sitting Meditation recording. Alternate with either Body Scan or Lying down Yoga recordings.

• Fill out Difficult Communications Calendar.

• Bring awareness to moments of reacting and explore options for responding with greater mindfulness, spaciousness and creativity, in formal meditation practice and in everyday life.

Note:
Remember that the body and the breath is a grounding anchor and a way to heighten awareness of reactive tendencies and make more conscious choices.