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Compassion, wisdom & wellbeing training: 3rd session home practice

There are seven requests for this third week of home practice:  

1.)  Please would you glance back at the handouts from the third session of the course & jot down further thoughts/feelings on this week's session 3 reflection sheet.  What last night felt most interesting & potentially helpful for you ... what felt less clear or less helpful?  The series of eight Session reflection sheets you will hopefully have completed by the end the training can provide a succinct, personal way of looking back on the course in the future and reminding yourself what was most important for you.  (10 minutes total, or more if you want) 

2.)  Try to practise this week's loving-kindness meditation pretty much every day until our next meeting.  (12-13 minutes most days)

3.)  Aim to continue practising a 12-breath mini-meditation three times daily.  Begin by sitting tall & open, and reminding yourself why you're doing this practice.  Then move through the mindful body scan in just three breaths, and 'name' the state of your internal weather on the fourth.  Then a couple of breaths for your values (spine/belly & heart).  Then for the last six breaths, you now have a choice.  If the main activities in the next few hours involve 'getting things done', then the familiar mini implementation exercise from last week is still appropriate ... a couple of breaths seeing how (living your values) you'd like the next few hours (until the next breathing space exercise) to evolve, a couple of breaths to sense the likely obstacles, and the last two breaths to see yourself responding to the challenges effectively & heartfully.  If however the next few hours mainly involves time with other people, then use this six breath sequence for a loving-kindness practice.  Explore what works well for you here. 

What I do is have a sense that with each inbreath I can take in energy & wellbeing from all around me ... a kind of gift, a blessing from the universe.  Maybe that's why the in-breath is called 'inspiration'!  Then with the out-breath I imagine I can channel out this energy from my heart, my chest.  Sometimes I imagine it as light bathing those I'm thinking about.  Typically I would use phrases that wish them well.  Currently I use "May they be well; may they flourish; may they live in love."  See what fits for you.  You might enjoy trying out Chris Germer's suggestions for "Finding loving-kindness phrases"  (see this list of informal mindful self-compassion practices) ... although this exercise is aimed at finding self-compassion phrases it's adaptable for loving-kindness phrases for others.  There's some evidence suggesting that making this loving-kindness practice a somewhat emotional/felt, rather than just a cool intellectual process may add benefit.  Experiment.  Maybe imagine the 'loving-kindness' as light, as blessing, as energy.  What works well for you?  I'm a bit of a hard-headed rationalist, so I personally believe ... on current evidence ... that this practice primarily affects me, not directly the other people.  There's good research data supporting this viewpoint ... that practising brief meditations like this helps to change my orientation, the 'openness of my heart', and this works both consciously and at brain levels I'm not directly aware of, to open me to view & treat others with more kindness.  And this, in turn, changes how they experience me, and affects them, and loops back into our relationship.  It can be a surprisingly powerful & helpful process.  Do explore this.  Here's a 3rd week MP3 that explains this a little more fully.  Keep a record of how regularly you manage this practice on the four week record sheet.  (9 minutes most days)

The new 'content' this week is the whole area of character strengths ... see the VIA Institute on Character website.  During the third session of this training, we ran the top character strengths identified on the VIA survey through the signature strengths grid exercise.  I highlighted that it's worth reminding ourselves that the VIA Institute may not be using the character strength 'labels' in quite the way we would.  Here, for example, is a set of brief descriptions of what VIA means when it talks about the differenct strengths.  Secondly, although the VIA survey results are useful, it can still be valuable to run the grid exercise.  Our top strengths are probably going to score straight 4's across the four columns ... and we would especially expect this for the Core question as it has been underlined that "This is the most important defining aspect of a signature strength – that it feels central to one’s sense of oneself, that without it a core aspect of oneself would be missing."  Please would you choose a particular strength to work on this week.  If you're struggling a bit in your life at the moment, good to choose one of your top signature strengths.  If you're pretty buoyant just now, then maybe choose a lesser strength that you would like to nourish more in yourself.  Suggestion 7 in this "Twelve practical suggestions" blog post discusses which strengths may be particularly linked with increased wellbeing.  When you've chosen the strength you're going to particularly focus on this week, then:

4.)  Write about it ... see suggestion 5 in this post.  (15 minutes in total)

5.)  Explore using the strength in new ways each day ... see suggestion 8 here.  (a couple of minutes to a greater time commitment each day ... do what fits for you).

6.)  Put any quotations you've been using in the last couple of weeks into a drawer for now and start freshly working with your chosen strength.  Music is surprisingly powerful ... make a playlist or choose recordings of music that links you to the strength you've chosen.  Maybe even learn the words/tune of an appropriate song!  The 'wallpaper' on your phone and computer is another potential reminder source.  See if you can find an appropriate photo or image or words that you can use.  You may already have some, or you can produce them and photograph it, or you can download from, for example, Google images.  Even consider playing with what you wear.  Is there clothing, or colours, or jewellery that link to the strength you've chosen ... see, for example, the post "Power objects, power postures, power clothes, power prayers: all ways to facilitate change".   (maybe 15 minutes total to set up ... or longer if you want to).

7.)  Lastly, don't forget 'goals for roles'.  I suspect that if all you did over this course was to increase how your current 'competence' in the different key roles in your life moved towards how you would ideally like to be ... as, for example, highlighted in the funeral speeches or 80th birthday party exercises ... I would bet this would very significantly increase your overall wellbeing.  Optimising wellbeing certainly isn't just about setting & achieving autonomous goals, but this is a major way of nourishing how we feel in & about our lives.  I suggested last night that we choose a couple more of our important roles, write how we would really like to be in these roles (Funeral speeches or 80th birthday sheets), and also fill in the How are we doing sheet.  You already have all these forms in your previous handouts.  Then try to work on building competence in these roles ... maybe even linking it to your strength use this week.  And remember, our physical wellbeing is profoundly entwined with our overall wellbeing.  The basic foundational skills/habits of good diet, adequate sleep, exercising well, and monitoring any tendency towards dependency/addiction (alcohol, sugars, smoking, etc) are hugely important.  (a few minutes to longer depending on available time & interest). 

Good luck with all of this.  Contact Kirsty or me if you have any queries.  Some of us may have very little extra time in our week for this 'homework'.  Some will be able to make more time.  As we said in the original course publicity, our hope is that participants will be able to make 20 to 40 minutes per day on average for home practice.  You can follow through on all seven of this week's suggestions by giving about half an hour per day to this wellbeing experiment.  It really is worth this time ... it can be so hugely valuable to begin to change long term patterns in our lives ... and it is likely at times to be hard work.

For details of the 4th week's home practice, click here.


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