Week 3 - Dealing with Thoughts
Introduction to Yoga

At this point in your practice, you may be noticing just how busy the mind is, with replays of past events, expectations/fears about the future, or evaluations of present experience (I like this, don't like that, when will this be over, etc.). It can seem that the object of meditation is to get rid of all thoughts and distractions, and when that isn't happening, you may feel like you are failing at meditation and/or the meditation can turn into a struggle, wanting your experience to be different than it is. In fact, the kind of meditation you are learning is more about working skillfully with any internal or external experience, and isn't really about "getting rid" of thoughts and distractions. In fact, it can be said that wandering thoughts are the weights that train the muscles of the mind.

It's common for there to be a sense of pushing oneself in meditation, and the first video, Non-Striving, addresses the possibility of taking the striving out of meditation (and life!). The second video, Attention, Intention, Attitude, explores the attitude we take toward ourselves in meditation, which is often harsh, and the possibility of being gentler with ourselves. In the third video, Dealing with Thoughts (in life and in meditation), Tara Brach talks about our relationship with thoughts, including a short practice of intentionally bringing awareness to them. The last video, Surrender to the Monkeys, is also by Tara, and addresses our wanting for things to be different than they are and the wisdom of taking things just as they are.

The reading list this week begins with Mindful Yoga by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It's important to read this before beginning the Yoga practice that begins this week. The other articles in this section address some common misconceptions in meditation. In Meditation: It's Not What You Think, Jon Kabat-Zinn points out that while meditation can often be accompanied by peace and relaxation, "meditation is not relaxation spelled differently", and as Erik Wikstrom says in the quote above, "The moments of stillness are one of meditation's byproducts, not the practice itself." The last two articles Thoughts on Thinking and I Hadn't Thought of That, address directly the concern that new (and sometimes even experienced) meditators have with thoughts that seem to "get in the way" of the meditation.

Daily Practices
For the formal practice this week, we introduce Mindful Yoga (Yoga 1) into your 30 minute practice, alternating with the Sitting Meditation and choosing one day to do a Body Scan.  This is all outlined in your Week 3 Practice Log, below.   Even if you are an experienced yoga practitioner, be sure to read "Mindful Yoga" in the reading below, before beginning the yoga practice. Mindful Yoga is different than many traditional yoga practices in that there is less of a focus on the exact posture achieved and more focus on body/mind awareness.

The informal practice is about becoming aware of how we experience and process unpleasant events.  Just as in previous weeks, allow a few minutes before going to sleep to complete the informal practices log. Below are your materials for this week:

       Non-Striving - Jon Kabat-Zinn (3 min)
       Attention, Intention, Attitude - Shauna Shapiro (16 min)
       Dealing with Thoughts (in life and in meditation) - Tara Brach (20 min)
       Surrender to the Monkeys - Tara Brach (4 min)

      Mindful Yoga - Jon Kabat-Zinn
      Meditation - It's Not What You Think - Jon Kabat-Zinn
      Thoughts on Thinking - Edward Espe Brown
      I Hadn't Thought of That - Wes Nisker

Practice sheets
       Formal Practice [PDF] [or WORD format] - Mindful Yoga (Yoga 1), Body Scan, Sitting
       Informal Practice [PDF] [or WORD format] - Unpleasant Events Calendar

Supplementary materials related to this week's topic
       "Letting Go" in Meditation video by Peter Russell and Shauna Shapiro (15 min)
       Transform Your Mind, Change Your Brain video by Richard Davidson [65 min]
       Mindfulness, the Mind, and Addictive Behavior video by Judson Brewer [20 min]
       Autobiography in Five Short Chapters one-page "autobiography" by Portia Nelson

NOTE: If you are compiling a manual based on the suggestions in MBSR Manual, you would print a copy of this page as well as the Readings and Practice Sheets given above. For a version of this page which has been reformatted for your manual go to the printer-ready version of this page.