Staying Grounded and Connected

Friday April 3rd 2020

Dear Friends,
Maybe like you I have been wondering how best to respond to this extraordinary pandemic and all of its challenges. Covid 9, social / physical distancing, self Isolation, and the move towards lockdown, have brought me to a sharp awareness of our interdependence, and the fragility of the whole planet and all of the life it sustains. As a spiritual teacher and mindfulness practioner I know that anxiety, fear and worry about ourselves and our loved ones getting sick, surviving financially, and concern about the future, are all natural responses to the experience of the current world wide pandemic. Yet I notice that it is not easy for me to allow myself to pause, to reflect and to give some space to these unwelcome intrusions to the most precious and intimate areas of my life. I have been schooling myself though to limit my exposure to media outlets, to put structure and new routines into my day, and to watch my tendency to busyness by taking regular times of pause to as best I can, to notice and be with how I am with what is happening. Sometimes this is difficult and so I go gentle and easy with myself, sometimes I am surprised by moments of gratitude, joy and creativity and in a way this newsletter emerges directly from these moments of pause.
Like many I believe that this exceptional time in our lives calls us to support each other in sustaining our connection and building community in new ways. It also provides us with the opportunity to be creative in how we live and work in this time when our more familiar routines and ways of being in the world have been paused.

I have changed my work in two ways:
1) I will offer this newsletter weekly on Friday’a with resources and supports to help is to take care of ourselves and each other and to adjust to our current situation. I am not sure if any will read this newsletter or if they do if they will find anything useful here but even preparing it allows me time and space to stay grounded and connected. Deep within my mindfulness training calls me to real self care so that I can attend to ‘other’ care and build resilience and yes find the gratitude and moments of joy too. And so I read and reflect and prepare the newsletter for myself and offer it also to those who may find something of help or usefulness here.
2) I am focussing all of my mindfulness on trauma sensitive practise , using zoom to host all of my work online,
3) I continue to offer supervision and spiritual companioning (soul work) also online via zoom.
I will be hosting all of my work on Zoom so to join any particular event you just use the specific zoom link.. If you are new to Zoom please do not shy away. Below I include information on how to connect and get comfortable with this online platform. For any of the group sessions you always have the choice to turn video off and to mute yourself so that you can be assured of your privacy if that is important to you. Your presence will always be welcome and you can participate silently and invisibly just as well as on video and by speaking. I am by nature a trogledyte and have shied away form online work. I have also been a little precious about my mindfulness practise – believing that physical presence is essential for quality work and that online is of necessity something of a dilution. I am still at an early stage of learning but even now I can say that I am benefitting a lot form my various online communities and I discover that even I can host a virtual event with some competency.
To learn about how zoom works you might like to watch this youtube guide: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=arIDQBALrEw

Upcoming – TRUAMA SENSITIVE MINDFULNESS EVENTS DURING COVID19

THIS AND EVERY SUNDAY EVENING
Sunday Mindfulness and Compassion Circle
A weekly time for mindfulness practise and to support each other. This is a free weekly community building gathering.
Every Sunday beginning Sunday March 22nd from 7 to 7.45pm
Join URL: https://zoom.us/j/643674866
Feel free to join any Sunday and the same link can be used every week.

Online Mindfulness and Compassion Workshop
I am delighted to offer a three hour online Mindfulness and Compassion workshop on Sat May 30th . I have participated in this workshop online myself, and I am happy that it is a really resourceful, grounding experience. We work from 10 am to 1pm with a 30 minute coffee break. Fee for this day had been reduce from €60 to €40 and places are limited. Book your spot at https://www.mindfulfacilitation.com/workshops-retreats/

Mindfulness and Compassion eight Week Course
Begins Tuesday June 2nd 7 to 8.30pm
Mindfulness is now online – starting Tuesday June 2nd from 7pm to 8.30pm and continuing for eight Tuesday evenings until Tuesday July 28th. The full day of practise which will also be online will take place on Saturday July 11th from 9.50am to 3pm. If you are in a place in your life where you want to deal with stress and anxiety, learn how to recognise and manage patterns, habits and behaviours that do not serve you well, this course is for you. If you want to learn the simple skill of living more in the present moment, finding joy in the life you have, and living more from a place of gratitude and compassion this course is for you.
Mindfulness is simply the practise of bringing your attention to the present moment with full acceptance , and from a place of non striving and non judgement. We often go through our day and our life with much of our attention given to rumination and our own mental chatter which can rob us of our peace.
During this eight week course we learn to notice the unhelpful mindful chatter, to more skilfuly deal with stress, anxiety and worry, and to connect with our own peace, joy and happiness. Week by week we will build the muscle of mindfulness and compassionate living, training our monkey mind, much like we would go to the gym to tone and strengthen our body.

Wisdom Supervision
By zoom. To book an appointment please email:deehennessy01@gmail.com

Spiritual Companioning/ Soulwork
By zoom. To book an appointment please email:deehennessy01@gmail.com
The role of Nature in healing during times of anxiety

It’s a scary moment right now, with the world rapidly changing and all of our lives disrupted. There has never been a better time to step outside , to ground, connect to the earth, take a deep breath, and remember that the lesson of this virus is that we are all deeply interconnected. Isn’t is strange that this lesson comes to us via the need for distancing! Over these past couple of weeks each time I feel my anxiety rise or notice the rise of fear or panic I have been stepping out into the garden and doing two things:
* I feel my feet on the ground, connected to the earth, take a deep breath and know that we are all connected
* Feeling our connection through the breath then I then send some loving kindness to all of us – those I know and those I do not know, all who are sick or frightened or bereaved, all who are working to support others, all who are reaching out in kindness and care to family, neighbours and friends.
May all be well
May all be at ease
May all find peace.

Hope in a time of Fear
I have no idea who wrote this, but I find it really comforting, connecting me with the cycle of life, hope and the buddhist teaching of impermanence – everything arises, has its moment and moves on.

It was March 2020 …
The streets were empty, the shops closed, people couldn’t get out.
But spring did not know, and the flowers began to bloom, the sun shone, the birds sang, the swallows would soon arrive, the sky was blue, the morning arrived early.
It was March 2020 …
Young people had to study online, and find occupations at home, people could no longer go shopping, or go to the hairdresser. Soon there would be no more room in hospitals, and people continued to get sick.
But spring did not know, the time to go to the garden arrived, the grass greened.
It was March 2020 …
People have been put in lockdown. to protect grandparents, families and children. No more meetings or meals, family celebrations. The fear became real and the days were therefore similar.
But spring did not know, apples, cherry trees and others bloomed, the leaves grew.
People started reading, playing with their families, learning a language, singing on the balcony inviting neighbours to do the same, being supportive and focusing on other values.
People realised the importance of health, of suffering, of this world that had stopped, of the economy that has plummeted.
But spring didn’t know. the flowers gave way to the fruit, the birds made their nest, the swallows had arrived.
Then the day of liberation came, people found out on TV, the virus had lost, people took to the streets, sang, cried, kissed their neighbours, without masks or gloves.
And that’s when summer came, because spring didn’t know. He continued to be there despite everything, despite the virus, fear and death. Because spring didn’t know, he taught people the power of life.

FAST
I want to share with you an acronym from a Mindfulness teacher of mine Dr Paul D’Alton, intended for those living with cancer but helpful I think for us all:
FAST approach

Focus on what we can control
At times like this we can feel very much out of control, which can lead us to feel hopeless. This is understandable, and can be countered by focusing on what you can do today. This includes focusing on following official advice around good hand and respiratory hygiene, employing social distancing keeping the house clean, and now staying at home.
It can also be helpful, Dr D’Alton suggests, to widen our lens also and focus on what we could be doing to help others, such as reaching out by phone to our friends and family to check in. We could consider writing letters.

Avoid unreliable information and continual updates
There is an unrelenting stream of information coming at us at the moment – both reliable and unreliable.
Dr D’Alton is urging people to employ a 20/20 approach where you take 20 minutes to inform yourself about what is happening in Ireland and around the world from trustworthy, reliable sources and allowing another 20 minutes to discuss the latest information.
But beyond this, Dr D’Alton says, we should be avoiding constant updates and being disciplined about this.
It is also incumbent on all of us to consider what we are sharing on social media.
“Sharing unreliable, sensational and inaccurate information is fueling our anxiety and the anxiety of others,” Dr D’Alton notes.

Seek safe support
Identify the social support networks you rely on and ensure that you are using them safely, such as via technology.
“We know from all of the research across the world that humans don’t cope very well when we are isolated, it is really challenging,” Dr D’Alton says.
“As we move on, particularly for people living with cancer and their families, it’s going to be crucial for people to maintain social support.
“There are all sorts of ways that technology can accommodate this such as Facetime. I’ve heard of people arranging coffee dates over Skype. You can also explore safe, outdoor activity such as walks once social distancing is being safely employed.”

Take a breath
It is crucial to partake in an activity that allows you to take a breath, according to Dr D’Alton.
He says, “We will find that we forget to breathe when we are anxious, so actually doing something every day to settle the nervous system is important.”
There a number of resources for breathing exercises and mindfulness online.

Jack Cornfield another revered Mindfulness Teacher wrote something about fear that resonates with me and which I want to share with you here:
Little fears cause anxiety, and big fears cause panic.— Chuang Tzu
Although most of us have been deeply conditioned by fear, for the most part we have avoided directly exploring its nature. Because we are not aware of its workings, it is often an unconscious driving force in our lives. When fear arises, whether it’s fear of pain, fear of certain emotions, or fear of death, the meditation practice of mindful loving awareness invites us to explore and understand fear itself. What does it feel like? What are the sensations in the body? Where are they located? Are there images or pictures in the mind? We can look closely to see the constellation of experiences we call fear, to understand its true nature. When we do so we see that fear is also a passing conditioned experience, and then it becomes much more workable.
Start simply. When fear arises, name it softly and experience what it does to the breath, to the body, how it affects the heart. Notice how long it lasts. Be aware of the images. Notice the sensations and ideas that accompany it, the scary stories it tells. Fear is often an anticipation of the future, an imagination, often unfounded. As Mark Twain remarked, “My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes—most of which never happened.”
Of course, when we work with the fearful mind, we will initially become afraid. However, at some point, if we open our eyes and our heart to the fearful mind and gently name it, “fear, fear, fear,” experiencing its energy as it moves through us, the whole sense of fear will shift and eventually become recognition: “Oh, fear, here you are again. I know you. How interesting that you’ve come.” Make friends with your fear.
From this foundation of loving awareness and acceptance we can make choices about how to act with some degree of discriminating wisdom. Sometimes it is wise to retreat from a situation, and sometimes we move ahead despite the fear. We become more willing to take some risks because our energy is not so bound up in resisting the feeling of fear itself. We learn that it is okay to feel fear. Our mindfulness practice should challenge us to come to the edge of what we’re willing to be with, what we’re willing to do, what we’re willing to open to. If we keep avoiding the feeling of fear, then we have to build barriers and defences, closing ourselves off from every experience where fear might arise. Not only is this impossible to do, but it results in a narrow and restricted way of living. We close our hearts and close off the possibility of true vitality, compassion and growth.
Practicing meditation with patience and courage, we can gradually learn trust, how to sit firmly on the earth and kindly sense the contraction and trembling of our body without running away. We learn how to feel the floods of strong emotions—fear, grief, and rage—and to allow them to slowly release with mindfulness. We learn to see the endless mental stories that repeat over and over, and with the resources of mindfulness and compassion, to let them go and relax, to steady the mind and return to the present. Befriending fear becomes a gateway to freedom, an invitation to live more fully with trust and love.

A poem by John O’Donoghue which I have long loved but which seems particularly appropriate to these days:

This is the time to be slow
lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes
Try as best you can, not to let the wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous
Time will come good
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise
Where the air will be kind
And-blushed with beginning.

John O’ Donoghue

Seven Acts of Love in a time of Coronavirus
Suggestions by Fr James Martin SJ

1) Call someone who is lonely
2) Check on someone who is old or sick
3) Keep your distance (physical not spiritual)
4) Listen to public health officials
5) Pray for medical workers
6) Wash your hands
7) Stay home

James suggests that adopting a regular meditation practice —even just five minutes a day—can improve our sleep, regulate our mood, boost our resilience, and help ease and prevent a number of physical ailments. No other habit positively impacts so many areas of your life simultaneously. Because meditation helps reduce anxiety, depression, stress, and anger, while improving our focus, presence, and physical health, it bleeds into all areas of our lives—our work, relationships, our hobbies. Literally everything can transform, over time, with just five minutes a day.

Moving online
Over the past few weeks I have surprised myself with my ability to embrace working online. I was really supported in this by other mindfulness teachers and organisations already active in the online space to whom I am indebted. For however long Covin 19 lasts I am offering all of my online mindfulness work online. I am using zoom for these sessions and I am happy to provide support for any who are nervous or unsure about using zoom – don’t be I am living proof that it is easy to use …

Online Mindfulness Resources that you might like….

MTAI daily meditation practise

Irish mindfulness teachers, who are members of the professional body Mindfulness Teachers Association of Ireland are reaching out and inviting you to join us in taking a pause & connecting with this moment. We hope that together we may de-escalate anxiety levels and foster a sense of community. Sessions take place daily at 9 am and again at 9pm. These free 30 minute daily online mindfulness sessions can be accessed through Zoom.
The link for each of the daily meditations can be found on the Mindfulness Teachers Association of Ireland website www.mtai.ie I am delighted to be part of this initiative.

Other online initiatives I am happy to share:
* The Sanctuary Stanhope St Dublin – find them on FB or on their website www.sanctuary.ie practices on three days a week which you can join live or catch later on FB.
* Tara Brach – find her through facebook – does live meditations ( US) every Wed and also has lovely recorded practises on her FB page
* Guided Meditations and Exercises
https://centerformsc.org/practice-msc/guided-meditations-and-exercises/

My own tips for how mindfulness might be a resource during the Pandemic:
* Set a place in your home for taking a mindful pause every day – a room, corner, chair that you can make a little special with a candle, flowers, cushion o a rug
* Settle on a mindfulness practise that you will do everyday – no matter how you feel
* Get into the habit of taking a mindful breath every time you notice yourself in overwhelm or on a downward spiral
* Spend sometime noticing / in nature everyday
* Find an online practise where you can join others
* Start a gratitude practise – three things you are grateful for everyday
* Do one kind deed a day.

Guidelines for zoom gatherings

Before the meeting
So that you and everyone who joins the live meeting has the best experience, please follow these steps:
If you already have Zoom, take time now to ensure you have the latest version . If you’re not sure, to be safe, download and install the latest zoom version.
If you are new to Zoom, click on the link here to have a quick look at the set-up in advance of the gathering. If you like, you can join a zoom test meeting here.
If an internet connection is not available or yours is unsteady, you can connect by phone by following instructions from the facilitator when joining the meeting (look for the “Phone Call” option near the top of the box that appears when you join the session).
Test your connection including microphone and camera so you can find and resolve any issues before the gathering starts.
If you’re new to zoom, use the test meeting to locate the controls listed in the instructions on the rest of this page.

Joining the meeting
You’ll be prompted to join the meeting by clicking the button on the gathering page.
Please leave your microphone on as you join so that we can greet each other. Before we begin the session I will then as you to mute your microphone (using the button on lower left of your Zoom window) and to keep yourself muted unless you are speaking. This minimizes echoing, background noise and unintended camera switches, since zoom cues camera changes based on audio).
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Till next Friday…
Covid 9, Social distancing, and Self Isolation have brought us to a sharp awareness of our interdependence and the fragility of the whole planet and all of the life it sustains. Anxiety, fear and worry about ourselves and our loved ones getting sick, surviving financially and concern about the future are all natural responses to the experience of the current world wide pandemic. This weekly newsletter is one way I want to support/ build community during these times. If this is not serving you – is just choking up your inbox please feel free to unsubscribe.