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Introducing mindfulness at a HIV charity

191664_860055355625_6065508_oBy Wake Up London facilitator, Jess Stein. 

Earlier this year HIV charity Positively UK approached Wake Up London and asked us to facilitate some introductory mindfulness sessions at their London offices. Positively UK is a positive organisation in every sense of the word. Its aim is to provide practical and emotional support for people living with HIV so that their lives can be as fulfilling as possible. Advances in medical treatment mean that an HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. People who have access to the right medication and take it regularly can now live long, healthy lives and we were inspired by the healthy, glowing, HIV positive people that we met. However, despite these advances the challenges of living with an HIV diagnosis remain huge. The people we met talked about the anxiety of living in a body that could become sick at any time and about the shame and stigma that they experienced both internally and externally in society.posuklogo

Facilitators from Wake Up London came forward to assist in this exciting new venture, including myself, Joe Holtaway, Luz Casto, Thomas Balbach and Anna Hasemann. We planned to offer the sessions very much along the same lines as our Afternoons of Mindfulness where the facilitators share the teachings as fellow pupils rather than as teachers. Positively UK is originally a peer support organisation so it made sense to work in this way with them too. However on the first rainy Monday in May the group that sat down together didn’t exactly look like peers. We had anticipated working with a mixed sex group of people around our age. However, the people who had been drawn to the group were almost exclusively male and at least a decade older than all of the Wake Up volunteers.

One man found the silence so uncomfortable that he left the room and when we opened our eyes it was to several bemused faces and a lot of questions.

It was daunting to sit in front of people with so much life experience and try to explain our version of mindfulness without sounding sentimental or patronising. The initial plan had been to trust that the practices would speak for themselves and that we would only need to offer minimal explanation. However, in the first five minute sitting that plan seemed a little naïve. One man found the silence so uncomfortable that he left the room and when we opened our eyes it was to several bemused faces and a lot of questions. ‘What should I be doing when I’m meditating?’ ‘This mindfulness thing – can I buy it in a shop?’ ‘Why does my back hurt so much?’ and ‘Why would I want to do that again?!’. It wasn’t exactly the reception we had hoped for and we quickly realised that we would have to do more to make sense of the practices. We thought on our feet and replaced the next meditation with a relaxation exercise and the final sharing with a question and answer session and the practices must have hit their mark in the end because the evening ended with a spontaneous round of applause.

We made it our policy to share practices that we really loved and had been useful to us in our lives. This meant that the sessions were quite easy and stress free to plan and we could share them with authenticity.

Things flowed more easily after that first week but every session was a learning curve. The man who left the room in the first five minutes decided that meditation wasn’t for him and never came back and we had to accept that not all practices work for everyone all of the time. We made it our policy to share practices that we really loved and had been useful to us in our lives. This meant that the sessions were quite easy and stress free to plan and we could share them with authenticity. In the first few weeks we drew on memories of when we had first started meditating ourselves and offered practices such as mindfulness of breathing, of the body and of sounds to create an anchor which people could return to during more challenging practices. We offered homework at the end of every session and this brought us some lovely and funny insights into each other’s lives. One member told of trying to work out how to set the timer on his phone so that he could complete our ‘3 minute meditation challenge’ and being so baffled by the technology that his three minutes were up before he’d even had a chance to sit down. Other people talked about noticing becoming more aware of the kindness of strangers and sometimes the most simple feedback was the most gratifying; a gentle snore during relaxation and a big smile after mindful movement. As the sessions progressed we focused on mindful relationships with others and with ourselves.

By the last session it felt like a really safe and precious practice space that we were all sorry to say goodbye to.

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It was in sharing loving kindness practices that the differences between the Wake Up volunteers and the Positively UK participants started to drop away. One week we used a practice at both the Afternoon of Mindfulness and at Positively UK where we asked people to conjure up positive memories and to send out the feelings associated with those memories to themselves and to the whole world. The themes that came up were universal. The memories evoked were of the natural world and the innocence of childhood love and the feelings that went with them were universally ‘love’ ‘warmth’ ‘comfort’ ‘freedom’ ‘safety’. It was a lovely reminder that our basic human understanding of what it means to be happy cuts through all differences in background or life experience. The group remained small throughout the six weeks of our course but this allowed us to relax more and more in each other’s company. By the last session it felt like a really safe and precious practice space that we were all sorry to say goodbye to.  It felt as though the bubble of peace that is created each week at the Wake Up Afternoons of Mindfulness had floated off and found a new home with Positively UK and hopefully with more projects like this we can do the same in all sorts of other places.

 

ActionCommunityWake Up London

Wake Up t-shirt and hoodie fundraiser!

From 21st July 2014, you will be able to purchase a t-shirt and hoodie with the prints of Thich Nhat Hanh’s calligraphy for a limited time.

All of the profits from these sales will go towards supporting the mission of Wake Up in the UK: to help build an active grassroots community of young people practising mindfulness and contributing towards building a healthier and more compassionate society. With your funds, we can organize future mindfulness retreats, for example, and support local Wake Up communities.

You can have a look at the lovely t-shirts and hoodies on sale here: https://fabrily.com/stores/wakeupuk

As the campaign goes, sales of each item will only go ahead if it reaches its goal (ie 20 purchases) – if it doesn’t, then nothing happens and no-one is charged anything. If it is successful, then great! Production goes ahead, the customers’ cards gets charged and their items gets shipped within 10 days of the campaign finishing.

Delivery to the UK, throughout Europe, US, Canada and many countries across the world.

Please help to spread the word about this fundraiser! Join the Facebook event and invite your friends. Sharing is caring 🙂

 

 

VideoWake Up London

Sound bath on Summer Solstice, Green Park

This is a video of the sound bath at the end of the meditation flash mob we organized to celebrate Summer Solstice in Green Park on 21st June 2014. Around 100 to 150 people participated in the sitting meditation, which was followed by the group holding hands together, and then spiralling into the centre to do a sound bath (collective chanting of sounds, any sounds).

News & EventsPeace SitWake Up London

Meditation flash mob at Anxiety Arts Festival, Deptford Lounge

NOW Live Events are coming to Deptford Lounge, London launching their first community programme with a specially tailored programme for the local area as part of the London-wide ‘Anxiety Arts Festival’ over June 2014, curated by the Mental Health Foundation.

On offer will be NOW’s unique and playful approach to literature, performance, craft, poetry, visual arts, spoken word, music, mindfulness meditation, workshops for children and more. The programme includes Britain’s leading lifestyle philosopher Roman Krznaric,  Action for Happiness, mindfulness expert Tessa Watt and Craftivist Collective.

As part of their programme of events, Wake Up London have organized a meditation flash mob – see details below:

When: Saturday 28th June 12.30pm to 1.30pm

Where: Outside Deptford Lounge, 9 Giffin Street, London, SE8 4RJ

Nearest station: Deptford

Map: http://deptfordlounge.org.uk/#prettyPhoto[iframe]/1/

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1594447644114362

What:

Open to people of all backgrounds, cultures, faiths, ages and experience levels, this meditation flash mob is an invitation to stop what we are doing and enjoy simply being present in our body and mind, with those around us and in our environment. We come together to celebrate our very real capacity to generate peace, already, in the here and now. This is the peace we offer to our cities and to the world.

Sitting meditation is a way for us to return home and give full attention and care to ourselves. As we sit, we can begin by simply following our in-breath and out-breath. As we do this, we can notice with full attention what is within and around us. We let our minds become spacious and our heart soft and kind. When we sit down peacefully, breathing and smiling with awareness, we have sovereignty over ourselves. We can be with whatever is within us – pain, anger, irritation, joy, love or peace. We are with whatever is there without being carried away. We let it come, let it stay, then let it go.

Most of all, sitting is a chance for us to do nothing! We have nothing at all to do; just enjoy sitting and breathing in and out.

Sitting and breathing, we produce our true presence in the here and now and offer it to our community and to the world. This is the purpose of sitting: being here, fully alive and fully present.

Feel free to follow your own practice during this time. The sound of the bell at 12.30pm will start meditation and another sound at 1.30pm will end the meditation.

Please feel free to bring something comfortable to sit on and a waterproof mat (in case of rain).

Email enquiries to: info@wakeuplondon.org

Read more about the Now Live events at Anxiety Arts Festival: http://www.nowfestival.org/deptford-lounge-2014/

News & EventsPeace SitWake Up London

Meditation flash mob this Sunday

SUNDAY 11TH MAY // 5.30PM – LONDON

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Join us in meditation that will be synchronized with a meditation flash mob taking place with Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh in Barcelona on Sunday 11th May at 5.30pm GMT. Also joined by groups in Toyko and California.

From 5.30pm we will sit for 30 minutes in front of Marble Arch monument, which is directly across from Marble Arch Tube Station (Central Line).

See Picture: http://bit.ly/pP9htr
See Map: http://tiny.cc/lhzpm

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Sitting meditation is a way for us to return home and give full attention and care to ourselves. As we sit, we can begin by simply following our in-breath and out-breath. As we do this, we can notice with full attention what is within and around us. We let our minds become spacious and our heart soft and kind. When we sit down peacefully, breathing and smiling with awareness, we have sovereignty over ourselves. We can be with whatever is within us – pain, anger, irritation, joy, love or peace. We are with whatever is there without being carried away. We let it come, let it stay, then let it go.

Most of all, sitting is a chance for you to do nothing! You have nothing at all to do; just enjoy sitting and breathing in and out.

Sitting and breathing, we produce our true presence in the here and now and offer it to our community and to the world. This is the purpose of sitting: being here, fully alive and fully present. Feel free to follow your own practice during this time.

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Please feel free to bring something comfortable to sit on and a waterproof mat (in case of rain).

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This is an event open to everyone, all ages, from every path, experienced or not. Let us come together as one community.

“If you are a Buddhist, please come. If you are a Christian please come. If you are Jewish, Muslim, or belong to or identify with any other religions, creed or peace organization, please come. If you are white, brown, black, yellow, red or any other colour, please come.

We shall learn together that wrong perceptions of self and others are at the foundation of separation, fear, hate, and violence; and that togetherness and collaboration is possible.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

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Event in Barcelona with Thich Nhat Hanh: https://www.facebook.com/events/554327711347593/

Meditation flash mob in Barcelona

CommunityNews & EventsWake Up London

Upcoming Wake Up in Motion! events

We have some wonderful monthly events exploring movement arts and well-being over the next 3 months.

An evening of movement and stillness
Wednesday 2nd April, 8pm to 9.30pm

We will use gentle yoga-based movements to explore how an awareness of the body, the spine and the breath can feed into the stillness of our sitting practice. We will also use some simple therapeutic touch to see how we can support each other in finding ease and lightness in the body. This will be followed by a deep relaxation and we will finish with a short seated meditation and some time to share our experiences.

All activities will be accessible for everyone, even if you have health challenges or have never tried yoga before. The challenge for this evening is not how physically flexible you are but how fully you can inhabit the body!

Please wear comfortable clothing that you can move in. You may also want to bring some socks and something to cover up with so that you can stay warm during the relaxation. Bring your own yoga mat if you wish to or there will be some available to borrow.

Wake Up in Rhythm
Wednesday 7th May 2014, 8pm to 9.30pm

From the heart, to the beat, to the movement of your feet!
Touching the stillness and silence of our bodies,
we can hear the soft thunder of our own heartbeat.

Starting with sitting, standing and walking, we will start to feel how it is to move in rhythm. Starting from our own inner drum, we will listen and engage with both our ears and our bodies to rhythm, exploring whether the barrier we create between what is and isn’t music is more permeable than we may think…

Arrive from 7.40pm to start at 8pm.

Restorative heart-opening yoga session
Wednesday 4th June 2014, 8pm to 9.30pm


During this Wake Up in Motion evening, we will practise a gentle restorative session in the IYENGAR yoga tradition.
IYENGAR is known for its attention to alignment and the use of props. One of the benefits of using props is to allow opening in parts of the body where it would otherwise be difficult. One such area is the thoracic spine. Using props, such as cushions, we will practise gentle resting poses allowing the back ribs to spread, the thoracic spine to be supported and the chest to open. The yoga class will consist of sitting, chanting OM (optional), a series of supine (reclined) poses, forward bends, and relaxation. This yoga class is suitable for all levels, beginners welcome. Facilitated by Jo, a certified IYENGAR yoga teacher and has many years experience teaching.
Please wear comfortable clothes to move in. Avoid eating a large meal close to arriving. A light meal or snack at least one hour before class is advisable. Please arrive from 7.40pm onwards in time to settle in (and, if you would like, enjoy a cup of tea) before an 8pm start. The evening runs until 9.30pm.

All these events are held in our usual venue and open to all those who have attended a Wake Up London afternoon of mindfulness. See you there!

Heart of London SanghaNews & EventsWake Up London

Evenings of mindfulness on Thursdays in April

From 10th April 2014, Wake Up London and Heart of London sanghas will now be co-hosting evenings of mindfulness on Thursdays for all ages at our regular venue, Westminster Quaker Meeting House (see directions).

These evenings are suitable for all those who have attended a morning of mindfulness or afternoon of mindfulness. There will be minimal guidance.

The evening schedule will be based on the Saturday sessions of mindfulness and may include other practices and teachings in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. It will be an opportunity to explore and go deeper into the practice.

Please feel free to arrive from 6pm and enjoy a cup of tea.

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AudioDharma TalkPlum VillageWake Up London

Sister Jewel’s talk on nourishing and healing ourselves and the world

On Saturday 15th March at our weekly afternoon of mindfulness, we were delighted to have Sister Jewel, a monastic student of Thich Nhat Hanh and teacher, practice with us and offer a fun session of Interplay and a talk.

In this talk, Sister Jewel shares about the ecological crisis of our world – climate change through the perspective of the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Nutriments. One kind of nutriment is volition – what is it that is deeply motivating us in our lives? It is so important to investigate this, because if we don’t have a clear sense of where we are going, our volition can get easily hijacked by our society, a consumer driven society that sees humans as consumers. Consuming keeps our economic system functioning. We are being told that’s where our happiness is.

Sr. Jewel also mentions that she is working on setting up a global council of elders to address the issues facing our planet. If you are interested in supporting this idea, please get in touch and we will pass on your email address to Sr. Jewel.

You can listen or download the talk here.

ActionCommunityVideoWake Up London

Positive messages flash mob for Intl’ Day of Happiness

Spread happiness

What are you doing to celebrate the 2nd year of the United Nations International Day of Happiness on 20th March?

Wake Up London will be spreading some positivity in the morning during rush hour on Hungerford Bridge, by Southbank with inspiring messages.

Please join us for breakfast at 7.50am at EAT at The Southbank Centre and then we will start the flash mob at 8.15am until 9am.

Bring a sign with a simple, inspiring, uplifting message.

Watch this video to give you an example what happens:

For more details – see the Facebook event.

Supporting the campaign by Action for Happiness.

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Mindful content from our community

Wake Up London is a community of individuals practicing together to promote peace and reconciliation within ourselves and for our planet. We’d love to highlight what’s happening within our community, and how the practice is positively impacting our society.