What equipment do you need for mindfulness? Below is a transcript of the conversation presented by Brighton Mindfulness Centre, where Jon Wilde is interviewed by Gerard Evans and discuss the question “What equipment do you need for mindfulness?”. The full one hour video can be accessed by clicking here for our main Mindfulness FAQ page. Other Mindfulness questions are answered in this and other videos on this site.
Gerard: We’ve got a few questions from people mainly kind of based around people who are wondering about mindfulness but don’t really know whether to get into it or not and whether it’s for them. So I suppose a good place to start would be Jane down the road in Hastings who’s saying; I’m thinking about getting into mindfulness. What do I need? Which I would take to mean, what kind of equipment perhaps what time. If we could go to a general thing about what someone might need to have in order to get to that.
Jon: Is a good question. One I get asked quite a lot and the simple answer is not very much. You don’t need very much. If we’re talking about equipment, possibly nothing at all. There’s no special gear to buy with mindfulness in terms of I know if you go to yoga there’s all kinds of yoga pants and yoga tops you can buy. With mindfulness sort of comfortable loose clothing pretty much covers it.
In terms of equipment there are various things you can meditate on. You can meditate on a special meditation bench/stool easily available online. They come often with comfortable cushions just to add that extra little bit of comfort but they’re not essential. You don’t need to meditate on a bench. Some people are more comfortable meditating on a bench. A chair is basically what you need. Most homes have them. Most meditation centers you go to will have a chair on which to meditate. Some people are more physically flexible than others so you can meditate on the floor supported by various cushions. That’s certainly something to look into.
But if your concern is I’ve signed up to an 8 week course and I’m wondering what I need to bring the simple answer to that is probably nothing. Everything should be supplied unless you are told in advance to bring anything special. It’s kind of unlikely.
Gerard: Certainly anybody who signs up for our courses just bring yourself.
Jon: Just bring yourself. And it really is that simple. I’m just trying to think if I have missed anything out there. I think you can meditate on a stool, a bench, people meditate on cushions. As part of the eight week course in fact quite a major element of the eight week course is the body scan meditation which is done on the floor. And again most meditation centers ours included would very comfortable mats to lie on. So you’re not just lying on the floor collecting dust. You got something that sort of supports you gives you that added bit of comfort and support. So it’s very very simple. It’s one of those things basically if you’ve got a chair to sit on you are up on and away that’s really it. Nothing more complicated than that.
Gerard: Something that various people have asked me given that we offer courses via Skype for people who are not local. Is how does that work? So I presume in terms of what people need for courses, you would need Skype for a Skype course.
Gerard: But how would that work apart from that? If you are talking to someone on the phone would there be any differences do you think?
Jon: No, Skype courses work pretty much the same I’d work on the one to one basis in person face to face. In a pretty much identical way that I work with somebody on Skype and a one to one fashion there will be ample room for them to ask me questions. The one to one courses are rather more bespoke by their very nature. They tend to adapt themselves to the current moment by moment needs of the person who I’m teaching and what I mean by that is there’s more room on a one to one course for people to bring up perhaps what’s an issue for them at the moment which we can bring mindfulness to. So they are a lot more specific in that sense. A lot more personalized and they’d work pretty much the same way on Skype as they would in person.
Similarly you know if you come to me for a one to one course there will be time during the allotted time where you’re invited to meditate whether that’s a sitting meditation or body scan which will entail lying down. So you’d be invited in the same way if we were talking via Skype that you’d be told for the next fifteen minutes and you’d be invited to make yourself comfortable. So pretty much the same thing. It’s very few differences.
Gerard: Possibly worth pointing out that when we talk about doing these meditations during the eight week course they are guided meditations. It’s not just sitting there in silence.
Jon: Absolutely yeah.
Gerard: Something else that occurred to me while you were saying about doing a body scan. Is that people might not understand what a body scan is. So would it be possible to take us through that part?
Jon: Yeah. The body scan which is something that on my courses I introduce in the first week, they are conducted lying down normally although is possible to do sitting up and certainly if somebody is uncomfortable lying down then we will look into alternatives and normally sitting up would be option there. They can either be done standing up but the normal thing is you lay down and basically I as a teacher will direct your attention to your body area by area by area.
And so what would normally happen is that after settling you in and making sure you are comfortable in your posture, you would be invited to bring your attention first of all to the left foot and the big toe on the left foot for example. So you’d be simply invited to bring your attention to that area and simply to notice any sensations that are felt in that area. That might be a sort of warm or coolness or dryness, moistness, itchiness. What we do is I’d normally start with the big toe the left foot and then gradually work my way up the body. So we go from the left foot up the lower left leg to the knee the far end and so on and so forth. So we kind of cover the whole body right up to the head. And the idea is that we are simply inviting your attention to be directed towards that part of the body that is currently under the microscope as it were at that particular point in the meditation.
Gerard: And what’s the aim of this?
Jon: Well the aim I think it’s fair to say like every other part of the course is to bring awareness. Is to bring awareness in the present moment experience to whatever the meditation is. So when we are asking somebody to bring the attention to the big toe of the left foot, quite often people react with; why would I want to do that? What’s interesting about the big toe of the left foot? It’s simply about awareness. It’s building up a sense of body awareness. Because mindfulness let’s not forget is as much about the body as a whole as it is about the mind. One of the common conceptions that mindfulness is about thoughts. It’s all about stopping thoughts. That’s one preconception that’s simply not true. Mindfulness isn’t about stopping anything in that sense.
So the body scan is almost a kind of a forensic sort of meditation on the entire body. Bringing your attention to the parts of the body that perhaps most of us hardly ever think about. We hardly ever bring our attention or our awareness to let’s say the back of the knee or the sides of the knee or the elbows. We tend to take these body parts for granted. And so the body scan is really devised to very simply bring our attention right there right into the heart of it and very simply to notice what’s going on there in that part of the body.
Gerard: How does that benefit people in the long term or even over the course of the course? So to speak.
Jon: It benefits people in the same way or very similar way to the sitting meditation where perhaps they’re asked to bring their attention to their breathing. This is all about if you like sharpening awareness and developing the muscle of attention so that we become and to be present. If you say to me; what is mindfulness? The line I normally trot out is that mindfulness is about being more present in our own lives. And to be present in our lives we simply have to notice. We have to simply notice what’s going on for us right now in this moment.
And so while that applies to thoughts to I think of us going on in the sense of I’m walking down the street. It’s a beautiful day the sun is shining. There’s people on the beach but I’m not seeing any of this because my mind is completely immersed in whatever Joe said to me at the party last night or the confrontation that I’m expected to have with my boss the following morning over that missing petty cash from the register or any number of things. So just as mindfulness is about noticing what’s going on in our minds it’s equally about noticing what’s going on in our bodies. In fact what we learn in mindfulness is that the two a pretty much inseparable. And they’re part of a kind of closed circle if you like. The body is constantly informing the mind; the mind is constantly informing and affecting the body. So by bringing in our attention by shining a light if you like on those areas of the body we simply bring our awareness to those parts of the body.