Day 11: Mindfulness Recap

Over the last few days you have made quite a few activities related to mindfulness. Well done! The last days were a really quick overview over some mindfulness principles, and a first attempt at training the mind to be present, which is often easier said then done! Maybe some of the activities seemed a bit unclear when you first tried them out. Maybe with hindsight, some of the activities seem more clearer now. Or maybe some will become clearer and easier. Remember, mindfulness is a skill that develops over time: there is no right and wrong here, however, in order to develop the skill you have to keep doing it. Even in small doses every day.

The key point from the last days is that the human mind is, unfortunately, quite happy to literally “run away”, especially when it isn’t required to be fully attentive to the here and now. It loves to wander off thinking about the past, think way ahead into the future, or think about what should be – rather than look at what is. The problem with this is that, with the mind not present, we often run the danger of simply going through life: not paying attention to what is happening right now. Thus, life can pass us by, and while the mind is busy with worrying, comparing, remembering or making plans, we easily miss the moment we are in now.

What can we do about it? Well, the solution appears to be simple (but I’m sure you’ll agree is much less easy to actually put into practice!): train the mind to be there with us in the moment- or be mindful. Science tells us about the many magical results simply being mindful can achieve: it relieves stress, depression, high blood pressure, reduces chronic pain… it even makes your sex more fun (although this hasn’t been scientifically studied yet,… but we will see how in the later parts of the bootcamp!). So, in fact, it almost appears there is not much it can’t do.

An easy and convenient way to be mindful is to focus the mind for a few minutes onto the breath. We can do that anywhere, the ultimate mobile device! Focusing on the breath, with a bit of practice, trains the mind to come back to the here and now. You can then observe everything else that is going on: this could be your emotions, your thoughts or sensations of the body. Incorporating these small breaks of simply stopping what you are doing, breathing for a bit and observing yourself before returning to everything else can be remarkably effective and a secret weapon. Being mindful makes unpleasant moments and experiences less annoying and helps to get more joy while you are having fun.

The key elements to take away and use this “secret weapon” are:

1. Be fully present in the moment. Even if your mind wanders off, bring it gently back to the here and now.

2. During mindfulness practice be open to what you experience. Thoughts. Feelings. Everything that comes up. Examine them kindly.

3. Accept things as they are. Don’t try and judge what is surround you, or even your feelings or emotions.

4. Remind yourself that all things are temporary: pleasant things will pass. Unpleasant feelings will pass.

5. Always be compassionate with yourself – and others. Try your best. If you don’t succeed don’t regard it as a failure or judge yourself. Just learn from the experience. And apply the same principle to others.

To build onto what you have learned, keep doing a few mindful moments every day. Try to experiment how it feels bringing your mind to the current moment in different situations: How does it feel to be mindful while having a break? While doing something? While someone is touching you?
You can also start to incorporate willing mindfulness stops into your day: When you feel you lack motivation to tackle a task. Try a quick body scan during the day. Or maybe at night. Just try and incorporate a few mindful moments here and there.

Tomorrow we move on and see how we can direct our mind more purposefully. But before this, why not share your experiences. Use the twitter #ug30bc or the comments function below! See you tomorrow!

Day 10: Letting go

We have now reached the last day of the mindfulness introduction. Today’s topic and the related exercise relate to the mindfulness practice of observing thoughts and emotions – and letting go of them. This is a fundamental idea in mindfulness, and something that the previous exercises touched upon. But because it is so fundamental, it is worth looking at it in a bit more detail.

There are many different interpretations of the “letting go” principle in mindfulness practice. I’ll try and share a few of the most important ones here. All of them share the basic premise of “letting go” is acknowledging that, ultimately, one has little control over many things: from the weather to behaviour of others, from our own emotions to our death, ultimately we have little control over them. We can observe many of these, as we have done during the last few days, but often we can’t change them.

At first this may sound like quite a passive and indeed negative statement to make. When I first heard it, I remember thinking that the ultimate conclusion is then, surely, to simply give up and stay in bed. Hardly a very encouraging thought! However, when you think about this a bit more, you’ll see how liberating the acceptance of certain inevitabilities is. In fact, it can help to reshape your thinking from one of constantly fearing loss – to thinking that embraces options and possibilities. The exact opposite outcome of what I originally thought!

So how can the acceptance of this be ultimately liberating? Let’s look at an example: Think about growing older. This is a fact of life you can’t change, no matter how hard you try. Much of the society (and some parts of the gay scene in particular) preach the idea that somehow miraculously you can delay or even avoid growing old: go to the gym, use cosmetics, wear clothes that make you look young. You name it, there are many, many products and ways out there that promise you directly or indirectly to delay growing old. Some may indeed be beneficial, others will have little or no effect. But the promise of keeping you young still managed to generally sell those products very well.

This is, of course, all very well. But what does this create in the individual: a lingering assumption that s/he need to do something to avoid or delay this big problem. It may not be always on your mind, but, somewhere deep down inside, as long as one doesn’t accept that it will come no matter what you do, the thought is festering away.

Even worse, not accepting the inevitability of growing old (and many other inevitabilities), can actually distract your mind from experiencing the moment – and shape the way you approach things. For example, do you do exercise because how it feels? Or because it helps you stay younger? Or maybe even because it will make you more attractive to someone (over whom and over whose reaction you do, of course, ultimately again have no control)? Are you trying to obtain a certain physique because you believe that this is what is “expected”? In fact, does your feeling good depend on how much someone admires you and your body when you meet?

Of course, this example is maybe a little obvious and excessive: few people would do exercise purely because of those reasons. However, dig a bit deeper, and those reasons are likely to be around somewhere… a great motivator maybe, but also festering around somewhere in the mind (while handing over control over one’s happiness to something unchangeable and other people whose reactions we can’t control). In short: these thoughts keep you from enjoying the feeling of doing what you are doing (being mindful!) and keep focusing the mind on something else: a reward at the other end of … well, wherever it may be.

If on the other hand, you accept the thought of the inevitability of growing older (and also the inevitability of rejection), then you leave your mind free for actually experiencing what you are doing – and shaping things the way you want them to be. In other words, you create mental capacity to empower yourself to do better for yourself, enjoy what you are doing – and care less about the inevitable.

Of course, it doesn’t mean becoming emotionless: the opposite is true. Through the mindful practice of observing the emotion (an other inevitability!) you can actually start to take ownership of the issue and resolve it. Think back to the unpleasant moment awareness here. By simply looking at your emotions or thoughts and observing them, they tend to loose the fear factor. This can become quite healing, even fun if if you practice doing it for a while. With a bit of practice, you can become skilled in “zooming out” into mindfulness mode, observe something that is keeping you from moving on, compassionately acknowledging it – and then letting go of it, to focus back on the actual moment. Just think how many things are actually often less bad when they are actually done – and you can get a feeling of what this is in practice.

To try this out, for today, identify a situation where at present you have little or no control over the outcome. Sit back for a few moments, relax, bring your attention to your breath and become mindful.
Now bring up the situation or emotion that you have identified. Imagine it coming in a box. Open the box, to bring out the emotion or situation. Now observe it carefully: Why is it there? What is it telling you? What is it doing to you? Does it stop you from doing things? Does it make you do things you don’t enjoy? Just observe it from different angles.
Once you are done, imagine how you are putting it back into the box. And put the box away. Refocus on your breath for a few minutes … and then return to the space and the here and now.

After completing the exercise, many people report how this was empowering. I hope you felt the same way. Why not share your thoughts below using the comment form?

Tomorrow, we will recap the main points of mindfulness – and then move on to bringing our mind not just to the present, but also to meditate and control our mind a little more.

Day 9: Body Scan – the quick way to check in with yourself

Time now for a little longer and more focused activity than we had so far. The “body scan” meditation is one of the most common meditation practices for mindfulness practitioners. In fact, I have seen some mindfulness courses designed almost exclusively on variations of this meditation (which may also explain why often mindfulness is sometimes confused with and used as a a different name for meditation).

A good thing about the activity is that you can do it as long or as short as you want, at least if you are doing it yourself. It can last from just a few minutes to 45 minutes or longer. I’ll first describe you the activity and tell you how to do it yourself – and then I’ll include a suggestion in case you want to have a guided form of body scan.

1. Begin by sitting upright. Close your eyes if that feels comfortable and helps you to focus. Try to feel the weight of your body, focus on the sensations you feel where your body is touching the chair or floor.

2. Take a few deep breath and feel the flow of air into your body. Every time you exhale, feel how you are becoming more and more relaxed.

3. Starting from your feet, feel any sensations you feel in them. Are they touching the chair? Feel the sensation and observe it before moving on.

4. Move up from focusing on your feet, and shift your focus slowly to your back. Do you feel it touching the chair? Focus on the sensations in all the muscles in your back, relax with every breath you exhale, before moving on.

5. Focus on your stomach area. Do you feel your stomach expanding when you inhale? Relax it a little. Focus on the sensation of your stomach. Exhale.

6. Move your attention sideways to your arms. Are they resting comfortably? Feel how the sensations in them.

7. With your body now relaxed, observe the sensations in your neck. How does it feel? Feel your jaw, all your face muscles without moving them, before moving on.

8. Feel all of your body. Feel the whole body and any sensations in it, how energy is flowing through your body. Look at your whole body in wholeness – and feel what an amazing work of art it is.

9. Take a few more deep breath before slowly returning to the space surrounding you and opening your eyes.

You can vary this basic technique infinitely by including more details in the body scan (for example, start by focusing on your toes, sole, midfeet, heel, ankle, calf, chin etc). You can also do the scan from the crown of your head down to your feet if this feels better to you. An other alternative is to remain longer in step 8 above, where you can slowly expand your awareness sense by sense.

Note: the difference between a mindfulness and a relaxation meditation is that during a mindfulness activity you don’t necessarily focus on relaxing your body or calming your mind. Rather, you focus on observing the different sensations in your body at this present time.

If you feel your mind wandering off, or thoughts appearing, that is perfectly fine. Acknowledge them kindly, before bringing your attention gently back to the mindfulness activity.

Depending on how confident you feel with doing this exercise on your own, an alternative is to listen to a guided body scan. There are plenty of those available for example on YouTube, ranging from 5 minutes to very long sessions. For example, this short, 5 minute version.

Day 8: Awareness (2)

How can mindfulness help you when you are facing a negative situation? After yesterday’s activity, the task today is to use mindfulness in a situation that you feel is, or could be, unpleasant.

In an unpleasant situation today, remember to switch from mindlessness to mindfulness: ideally this could be an ad hoc situation, for example, when someone is annoying you. When you feel that you are getting annoyed, rather than to act impulsively, try and observe yourself and the situation attentively. Like yesterday, try to describe to yourself the feelings you have, maybe any physical symptoms like feeling your blood getting into your head, a desire to really come back with a nasty remark, to run away, … whatever you feel, try and observe it as if you were a bystander observing the scene from a distance. As an observer, consider carefully how the person you are looking at should act now.

When the situation has passed, ask yourself: what effect does looking at your thoughts and feelings have. How do you feel about the outcome? How do you feel after the situation about yourself?

Also, don’t forget to share how you felt and how the activity was for you… you can use the comment function below. Or alternatively, use the hashtag #ug30bc on Twitter. See you again tomorrow!

Day 7: Awareness

One of the basics of mindfulness is to be present in the moment without judging the moment. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the moment, in fact, quite the opposite: by being present in the moment, you can appreciate the full scale of the positive emotions and feelings of a positive experience much more. This is because by not judging and actively comparing a positive experience, the moment becomes more positive: you are really present in the moment without the mind wandering off or comparing expectation and reality. This may seem a little bit strange at first, however, I’m sure you’ll see how this works after today’s exercise.

For today’s exercise, plan something you anticipate to be enjoyable. This can be something short, or long: Invite a friend for dinner, go for a stroll in the park, give a massage to your partner… choose any activity you are likely to enjoy. Please, don’t approach what you are doing with expectations though, as these are future directed and often disappoint: Try and approach your planned activity without loading it up with expectations of how you are going to feel or what is going to happen. Aim to look at the planned activity from a disinterested third party perspective.

When the time has come, perform the activity. Pay careful attention to each little aspect of the activity: try to observe every detail, as if you wanted to write about it and describe every sensation you are having. Depending on which activity you have chosen, observe every aspect of it. How is the texture of the food? The smell of it? Can you hear the waves from the river? Do you see the light reflecting on the surface? How does it feel to touch the skin of your partner? Can you hear changes in his breath? Remember to focus on every sensation, every detail and observe it attentively, but without judging or trying to think about how it could be different.

Once you have completed the activity, think about how you experienced the activity: did it change from how you would normally feel about it? Many people notice that because they paid active attention to each aspect of the activity, they enjoyed the moment much more than if they kept their mind busy, for example by thinking about what they would do next or comparing reality with expectation. Was this the same for you? Why don’t you share how you felt and how the activity was for you… you can use the comment function below. Or alternatively, use the hashtag #ug30bc on Twitter. See you again tomorrow!

Day 6: Daily life as mindfulness practice

Yesterday you started to focus your mind by using your breath as a way to stop the mind from wandering. You can repeat the exercise every day, especially when you have a quiet space and are able to come inside you. Today, however, we add a little extra to the same exercise, by integrating additional, easy mindfulness training into every day life.

Think about how much time you spend during the day just being idle: waiting for a train for example. Waiting for your coffee. Waiting at the supermarket check-out. There are many times in a day you are likely to have a few second or even some minutes just by yourself.
Often these minutes just pass us by, maybe you think about something you need to do. Maybe you get annoyed at the time it takes to serve you your drink. Or the delay of the train, which should have been here five minutes ago.

Of course, those little fragments of time can be a source of big frustration: few things seems to get people as angry as waiting. Just think how many people make angry comments on social media when they are waiting.

But at least for today, and maybe even from now on, I invite you to see those little fragments of time as an opportunity to “check in with yourself”. Therefore, the exercise for today is simple:

In one or two situations where you are waiting (and where it is safe to do so), practice mindfulness for a moment or two. To do this, focus on your breath and your current position while standing or sitting. Attempt to focus solely on how you feel, on your breathing, on the way your body is positioned. Focus on the little details of the here and now: smells you can detect, maybe faint noises you would not normally pay attention to. The wind or the feeling of movement. Essentially be present in the current moment, avoid judging the moment (e.g. don’t attempt to classify the waiting as bad or good). Focus on your experience of the moment and try to observe yourself and the moment you are living without judgement, as if you were an outsider with no emotional connection to you.
If you can, try to do this a few times today wherever the opportunity allows.

I hope you enjoy the checking in with yourself today, and maybe you consider incorporating this small exercise into your daily life from now on. Just imagine how many fewer negative thoughts about the train company, the slow cashier or the person serving drinks you might have if you use these small tokens of timeto visit the most important person in the world: you.

If you find this exercise works for your, then why don’t you share it with your friends? To share it, click here – and also let me know how yo are feeling. Don’t forget to include #ug30bc when you tweet, or use the comment function below.

Day 5: Breathing

After completing the two mindfulness exercises yesterday, you may have noticed how difficult it is to keep the mind focused and switch from mindless to mindful activity – especially when the activity is relatively quiet. Luckily though, there is an activity we perform all the time, which we can use to focus the mind: breathing.

Normally breathing is, of course, very much an autopilot exercise: we hardly ever think about taking a breath, unless the situation is very particularly: a stressful situation for example. However, breathing is as close at you can get to perfect for focusing a wandering mind: it is rhythmical, easily observed – and we can even focus on it anywhere we want. Not surprising therefore, breathing focused exercises have become quite something of a “staple exercise” for many mindfulness practitioners and trainers (with “body scanning” a close second, but we will get to that later).

For the time being let’s try a simple and relatively short breathing focused exercise. If you don’t need to time the exercise, I’d encourage you not to. But otherwise, use your timer from yesterday again. The total exercise should take about 7-8 minutes.

1) To start sit down comfortably in a quiet space. This exercise is best done upright at first as it allows you to focus on different body parts. Later on you can vary the position. A cushion is ideal to sit on, but a sofa or chair will do, too. Just make sure you are comfortable.

2) Now focus on your body, and how it feels to sit down. If you feel any tension or discomfort, maybe change the position a little to make it comfortable. Focus on how your body feels: the weight, the way you are sitting, all the little details you can feel.

3) Once you are comfortable start focusing on your breath. Feel your nostrils or your mouth. Can you feel the air entering your body?  The way your nostrils move when you inhale? Or your mouth? How deep are you breathing? Is your breath reaching your shoulder? Your chest? Your abdomen? Sit and observe the way you breathe. Don’t alternate or change the way or speed you are breathing. Just observe it.

4) After a few minutes, to end the exercise, focus away from the breath and back to your body. How do you feel? More relaxed? Have your feelings changed?

Often, people struggle with things “popping up” in their mind when they do this exercise. Even after a lot of practice it is not unusual for this to happen. Don’t worry about it at all, it is perfectly fine. The best way to deal with any such thoughts is to kindly acknowledge their presence, but then let them go. In other words, “speak” to the thought directly by telling the thought “thank you for coming here. I’m busy at this moment. Please come back later when I can give you my full attention”, then focus your thought back to the breathing.

Note that the exercise can be very hard to complete if you haven’t done meditation or mindfulness training before. Don’t let that discourage you. If you feel it was difficult, why not try it again tomorrow? Or, for that matter, if you liked it, you can try to repeat it again tomorrow.

Hopefully, with some practice, you will start to enjoy the feeling of focusing on something as simple and universal as your breath. Later on we will see that the ability to focus on breath can be very useful – as you can use this to bring back your mind to the present in many situations.

However, for today, this is all. Please share how you are getting on with the exercise. How do you feel? You can do so by using the comment function below – or use #ug30bc to share your thoughts on Twitter. Thank you for being part of the journey!

Day 4: Mindfulness

After all the preparatory things we are now starting in earnest the bootcamp… with a day dedicated to discovering mindfulness, why it is useful – and what is the difference between the “normal” state of mind, where we are not mindful, and a mindful moment.

To try the difference between a mindful and “normal moment” out, just try this simple exercise:
Set a timer for three minutes. Now sit down for these three minutes in a quiet room. Just sit quietly. Don’t talk. Keep your eyes open or closed, whatever you feel comfortable with. Simply stop reading now – and try it before continuing.

Well done on completing your first activity! How was it? What happened to your mind while you were sitting there?
Now if you are like the majority of people, you will have noticed that your mind wandered. You may have asked yourself what is the point of this. Maybe you thought of something nice that happened yesterday. Or on what you will do tonight.
No matter where your mind wandered off to, your mind probably was somewhere else then with you, where you were sitting. One could say, you were sitting there, while your mind was some place else.

This is, of course, often what happens in everyday life: we do things, but our mind is somewhere else. In fact, most people’s mind is very well trained in “wandering off”, that often we perform many things without “being there”: think about how you brushed your teeth the last time. What did you feel? You were probably on “auto pilot”, thinking of the day ahead, the night ahead or the bathroom wall that needs fixing…

Naturally this isn’t always a bad thing. After all, many things that we do are best done on auto pilot… they are not really interesting. But there is a problem with this: the problem is that the mind learns, constantly, to escape the present moment. Unfortunately, the mind is so good at doing that, that it starts to escape also when we are living through a moment that really would be much better if we would focus on it. But with an untrained mind, there is a big danger that your mind simply wanders off. Similarly, there are many moments where it seems perfectly fine to have the mind wander off. Maybe focus on the result we are hoping to achieve, rather than on what we are currently doing. Sometimes though, when we receive the result, we realise that we missed out on savouring the way we got there, and that actually the way was the good thing – and the result appears to be an anti-climax. Think of running for a long time: often the advice is to focus on the finishing line. How you will feel when you have completed the run. And that is good advise. It works for many people. However, while imagining the finishing line, you are running the danger of not noticing the small things around you, the feeling of your feet, the wind, the sights, sounds and smell of your run. That is to say: if you focus on the finish line, you imagine how you reach there, you are taking your mind away from the current experience – and you are in danger of only remembering “the big things” that drew your attention during the run.

During an endurance race, that can, of course be good advice. But what about going through life on that advice? It means you are at least in danger of missing out a lot of the moments of life: the sun on your skin, the smell of fresh coffee, feeling of waking up next to someone you love… many small details, that will be hard to “recall” – because they just happen so often, that unless prompted we often fail to even realise them.

I hope this makes the idea of mindfulness a bit clearer: basically, the idea of mindfulness is to bring your mind back to the present. To be aware what is happening right now, look at it without judging, just focusing on what you are feeling. To come back to the first exercise, if you performed the exercise with perfect mindfulness, you may have realised the feeling of the place you are sitting on. The feeling in your feet, the stretch in your back. Maybe you would have observed a faint noise in the background. The smell of the flowers next to you. In other words, in a mindful state, your mind would savoured every small detail of what was happening.

Now that we have worked out the difference between a mindful moment – and a “doing” state where we are doing something without paying full attention (which we could really call simply mindless, as the mind is not in the moment) I hope you are ready for your second exercise of the day. Don’t worry… it won’t take much time:

As a second exercise, pick something you do on “auto-pilot”: brushing your teeth, making coffee, whatever… any activity you normally do without much attention. But today, try to pay attention to what you are doing. Observe each feeling, emotion, smell, sound – all that is happening. Don’t worry if your mind wanders off a bit, but do try to bring it back when you realise it is going somewhere else.

Once you have completed the exercise, why not share how it felt. How did it feel different from “just” doing the coffee, brushing the teeth etc? It would be great to hear from you! Why not leave a comment below, or use the #ug30bc if you use Twitter. See you tomorrow!

Day 3: The Urbangay Manifesto

As said yesterday… today we will talk about some basic rules to make the bootcamp work – and some more overarching principles for the urbangay lifestyle.

To start off, here are the three simple rules for the next few days. The rules are not there to make things complicated – and I don’t think they are overly complicated. Instead, they are designed to be easy, simple and to help you get the most out of the bootcamp experience, for you and for everyone else who is ‘bootcamping’.

1) You can only fail if you give up.
This is hopefully pretty straight forward: there is no way to fail the bootcamp. At least not if you give it a try. The bootcamp is structured in days, but don’t let that stop you from going back or staying with one activity for a few days. The bootcamp is all about you. You decide. This also means that:

2) There is no right or wrong way.
Because we are all different, we like different things, and dislike different things. What makes it interesting is that we have different perspectives. Respecting different views is important during the bootcamp and in the urbangay community. Because of this…

3) Your opinion is valued, please share it
Share what you think. We are all in the bootcamp together. If you like something, why not comment on it? If you improved an exercise, please share it with the others. I love to hear your feedback, and I’m sure everyone else will appreciate to see how different participants feel. So… let’s share, be social and learn from each other.

Secondly, I invite you to think beyond the bootcamp. I’m “borrowing” these five principles from the general Buddhist ethics (I’m sure you will agree they are quite similar to other ethics). As promised, you don’t have to subscribe to this perspective, they are not part of the programme. But I invite you to reflect on them – and adapt them according to what you feel comfortable with. They are, after all, guides that make life easier and more enjoyable. Importantly, these are not rules or tick boxes. They are, in the Buddhist tradition, simply aims to live by. There is no shaming or blame involved if you feel you have failed. People have flaws. The Buddhist tradition simply asks you to acknowledge that you have failed and try to do it better next time.

1. Don’t kill – or cause harm.

2. Don’t steal.

3. Avoid false speak.

4. Avoid intoxication.

5. Don’t misuse sexuality.

1 to 3 should be pretty straight forward (I acknowledge, you can have a long discussion about them, but let us just accept them for the time being as given and the way you interpret them). 4 and 5 are more open to interpretation, particularly in terms of the bootcamp. As with 1-3, I invite you to use your own judgement when interpreting these for you. For example, traditionally, avoiding intoxication is interpreted often rigidly in terms of drinking or drugs. For me personally, I interpret this as not just referring to substances – but also to other forms of intoxication: for example, (mis-)information and other things that “numb” the mind. On the other hand, I don’t interpret this for me as something that prohibits alcohol, but rather that cautions not to over do it (and I’m sure you’ll agree… , trying to be mindful, do exercise or just about anything with a massive hang over is not going to work.). Similarly, I would interpret ‘misuse sexuality’ as meaning using sexuality to deceive or manipulate, including, of course, making sure sexuality is practiced only with consent.

I hope these three rules for the bootcamp – and the five principles to think about are a good foundation.

We also need to bear in mind, this is a journey we are taking together, and what has brought us here together: Lives that may have been lacking “that certain something”, or maybe just being curious about if there isn’t a better or alternative way. Something more fulfilling then what we have now.

Thus, let us combine all of this, together with all the topics and objectives of the bootcamp, into one easy “manifesto for the urbangay” (of course, you don’t have to live in an urban area. You are welcome to be an urbangay no matter where you are!). Something to guide the rest of the program and to define how we are growing as human being, during and after the program. So here is my “draft manifesto for the urbangay”… please remember to contribute and amend it how you see fit.

1. We are the urbangays.
We seek fulfillment through love, purposeful action, happiness and sexual expression with kindness, affect, freedom and respect for ourselves and each other. We use mindfulness, meditation, love and sexuality to create a fairer, happier and healthier world.

2. We are a community.
We come from different backgrounds, this is our strength. We are inclusive, diverse and welcoming, bound by the love and respect that we share for each other, united by our core principles. We support each other with kindness and generosity, with love and affection.

3. We embrace vulnerability and reject the perfect.
We acknowledge that nobody is perfect and everyone is vulnerable. We welcome our imperfections as showing us ways to grow and acknowledge ours and others vulnerabilities as possibilities to give and receive comfort and joy.

4. We live a fulfilled, purposeful life.
We may have different paths and objectives, giving us the opportunity to respect each others rights to live a fulfilled, purposeful lives, supported by the love, care and kindness of our fellow urbangays.

5. We have the right to ecstasy and to give and receive pleasure freely.
We have different forms of expressing sexuality and sexual identity, and we respect and cherish this, acknowledging everyone has the right to give and receive pleasure and experience ecstasy in a way they seek.

So… tomorrow we will finally get going. I hope you’re as excited about this as I’m! … See you tomorrow for the first activity introducing mindfulness.

But before we go, why not share the bootcamp with your friends?

Join me for 30 days of life, love, sex - mindfulness, meditation and tantra. Click To Tweet

Day 2: Terms & Co – Meditation, Mindfulness and Tantra

As I explained yesterday in the bootcamp basics post, the 30 day urbangay bootcamp program brings together three related, though slightly different activities; mindfulness, meditation and tantra. We won’t be going massively in depth into any one of them. The focus will be on cherry picking the best features of each approach and combine them in one powerful, transformative month for you.

All three methods have their roots in Eastern philosophy, though they can be found in different religions and philosophies outside of Asia. As promised, you don’t need to take a religious or philosophical stance, apart from some basic rules which I’ll explain more about tomorrow. So don’t pick some now, just dip into all of them, take the best they have to offer – and create your own toolbox at the end of the month.

Of course, the terms are often used interchangeably: mindfulness seems to mean meditation, both mean sitting still and tantra is almost movement-less sex. Well… almost. Of course, you are not here because you really wanted to sign up to a philosophy course and learn a lot of theory without trying things out, right? So… let me just quickly explain what is meant by these three terms – how they are similar, and how they are different. At least, this is how I will be using the terms in this program, to avoid confusion. Don’t worry though, this isn’t going to be a long and bothersome debate about the differences!

When I talk about ‘Mindfulness’ I talk about an activity that focuses on the present moment in a way that accepts what is happening in the present moment and the focus is on awareness about what is happening. This activity can be a quiet activity, which could look very much like meditation, or it can be an ‘active’ activity, like running. With mindfulness, the focus is simply to be present in the current moment – and to train the mind to focus on what is happening right now (rather than drifting off and thinking about what was, could be or should be). We will spend the first week exploring this concept, and see why it is so fundamental to well being.

While mindfulness is actively being present in the moment and accepting the moment, feelings and emotions as they are, when I talk about mediation it is something more purposeful. Rather then standing still and/or observing the present, when I use the term meditation, I’m referring to training the mind to do something or focus on something other than what is present, in other words, mediation has a purpose. For example, a meditation to train the mind become more positive, a meditation to increase confidence etc.. Meditation is also (at least in this context)  a quiet and stationary activity: so the term meditation means lying down or sitting down and not physically moving the body.

In the last week of the bootcamp we will focus on different types of sexual expression, including what could be loosely described as “tantric sex”. There is a lot of polemic around the term. For the program it is not really necessary to delve into the debate. Rather what is meant when the term tantra appears is a generally slowly performed sexual activity, where the main purpose is not to achieve ejaculation. Rather the focus is on sensuality, feelings and emotions created through touch. If they lead to an ejaculation, in terms of this program, that is ok. If they don’t… that is great, too. The point is to learn to build sexual energy.

So there we have the basic definitions of the program:
Mindfulness – focus on the present, with awareness and acceptance
Meditation – silent, stationary activity with a purpose (often focusing on training the mind to do something)
Tantra – a sensual sexual activity where orgasm (or rather ejaculation) is not the main purpose.
Don’t worry if some of these concepts still seem a little unclear. We will explore them as the bootcamp goes on, and I’ll give you plenty of examples to see what I mean.

I know that some purists will probably have some issues with this simple approach to the terms, but as you are not here to enrol in a class on Eastern philosophy, they simple explanations above will be sufficient for the moment. The focus of the bootcamp is to introduce you to a lot of different techniques. It’s about finding out which ones are right for you, which you like and which techniques and methods you feel are good for you. There are no right or wrong ways here – just your own individual way. And if after the bootcamp you want to explore more of one method or technique … come back and find out more!

Now we are almost ready to go… come back tomorrow to find out more about the simple rules to follow during the bootcamp time. Don’t worry… I promised no complicated things, and a lot of fun. Tomorrow, we will develop a Manifesto for the urbangay… with principles to follow for the rest of the program – and maybe even beyond. Check back tomorrow to find out more!