“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” Dalai Lama
What is Mindfulness?
"Mindfulness is the practice of developing awareness by paying attention on purpose and in a non-judgmental way to the unfolding of moment to moment experience." Jon Kabat-Zinn.
We train in mindfulness by connecting to our bodies (embodied presence) and learning to see clearly (noticing thoughts without getting hooked into a story) and feel fully the changing flow of sensations, feelings (pleasantness and unpleasantness), emotions and sounds.
"Imagine your awareness as a great wheel. At the hub of the wheel is mindful presence, and from this hub, an infinite number of spokes extend out to the rim. Your attention is conditioned to leave presence, move out along the spokes and affix itself to one part of the rim after another. Plans for dinner segue into a disturbing conversation, a self judgment, a song on the radio, a backache, the feeling of fear. Or your attention gets lost in obsessive thinking circling endlessly around the stories and feelings about what is wrong. If you are not connected to the hub, if your attention is trapped out on the rim, you are cut off from your wholeness and living in a trance.
Training in mindfulness allows us to return to the hub and live our moments with full awareness. It’s through the practice of coming back that we notice when we’ve drifted; become lost in thought, and we bring our attention back to a sensory based presence (the breath meditation) back to the present moment.” From Tara Brach’s booklet on Meditation
Why practice Mindfulness?
• Learn to manage both long/short term stressful situations and increase our ability to relax and rejuvenate.
• Learn to develop nonjudgmental awareness so that we can clearly see what is really happening in the present moment.
• Learn to become aware of when we are reacting to life instead of responding.
• Learn how to be more compassionate towards our own suffering and the suffering of others.
• Heal trauma from the past.
• Be fully present so that we can tap into the joy and aliveness that resides inside of us and in the world.
How do we practice Mindfulness?
Formal Sitting Practice:
Set a time – This will differ from person to person. However the ideal time to practice is in the morning as the mind tends to be calmer at the start of the day. However, this is not set in stone. The most important thing is that you set a time that you can realistically commit to on a regular basis. Initially for this week you want to start by sitting for 20 minutes.
Set an intention…
Set an intention to stay present (i.e. noticing when you are getting distracted and lost in thoughts, triggered and in reaction mode or defensive, re-hashing the past or worrying about the future) when you get distracted bring your attention back to the breath, body sensations, remember what matters most to you, what draws you to this practice.
Set your posture:
You want to be relaxed with an alert (not rigid spine). Sitting on a cushion or in a chair is fine; make sure you are comfortable but not so relaxed that you fall asleep. Also important is to bring a sense of openness and receptivity; being open to your experience during meditation without having a set expectation.
Relax and let go…
It’s important that you take time to relax your body by doing a body scan and relaxing any obvious areas of tension. As a yoga teacher I can tell you from personal experience the ability to let go of tension is a process. The more we connect with our bodies and consciously relax the more we can be open to the practice of mindfulness.
One way to practice is with the breath. On the inhale notice areas of tension, on the exhale soften those areas. Consciously releasing body tension will help you be open to whatever rises to the surface of your mind during meditation.
Choose a primary anchor…
Develop an anchor that will act as a home base to bring you back to the present moment. Anchors help you quiet/collect the mind and deepen embodied presence. For this week the anchor we’ll be using is the breath.
Use the breath as a primary anchor…
• Become aware of the breath as it enters. See if you can follow the path of the breath and notice where you feel the breath the most (outside of nostrils, throat, chest, lungs...) Don't fixate on the breath, just notice sensation of breathing.
• Be aware of other physical changes during breathing (i.e. the expansion and emptying out of the chest, lungs and abdomen, the feel of the breath on the upper lip)
Take moments throughout the day to practice being with the breath, bring calmness to the body and awareness to what’s present (i.e. feelings, reactivity, sensations, stories, etc.) If there’s judgment present, reactivity is also present and the formation of a story going on. The stories are usually about sensing that there is something is wrong, something is wrong with me, the other person, or the situation. So it’s not that you stop making decisions, it’s that you pause and first look at what’s happening that is triggering reactivity. Notice if you are judging yourself, if there is resistance present (negative self talk i.e. I should be able to handle this, I should be a better person). Bring compassion into the heart to ease suffering (an example of bringing compassion towards yourself is how you'd soothe a child that is feeling alone, sad, angry). Once you take these steps notice how you feel and then choose how you want to respond. You’ll have practiced self-care which means you won’t feel as if you were just beat up by yourself or a victim to life.
Most Important to remember…
Mindfulness is about “arriving back home” and getting distracted is natural as our minds are wired to generate thoughts. The practice of mindfulness is learning how to train the mind to stay in the present moment so that you can be aware of everything that is happening in the here and now and then choose the healthiest way to respond to life’s joys and challenges.
Most of all please be patient, be patient, be patient. This is not about doing it perfectly, it’s about learning how to let go of striving towards a goal and be present with what is happening in the moment just as it is.
I've included some links to a couple of different websites that provide free introduction to mindfulness meditation podcasts. I suggest listening to one podcast a week and practicing the steps as stated in the podcast.
Tara Brach - Intro To Meditation Series
Gil Fronsdal - Six Week Intro to Meditation
In addition to these resources you can join our Sangha/Mindfulness sitting group on Saturdays from 12:45pm to 2:15pm as we meditate in community. This is a wonderful way to deepen your practice, listen to a Dharma talk and learn from each other. This group is held at Shanti 3 Yoga Studio, a lovely and peaceful space located in Weston, Florida 33326. It's a free event with a suggested love donation of $10.00.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a session please feel free to contact me at 954-793-6442.
May you be free from suffering
May you touch peace
May you be joyful