Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Infinity of Now

Today we explored a body scan meditation.  Instead of using the breath as our bridge to the present moment, we used the numerous sensations throughout the body.  Here is a link to a similar meditation: https://soundcloud.com/jennie-sara/body-scan

We began with a short breath meditation called ‘Consciously Connected Breathing’.  It is taken from Michael Brown’s book, The Presence Process.  For this breath, we intentionally eliminate any pause between inhale and exhale or exhale and inhale.  We match our breath to the following text using one breath for every two words, one on the inhale, one on the exhale:

I am here now in this

1. Noticing the body

Even when we are lying on a mat or sitting still there is motion within us. Breath and body rise and fall together; our hearts beat; the smooth muscles of our digestive tract keep right on moving. The more we pay attention, the more we notice. Maybe we feel the tingle of cells dividing, DNA replicating, proteins being synthesized.

We experience a cross section of a never-ending progression of movement and breath, extending infinitely forward and backward in time.

-Yoga Anatomy, Leslie Kaminoff & Amy Matthews

2. Noticing the world around and within us

In each moment, there are infinite things to which we might bring our attention. The body scan helps us notice how, in each moment, there are sensations in almost every part of our body that we could pay attention to. And that’s just the physical sensations inside us! Sometimes it’s hard to choose where to focus our attention. Certain thoughts, sensations and feelings seem to stick around more than others. But as we practice, we may begin to notice spaciousness in the world and become aware of the endless variety of sensations, thoughts and feelings that are occurring right now.

The Messenger

By Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?

Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.

The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth

and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,

over and over, how it is that we live forever.

3. Week’s practices

  1. Choose a routine activity and try to engage with it the way you did the raisin last week. It’s good to pick something brief and uncomplicated, like brushing your teeth or washing your hands.
  2. Practice a meditation each day. Aim for 20 minutes. Try the body scan at least once.
  3. Notice when your attitudinal foundation arises on its own. Try to bring it to your daily life – maybe when you’re stuck in traffic, or annoyed with a co-worker.

Spaciousness and clarity

Today, we extended the mindfulness of breath meditation to 20 minutes.

We began with a short guided meditation matched with the breath from Zen Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh.

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

Breathing in, I notice my breath has become deep.
Breathing out, I notice my breath has become slow.

Breathing in, I calm my body and my mind.
Breathing out, I am at ease.

Breathing in, I smile.
Breathing out, I release.

Breathing in, I got back to the present moment.
Breathing out, I know this is a wonderful moment.

In, Out.
Deep. Slow.
Calm. Ease.
Smile. Release.
Present moment, Wonderful moment.

Here are the thoughts of the day:

1. Slowing down the movies in our mind

It’s amazing how fast thoughts, sensations and feelings can come whizzing through our brains. They come and go without our having to do anything, and so fast we often don’t even notice. By guiding our attention to the breath, over and over again, without judgment, we may observe that the mind begins to settle. Thoughts slow down. We may become aware of a spaciousness and clarity around the thoughts, sensations and feelings that we don’t usually perceive. We may get just an inkling of it. We may not.

The mindfulness meditations we practice here are purely secular, but their roots are in Tibetan Buddhism and there are some beautiful descriptions from that tradition. Here is one I like.

Past thoughts are traceless, clear, and empty,
Future thoughts are unproduced and fresh,
The present moment abides naturally and unconstructed.
When this ordinary, momentary consciousness
is examined nakedly and directly,
It is a radiant awareness,
which is free from the presence of an observer,
Manifestly stark and clear,
Completely empty and uncreated in all respects.
-The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The Introduction to Awareness.

2. Non-judging

Cultivating impartial observation.
Not labeling sensations, thoughts, feelings as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair. Simply noting them.
Even when we notice judgment, just noticing it without judging it.

Here’s one way to think of judging when it arises, whether in meditation or everyday life:

We can nod and smile when our ego, like a slightly demented relative who means well, offers its endless array of opinions, judgments, and knee-jerk reactions, but know that our ego is merely doing what it does best: Valuate. More of that. Less of this. I don’t give a shit. Good for the ego. And thank goodness we’re more than just our egos!
– Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi, “Liberation”

3. Week’s practices

  1. Choose a routine activity and try to engage with it the way you did the raisin last week. It’s good to pick something brief and uncomplicated, like brushing your teeth or washing your hands.
  2. Try to extend your breath meditation to 20 minutes a day this week.
  3. Let’s all focus on non-judgment as our attitudinal foundation this week. Note when it arises on its own. Note how you can bring that attitude to a situation. Notice, if you do, what shifts.
  4. Bring a yoga mat, towel or blanket to class next week.

Introductory mindfulness class

In class 1, we ate 3 raisins, one at a time.  We really observed them, noticed them, with all our senses.  And we observed our own process of eating them.  We also did a ten minute mindfulness of the breath meditation.  You can find a similar recording here: https://soundcloud.com/jennie-sara/mindfulness-of-breath-10min.

The hand-out for class 1 gave some foundational ideas of mindfulness.  Here it is:

1. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness:

‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally’

 

2. Eight attitudinal foundations: (From Libby Robinson)

Non-striving – Not trying to get anywhere other than where you are.
Not grabbing onto thoughts, feelings or sensations; not pushing them away.

Acceptance – Cultivating being okay with what is.
Even if there’s resistance or grabbing, being okay with that.

Curiosity – Bringing a quality of impartial investigation to immediate experience.
What does this fear feel like? What kind of thoughts come up?

Patience – Giving oneself time to cultivate mindfulness.
Allowing time for insights and new ways of seeing things to unfold.

Beginner’s mind – Openness.
Seeing things as if for the first time: fresh, new, with curiosity.

Trust – Trusting that the process of practicing mindfulness will foster insights.
Trusting yourself and your own deepest knowledge and insights.

Non-judging – Cultivating impartial observation.
Not labeling sensations, thoughts, feelings as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair. Simply noting them.
Even when we notice judgment, just noticing it without judging it.

Letting go – Letting experience just be.
Cultivating the ability to let thoughts, sensations, feelings simply be without pushing them away or holding onto them.

 

3. Week’s practices

  1. Notice noticing. Make a mental note when you find yourself noticing what you’re doing in the same way you noticed eating the raisin.
  2. Find a breath meditation you like and try to practice for 10 minutes each day.
  3. Note when your attitudinal foundation arises on its own. And maybe cultivate it throughout the week.