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.
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