Category Archives: Spiritual Practices
(1) From “Zen” from youmeworks reminds us–”Mindfulness meditation is somewhat different. There is no particular focus. It is a process of paying attention to your ongoing experience, whatever it may be at the moment. If you have a pain in your knee and that happens to be prominent in your awareness right now, you pay attention to that — not trying to concentrate, but simply noticing it and letting it be there. You don’t try to make it different. You don’t try to hold onto it. You just notice it as fully as you can, including what is going through your mind about it.”
(2) “How to do Mindfulness Meditation” by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche includes this:
“In mindfulness, or shamatha, meditation, we are trying to achieve a mind that is stable and calm. What we begin to discover is that this calmness or harmony is a natural aspect of the mind. Through mindfulness practice we are just developing and strengthening it, and eventually we are able to remain peacefully in our mind without struggling. Our mind naturally feels content.”
“Learning to bring one’s attention back to the present moment, including the ever-present process of breathing, over and over again, involves learning to catch oneself entering into habitual patterns that prevent clear awareness of the present moment. With continued practice and increasing development of mindfulness, one becomes increasingly able to notice those habitual reactions – to unwanted and wanted but unhealthy experiences and emotions – that prevent one from responding consciously and constructively.”
“For example, instead of realizing 5-10 minutes later that you’ve been lost in bad memories or fantasies of revenge, you can catch yourself after only 30-60 seconds. Better yet, you can learn to catch yourself in the process of getting lost in a memory or fantasy. In time, you can increasingly observe these habitual responses as they arise, and choose to respond in other, more skillful ways.”
Learning to do a body scan is from “Body Awareness” in The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. This chapter discusses how the mind and body interact, how to recognize tension in your body, and exercises to recognize and let go of tension in your body.
The body scan is explained on page 16: “Close your eyes. Starting with your toes and moving up your body, ask yourself, “Where am I tense?”
Wherever you discover a tense area, exaggerate it slightly so you become aware of it. Be aware of the muscles in your body that are tense.
Then, for example, say to yourself, “I am tensing my neck muscles….I am hurting myself. I am creating tension in my body.”
Note that all muscular tension is self-produced. At this point, be aware of any life situation that may be causing the tension in your body and what you can do to change it.
On pages 42-43, the authors offer the following inner exploration to open each part of your body:
1) Begin by becoming aware of the rising and falling of your breath in your chest and belly. You can ride the waves of your breath and let it begin to anchor you to the present moment.
2) Bring your attention to the soles of your feet. Notice any sensation that is present there. Without judging or trying to make it different, simply be present with the sensation. After a few moments imagine that your breath is flowing into the soles of your feet. As you breath in and out you might experience an opening or softening and a release of tension. Just simply observe with no expectations.
3) Now bring your attention to the rest of your feet, up to your ankles. Become aware of any sensation in this part of your body. After a few moments imagine that your breath, instead of stopping at the diaphragm, flows all the way down to your feet. Breath into and out of your feet, simply noticing the sensations.
4) Proceed up your body in this manner with all parts of your body—lower legs, knees, upper legs, pelvis, hips and buttocks, lower back, upper back, chest and belly, upper shoulders, neck, head, and face. Take your time as you really feel each body part and notice whatever sensations are present, without forcing them or trying to make them be different, then breath into the body part and let go of it as you move on to the next body part.
5) Go back to your neck and shoulders or any place that has pain, tension, or discomfort. Simply be with the sensations in a nonjudging way. As you breathe, imagine the breath opening up any tight muscles or painful areas and creating more spaciousness. As you breathe out imagine the tension or pain flowing away.
6) When you reach the top of your body, scan your body one last time for any areas of tension or discomfort. Then imagine that you have a breath hole at the top of your head, much like that of a whale or dolphin. Breathe in from the top of your head, bringing the breath all the way down to the soles of your feet and up again. Allow your breath to wash away tension or uncomfortable sensations.
7) Allow 20-30 minutes for a body scan.
Book: The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook: Fifth Edition. Authors: Martha David, Elizabeth Eshelman, and Matthew McKay. ISBN: 1-57224-214-0