A MINDFULNESS MEDITATION EXERCISE
Thoughts left to their own momentum will come and go, on their own. You don’t have to do anything. That’s the hardest thing about meditation, doing nothing. Not fighting your thoughts but accepting thinm as they are, without judgement or criticism. If you say to yourself for example, ‘don’t think of elephants’, your first thought is likely to be elephants! This is the essence of a simple, but effective meditation. Here’s how it works:
1 – Calm yourself. Find a quite place where you feel safe and relax, taking some deep breaths can help. Sit upright in a supportive, dignified position, keep a straight back but stay relaxed. You can close your eyes or focus on an inanimate object in front of you. Inanimate because you don’t want this object to become the centre of your attentions, just somewhere to rest your eyes.
2 – Listen and try to experience your breath as it enters and then leaves your body. Breath through your nose if you can as I should be more comfortable for you. This should happen without you having to consciously manage this function. Breathing is fortunately entirely automatic!
3 – When thoughts enter your mind, avoid grabbing hold of them or trying to put them out of your mind – remember the elephants– just acknowledge them and gently turn your attention back to your breathing. These thoughts will go away automatically if left alone. Others will come and go, let them, but each time turn your attention back to your breathing. Don’t fight your thoughts, be gentle with them and yourself, just let your thought come and go and keep bringing your focus back to your breathing.
Try this for 10 to 20 minutes a couple of times a day and see how calming it is.
A MINDFUL BODY SCAN
Another focus for you meditation can be on your body. This can be particularly useful if you have aches and pains, as we all get from time to time or just want to completely relax your body. This can start in the same way as you would do the in the simple meditation where you are letting thought come and go to calm your mind.
It’s probably best to find somewhere you can lie down so you can let everything relax.
- Start by drawing your attention to your breath and your chest rising and falling as it takes in and lets out your breath.
- Gradually move your attention to your feet and notice any sensations you may have right now, if any. Note any sensation without judging it, neither good nor bad. With each breath note your sensation as it happens. Attend to your left and then right foot in turn.
- Gradually move up through your body. Lower legs, thighs abdomen, chest, your arms, your shoulders and neck. Then finally your head, your face, your eyes, eye lids, ears, nose, forehead and hair.
- Focus on your breath as it brings in oxygen to whatever part of your body you are focussing on. If your mind wonders just gently bring back your attention to your body and the breath bringing you life giving oxygen. Your chest rising and falling.
- Open your eyes. Orientate yourself to where you are and gently rise.
If you fall asleep during this meditation (like I did at first!) don’t worry, most people do at some time or other. As you get more experience you will learn to ‘fall awake’ and be more aware in the moment.
See the Guided Mindfulness meditation – Professor Jon Kabat Zinn , the link is in the INFORM Section
MY FIRST ‘MEANINGFUL’ MEDITATION
Part of my introduction to mindful meditation was on a simulated retreat where for the whole day we didn’t speak to anyone. We meditated in several ways, focussing on our breath, body scanning, walking meditations and so on throughout the day, and then we were asked if we could go out and find somewhere where we could just be alone and practice being in the moment.
It was a nice late autumn day. I took my shooting stick and found a peaceful place in the grounds of the University of East Anglia where I was studying. I sat comfortably perched on my stick and noticed this old but perfectly formed beech tree, which became my object of focus during the hour I was taking to practice ‘being in the moment’.
Before I started this course, I must admit I was sceptical about meditation and the claims made about its practice. I didn’t have the experience I have now or the empirical proof of how positive meditation can be to calming your mind, least of all the evidence of how it can actually change the way your brain works for the better. So I wasn’t expecting anything miraculous!
The experience turned out to be enlightening, to say the least. I studied this tree which was quite beautiful for the whole hour and noticed how symmetrical, huge and clearly healthy it was. I guessed it must have been 150 years old or more. It seemed comfortable where it was and just like me, seemed to be happy being there in the moment, silent and content. I noticed its shape, which seemed to be as a well balanced tree should be and particularly its lower boughs curved down to touch the grass like it was resting their enormous weight, but doing this gently and purposely not to damage the ground beneath. There was no wind, so it didn’t move, it just rested there on the lawn which it had no doubt done for many decades before. It was a wonderful experience. I felt we became friends. I respected that tree and have never forgotten the experience. I made a note to go back and visit it one day.
Since then, I have discovered tranquillity in life in many forms though plants, animals and people. I hope you can do the same.