(p. 167) Meditation Practice Scripts for Audio Recordings
You will see that some of the following scripts include the instruction to “(pause),” sometimes accompanied by an ellipsis “ . . . ” and sometimes without. Where there is an ellipsis, this denotes you should take a longer pause when reading/recording the meditation practice script, and the ones without the ellipsis are meant to denote a briefer pause in your speaking.
1a: Body Scan—Introduction (~3 Minutes)
OK, so this first practice that we’re going to do in this program is a classical mindfulness practice known as the Body Scan. In mindfulness training we talk about bringing our attention to the present moment, to our present-moment experience. But if we are new to the practice, that can be challenging without some kind of reference point. And so this is why it can be really helpful to start with this practice of Body Scan, where we are using our own physical body as a reference point, our anchor for mindfulness.
The first thing that we want to do is make sure that we’re in a comfortable position for this practice because we’re going to be here for a few minutes. So traditionally the practice is done lying down—for example, lying on the floor—with a cushion or a pillow under your head to be comfortable. But if you have any kind of physical difficulties, for example significant back pain, then the floor may be too hard to lie on, and you could try it lying on a gentler surface, such as your bed. So just take a moment to find a good place for yourself to lie down and, again, with some support under your head. In terms of the lower half of your body, we want to take pressure off the lower part of your back, so there’s one of two things you can do—you can lie with your legs straight out and a pillow or a cushion under your knees, or you can bend your legs at the knees so that your knees are pointed upward and your feet are flat on the floor, which is referred to in the yoga tradition as “constructive rest.” So find whichever one suits you best. And especially in beginning this practice, you might actually experiment with both of those and (p. 169) see what’s most comfortable. One of the important things about the practice is not to get into a position and then brace and hold and fight against discomfort, but if we can support ourselves by beginning in as comfortable a position as possible, then we can actually begin to relax into the practice and explore what’s there. So it’s important to take this time at the beginning and really make sure you’re in the most comfortable position.
1a: Body Scan—Introduction (~3 Minutes)
(p. 170) 1b: Body Scan—Practice Instruction (~28 Minutes)
The next step now is I’m just going to invite you to notice the fact that you are, in fact, breathing. This may or may not be something that you’ve paid much attention to if you are new to mindfulness practice, but mindfulness of breathing is a core through many of the practices that we’re going to be doing, and the Body Scan is one of them. So just notice your breath without trying to change it in any way . . . (pause). Notice the quality of the breath—is it shallow, is it rapid, is it slow? And we’re not trying to change anything, we’re just noticing . . . and as we notice our breath, we might already have an invitation to relax further in our body, and if you get that invitation, go ahead and relax your physical body . . . (pause).
Now one thing I do want to mention about this Body Scan practice—as you’ve heard me use the word “relax”—sometimes, many times actually, people do report that they find the Body Scan practice relaxing. However, relaxation is not the goal per se—this is not relaxation training. In mindfulness, we talk about non-striving, so not having a particular goal that we are striving towards. Rather, the intent of the Body Scan is to bring together our breath and our physical sensations as a way to come to know our present-moment experience more deeply. And through that curiosity and that understanding we may experience some relaxation, and that’s wonderful. But I offer this up because it’s not necessarily the goal. It’s important to say that because if we think that relaxation is the goal, and then we don’t get there, we might start to judge our experience or judge our practice. So really there’s just an invitation to have an attitude of welcome and appreciation for whatever experiences arise during the practice . . . (pause).
OK, so in this Body Scan practice, we are going to join together our breath with the physical sensations and experiences in our body as a way to explore our present-moment experience. So we’re going to begin with the feet and work progressively up through the body . . . (pause) and we’re going to work with both sides of the body in tandem . . . (pause). So let’s begin with the two feet (pause) and first just notice that you have your two feet there (pause), noticing any obvious or gross sensations right away in the feet (pause), and we can synchronize the breath with the sensations in our feet, so on the in-breath, really bringing a sense (p. 171) of attention to our two feet, feeling the different sensations, noticing the sensations (pause); and then on the out-breath, letting go of any effort (pause) and simply letting our experience be as it is . . . (pause). So we’re really going to take some time with the feet here, because the feet are actually very complex. For example, in the Chinese meditation tradition, the feet are intimately connected to many different parts of our body, including our internal organs (pause), and on a more mundane level, there are just many different aspects to the feet. So we are, again, going to use the breath as our connection point with the physical sensations of the feet, but we’re going to take our time here to really explore the feet. So on the in-breath, really connecting with the sensations of the feet, and then on the out-breath, letting go of any effort, any striving . . . (pause). Noticing the sensations in the toes (pause), noticing the ball of the foot . . . (pause), noticing the base of the foot, the sides of the heel . . . (pause), the ankle joints . . . (pause).
Now even in just this relatively brief period of time, you may have noticed that your mind has wandered, and that’s normal and that’s part of the practice, and so when you do notice that your mind has wandered, you just simply make the intention to bring it back. And if you’d like, you can label it “thinking,” or you can simply notice and come back. Come back to the body . . . (pause).
OK, so now we’re going to move from the feet up into the lower legs, and as we move up through the body, we’re going to be focusing on a different body part but we’re not going to completely let go of the body parts that came before it. So, you know, we’re going to work with the lower legs now, but we still have maybe 10 or 15 percent of our attention with the feet, so we don’t forget about them. And so again, with the in-breath, using that opportunity to explore the sensations in the lower leg, being curious, just noticing (pause), and then on the out-breath, letting go of any effort . . . (pause). And you might stay open to the fact that, as you release in one part of your body, you start to notice tension in another part of your body, and if you notice that, and there’s an invitation to let go of that tension, you can take that (pause). Feeling the shin bones, the calf muscles, and the back of the leg . . . (pause). And again, when your mind wanders, simply notice that without judgment, and bring your attention back to your body . . . (pause).
(p. 172) And now we’ll move our attention up through the upper part of the leg, including the knee joints (pause), and this is another place of complexity in the body . . . (pause). Now, interestingly, if you’re a person who struggles with chronic pain, for example, you may experience pain in your joints, for example your knee joints. As we breathe in, we notice, we explore the sensations, which might include the sensation of pain (pause), and on the out-breath, we let go and the pain may not necessarily go away, but the tension surrounding the pain might start to soften a little. So what I mean by that is, often if we suffer with chronic pain, the rest of our body braces and adapts to cope with that chronic pain, so we may have a sense of bracing against discomfort in a certain part of our body. So it’s not only that one part of our body that’s affected; we may be tense in many other places. So through this practice, there’s an invitation to soften some of that tension . . . (pause). And this is, as Jon Kabat-Zinn and some other mindfulness teachers have referenced, the difference between pain and suffering. So the pain is the pure physical sensation of the pain itself, and the suffering is our bracing against it, our resistance to it . . . (pause). So I just invite you to be curious about that in your own body . . . (pause). If there are any places where you are experiencing discomfort through the practice, without any agenda but just being curious that, as we continue to breathe, whether there’s some softening in the tension surrounding those areas of discomfort . . . (pause). Noticing the knee joints, the thigh bones (pause), the inside of the thighs, sometimes there is tightness in these muscles, the psoas muscles . . . (pause). Breathing in, observing, noticing the sensations, and on the out-breath, letting go of any effort . . . (pause).
And now moving up through the hip joints and the pelvis (pause) using the in-breath to explore the different sensations in the hip joints and the pelvis . . . (pause). And the more we do this practice, we start to uncover more and more layers of nuance and subtlety and complexity in our own body . . . (pause). So there may be some places in our pelvic regions and hip area where we breathe in and there’s a sense of openness and space and no sensation. So I invite you to be curious about that . . . (pause).
And then moving up through the torso, so we have the chest and the belly in front, and the length of our back behind us . . . (pause), feeling where our back is making contact with the surface below us, whether it’s the floor or the bed or some other similar surface . . . (pause). This (p. 173) mindful attention that we’re bringing to our body, we’re using the breath as a support to enter into the body, and in the Tibetan mindfulness tradition, the word for meditation—one of them—is gom, which means “to become familiar with.” So we are using the breath as a way to start to come into relationship and become familiar with our own physical body . . . (pause). So there’s actually a tremendous intimacy we can start to develop with our own physical body, our own experience (pause), and the courage and fearlessness to accept our own body as it is, in this moment . . . (pause).
And then moving up into the neck and the head (pause) on the in-breath, breathing through the face, the forehead, the eyes, the cheeks, the jawbones, the nose, the chin, the ears (pause), the hair follicles on our scalp, and feeling the point of contact between the back of our head and the surface beneath us . . . (pause). And as we breathe, we are also invited to start to cultivate some of these attitudes of mindfulness, so we’ve already talked about non-striving, not having any particular goal or outcome in mind. And there’s also patience, patience with ourselves—especially if we are having a challenging experience—there’s an opportunity to cultivate patience with ourselves and our experience . . . (pause). And a willingness to show up for this breath, this moment, as it is, without judgment or comment . . . (pause).
So we’re going to start to bring this practice to a close by feeling our body as a totality, as a unified field of experience. So on the in-breath, breathing deeply from the outside of our body into the inside of our body (pause), almost like breath is coming through every single pore of our skin, right into the center of the body (pause), and then on the out-breath, relaxing any effort, any striving . . . (pause). So we’ll just do this for a few breaths now . . . (pause). And just take a moment to notice how your body is feeling, how it’s responding now as compared to when we began the practice . . . (pause). And the sense that we are entering into relationship with our body, so each time we do this practice, there’s an opportunity to discover something fresh, something new . . . (pause).
And to close, I would just invite you to acknowledge to yourself your willingness to take this time, these moments, to be present with your own body in a nonjudgmental and accepting way (pause) and that you could be curious to bring this attitude toward your own body and your (p. 174) experience into your daily life . . . (pause). So, in your own time, you can bring the practice to a close now. You may wish to lay here for a moment or two longer, or you can simply close the practice when you’re ready, come up slowly to a seated position, and then you can begin your transition to your next activity.
1b: Body Scan—Practice Instruction (~28 Minutes)
(p. 175) 1c: Mindful Eating (~7 Minutes)
In this program, we are going to be bringing together a blend of both formal practices—so practices where you have specific guidance and you do those on a regular basis, usually in a quiet place at home—and those are complemented with informal practices, where you are invited to explore how mindfulness can show up in different aspects of your daily life. So this first practice of bringing mindfulness into daily life is what we refer to as Mindful Eating. We have discussed the concept of auto-pilot, and how when our mind is engaged in an activity that is routine or seemingly mundane, our conscious mind can switch off and go into this mode of what we call auto-pilot, or mind-wandering, where we’re thinking or daydreaming or distracted by other things or other mental activity and not actually present to the activity itself. So in Mindful Eating, eating is an activity that we do regularly, probably several times a day every day, we are bringing a sense of mindfulness to how we actually approach our food. So for this next week and periodically throughout the course, you are invited to have at least one mindful meal to explore how you can bring this concept of mindfulness to the activity of eating.
So you are offered a few different suggestions about how to approach this practice. You can, for example, bring a sense of mindfulness to how you prepare your food. So, being conscious about what you are choosing to eat at that time, taking the time to assemble the ingredients that will go into the meal, working with the ingredients in a conscious and mindful way, for example cutting vegetables or washing vegetables.
And then there’s the process of being mindful when you actually are about to consume the meal. So in terms of Mindful Eating, you want to set time aside when you are not doing anything else except relating with your food—so that means turning off the television, the radio, not reading a book, or having any other distracting activities. Simply be present with the meal itself. And taking time first of all to look at the food in front of you—so there’s a sense of engaging all of our senses as we are about to enjoy this meal. Allowing the meal to hit your visual sense, take in the colors, the textures—what do you notice about how the food looks? (pause) Just allow your mind to absorb how the food looks and how that affects you. Again, there’s no right or wrong; we’re simply invited to notice (pause). And then when you are ready, you can (p. 176) place some food on your fork or your spoon or whichever utensil you are using, and then bring it up to your nose, so that you can smell the food and allow the flavors and the aromas to be absorbed as you smell the food. Just noticing (pause). And also noticing if you start daydreaming or mind-wandering—what associations come up as you smell this food?
And then after a moment or two, when you’re ready, you can place the food in your mouth and, before chewing or swallowing, just feel the textures of the food in your mouth—notice how the food affects your palate, how it affects your tongue—is it savory, is it tart, is it sweet, is it bland? Noticing the tastes, the flavors, the textures, the sensation in your mouth. Just allow your mouth to explore the food before going into the habitual activity of chewing and swallowing, which can happen quite quickly (pause). And then after a moment or two, then you can chew and eat the rest of that morsel normally, and then continue bringing this sense of mindfulness as you take in the rest of the food. And just be curious—notice what comes up as you attend mindfully to the food that is in front of you.
And this is a practice you can do alone, or you can do it with other people if you would like, other people who may live in your home. And the idea, again, there’s no right or wrong to this practice, but we are slowing down enough to actually start noticing the details of our experience, things that we may miss when we’re moving fast or moving on auto-pilot through activities that we think are routine or mundane.
So I’ll invite you to enjoy this practice at least once in this first week, and then also periodically throughout the program as a way to make a bridge between the formal practice of mindfulness, the various meditation practices, and also your daily life.
1c: Mindful Eating (~7 Minutes)
(p. 177) Session 2
2a: Ordinary Magic (3 Minutes)
Something we talked about earlier in the program is the idea that much of our day is spent in a state of mind-wandering where we are thinking about the past, worrying about the future, fantasizing, daydreaming—lots of mental activity that takes us away from simply being with our present-moment experience. This is a state of what we call going on auto-pilot. We also notice that there’s a tendency to go on auto-pilot during activities that seem routine or mundane, which happens to be a large part of what we do each day, such as using the washroom, cooking, bathing, and so on. So what this means is that there is a high propensity for mind-wandering for many of us, since it seems to happen during these mundane or routine daily activities.
So how can we shift our focus and bring mindfulness to these daily activities—not only so we can reduce mind-wandering, but also so we can discover how it’s worth paying attention to these activities, even if it’s something that we’ve done before? That if we actually pay attention and look closely, it’s not actually the same experience every time because we are different and the situation is different. Then, when we approach activities in this way, they start to come to life—and this is why we use the term ordinary magic. It’s ordinary because it’s the things that we do every day, all of our life, and it’s magical because in the simplicity of those activities we can find joy, peace, and kindness, and also make room for some of the uncomfortable feelings that might come up as well.
So you are invited for the rest of this program and beyond to explore this sense of ordinary magic in routine daily activities. In the first week of the program you were encouraged to eat mindfully at least once a week and explore that. Other good activities for ordinary magic might be washing the dishes, so if you have a dishwasher you may opt to wash the dishes by hand. Another good example of ordinary magic might be taking a shower or a bath, tuning in to the different perceptions and sensations. Pick one activity at a time and then explore that for a few days in a row, because then your relationship with that activity may change and develop. You’re also encouraged to explore that activity fully until its natural (p. 178) conclusion, for example when you’re washing the dishes. During the activity, just as we do in the formal practice, if your mind wanders, then you simply bring it back to the sensations, whether it’s washing dishes, or washing yourself in the shower, or vacuuming, or whatever, as you bring your mind back to the current aspects of the actual activity.
2a: Ordinary Magic (3 Minutes)
(p. 179) 2b: Short Sitting (Focused Attention I) (11 Minutes)
So now I would like to introduce you to the first of our Sitting Practices. And because we are just beginning the program, we’re going to begin with a relatively brief practice, just 10 minutes, which may still seem like a lot for some of you, but we’re going to be progressively building on this over the program. So we’re just going to begin with 10 minutes this time . . . (pause). And sometimes Sitting Practice is referred to as mindfulness of breathing, or in the Tibetan tradition, this is referred to as shamatha, which is, basically, focusing our attention on the breath in a very close way.
So to begin, let’s just briefly tune into our body, and for this practice we want to be seated in a chair, but we want to be in a chair such that we can sit upright and have a good posture. In other words, we don’t want to sit in an armchair or on an easy chair where we’ll be slouched. We actually want to be in a chair with a straight back or perhaps a chair that has a cushion at our back. Later in the program, as you become more comfortable with this, you may wish to sit on the floor on cushions, but often people find it easier in the beginning to sit on a chair. So just—if you need to, you can pause the recording now—just gather yourself a chair, a comfortable chair where you can also have your feet flat on the floor so that you feel stable in a good meditation posture . . . (pause). And when you’re seated, we’re just going to briefly move through some important parts of the body, just to establish our sitting posture.
So you can rest your hands in your lap, one on top of the other, or if it’s more comfortable, you can place a hand on each thigh. And wherever you have your hand placements, just be mindful of how it affects your shoulders. For example, if your hands are on your thighs you don’t want them so far forward that they are pulling your shoulders forward. Or if your hands are in your lap, you don’t want them encouraging you to slouch. So the hand position and your shoulders and upper chest are very much connected . . . (pause). So the idea is that we want to be upright and that the hands are in a relaxed but stable position either in our lap or on our thighs, our shoulders rolled slightly back so that we have an open front. One of my teachers used to say, an open front and a strong back . . . (pause). Feel the natural curve of your spine rising up from the chair, with your head upright, and you could tuck your chin just ever so slightly. So another instruction that is sometimes given is, imagine you (p. 180) have a tiny golden thread that’s just pulling up gently from the crown of your head. Again there’s this sense of uprightness and elevation in the posture. But not being rigid—there’s a way that we can be upright and actually relax into that uprightness. So just see if you can notice that, and it may take some time to become more familiar with this . . . (pause).
The way I was taught and the way I will offer to you is to keep your eyes open but with your gaze resting maybe about 5 feet in front of you. So the idea is that we’re not looking at anything in particular. This may seem counterintuitive for many people—they may associate meditation with eyes closed—but the eyes open instruction is given for a couple of reasons. For one, people often find when they close their eyes that it immediately triggers mind-wandering, daydreaming, fantasizing, or even going to sleep. The other reason we have our eyes open is somewhat symbolic, so the idea is that we’re not using meditation as a way to escape from reality, but that we can be in this meditative state or experience or way of being and still be connected with our world, and having our eyes open is symbolic of that. So, again, we’re not looking at anything in particular; we’re just resting our eyes in front of us. Almost as if you could feel the sensation at the back of your eyeballs, so it’s an inward gaze even though our eyes are open . . . (pause).
And then, feel yourself firmly planted in the seat (pause), your pelvic area, your thighs, and feel your feet firmly planted on the earth under you . . . (pause).
So now just bring your attention to a point in your belly, about midway between left and right, front and back. And we’re just going to rest our attention there . . . (pause). And so with the in-breath, we may notice our belly rise, and on the out-breath, our belly fall (pause), and we’re just going to stay very close to that point in our belly . . . (pause). And you could even have a sense of relaxing the whole body around that point in the belly . . . (pause). Now, if you begin to start having thoughts, images, memories, feelings, you can simply notice that; if you would like, you can say to yourself, “thinking,” and then just gently come back to that point in the belly . . . (pause). And each time our mind wanders away, which is normal, we just gently bring it right back. And we do so with gentleness and precision, so one of the analogies that’s used, it’s one of my favorites, it’s as if you were (p. 181) training a puppy to walk on a leash. The puppy may be wandering all over the place, and we just ever so gently tug the leash and bring it back to our side, and eventually, over time, the puppy will learn and it will want to be there on its own. But we don’t want to drag the puppy back and be harsh with it. And it’s the same with ourselves when our mind wanders away from the breath—that’s what minds do. So with compassion, with patience, and with precision, we notice when we’ve left the breath and we come back . . . (pause). So we’ll just sit here for a moment or two longer in this brief Sitting Practice, staying as close as we can to the lower belly . . . (pause). Coming back, over and over again . . . (pause).
So this is the end of this formal practice, this first brief Sitting Practice. You can sit here for a moment or two longer if you would like, and when you’re ready, you can bring your practice to a close.
2b: Short Sitting (Focused Attention I) (11 Minutes)
(p. 182) Session 3
3a: Slips and Falls (4 Minutes)
It’s common as we age to have slips in our thinking—we may have problems coming up with the right word, putting a name to a face—things often take longer than they used to. Having these cognitive slips is a part of getting older, and it’s just a natural thing to notice them as things are changing in our brain. We might notice changes in our way of conversation, when we are doing tasks such as grocery shopping, or doing other activities of daily living. We might have a cognitive slip-up and then get very upset by it, and we might even have some negative thoughts like, “What is wrong with me? I’m losing my mind! I have severe memory problems,” and so on. The problem is if we have a cognitive slip-up and then we have a lot of negative thoughts about it, this can make it even more difficult to think clearly and solve the problem at hand. So this might lead us to have a strong emotional reaction to that slip, what we have been referring to in this program as a “fall,” as in “slips and falls.”
So the question is, how could we use something like mindfulness to help with the slips and falls? One way that mindfulness can help is by allowing us to attend more closely to our present-moment experience. In our current society, we are all faced with a lot of activity and stimulation from smartphones, social media, television, internet, and so on. All of these activities can cause us to be very distracted, and that increases the risk that we might actually have a cognitive slip-up as we age. However, when we practice mindfulness and have moments when we are present and not distracted, there may be less chance of having a slip. So that’s how mindfulness can help with the cognitive slip-ups. It certainly won’t cure every slip-up, but to the extent that our slips are related to our ability to pay attention to the present moment, and not be on auto-pilot, then it can help.
The other way mindfulness can help is in terms of our emotional reaction to the slip-up, or what we’ve been referring to as the “fall.” As we talked about previously, the slips are actually a normal part of daily life for most people, but these happen to increase in frequency as we get older, as a part of natural changes in our thinking abilities. So then the (p. 183) question becomes, why should we beat ourselves up about something that is a normal part of aging? Instead of beating ourselves up, instead of judging ourselves, we could simply acknowledge with kindness that the slip happened, and let the judgment go, take a deep breath, and come back to the moment and re-evaluate—what would I like to do differently?
Overall, then, mindfulness might make it less likely that we will have a fall, and also we will be able to bounce back more quickly when we do. Then we could at least avoid having a fall down from the emotional reaction.
So over the coming days you are invited to notice where you are having slip-ups. Are you more likely to be mind-wandering, or are you present? And then when you become aware that you’ve had a slip, notice how you’re feeling emotionally about that fact. Are you able to acknowledge that it happened, let it go, and move on? Or does it knock you down? Do you have a fall because of it? If you do, then bring kindness and compassion to yourself, acknowledge that you have wandered away from the present moment, and then simply come back to whatever activity you’re engaged in, remembering that slips are a part of daily life for many people, particularly as we age.
3a: Slips and Falls (4 Minutes)
(p. 184) 3b: Mindful Yoga—Introduction (~3 Minutes)
Welcome to the yoga series of Wisdom Mind. In this yoga series, we will move through yoga postures and use different breathing techniques that complement the postures. It is important to be gentle with your body and to try not to judge yourself for not mastering the breathing technique or posture. In fact, there is no such thing as the perfect posture or perfect breathing. Yoga is an ongoing practice that provides opportunities to work with ourselves as we are, in this moment.
In yoga, we cultivate mindfulness through paying attention to our breath, and to the physical feelings or sensations of our body. Your mind will inevitably wander at numerous points throughout the practice. When you notice that your mind has wandered to thoughts or explanations, you can always bring your awareness back to your breath and to the physical sensations in your body, without judging yourself for losing your focus. This ability to nonjudgmentally bring your awareness back to the body and the breath is an important element of the yoga practice.
You can use this recording as a loose guide for your practice. So please follow the pacing of your own breath and your intuition about what is best for your body. If you notice that you’ve lost connection with your breath or you are holding your breath, or you are feeling sharp pain rather than dull sensations, these may be signs that you need to modify the yoga posture or to find a resting posture. Resting postures include standing in mountain pose, sitting on the chair or on your mat, lying down, or finding child’s pose. If you were to spend the whole practice in child’s pose, paying attention to your body and your breath, this would still be an incredible mindfulness practice. You are also encouraged to use the props that you need to support and take care of your body. So you might like to have a sturdy chair nearby. This should be a chair that can support your body weight and will not slide around on the floor. The chair will be a helpful tool if you are having a hard time with balance or flexibility or mobility, as can be a quite common part of physical aging. A pillow or a cushion is another prop that you can use to support your head when lying down, or to make sitting on the floor more comfortable. Finally, you can use a blanket for added warmth or softness when you are on the floor.
So take a few moments now to gather up these props—that way, you have them available before we step into the yoga practice together.
3b: Mindful Yoga—Introduction (~3 Minutes)
(p. 185) 3c: Mindful Yoga I—Practice Instruction (~45 Minutes)
Welcome to the first yoga series of Wisdom Mind. We’ll begin by finding a comfortable seated position—you might sit on your yoga mat or sit up on a chair. If you’re on your yoga mat, it might be nice to have a cushion or pillow underneath your hips. You can cross your legs or you can kneel on the floor. Wherever you’ve landed, begin to notice the parts of your body that are connected to the floor or the chair. So starting to notice the points of contact with the prop or the earth (pause). You can also wiggle from side to side to start to explore that contact, and really allow those parts of your body, such as the feet, the legs, the hips, start to soften into the support (pause). And we’ll start to find length in this posture through aligning your heart, your shoulders over your hips, and your head over your heart (pause). And your hands can rest on your legs with your palms facing up or down—you can just play with that and notice the difference between palms down or palms up (pause).
And as we start our practice, begin to notice what it is you’re bringing to the mat. So any thoughts that are running through your mind, any physical sensations through the body . . . you might notice some tension, some frustration, holding or gripping . . . you might not notice anything at all, and that’s also something to notice. And if you find yourself sensing some discomfort, see if you can also notice areas of the body that are soft, open, and more comfortable. And just begin to notice that all these experiences can exist at once. All is welcome here (pause). You’re welcome to close your eyes, or to take a soft gaze down towards the floor, and I invite you to draw your awareness to your breath. Noticing without changing just yet whether the breath is deeper or more shallow, where your breath is landing in your body—maybe it’s in the chest, maybe it’s in the ribs or in the belly . . . (pause). And in our practice, we’ll start to cultivate a slower and a deeper breath, and we’ll do this through “ocean breathing.” So this is created by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the nose, and there’s a widening at the back of the throat, as if you were trying to fog up a mirror but your lips are closed (pause). And this might take some time to cultivate, so just be patient with yourself here (pause). The idea is that as we’re trying to do this breath, it creates an audible oceanic sound, and this can help you anchor your awareness to the sound of your breath, and it creates a rhythm to which you move (pause). So we’ll just explore some ocean (p. 186) breaths here, directing our breath all the way down to our belly. So as you inhale, your belly expands and inflates, and as you exhale, the belly starts to hug in towards your spine (pause). And we’ll just explore about three more cycles of ocean breath here (pause). So when those cycles of breath are complete, we’ll begin to transition from this shape—if you are sitting in a chair, you can remain as you are.
If you are sitting on the floor, you can begin to draw your torso forwards, and come to a position we refer to as “table top position”—so you’re on all fours on your mat, and your hands are underneath your shoulders, and your knees are underneath your hips (pause). And start to notice the parts of your body that are connected to the mat. So if you’re in your chair, you might be aware of the four corners of your feet pressed into the ground. If you are on your mat in table top position, you’ll notice the tops of your feet pressing into the mat, and you’ll also notice your hands pressing into the mat. So I invite you to spread your fingers wide so your hands are like starfish, and your index or pointer fingers are pointing forward. And now press all 10 knuckles into the mat. And start to notice that length of your spine in this shape—so once again notice your body in this shape, so the tip of your tailbone all the way up to the crown of your head, you’ll find a straight line there (pause). And we’ll just take a moment to find the ocean breath again if we’ve lost it—inhaling deeply to expand the belly, and exhaling, drawing the belly in towards the spine (pause).
And starting to sync our movement with our breath, we’ll use the inhales as a cue to start to find a “cow position,” and this is created by, on your inhale, lifting your tailbone up, dropping your belly down, opening your chest, and bringing your gaze upwards. If you are in a chair, this will be created by poking your tailbone back, again expanding your belly and chest forwards, drawing your shoulders back, and looking upwards. And then on the exhale we’ll come into an “angry cat” position—so this is created by the opposing movement: tucking your tailbone down, arching through your spine, and drawing your gaze towards your belly. In the chair pose, you’ll also arch through your back, your tailbone forwards, and bring your gaze towards your belly. And we’ll start to smooth those movements out so you’ll inhale for a “cow belly” beginning the movement with the tailbone (pause) and exhale for an “angry cat,” again initiating the movement with your tailbone (pause). Inhale to find a (p. 187) cow belly position, lifting the tail, dropping the belly, widening through the heart space, and exhale, angry cat, arching the back and pressing through the hands. As you move here, allowing your attention to anchor to your breath, so the breath is what initiates the movements here (pause). And follow the path of your breath about three more cycles (pause). And when those are complete, we’ll find a neutral table top position or a neutral sitting position in your chair.
And we’ll move through a shoulder stretch. If you’re on the floor and you’re starting to notice that your knees are a little bit sore here, remember that you can place a blanket underneath your knees for some support (pause). So on the floor, you’ll really ground down through your left hand especially, and we’ll start to get light on the right hand, and sweep the right arm up towards the ceiling, so you’re looking towards the right, and the fingertips are lifted up towards the ceiling, taking a nice deep breath in here. We’ll ground down through your left fingertips and your left hand, and on your inhale we’ll start to reach the right arm up towards the sky so your chest opens up and your chest is open towards the right, and on your exhale we’ll thread the right hand under the left arm, bringing the back of the right hand down toward the mat. And to any degree that feels comfortable through your shoulder you can begin to bring the right shoulder down toward the mat as well—so your hips will be in the air and your right shoulder will be moving down towards the mat. You’re welcome to rest your right cheek on the mat as well (pause). And I invite you to breathe deep breaths into the belly here, drawing your awareness again to your breath, and noticing the sensations through the right shoulder here as well. You can actually use your breath to start opening the sensations up.
If you’re on the chair, you can find a similar shoulder stretch. You can bring your right arm across your body and grab the forearm with your left hand, and you can use that left hand to draw the arm closer in to the body if that feels good, again finding those deep belly breaths here (pause) and continuing to breathe, seeing if the sensations in the body change as you breathe, allowing any feelings to come, and also allowing the feelings to go (pause). And if it’s comfortable here you can take three more cycles of breath—you’re also welcome to come out of the shape at any point (pause). So we’ll begin to make our way back toward a table top position or to a neutral seated position. And we’ll start to move to (p. 188) the other side—on your inhale if you’re on the floor, lifting your left arm up towards the sky, and as you exhale bring your left arm to thread it beneath your right arm, again bringing the back of the left hand this time down towards the mat, and if it’s comfortable the left shoulder can start to slide down toward the mat and the left cheek resting on the floor. If you’re in your chair pose, finding your shoulder stretch through the left arm by guiding your arm across your body and grabbing the forearm with your right hand, allowing the shoulders to drop away from the ears here, and breathing deeply (pause).
Now we’re going to move through a gentle back bend, and again it’s important here to search for dull sensation in the body, but if you start to notice any intense sharp pain, I invite you to just come out of the posture or to modify it. So if you’re in the chair, we’re going to find a cow belly again—so you can poke your tailbone out, open through the belly, open through the chest, draw your shoulders down your back, and you might bring your gaze up if that’s comfortable for your neck. You can actually use your hands on your knees to assist the stretch here. And we’ll just take about five cycles of breath. If you’re on the floor, you can control the depth of the back bend by taking one of several options. So the first option is to bring your hands in front of your face and stack one hand on top of the other, so your hands will be flat on the floor, with your right hand on the floor and your left hand stacked on top, for instance, and then you can rest your forehead on the top of your hand. So this might feel like a nice stretch through the back. If you’d like to deepen the posture, you can extend your arms out in front of you on the floor, so your hands will still be flat but the arms will be stretched straight in front of you, kind of like a Superman. And this might feel like a nice stretch through the back body. If you’d like to increase the sensation, you can start to walk the hands closer towards you, and this can be by any amount. You might find yourself with your elbows underneath your shoulders and your forearms flat on the floor in a sphinx posture. Come out of the shape whenever it feels appropriate for your body; otherwise take about three more cycles of breath (pause). And we’ll slowly start to come out of this shape and back down to lying on the floor, with your arms beside your body, resting the forehead or one of your cheeks on the mat, or a seated position in your chair. Notice your body breathing here (pause). If you’re on the floor and you’ve rested one cheek on the floor, (p. 189) rest on the other cheek to even out the stretch (pause). Notice the breath fill the belly and also the lower back here (pause).
From here we’ll make our way to a counter-posture—so if you’re on the chair you can bend at your hips and bring your torso forwards, by any degree, potentially bringing your belly down towards your legs and allowing your arms to hang forwards, finding a forward fold. If you are on the floor you can make your way toward a child’s pose. So you can lift your torso up and draw your hips back over your heels. If your hips don’t quite reach your heels, you can slide a cushion underneath your hips to support them here. It might also feel good to have a cushion underneath your chest here. These are just options if you would like. You can walk your hands forwards so your arms are outstretched in front of you, or you can also bring your hands alongside the outside of your body, so that way the spine starts to round a little bit more. Rest your forehead down towards the mat or a cushion. And we’ll allow the breath to wash over the body for about five cycles here (pause).
Now please find a comfortable seated position again, either on the chair or on the floor. Again find that alignment with your head over your heart and your heart over your hips. And the parts of the body that are connected to the ground or the chair, really soften down into the support underneath them (pause). So now we’ll move into some shoulder and neck stretches, and I encourage you to be especially mindful about finding a stretch that feels good for you and does not feel painful. So you can rest your hands either on your legs or on the floor and we’ll start to take some shoulder rolls. So on your inhale, we’ll bring the shoulders up towards the ears, and on your exhale slide them back and down your back. Inhale moving the shoulders up towards the ears, and exhale sliding them back and down. And we’ll do a few more rounds like this. Notice any sensations that come along the way (pause). And when those shoulder rolls feel complete for you, you can come back to a neutral seated position. And we’ll start to take some neck circles. So to create neck circles, you can actually follow the path of your nose and imagine that you’re drawing little circles in front of you. So you can inhale, draw the nose to the left and up, for example, exhale, the nose comes down to the right (pause). So you control these movements, you control how big or small these circles are, how slow or fast, but I encourage you to sync the movements with your breath. So inhaling, up, and exhaling, down (p. 190) and around (pause). And if you’ve been taking circles in one direction, you can switch the direction of the circles now (pause). And continue to take the breath out of the neck, breathing deeply into the belly (pause). And we’ll allow those circles to come to a close.
We’re going to move into a stretch known as “eagle arms.” So we’ll begin by inhaling to reach the arms out away from you to a T shape, and then on your exhale, drawing your arms back forwards, but this time we’ll bring the right elbow underneath the left elbow, and from here you can take your arms to grab your opposite shoulders. Another option is to bring the backs of your hands towards each other, or to bring your palms towards each other. So find the option here that’s right for your body (pause). And breathe deeply into the belly. You might start to notice subtle movements of the body with the breath, so as you inhale you might notice that your chest slightly expands and your elbows move up and away from you, and as you exhale the shoulders soften down away from the ears (pause). And on your exhale you can let that stretch go, unwinding the arms, and again we’ll open the arms wide in opposition, and on an exhale this time we’ll cross the arms the opposite way (pause). Again you can bring your hands to touch your opposite shoulders or draw the backs of your hands towards each other, or the palms towards each other. Inhale to lift the elbows away from you, to find a sense of wideness through the chest, and exhale, softening through the shoulders, allowing them to settle down your back. Notice if you’re holding any tension through the lips or through the eyes; notice if you can soften these areas of the body (pause). On your exhale, you can allow your arms to unwind. And then on the inhale again we’ll reach the arms out in opposition into a T shape, and on the exhale I invite you to bring your hands behind your head, so you’re interlacing your fingertips behind your head, and the thumbs are just at the base of your skull. We’re going to allow our breath to guide these movements, just like when we were in cat/cow position earlier. So as you inhale, open your chest up and bring your elbows back, maybe look up through the eyes, and as you exhale, we’ll close in, rounding through the spine, drawing the elbows down. And the hands at the back of the head are just a gentle resting, they aren’t pressing the head down. We’ll inhale to open up, bringing the elbows back, noticing the sensations through the chest, and exhale, we’ll close in, drawing the elbows towards each other, arching through the back, emptying completely the breath (p. 191) here. Inhaling to open up, and exhaling to close, hugging the belly in towards the spine. Inhale, inflating the belly, inflating the chest, and exhale, emptying the breath. So now we’ll take about three more cycles of breath, either with the elbows closed or the elbows open and back, so you can choose here, taking the shape, and wherever you are, using the breath to open the shape up. Notice in your body what the subtle movements are as you inhale and as you exhale (pause). And we’ll begin to let that stretch go, bringing the arms back down alongside the body. And please start to make your way to lie down on your back. If you’d like to remain seated in the chair, that’s OK as well (pause).
So we’ll start to move into a side body stretch. I’ll guide the stretch for folks who are in the chair first. So in this side body stretch, you can allow your left hand to rest on your leg or on the chair, or just to dangle off the chair. And on your inhale, please sweep your right arm out to the side and up and over towards the left, so the right fingertips are pointing towards the left side of the room. And really allow your inhales to travel down towards the belly, towards the pelvis, to ground you into the chair. And allow your exhales to soften this right shoulder blade down your back. Send your breath along the right side of the body. If you’re lying on the floor, you can take an inhale to reach up and over your head. You can either keep your arms straight here or you can grab opposite elbows and hold on to your opposite elbows. And then you can start to wiggle and squirm to bring your shoulders over to the left, and your feet over to the left. So you come into a banana or crescent moon shape. And we’re just coming to a place here where we feel a stretch along the right side of the body. So you can play with this a little bit. And see if you can keep both of your shoulder blades planted on the mat here, softening into the mat. And similarly, keep both hips grounded firmly (pause). Breathe along the right side of the body (pause). When that shape feels complete, you can make your way back to neutral, and just take a breath in this neutral position to notice how your body feels (pause). And we’ll take this shape on the other side, finding a stretch along the left side of the body. If you’re on a chair, sweep your left arm up and over your head so the left fingertips point towards the right. Or if you’re on the floor, walk your shoulder blades towards the right, walk your elbows and arms towards the right, and also walk your feet towards the right (pause). Take a few elongated breaths along the left side of the body (pause).
(p. 192) We’ll start to let that stretch go, and make our way to a final resting posture, also known as svasana. So the idea in svasana is to find a comfortable position where your body can rest. For some people that’s on their back; for others it’s on their side, or sitting on a chair. And I invite you to take a few moments here in svasana to really set yourself up so your body feels supported and comfortable. So that might mean covering yourself with a blanket; it might mean sliding a cushion underneath your knees if your lower back is feeling uncomfortable. What makes you feel comfortable here (pause). So find a position where your body can completely relax and you can let go of any holding, any muscular control of the body (pause). In svasana, there are no real alignment cues. You simply allow your body to surrender and rest. And similarly, you release control over your breath, you allow your body to breathe naturally, coming back to your natural rhythm of breath (pause). So in svasana, we take this seat of “the watcher,” meaning that we watch sensations, breath, and thoughts, and we allow them to move through. So I invite you to spend as long as you would like in svasana here, watching your experience as it is (pause). Whenever you’re ready, you can bring your practice to a close.
3c: Mindful Yoga I—Practice Instruction (~45 Minutes)
(p. 193) 3d: Longer Sitting (Focused Attention II) (~21 Minutes)
So now we’re going to begin our longer Sitting Practice. This is sometimes called mindfulness of breathing, or in the Tibetan tradition, this is referred to as shamatha, or calm abiding. So we’re using the breath to bring our attention back to the present moment over and over, in such a way that it cultivates a calmness of mind.
So like with the briefer practice, we’re going to begin by establishing a good meditation posture. In your chair, allow yourself to be comfortable in the chair with your feet flat on the floor (pause). Allow your feet to relax into the floor and make contact (pause). And allow that sense of settledness to rise up through your lower legs, your upper legs, into your seat, making contact with the seat (pause). Attend to your hand position, so, like before, you can either rest your hands in your lap, one on top of the other, or you can place one hand on each thigh, whichever is comfortable for you. But be aware of how your hands and your arms connect to your shoulders. So we don’t want the shoulders hunched forward or pulled too far back, but somewhere in the middle point that’s comfortable, relaxed, upright. So just take a moment to find the hand position that’s good for you, that allows you to have that soft, open front (pause). And feel the curvature of your spine, the natural curve of your back rise up from the chair (pause). And with your head upright, your chin is tucked slightly, and that tiny golden thread gently pulling upward from the crown of your head (pause). And also be aware of your mouth position. So many people, without realizing it, tend to hold tension in their jaw; they might clench without realizing it. So one approach is to actually just open your mouth slightly, just even to part your lips. Just bring some sense of softness to the jaw area (pause). And then finally the eyes, so allow yourself to have that relaxed gaze in front of you. Feel the sensations at the back of your eyeballs, so you’re not necessarily looking outward at anything in particular, but it’s more of this inward gaze.
So just take a moment to feel fully embodied, feel your full embodied posture. And the posture is actually quite fluid, so the idea is not to set up your posture and then remain here like a rock. This is a basic starting point, and as we go through the (p. 194) practice you may find that you need to make micro-adjustments just to maintain that sense of comfort and relaxation. Because if we are bracing and holding in a certain uncomfortable way, it will affect our state of mind and our ability to actually be present. So mindfulness of body and mindfulness of mind actually go hand in hand. This is a fully embodied mindfulness (pause).
So this first practice, this first aspect of the Sitting Practice, is sometimes referred to as Focused Attention, and it’s quite as it sounds. We are using the breath, using our sense of mindfulness, to really focus our attention on a particular point in the present moment. We are learning the process of coming back to the breath, back to the present, over and over again. And just like we did in the brief Sitting Practice, we are going to use the point in our lower belly as our reference point for this Focused Attention. So we’ll take a moment now just to find this point in our lower belly, which is midway between left and right, front and back, and this may be an unusual point for some of you. If you’ve never brought attention to this part of your body, that’s OK. There’s no right or wrong way to experience this. Just as best as you can, see if you can find that place in your lower belly (pause).
And just allow your mind to come to rest there. One of the images that always resonates with me is the sense that this point in the lower belly is like an anchor in the ocean of our breath, so as the waves of the breath ride in and out, we are anchored to this point in our lower belly. So just allow yourself to settle into that point in the lower belly (pause). Allow your whole body to organize around that point in the lower belly. And we’re going to stay very closely with that point (pause). Whenever our mind wanders, as soon as we notice, we just gently bring it back (pause). You might notice over time that your breathing is beginning to slow (pause). Stay very close, very intimate with the breath in the lower belly (pause). When the mind wanders, we bring it back, and the mind wandering itself may include judgments about our ability to stay present or do the practice. We regard that no differently than any other kind of thinking; we simply notice, acknowledge it, and come back. And the acknowledgment part is very important, so it’s not like we’re trying to suppress our thoughts, which is an impossible activity and is very counterproductive. So we’re not trying to suppress our thoughts, but we’re not trying to latch onto them either, or make them into a story. So this (p. 195) middle way is to acknowledge their presence, their natural occurrence, and then make that choice to come back to the lower belly (pause). Another thing to note is, if you find yourself mind-wandering quite a bit, it may be because you have left the connection to your posture. So you could just check in with that as well, making sure you’re still in a comfortable posture, upright, relaxed, awake (pause). Sometimes we may have mind-wandered for a few minutes; other times it might be just that first thought. It doesn’t matter: As soon as we notice, we acknowledge and we come back (pause). With each breath, allow yourself to settle and surrender more deeply into the lower belly (pause). Sometimes a thought may arise in a form that’s not words. It might be an image, a memory, an emotion—and we take the same approach: We simply acknowledge and come back (pause). We’re learning how to tether our mind to the breath, tether our mind to the lower belly the same way a boat on the ocean may be tethered to its anchor. We might go away for a moment or two, but then inevitably we return (pause). So mindfulness is not about having perfect attention—the wandering away, the noticing, the coming back are all part of the process. So over time, we become more easy with that process, more familiar with it (pause). Connect with your posture again; make sure you haven’t lost the form of your posture (pause). When we sit with the breath in this way, this Focused Attention, we may begin to notice a sense of stillness or silence. So I invite you to notice that, if it comes to your experience (pause).
So this is the end of the Focused Attention practice, which is about 20 minutes long. So if this is your practice for this week, you can stop the recording, take a moment, and when you’re ready, bring your practice to a close.
3d: Longer Sitting (Focused Attention II) (~21 Minutes)
(p. 196) Session 4
4a: Mindful Yoga II—Practice Instruction (40 Minutes)
Welcome to the second series of Mindful Yoga for Wisdom Mind. This yoga series will consist mostly of standing postures. So if you know that you have difficulties with balance or flexibility or mobility, I invite you to have a chair nearby, and you can place this chair right at the top of your yoga mat.
So we’ll begin standing at the top of your mat in mountain pose (pause). You’ll find your feet about hip width apart, and we’re really going to take several moments to set this posture up as this is the foundation for our standing series. So you can play with shifting your weight from one foot to the other, and just notice how you balance here, standing up. You can rock your weight forward and back as well, and see if you can find the four corners of your feet—so, the corner just below your big toe, the corner just below your pinky toe, and the two sides of your ankles, or your heels, the two sides of your heels, grounding firmly into the mat. So we’re not gripping through the toes, but rather we’re grounded firmly through the four corners of the feet (pause). And building our foundation from the bottom up, you can start to notice the legs engaging here, and you can play with engaging the legs, that way the kneecaps actually lift as you engage the legs, and letting that go. Just noticing what it feels like, you might even tap the legs, the muscles of your thighs, noticing what it feels like to have your legs strong and engaged here (pause). And then we’ll align the pelvis or the hip area so that way it’s over the feet, and then your heart area so it’s over the hips, and then finally the head over your heart. So you’re standing with a long spine with head over heart, and heart over hips. Your arms can rest beside you, and allow your fingertips to be light (pause).
And we’ll just begin here by taking three deep cleansing breaths, to let the rest of your day go and enter into your yoga practice. So we’ll begin by taking a deep breath in through the nose, and exhale from the mouth with a sigh. Inhale through the nose, and exhale—let it go. Last time, inhale, then exhale (pause), starting to settle into your yoga practice (pause), noticing what is moving through you, emotionally, mentally, physically (pause). Whether it’s sadness, joy, elation, tension, (p. 197) frustration, fatigue—all are welcome in this space (pause). Start to notice the rhythm of your breath—are you breathing into your chest, your belly? . . . (pause)—and noticing how the breath feels as it travels through your nose or your lips down your throat, through your torso (pause). And we’ll start to cultivate that ocean breath that we were working with in the first yoga series. This, again, is created by breathing in and out through your nose and widening the back of your throat. So your breath takes on an ocean-like sound (pause). And as you breathe here, see if the waves of your inhale can fill up your belly area, and then fill up your rib area, and then your chest, and as you exhale, notice the chest soften, the ribs deflate, and the belly hug into towards your spine. So again that’s inhaling to fill up the belly, then the ribs, then the chest, and exhaling to let go from the chest, then the ribs, and then the belly (pause). If you notice that you’re holding your breath or that you’ve lost awareness of your breath, or you’re having trouble keeping up with this type of ocean breath, you can always take a moment to come back to your natural breathing cycle, and to join in the ocean breath again. So you can always restart throughout your practice (pause).
And we’ll start to sync our movements with our breath—we’ll start by inhaling to move our arms up towards the sky, over your head, and exhale to slide the hands back down, bring the arms back down (pause). Inhaling to float the arms up, and exhaling to soften the arms back down (pause). One more time, we’ll inhale to reach the arms up, then exhale, floating them back down (pause). This time we’ll inhale and reach the arms up, so that way they are parallel to each other, and your palms are facing forwards. And we’ll take about three cycles of breath into the length of the body, noticing how the inhales and the exhales might subtly shift this posture for you. Notice if you’re holding tension in any areas that are not necessary to keep you standing here—for instance, in the face, in the fingertips, in the belly, and in the toes (pause). Allow the exhales to soften the shoulders down away from the ears (pause). And on your next exhale, we’ll float the arms back down again (pause).
Now we’re going to move into a forward fold. We’ll begin by inhaling to reach the arms up over your head, and on your exhale, you can bend your knees and hinge forward at your hips, so that way you come to drape your torso over your legs. Your hands can rest on the chair or on the mat, or they can simply dangle. And again, you can bend your knees (p. 198) as deeply as you need to here. We’re going to take about five cycles of breath in this forward fold. It doesn’t have to be a stagnant, still fold, so you’re welcome to sway from side to side; you might like to grab opposite elbows, just allowing this posture to feel good for you (pause). And now find that groundedness through the four corners of your feet and that engagement through the legs, and on an in-breath we’re going to reach the arms all the way back up overhead and come back to standing. Then on an exhale, bring the arms back down by your side (pause). We’ll add on to that forward fold, so this time we’ll inhale, reach the arms up, exhale, bowing forwards into your forward fold. And on an inhale, we’ll find a halfway raise through the body, so you can bring your fingertips to the floor or to your calves or to your thighs or to the chair, so that way you’re finding a flat-back position and the crown of your head reaches forward (pause). We’ll just take one cycle of breath here, pressing your hips back and the crown of your head forward, finding length through the spine (pause). And then on an exhale, we’ll find a forward fold, so you can let that go, softening into your forward fold (pause). And again, notice subtle movements in your forward fold—perhaps as you inhale, you find a little bit more length through your spine, and as you exhale and your belly hugs into your spine, your torso moves closer towards your legs (pause). So we’ll ground down through the feet again, engaging through the legs, and let’s inhale to reach the arms up over your head—you might even look up at the ceiling if that’s comfortable in the neck. And then exhale to float the arms back down (pause).
We’ll try a “warrior 1” posture here—so you can step your left foot backwards, and this can be by any amount that’s comfortable in your legs. So you can step your left foot backwards on your mat, and find a bend through the right knee—so you might need to widen or shorten your stance according to what feels good for your body. But you don’t want your right knee extending past your right toes—that’s the key—so you might want to widen your stance more. And you can certainly rest your hands on the chair for some support here. You can also have your hands at your hips to help guide your hips forwards. And I encourage you again to notice the four corners of both of your feet grounded into your mat. And your feet are in alignment here, so that way, they’re on two separate train tracks, so you’re not walking on a tightrope, but they’re wide enough so that you’re on two separate train tracks. And your left toes are pointing slightly forwards. If it feels good you can also reach your arms (p. 199) upwards into the sky, and allow your shoulders to soften down your back. And we’ll take about five cycles of breath in warrior 1—you can always return to mountain pose earlier if you need to (pause). Notice, on your inhales, the belly expand and the chest lift, and on your exhales, maybe you sink a little bit deeper into your hips, the eyes soften, the jaw softens. Notice how this posture feels for you (pause). Whenever you’re ready, you can make your way back to a mountain pose, taking as many steps forward as you need to get there, coming to stand at the top of the mat (pause). Then we’ll find warrior 1 on the other side, stepping your right foot back, so your right foot is on a separate train track than your left foot, your right toes are pointing slightly forwards, and finding a bend through your left knee. Your hands can rest on the chair for some support, they can also come to your hips, or they can reach up towards the sky. Notice how this shape feels on the side for you, and continue to breathe into the shape (pause). And on your own time, you can make your way back to a mountain pose, standing at the top of your mat (pause).
So here in mountain pose, we’ll start grounding down, especially through the left foot, really drawing your awareness to the four corners of your left foot on the mat. And you can start to play with shifting your weight to your left foot, maybe lifting the right heel up and putting it back down. Maybe even lifting the right toes up. As we move through our next balancing tree posture, it’s helpful to find a space on the floor in front of you to bring your gaze towards. So really focus your attention on one spot on the floor in front of you. Notice that groundedness through your left foot, as well as engagement through the left thigh. We’ll start to peel the right heel off the mat, and you can move your right foot so that way your right heel rests toward your left shin with the toes still on the floor. You can also start to slide your right foot up toward your shin so the toes leave the floor and the whole foot is pressing against your left shin. Notice strength through your left leg, and your right heel pushing into the leg at the same time as the left leg presses into the right heel (pause). Finally, if you would like to, you can bring your right foot above your knee to rest into your left thigh, and again the chair is there for support if you would like. Your hands can be on the chair or on your waist or they can be up in the sky. And if you fall out of the posture, you’re always welcome to come back into the posture. Falling out is completely (p. 200) normal (pause). See if you can follow the path of your breath here (pause). We’ll take one last cycle of breath together (pause), and on your exhale, we’ll bring the foot back down to the mat and the hands to rest alongside your body. You can shake through the arms, through the legs, and let that posture go, resetting. And then move on to the other side of the body by first grounding down through the right foot. So again, notice the four corners of your right foot, grounded into the mat, and find that space on the floor in front of you to gaze at. We’ll start to get light through the left heel, lifting the left heel up and shifting the weight to the right leg, noticing the thigh muscles of the right leg engaged here to support you. This is your tree trunk. And then you can start to play with tree pose on this side of the body, by bringing the left heel to rest against the right shin with the left toes on the floor. Or maybe the left foot goes further up the calf or the shin. So the right leg is pressing into the left foot, and the left foot is pressing into the right leg to find a solid base here. Another option is to bring the left foot above the right knee to rest into the thigh. The hands are either on your chair, on your hips, or lifted up towards the sky (pause). We’ll take three full cycles of breath here (pause). And on your exhale, you can soften your left foot back down towards the mat and your arms by your side, coming into mountain pose. Pause here and noticing how your body feels (pause).
So now we will transition down to the floor, or to sitting on a chair. So if you are going to complete this seated, this component of the practice, you can make your way towards sitting on a chair now. Otherwise, we can move down to the floor, first through inhaling to reach the arms up to the sky, and then exhaling to find your forward fold, bowing over your legs. Then on your inhale you can find your halfway raise, bringing your fingers to the shins or the thighs or the chair, finding length through the spine. And then on an exhale, you can bend your knees very deeply so you can actually place your hands on the floor and come to sit down on your hips. So once you’re on the floor you can come to lie down on your back (pause). And we’ll have both legs extended long on the mat, or both feet planted firmly on the floor if you’re on the chair. And on your next in-breath, you can start to draw your right knee up towards your chest. You can hug the back of the thigh or you can hug the front of the right shin, noticing your tailbone on the mat and both shoulders are planted on the mat, or notice both of your hips grounded into the chair and the shoulders softening (p. 201) away from your ears here. And following your breath all along the length of the spine, notice your inhales and watch your exhales (pause).
On your next exhale, you can let that stretch go, letting go of your right leg and placing it on the floor (pause). And then on your next inhale, please draw your left knee in toward your chest, hugging the back of your left thigh or left shin (pause). And as you breathe here, you might even notice your belly and torso expanding and deflating against your left thigh (pause). On your next exhale, please let your left leg go, coming back to a neutral lying position or sitting position in the chair.
Then we’ll move toward what’s called the figure-four stretch for the hips. So if you’re lying on the mat, you can walk your feet closer towards your hips, and that way your feet are on the floor and your knees are bent. And then in the chair or lying down, we’ll pick the right foot up, and place the right foot against the left thigh, on the top of the thigh. So you can find what works best for you in terms of whether you’d like the right foot to be closer to your pelvis or farther away from your pelvis towards the left knee. If you’re on the floor, please notice your tailbone pressing down towards the mat and the shoulders grounded into the mat, so we’re not trying to curl up and hold ourselves up but we’re allowing the body to be supported by the mat. You can even use the right hand as a weight to press the right thigh away from you if that feels good. And notice the sensation through your right hip (pause). And as you breathe, you can send your inhales down to the belly, to the pelvis, and the hip, and meet the sensations there (pause). On your next exhale, please return your right foot back down to the mat, then on your inhale you can come to the other side, placing your left foot across your right thigh (pause). You can use your left hand as a gentle weight on the thigh if that feels nice, and notice the sensations through this left hip, noticing if they’re any different than the ones that you felt on the right—not worrying about why or how they’re different, but just taking in the sensations as they are in this moment. Again, using your breath to meet your body, send your breath to the belly, the pelvis, and the hips (pause). And on your next exhale, you can return the left foot back down to the mat.
Now we’ll move into a spinal twist. So if you’re on the floor, please bring both knees up towards your chest, and then you can bring your arms out to a T, so they’re wide on the floor. You can allow your knees to fall (p. 202) over to the right side. If the knees don’t quite reach the floor, you can slide a pillow or a cushion underneath your right thigh; it might also feel nice to have a pillow or cushion between your two thighs. So just set yourself up in this spinal twist, having both shoulders connected to the mat, and if it’s comfortable through the neck and the shoulders, you can also bring your left ear towards the mat, so looking in the direction away from your legs. If you’re on the chair, you can bring your right arm across your body and allow it to rest on the left leg. You can take a nice deep breath in here, noticing the length of your spine, and on an exhale you can slowly start to open the chest towards the left side of the mat or the room (pause). So on your inhales, you’re noticing length through the torso, from the tailbone through the crown of the head, and you’re allowing the exhales to naturally move your torso into a twist towards the left. We’ll take about two more breaths here in this spinal twist (pause). And if it’s comfortable seated in a chair, you can bring your gaze over your left shoulder (pause). And on your inhale, you can unwind by bringing yourself back into center into a neutral lying or seated position. And then we’ll move to the other side, so if you’re on the other side, draw the knees up, bringing the arms up to a T, and allow the knees to fall to the opposite side (pause). Bring your gaze away from your legs, using any cushions or pillows that you might need on this side to support your legs. If you’re on the chair, you can bring your left hand to your right thigh. Take an inhale, and on the exhale, noticing the ribs naturally start to deflate and twist the body towards the right side. And your right hand can rest wherever feels good, whether that’s dangling or resting on the chair. And maybe your neck turns to look over your right shoulder, if that feels good for you (pause). On your next inhale, we’ll unwind the shape and come back to a neutral seated or lying posture.
And we’re going to make our way into the final resting pose of svasana. So find a resting pose that works for your body, whether that’s sitting on the chair, sitting on the mat, lying on your back, lying on your side. Take a moment to find any blankets or cushions that will support your final resting shape (pause). In your svasana, let go of any ideas of how the body should look or should feel, simply allowing the body to rest as it is (pause). Allow your body to breathe as it does (pause). And use this time in your final resting to watch your experience unfold. You’re welcome to close your practice whenever you’d like to.
4a: Mindful Yoga II—Practice Instruction (40 Minutes)
(p. 203) Sessions 5 and 6
5a: Long Open Monitoring (Sitting Practice Extended) (40 Minutes)
The Open Monitoring practice is the full 40-minute Sitting Practice. The first 20 minutes of the practice consists of the Focused Attention segment; the script for this was provided earlier as 3d: Longer Sitting (Focused Attention II) and will not be repeated here. The following script is for the second half of the 40-minute practice, which is specifically the Open Monitoring segment. For facilitators who wish to record their own versions of this practice, the Focused Attention script and this Open Monitoring script would be used in succession.
If you’re doing the longer practice, we’re going to continue to sit now and build on what we’ve established so far (pause).
So this part of the practice is sometimes referred to as Open Monitoring. Or when we talk about mindfulness and awareness, the mindfulness is the act of being present, and the awareness is what we learn and discover when we are present. So if we think of our attention like a flashlight, the Focused Attention is a very narrow flashlight, and this Open Monitoring or this awareness practice is really illuminating the whole room, the whole situation. So we’ll continue to maintain our connection with the lower belly, but we’ll have about 25 percent of our attention in the lower belly, and with the other 75 percent of our attention, we’re going to explore the boundaries of our experience a little bit (pause). So first of all, again, never lose touch with the lower belly. I invite you just to notice the rest of your body. Notice the sensations; notice the life of the body beyond the lower belly (pause). And there’s a sense of open curiosity, so we’re not going to look for anything in particular; we just simply notice what is already there with an attitude of welcome and acceptance. If your mind wanders like before, bring it back to the lower belly (pause). And then begin to open up again, to be curious about the play of experience, first in our own body (pause). Particularly if you are someone who deals with any kind of chronic health issue and you feel physical (p. 204) symptoms in your body, just be aware if there are any judgments that arise as you start to notice your body, and simply let those be (pause).
And now we’re going to open up our awareness a bit more, being aware of the sense of space immediately around our body (pause). Again, without any agenda except to notice, observe, be curious (pause). And then gently allow your awareness to be invited out further into the room. So you may start to become aware of ambient sounds in the room. Depending on where you are sitting, you might be able to hear the wind, or people, or movement in your building (pause). And in the practice we’re learning how to be present with and notice these sensations without going on auto-pilot and having a story about them, a mental monologue about them (pause). And keeping that 25 percent of attention in the lower belly is a way to keep us anchored, so that we can notice these arisings of experience without falling into the trap of mind-wandering. But having said that, mind-wandering will probably happen at some point, and there’s no problem. So the instruction is always to come back and start over. Each breath is a fresh start (pause). You might also be aware of what’s around you visually in the room, and again it’s not like we’re seeking out things to look at, but simply allowing these perceptions to enter our experience (pause). If at any point you become really lost in thought, you may want to come back and do a moment or two of Focused Attention, just being very closely present with the breath in the lower belly. And then when you find that your mind has settled again, you can begin to open up your awareness once more (pause).
And this is an important aspect of awareness that comes in the practice: that it’s not a rigid boilerplate technique, but rather over time we, as the saying goes, become our own meditation instructor. Meaning we start to notice for ourselves what our state of mind needs in any given moment. So in one moment our mind may be very wild; we may need to pay very close attention to the breath in the lower belly. And at other times, we may have more stillness and silence available, and it’s more easy to drop into that place of Open Awareness (pause). So as we continue to sit here for the next few moments, I invite you to explore that—what does your mind need in this moment? Do you need to remain very close to the breath, or is there an invitation to open up your awareness? And you may find yourself going back and forth (pause). And then the practice is, we sit here, even if we are opening up our awareness, (p. 205) and we are always maintaining contact with the presence of our physical body, so this is not a disembodied practice of trying to escape from reality. We are very much here, literally in this moment, grounded, rooted, and it’s from that place of deep embodiment that we can afford to open up and explore our experience. So just see if you can notice that, that sense of being really embodied here but also opening up at the same time (pause).
So as we bring this practice to a close, we’ll take a moment together to acknowledge our willingness to simply show up and be here, be present with what is, without judgment or agenda (pause). Take the time to acknowledge that you are willing to make this offering to yourself, to nourish your own well-being (pause). And when you’re ready, you can bring the practice to a close, and be gentle with your transition and be curious about whether you can bring some of this sense of presence as you move through the rest of your day.
5a: Long Open Monitoring (Sitting Practice Extended) (40 Minutes)
(p. 206) 5b: Aimless Wandering (4 Minutes)
Aimless Wandering is a type of walking meditation practice. Walking is something that many of us do in some form every day of our lives, although often there’s some kind of agenda or goal orientation towards it. For example, we might be walking to the grocery store, walking to our car, walking to meet someone, and so on. In Aimless Wandering, the practice is just that—we are walking aimlessly, without any particular intention in mind except to be with our present-moment experience. The practice is quite simple—instead of bringing attention to the breath or the body as we do in the Body Scan, we bring our attention to the movement of how it is to walk, beginning with the placement of the footfalls, moving the left foot, the right foot, making contact with the ground beneath us; feeling how our body moves with us, over and over. And when your mind starts to settle, and you become connected with the sensation of the moving of the feet, then you can let your awareness gently expand and begin to take in the sensations around you. You can do this practice in your home, for example if you have some constraints where you can’t go outside, or if you are able to go outside, then you can do it virtually anywhere. It doesn’t have to be a particularly pleasant vicinity or a nice place or something where we intend it to be a positive experience. In fact, the location doesn’t really matter. The practice is simply to walk and notice your experience, and when your mind wanders, you can come back to the sensations of your footfalls and let your mind expand from there to include all of the different sounds, sights, and any other sensations that your body receives as you walk.
Now if you are a person who has restricted mobility, for example if you are someone who uses a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair, you can still do this practice. The idea is to move the way that you would usually move, using the guidance I have given you to the best of your ability. The one specific instruction is to pick a definite period of time to explore this practice so that you’re not too preoccupied by how long the practice is going to go on. You could pick a period of time, for example 15 minutes, and then program that on your phone or your watch, and have that with you so that it sounds an alarm when the time has come for the practice to be over. Then that way, you can be free just to experience the aimlessness of the practice.
(p. 207) So again, this is something that can be done inside or outside, and the invitation is simply to let go of any agenda of needing to go anywhere in particular or needing to have a certain type of experience. You may find it enjoyable, but you might not. The type of experience you have is not a measure of the success of the practice. It’s more about being able to experience mindfulness as you move around in your daily life, and walking, again, is something that most of us do every day in a rather routine fashion, on auto-pilot.
5b: Aimless Wandering (4 Minutes)
(p. 208) 5c: Emotional Weather—Introduction (~3 Minutes)
This next instruction is not necessarily a separate practice per se but what I would refer to as an enhancement of your Sitting Practice.
This program is based on something called mindfulness-based stress reduction, with the idea that when we bring mindfulness to our daily life, we can experience a decrease in our stress and suffering. However, to move toward a place of less stress and suffering, we paradoxically have to let go of the goal of being peaceful and happy all of the time, where we are grasping only at so-called positive emotions while rejecting so-called negative emotions. In this particular mindfulness training, we can discover that we can make a place within ourselves where all emotions are welcomed; all emotions can hold wisdom for us. The place where we can get challenged with our emotions is if we act them out impulsively and they can cause harm to ourselves or others. Learning how to abide with our emotions, without suppressing or acting them out, is a middle ground where we learn to respond, not react—one of the core tenets of mindfulness training. We learn how to respond, not react through our practice, and then we are able to bring it into our daily lives and our interactions with others.
In the beginning, when people start mindfulness practice, they often very quickly connect with that sense of peace, stillness, and relaxation. But then as they progress deeper into the practice, they might start to notice that some different emotions come up—and these can be troubling for people, especially if they are not familiar with them. Somehow we can have the idea that maybe the practice isn’t working anymore, or that somehow we are doing it wrong. But actually this is very good news when these feelings come up, because it means that there is space opening up in your being so that you can feel all that you need to feel, to feel the wholeness of your personhood.
I’m going to give you this technique now so that you have a way to work with emotions when they arise in your practice. There are two ways you can work with this enhancement. One might be to use this instruction if you notice an emotion coming up during a practice session, if (p. 209) something comes up spontaneously. Or, if you’re feeling very brave and adventurous you might use this instruction and actually bring up an emotion on purpose in order to work with it and engage with it. And that’s what we’re going to go ahead and explore in this next guided practice instruction.
5c: Emotional Weather—Introduction (~3 Minutes)
(p. 210) 5d: Emotional Weather—Practice Instruction (~12 Minutes)
So, if you’re not already doing so, I would invite you to take a good meditation posture. As I mentioned, we can use this instruction as an enhancement to the Sitting Practice, although as you become familiar with it, you could actually bring it to any of the practices—walking, yoga, any of them. So the purpose of this enhancement is to learn how to be in a mindful and embodied way where we can actually be present with our emotions without trying to cling on to them or reject them, but simply let them be present. And this is part of how we learn how to respond and not react, because a lot of our reactivity can come from intense emotions. And again, it’s communicating the idea that we are not labeling any emotions as “bad”; we’re simply finding a way to cultivate enough presence that we can abide with our emotions and then make a choice about how we want to act on them, if we want to act at all (pause). And I think as we probably all know, mindfulness is different from guided imagery, as guided imagery often has a specific end goal that we want to get to. However, we are going to use some mental images to help us step into this particular mindfulness practice. And so the particular image we’re going to use here is the idea of a mountain. And the reason that we work with the mountain—you know, if we think about a mountain, some of the adjectives we would bring to that are: it’s solid, it’s stable, it’s upright, it’s noble. But there’s also a lot going on around the mountain at any given time. Specifically, a lot of weather—especially the further we get up the mountain, there may be clouds, strong winds, rain, hail, snow. It can be quite turbulent up there, and then at other times there is a clear blue sky. And regardless of the weather, the mountain is the same. It is present; it is available to what’s happening. And so in this enhancement, I’m going to invite you to actually experience that sense of mountain within yourself, such that when a strong emotion arises in the practices, you can actually abide with it and not have to exit the practice or get caught in the emotion.
So feel yourself really rooted and planted in your chair (pause). And with each out-breath, you might have the sense of connecting more deeply with the chair and the earth under you (pause). And feel into your lower belly (pause), feel into a sense of spaciousness or openness there (pause), and as you sit, feel into your posture; see if you can have that sense of being like the mountain rising up out of the earth (p. 211) (pause)—that strength, that nobility, that peacefulness (pause). And just to see how we experience this emotional weather, allow yourself to call to mind an experience that brought a strong emotion with it, and it doesn’t matter what type of emotion it is, it can be any emotion (pause). And as you call up that experience and see it clearly, notice where the emotion is appearing in your body (pause). What sensations are arising? (pause) What do you notice with your five senses? (pause) And as we explore this emotion, we are sitting here as the mountain, so as we did in the Open Monitoring, the longer Sitting Practice, we have about 25 percent of our attention in our lower belly, in this sense of being deeply rooted in the earth, in this strong posture, and with that stable foundation we can allow our awareness to explore the emotion that’s arising, without being caught in a storyline or any kind of mental judgments or any kind of problem-solving or managing of the emotion. But we’re simply letting it be (pause)—almost like birds playing in space around the mountain (pause).
When something triggers a strong emotion in us, it’s not uncommon that we find ourselves really identifying with that emotion—it takes over our whole experience, it defines us in that moment. And what this practice of Emotional Weather offers us, or this enhancement, is that we can let the full life of the emotion be there without it having to define us (pause). So we’re not trying to control or manage anything. The emotion may have different sensations or images or qualities and we just let them play out as we sit here as the mountain (pause).
So this is something that you can practice by itself, on its own, and as you become more comfortable with this you could sit and actually call up specific emotions to explore. But probably, at least in the beginning, more likely what is going to happen is, as you’re doing the longer Sitting Practice, some emotions may come up, and this gives you a way to relate to them, without accentuating them and without repressing them. So for right now you can sit here as long as you like, and when you feel ready, and the time is right for you, you can bring this to a close.
5d: Emotional Weather—Practice Instruction (~12 Minutes)
(p. 212) Session 7
7a: Loving-Kindness—Introduction (~5 Minutes)
So in this next practice, we are going to explore our experience of pain, and specifically bringing Loving-Kindness to our pain. We live a culture and a society where there is a lot of pressure to be happy all of the time, to be perfect, to portray the perfect image—we see this in media, advertising, social media, and so on. And there generally is not a lot of room for the experience or acknowledgment of one’s pain, even though according to the traditional mindfulness teachings and many other traditions, pain is a normal and natural part of life. But to the extent that we resist that pain, it creates what we call suffering. So one of the ways we can reduce our suffering is to be able to relate directly to our own experience of pain with Loving-Kindness, or what is sometimes referred to as maitri or metta.
And this is a little bit more of an advanced practice, so that’s why it’s being introduced later in the program, but we build on that foundation that we have built in the previous practices—our ability to stay, to stay present, to stay home—and then when the experience of pain arises, or we call it up directly, we can actually continue to stay present with it, and also develop an attitude of kindness and curiosity about it.
So the technique that I’m about to lead you through now, or practice, it’s recommended that you explore this after you’ve done at least maybe 5 or 10 minutes of Sitting Practice. This isn’t the kind of practice you can just immediately jump into. You want to be able to ease into it, and it’s really important to just sit down and come into your posture and actually feel the groundedness of the posture and the breath and the Sitting Practice before then stepping into this Loving-Kindness practice, which can sometimes be challenging. The other thing I think is important to say at this point is, Loving-Kindness might have a generally positive connotation—you know, we’re being kind to ourselves—and because of that there may be an implicit assumption that this practice is going to feel “good,” sort of a “love-and-light” experience. Now that may be the case some of the time, but there will be at least as many times where the practice does not feel that way, and in fact it might feel quite challenging.
(p. 213) So the reason I bring this up now is, once again, to invite you to enter into the practice with an attitude of non-judgment and non-striving. There is no particular goal in this practice except to be with and bear witness; that’s what the Loving-Kindness is—to be willing to show up and actually just be present to our pain. The image that always comes up for me is a mother holding a baby—you know, the baby may be in distress but she looks upon it with unconditional love. And that’s the kind of gaze we want to bring to our experience of pain that we explore in this practice. So in that analogy, the mother might not necessarily be happy that the baby is in pain, but she’s able to regard it with love and compassion and tenderness. So that’s the attitude we want to bring to our experience in this practice and not worry about whether it feels positive or negative.
OK, so before we begin the practice, again, I just invite you to sit for a few moments. You may wish to stop the recording at this point and just sit for a few moments, settle yourself, and when you feel like you are present enough, then you can begin, and we will begin together with this practice instruction.
7a: Loving-Kindness—Introduction (~5 Minutes)
(p. 214) 7b: Loving-Kindness—Practice Instruction (~17 Minutes)
So to begin this practice, I am going to first invite you to call to mind an experience of pain. As we age, we often experience a variety of physical illnesses, so the experience that you call up may be related to a physical experience of pain. But it might also be an emotional experience of pain. As we age, there are many painful experiences we can go through—for example, grief and loss over loved ones who are no longer with us, hopes and dreams that may have disappeared. So take a moment now and see if you can call to mind an experience of physical or emotional pain. Now if you are trying this practice for the first time or you’re still relatively new to it, I encourage you not to pick the most painful thing that’s ever happened in your life. The idea is to pick something manageable and workable and doable. And let’s say, for example, you’re a person who struggles with chronic pain. Rather than taking the generic experience of chronic pain, try to call to mind a particular event when you were very aware of suffering with this pain. And that can be true of physical pain or emotional pain. So let’s just take a moment now to see if we can call such an experience to mind (pause).
Mindfulness is distinct from guided imagery—they are two different things, but often in a practice such as Loving-Kindness, we can use imagery to bring us to an experience that we actually want to bring Loving-Kindness to. So we are going to use a bit of our imagery to begin with. So see yourself really clearly in that state of either physical or emotional pain, almost like you were a separate person. So, for example, what were you wearing that day? What place were you in? What time of day was it? What age were you? You might be at a very different age from what you are now (pause). See yourself very clearly (pause). And as you look upon yourself in a state of pain, notice where you are experiencing that pain right now in your own body (pause). So, scanning through your body, notice where are you really holding the pain of that experience? And it’s going to be very different for everyone. For example, you might be feeling some anxiety in your upper chest, or some sadness and grief in your belly—but those are just some examples. I invite you to look for yourself and notice as you look upon this part of yourself that is in great pain, where are you feeling that in your body right now? (pause) And you may start to notice some strong emotions coming up, so at this point we don’t want to lose touch with the foundation of our Sitting (p. 215) Practice, of our posture, so I invite you just to check in with your lower belly, check in with your seat, feel yourself planted here as you also experience this pain in your body right now (pause). So the Sitting Practice gives us this deeper part of ourselves that can also hold the part that’s in pain, much the way a mother would hold a baby in distress (pause).
And I invite you now just to be curious about the experience of pain in your body—curious about the sensations. Does the pain have a certain color to it? (pause) Is there a temperature to it? Does it have a shape or a sound or a smell? (pause) So we’re being really curious about the sensation qualities of this experience of pain (pause). This first step of Loving-Kindness is an attitude of curiosity (pause). And even if this is a pain that you’re very familiar with, that you’ve carried for a long time, see if you can invite any judgments or assumptions about it to take a back seat for now, and just look with the eyes of curiosity (pause). And at any point, if you’re finding this too much, you can always come back to the lower belly as a grounding place (pause). And in fact, let’s do that now—let’s come back to the lower belly for a moment, and just see if you can have the experience like we talked about before in the Open Monitoring practice, where we had 25 percent of our attention in the lower belly and 75 percent on our phenomenal experience. So let’s do something similar here—25 percent of our attention in the lower belly as our anchor point and then the rest of our attention on the pain. And with that curiosity, see what happens when we attend to our pain—does it shift any in the qualities; does it evolve? (pause)
And now we’re going to look at our pain. I’m going to invite you to look at your pain with a sense of warmth and empathy and kindness. Again, almost with that sense of how a mother would gaze at her newborn baby, that unconditional presence (pause). You could look at your pain and say to yourself:
“May I experience happiness and the root of happiness.” (pause)
“May I be free of suffering and the root of suffering.” (pause)
And with a deep wish for yourself that you could be liberated from that particular suffering and in doing so, it would make the experience of happiness accessible for you (pause). Remember to stay present in the fullness of your body as you do this (pause). If any emotions arise, we (p. 216) fold them into the experience of pain so that everything is included, everything is welcomed, and it’s the same attitude:
“May I experience happiness and the root of happiness; may I be free of suffering and the root of suffering.” (pause)
And we’ll take another step now, and much like we do in the shift from Focused Attention to the Open Monitoring, here we are focused on our own pain, and I’m going to invite you to open up a bit now and include in this practice experience all those other people who have experienced this particular same type of pain that you have had (pause). So if it’s the pain of losing a loved one, or the pain of a physical illness, life transition—whatever it is—just allow yourself to be open to all those other people who are experiencing that same pain, or who have experienced that same pain and include them in this wish:
“May we all experience happiness and the root of happiness; may we be free from suffering and the root of suffering.” (pause)
Feel that sense of interconnectedness with all those people who have experienced this same type of pain (pause).
So we will start to bring this practice to a close now. Especially if we are fairly new to this practice, we want to take it step by step, gradually. If you have done this practice for a while now, you are welcome to sit and explore this longer. But just to bring the practice to a close for right now, let’s drop back into our lower belly, drop any image, any striving, any agenda, and just be with that simplicity, that presence of the lower belly. And there’s a reason this practice comes towards the end of the program—this is not easy. So just take a moment to acknowledge for yourself your bravery, your courage in being willing to explore these painful experiences (pause). And in your own time, when you are ready, you can bring the practice to a close.
7b: Loving-Kindness—Practice Instruction (~17 Minutes)