Week 1 // Homework & Additional Insights:
- Mindfulness meditation is the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment and learning how to cultivate and sustain that presence. Bringing at attitude of non-judgment, you invite honesty and clarity to your experience. In mindfulness meditation, we aren't necessarily pushing anything away. We are simply redirecting our attention, placing it where we intend. Developing this ability to place your attention during your formal meditation practice, you create a propensity for placing your attention on the breath (and thus in the present moment) when you are not formally meditating.
- Formal Homework: This week listen to track #4 Guided Mindful Deep Breathing twice a day. Next week I ask you to bring your observations, questions, insights and complaints ; )
- Informal Homework: As you go about your day, when you notice you are "speeding", anxious, or lost in thought, take 5 mindful deep breaths. This invites a pause, a break in the "energy" of the discomfort. It invites body, mind, and breath to reconnect with one another.
- May these teachings be of benefit to you as you go about your week!
Week 2 // Homework & Additional Insights:
- Our attention craves novelty. The reason it's so "attached" to thoughts is that thoughts are generally funneling out one after another, and the stories and dramas they weave are rich (even if they are simultaneously driving us nuts, or making us feel frantic!). So when we bring our attention to the natural breath, we focus as acutely as we can -- knowing that by doing so, we'll start to feel and experience subtler and subtler sensations. Just the natural breath is so rich! Enjoy this week of practice, connecting with your breath in this way.
- Formal Homework: Practice track #4 Guided MDB to MNB once a day. Next week I ask you to bring your observations, questions, insights and complaints ; )
- Informal Homework: As you go about your week, can you bring attention to your breath and the activity that you are doing at the same time. 50/50, attention to the breath as you walk, or wash the dishes, or send an email? See how it feels to maintain mindfulness of the breath while living.
- May these teachings be of benefit to you as you go about your week!
Week 3 // Homework & Additional Insights:
As I pointed out in last week's "additional insights", our attention craves novelty. When we extend our practice from mindfulness of the breath to mindfulness of the body, we are both suiting the needs of our attention, while fostering a new connection and relationship with our body. So often we see our body as vehicle, just the thing that gets us from point A to point B, and we don't necessarily care "how" we get there -- but how we live our life makes a difference.
The practice of the body scan invites us to cultivate a very direct relationship with our body. The body does not communicate in words, but in sensations. By attending to our body in this way, we "learn the language" of our body, and can better attune to its needs.
We hold tension. We may be completely unaware of either the extent to which we hold tension, or how that is affecting us until we do a practice like the body scan in which we consciously let that tension go. As was brought up in class, we might feel lighter, more relaxed, and more wakeful after practicing this body scan -- this is all by vitue of our having let go of stress, tension, anxiety and discomfort at subtler and subtler levels throughout the body. To be in the body is not a burden, but it may feel that way if we unknowingly carry a lot of stress. This is a practice for "lightening the load". Doing so, we can experience our body -- our plain old, run of the mill body -- in its uniqueness and its wonder. We can begin to appreciate our body, just as it is.
This week listen to the guided body scan meditation 2-3 times, and on the days between listen to track #4 from Week 2, the guided MDB to MNB practice.
If this is your first week practicing with the group on the days between the body scans I strongly suggest listening to tracks #2, 3, and 4 from Week 1. This will provide you with a foundational understanding of the practice.
As always, may these recordings be of benefit to you. Next week bring your questions and your insights!
Week 4 // Additional Insights & Recommendations
- This structure of this course was intentional. Mindful deep breathing invites a settling, letting go, and healing that begins at the nervous systems and ripples upward, into the body and mind. Mindfulness of the natural breath refines our attention and focus, and invites us to connect with the true breadth, depth, and wonder present in just our "plain, old" breath. The body scan meditation expands and further refines our attention. And finally, walking meditation invites us to bring our practice "off the cushion" and into daily life. Sitting, lying, breathing, walking. In all of these activities there is the potential for deep connection and well-being.
- Our ability to "be mindful" is not dependent on our physical body being still. There is often the sense, especially when we are beginning a meditation practice, that "I had it, and then I lost it." "I was mindful while I was sitting with my eyes closed, but now I'm standing and my eyes are open and... well it was nice while it lasted." Practicing walking meditation we begin to recognize that the sense of presence, clarity, focus and peace we experience during sitting meditation is constantly available to us. We just have to remember to do it.
"The Awakening Body" by Reginald A. Ray - This teacher is a rare blend of practitioner/scholar. He not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. Moreover he has studied meditative practices of embodiment the world over and boiled them down a string of "protocols" for connecting with and healing the body. If you enjoyed this series, I suspect you will find the added information and (more importantly) the practices to be of great benefit.
"Full Catastrophe Living" by Jon Kabat-Zinn - I recommend this book with great hesistation. Haha. Jon Kabat-Zinn is the "grandfather" of the modern mindfulness movement. He created the 8-week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course which has revolutionized mindfulness meditation and made it relevant to 20th and 21st century America. Still, this book is a tome. I think the latest edition clocks in at over 500 pages. This is an excellent resourse for learning about the science behind and benefits of practicing mindfulness, but I recommend reading it in small pieces.
"Wherever You Go, There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn - A few years after FCL was released, I think someone mentioned to JKZ that it was rather ironic that the seminal book about mindfulness (simplicity) was more than 500 pages long. Enter "WYG, TYA". This book is eminently practical. Short chapters, inviting clear, practical insight into how the practice of meditation can be integrated into life and informal meditations for exploring the practice.
"Real Happiness" by Sharon Salzberg - Sharon Salzberg is one of the foremost mindfulness and insight teachers of contemporary mindfulness. What I appreciate about Sharon's work is that her advice and instruction is both practical and compassionate. I find that she is very relatable in her writing and supportive in her instruction. This particular book explores mindfulness of breath, body, thoughts, and emotions.
"Your Breathing Body" by Reginald A. Ray - Drive a lot? I do. And because of that, I love audiobooks. This book, available through Audible.com is a 10-hour course for learning about and cultivating mindful embodiment, healing, and connection. I have literally spent the last 3 or 4 weeks with this audiobook on repeat in my car.
"Real Happiness" by Sharon Salzberg is also available via Aubible!