Several months ago, I experimented with listening to online talks offered by various teachers with whom I have practiced mindfulness meditation as well as a number of teachers who I have not yet met.
I enjoy this practice. I choose a talk based on a topic or teacher and start it, going along my morning routine of brushing teeth, preparing breakfast, etc. while it is on. At times it is in the foreground of my attention; other times in the background. I firmly believe a part of me hears and takes in all the information. Occasionally, I listen to a talk before falling asleep. A listening practice of sorts as I drift off.
Below, I have shared three sites I use for the talks. I know they’re available as an app/podcast for Apple products but am unsure for other devices. If you have a non-Apple device and check these out, please leave in the comments below whether there is a mobile version for these.
I hope you find some of this useful:
http://dharmaseed.org/talks/ (available as an app)
http://www.audiodharma.org/ (available through itunes podcasts)
http://www.againstthestream.org/audio (available through itunes podcasts)
Feels pleasant to be back here, re-connecting with sharing about my mindfulness practice.
A close friend of mine recently started a blog and it inspired me to revisit this space (thanks Mel!!!!)
I suppose I could outline the last number of months about what this practice has created/opened/developed within me….
I may do that later. Right now, I want to share about something else. I was at the Urban Dharma group a couple of weeks ago (part of the Dharma Punx nation: http://www.dharmapunx.com/index.asp) and Gene Lushtak spoke about something that resonated with me quite deeply.
During the sit, he encouraged us to pay attention to the feeling(s) we may be experiencing about another feeling. At first, it was a bit abstract for my brain. I felt grateful he elaborated. Let’s say something happened in my life earlier today that created feelings of being upset. I feel upset for sometime, maybe several hours. After those several hours, If I can get really still, maybe I get a sense that there is something more besides that feeling of being upset within me. I may realize that I am frustrated that this situation is still upsetting me. In that specific moment, what is happening is that I feel frustrated. The nuances are fascinating for me.
Another example from my life yesterday: at some point, I noticed I felt bored. Actually, I realized I don’t even know what bored feels like because it is instantly covered and bombarded with “shoulds,” with guilt and with some sense of restlessness and almost desperation to feel something else immediately.
I’ve been trippin’ out on this for a couple of weeks now.
Thank you for reading.
There are three ideas floating around in my head right now that I would like to share.
I have been investigating the idea of using “I feel” and “I think” instead of “I am.” For example, I feel hungry or I feel tired rather than I am hungry or I am tired. I have been exploring whether such language allows me to be less attached and identified with these experiences.
Sending well wishes (Metta) toward someone when their name or image pops into my mind creates lots of love and warmth in my own heart.
I have decided to once again reevaluate the relationship I have with my smartphone. Current intention is to use my phone several times a day to check email, texts, etc., and dedicating that time to just use my phone, rather than using it as a filler while I’m waiting or on the bus or eating. The idea is to bring more mindfulness into each activity and as much as possible get away from multitasking. Mindful phone use – interesting.
I appreciate you reading this at this moment. Thank you for your openness and interest about the thoughts, feelings and sensations I choose to write about.
I’ve been experimenting with practicing “half-smile” during my sitting practice.
I’m not entirely sure who gets original credit for this practice, perhaps Siddhartha Gautama (aka the OG Buddha), but many teachers mention this meditation.
Recently, I was encouraged to practice half-smile at a workshop I attended and it seemed to help me embody it more and I’ve been enjoying the attention of practicing it in the way I will describe to you below.
I invite you to try the practice using the instructions outlined. Allow a minute or two for each step to ease into the practice. Also, you can choose to do this in whatever way makes sense to you.
Sit in a comfortable, relaxed yet alert position. Also, however you’re choosing to sit is quite alright. ;)
Close your eyes or lower your gaze. Either of these helps us experience our internal world a bit easier.
Bring your breath into your awareness.
Bring attention to your body. Notice any pleasant, unpleasant, neutral sensations.
Bring awareness to your face. No need to change or alter anything. Notice the natural shape/position of your mouth. Bring awareness to your eyes and forehead. Again, just noticing.
Now, I invite you to bring the corners of your mouth upward. A slight, perhaps barely noticeable movement. No need to create a full smile. Just a slight motion.
Keeping your mouth in this “half-smile,” bring awareness to your eyes and forehead. Now notice your heart center. Connect with your body once again.
Now, release your mouth and allow it to return to its natural shape again. Notice your eyes, face, heart center and anything else that is prominent.
If you’re willing, please share your experience in the comment section.
Next time you choose to pay attention to your breath (how about right now?), bring your heart center into your awareness as you inhale….notice whether there is any sensation there. If you don’t notice anything, that’s okay. There is not a right or wrong way to practice. Sometimes, it takes me a few breaths to connect with my heart and discern what’s there. Other times, the sensation is available on the first inhale. I encouraged you to explore and investigate.
After a few moments focusing on the inhale, shift the attention to your exhale. I suggest a slow and steady exhalation. As you breathe out, feel the breath wash over your whole body, as if it was warm sunshine or that perfect water temperature in the shower.
I call this practice “loving breath.” Each of us deserves as much love as we give to anyone else in this world. Perhaps, a gift to the self could be a few moments of nurture with loving breaths.
Impermanence is hard at work; all the time.
After a long break, I have found my way back to this blog…. for now.
I’ve also returned to a daily meditation practice…for now.
A few teachers I have sat with talk about how much is focused on “the meditator.” One should sit this way, on this cushion, chair, etc., same time each day, commit to a certain amount of time, etc. I may have mentioned this previously but a teacher I enjoy greatly, Vinny Ferraro often says, “However you’re sitting is spiritual enough.” My sense is that my truth is somewhere in the middle. I have committed to sitting for at least 10 minutes every day. Sometimes, the practice happens in the morning, at home, on my cushion. Sometimes, it’s during a break at work. Occasionally, when I get home from work. Sometimes, I sit for 30 minutes; sometimes 10. I have found some ease and comfort in letting go of the rigidity around the practice. I am amused by one more way my mind has created a condition. It is quite funny, really.
I have also begun a daily gratitude practice. I was introduced to it by Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas, PhD. There are three steps:
1. Summarize what someone did that you are grateful for today.
2. How was it helpful to you?
3. How much effort did it require of the person?
I have found this to be a delightful amendment to the way in which I was already practicing gratitude.
Onward and upward!
A book I’m reading currently suggests the following as a practice:
For the rest of today try paying close attention to the beginning of your conversations with people. Noticing the intention, the first impulse to speak, attempting, when the impulse arises, to consciously stop and take one breath. Maybe two. Checking, without the need for self-criticism, the first impulse to express or make your point. Notice what happens in the mind, the sensations in the body, allowing yourself the room, the openness, to receive these internally arising messages while you maintain a listening silence.
Heal Thyself: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine, Saki Santorelli
I’m exploring this idea. First step – remembering to try this out!! This is the intention for the next few days.
Over the last week or so, I have found myself being curious about my responses to situations, conversations, etc., rather than reacting from autopilot. Of course, this doesn’t happen all of the time, but a few times a day, I notice. I don’t have many positive or negative comments about what I have noticed; I’m just aware of the noticing. This is different for me, somehow.
Since this awareness is surfacing now, I have decided to add some intention to what I notice. I’ve begun two investigations within myself, an exercise in self-inquiry, if you will.
The first is a check-in with myself as soon as I wake up in the morning. I note how I am feeling physically, mentally and emotionally. This doesn’t take long for me, perhaps a couple of minutes. Then, I get out of bed and proceed with my day. When I return to the bed in the evening, I do another quick check-in and note how I’m feeling physically, mentally and emotionally. I suppose I could write down what I notice and track this somehow; at this time, I am not drawn to such a commitment. Instead, I have noticed that every time I check-in, some part is new and different. It doesn’t have to be pleasant or unpleasant, it could be neutral. Feeling “good” or “bad” becomes an intricate unfolding of what is really here. Quite curious.
The second practice involves the use of filler words: “like, um, you know” are my top three, I think. I am beginning to explore when my use of these increases and whether being mindful of what words I use may lessen the “need” for filler words. I was given fantastic feedback a couple of days ago that it has been noticed my usage of “like” increases when I’m driving. It makes sense that my brain is working hard while driving and talking. I am not striving to change or alter anything right now, just simply bringing some awareness to my patterns of speech.
The mind is a fascinating monkey to study and observe.
Every Wednesday, as part of the MBSR teacher training, I participate in a 90 minute mindfulness practice led by one of my fellow trainees.
Last week, I found my mind to be in the midst of what seemed like an intense ocean storm. The mind was racing, tumultuous, violent and all I could do was hang on as if I was on a ship riding out the waves. The practice consisted of almost constant noting and redirection back to the seat, the breath, the words of the teacher. As soon as I’d find my way to the present, my mind would be off again with a bigger wave, a bigger surge. Whew… It seemed relentless for 90 minutes. When I opened my eyes, I felt almost eerily calm. As if I had found my way to a peaceful beach and was now lounging while watching the waves gently move in and away from the shore.
When I got home, I realized I was exhausted! I slept hard and found myself needing a couple of extra hours of sleep.
The last few days have been more along the lines of what I have been used to noticing in my practice.
I cannot recall whether I’ve had this intense of a practice previously, and am curious, for those who practice, whether you have and what it has been like for you. Please share, if you’re willing. I’m also wondering if maybe I am becoming more aware of what is happening in my mind rather than numbing our or getting lost in the content.
What an experience!
I went to a meditation practice and talk recently led by a teacher I enjoy very much and look forward to attending the group when he is there. I like the simplicity of his instructions during the sit, e.g., “However you are sitting is completely spiritual enough.” He seems to understand and relate to the struggle and expectation that can come from exploring meditation and mindfulness and verbalizes the essence of this skillfully and with humor. I have appreciated this about him since the first time I sat with him (shout out to my friend Melanee for the intro to this group).
One of the things he spoke about was this notion of “if only.” The idea that in some future moment, we will find happiness or peace. If only I had this car, then I would be happy. If only I had a partner, then I would be happy. When I stop being angry, I will find peace. When I get a new job, things will make more sense. When my boyfriend and I are living together, then our relationship will really begin. While I think it may be the case that if/when any of the above is attained, we may indeed be happy or peaceful, etc.; the idea here is that while we are waiting for that next moment to arrive, and while we are living in the mirage that the next whatever will be better than the now, we are completely missing out on what is happening in our current experience. “When we think some other moment holds what this one doesn’t, this is suffering.” Nothing that hasn’t happened is guaranteed. I find myself needing to be reminded of this in my own mind as I am in limbo and waiting for two big changes in my life to occur. It is almost certain that both will happen, but not guaranteed. I find myself frequently thinking the “if…only” scenario. This talk was a timely reminder of being aware of what is happening in my mind right now.
Sometimes, it is incredibly difficult to stay present, especially when there are negative thoughts, emotions, feelings, and/or sensations. It can feel intolerable and all we want to do is get away from it. The funny thing about how our minds work is that the more we try to run away from something, the more it tends to creep back in. The paradox seems to lie in leaning into the pain a little. There are things in my life that I want to lean away from, I definitely know that. I’m trying to work on exploring what it might be like to just entertain the idea of opening one of those doors and just peeking in to see what is there. It seems to be a delicate dance of opening the door and shutting it and perhaps opening it a little wider the next time around.
“For a long time, it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then, life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” ~ Alfred D’Souza
May you find happiness and peace in this moment.