LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Empty Bowl Meditation

Sit comfortably and quietly with your palms up and open and placed on your knees, like empty bowls. Open your mouth slightly, and touch the tongue to the roof of the mouth, behind the front teeth. Closing your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so.

Begin by paying attention to your breath. Let your lungs breath with no effort on your part. Simply watch the movement of your breath. Inhale. Exhale.

During inhalation, the air touches the inside of the nostrils. Be aware of that breath.

During exhalation, again air touches the nostrils. The ingoing air feels cool, the outgoing air is warm. For a fraction of a second, enter into your nose. Sit in the nostril and watch your breath: ingoing, outgoing, ingoing, outgoing. Let your lungs do their job. You are simply sitting and watching.

(silent pause for practice)

Ingoing, outgoing…….sitting and watching …..

After a few minutes, follow the breath. When the lungs inhale, go with the air into the nose, to the back of the throat, the trachea, lungs, heart, diaphragm. Go deep down behind the navel, where you will experience a natural stop. For a fraction of a second, the breath stops. Stay in that stop, then when the lungs exhale, again follow the breath as it reverses its course. Come up from the navel to the diaphragm, heart, lungs, trachea, throat – back to the nose then out of the body.

During exhalation the air goes out of the body to about 10 cms in front of the nose, where there is a second stop. Again, stay in that stop for a moment.

These two stops are very important. The first stop is behind the navel, the second outside the body in space. As your awareness rests in these two stops, time stops, because time is the movement of the breath. When breath stops, mind stops, because mind is the movement of the breath. When the mind becomes quiet, you simply exist, without body, without mind, without breath.

In that stop, you become like an empty bowl, and when you become an empty bowl, all is still – in the present moment. Sitting quietly in the stop : the stop as a door – a door to tranquillity and peace surrounding you.

Present moment stillness … you sit as an empty bowl ….tranquillity and peace surrounding you.

And when you are ready, bringing your awareness back to your body sitting on the chair or cushion….opening your eyes, and moving forward with your day …imprinted with the sense of stillness and peace.

LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Mindfulness of Difficult/Painful Thoughts

Start with a mindfulness of the breath. Sit with your breath for a few minutes.

Now bring your awareness to something that is difficult for you in your life – it may be thoughts of an event in the past that was painful or distressing, it may be something in your life in the present time that is causing you painful feelings, or it may be something you are worried about in the future. Allow yourself to bring your attention to focus on one of these worrying thoughts.

Notice what is happening in your body right now as you have these thoughts – are there places or tension, tightness, and what is happening to your breathing? Don’t try to modify the body’s sensations – just allow yourself to notice them with curiosity. Notice now the thoughts that that are going through your mind – just notice them as thoughts.

Remember, thoughts are not facts, they are simply what your mind is creating at any given moment. They may be based in factual events, but they are simply the mind thinking. Think about the thoughts you are having – notice them as they change and notice each new thought as it replaces the previous one.

As you continue to notice the sensations in your body see if you can put words to some of the feelings that come with these difficult and painful thoughts – they may be feelings like sadness, hurt, anger, loneliness, fear or pain.

Feelings may be difficult, they may be deeply uncomfortable, but they are not wrong. They are simply part of your present moment experience.

Allow your awareness to move between the thoughts you are having as you notice them, the physical sensations you are having as you notice them and the feelings and emotions you are having as you notice them.

Finally, bring your awareness and attention back to your breathing for a while – noticing the physical sensation of taking breath into your body and releasing it.

LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Mindfulness of Physical Discomfort

Bring your awareness and attention to your breath – just notice your breathing, with a gentle curiosity about the physical sensation of taking air into your body and breathing it out again.

After a couple of minutes, bring your awareness to your physical sensations. Notice what is happening in your body – what feels comfortable and what feels a little bit uncomfortable? Bring your awareness specifically to some part of your body where you are aware that you have an itch, or a slight discomfort. It might be a sense that you want to shift weight, to scratch or rub, to wriggle into a more comfortable position. Just allow your awareness to sit with that sensation – don’t act on it. Notice the thoughts that occur in your mind – notice them simply as thoughts. You can choose to act or not act on these thoughts. The thought might be; “I have to scratch this itch”, or, “I need to shift my weight”. Just let the thought occur without acting upon it. Notice the thoughts and notice the feelings and sensations in your body. Notice how the sensations shift and change – they might become more intense or they may diminish.

After focussing on one part of your body that has some discomfort just allow your attention to drift around your body until it discovers another place of mild discomfort. Repeat the exercise with your awareness of this new discomfort. Allow your awareness to sit with this discomfort, without needing to do anything about it.

You can continue with other areas of your physical sensations.

Finally, bring your awareness and attention back to your breath – notice your breathing, notice each breath as you inhale and each breath as you exhale. Simply sit with the awareness of your body breathing.

LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Sit with your back straight and gently seal your lips. Rest your left hand on your left thigh, palm facing upward. Take your right hand in front of you with palm facing. Put pointer finger and middle finger together and take these fingers to your eyebrow centre. Take some gentle normal breaths in this position. Relax your shoulders.

You are going to use your right thumb to close your right nostril, and either your right ring or little finger to close your left nostril.

Start by closing your left nostril with your left ring or little finger. Inhale through your right nostril and exhale through your right nostril. Repeat five times.

Then release your left nostril and close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale and exhale gently, five times. Don’t force your breath and if you need to take a break and breathe through both nostrils, then do so. This exercise should feel refreshing and balancing – not like hard work.

The next step is alternating the breath between nostrils.

So close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through your left nostril. Close your left nostril with your ring or little finger. Lift your thumb and exhale through your right nostril. Then inhale through the same nostril. Close your right nostril with your thumb and lift your finger to exhale through your left nostril. This is one round. Repeat 3 – 5 rounds. You can build up the rounds done when you have practiced this exercise and become confident.

When you have completed your rounds, rest with your hands on your thighs, palms upward, taking normal natural breaths through both nostrils and being mindful of any subtle changes in your energy, your mind, your balance.

LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Mountain Meditation

Become aware of the present moment by deliberately adopting an erect and dignified posture whether sitting or standing, as though you are a mountain.

A mountain is completely natural and at ease with itself, however strong the winds that batter it, however thick the dark clouds that swirl around its peak. So like a mountain, let your mind be steady, knowing that all things pass. Allowing your eyes to close if that is possible or appropriate in this moment; otherwise keeping them open and in either case resting in an awareness of our inner experience. Sensing the body – the spine in a natural curve, The head lifted as though suspended by a golden cord…without any tension.

Opening to your experience and asking: “what is my experience just now”. As though before you is a vast ocean …open and limitless.

What thoughts are going through the mind. …… best you can, noting thoughts as mental events: perhaps even becoming aware of their content and words….what feelings are here? Turning towards them and opening to any sense of emotional discomfort or unpleasant feelings.

What body sensations are here right now? Perhaps quickly scanning the body to pick up any signs of tightness or bracing…

And now gathering and redirecting your attention to focus on the physical sensations of the breath just breathing itself …moving in close to the sense of the breath in the belly. feeling the sensations of breath in the abdominal space…as it expands with each in breath and falls back with each out-breath…with full awareness following the breath all the way in and all the way out, using the breath itself to anchor you in the present moment………………(Pause for silent practice)……………………..and now …expanding the field of awareness around your breathing so that in addition to the sensations of the breath, it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and your facial expression…how they feel from the inside. If you become aware of any feelings of discomfort, tension, or resistance, experimenting gently with breathing into them on the in-breath and breathing out from them on the out-breath. Perhaps feeling a softening and releasing with each out-breath…if you care to, perhaps saying to yourself with the out-breath: softening, releasing, accepting…”it is as it is ….I feel it…..”

……………………………………..and now, as best you can, bringing this expanded, more spacious and accepting awareness to the next moments of your day, whatever circumstances you find yourself in, as it continues to unfold.

LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Compassion Mindfulness

In Sanskrit there is a word; metta – which doesn’t have an exact translation in English. The closest we have is the idea of compassion or loving kindness – it is that sense of deep and abiding care that you can feel towards another human being; a sense that you wish no harm to come to that passion and a feeling of holding them in kindness and care. Sometimes it is possible to get a sense of that feeling by imaging how a parent may feel towards their child.

Now, allow yourself to notice your breath. Don’t feel that you have to do anything to your breathing – just be aware, curious and attentive to the physical sensations of breathing in and breathing out.

Allow yourself now to bring your awareness and attention to that feeling of compassion, lovingkindness or deep and abiding care and concern. Bring to mind someone in your life who is dear and precious to you – imagine yourself enfolding this person in that feeling. Allow yourself to have the following thoughts towards this person;

  • May this person know a decrease in distress
  • May this person know peace and tranquillity – at least for a while
  • May this person know happiness and joy – at least for a while
  • May this person be able to deal with their suffering

Continue to imagine this person – holding them in your mind and sending to the image you hold these loving, kind and compassionate thoughts. Notice how this feels in your body – what are the physical sensations that come to you when you connect with feelings of loving kindness and compassion? What are the images and thoughts that come? Just notice these thoughts, physical sensations and emotions – note them with gentle curiosity, without judgment.

Now, if you can, see whether you can direct some of that loving kindess, compassion and deep abiding care towards yourself. See whether you can have the following thoughts for yourself;

  • May I know a decrease in distress
  • May I know some peace and tranquillity in my life – at least for a while
  • May I know some happiness and joy –at least for a while
  • May I be confident that I can deal with my own suffering

Now bring your attention, mindfulness and awareness back to your breath. Notice your inward and outward breath for a few moments.

LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Thoughts, Body Sensations and Emotions

Background: Feelings are often labelled as positive (happy, confident, joyful, brave, etc) or negative (sad, scared, hurt, angry etc). In mindfulness practice, feelings are not good or bad, they just are what they are – emotions that might be comfortable or uncomfortable, easy or difficult. We are often taught to feel that the experience of some feelings is wrong – “You mustn’t feel like that!”; “Be positive”; “Don’t be sad/scared/hurt” – and that the experience of some feelings is right – “Be happy/brave”; “Lighten up”; “Move on, get over it”. This exercise is simply about noticing whatever you are feeling, at the moment you are feeling it, with a gentle, non-judgmental acceptance and curiosity.

  • Commence with mindfulness of the breath
  • Allow yourself now to notice any emotions or feelings you are experiencing
  • If names for these emotions come that is fine – if they don’t just be aware of them vaguely
  • Notice where they are located in your body – head, throat, chest, stomach, abdomen, gut? Notice if the physical sensation moves, drifts or shifts
  • Notice what they make you feel like – nauseous, queasy, calm, relaxed, tense?
  • Notice any thoughts that come with the emotions – notice them just as thoughts, curiously and without judgment
  • Allow yourself to just sit with and notice with awareness the shifting and movement of thoughts, feelings and physical sensations in your body
  • Finally, bring your awareness back to your breath for a couple of minutes.
LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Mindfulness of Thoughts

“A thought is not a fact – a thought is just a thought”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Background: We often treat thoughts as if they are facts (eg, “I am no good at this”; “He’s is a jerk”; “Nobody understand me”; “I am brilliant”, etc), and when we have a thought many times it can condense into a belief (a belief is just a thought or thoughts that I have a lot of the time). Beliefs can then be taken as facts – eg. “The world is flat” – enough people had that thought often enough for it to be assumed to be a fact for centuries! When we start to pay attention to our thoughts, with a gentle curiosity, then we start to think about thinking (meta-cognition) and we move away from believing that the thought is a fact.

  • Commence with a Mindfulness of the Breath.
  • Allow yourself to notice any thoughts that come into your head as you are aware of your breathing
  • Notice, pay attention to and accept these thoughts, without judgment (thoughts are not bad or good, positive or negative, they just are what they are – the thought that you are having at this particular moment)
  • You may become aware that you are having difficulty thinking about your thoughts – think about that. You may be thinking; “I can’t do this very well” – well, that’s a thought too. Allow yourself to think about that.
  • Some people like the metaphor of allowing the thoughts to just float like leaves on a stream, or clouds in a sky, noticing each passing thought and then the one that comes after it, and then the one that comes after that.
  • A Buddhist idea is to think of thoughts as pages written on water.
  • You may notice that just at the moment you become aware of a thought, it passes and is replaced by another thought. That’s what happens – thoughts come, and they go.
  • Finally, bring yourself back to awareness of the breath.
LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

External World and Breath

Sitting comfortably and symmetrically on your chair or cushion … closing your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so, and otherwise letting your focus fall softly on the floor a meter or so in front of you.

Becoming aware of your body and the places where it meets something solid: your feet on the floor, perhaps the backs of your legs against the chair …your thighs, buttocks, back, maybe shoulders resting where gravity lands them.

Notice where your hands touch – each other, or your body; notice the fabric of your clothes on your skin…maybe the air on your skin … your head resting on your shoulders, your arms hanging from your shoulders.

And let your senses move to the sounds around you: not needing to think about them, but just letting your attention move from sound to sound…perhaps you can detect some odours …letting yourself simply notice them….some taste in your mouth.

And leaving all of that now to focus on your breath…your simple natural breath …bringing all your attention to the breath as it moves in and out of your body …so the only movement you are aware of is the movement that is caused by your breath ….in and out …… notice it wherever it is easiest to detect it ….in and out of your nostrils … air in, warm air out ….or at your chest…rising and falling ….or your abdomen.

As thoughts arise, as they inevitably will… simply noticing them and letting them move on …. No need to chase after them….and bring your attention back again to your breath ….. normal, natural breath ….as it moves in and out of your body..

Nowhere else to be, nothing else to do …..simply noticing with gentleness and non-judgment: your breath….

(Quiet space for silent practice)

And now, expanding your awareness outside of your body…to the sounds around you….to whatever feelings you have in your body ….noticing any changes…any tensions, tightness, looseness, floatinesss…… and sensing the world around you as you feel your body again in the chair or on the cushion .…and opening your eyes when you are ready and returning to this space.

LIST-Mindfulness Well-being

Body Scan

Background: The purpose of this exercise is simply to notice your body. It is not necessarily about relaxing your body, however this may well occur. Usually, our response to bodily pain or discomfort is to distract ourselves or to numb the pain. In this exercise you will accept and notice with gentle curiosity your body in its comfort and discomfort.

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, making sure that you do not have any constriction and loosen any tight clothing. Starting with your feet pay attention to the physical feelings in your feet – any pain, discomfort, cold, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever. Simply pay attention to the physical feelings and sensations – don’t try to change them, just be aware of them.
  • Slowly allow your awareness to drift up from your feet to your lower legs, again simply paying attention to any physical sensations in that part of your body, including any tightness, pain or discomfort. Then slowly let your awareness drift further up your body, doing the same gentle noticing for all of the parts of your body – your upper legs, your hips, your buttocks, your pelvic region, your stomach, your chest, your lower back, your upper back, your fingers and hands, your lower arms, your upper arms, your shoulders, your neck, the back of your head, your forehead, your temples, your face – eyes, cheeks, nose, mouth, jawline.
  • Then let your awareness drift gently and slowly back down your body, noticing any other places where there is pain, discomfort or tension and simply noticing this, until you awareness settles back at your feet.
  • Commence doing this exercise just for 5 minutes – it can be done sitting down in a chair or lying in bed. Over time, don’t worry about how long it takes – just allow yourself to pay attention to the sensations in your body. If, while doing this exercise, thoughts intrude, that’s okay – just notice the thoughts, notice yourself noticing the thoughts and gentle guide your awareness back to your body.

Note: A variation on this is to focus on parts of your body that you don’t like – Do this in front of a mirror, taking time to ‘notice’ your thoughts and feelings as you do this exercise.