If after reading part one you tried to give yourself just half an hour a day to just be with yourself, well done. I hope you enjoyed it, even though I know that for many people this is not easy. Some of you probably had quite a surprise with what was going on inside of you.
The purpose was just to give you an idea of what its like for you to just be with yourself without external distraction of any kind, and nothing to do, to just be. Now, if you're willing, the next step is to cultivate paying attention in a particular way to help you just be with you.
Its called 'Mindfulness,' an ancient yet ever popular technique that neuroscience claims to help restructure the brain and regulate the nervous system. For myself, Mindfulness meditation is simply an act of self kindness and compassion. It is a way of self care, self honouring, self acceptance and self appreciation; and when we embody these qualities, they naturally extend to others.
The focus of our attention is the breath and the body. It may appear as a breathing exercise but it is not. It is an exercise in attention/attentiveness in order to bring us into the present moment, using the breath and the body as the focus of attention. This is because the closest experience we have of the here and now is our very own breath and body.
Mindfulness is not a fix, which is why it does not appeal to our quick fix culture. Rather, it is a cultivation that literally leads to an inner calm and inner stability that frees up our energy to do the things that are more aligned with our own values, bringing purpose and meaning to our lives. The journey does have peaks and valleys, rough paths as well as smooth, as it reveals our inner landscape that many of us have spent much time avoiding.
Try this simple instruction. Start with 10 or 20 minutes and then half an hour as you become use to the practice.
Sit down in a relaxed comfortable position on a chair or on a floor cushion. Look around the room. Notice any sounds in your environment and just let everything be, just as it is.
With your eyes open or closed spend a few minutes feeling into your body to help you relax. Let your back be upright and relaxed. Relax the shoulders and neck, and allow your face muscles to relax. Relax the torso and let your belly hang. Allow the pelvic area to relax and allow your thighs and lower legs to relax. Notice the felt sense of the body, and that this felt sense is something occurring in your awareness.
With shoes on or off, feel the soles of your feet making contact with the floor, allowing the floor to fully support your feet. Feel your body on the chair and allow the chair to fully support your body. Then closing your eyes let your attention go into your body, feeling it from the inside. Let the eyes relax, as they often tense in an effort to concentrate. We want the mind to be open and aware, and as effortless as possible.
Bring your attention to your breathing. Allow the body to breathe its own natural rhythm by allowing your diaphragm to expand and contract as it feels it wants to in any given moment.
Just feel your in-breath and feel your out-breath.
Feel the air going into your nose and into your body and feel the air moving out again.
Without needing to control it, receive and welcome your in-breath and allow a little letting go as the breath moves out. Let each breath be just as it appears to you. A breath may be short, shallow, long or deep.
Be receptive and attentive; just being present with breathing in and breathing out; just this breath, just this body.
Sooner or later (for most of us its sooner) your attention will have become distracted by thinking or images or something else. This is fine and completely normal. As soon as you have noticed this, just gently bring your attention back to feeling your feet on the floor, your body on the chair, your in-breath and your out-breath.
There is nothing to do and nothing to accomplish; but just to be present with and attentive to breathing in and breathing out, and the felt sense of the body.
You may find that you are distracted a number of times. Again, this is completely normal. It does not matter how many times you are distracted, do not judge yourself or the thoughts. Do not fight with them. Just let them come and let them go, then return your attention to breathing in and breathing out. It only matters that when you have realised that you have been distracted, that you return your attention to you body and your breathing. This is the practice, coming back again and again to a simple attentiveness and receptivity to your breath and your body.
If you find that you are not distracted by thinking and also not paying attention to your breathing but your mind seems very quiet, just pay attention to the quietness, listen to it. You have entered a more peaceful place in yourself.
As you bring your meditation to a close, slowly open your eyes, reconnect with your feet on the floor, your body on the chair, sounds in the environment and things around the room. Come out slowly, stay in touch with the felt sense of the body, and give thanks to yourself for taking this time for self-care.
Some people can be quite surprised at the extent of the busyness of the mind and tension in the body they have encountered. Be gentle with yourself about this. It is a common misconception that because there seems to be too much going on inside that this practice simply can't be for you, when actually it is evidence that it is working because no you are now becoming aware of what is really going on. The part of us that is aware is always healthy no matter what else is going on that we have become so caught up with. And now that we are aware of it, we can take steps to do something about it. Awareness brings choice.
We feed and wash our bodies, clean our teeth, but seldom does it dawn upon us that the mind too needs cleaning on a daily basis.
Click here if you would like to know more about my next six week course which starts on Monday February 19th.