Mindfulness Meditation

Thai Stone Sculpture of Sitting Figure in MeditationFind a comfortable sitting position and take a moment to settle in. Do what needs to be done so that the posture is stable, comfortable and relatively straight. Find a posture that promotes both wakefulness and ease in the body and mind

Take several slow and smooth breaths, filling and emptying the lungs completely without straining. Just notice all the sensations that come and go during each of these deep breaths.

Now, let the breath return to normal and rest in the experience of the body. Begin by noticing the obvious touch points, for example the buttocks against the chair or cushion, the hands touching and resting on the lap, or the lips touching each other. As you begin to connect with the experience of the body, practice opening and receiving body sensations without any expectations or agenda. Become interested in the ordinary flow of experience in the body.

After a few minutes, direct the attention more specifically to the movement of the breath in the body. Without looking for it in a particular place, notice where this movement is most obvious. Choose one particular place to watch the breath (for example: the abdomen, chest, or tip of the nose). This place will remain your anchor for the duration of this meditation session.

Over and over again return the attention to the place chosen connecting with the moment to moment experience of the breath. Let the attention soak into the sensations here just as they are in each moment. Our effort is to remember to connect and sustain attention with the chosen anchor. Let the body initiate each inhalation and exhalation. Let go of any conscious control of the breath.

As you settle in more and more to this experience of breathing, at times a natural interest arises. What would it be like to become completely absorbed with the sensations of the breath? This interest will naturally deepen concentration and increase energy in the mind.

While sitting, attention will naturally be drawn from time to time to other aspects of experience; for example: sounds, body sensations, thoughts, visual images or some combination of these senses. As soon as you notice that the attention is no longer with the breath, gently bring it back to the breath connecting with the sensations in the place chosen. No matter how many times the attention is drawn away, there is no need for judgment or tension. Just keep coming back to the breath.

Some meditators find it helpful to mentally note “in” with the inhalation and “out” with the exhalation as a way to help sustain a more continuous contact with the sensations of the breath. Use this mental noting whenever it is helpful. Let it be just a quiet mental whisper at the back of the mind, keeping most of the attention on the actual sensations of the breath.

When the mind and heart feel steady and calm, the following adjustment can be made. Whenever the attention is drawn to some other aspect of experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant, spend some time letting the attention soak into it, coming into clear contact for as long as you are drawn to it. Practice being intimate with the experience without getting lost in it.

Create space in the heart and mind to let the flow of experience be just as it is. As you attend to the in and out of the breath you will notice the attention naturally being drawn elsewhere from time to time. Simply acknowledge these distracting experiences without judging them as good or bad. Some people find it helpful to give a quiet mental note to the predominate experience in order to prevent getting lost in or reacting to the experience. For example one might label a distraction: “thinking” “wanting” “judging” “planning” “sleepiness” “boredom” “restlessness” “doubt” “confusion” “itching” “aching” “throbbing” “tingling” or whatever label best connects you with the present moment experience. This labeling is done if it helps deepen contact with the actual experience in the moment. Be careful not to let the labeling become a distraction itself.

Whenever one encounters difficult mind states or painful physical sensations, spend some time soaking into the experience creating space for it to be as it is. Again, it may be helpful to name this physical, emotional or mental state as you experience it. As awareness and acceptance of distractions deepen pay particular attention to how they change. Remember to meet every experience with an open spacious allowing heart and mind. Return the attention to the breath whenever you feel overwhelmed by the experience or when the difficulty is no longer predominate.

The intent of mindfulness practice is to rest in a clear continuous knowing of experience in each moment, and to meet this experience with spaciousness. The only real effort is in trying to remember this intent and being willing to begin again, using one’s anchor as a way to connect with moment to moment experience.