Updated: Feb 19
As a follow-up to what was covered in the first talk of this seminar series, you can try the following exercises on your own:
Mindfulness of Sounds and Thoughts
Mark Williams does a very helpful guided practice on Mindfulness of Sounds and Thoughts, which you can find at this link:
One-Minute Practice: Inner Spaciousness
• Whatever you are doing right now, pause and become aware of your physical, mental, and emotional state, including your breath. Don’t try to change anything. Just notice what is happening within you.
• Now notice the weight and feeling of your body. Begin to let yourself de-compress—by letting your muscles lighten, lengthen and open. Just think about and invite these changes; no pushing or fixing. Bring attention to your head/neck joint—way up high, almost between the ears—and think about allowing this joint to have a little more space. Imagine you had something heavy resting on your head that was just removed. Allow your spine to gently follow your head upwards.
• You may shift in your chair as you allow your bones to move and release away from one another in response to de-compressing. Invite a little more fullness into your back and sides, and under your arms, letting your ribs move with breath. As you observe your breath, breathe out with a long, soft exhale, so that your lungs are emptied of most of the air. Allow your breath to return easily, widening your whole torso. If you notice any areas in your body where your breathing seems limited or impeded, think about softening there, releasing whatever holding you may unconsciously be doing.
• Let your eyes take in your environment. Look around you for a few seconds and let something into your vision that you haven’t noticed before.
• As you return to what you were doing previously, notice your easy breathing and allow room for all that’s inside you—organs, fluids, veins, nerves, tendons, connective tissue. All this internal stuff is elastic and moveable. When you open into length and width, there’s enough room inside. Allow yourself a sensation of aliveness. Notice, has your mental state shifted? Allow this soft, enjoyable expansion to influence your whole self as you go about the rest of your day.
Recognising the top ten tunes
During this week, try to notice the neural grooves that your mind keeps falling into, what Jack Kornfield calls your “top ten tunes”. It is helpful to give them a name and keep a record of them. This helps to break the automatic and unconscious repetition of these mental patterns that keep you imprisoned.
10-minute exercise with your senses
Find somewhere to sit where you are comfortable and relaxed. In this exercise you will spend two minutes focusing on each of your senses. It will be helpful to have a timer with you that you can set for 2-minute intervals.
1. Sight: Spend 2 minutes just looking at what is around you. If your mind wanders, gently let go of the thoughts and bring your attention back to what you are seeing. Try not to name anything, or to think about how beautiful or ugly it is, just look.
2. Sound: Spend 2 minutes just listening to the sounds that are around you. Start with sounds that are nearby, and then gradually notice the sounds that are further away. If your mind wanders, gently let go of the thoughts and bring your attention back to what you are hearing. Again try not to name anything, or to judge the sounds in any way, just listen.
3. Touch: Spend 2 minutes becoming aware of what your skin is feeling. You could feel the texture of your clothes against your body, or the ground under your feet, or the breeze against your skin. You could also get a sense of the temperature that you are feeling, and become aware of how this feels to your body. If your mind wanders, gently let go of the thoughts and bring your attention back to becoming aware of your sense of touch.
4. Taste: Spend 2 minutes becoming aware of what your mouth is tasting. At first you might think that there is no taste, since you are not eating or drinking something, but after a while you should notice a subtle flavour in your mouth. Spend this time being aware of this flavour. If your mind wanders, gently let go of the thoughts and bring your attention back to becoming aware of your sense of taste.
5. Smell: Spend 2 minutes becoming aware of any odours that your nose is sensing. If you don’t notice any odours, try sniffing the grass, or a nearby flower. If your mind wanders, gently let go of the thoughts and bring your attention back to becoming aware of your sense of smell.
Mindful Tea / Coffee Drinking
Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, exactly the way you like it. Find somewhere to sit where you are relaxed and comfortable.
Drink your tea very slowly, and try to bring your attention to the small and the flavor of the tea. Drink each mouthful slowly, savoring it fully. Try not to think about the next mouthful, or the time when your tea is finished, or how you should drink all of your cups of tea this way. Just stay with this mouthful, and enjoy it.
Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life. - Thich Nhat Hahn
Meditation / Centering prayer
I encourage you to try a daily practice of meditation or centering prayer if you don't have a regular practice already, even for a few minutes to start with. Here are a few resources that offer guidelines if you need them:
A lovely introduction and brief guided practice of Centering Prayer by David Frennette: https://youtu.be/ioKDD92Ox1c
The guidelines for centering prayer as given by Fr Thomas Keating can be found at: https://youtu.be/3IKpFHfNdnE
To give you an idea of a meditation practice that uses the breath, you can try this guided meditation with Pema Chodron: https://youtu.be/Zl9FRX8kalE (This is broken up into roughly ten minute intervals so you can try it for a shorter or longer period of time)