How to Calm Your Mind, Part 1

(video: 9:44min) “I can’t stop thinking!” is the number 1 complaint I hear when people start practicing mindfulness.

We’re stressed! We want the madness to stop! Doesn’t mindfulness help us calm our minds and let go of thoughts?!

Well yes, and no… Mindfulness helps you change your relationship with your thoughts. It does NOT make them go away. This new relationship is less stressful and more calm.

For most of us, this new relationship takes a bit of explanation to understand. Most instructors know it’s actually more comprehensive for you to experience it than try to explain it to you… which means that before you experience it you’re confused about your goal during practice. You think you’re supposed to stop thinking.

 

So what are you supposed to be doing? And how will it help? Here are two videos to help you unravel this mystery.

Mindfulness Practice: Simple Breath

MME Album Art(5:35min) A simple breath practice to play with… a great place to start and a wonderful practice to keep.

Mindfulness Practice: Simple Breath

    1.  Begin by getting into position, whatever position works best for your body. The best position is one that is comfortable for you. If you use the same position every time, it will become your body-mind’s signal that you are starting a practice.

I suggest the following:

Sit on a chair (sofa, bed, etc) with your feet flat on the floor.

Rest your hands, palms down, on your thighs.  Don’t prop yourself up or pull yourself forward with your hands.

Feel your sit bones pressing down into the chair.

Float the crown of your head up so that it gently lifts your torso. Let your spine gently align, your shoulders relax and your chest open. This position allows you to breathe easily.

Let the back of your neck be long, and your chin parallel to the floor. This keeps your neck in a healthy, neutral position.

Let your back body be gently firm to keep you upright.

Let your front body be soft. Relax you belly, chest and face. Relax your jaw and tongue. Relax your eyes.

Close your eyes.

 2. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to breathe. Keep most of your attention on the feeling of breathing.

3. Let everything else float by in the background. Let thoughts, emotions and physical sensations float by in the background like passing clouds.

4. If you find that your attention has become absorbed in your thoughts (emotions or sensations) to the point that you are no longer noticing your breath, simply let the thought go. Let it float away like a balloon. Then kindly and gently bring your attention back to your breath and start a fresh. You can have an infinite number of fresh starts, so you can relax about this.

5. End the practice when you feel ready or when your timer rings by gently opening your eyes.

Be kind and gentle, remembering that noticing that your thoughts is an important part of the practice.

 

To Download:

Click on the Download button below.

If it does not download automatically:

  1. A new window will open with an audio player (like the player above).
  2. Right click on the player and choose “Download File” or “Download Video”
  3. iPhone users will want to first copy the meditation into iTunes (on your computer) and then sync with your iPhone.

Note that you are welcome to download and share this files as many times as you like provided you do so in it’s entirety and it is used for personal or educational use only (no commercial uses).

Download

 

Meditation Practice: Walking With Awareness

MME Album Art(8:34min) Want to bring mindfulness into your daily life? One way to do that is to walk mindfully. Most of us walk at least some every day, to the front door, to the coffee machine, the elevator, the bathroom, across the street, etc. This meditation helps you bring mindfulness into your daily life by practicing walking mindfully, noticing every step. Begin by practicing in a quiet place, getting used to it, creating a new habit and then begin taking a few mindful steps every day. You could pick a daily walk, like walking to the bathroom or your car, and take 3 mindful steps every day when you do that. When that is easy, do 5 and then 7 and so on. Soon you will be taking the whole walk mindfully and noticing how this simple exercise affects other parts of your day as well.

Meditation Practice: Walking with Awareness

  1. Start standing in a quiet space where you can walk at least 10 paces in a line or a circle.
  2. Close your eyes and notice your breathing for a few breaths.
  3. Shift your attention to your feet and feel the sensation of your natural body weight pressing down into the floor.
  4. Slowly shift your weight to one foot, feeling the sensations in your feet as your weight shifts.
  5. Slowly lift your other foot, place it in front of you and slowly begin shifting your weight onto your front foot feeling the sensations in your feet as you move.
  6. Continue walking slowly, feeling the sensations in your feet.
  7. If you notice that you have become lost in thought, pause and stop moving. Close your eyes and find your breath again. Bring your attention to your feet again and when you’re ready, open your eyes and begin again walking slowly.
  8. When you get to the end of your space, slowly turn around, feeling the sensations in your feet as you do so and go back to the start. Continue on your line or circle until you feel complete or your practice bells rings to tell you your time is finished.

Be kind and gentle, remembering that noticing that your thoughts is an important part of the practice.

 

To Download:

Click on the Download button below.

If it does not download automatically:

  1. A new window will open with an audio player (like the player above).
  2. Right click on the player and choose “Download File” or “Download Video”
  3. iPhone users will want to first copy the meditation into iTunes (on your computer) and then sync with your iPhone.

Note that you are welcome to download and share this files as many times as you like provided you do so in it’s entirety and it is used for personal or educational uses only (no commercial uses).

Download

 

 

Mindfulness is Not Self-help

(video 4:12) I listened to the Science of Meditation Summit presentation by meditation teacher Susan Piver who said one of the myths about mindfulness is that it is a form of self-help. “It’s not,” she says, and after listening to her explaination, I totally agree.

Mindfulness as a concept is simply being present, aware of ourselves, and pure mindfulness practice is simply noticing ourselves. What ever we’re doing, thinking, feeling, we simply notice. We don’t try to change anything, we simply notice.

Self-help is another set of meditations, therapies and tools that we use to change what we notice. If, using mindfulness, we notice that we’re angry a lot and inappropriate with how we express it, we might take other steps to create healthier expressions of our anger. Now we’ve added self-help.

I find this distinction really useful for understanding the role of mindfulness and the role of self-help. Mindfulness is for being aware of what is happening. Self-help is for changing what is happening.

Sensational Awareness – Guided Meditation

MME Album Art(meditation: 8:51 min)

Ever thought, “Uh! I wish I hadn’t said that!!”

Americans like to call this putting your foot in your mouth. Sometimes I put my whole leg in! Open mouth, insert leg. Yikes!

One of the beauties of meditation is that I don’t do this so often anymore. Meditation helps me be more aware of what I’m thinking and feeling… so that I have a moment to decide whether to say something before it pops out of my mouth.

Instead of being lost in my thoughts or overwhelmed by my feelings, I cultivate a perspective (called presence) that lets me see the difference between me and them. I stay aware that I am bigger than my thoughts. I am like a container for them. They are still very much here in me, they are just a PART of me versus taking over me.

This subtle and powerful change in perspective makes all the difference.

I do not get so overwhelmed because they do not fill my entire world. I do not get so lost in them because I see the whole map now.

Make sense? Probably not. If you are like most people this is at best a crazy sounding conceptual theory that doesn’t realate to your experience of reality. I clearly remember thinking this myself. “What the heck does that mean, ‘I am not my thoughts’?

So, how to go from wacky sounding theory to part of your reality?

Experience it yourself!

Below is a practice to help you experience this with sensation, the easiest of the three (thoughts, emotions, sensations). You will happily discover that you do this already (you are present quite often), quite naturally… And now you know how to cultivate it.

Note that if this is the first time you’ve experienced meditation, this isn’t the easiest place to start! I recommend starting with something simple to get the mechanics down first like 3 Breaths.

Happy sensing!

Mindfulness Practice: Sensational Awareness

  1. Start by becoming present to the location you are in: look around at what you can see right now.
  2. Close your eyes and gently shift your attention to your breathing. Notice your breath moving in and out of your body right now. Be curious about your breath. “How am I breathing right now?”
  3. Find a place in your body that has a strong sensation to focus on. Often it is easiest to feel a place that is painful or stiff, or chose a place that feels very fluid and nice. Anywhere is fine, as long as there is sensation that is easy to feel there.
    1. Shift your attention away from your breath and to the area you have chosen with the strong sensation.
    2. Remembering that you are the one feeling the sensation (“I am feeling/sensing.”), be curious about the qualities of the sensation. Notice as much as you can about how it feels. (You can notice qualities like: big/small, intense/soft, rough/smooth, sharp/dull, pulsing/constant, dense/open, etc.)
    3. As much as you can feel it and don’t go into the story about why you are sensing it. Cultivate being curious about feeling the sensations versus thinking about why you feel this way and what you can do to avoid (or repeat) it in the future.
  4. When you feel complete, shift your attention back to your breath. Notice your breath moving in and out of your body.
  5. When you’re ready, open your eyes to end the practice, noticing the space that you’re in right now.

When your mind wanders, as it inevitably will, gently bring it back first to presence by noticing your breath and the quiet between thoughts, and then re-focus on the heart of the practice.

 

To Download:

Click on the Download button below.

If it does not download automatically:

  1. A new window will open with an audio player (like the player above).
  2. Right click on the player and choose “Download File” or “Download Video”
  3. iPhone users will want to first copy the meditation into iTunes (on your computer) and then sync with your iPhone.

Note that you are welcome to download and share this files as many times as you like provided you do so in it’s entirety and it is used for personal or educational use only (no commercial uses).

Download

 

Three Point Body Scan (Pure Noticing) – Guided Meditation

(4:19) This guided meditation is quick to do, and nice for your daily 2-minute practice.

This particular version of a body scan guides you to notice whatever sensations are happening right now versus creating sensation by moving your body.

This is great for when you want to do a quick practice, because you just notice an area and move on with out staying there very long. It is also nice for increasing your ability to notice subtlety, because as you practice it your capacity to notice subtler and subtler sensations improves.

 

 

To Download:

Click on the Download button below

If it does not download automatically:

  1. A new window will open with an audio player (like the player above).
  2. Right click on the player and choose “Download File” or “Download Video”
  3. iPhone users will want to first copy the meditation into iTunes (on your computer) and then sync with your iPhone.
Download

 

Spiritual Awareness through Cultural Immersion

Spiritual Awareness thru Culture

Enlightening Radio Interview: Spiritual Awareness through Cultural Immersion

Christine Andrew, owner of CoSozo Wellness interviewed me for her Enlightening Radio show. Here’s what she wrote about it:

“Every moment in our lives has the opportunity to provide deeper awareness and insight into our true essential nature. Traveling to and living in a completely foreign country or within new cultures and belief systems enables you to confront and encounter awarenesses that you perhaps might not have the opportunity to experience any other way.

Joining our conversation today is Elena Foucher, the Founder of the Joy Lab in Hong Kong. Elena delivers short and easy meditation tools and tips that you can literally do any time. She also has a fascinating backstory with Enlightening Radio host Christine Andrew. On today’s show, we’re not only discussing that rich history, but also some of the insights that you can gain in your life, whether you’re in your own backyard or half way around the world!

There’s a rich and deep world within each of us. Use the messages and examples of today’s show and dive on in! For more information about Elena and the Toothbrush Meditations, please email Elena@ElenaMariaFoucher.com or visitwww.toothbrushmeditations.com.”

Recorded 23 August, 2014, click the link at the top to listen to the interview.

Enjoy!,

Elena

Getting Out of Your Head and Into Your Heart

getting out of your head and into your heart{This article first appeared here, on CoSozo.com, Tues, 1 July 2014.}

For the last decade people have been telling me that I live too much in my head and that I should live more in my heart. That idea of going from my head to my heart was really confusing at first. I thought people were suggesting that I stop thinking and focus only on my emotions, or suddenly fall in love with everything and everyone. That all seemed pretty difficult to do, and thankfully as I began to figure out this head to heart business, I realized that none of that had to happen.

To my great relief, it’s just a simple shift of focus.

Thinking, Thinking, Thinking

If you’re like most people, you spend a lot of time thinking: thinking about what has happened in the past and what will happen in the future. All day, every day, you’re doing pretty much the same thing: living in your head.

This is such an ingrained habit that most of us don’t even realize that there is anything else that we could be doing.

The thing about always thinking about the past and the future is that we miss what’s actually happening right now, where we actually live. We’re so busy paying attention to the past and future that we miss the present, where the action is going on, where the juice is, where all the things that we’re thinking about really exist, where life is really happening.

What do I mean when I say that we’re not really here?

An Experiment in Living

Try this little experiment and see what you can discover for yourself.

Stop for a moment and notice your body. Notice little things like your feet or thighs pressing down onto the ground or seat. Notice how the fabric of your clothing feels on your legs, your belly, your back, your shoulders, your arms. Notice as many sensations as you can: air moving over your skin, tension and softness in your muscles… anything and everything you can feel.

Pay attention to how long you can notice your sensations before going off into stories about them. How long before a twinge in your knee sends you thinking about how far you ran yesterday, and did you remember to start the washing machine after your run, and don’t forget to buy more laundry detergent, and did you put that on the grocery list? And you keep going, on and on, one thought after another, until pretty soon you’ve totally forgotten that you’re sitting there because your mind is somewhere else!

We miss a lot, because we spend so much of our time thinking about living and so little of our time actually focusing on living as it’s happening. We’ve all had those timeless moments where we really noticed the full depth of the moment: rocking a baby, at the crest of a high dive, taking in a fantastic view, looking deeply into the eyes of a lover… These are those moments when we get a glimpse of what we’re missing, a glimpse of being fully aware of what’s happening in the moment, the richness and depth of living.

Shifting From Head to Heart

The nice thing is that this is really simple to change.All that is needed is to shift your attention to where you are and what’s happening here. The challenge is that your habit of thinking is probably pretty strong, so you will need to keep re-focusing your attention on what’s happening until this new habit is formed.

Another nice thing is that there are lots of things that you can do to facilitate this new habit. Focusing on the body moving through space is often a good practice because the body is always doing something right here and right now. Anytime you want to shift your focus to living your life, check out what your body is doing. Notice where your body is contacting the ground or chair or bed. Notice what that feels like and immediately you are focused on living your life as it’s happening.

As I got out of my head and dropped into my heart, into myself, an amazing thing started to happen. I started to slowly notice how deep my inner landscape is, and how rich and full life is when I can actually be here in it. Everything is much more pleasurable. Now, I spend all day, every day doing pretty much the same thing: practicing this awareness of my life as it’s happening. When I realize I’m lost in my head, I simply shift my focus back into my self, where the juice is, where it’s all happening, where I live my life.

This process could really be called moving from Head to Self.

Head to Heart just sounds a lot sexier.

Elena has been practicing awareness since 2005 and has recorded seven of her favorite practices at www.ToothbrushMeditations.com. They’re quick and easy, 10-second meditations, that you can do anywhere and anytime you want to focus on living your life.

Judging Judgements

IMG_2642Oh ho! how fun it is to play with all the poo in my head… and to notice how is plays with me.

I’ve been looking at the all of those things that I think about others and keep to myself… that constant stream of criticisms that form in an instant, come with resentment, anger, sadness, fear, pain, etc., and never get spoken. I keep them in because I think that other people won’t like me if I tell them these thoughts. And I don’t really feel the feelings either because I feel so guilty about feeling them in the first place.

It happened because I was, stuck in my own mud, full to the brim with all of this undigested crud, and someone pointed out that I was full of unspoken judgements! Eek! No one was supposed to know!

Haha. Everyone knows. First of all, many of us do this very same thing, and secondly we feel it when someone is being critical, even if it’s silent and we don’t really know what we’re feeling.

After a week or so of looking at this, this is what is working so far to move the muck.

First, I notice when I’m being critical. “Wow, that’s me thinking that she’s a pain in my bum, again. Oh! And here’s me judging myself for being judgmental again!”

Second, I’ve been feeling the feeling that is behind the criticism. This part is pretty interesting, because I try not to think about it, I try to just feel it, thanks to this interview Benoit Foucher did with Paul Cooper, and what a difference that makes! As he points out, once we really feel it, the reason behind it will surface naturally. And, of course, it turns out that my criticisms are because I’m feeling bad about myself. What a surprise. Haha.

Once I can feel the feeling, things get softer. Whether the reason surfaces or not, just digesting the emotion, just letting the emotion express itself, is making a huge difference.

I’m still judgmental. I’m just much more aware as I’m doing it, so I don’t unconsciously direct the emotion at the other. I stop and feel the emotion and that feels much better. Whew!

All in all, a much nicer place to be!