How to Start a Mindfulness Practice, Part 3

Part 3 of 3: The last thing that every beginner needs to know is that you will keep thinking during your mindfulness meditation practice and THAT IS OK! In fact, thinking is an important part of the practice.

Mindfulness meditation + Thinking = Good Mindfulness Practice!

I know you don’t believe me. I know you think you have to stop thinking in order to be mindful. You believe you aren’t practicing mindfulness when you’re thinking. It’s a common myth and one that’s really hard to let go of… I imagine this is because we come to mindfulness thinking that our thoughts are the problem and we want to get rid of them!

Mindfulness doesn’t get rid of our thoughts. Mindfulness helps us work with our thoughts in a way that makes them less of a problem. Mindfulness doesn’t make the problem of thinking go away, mindfulness makes friends with thinking and turns it into something we work with – not against.

What if you’re knee was misaligned and really painful because you’d been walking in a way that hurt it. You probably wouldn’t want to cut it off. Instead, you could work with it, re-train how you walk and eventually re-align your knee. This is how mindfulness works with your thoughts. We don’t try to cut them out, we train ourselves to work with them in a better way.

And you don’t have to believe me! This is the best part. To find out for yourself, practice for a while, and experience for yourself what the present moment includes for you. Notice if you have thoughts and experience if you are able to be aware of yourself thinking. Experience how this begins to change your relationship with your thoughts.

Why is it important to practice mindfulness regularly?

(video: 5:31 min) Does mindfulness ever become permanent? Will I ever be mindful all the time with out having to practice it regularly?

Well yes. And no.
Yes in that you can reach a stage where mindfulness is something you’re doing all of the time, as a behavior, a habit or an state of being.

And no in that until it becomes an ingrained habit, you need to keep reinforcing the behavior by practicing it!

Why? Because your brain learns and changes based on your behaviors. What you do today is changing your brain. You’re either creating & maintaining neurological structures for mindfulness today or you’re creating structures for something else.

Thanks to Dr Lara Boyd on TEDxVancouver for making the relationship between our daily behaviors and our brain so clear.

10-minute Three Point Body Scan Meditation

MME Album Art(meditation: 10:26 min) This simple, 10-minute body scan can be done sitting or standing. It focuses on three parts of the body: the feet, seat and shoulders.

 

Body scans are great for relaxing the body and mind, and are popular in yoga and relaxation classes and as Vipassana meditations. This one is a bit longer than the other 5-minute ones on this blog. It’s for those of you who are ready for something a bit longer to listen to.

Enjoy relaxing!

Mindfulness Practice: Body Scan

  1. Begin by getting into position, whatever position works best for your body. This position will become your body-mind’s signal that you are starting a practice. I suggest the following:
    1. Sit on a chair (sofa, bed, etc) with your feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands in your lap. Feel your sit bones pressing down. Float the crown of your head up so that it softly lifts your torso into alignment. Let your back body be a bit firm to maintain this posture and your front body be soft and relaxed.
  2. Close your eyes or gaze down at the floor a comfortable distance in front of you.
  3. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to breathe.
  4. Gently shift your attention to your feet and feel the sensations in your feet. Keep most of your attention there.
  5. Let thoughts (emotions and other physical sensations) float through the background like passing clouds.
  6. If you find that your attention has become absorbed in your thoughts (emotions or sensations) to the point that you are no longer noticing the sensations in your feet, kindly and gently bring your attention back to your feet.
  7. Next move your attention to your seat. Feel the sensations of your seat bones pressing down and repeat the same steps as with the feet, gently bringing your attention back if you get absorbed in something else.
  8. Finally, move to your shoulders and repeat the process.
  9. End the practice by bringing your attention back to your breath for a few cycles. When you feel ready or when your timer rings  gently open your eyes.

 

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

 

20-minute Simple Breath Meditation

MME Album Art(meditation: 21:11min) This is a 20-minute version of the Simple Breath meditation for those of you who want a longer practice. This practice uses breath, a traditional focus that has stood the test of time for the simplicity and depth. The breath is a portal that allows us to be quiet and sensitive at the same time, deep stillness combined with deep awareness.

Enjoy this beautiful combination, the simplicity and depth of breath.

 

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.

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

Let your front body be soft. Relax your belly, chest and face.

Close your eyes or lower them, softly gazing down at the floor.

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

3. Your thoughts and feelings will continue, which is a good thing. This means that you are alive and fully functional. Excellent. Recognize them, by simply noticing them and letting them be here with out needing to do anything with them. You don’t need to make them go away or try to control them. Simple notice them with out needing to dive into them or make them go away. Let them  float through 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, know that this is normal and a part of the practice. Once you notice, kindly and gently redirect your attention back to your breath and start a fresh.

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

 

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

 

Reclining Body Scan (for falling asleep)

MME Album Art(meditation: 21:22 min) You may be familiar with Body Scan meditations from your yoga or relaxation classes. They are an ancient way to relax the body and mind.

There are a variety of ways to do body scans. Usually you start at one end of the body (head or feet), focus on the sensations in that part, and move slowly, part by part, to the other end.

This recording is long and slow enough to help you fall asleep. Soft muscle contractions are suggested throughout to help you release muscle tension and relax your body for rest. You can also listen at low volume, so that you dream peacefully through it once you fall asleep.

Rest well.

Mindfulness Practice: Reclining Body Scan (for falling asleep)

  1. Begin by lying down in a comfortable position.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to breathe.
  4. Gently shift your attention to your feet and feel the sensations in your feet.
  5. Keep most of your attention on your sensations. Let everything else float by in the background. Let thoughts, emotions and other physical sensations float through like passing clouds, knowing that during this practice, you don’t need to do anything with your thoughts or feelings except notice that they are here.
  6. If you find that your attention has become absorbed in your thoughts (emotions or sensations) to the point that you are no longer noticing the sensations in your feet, simply redirect your attention kindly and gently back to your feet and start a fresh. Your thoughts will remain, and you don’t need to do anything with them to make them go away. Each thought will pass on it’s own. You don’t make them come and you don’t need to do anything to make them go. Simply notice that they are here and that is enough.
  7. With your attention on your feet, gently squeeze your feet muscles, softly contracting and releasing, and noticing how your feet feel as you do this. Do this a few times.
  8. Then, let your feet rest and invite your feet to soften like butter and melt down into the cushion.
  9. Next move your attention up to your lower legs and repeat this process of first noticing, then gently squeezing and releasing, resting and melting.
  10. Move slowly up the body, repeating the process with each part.
  11. When you get to your head you can start again with the feet, continuing the cycle until you fall asleep, or you can end the practice at any point by returning to the sensations of breathing for a few cycles of breath and completing the practice there.

 

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

 

Mindfulness Practice: Body Scan

MME Album Art(meditation: 5:27 min) You may be familiar with body scan meditatons from your yoga class, Vipissana meditation or other modalities. You can find them in many different places and there are many ways to do them.

Body scans generally start at one end of the body (head or feet), focus on the sensations in one part and move slowly, part by part, to the other end.

Body scan meditations are great for relaxing the body, especially if you include contracting and releasing the muscles in each part as you go. I often recommend them if you’re wanting help falling asleep for this reason. Also, it’s super easy to do them lying down, which is how their usually done in yoga classes.

This body scan recording doesn’t instruct you to contract and release the muscles. If you want to add that in, simply contract and release the muscles in the body area you are focused on: gently contract and release the muscles in the feet a few times, noticing the sensations in the feet as you do so. Repeat this for the seat and shoulders when you move your attention there.

Enjoy!

Mindfulness Practice: Body Scan

  1. Begin by getting into position, whatever position works best for your body. This position will become your body-mind’s signal that you are starting a practice. I suggest the following:
    1. Sit on a chair (sofa, bed, etc) with your feet flat on the floor.Rest your hands, palms down, on your thighs (neither propping yourself up or pulling yourself forward with your hands)Feel your sit bones pressing down.Float the crown of your head up so that it softly lifts your torso. This position allows you to breathe easily.Tuck your chin in a bit so that the back of your neck is soft and long.Soften your jaw.

      Let your belly and front body be soft and your back and back body be firm and upright.

  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice how it feels to breathe.
  4. Gently shift your attention to your feet and feel the sensations in your feet.
  5. Keep most of your attention here as much as you can. Let everything else float by in the background. Let thoughts, emotions and other physical sensations float through the background like passing clouds.
  6. If you find that your attention has become absorbed in your thoughts (emotions or sensations) to the point that you are no longer noticing the sensations in your feet, simply let the thoughts go, and kindly and gently bring your attention back to your feet and start a fresh. You can have an infinite number of fresh starts, so you can relax about that.
  7. Next move your attention to your seat. Feel the sensations of your seat bones pressing down and repeat the same steps as with the feet, gently bringing your attention back if you get absorbed in something else.
  8. Finally, move to your shoulders and repeat the process.
  9. End the practice by bringing your attention back to your breath for a few cycles. When you feel ready or when your timer rings  gently open your eyes.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Where Is My Center – Mindfulness Practice

MME Album Art(5:22) I like to use this mindfulness practice when I am out in the world and I want to play… play with balance and play with getting calm and clear.

It is a standing practice, which makes it good fun in elevators, on escalators or standing waiting for the train or the light to change.

It can also be done sitting, which is perfect for getting calm and clear at my desk or in meetings!

Mindfulness Practice: Where Is My Center? (Standing or Sitting)

  1. Start by becoming present: bring your attention into the space you’re in by looking at what you can see right now.
  2. Close your eyes, or lower them so they are 3/4 closed, 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. Shift your attention to your feet and notice the natural weight of your body pressing down.
    1. Begin to notice if your weight is more on one foot than the other. With small, subtle movements, rock from side to side to feel where your weight is, and find the place in the middle where your weight is evenly distributed between both feet.
    2. Now notice the fronts and back of your feet, the balls of your toes and your heels, and notice where you weight is from front to back. With small subtle movements, rock forwards and backwards and find the place where your weight is evenly distributed front to back.
    3. Notice how it feels to be standing with your weight evenly distributed from side to side and front to back.
  4. Begin to end by shifting your attention back to your breath, noticing it moving in and out of your body.
  5. When you’re ready to end, open your eyes 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 uses only (no commercial uses).

Download

 

Walking Meditation – Mindfulness Practice

MME Album Art

When I first started meditating in 2004/2005, I had a really tough time with silent, seated, non-moving practices. In fact, I gave up meditation all together thinking that I couldn’t meditate! Now I thank them, because with out them I would not have discovered moving practices!

This is a moving practice, one of the classics, walking meditation. It is from the same family as the silent-seated type, and uses much of the same cues. It will feel familiar if you are used to the traditional Vipassana practices that are often referred to as mindfulness practices these days.

For some of us, like me in the beginning!, this practice will still feel too structured and limiting. If you want more freedom in your movement, Five Rhythms can be a great place to play! Look it up and see how you feel.

Mindfulness Practice: Walking Meditation

  1. Start by becoming present: bring your attention into the space you’re in by looking 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. Open your eyes and gaze down. Shift your attention to your feet and notice how it feels to be standing here.
  4. Shift your attention to one foot, SLOWLY lift your foot notice how your foot feels as you lift it off the floor and SLOWLY put it down again. Feel each part of the foot as you lift it and then press it down onto the floor.
  5. SLOWLY lift the other foot and repeat the process as you slowly walk around in the space that you are in. GO SLOWLY.
  6. When you are ready to end, come back to standing and notice both feet and how it feels to be standing here now.
  7. Shift your attention back to your breath, noticing it as it moves in and out of your body.
  8. 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 use it for personal or educational use only (no commercial uses).

Download