Day 1, Yoga Yoga Mindfulness Meditation Series – Establishing Our Ground
Thank you for joining me on day one of this series. I am looking forward to getting to know each of you and sharing beautiful practices and teachings during our time together. As we begin, I’d like to set the tone for the next six weeks. Meditation gives us a wonderful opportunity for deeper self-understanding and greater self-care. So I am asking each of you to take time to explore what it means to you to feel well, healthful and balanced. A few things that come to mind for me are eating consciously, sleeping enough to feel rested in the morning and making time for solitude (which comes through meditation). What is on your list? Are you willing and can you make at least the top three things a priority over the next six weeks? I am inviting you on a experiential journey toward balanced and healthful living, not just an intellectual exercise in meditation.
I’ll describe mindfulness meditation first by telling you what it is not. It is not a practice in fixing the mind or making it empty of thoughts. Rather, it is a practice in being present to the nature of our mind and our being exactly as it is, with a greater degree of ease. Practice will be challenging and feel messy at times so a kind and caring attitude will be essential.
Why is any of this relevant to you? In life, many of us are drawn to what feels comfortable and secure. Often times we resist, deny or try to fix what feels ambiguous, difficult or challenging. In other words, we try to make life suitable to us from the outside, instead of discovering how we can reside in it with greater ease on the inside. This is exactly the essence of what we will explore through meditation: our own capacity for ease and balance even when experience is unpleasant, even painful. This is what I like to refer to as “genuine happiness”. It is not a state of bliss or surface level joy, it is something far deeper. It is our capacity to sustain ease through the ups and downs, and the highs and lows of life.
We begin this journey with the first of the two practices that we will explore: shamatha or calm abidance practice. The untrained mind is discursive and easily distracted. Before we can begin any level of inquiry as part of vipassana, we require a mind that is more stable and balanced. This is where shamatha practice is critical. Within the scope of shamatha, we use the breath as an object for our attention since it is accessible most anytime and anywhere. We begin by placing and sustaining our attention on our breath at one location, most often our belly, chest or tip of nose. When we realize our attention has drifted, we take time to note that this is the wandering mind and we kindly, patiently and without judgement return our attention back to the breath. We do this over and over again, as many times as is needed. If frustration or criticism begins to arise, we can hold that kindly as well and return again to the breath. We are not denying the things that arise in our mind, however, we are choosing to gently direct our attention to our breath. Through this method, we begin to build the qualities of stability in addition to patience, kindness and non-judgement. In time we will explore our capacity for ease and stability even when the mind is scattered and full. As we translate the value of this to daily life, we will begin to explore our capacity for ease and stability in the midst of experiences that are challenging and unsettling.
Enjoy your week of exploration. Enter the state of your mind and your being like it is your laboratory for the next six weeks. Be open to the insights that may come, the challenges that you will meet and the deeper wisdoms and ease that will slowly arise.