"Don’t just do something, sit there!"
- Sylvia Boorstein
The following are my personal recordings taken from the book "Mindfulness: A Practical Guide" by the author Tessa Watt. I subscribe to many of the following ideas and practices. It is my goal that you will find comfort and understanding in the excerpts. Together we can change the planet and it starts with reducing suffering and painful reactions and interactions in ourselves. I hope you enjoy it.
My notes on the highlights:
Mindfulness - Tessa Watt
Mindfulness is about teaching yourself to be more aware, present, embodied, accepting, and focused. By doing this practice we begin to make friends with ourselves, and in developing a stronger friendship with ourselves, we can become more friendly and accepting of others.
Acceptance is seeing clearly how things are and not struggling (wanting something to be other than it is) with basic reality.
Stress weakens the immune system whereas mindfulness strengthens it.
Practices can be formal such as sitting meditation, or informal such as making a cup of tea with more awareness.
Take your time and be patient, don’t expect to see obvious and quick benefits. Paradoxically you must not look for results in mindfulness. Suspend judgment and practice mindfulness without worrying about what good it may be doing.
We have 3 forms of reactions our minds have to all things. Begin to notice which of the 3 forms of reaction you take to things, strong or subtle, in your thoughts, emotions, and body.
(switching off from/sensing boredom/not noticing/feeling uninterested)
In noticing how you want to react to things (thought, emotion, and body) before you actually take action, you can start to respond more mindfully.
It is not pushing away the experience or trying to change it. It is simply being present with whatever it is.
Do this by going through the following:
How do things feel against you?
What does your body feel like against things?
Consider gravity/your weight, the air inside, outside, and around you.
Be open and aware to only notice any thoughts and/or feelings. Simply watch and observe.
Pay attention, on purpose, to the present moment with non-judgment.
Learn to appreciate and enjoy the simplicity of daily/routine activities. When doing an activity, one should only be doing that activity and also be present with it. Some examples include (but are not limited to) the following: doing the dishes mindfully, showering mindfully, enjoying a beverage mindfully, eating meals mindfully...
Brushing your teeth Mindfully
Notice how you hold the brush
Be aware of putting toothpaste on the brush
Feel how you move (what actions you and your hands make)
Notice sensations in the mouth (gums, teeth, tongue, cheeks)
Open yourself to any sounds
Notice objects in your field of vision/reflection in a mirror
Have a “why” and a reason for that "why" to your mindfulness practices so that you can remind yourself of your personal importance of becoming more deeply present.
My "why": I am choosing to become mindful so that I can fully experience my life as the beautiful journey that it is.
My reason: to heal my mind and body from stress, anxiety, and depression.
Use the mantra “this is how it is in my body at this moment” often. All of our experiences are registered in the body (those that we like AND those that we don’t). Your body is your only true home, inhabit it…don’t think about it, be it.
Start in the hands
left thumb, without thinking about it (that is to mean mentally attaching to parts and labeling them in your mind) feel it from the inside and all of its attributes.
Move onto the fingers of the left hand, the space, and contact between them, the textures, temperature, all parts of each finger in slow attentive time.
Do this now with the right hand.
Back to the left hand practicing this of the palm and wrist, then that of the right hand.
Gently (that is with kindness and humor) bring your attention back as often as needed each time you notice your mind has wandered.
Journal any afterthought reflection.
Next move to the feet and legs: (in bringing awareness/having mindfulness in your feet, you can find your earthly connection).
Settle in (feel the full weight and contact points of your body) and notice the breath’s movement by becoming aware of any sensations of movement in the abdomen (rise/fall).
Left toes - notice whatever is there in this moment in each toe, one by one starting with the big toe, each one individually, and then all of them collectively.
Breathe down into your toes and back up from them sensing the breath and your awareness moving together.
Left foot - move your attention to other parts of the foot (top, sole, heel, ankle) noticing ANY sensations in each individual part.
When you are ready take in the whole of the left foot.
Breath down into the whole foot and back up from it keeping a sense of awareness and breath moving together
Left leg - above the ankle to the hip, explore all parts (surface level and internal space) including any contact with the environment (the environment includes your clothes).
Breath down into and out from (breath and awareness working together).
Do this process with the right toes, foot, and leg.
Throughout this process gently keep escorting a wandering mind back to the body. Rest and reflect.
Journal any afterthoughts.
Full body scan
Now with the understanding of attentive and mindful awareness from the previous exercise, we will list the areas of the full body to perform our mindfulness on to bring health, calmness, and aliveness into our lives.
Usually done while lying down.
The order is not important; flow is important.
Settle in (breathe into and out from each part)
Left leg: toes, foot, calf/shin, knee, thigh, the whole leg
Hips, buttocks, pelvic area
Back: lower, middle and upper
Torso: belly, mid-torso, chest
Arms (both can be done together): fingers, hands, lower arms, elbows, upper arms, shoulders
Head: neck, back of the head, ears, jaw, parts of the face, whole face, top of the head
Breathe into the whole body in through the head down to the feet, and out from the feet to the top of the head
Rest still in silent reflection
Journal any afterthoughts
Listen to the guided audio of a body scan by the author Tessa Watt herself by clicking here.
We are human beings, not human doings.
The aim is not particularly to be relaxed or calm, it is to just be with your experience whatever that may be.
Set aside 5-10 minutes a day for formal meditation sit comfortably with a tall erect spine (posture is very important). Our bodies and our minds are connected, when our body slumps so does our mind. Have a firm base (seat, cushion, floor)Be alert (tall spine, crown lifted, regal, and present). Be comfortable (lifted but not rigid, shoulders dropped and relaxed, hands, arms, and legs resting, loose jaw, slightly tucked chin). Eyes closed or downward gaze. Find where you can feel the movement of your breath in the body - be with it as it is - do not try to change it (this is an anchor to the present). In moments of noticed distraction, gently return your attention to the breath. Do this process with kindness, humor, and a non-judgmental approach. Bring your attention back as many times as it wanders. To keep an interest in the breath be curious about the breath in the nostrils, breath in the torso, quality of the breath (deep, shallow, long, short, heat, coolness), inhale versus exhale (and the space between), notice how the breath dissolves into the environment.
Start slowly and gradually pick up. Feel all of the weight empty from one leg and shift into the sensations of the other foot and leg. Feel the foot and leg move through the air. Roll the foot from the heel to the toe feeling the contact shift and the weight begins to empty to the other side of the body. Be aware of the skin, muscles, hair, and all parts of the body. Notice when your mind wanders and gently bring it back to the sensations in your legs and feet. Experiment with what reactions you have to different places. How long can you stay aware? Can you keep awareness if you're in a hurry? Be aware of any sights or sounds and notice if your mind wanders gently bringing it back.
Reminder to be aware of any attachments, aversions, or indifferences. The awakening begins when you can notice that all three are usually present at all times. Can you notice in which ways you are experiencing the three at this moment?
Practice coming to the edge of what is uncomfortable without pushing into it or beyond it. Listen to the wisdom of your body, instead of overriding it with your mind. If there are intense sensations (physical or emotional) try breathing into them to see if you can soften and open yourself up to the sensations. Gently explore your edge. Stretch but do not strain.
Reacting versus responding: In pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent situations practice instead of reacting automatically, start to respond more mindfully by simply noticing our reaction (thought, emotion, and body) first.
If at any time you notice yourself caught up in thought, just notice that, and return your awareness to the practice at hand, gently, with kindness and a little humor.
When meditation or being mindful of sounds don't go out and search for noise. Simply allow any sounds to come to you. Expand awareness further and further from the body and its space while also including it. Just receive the noises from wherever they come by only noticing the quality of its sound: pitch, texture, loudness, gaps, silence, etc.
Sounds, like most of all other things, can come, sometimes stay around for a while, and then they go. Try coming into the direct experience rather than labels, stories, understandings, thinking, or concepts.
Direct experience: wide and vivid, not good and/or bad, being with what is.
Thinking concepts: narrow and predictable, seen as good, bad, or neutral, trailing off with emotion.
Our minds are not the experience, they are the space in which the experience arises and dissolves. Our awareness is vast and stretches out in all directions.
"Feeling" can describe a physical sensation or an emotional state. In mindfulness, it is helpful to notice the difference. If you tune in to how this energy manifests in the body with curiosity, it will help you to simply be present with these feelings an to not identify with them and react blindly in a habitual way. Allow yourself to fully experience feelings or the natural instinct to push difficulties away, fight them, or avoid them altogether. Come as close as possible with a sense of curiosity to each feeling and do so with kindness.
See what may be there in a nonjudgemental way; not with fear, not with expectation, not with a story, not even with an idea of being brave. Just see what is there.
Mindfulness of sensations in the torso.
Notice the sensation of breath, the movement in the belly, sensations within the abdomen, solar plexus, diaphragm, chest, torso.
When difficult things happen, many of us react to these situations somewhere in the torso. See if you can tune in to these sensations as an early warning system.
We can see through our thoughts and realize that they are insubstantial and impermanent. When you notice yourself caught up in thought, silently say to yourself "thinking" before you return to the action at hand. By labeling your thoughts as "thinking" you are acknowledging your willingness to let go of the thought however juicy or compelling it may be.
Thoughts are like clouds. We are not the clouds; we are the sky that holds them. Be curious about the nature of thought.
There are two wolves fighting for your heart: one angry and one kind. The one that will win the fight is the one that you choose to feed. Be sure to feed the right wolf.
"There is time enough for everything in the course of the day if you do but one thing at a time, but there is not enough time in the year if you wish to do two things at a time..." - Lord Chesterfield.
If you are working on a task, turn off other distractions.
If you choose to listen to the radio or watch television, really listen and watch without doing other things at the same time.
During calls see if you can give the other person your full attention.
While you are eating, just eat.
Speaking and Listening
Listening: when you are listening, just listen. If you drift into thought or reaction, gently bring yourself back.
Speaking: when you are speaking, try allowing space (pause) at any time and let what you say next emerge from that space, not from a hurried or jumbled approach. If interrupted, return to listening.
Silences: can you let it be that way? Notice if you just jump in. See what happens if you don't.
If we give ourselves times of space and stillness, this will help us to ride the waves of chaos when we need to.
Remembering the vastness of the sky or the stability of a mountain can help you to embody a sense of stillness and equanimity.
A consistently formal meditation and mindfulness practice should be a part of daily routine (like brushing your teeth). Don't let your brain get bad breath.
“You should sit in meditation
for 20 minutes a day,
unless you’re too busy,
then you should sit for an hour.”
– Zen Proverb
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