Mindfulness Meditation Instruction

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Mindfulness in Daily Life


'LINK' 1. Taking Your Posture
'LINK' 2. Grounding Your Attention
'LINK' 3. Feeling Your Body
'LINK' 4. Following Your Breathing
'LINK' 5. Observing Distractions
'LINK' 6. Mindfulness of Walking
'LINK' 7. Mindfulness in Daily Life


CLICK: Printable PDF Mindfulness Meditation Instructions

Posture > Touch Points > Sensations > Breathing > Distractions > Realtionship

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1. Taking Your Posture


Meditation Posture:

Mindfulness Meditation is a training of the mind not the body, the Buddha taught that you could meditate walking, standing, sitting or lying down, and everything in between. While there is no magic posture the way you hold your body does have an effect of the energy flow, comfort and alertness during your meditation practice. Mindfulness practice can be done walking, standing, sitting or lying down so any posture as long as you are aware of it is good. I have also practiced it on a lounge chair, on a car seat and lying on a bed or floor with great success. The main thing is the continuity of mindfulness for the development of this practice.

The Buddha said: "Furthermore, when walking, the meditator knows, 'I am walking.' When standing, they know, 'I am standing.' When sitting, they know, 'I am sitting.' When lying down, they know, 'I am lying down.' Or however their body is positioned, they hold the knowing of it".

1. Sitting on the Floor:

When sitting on the floor it is important to take a posture that keeps your back straight and that you can maintain for a period of time without moving. Sitting flat on the floor requires a lot of flexibility in the hips, you can test this by sitting flat on the floor, if your knees have trouble touching the ground while your back is straight then you should consider using different props to help with your posture. Props such as a firm cushion under your backside raise your hips off the ground, changing the angle of your legs. This lowers the flexibility needed in the hips to maintain the posture.

Instead of crossing your legs I recommend trying the Burmese meditation posture which instead of crossing the legs on top of each other, places one leg in front of the other flat on the floor, this lowers the pressure on your hips and make it easier to attain good body posture.

To this sit down and fold one leg into your body so that the sole of the foot is facing the inside thigh of the other leg, next fold the other leg in front of it. In this way the legs are folded next to each other but not on top of each other, this prevents the pain and numbness that comes from the pressure of one limb pushing against the other. If this is still difficult and you are determined to sit on the floor you can place a roll between your legs with your legs folded back under you. If this still isn't comfortable then go easy on yourself, get to know your body and what it can and can't do, accept it and then work with what you have, there are other postures just as good like a chair or lying down on the floor.

2. Lying on the Floor:

When lying on the floor make sure your body is flat, if you have back troubles you can slightly bend your knees and place a bolster under them to help with your backs arch. To keep alertness so that you don't fall asleep have your arms loose by your sides and always have the palms facing upwards as this will help with the energy flow. It is also an unusual posture for most of us and so helps ward off the biggest enemy of this posture - falling asleep.

3. Sitting on a Chair:

When sitting in a chair do not lean back against the back rest, this will cause your back to slump and lead to discomfort and a drop in energy levels. Instead see if you can sit towards the front of the chair, as in the picture, and slightly rotate your hip forward. Your forearms and hands can sit gently on your legs, make sure your head is not slumped but evenly balanced.

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2. Grounding Your Attention


Touch Points:

To develop deep Mindfulness we must first align our attention with something we are experience right now, in the present. The sensations in our body are a very good object of meditation for training this. We can only experience these sensations right now, we can't experience them in the past, we can't experience them in the future. Since they are always with us and easy to feel they are the perfect object for the start of our attention training.

The Exercise: To begin this Mindfulness Meditation practice to train your attention take a meditation posture as above. Close your eyes over gently, take a deep breath and as you breathe out - relax. Gently place your attention on the feeling of heaviness in your body, remember it continuously to help you start to develop some concentration. Next turn your attention towards the point in which your body is touching the ground or chair, you can see these points in the picture above marked out by the brown colouring. It may feel strange at first but try to feel the different sense of touch that is present. You may experience this as a feeling of 'hardness', or 'pressing', 'heat', maybe 'vibration' or 'aching'. Whatever you are experiencing is ok, you task is to gently be aware of it, holding the knowing that this is what you are doing 'now'.

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3. Feeling Your Body


Sensations:

The next step after we have built up some concentration and Mindfulness on the sense of touch is to widen our awareness to feel the whole of our body. Our body is full of many different sensations, often if we become emotionally blocked we lose touch with this experience and our body can feel quite numb. As we start to open up to our experience, to reality, the sensations become more obvious to us. Our bodies are full of sensations all the time, it does not matter what the sensations are what matters is that we keep them in mind over time - remember them.

The Exercise: To begin this Mindfulness Meditation practice to train your attention take a meditation posture as above. Close your eyes over gently, take a deep breath and as you breathe out - relax. Gently place your attention on the point in which your body is touching the ground or chair, you can see these points in the touch point pictures above marked out by the brown colouring. Once your mind has started to calm down, this means not wandering around as much, widen your attention and 'feel' the sensations within the whole of your body.

Sensations Experienced As:
Earth: Range of Softness to Hardness
Fire: Range of Coolness to Warmth
Wind: Range of Expansion to Contraction (movement aspect: vibration, tension etc)
Water: Range of Wetness to Dryness

Try to look closely at these sensations with your minds’ eye, mentally 'feel' them. Can you separate the different sensations? Now try to see where your body ends and the chair or ground begins. You can’t; this is the beginning of experiencing the world of reality through the doorway of Mindfulness. Continue to anchor your attention in these sensations, being aware if your mind wanders off, if it does its ok, just bring it back - This is how you train your attention, your ability to remember what is happening right now.

Now soften and relax into these sensations, allow each out breath to sink you deeper into them, as you relax the sensations of your breathing will appear to you, just gently follow them with your mind, not interfering with them in any way.

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4. Following Your Breathing


Lets Begin:

Mindfulness of breathing is a method of training your attention, you can also observe your mind through getting to know its interaction with distractions that arise during the meditation exercise. The sensations that you experience when you breathe provides a constant object of meditation that is always available, one that reflects and develops with the changing state of your mind. Observing this interaction leads to deep understanding of yourself and your relationship to life, through training in this way you will develop knowledge about yourself and as it matures, deep inner peace.

How to Start:

The starting point in the sitting practice is to establish your attention on the sensations of your breathing as it comes in and goes out, we call this the Anchoring Object, this is your home base. Your task is to develop your attention on your experience of the movement associated breathing, to remember it over time Remembering the sensations of breathing is the beginning of training of mindfulness.

Labelling:

This is done by repeating gently a mental label describing your experience of each movement such as “in, in” as the breath comes in and “out, out” as the breathe goes out. When the breath comes in it passes through the tip of the nose and may be experienced as "coolness / pressing", passing through the chest as "movement" and moves down to our abdomen which is experienced as "expanding". As the breath goes out it may be experienced as "falling", back through the chest as "movement" and out through the nose as "warmth / pressing". While gently labelling the breath as "in" and "out" make sure that the labels are concurrent with the experience of the breaths, this alignment increases the accuracy of your attention. Labelling your experience is a way of saying "this is what I am looking at now" and if used properly will help to build your Mindfulness and clarify your awareness.

As the movement of the breathing becomes steady and clear, you can increase the amount of observations that you notice during the movement of the in and out breath, such as “hard” “soft” tingling” “hot” “cold” or anything else that you experience. If the movements contain too many sensations then just observe them in a general way, not creating a label for each individual experience.

Why Use the Full Breath?

There are a number of reasons the breathing from the tip of the nose to the abdomen is chosen over just the sensations of breathing that appears at the tip of the nose for this particular method. Firstly all methods are just that, they are methods used to develop our attention to a heightened level, once developed eventually all methods can be abandoned. The Buddha mentioned this himself when he said that "A raft is something that is used for crossing over on, not for clinging on to." He went on to say that once you had crossed the river you should abandon the raft, to continue to carry it on your back throughout life will hinder you, not help you.

Observing the experience of the full breath from the tip of the nose to the abdomen is used because the first barrier for most people, is the amount of time they spend in their head. Thinking, planning, worrying etc. Being aware of the breath into the lower abdomen brings the energy down, leading to the quietening of the mind and away from where most of us associate thinking to be. Also since our attention is placed away from the area of the head, when our attention moves towards a thought it is easier to notice this movement. If we are observing at the tip of the nose this shift can be very subtle and takes greater developed skill to discern this, therefore needing a more controlled environment, with less distractions to meditate.


Deepening your Breathing

Observing the movement down into the abdomen also encourages deeper breathing, when we are stressed or anxious in our life we tend to breathe in our chest. Chest breathing lowers the amount of oxygen we are receiving and leads to many of the stress like symptoms. Often I have found that if my students just learn to breathe properly, using all of their lungs and lowering their diaphragm, that many of the anxious or stress symptoms disappear.

Finally a major difference is that the sensations in in the complete breath tend to become more clear as you observe them, where as the sensations at the tip of the nose become more subtle. This makes the sensations experienced in the complete breath ideal for developing Mindfulness, and the sensations at the tip of the nose ideal for developing concentration.

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5. Observing Distractions


Secondary Objects:

Once you have established your attention on the movements of the breathing your mind will settle even further and the breathing will start to become clear to you. At some time your attention will be drawn away from the breathing, your Anchoring Object, and will turn towards a distraction, your Secondary Object. At this point do not hang onto your Anchoring object but instead turn your attention towards and hold it on the Secondary Object. This is now your object of meditation until it no longer draws your attention towards it.

How to Observe Distraction:

When objects other then the sensations involved in your breathing appear and dominate your attention such as sounds, thoughts, bodily sensations etc, label them appropriately as you experience them as “hearing, hearing” “thinking, thinking” “feeling, feeling" and so on. At first it is not easy to label such a variety of objects, but with increased Mindfulness and practice you will be able to do it. When the Secondary Object is no longer predominate to you, then go back to noting the Anchoring Object, your experience of the sensations in your abdomen during breathing.

Although you have been taught in the beginning to watch the 'rising and falling' movements of the abdomen, you must be careful not to become attached to it, for it is not the only object that Mindfulness can be developed on. The observing of the 'rising and falling' movements of the abdomen is initially used to increase your concentration and Mindfulness, once your concentration and Mindfulness is strong enough so that you no longer get lost in distraction , then you can place your attention on whatever is the dominant experience during your meditation. This may be thinking, hearing or sensations etc, everything is an experience to be investigated by watching your relationship to it.

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6. Mindfulness During Walking Meditation


Take the walking meditation seriously, by doing the walking meditation alone it is possible to attain deep Mindfulness and concentration. Keep your eyes half closed and fixed to the ground four or five feet in front of you, avoid looking at your foot as your are walking or you will become distracted by it. Pay attention to your posture; do not allow your head to sag as this will create tension on your neck. It is good to pre-plan your walking area, make it a straight line, don't walk here and there, a path of 15 to 20 feet is ideal.

As you become more concentrated the detail with which you note the stepping and the amount of objects you note will increase, the same as the sitting meditation.

Beginning Walking Meditation

1. Begin this practice by bringing your attention to the soles of your feet, feel the sensations involved in standing. Use a general mental label of "standing, standing" to point your attention to the experience of standing.

2. Start by taking slow gentle steps, mentally label each step as it occurs as “left” “right” “left” “right” to point your attention towards the experience of walking. Do this for the length of your walking area.

3. For the first 10 minutes keep your noting simple such as “left” “right” and so on, keep the movement slow and even so that you can keep your attention in line with the sensations involved in the movement..

4. Then increase you noting into three parts such as “lifting” “pushing” “dropping” etc.

5. Finally as your concentration develops increase your noting to “intending” “lifting” “pushing” “dropping” “touching” “pressing”.

Your attention will wander off quite a few times during your walking meditation, but this is ok, just bring it back to your noticing the experience of walking whenever you realise it. Don’t look around, you can do that after you have finished your meditation, if you do during your walking meditation then concentration will not develop and your Mindfulness will stay low. Wandering attention is the most difficult problem for the meditator and the only way to get it under control is to keep reapplying your attention to your meditation object again and again.

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7. Mindfulness of Daily Activities



Mindfulness of daily activities is a very important part of your meditation practice, without Mindfulness meditation ceases, along with concentration and deepening understanding. The faculty of Mindfulness becomes powerful by constant and uninterrupted attention to every activity throughout the days practice.

Constant Mindfulness gives rise to deep concentration, and it is only through deep concentration that we can realise the intrinsic nature of physical and mental phenomena. This then leads to deep contentment and peace. In your daily life you can remain Mindful of how you are relating to people or situations. Instead of giving your full attention to your external problems you can turn your attention inward and watch how you are relating to them.
What are your reactions, what feelings, emotions and thoughts are present? Watching them as an observer will separate you from them and therefore you will not get lost in them, taking away their power over you.

You can establish Mindfulness in daily life by following these steps:

Mindfulness in Daily Life:

1. 'Feel' your feet on the ground
2. 'Feel' the sensations in your body
3. Hold the remembering of what it is you’re doing now
4. Observe your likes and dislikes without reacting
5. Watch your mind construct stories about your life
6. Observe without reacting your attachments and resistances to life

Make these practices part of your life, one step at a time and your mindfulness and understanding will deepen.

You can decondition habitual patterns using Mindfulness in daily life by following these steps:

Deconditioning Habitual Patterns:

1. Notice the sensational 'feel' of the emotion as it appears in your body
2. Break up the experience into separate sensations such as 'tight', tense, hard, light, cool, warm etc
3. Separate the pleasant or unpleasant 'feeling' that permeates it
4. Soften into the pleasant / unpleasant 'feeling' using deep, gentle breaths, relaxing on the out-breath
5. Do not try to get rid of the feeling instead soften and accept into it

Still having trouble understanding how to apply this technique?

* Private Mindfulness Training Session, Kirrawee Sydney *

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Purpose of this Meditation Practice

Through this practice you will come to understand better any negative habitual ways of reacting that you might have. If you watch closely enough you will stop feeding them and eventually their momentum will run out. Negative mental patterns only stick around because we invite them to stay, we give them constant exercise and food. Cut off their food supply and they will be like a vine cut off at the base. The fruits will just dry up and drop off. Mindfulness meditation cuts off the food supply to negative mental patterns through understanding and wisdom that comes from deep observation
Once we understand deeply enough we can cut the cycles and end suffering –

what could be better then that?

Stephen Procter
Sydney, Australia

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© Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved

This article was written by Stephen Procter, instructor from Tai Chi Health for Life, Australian College of Tai Chi & Qi Gong and Meditation Instructor from Meditation in the Shire, Kirrawee NSW, Australia. If you wish to post this article on another website or in a publication please respect the author and reference / link back to this website, thank you


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