This section is dedicated to questions on Mindfulness Meditation from many students all over the world. If you have a question that you would like to ask you can ask it here: Contact Stephen
thankyou and take care,
Missing My Children
QUESTION from Anomynous: I was wandering if you could give me some tips when my children are with thier father and I deeply miss them. I spoke to you a few weeks ago and was in tears if you recall. I also would really like to thank you, I love your classes.
ANSWER:Mindfulness practices can be applied in everyday life to help you cope with and overcome these feelings of longing and grief that comes from them. Steps for being with the feelings of deeply missing your children are:
1. Know that it is ok to miss them and ok to feel sad, there are nothing wrong with these feelings
2. Make time and practice Letting Go Meditation twice a day, the guided meditation is in the Meditation section on the Meditation in The Shire website. 'FEEL' the sensations in your body right NOW
3. Make it a habit to 'ground' your attention in your body during everyday activities, 'feel' your body mentally every time you remember, this will align you with the present
4. Practice holding the knowing of what it is you are doing in everyday life 'standing', 'walking', drinking', 'cleaning', 'showering', 'eating' - whatever it is remember it. This will anchor you in the present
5. When the feelings of loneliness arise it is ok - just know that they are there
6. Ground your attention in your body, feet touching the floor and 'feel them'
7. Use the Letting Go Practice that you have been training to 'soften and relax' into these feelings, long deep relaxed breaths, breathe 'into' the feelings
8. Notice the unpleasant aspect to these feelings and 'soften / relax' into it
9. Notice how these 'feelings' are a toothless tiger, a sheep in wolfs clothing - they can not hurt you, they never could - look at this aspect
10. No feeling can hurt you if you don't react to it, it is hollow, a mirage - has no substance
11. Keep relaxing into the feelings in your body, not trying to make them go away and your awareness will 'burn' up their fuel and remove their power over you
If you practice this the feelings will lose their power and will no longer control your life
Is My Mind Multitasking?
QUESTION from Dream: I stay with the breath "in, in, out, out,..." but can have a thought at the same time, without getting lost in the thought. Still staying with the breath constantly. Never losing that focus. Still there's "hearing", "itching", .... but i never get dragged away from the breath. What's this? Multitasking anyway? (although they say the mind can only focus on one thing at a time, I don't believe that) I can have a conversation, think about something else, read something,... all at the same time. Without gaps, without switching. So what is happening to my focus? Splintering? Split personality in real-time?
ANSWER: Hi Dream, thankyou for your intelligent questions. At first when we start meditating and our mindfulness is low our attention moves and we do not notice it, for example we can be observing each breath as it comes in and out then next thing we know we have been off thinking. What we miss during this time is the transition between watching the breath and thinking the thought, there is a movement there. As our mindfulness and concentration develop we then start to notice many different objects coming into the field of our attention without losing the awareness of the in and out breath. It is wonderful that you are experiencing this as it shows development of your practice.
To understand how the mind is being aware at this stage think of it like a lens on a camera, we can use a wide angled lens and have many things in the frame but in no real detail, or we can focus in close and see one thing down to the macro level, in great detail. This is two different ways of looking and both are relevant to the development of our meditation practice. When you are experiencing a wider focus this is a sign that the factor of concentration can be developed more, as it develops your attention will focus closely on certain aspects of each experience, one thing at a time, instead of many things at a distant.
When this happens you will start to notice that even though it appears that your mind is multi tasking it is not, it is moving so rapidly from one experience to another that with your concentration and attention at the level it is you do not notice the movement of attention, but rather the minds interpretation of what it just experienced, your attention isn’t quite totally aligned with the present.
Keep practicing as you are, be aware of the many things that are coming into the field of your attention, you can briefly recognise them as you become aware of them. I would like you to start observing each breath in more detail, in particular be aware of the beginning and end of each breath, sharpen your attention there, refine your accuracy and your practice will continue to deepen.
Observing Emotion Behind Thinking
QUESTION from Dream: Oh yeah, and a question: where does the emotion behind the thinking come in? You mentioned this, but how do we work with that in the exercize? Trying to discover the emotion? Also I wonder: can we do this Mahasi method of labelling when we are in the outside world, or in everyday life? Or just in formal meditation? Thanks for sharing your ideas, Maestro!
ANSWER:- Hi Dream I have split your question into two parts:
“Oh yeah, and a question: where does the emotion behind the thinking come in? You mentioned this, but how do we work with that in the exercise? Trying to discover the emotion? “
Answer: Whenever we react to anything that we have experienced it attaches an emotional charge to the memory of it. This usually has a basis of either a ‘feeling’ of pleasantness or ‘feeling’ of unpleasantness, depending on our previous reaction. In the future when a similar situation arises this feeling is triggered. For most of us if a feeling of unpleasantness is triggered we have one choice but to try to get away from it. If a feeling of pleasantness is triggered we have one choice, to try to experience more of it. This is the basic movement drives the life of a human being, running away from unpleasant, running towards pleasant, we feel we have no other choice.
The emotions that arise based on our reaction to the pleasant or unpleasant ‘feeling’ are conditioned by our habitual responses, what we have practiced most throughout our life. Because they are practice the response is different for everyone. For example if I am someone who tends to feel irritated and get angry when I experience something unpleasant, that is something happens that I don’t like (unpleasantness), then when the unpleasant feeling is triggered and arises, the thinking that arises dependant on that will be tainted by my relationship to the unpleasant feeling.
Because anger is my habitual response the flavour of unpleasantness will taint my thinking cycle and it will be based on anger. Before I know it I am responding through anger. Similarly if my habitual tendency is towards aversion the unpleasant feeling will trigger thinking based on wanting to get out of here and before I know it I am running away. This same cycle happens when a pleasant feeling is triggered based on a past memory but it triggers an addictive response towards more pleasantness, wanting more, and the emotions based around that.
To work with this during the meditation practice focus your attention on the thought that arises and focus on the type of thought it is – what is driving it. Is the thought being driven by ‘planning’, ‘telling’, ‘discussing’, ‘remembering’, ‘arguing’, ‘fantasising’ etc? Once you have identified this see if you can ‘feel’ if the thought has a pleasant or unpleasant ‘feeling’ to it, what is its flavour? Next try to ‘feel’ the emotional charge behind it, what is driving this chain of thought? What is the pay off in thinking it?
In turning your attention towards these aspects your mindfulness, concentration and wisdom will start to grow, you will gain deep insight into your own relationship to the world. Also by learning to observe
thinking in this way you will develop a different relationship to it, starting the process of deconditioning the cycle.
“Also I wonder: can we do this Mahasi method of labelling when we are in the outside world, or in everyday life? Or just in formal meditation? Thanks for sharing your ideas, Maestro!”
Answer: Yes the Mahasi Method can be used in everyday life, after all mindfulness meditation practice is just that – practice for everyday life. When using the method in everyday life you can use labelling to gain momentum of mindfulness and concentration. Once you can be aware continuously of what you are experiencing you can stop labelling and just be aware of whatever is present and your relationship to it. You can do this in a very general way or if a dominant experience arises, such as a reaction to something, then you can use a more focussed view and use labelling to help clarify it.
Dealing With Frustration
QUESTION from Anomynous: Hi checking in. Early I know. Got really frustrated with my daughter tonight, but felt it was too late to do anything, got up and walked around later thinking about my feet adn the present, will keep trying, am aware of that feeling currently in my stomach, am acknowledging it but not going away, will try some more deep breathing.
ANSWER:It is nice to hear from you, it is ok to feel frustrated, this is your conditioned response, do not try to get rid of this feeling but instead come to know it.
When the feeling isn't there:
1. Feel your feet touching the ground
2. When you forget your feet don’t get upset
3. Bring your attention back to your feet touching the ground every time you forget
* This is a Mindfulness training exercise
When the feeling arises:
1. Feel the sensations in your whole body
2. Do not try to get rid of the feeling
3. Get to know the feeling, break it up. Is it hard, heavy, tense, throbbing, aching, warm, cool – where do you experience it?
4. Take long deep breaths into your belly, when you breath out – relax into those sensations
5. Whether the feeling stays or goes is not important, it is only a sign post, a warning of what will come if you react to it- the feeling itself cannot hurt you.
let me know how you go
Meditating in Noisy Home
QUESTION from Jose: Thank you for you teachings.I need to find a calm and peaceful place to meditate, I don't know where, since I live on a crowded city and my house is full of noise
ANSWER:Hello Jose, if you can not find a quiet place to meditate you can learn to meditate with noise and busyness around you. At home choose one place to meditate and use it just for that, it may be on a chair or in the corner of your room. Once you have chosen this place try to stay with it as over time you mind will identify this spot with becoming peaceful. Another good place in a crowded city may be sitting in your car, arrive where you are going 10 minutes early and use that time to meditate, or you can even do it while travelling on a train or waiting for something.
If there is noise around when meditating first use the sensations in your body as an anchor for your attention, if you hold this attention your mind will start to settle. Next be aware of the sounds around you, hear them but don't listen to them, if you do this you will notice how they come and go. Holding your awareness on the sounds will make them your object of meditation, your concentration will grow and mind will settle further. Once your mind has settled your breathing will appear to you, you can now gently follow the experience of the breath