For those of us who are new to meditation, I want to just center us a little bit.
Meditation is about taking the deepest possible rest - for your mind and your body.
It’s about acceptance - to me, that means looking at what’s going on in my body and my mind, and just accepting it. Looking at it, letting it pass. Looking at it, waving it hello and goodbye. Not trying to change anything. Just getting right up close to whatever’s happening and observing.
Find comfortable place. Chair, floor, lay on couch or bed. I like to lay in my bed because it helps my whole body relax. If you’d like to leave your video on, that’s fine, but if it makes you feel more comfortable and safe to turn it off, then turn it off. (3 min)
Now, I recommend closing your eyes so you can focus on your experience. Settle in, feel your body against the surface of your chair or bed. Notice each point of connection. (30 sec)
Start with taking some deep breaths. Notice how your lungs feel and what happens in your body as you breathe in and out (1 min)
And as we settle in we’ll start to breathe a little deeper. And we’ll invite our exhales to become longer than our inhales. So in……. And then out just a little longer (1 min)
Now one of the wonderful things about meditation is that it’s a practice of clearing our minds, and clearing out the clutter of constant thoughts. Our goal is to have just a quiet, empty mind, that’s open to exactly what’s happening in the present moment. But this is pretty difficult to do, just because most of us aren’t used to it. And that’s okay. It’s a practice, and you’ll get better at it with time.
One way I’ve found to quiet my mind is by focusing in on the feelings in my body. So we’re going to practice that right now with a body scan.
As we go throughout our bodies, starting with our heads, down to our feet, I want you to pay very close attention to what’s happening in each part of your body. Don’t try to change it, just look at it, and practice accepting exactly whatever is happening. What are the sensations? Does it feel warm? Cold? Tingly? Empty? Just look, listen, feel.
Let’s start with focusing on our head. (30 sec)
Now move to focus on the face. (5 sec)
Continue breathing deeply. (25 sec)
Now focus on your neck. (30 sec)
Now move down to the shoulders. (30 sec…. Continue like this.)
So I wanted to have the event because of how stressful a time this has been for all of us. With that in mind, I want to teach you a kind of meditation I learned from a favorite teacher of mine, Thich Naht Hahn, called Tonglen meditation. It’s for working with pain or any kind of difficult emotion.
First, I’m going to read a section of his writing from my favorite book, True Love. Please enjoy.
*section from True Love by Thich Naht Hahn, "The Energy of Mindfulness."*
So for Tonglen, you take whatever painful or uncomfortable feeling is happening in your body - whether it’s an emotional or physical feeling - and you visualize it as dark, heavy, sticky, weighing you down.
Then you identify some feeling or sensation that would be soothing and relieving for that emotion - whether that’s a blanket, a warm cup of tea, a hug, a listener - and you visualize that emotion as blue, expansive, bright, like the sky.
So you have your dark feeling and your light feeling to work with.
When you breathe in, you visualize the negative feeling - you feel the dark, heavy, sticky, weighted feeling filling your whole body.
And when you breathe out, you visualize the relieving feeling - you feel the blue, expansive, bright feeling coming out of your body and filling up your surroundings.
Think of this as generating inward care for whatever you are going through. Using your inner creative energy to relieve yourself.
The coolest thing about this meditation, though, is we can use it as a way to not only connect to yourself, but to everybody else. Because at any given time that you’re experiencing a difficult emotion, there are millions or hundreds of millions of people around the world who are feeling just the same way. So what we do, is when we breath in the pain - the darkness, heaviness, stickiness - we breathe it in for everyone in the world who is feeling that pain. And when we breathe out the relief, we breathe it out for everyone in the world who is feeling that pain. In this way, we can soothe ourselves while also generating compassion for others.
So, let’s practice this for just a few minutes.
You can use an uncomfortable feeling you’re having right now, or recall one that you’ve experienced in the past few days, and practice with it.