These are challenging times, I don’t have to tell you that. We have always had challenges in our lives, but in some way felt in control. That control has been mostly through the art of distraction. We are so busy in our ordinary lives that we have the tendency to ignore what is difficult, or push back our feelings of fear and anxiety.
Right now, we are all going through a time where the busyness and distractions have been stripped away and we are left with what is difficult, scary and anxiety producing and the feeling of being out of control, and most of us don’t have the tools to know how to deal with it.
Mindfulness Meditation is a set of tools that we can use to practice not only “how” to be with everything going on right now, but the tools are meant to be used throughout life. To become more aware of how we “react” to the circumstances of life and learn to “respond” instead. Reaction comes from a place of being caught off guard, not noticing until we are hit over the head by some situation and then automatically reacting with emotions and actions. Responding is a more measured act of consciousness.
Meditation is training to respond by becoming more aware of our reactions. The tools themselves are very basic, and can be quite varied in style and tradition. There is no “right” way to meditate. What is important no matter what type of meditation you are using is your attitude. One of my first meditation teachers, Pema Chodron, talks about the attitude to “keep coming back” with gentle attention to the details of your experience and simply to notice them without judgment. This simple lesson is a reminder that no matter how far down the rabbit hole of thoughts, distractions, fear or anxiety we become that we can always come back to the ground, the center of what is happening at the most fundamental level.
We are HERE, breathing, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling this moment of experience. The mind can wander to the farthest reaches of the world, but we are embodied here in this moment.
This is the foundation of any meditation practice. To train in being mindful of our breath and body in this moment, and to notice when the mind takes us on a journey. To catch ourselves (gently) and remind ourselves to keep coming back, over and over again.
The Practice to Keep Coming Back:
Find a comfortable position, sitting in bed or a chair or couch or even on the floor on a cushion.
Have your back supported and let your hands rest in your lap. Let your eyes close and start to notice your breath moving in and out and how your body is feeling in this moment.
Take three deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and slowly out through the mouth to settle more deeply.
Then allow yourself to breathe naturally and invite your mind to pay attention to how your breath is moving and how it feels in your body.
Bring your attention to your feet and take a breath, wiggling your toes and noticing sensations. Then allow your breath to move up your legs with your breath, take as many breaths as you like as you trace your legs with your mind.
Bring your breath into your seat, your belly and your chest, noticing how the torso moves as you breath in and out, expanding and contracting.
Lengthen your spine sitting up a bit straighter and let the back of your neck get longer than the front.
Soften your jaw and make space between your teeth and let your eyes roll down and forward, relaxing the muscles of your face.
Bring your awareness back to your breath and “watch” it move in and out.
As you do this you can silently label the breaths, as you breathe in say to yourself, “breathing in” and as you breathe out, say silently, “breathing out”.
Let yourself gently, softly repeat this labeling until you feel more centered and relaxed.
Then let go of labeling and just notice how your body feels again, make any adjustments if you feel gravity rounding your back, or your chin floats up, lengthen through the spine again and lower your chin slightly.
Soften your belly and your jaw.
Return to the breath moving in and out.
Each time your mind begins to wander, and it will, this is the habit of our thinking mind. If it doesn’t have a problem to solve it looks for one! When you notice you are lost in thought, bring your attention back to your body, lengthening and softening and go back to labeling a few breaths, “breathing in and breathing out”.
Repeat this practice for about 3 minutes when you first start your meditation practice. Then as you become more comfortable with it, you can sit for longer periods of time, 6 minutes, then 9 minutes. Whatever works for you.
The key is to practice, to keep coming back with gentleness and a non-judging mind.
May you find peace and freedom from suffering during this time and always.
Guest Post by Lori Kahn
Lori Kahn is a certified Mindfulness Meditation teacher with over 20 years in the Wellness Industry. She is the owner of OM laguna beach and yoga + meditation studio in Laguna Beach and is a Mindfulness Coach for individuals, couples and groups.
Lori has made her meditation app AwakenOM free for all users, go to www.AwakenOM.com and sign up. She is also currently teaching two half hour guided meditations on Zoom on Mondays and Fridays from 9 - 9:30am.
If you would like to join please go to zoom.us and join with the following meeting information:
Mondays - Meeting ID 653-077-349 Password: 123123
Fridays - Meeting ID 332-586-852 PW: 123123