After sitting and walking meditation, we took a deeper dive into the specific practices of meditation, from motivation and posture to taking pleasure and the gradual shifting of attention.
We talked about how we view meditation, whether we can trust that we already have what we are seeking, and also about being friendly to ourselves on this path. Next, we defined the difference between attention and peripheral awareness, and considered how the two work together to create mindfulness.
A six-step preparation to start each meditation session was suggested, as follows:
- Motivation (what is my intention?)
- Goals (what do I wish to work on during this sitting?)
- Expectations (hold my goals lightly)
- Diligence (offer my best effort)
- Distractions (check in with my mind, heart & body)
- Posture (check my feet/legs, hands, back, front, shoulders, neck, head, lips, tongue)
Then, four stages of moving from our ordinary state of mind to a particular focus, where our attention is free to wander within each chosen boundary, but always in the present, here and now.
- Open, relaxed awareness and attention, letting in everything, giving priority to sensations over thoughts.
- Focus on body sensations, while remaining aware of everything else.
- Focus on sensations related to breath, while remaining aware of everything else.
- Focus on sensations of the breath at the nose, while remaining aware of everything else.
Also, when noticing that the mind has wandered, smile. Being happy about this sure sign of our potential, this tiny awakening, encourages it to strengthen and forms the base on which our mindfulness will be built.
Finally, we explored counting the breath:
- Any time you feel the need to ground or stabilize your meditation, one approach is to count the breaths
- Use the end of the in-breath to count, so: inhale / 1 / exhale / inhale / 2 / exhale.
- Count to ten, restarting any time you lose awareness of inhale, exhale, or count.
- If ten is too much, try five.
- Once reaching the count of five or ten a few times, stop counting (it can become automatic otherwise) and return to one of the four stages noted above.
The Mind Illuminated, by John Yates, was the source for most of these practices.