This fall, Your Mindful Coach, in conjunction with the Center For Self-Care is offering four free beginner’s meditation workshops at the Tredyffrin Library in Wayne, Pennsylvania. The series is called “Cultivating The Heart.” The title recognizes the practice of mindfulness and meditation as a process. There is no sudden awakening or enlightenment. Instead, by gently tending the garden of our mind and heart, we set an intention that inclines us toward kindness and compassion. We’d love you to join us. But if you can’t, you can find a recording of the entire session as well as the practices below:
We began our first session with a simple practice from Jonathan Foust called, “Moving From Thought to Sensation.” We spend so much of our days analyzing, judging and comparing. This important function kept our ancestors alive 20,000 years ago when they were being chased by wild animals. It also serves a critical role in advances in the field of science, technology and medicine. But sometimes, a different state of mind is called for. A state where we use our sense to arrive in the present moment. We closed the practice with a beautiful poem from Danna Faulds:
By Danna Faulds
It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn’t a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line; that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I’m going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery.
The session was structured to engage our minds through brief talks, experiential practice and small-group discussion. These steps reinforce each other and deepen our understanding. And it requires practice. Two disciplines we worked with were Mindfulness and Insight Meditation. In Mindfulness Meditation, we bring a non judging awareness to our experience using our senses and mind states as an anchor when we become distracted. Insight Meditation sits right next to Mindfulness, as it brings in the qualities of compassion and kindness. At its simplest, meditation is a practice of returning. We find ourselves lost in thought, distracted by sounds or memories or just simply carried away. I offered the following aspirations for a practice of meditation and a practice of living:
Try the focused breathing practice below to get a sense of it. Just like training a puppy, our task is to pause, reset and begin again.
Its a simple practice but it sure isn’t easy. Its fairly radical because our evolutionary biology is based on avoiding pain and seeking pleasure instead of allowing our experience to unfold. Our culture reinforces that by emphasizing comfort and convenience over actually feeling what we are feeling when we are feeling it.
Just as we go to the gym to build physical strength, we practice in meditation to build mental strength. And it ain’t easy. Its basically “failing practice,” right? We intentionally sit and allow ourselves to become distracted so that we can practice returning. So it will require one more thing: compassion. Without compassion, we may turn this work into a grim duty, a mechanical act that mimics all the other things we are trying to perfect about our life despite the utter impossibility of arriving at that state.
We worked with a traditional compassion practice that you can try out yourself. In this practice, we combine an image, a wish and repeated phrases to soften and open our heart to a deep compassion for ourselves and others. As we repeat these phrases silently, we slowly expand the circle of our care to include others, even all beings.
Please join us on Tuesday, October 3 for our next session, Cultivating the Heart: Lovingkindness (free but registration is required).