From a mindfulness perspective, the need for things to be in a particular way or for situations to be different, amplified by the act of rumination, leads us down the path of distress and dissatisfaction, and over time, adds to our vulnerability.
Distress is characterized by a combination of thoughts, emotions and physical sensations – anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness, disappointment, regret, guilt.
There’s a discrepancy monitor in our brain that tells us where we may be short of, accurately or inaccurately, therefore sparking attachment, craving or desire.
Attachment would be craving or clinging on for pleasant feelings, for example the ensuing feelings of being acknowledged, so we’ll do whatever it takes to feel included such as doing something dishonest. Even avoiding something is an act of attachment. We’re attached to the feeling of stability.
It gets unhealthy when there is a loss of balance, a skewed perception of our situation, acting unwisely to the detriment of ours and others’ wellbeing, or refusing to engage with life.
So this practice is about becoming aware of the root of our distress and dissatisfaction ie attachments, and towards the end, I’d encourage you to check out the home practice to investigate starting to let go of attachments.
Over time you might notice that attachments are unlimited. Even if one craving is resolved, another would arise. So we’d be stuck in this endless loop unless we learn the skills to let go. More would be covered in the next session.
Beginning this mindfulness meditation Session 5 – Mindfulness of Attachments, by settling into a comfortable sitting meditation posture, as best as you can.
In our mindfulness meditations, we’re not striving for any particular state of mind.
It’s ok if you are not feeling calm.
It’s ok if you are not feeling at peace.
It’s ok if you are feeling unsettled.
It’s ok if you are feeling bored.
It’s ok if you have many, many thoughts coming through.
The practice is not a waste as you’re training the mind, practicing to be at ease in any circumstances.
All the doing you need is just observing.
Watching as an audience how thoughts, emotions and moods are arising and passing.
Watching physical sensations or the energy in the body – arising, passing.
So keeping the back as straight as you can.
A firm spine.
Shoulders falling down, softening.
A soft front.
Eyes closing or softly focusing.
Beginning with mindfulness of breathing and the body.
Taking a few breaths, allowing the mind to settle.
Breathing, feeling the core of the being, below the belly button.
As you are inhaling, the belly wall expanding.
As you are exhaling, the belly wall contracting.
As you are breathing in, and then out, feeling the area below the belly button.
That’s the house of vitality, the store house of energy.
Each time the mind is wandering off, reminding the mind to return to the lower belly.
And then breathing in, breathing out.
If for some reason, breathing seems a labour, perhaps causing some anxiety.
As best as you can, just observing whatever that is arising.
And then guiding the mind to the area below the belly button.
Placing the attention there.
Or choosing another area of the body that feels safe, like the fingers, the toes, the spinal cord.
Now while keeping the breath and body in awareness, noticing any thoughts, emotions or physical sensations that are arising.
As best as you can, observing with gentleness.
So watching thoughts as if you are a witness.
Watching emotions as if a third party.
Acknowledging physical sensations, whether pleasant or unpleasant, with gentleness.
Watching whatever ensuing emotions or thoughts without judging yourself for having them.
As you are becoming more aware of thoughts and emotions, noticing what is recurring.
Noticing what the mind is getting caught up about?
Who keeps coming to mind?
What events and scenes keep replaying?
Thoughts are getting tangled up?
Replaying the past?
Speculating about the future?
Opinions of certain people, events, ideas?
As best as you can, observing the phenomenon with curiosity.
Then when opinions arise, what happens after that?
More thoughts, more sadness, more anger, more worry?
Or perhaps peace, calmness, love?
Noticing for any physical sensations?
Whatever that keeps replaying represent an underlying attachment.
So just observing what is arising.
Just watching, not judging yourself further for whatever that has arisen.
You don’t have to approve or disapprove whatever that is here.
No further action is needed except to just sit and acknowledge all that is arising.
If there is a sense of feeling overwhelmed, you may choose slightly shifting the posture mindfully, or opening the eyes, or gently guiding the mind, focusing on breathing and feeling the body.
As we are closing this practice, letting go the focus on thoughts, and guiding the mind to the breath and belly.
Feeling the sensations of breathing — inhaling, exhaling.
I read you this poem: You Won’t Know, by Wilkes Arnold
It’s the still nights, the stormy nights
When I want a cigarette
To spark life in my breath,
When sleep seems dead set
On avoiding me.
It leaves me asking why?
I don’t even smoke.
Taking a moment to expressing gratitude for the time you’ve spent practicing to care for yourself.
Recognising this is an opportunity to cultivate awareness about our root of suffering, and how we add to our suffering.
After doing this practice on a daily basis, you may wish to write down your observations.
Dividing the page into four columns — labelling them as thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and impulses and actions.
In the first column, Thoughts, writing down what thoughts kept repeating, grouping them under themes if necessary.
In the second column, Emotions, writing down the accompanying emotions to thoughts.
Same in the third column, Body Sensations, listing down the accompanying sensations.
In the fourth column, Impulses and Actions, write down what you feel like doing as a result of these thoughts, emotions and sensations. Noticing any actions that are keeping us locked in a cycle. Even avoiding a situation is an action that locks us in dissatisfaction as we do not address the issue upfront.
As you are reading through what you have written down, picking up the most pressing experience, the one that is giving you the most distress.
For example, selecting thoughts that have words like “should”, “must”, “have to”, “need to”, something with judgement.
Then asking yourself these four questions:
The first question is: What would it mean for you to hold on to those views?
Second question: What is the consequence of holding on to those views to yours and others’ wellbeing?
Third question: What would it mean to let go of those views?
Fourth question: What is the consequence to yours and others’ wellbeing if you let go of those views?
To close this, I would like to invite you to consider meditation as a lifelong practice.
Mindfulness is a lifelong journey.
The patience we are exercising, the curiosity instead of judgment we are bringing to bear, is the practice, the training.
So that all this instinctively becomes us.
We do not have to think so hard about it nor need to cognitively justify having to feel patience and kindness whenever we need to call upon it.
See you next Wednesday.
Guide: Noelle Lim
Image credit: Motoki Tonn, Unsplash
Listen to Session 4 at https://kindermind.center/2023/04/18/10-week-pause-session-4-mindfulness-of-thoughts/