Like a dance, we move towards and away from something so that our nervous system, mind and body can process what is occurring whilst learning to get comfortable with difficult emotions or when being out of our window of tolerance. We’re practicing self-regulating, finding balance and staying flexible in the present moment. So we start by grounding ourselves, and then feeling what’s arising for us, be it a thought, emotion, mood or sensation, and where it gets uncomfortable, we shift our attention back to our breath or a part of the body that feels safe for us, for example the belly or feet, and returning again to feeling what’s arising. We allow ourselves to move from one point to another according to what feels “safe” or “right” for us – a titration process.
It is a useful meditation when you’ve had a hard day and are finding it difficult to sit, or if you generally find it hard to sit through a meditation due to constant intrusive thoughts and difficult emotions. Also useful for those who are experiencing PTSD or had experienced trauma and are wanting to practice meditating as part of healing.
Sometimes we take life, our experiences, our unwelcome emotions too seriously. This meditation is a reminder to live life with a sense of lightness and playfulness.
Let Your Life Lightly Dance, by Rabindranath Tagore
To the guests that must go bid God’s speed and brush away all traces of their steps. Take to your bosom with a smile what is easy and simple and near. Today is the festival of phantoms that know not when they die. Let your laughter be but a meaningless mirth like twinkles of light on the ripples. Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf. Strike in chords from your harp fitful momentary rhythms.
Worrying is a natural reaction of the mind and body. We de-compartmentalize by firstly noticing with equanimity and curiosity what and how we add to our worries – the stories we tell ourselves. Then, noticing how worrying is felt in the body, and breathing in and out of that sensation, taking long exhales. And finally as best as you can, letting be, letting go. The poetry “I Worried” by Mary Oliver comes to mind.
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
In this meditation, taking a moment to take a mindful pause, acknowledging and accepting whatever feelings are arising, and sending well wishes to ourselves and others including people who annoy you. We only need to bring to bear the intention of well wishing even if we don’t feel like it. And we end off with this poem by Emily Dickinson.
Rumination—thinking, thinking, going around in circles—brings us down the spiral, and causes depression, anxiety and stress. The invitation is to disengage from it, setting your thoughts free, and using the body to hold you steady.
Here we are training the mind to stay open and steady whenever unwelcome emotions and experiences arise. Keeping an open mind, meaning when thoughts come through the mind, or emotions and sensations arise, we just meet them as they are, noticing them, as best as we can not judging although we might not be able to help ourselves. When that happens, not judging ourselves further! And when thoughts get too overwhelming, we can choose to return to an anchor like the breath or a part of the body that feels stable. The poetry Door by Miroslav Holub is read as we bring the practice to a close.
Door by Miroslav Holub
Go and open the door. Maybe outside there’s a tree, or a wood, a garden, or a magic city.
Go and open the door. Maybe a dog’s rummaging. Maybe you’ll see a face, or an eye, or the picture of a picture.
Go and open the door. If there’s a fog it will clear.
Go and open the door. Even if there’s only the darkness ticking, even if there’s only the hollow wind, even if nothing is there, go and open the door.
In mindfulness meditation, the encouragement is to get curious about whatever experiences that arise, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. This means with a beginner’s mind, noticing what is felt, where, how intense, what happens next, how we tend to react, and less about the “why”. By doing so, we’re allowing ourselves to process our emotions instead of judging and resisting which only compounds suffering. We’re less concerned about the “why” because emotions and sensations come and go – they’re impermanent and intangible.
Showing up in the present moment means showing up for ourselves in the bloom of the moment, instead of being lost in the head or lost in the “busy-ness” of our lives.
I’m Busy by Brooke Hampton
I’m busy; but not in the way most people accept. I’m busy calming my fear and finding my courage. I’m busy listening to my kids. I’m busy getting in touch with what is real. I’m busy growing things and connecting with the natural world. I’m busy questioning my answers. I’m busy being present in my life.
We’re always running, on a constant treadmill, wanting to be somewhere else. How about just accepting that you’re where you need to be right this moment – sitting, closing the eyes, meditating. What if we just paused and embraced the moment.
Whenever you’re feeling down, overwhelmed, anxious, have hope that these feelings don’t last forever and we’ll find our way home eventually. Inspired by “Hope” is the thing with feathers, by Emily Dickinson.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard – And sore must be the storm – That could abash the little Bird That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land – And on the strangest Sea – Yet – never – in Extremity, It asked a crumb – of me.
Arriving and embracing the present moment with the people around you instead of frequently being lost in the head with our thoughts, often reviewing the past or speculating about the future, or being buried in our mobile phone.
Inspired by Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem: Please Call Me by My True Names (extract).
Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —
even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.
My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
Happy 2022! The mind is an incredible machine that generates ideas, solves problems but it can also produce thoughts that cause us grief and make us do things that we regret. How do we practice disengaging especially from thoughts that are not true, not realistic, not useful and only serve to weigh us down?
Inspired by the tradition of Soto Zen, we simply watch our thoughts, coming and going as they are as we are a third party, not identifying ourselves with thoughts, not judging, not needing to react to every single thing the mind tells us to do. Here we are just sitting quietly and watching. The pause allows wisdom to emerge and perhaps a new found appreciation for how the mind works.
Emily Dickinson describes this in her poem (extract).
The Brain — is wider than the Sky — For — put them side by side — The one the other will contain With ease — and You — beside —
The Brain is deeper than the sea — For — hold them — Blue to Blue — The one the other will absorb — As Sponges — Buckets — do
As we wind down for the year and set New Year resolutions, we anchor on what the heart longs for without judging ourselves. Simply just holding our desires in mindful awareness and allowing whatever emotions that arise when we bring to mind and feel in the heart what we truly want at the deeper level.
Inspired by William Wordsworth The Rainbow (or My Leaps Up). Life begins when we embrace our humanity with grace, and acknowledge what we really want even if it’s not within reach or seems silly.
Whenever we’re feeling down, upset, angry or worried about something, using stillness might be helpful. It’s about allowing our emotional energy to find a resting point. Inspired by this poem Stillness by Karen Lang.