Being With Nature

The invitation is to accept our thoughts and feelings as how we would accept what happens in nature around us like the sound of birds, the rise of the sun, the four seasons. Inner experiences are after all the outcomes of the mind and body, and we are in turn the product of nature. Acceptance helps us meditate in peace.

Inspired by Margaret Atwood’s poem The Moment.

The moment when, after many years 
of hard work and a long voyage 
you stand in the centre of your room, 
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country, 
knowing at last how you got there, 
and say, I own this, 

is the same moment when the trees unloose 
their soft arms from around you, 
the birds take back their language,

the cliffs fissure and collapse, 
the air moves back from you like a wave 
and you can’t breathe. 

No, they whisper. You own nothing. 
You were a visitor, time after time 
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming. 
We never belonged to you. 
You never found us. 
It was always the other way round.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 19 mins

Image credit: Keanu K, Unsplash

Self-Love

Today’s Wednesday Pause is a practice of self-love. Cliche as it sounds, its really an invitation to be gentle with ourselves, meaning whatever that is arising, whether we like it or not or find it inadequately stimulating, we gently accept the moment as it is. This reduces the hold unpleasant feelings has over us. And if we find ourselves experiencing strong emotional energy be it grief and anxiety, we respond with gentleness without needing “to do something” to fix it and make it go away. It’s as if you respond with gentle energy instead of brute force, counterintuitive as it may seem.

Inspiration sought from Walt Whitman’s poem Song of Myself (1892, extract).

I celebrate myself and sing myself

And what I assume, you shall assume

For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.

I exist as I am that is enough

If no other in the world be aware I sit content

And if each and all be aware I sit content.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,

But I shall be good health to you nevertheless

And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged

Missing me one place, search another

I stop somewhere waiting for you.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 22 mins

Image credit: Mathilde Langevin, Unsplash

Not Giving Up

It’s easy to give up on meditating when we lose patience. The benefits may not be immediate and it can feel somewhat unpleasant when you’re just sitting still and not doing anything. Yet there is enough neuroscience evidence to show that mindfulness helps strengthen the brain and allows us to be more at ease in responding to difficulties. It’s probably the cheapest “solution” to mental health woes because you can meditate anywhere, anytime without guidance. This practice is about not giving up by giving yourself permission to be patient.

Inspiration from Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise (extract).


You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.


Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.


You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.


Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 18 mins

Image credit: Timothy Meinberg, Unsplash

Directly Experiencing

We practice directly experiencing reality instead of through the filters of the mind which is easily clouded by cravings and fears. Our thoughts often demand that situations have to be in a particular way and we are dissatisfied when they are not. Why not accept life as it is, moment-by-moment, in its ups and downs so that we can respond wisely instead of in a deluded way that only prolongs suffering? There’s more to life than “should be”s, labels and opinions. Inspired by Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching verse 12.

The five colours blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavours dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious things lead one astray.

Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.
He lets go of “that” and chooses “this”.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 24 mins

Image credit: Eric Han, Unsplash

Responding To Cravings

The Buddha had said cravings (attachments) is a source of our suffering. Here’s our Wednesday Pause practice of responding mindfully to our never-ending desires so that we are less easily led astray down the path of stress. And the poetry for today is Let These Be Your Desires by Khalil Gibran.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself

But if your love and must needs have desires,

Let these be your desires:

To melt and be like a running brook

That sings its melody to the night.

To know the pain of too much tenderness.

To be wounded by your own understanding of love;

And to bleed willingly and joyfully.

To wake at dawn with a winged heart

And give thanks for another day of loving;

To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;

To return home at eventide with gratitude;

And then to sleep with a prayer

For the beloved in your heart

And a song of praise upon your lips.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 21 mins

Image credit: Piotr Musiol, Unsplash

Decoupling From Self

Part of responding wisely to our difficult feelings is to let go of the need to react, and instead transform that emotional energy by returning our attention to the breath or body. Letting go of reactivity is an act of letting go the need to pander to our cravings and fears. By extension this means letting go the need to cling on to the idea of a self. Some people may describe it as our ego or pride. The Buddha said, “Nothing is to be clung to as I, me or mine.”

The invitation in this practice is to decouple from the self by firstly taking the bigger picture, zooming out to sense our body as a whole like a vessel or container instead of getting lost in the mess of our thoughts and feelings that arise within, and each time the mind instructs us to do something, we can just let it be by not needing to answer back or act on them even if they seem so compelling and urgent.

Finally, we rest in awareness that we’re not alone in our journey. There is a group we’re plugged into – a family, workplace, society, country, and in this Zoom space as we meditate together even if it’s for a brief moment.

Charles Causley’s poem “I am the Song” is read as a gentle reminder that there is no me and them, no independent self as such. All organic beings are interdependent in this universe.

I am the song that sings the bird.
I am the leaf that grows the land.
I am the tide that moves the moon.
I am the stream that halts the sand.
I am the cloud that drives the storm.
I am the earth that lights the sun.
I am the fire that strikes the stone.
I am the clay that shapes the hand.
I am the word that speaks the man.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 20 mins

Image credit: Amy Baugess, Unsplash

Above The Noise

This is a practice of decoupling or de-centering from mental chatter, and viewing thinking as a mental event. It’s often not easy as our thoughts are so compelling and urgent, requiring us to act on them immediately, in the process exhausting us. Here we develop our capacity to observe and let go of the need to answer back or to react toward our thoughts. The practice ends with a reading of Robert Frost’s poem The Sound of Trees (extract).

Here’s the full poetry. 

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 20 minutes

Image credit: Erica Leong, Unsplash


Meeting Anxiety

This practice is about meeting anxiety as and when it arises. Anxiety is often characterized by a fast beating heart, sweaty palms, and maybe throbbing pain in the head. The feelings seem unpleasant, naturally compelling us to want to push them away or to get rid of them. By giving in to this reaction, we are merely avoiding and allowing anxiety to have a grip over us. We are not learning how to respond skillfully to difficulties.

The invitation is to allow ourselves to witness whatever that is arising by pausing from judging, staying as still as we can (not needing to react), and staying with the experience (not needing to run away, distract ourselves or zone out). If the feelings are overwhelming, we approach by dipping our toes and homing in slowly, as best as we can seeing anxious feelings as transient (even if they seem to last forever or they’re recurrent), and as merely outcomes of the mind and body (even if they seem so real). They do not define our identity, they are simply experiences, and we can choose how to respond to them. The response can be not to do anything but simply to just observe and embrace all life experiences as they are.

Poetry for today is Between Going & Staying, by Octavio Paz (translated).

Between going and staying the day wavers,

in love with its own transparency.

The circular afternoon is now a bay

where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,

all is near and can’t be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,

rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples

repeats the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall

into a ghostly theater of reflections. I

find myself in the middle of an eye,

watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,

I stay and go: I am a pause.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 19 minutes

Image credit: Chaiyaporn Atakampeewong, Unsplash

Letting Go Perfection

It’s natural to strive for perfect experiences – to be calm, at peace etc instead of worried and sad. The reality is the mind is always digging away about something and might not hesitate to tell you where you’ve messed up. Letting go the need to feel perfect allows us to just rest in the moment as it is, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. As always practice ends with a poetry reading.

Today Means Amen (extract), by Sierra deMulder

You are drawing a map of forgiveness,
where you live,
where you already are – 
you just don’t know it yet
Perfect isn’t where we’re from,
and we wouldn’t like it there anyway.
Whoever you are,
however you got here,
This is exactly where you are supposed to be.
This moment has waited its whole life for you.
You made it.
You made it.
You made it.
Here.

Noticing Intentions

In the midst of our busy-ness, moving from one thing to another on our to-do list, it is easy to forget what our intentions are or could be. Being mindful of them helps us stay true to our values and lead a more meaningful life instead of a zombie one. So this is a meditation about practicing observing our intentions before we do anything such as taking an inbreath or out-breath. Refining our capacity to just pause for a moment before acting.

Ending this with one of my favourite poems, Summer Day by Mary Oliver (extract): 

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration:

Image credit: Koen Eijkelenboom, Unsplash