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.
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
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.
Our thoughts could be discouraging, demotivating, compelling us to quit. This is a meditation of practicing staying the course, not giving up so easily. Inspired by I Bend, a poetry written by Selena Odom.
I bend but do not break.
I’ve been lost, but I’m not a loser.
I’m a wreck, but I’m not totaled.
I’m fractured but not broken.
I’ve failed, but I’m not a failure.
I’ve fallen hard but can get up again.
I’m isolated, but still I’m free.
I have been destroyed but will rebuild.
My heart is broken, but it will mend.
See, no matter how close I come to breaking, I just continue to bend.
The question of the day is: what will you let go of? Here is a meditation session of learning to let go of what upsets and weighs us down, recognizing that all our experiences, good and bad, are impermanent. Often thoughts and desires that accompany the feelings magnify our distress, the need for things to be in a particular way, like the need for us to stay calm and centered during a meditation. Otherwise the session feels like a waste of time. Actually the best time to practice is when the mind is unsettled. We’re cultivating accepting situations or reality as they are before deciding on the next best response.
It’s easy for negative thoughts or negative inferences to take root. They can be as subtle as “I can’t do this” to something extreme we won’t say to others like “You’re (I’m) stupid”, or excessive worry and downplaying ourselves or others.
One outcome of negativity is that it can lead us to a striving mode, needing to fix or improve ourselves. We sign up for a bunch of courses, throw ourselves into projects to shut off the pain, make ourselves feel like we’re progressing in life. A striving mode can also mean to deliberately avoid situations.
This is not to say we don’t do anything to improve our life outcomes or to purposely invite difficulties, but we want to be more discerning about what thoughts we want to act on and what actions are really necessary, lest we end up distressing ourselves further or shy away from living a full life.
In this meditation, we acknowledge thoughts as they are (just thoughts), and practice restoring a sense of being or balance. When we’re in a less driven-doing, judgmental mode, we can see our priorities and what really matters with more clarity.
We also use the poem Negative Thoughts (extract) by Murray Lachlan Young to convey the theme of the practice.
Oh, they come and they go
And sometimes they come
A lot more than they go
Then do what they like
And say what they please
To stifle your life
With their negative squeeze
So why not breathe in
And exercise choice
Why not breathe out and say “No” to the voice
And say “I’m worth more much, much, more than all that
And that negative voices
Are uncool and old hat”
So why not decide
That it’s time to get free
And stand up to the (deeply uncool) voice
Guide: Noelle Lim
Duration: 14 mins
Image credit: Dim Hou, Unsplash
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This is an adaptation of the Lake Meditation written by Jon Kabat Zinn, founder of MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). We are cultivating the qualities and energy of a lake – silent, merely reflecting back what it sees as it is, and returning to stillness whenever the wind, rain and storm pass. Visualizing ourselves as the lake. Like it, we can return to our original being of stillness and silence once unwelcome thoughts and feelings move on.
We end with this poetry There In The Stillness by Show You Love (extract).
There in the stillness, the whisper of angel’s wings
There in the stillness a place for beggars and kings
There in the stillness a fluttering of the soul
There in the stillness someone broken is being made whole
This is an adaptation of the Mountain Meditation, created by Jon Kabat Zinn, founder of MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). We are cultivating the qualities and energy of a mountain – solid, strong, dignified, unmovable, and not apologetic for our presence. So like the mountain, we remain grounded despite experiencing strong emotions and intrusive thoughts.