Appreciating The Now

Staying in the present moment and embracing the beauty and imperfections of the experience as it is. Words by Hafez.

The mountain’s face lifted me higher than
itself.

A song’s wink aligned me with joy. And a
tune paradise hums I came to know.

The forest, letting me walk amongst its naked
limbs, had me on my knees again in silence
shouting – yes, yes my holy friend, let your
splendour devour me.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Image credit: Maiken Ingvordsen, Unsplash

Playfulness, Lightness

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.

Responding To Worrying

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

flow in the right direction, will the earth turn

as it was taught, and if not how shall

I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,

can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows

can do it and I am, well,

hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,

am I going to get rheumatism,

lockjaw, dementia?

Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing.

And gave it up. And took my old body

and went out into the morning,

and sang.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Image credit: Diana Parkhouse, Unsplash

Befriending

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.

Hope, 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.

Disengaging From Rumination

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.

Thoughts, by Myra Viola Wilds

What kind of thoughts now, do you carry

In your travels day by day

Are they bright and lofty visions,

Or neglected, gone astray?

Matters not how great in fancy,

Or what deeds of skill you’ve wrought;

Man, though high may be his station,

Is no better than his thoughts.

Catch your thoughts and hold them tightly,

Let each one an honor be;

Purge them, scourge them, burnish brightly,

Then in love set each one free.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Image credit: Andreea Popa, Unsplash

Open Mind

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.

At least
there’ll be
a draught.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Image credit: Yoonjae Baik, Unsplash

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Showing Up

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.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Image credit: Bogdan Farca, Unsplash

Steadiness

This week demanded steadiness. So here it is, Steady by Afiyah The Poet

Storms are coming
I go steady

Water is churning
I go steady

Whether the sky
is blue or gray
I keep going
with steady steps

Lived this life
long enough to know
upsets are many

Can’t break down
with every misstep

I’ve seen the floor
way too many times

Learning to go steady
when disasters strike

Assess and adjust
learn the lessons

I keep going
with steady footing.

Serenity

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.

Serenity by Robert Longley

Peaceful in the moment

Tranquil in your soul

To reach a state of balance

Seems to be the goal

A point where cares are absent

Or maybe put on hold

Often redefining

The many rules were told

There is no need to journey

No need to get away

Just carve out a moment

And enjoy it every day

The moment will embrace you

Take time to give it care

Finding the serenity

Of just being there.

Cultivating Softness

A practice of meeting each moment—whether we welcome it or not—with softness rather than resistance so that we can sit with whatever experience that arises and not be so ruffled. Words by Rumi guide.

Don’t claim in spring on stone some

verdure grows

Be soft like soil to raise a lovely rose

For years you’ve been a 

stony-hearted man (or woman)

Try being like the soil now if you

can!

Guide: Noelle Lim

Image credit: Paul Hanaoka, Unsplash

Have Hope

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.


Guide: Noelle Lim

Image credit: Tran Mau Tri Tam, Unsplash

Arriving In The Moment

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,

so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,

so I can wake up,

and so the door of my heart

can be left open,

the door of compassion.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 19 mins

Image credit: Lasma Artmane, Unsplash

Watching The Mind

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

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 19 mins

Image credit: Matheus Queiroz, Unsplash

Gratitude. Make The Leap.

Closing 2021 with a gratitude mindfulness practice, bringing to mind whom we’re grateful for, and what we’re grateful for this year and right this moment. Happy 2022, and make the leap, folks!

Crossing, Jericho Brown (extract)

We work, start on one side of the day

Like a planet’s only sun, our eyes straight

Until the flame sinks. The flame sinks.

Thank God I’m different.

I’ve figured and counted.

I’m not crossing

To cross back.

I’m set

On something vast.

It reaches

Long as the sea.

I’m more than a conqueror, bigger

Than bravery.

I don’t march.

I’m the one who leaps.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 19 minutes

Image credit: Sarah Shull, Unsplash

Stillness

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.

In the stillness

I feel

I listen

I face my truth

In the stillness

I see

I acknowledge my needs

I let go In the stillness

I receive

I rejuvenate

I heal

In the stillness

I reconnect

I am one with everything.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 17 minutes

Image credit: Werner du Plessis, Unsplash

Staying The Course, Not Giving Up

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.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 18 mins

Image credit Paul Hanaoka

What Will You Let Go?

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. 

Nothing Gold Can Stay, Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 20 minutes

Image credit: Dorothe Wouters, Unsplash

Responding To Negativity

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.

Negative thoughts

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

Of Negativity

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 14 mins

Image credit: Dim Hou, Unsplash

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I Am The Lake

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


There in the rest a river of life overflows

There in the rest a fruitful garden grows

There in the rest I am anchored and secure

There in the rest is a joy so real and pure


Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 17 mins

Image credit: Redd, Unsplash

Be Like A Mountain

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. 

I am the mountain

Snow falls, gone soon after winter

Spring clouds, drift by not a matter

Summer sunshine, only a fair friend

Autumn leaves, fall with an end

Seasons come and go

Yet I remain unmovable, to know

Thoughts emerge, emotions arise

Winds come

Rain falls

I don’t turn them away

Come what may

Because I am the mountain

Guide: Noelle Lim

Poem written by: Noelle Lim

Duration: 18 mins

Image credit: Justinas Tessalis, Unsplash