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

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

Strengthening Anchor

During meditation, something is often calling for our attention, and we are easily distracted or feel restless. To cultivate steadiness and to stay in the present moment, we turn toward our chosen anchor such as the breath with curiosity and a beginner’s mind. This practice is also intended to help us stay anchored whenever triggered by what someone say or do. Inspired by Sarah Kay’s poetry “The Paradox”. Here is an extract.

When I am inside writing,
all I can think about is how I should be outside living.

When I am outside living,
all I can do is notice all there is to write about.

When I read about love, I think I should be out loving.
When I love, I think I need to read more.

I am stumbling in pursuit of grace,
I hunt patience with a vengeance.

I spend most of my time wondering
if I should be somewhere else.

So I have learned to shape the words thank you
with my first breath each morning, my last breath every night.

When the last breath comes, at least I will know I was thankful
for all the places I was so sure I was not supposed to be.

All those places I made it to,
all the loves I held, all the words I wrote.

And even if it is just for one moment,
I will be exactly where I am supposed to be.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 21 mins

Image credit: Andrea Caramello, Unsplash

To register for our Wednesday Pause, live Zoom sessions, go here

Keeping Quiet, Resting The Body

During this Eid festive season, the invitation is to allow the mind to quieten and the body to rest and recharge. For those who had or will be receiving their vaccination shots for Covid-19, this mini body scan offers a helpful response to ensuing side effects like fever and body aches. Stay safe and healthy.

Inspired by Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda.

Life is what it is about…

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
death.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Transitioning

Transitions in our external world are also felt inside us, expressed in changing thoughts, emotions and sensations in the body. Sometimes the transitions feel painful, uncertain, worrying or hopeful. We may end up more fixated with the destination and lose the opportunity to learn something new about us in the process of transitioning. To get comfortable with change, we practice getting comfortable with transitions experienced in our inner world. This is done by noticing our experiences moment-by-moment while keeping our awareness on the breath and accepting whatever that is arising with a welcome mat.

Register to join us in future Wednesday Pause mindfulness practices here

For a complete archive of our meditations, visit here


Inspired by the poem I Am A Transition (extract), by Emu Getachew

Transition…I think I am? I am a progression! 

I am the vacancy between the alphabets. 

My feet travel silently.

Back and forth-side to side  with a blazing desire to transit.

Asking who I am? 

I am a transition-I reply, not a completion. 

But a passage, traveling between the alphabets of time  in self-expedition.


Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 22 minutes

Image credit: Astrid Shaffner, Unsplash

Not Living A Half Life

Inspired by Khalil Gibran’s poem, this practice is about showing up for ourselves in the present moment instead of living following other people’s agenda and our to-do list which is often the case. Enjoy!

Not Living Half A Life (extract)

Half a life is a life you didn’t live, 
A word you have not said
A smile you postponed 
A love you have not had
A friendship you did not know
To reach and not arrive
Work and not work
Attend only to be absent
What makes you a stranger to them closest to you
and they strangers to you
The half is a mere moment of inability
but you are able for you are not half a being
You are a whole that exists to live a life 
not half a life.

Dealing With Distractions

A thought easily produces a chain of ideas, intentions, stories, and next thing we know, time has passed. Life has passed. Sometimes we unwittingly shoot another arrow, for example, chiding ourselves for having certain thoughts.

Another trap is when a negative thought arises, we think “positively” to “neutralize”. That is helpful if the intention is to see a more realistic picture. It is not helpful if we’re adding thoughts that are potentially false and speculative simply to make ourselves feel better or to justify ours or other peoples’ actions. It’s a survival instinct.

An alternative response is to let thoughts be like water flowing in the stream instead of adding more. And if we choose to, mindfully directing our energy to thoughts that really matter and to be kind to ourselves for having thoughts. We look deep down to find what matters and what is true for us.

Inspired by Ryokan’s poem:

Keep your heart clear

And transparent,

And you will

Never be bound.

A single disturbed thought

Creates ten thousand distractions.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 22 minutes

Image credit: Yan Laurichesse, Unsplash

Only Kindness Ties Your Shoes

This Wednesday’s practise is about inviting kindness into our experiences, and is inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetry “Kindness”.

Duration: 23 minutes

Guide: Noelle Lim

Image credit: Andriyko Podilynk, Unsplash


Kindness, Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Changing Moments

Kobayashi Issa, Zen poet and scholar wrote:

This world of dew

is a world of dew

and yet, and yet.

What he wrote could be interpreted as the law of nature is as it is. Accepting and adapting to these laws, we could become more comfortable with changes and be less unhappy.

In this practise, we observe nature that is our changing experiences such as thoughts, emotions and body feelings moment-by-moment, and cultivate the capacity to accept what’s here for us like unwanted thoughts without needing to have a different experience.

Guide: Noelle Lim

Duration: 24 minutes

Image credit Sven Mieke, Unsplash

Emptying The Boat

Is there something that’s sitting on your boat that’s slowing your down? Causing you to crave or to resist? Causing unhappiness? Here’s a practice on letting go.

Duration: 25 minutes

Guide: Noelle Lim

Image credit: Natalya Erofeeva, 123rf

This is a recording of our Wednesday Pause sessions, 12:30-1pm SGT (4:30am GMT). Register here

Stillness

Finding stillness in calm. Being still puts us in a state of not always needing to react and fix, and to simply let go.

Duration: 23 minutes

Guide: Noelle Lim

Image credit: Kote Puerto, Unsplash