Do each of us take time to check in with our heart throughout our day, to notice that we are simply breathing? To notice the pulse of our heart as it relates to our thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations and to all that is inside and outside of us? If we can do this several times in a day, we may just notice and sense the aliveness, the vibrant frequency with which we choose to respond to ourselves and other experiences and people in the world.
Nina Bhatty ~
From the moment we wake up in the morning, do we allow ourselves a brief check-in with our mind-heart to notice if we are beginning anew OR if we are still carrying yesterdays baggage - fears, anxieties, longings, etc. - into the new day?
As a Mindfulness Practitioner, I have a practice of taking a few moments upon rising to open my eyes, gaze at the light coming through the windows and stimuli around the room, as I wake from the dream-state to the waking. I allow myself to begin the day with acknowledging gratefulness for having a healthy body, mind, connections to loved ones and new friendships, a beautiful space to live and work that is immensely rewarding, yet challenging me to continuously maximize my human and spiritual potential, as well as a multitude of other grateful considerations, including being given another day to continue my journey here on this beautiful, mysterious, yet at times, very challenging earth!
I continue my day with intermittent heart-mind check-ins, gently alerting to serve as reminders to notice and more importantly, feel how I am relating to all that I come into contact with. Pausing allows me access to the silent space, even if for only a few moments, to check in--is my heart beating? What am I feeling in the moment? How much and how deeply can I feel? What emotions am I noticing and how are they affecting the way I am relating to my work or relationships or whatever I am doing? The invitation is to really feel the direct experience of the heart and its inner workings, rather than conceptually think and analyse about it.
When we check in to the heartful space and notice that it is neutral or positive, we can usually carry this light-energy experience with ease and joy as we welcome and savor it. However, if the heartful space experience is negative - whether an inner or outer heavy trigger, there are skills we can learn to come back to a neutral baseline. This takes continous patience, practice discipline...and self-compassion.
Here are some tips that Sharon Salzberg, a Metta (Loving Kindness) Mindfulness Teacher offers, that can guide our heartful practice with compassion for ourselves and others. I have adapted the words a bit that feels right for me, but also feel free to modify the words in any way that is more comfortable or lands more easily for you.
This is called a Loving-Kindness or Metta Meditation ~
If we can find 10-15 minutes (or longer) to practice the following, we may notice after doing the practice for awhile that certain boundaries we have developed within and between us and another, may slowly dissolve (i.e. age, gender, abilities, disabilities, ethnicity, religion, political stand, socio-economic status, belief systems/deep conditionings, etc.):
Find a quiet space.
Close your eyes.
Take a few intentional deep breaths.
You may want to put one hand over your heart.
Repeat with as much heartful "feeling" as you imagine yourself and another:
1. May I/You/The World feel HAPPY and filled with LOVING PRESENCE
2. May I/You/The World feel SAFE and PROTECTED from harm
3. May I/You/The World inhabit natural and enduring PEACE
4. May I/Your/The World's HEART AWAKEN AND BE FREE FROM SUFFERING
Now and Always...
Author: Nina Bhatty
If you find this article and practice to help you, please feel free to note your comments or questions below - I'd love to hear what the experience is like for you!
Breathing In, I know that I am breathing in...
Breathing Out, I know that I am breathing out.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
In Mindfulness 'Sitting Meditation', the idea of practice is not to reach some meta-physical state or rid or resist thoughts, feelings and sensations. In fact, it is toward the mind. feelings and sensations that we turn, so that we begin to notice what, how, and eventually why we are thinking and feeling in particular ways, as well as how we react or respond. It's that simple...but not that easy!
If you've been doing this practice for a day, a week or a few decades, you'll soon realize that 'sitting meditation' may not be initially easy, but it does get easier, just like any new skill that we learn - it takes time to develop (and to bare fruits). However, If we don't have a focal point to use during these streaming thoughts, emotions and felt sensations, we can sit for the entire practice in a continuation of hooked and looping thoughts, most that are unproductive and all taking our attention away from the present moment.
We intentionally use the breath in both formal Mindful Sitting and informal daily practice to serve as an anchor to the streamline of thoughts, emotions and felt sensations that can each be positive, negative and neutral. The breath allows us to focus on the inhale and exhale as an 'experiential', not a cognitive process, so that we can simply be with the breath, as we notice whatever arises. The key is to allow whatever comes to come, and then let it go...as if watching from an observer's mental movie screen.
What are some of the scientific benefits of this practice - using the breath to serve as an anchor/focal point, while being aware of thoughts, emotions, sounds, sensations, smells, repetitively? Mindfulness research is still in its infancy stage, however, recent evidence in the past 5 years delineates outcomes in well-being, notably in areas of increased focus, peace, confidence, compassion, pain and sleep managment, resilience to external stress triggers, neuroplasticity (by increasing synaptic connections) and gray matter in the prefrontal cortex (awareness, emotion regulation), while decreasing anxiety, depression, symptoms of ADD/ADHD and Autism, lowering levels of cortisol (stress hormones), decreasing irritable bowel syndrome and gray matter in the amygdala (fight/flight/freeze). There are exponential research studies underway that point to mindfulness revolutionizing the mental health field. Furthermore, rather than the medical health field keeping us dependent on medicine and doctors, Individuals will play a critical part in his own healing. However, scientists are not suggesting mindfulness as a panacea for healing all human conditions.
Whether we are a beginner or seasoned mindfulness practioner, here a few tips to help us use the breath as an anchor during our sitting mindfulness practice (we can use this also in our daily life, when applicable - pretty much anytime of the day:)):
1. Relax into your body when sitting
2. Don't take yourself so seriously...enjoy the practice with as much ease as able
3. Take a 1-minute body scan and notice any tension in the body...let it go
4. Take an initial 3 gentle, deep breaths
5. Come back to the natural rhythm of the breathing for the rest of the practice
6. Notice any thoughts, feelings, sensations, sounds, smells as they arise...let go
7. If the mind becomes streaming lots of thoughts, the body feels sensations that invoke reactionary thoughts/feelings, etc., simply notice it and come back to the breath, every time.
8. The cycle of being with the breath and noticing all that arises IS the practices, so be gentle with yourself and come back without judgment of getting it wrong.
9. The fact that you are taking this opportunity to sit and pay attention to the breath and all that arises is a radical act.
10. Be kind, non-judgmental, and begin again each time we wander from the breath.
"Mindfulness is the intention to pay attention to all phenomena as it arises moment to moment, with non-judgment." ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., adapted by Nina Bhatty
Author: Nina Bhatty
If you found this article helpful, I'd love to hear your feedback. Please share any comments or questions below. Thank you for reading this page!
”I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and to relieve them of their suffering”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindful Speaking is a skill that can be cultivated in each one of us. We all have much to say, whether its our own internal dialogue or dialogue with another person. The question to ask is: Are we aware or do we pay attention to when, how, and why we speak? Before speaking, can we consider: Is it necessary? Is it helpful? Is it true? These questions can be used for all speech. When I’m talking with my mother, my clients, my friends, partner and even the lady at the grocery store checkout, I have an opportunity to practice asking myself these 3 questions and apply the practice of the following mindful speaking tips. What has deepened my own mindful speaking practice is not only establishing a formal mindful sitting practice to observe my own thoughts, feelings, sensations, and breath, but also during my informal practice and daily activities, remembering to pause in that space between stimulus and response, so that I am grounded in awareness and better able to recall what is most essential and beneficial for mindful communication. I am not a mindful speaker all of the time, nor is it always an easy process, but nevertheless, its a continual process allowing each opportunity of dialogue to be as if its for the first time, without judgment of self or other.
Here are some mindful speaking tips we can use in our daily mindful speech (borrowed from Joseph Goldstein's Mindfulness: A Practical Guided to Awakening; Adapted by Nina Bhatty):
1. Be Clear in the message we want to convey
When we are clear in our thoughts, we are better able to speak the message more clearly. Take a moment (if possible) to allow ourselves to pause before speaking, so we know just what we want to say
2. Speak Slowly
Slow down the speed of our speech so that it does not contain aggression. We don't need to rush along or slow down too much. Keep an attitude to regard words as precious. Appreciate the potency and power of speech
3. Enunciate Clearly
Enunciate; speech is well composed with a beginning, middle and end.
Have some kind of cohesiveness as to how we speak to others so that their mind is not disturbed, or perturbed. Words have power. Speech can be a precious jewel that we give to another person for their benefit, or it can be pollution
4. Be Concise
Simplicity of speech that isn't simple minded communicates more powerfully than elaborate and overly complex sentences and words. We are not on stage. There is a particular art of not excessively vomiting words—being functional, ideal and good. Functional talking at programs is not just to make people quiet, but to bring out the power of words
5. Listen to and Observe Ourself
Listen to oneself without judgment or fixation. Listen to: How we use words, jargon, the slurring, how loud, soft, fast and slow. Notice the impulse to speak and where it comes from, perhaps wanting confirmation from others. Notice also the emotional tone we are feeling and where the correlating sensations may arise in the body
6. Listen to and Observe Others as they receive our speech and when they speak
Listen to the words of others: what does it tell you about who they are; what are they communicating with body, speech, and mind. Listen not only to what they say but what they don't say, how they communicate with body language and emotional tone
7. Use Silence and Pause as a Part of Speech
Regard silence as an important part of speech. Put space around your words. As mind opens to more and more space one begins to appreciate what is communicated by silence, unadorned with words. Silence is not necessarily a sign of cowardice
8. Remember to be Mindful of Breathing in and out as we speak
When we breathe in and out mindfully as we speak, we allow the breath to serve as an anchor as we become grounded in the body and can therefore stay more mindful of our speech, body sensations and emotional tone
Author: Nina Bhatty
Please feel free to share your thoughts or concerns in the comments section below. Let me know if you find the article helpful, challenging or even remotely impossible - in any case, your comments are very helpful to me, as well as anyone else who reads the articles.