Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mindfulness Project: Week One

Today is the start of the Beginning Mindfulness reading project. Beginning Mindfulness:Learning the Way of Awareness, by Andrew Weiss, is a non-religious approach to meditation and daily mindfulness. The book is a 10-week course, with a chapter a week for guidance, and projects to work on with each chapter.

There are three of us reading the book together. We all read the introduction and first chapter yesterday, and today was the day for implementation! I'll talk a little about how Day One went, but first, a brief summary of what was read.

In the first week's chapter, Weiss introduced several main concepts:
  1. Sitting Meditation (Formal Meditation) - this is what we all think of when we hear the word 'meditation.' You sit, you breathe, and you try to empty your head of thoughts and concerns. Weiss recommends counting from one to ten with in and out breaths, then count back down again (in, one, out, one; in, two, out, two... and so forth) to center yourself as you start.
  2. Daily Mindfulness (Informal Practice) - part of learning mindfulness is to center the self and thoughts throughout the day, and to be aware of what you are doing as you do it. He recommends stopping at various points during the day to focus on your breathing and recenter yourself, and to note mental and physical transitions as they occur.
  3. Bell of Mindfulness - using a bell (or bell sound) to center yourself, whether when starting your formal meditation, or during the day to remind yourself to center and focus on your breath.
The assignments for the week are to start with two five-minute formal sitting meditations a day, and to pick a mindfulness activity (there is an extended list of daily mindful activities in the book, covering anything from noticing the way your feet hit the floor in the morning, to being mindful when you are on your way out the door in the morning, to using a bell of mindfulness in the home in the evening).

For my mindfulness project of the week, I installed a "Mindful Clock" on my computer, which plays a small tone every 15 minutes, and a more sonorous tone every 60 minutes. I have copied a suggested gatha (small mindfulness poem) onto a notecard, and will attempt to read it and breathe with it whenever I hear the tone:
Voice of the bell, voice my heart,  (breathe in),
I invite your sound to awaken me. (breathe out)
May all beings live in mindfulness, (breathe in)
Our hearts open and minds clear. (breathe out)
I will admit that the gatha still sounds a little silly to me, and I might try writing another myself, or finding a book at the library with a larger list, but it's what I'll use for now.

Ian and I tried our first sitting practice tonight. We arranged ourselves on the living room floor, in places where we don't normally sit during the day (and we actually spend a great deal of time on the floor with Felicity, so that is harder than you might imagine). We used an online meditation bell, and gave ourselves ten minutes.

It was actually easier than I thought it would be to stay focused, and it surprised me how quickly the ten minutes went by. I started with the breathing exercise that Weiss mentioned, and went ahead and repeated it the two times I found myself distracted. For most of the time, I tried to integrate some of a meditation method I'd read about elsewhere: to stare softly at the place in-between your closed eyes, and to find the light and look at it, then to say the names for god that use over and over again. Being the irreligious soul I am, I didn't really have any names for god to use, and don't necessarily know that this of any good, but I repeated qualities that I want to grow in my life, like love, grace, and peace.

All in all, I would say the first day is off to a good start. I'm excited to see how I feel by the end of the first week, and by the end of the ten weeks! Now if I can just get flexible enough to do a full lotus...