Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mindfulness Project: Week Three

Mindfulness Project: Week One [Week One Review]
Mindfulness Project: Week Two  [Week Two Review]

I really enjoyed reading the third chapter (Week Three: Increasing Awareness); Weiss's words seemed particularly insightful.

Thoughts and feelings during formal meditation. It is perfectly normal and expected that our minds should be moving and thinking as we meditate. Weiss writes that we are to acknowledge them thought, and acknowledge the emotion behind the thought, then set it aside. For instance, as I sat meditating last night, my mind kept circling back to my thesis project. My heart would start racing, I felt embarrassed I hadn't returned my chair's email in three days, and I got distracted from my concentration. But I took a moment and thought about what I was experiencing: I am thinking about this huge project I have to complete, and I feel stressed and anxious and frustrated, my heart rate has quickened, my breathing has accelerated. I acknowledged the feelings, and tried to let it go and focus on taking deep breaths to regulate my heart again. I can't say I was completely successful in letting go, but I think I made some progress. Weiss writes that naming of emotions helps us to acknowledge what is happening in our conscious, which allows us understand ourselves better. Thoughts = not a bad thing.
One meditation teacher invites us to envision the true nature of our mind as a clear blue sky. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions are clouds that come and go across the blue sky. Some clouds are white sips, others dark thunderheads. Sometimes the clouds may obscure the blue sky, the blue sky is always there. Just as a small patch of blue often appears during a hurricane, the blue-sky nature of our mind/heart can reveal itself through the louds of thinking, feeling, and perceiving, no matter how dense they become.
. See what I mean about insight this week? How beautiful, and what a striking image to have in mind as you meditate. 

Awareness of the Body: Checking in with our bodies keeps us aware of ourselves and our surroundings. One excercise Weiss recommends is using the act of standing up to take a moment to focus on breathing, and how the body feels as you make the transition. (And with sitting down). As I read this passage last night, I realized I was sitting sideways in a small armchair, one leg tucked under myself, the other hanging over the arm of the chair, and had one hand on top of my head. Apparently I read in really strange positions. I had no idea.

Using more mindfulness gathas. Weiss encourages using gathas throughout the day to increase mindfulness as we complete our tasks and go about our business. He includes several gathas in the book, for activities as trivial as flushing the toilet and turning on the television, to gathas to recite when cooking, waking up, or entering into a sitting or walking meditation. My favorite gatha was for the sitting meditation:
Sitting in the present moment,
I breathe mindfully.
Each in-breath nourishes love,
Each out-breath, compassion.
I also loved this gatha for hugging:
I am so happy to hug my dear                   .
I know (s)he is real in my arms.
The homework this week is to increase to three daily mindfulness activities. My three practices for the week are as follows:
  1. Breathing and awareness of self when my mindfulness bell dings (every fifteen minutes when my computer is open);
  2. Be mindful of my body and the act of hydration when drinking water or tea; and 
  3. Take notice of my body and how it feels when I stand up. 
This third one might be a little difficult as, at least half of the time my standing up occurs when I have to chase after the baby or respond to her, but I'll sure do my best.