I would like to introduce you to the three-minute ‘breathing space’ – a shorter meditation to help us include mindfulness deep in our daily lives. Ideally I would ask you to do it at least three times a day. You could try to do one each time you make a cup of tea at home or work.
I have found a helpful app it is called the Headspace app – which you can set to send you reminders throughout the day to take a mindful moment.
The ‘breathing space’ is made up of three parts:
Awareness – Bring yourself into the present moment by deliberately adopting an upright posture. If you can, close your eyes. Then ask – ‘What is my experience right now, in thoughts, in feelings and in bodily sensations?’. Acknowledge and register this experience, even if it isn’t one that you want.
Gathering – Redirect your attention to your breathing, to each breath as it comes. Your breath can work as an anchor to bring you into the present and help you become more aware.
Expanding – Expand your awareness so you get a sense of your body as a whole and stay like this as best you can for a minute or so.
How does the breathing space meditation help us manage our thoughts and feelings?
Firstly, it brings your attention to the present and stops you thinking about the past or worrying about the future – that rumination that can so easily lead to a negative spiral.
Secondly, it actually takes up thinking space. If we are spending time trying to be aware of our breath, we are not ruminating and worrying as much.
Thirdly, when our mind wanders, and we bring it back to our breath we are getting practice in recognising that our mind has wandered into thoughts – and practice in ‘changing gear’ back to being aware of the breath.
Even if when we practice, we are only bringing our mind back to the breath from thoughts about what’s for tea, this trains us to get more skilful at doing it when we do have more difficult and intrusive thoughts. Through the breathing space, we get better at stepping out of that automatic pilot mode and reconnecting with what is happening in the present moment.
Recognition and ‘stepping out of the stream’
It feels like this recognition is one of the most important parts. In recognising your mind had wandered into thoughts or emotions, It feels like you are gaining some perspective on your thoughts – and seeing them just as thoughts or moods, and not as reality.
You can always imagine it like a stream. It’s easy to get stuck in the stream, bogged down and washed away by the endless tumult (or the gentle flow when we’re lucky) of thoughts and feelings. Doing a mindfulness of the breath meditation will help you to mentally step onto the bank.
Your thoughts and feelings may still be there; But your focus will try to stay aware of the bank and letting the thoughts and feelings flow past without becoming too engaged with them. The hardest part is, when a difficult thought or feeling comes along, is not to get sucked back in but instead to recognise it – ‘I’m judging myself now…there goes that thought about not being good enough…here’s a bit of frustration’ – and then return to the breath (the bank) without following the thought any further down the stream.
Segal, Williams and Teasdale book:
“Some instructors picture the mind as being like a vast clear sky. All our feelings, thoughts and sensations are like the weather that passes through, without affecting the nature of the sky itself. The clouds, wind, snows and rainbows come and go, but the sky is always simply itself, as it were a ‘container’ for these passing phenomena.
We practice to let our minds be that sky, and to let all these mental and physical phenomena arise and vanish like the changing weather. In this way, our minds can remain balanced and centred, without getting swept away in the drama of every passing storm.”
When we stop dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, we’re open to rich sources of information we’ve been missing out on. Information that can keep us out of the downward spiral and poised for a richer life.
Two thoughts cannot coexist at the same time. If the clear light of mindfulness is present, there is no room for mental twilight.
Why not try this brief sitting practice – smile into the body – 5-10minutes exercise
This ‘smile’ softens the body and brings an almost instant sense of calm. Begin by adopting a comfortable, (dare I say, dignified!) sitting position, in a quiet space.
Allow any thoughts – whether bad or good – to pass you like a cloud in the sky.
Let us begin….
- Join your hands, with both thumbs, and the fingers of one hand resting in those of the other.
- Focus on your breathing. Let each breath unfold by itself, neither lengthening it, or expanding and deepening it. Allow the body to breathe itself, and pay witness to its miraculous breath, coming and going.
- When you feel settled, having breathed like this for a few minutes, allow a gentle smile to arise on your face. Notice how it softens all the facial muscles, and how breath by breath, this softening and relaxing moves further and further into every cell of your body. Soon your whole body will be a gentle, soft smile.
- Sit with this for a while and simply ‘be’, moment by moment.
- I am here in the present, absorbing the air and every breeze.
- I can immerse myself in the experience, losing my thoughts to the colours of nature.
- As I become one with my surroundings, I feel their connection with my innermost self.
- Bathed in calm, I think more clearly.
Solitude offers a healing escape from painful problems. Natural surroundings are the most theraptic, but you cen , with practice, be alone anywhere, even in a crowd.
Great unhappiness or pain can be mitigated by reflective meditation. By this, I mean, putting a problem into perspective and accepting the reality of the situation. This mantra can help you to reflect and accept.
- I will reflect on all the gifts life has given me.
- I will also reflect quietly on any pain or unhappiness.
- My suffering is in the past – a place to learn from.
- I breathe in – and,I breathe out, bad thoughts leave me.
- I accept myself – I am where I am right now.
This exercise in reflection will help you to put the past behind you and to move forward. Use it to unburden yourself of any major problem that has held you back.
It is not surprising that our lives are full of confusion. By piling on the pressure, we create turmoil and disharmony. Sit back for a moment and consider which of today’s tasks are truly essential. If you do not complete them will the moon refuse to shine? It is the ego that insists on cramming all this non-essential clutter into our lives – the fear of failure, the fear of rejection.
Give this day’s tasks over in your mind to the angels and to God. Ask for clarity of purpose of the Divine plan for your life. Ask that all your decisions and actions today are for the highest good of your higher consciousness, and for the highest good of all concerned. As you clarify your actions and prioritise your day to the highest purpose, the angels will have the opportunity to guide and assist. Keep it simple, concentrate your Divine light and watch your plan unfold.
Nor can we live in the future; it is forever beyond our grasp. We can only live in the present.
Mindfulness meditation doesn’t change life. Life remains fragile and unpredictable as ever. Meditation changes the hearts capacity to accept life as it is.
We use mindfulness to observe the way we cling to pleasant experiences and push away unpleasant ones.
Through recognising and realising the empty essence, instead of being selfish and self-centred, one feels very open and free.
Our vision is more obstructed by what we think we know than by our lack of knowledge.
Meditation practice involves mentally scanning your body bit by bit as you move and becoming aware of each part in sequence.
- The tensions in my body dissolve with mindful movement.
- As I move, I feel the energy flow into all my bodily extremities
- Slow, mindful hand movements help me to pay attention to the moment
- Rhythmic movements such as dance steps boost mental harmony.
Movement meditation can be practiced at any time of the day when you would normally exercise – or even when you are walking to work or going to the shops.
Love can manifest itself in many different forms, but this meditation focuses on sexual love. It reflects the fact that genuine lovemaking embraces deep consideration for the needs of your partner.
- May I appreciate and value the subtleties of the lovemaking
- May I treat my lover with utmost respect
- Greater sensitivity and awareness will lead to greater satisfaction
- The most profound joy in lovemaking comes from giving joy to others
A love meditation is appropriate whenever you are considering making love with someone or when you are looking back on an earlier sexual encounter.
Meditation involves many virtual gestures and ceremonies. As long as they are performed mindfully, they will help to strengthen your intentions and contribute to enlightenment. This simple mantra, performed virtually, can help to combat grief or unhappiness.
- I am calm and still.
- I will release the pain that holds me down.
- As one door closes another will open.
- I am ready to move forward.
When and where
Setting the stage is important for a ritual. Find a place that is special to you and create a focused environment, sprinkling water, burning incense or lighting a candle.