Why do you practice? A few words on intention and aspiration (from July 2 class)

During last week’s “Intro to Zen” class (July 2), I prefaced my instructions for open awareness practice with some remarks about the importance of reflecting on why we practice in the first place: our underlying intention or aspiration… This aspect of spiritual practice is profoundly important, but it’s not something I’ve spoken much about during this series so far, so I wanted to share the audio recording of that part of the class here.

On Aspiration or Intention: Why Do You Practice? (July 2)

Guided meditation: instructions for open awareness practice

During tonight’s “Intro to Zen” class, I led an instructional guided meditation that walked folks through what I consider to be the key elements of open awareness practice. The elements that I covered were:

  • Posture (and why it’s good to refrain from moving during meditation)
  • Awareness of the breath (in the nose, chest, and belly)
  • Awareness of the body (sensations, overall feel of the body)
  • Awareness of the environment (sounds)
  • Putting it all together: awareness of breath, body, and environment
  • What to do with thoughts (wordless noting, generic labeling, or precise thought-labeling?)
  • How to work with unpleasant sensations/emotions (like pain or difficult emotions)

An audio recording of tonight’s full class (which includes some introductory remarks and the Q&A session afterwards) is now uploaded to the “class audio recordings” section of this blog and will remain there for the next few weeks. This is the audio recording of just the instructional guided meditation portion of the class.

Guided Meditation: Instructions for Open Awareness Practice

Audio: Body Scan (Wellness at Williams 6/25/19)

Here’s a recording of the body scan meditation that I led during today’s noon Wellness at Williams mindfulness session. Before you begin playing the recording, find a comfortable place to lie down on your back (a yoga mat/blanket, your bed, etc.).

Body Scan Guided Meditation (June 25, 2019)

Guided Meditation (Audio): Breath and Bodily Sensations

This is a guided meditation that combines breath following with some awareness of bodily sensations. (It’s not a full body scan [I’ll record one of those at some point this summer]; I focus on just a handful of spots in the body, mostly in the head region.) This meditation is a follow up to last night’s Intro to Zen class on practicing with bodily sensations. We ended the class with a 30-minute guided meditation that is pretty much like this one (I just decided to re-record it this morning to improve the audio quality a bit). So I’m posting this for folks who were there last night, who’d like to try that breath and body-sensation meditation again, and for those who couldn’t make it, who’d like a taste of what they missed.

Guided Meditation: Breath and Bodily Sensations

In the second half of the meditation, I ask you to bring your awareness to some key spots in the body, places where we often (usually unknowingly) hold tension, like the jaw muscles, the lips, and the tongue. As I suggested to the class last night (and as I suggest near the very end of this recorded meditation), consider pausing once in a while throughout the day to do just a few minutes (or even just a few breaths) of awareness practice focused on spots like these… when you’re responding to email, for instance, why not take a break between writing two messages, to bring your awareness to your lips, or your tongue, or your buttocks, even for just a few breaths (or take a real pause and hang out with those sensations for a full minute or two!). It could be revelatory, what you discover about your mind/body: both about how your mind/body actually feels during the day, and also about how just a few minutes (or even moments) of simple awareness can transform those sensations. Incorporating mindful “pauses” like this throughout the day — pausing what you’re doing to bring your awareness to the breath, the sensations in the body, the sounds in the environment, or the feel of your feet touching the earth — can be as important to one’s overall practice as one’s daily sittings.

Stephen Levine: Soft Belly Practice

During last night’s Intro to Zen class, I incorporated a bit of “soft belly” practice into the opening guided meditation. For anyone who’d like to know more about soft belly practice, check out this text by Stephen Levine. It includes some introductory remarks about the practice and a guided “soft belly” meditation. I’ve also made an audio recording of the guided meditation for anyone who’d like to give it a try.

Guided Soft Belly Meditation

May 14 Guided Meditation (soft belly, dual awareness, loving-kindness)

Here is the guided meditation from tonight’s “Intro to Zen” class. It has four parts. After some minutes of (1) settling in and basic breath following to focus the mind, it moves into (2) soft belly practice (bringing awareness to the belly region, softening around the sensations there), then transitions to (3) dual awareness practice (focusing on the breath and sounds in the environment), and ends with a few minutes of (4) loving-kindness practice.

Guided Meditation from May 14