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04:32 pm: About my meditation practice
I realize that I should probably dedicate a separate post to describing my meditation practice. Also, I'd love to have a dialogue with anyone else who is interested, who practices or wants to practice.

Meditation is this funny piece of my life. Over the past year it has become an important but underdeveloped part of my life. Unlike exercise, which I jumped into back in early 2004 until I injured myself and had to stop for a month and then slowed down and eventually found a good balance (which is now thrown off my lack of yoga), building a meditation practice has been slow.

Over the past couple years, meditation has been part of my professional training here at Lesley, especially because we work within a holistic ("bio-psycho-social-spiritual":, or even just "mind-body") framework for evaluation and intervention. Basic relaxation techniques are taught as a crucial, basic CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)technique, because of their proven effectiveness. Boston is one of the hot-spots for research on mind-body intervention (there are about 4 different major hospitals that independently developed clinical/research programs, run by people such as Jon Kabat Zinn, Herbert Benson, and Joan Borysenko, all of whom have written numerous scientific/popular books on the topics of meditation/relaxation/mindfulness, and they are the tip of the iceberg.) I was lucky enough to receive a free 6 week training course back in spring 2006 from the Henry-Benson Mind-Body Institute, which gave me the basis for most of the stuff I teach.


That's as far as I got this morning. Then in a post to my friend, I wrote about my practice, which is still in the early stages:


I love mindfulness practice. Even as a beginner, I feel like I get something significant and profound out of it; and I feel like I could grow so, so much in the practice.

I still don't feel like I can use the term "Vipassana", despite the fact that that is what I'm doing. I just don't feel like I have internalized the tradition enough to use the phrase.

Also, I switch practices, and I also mix in relaxation technique stuff and my own version of metta.

Here is my basic practice:
1) Ideally, start with stretching. I especially need to release tension in my neck, shoulders, and upper back, that's where I hold most of it.

2) Create the space: sit comfortably. Set my alarm (usually for about 10 min, put my journal and pen within reach.)

3) Take two deep breaths, releasing through my mouth, with an audible sound for at least one breath. This is for releasing.

3) Two more slow, deep breaths through the nose--emphasizing the slow exhale. This grounds the relaxation response.

4) Breath regularly, noticing sensations of breath (at nose, chest, belly), sometimes using "IN, OUT" if I need to quiet the chatter. Sometimes I use wave imagery (out wave reaches up the beach, in the wave retreats into the ocean.) Sometimes I use the image/knowing of interdependence with plants/trees (I breathe out, it's a gift to the trees, they breathe in; I breathe in the out-breathe of the trees, their gift to me.) I come back to my breath as my baseline.

5) (Brief) body scan. Sometimes I just do a full breath for each body part. It can be just feet, legs, abdomen, chest, arms, hands, neck, head, or more detailed. I try to notice sensations on the in breathe, and release tension on the out breath. I get bored if I spend too long on this exercise. I class I do progressive muscle relaxation, but I usually don't bother in my own practice. I might stretch if I need. I sometime try breathing into the body part. I end with an whole-body scan and releasing breath out.

6) My metta/centering mantra. The phrases came from an exercise in my spirituality class. At least a full breathe for each line: "I am love. I am light. I am here."

There are body/energy sensations/images for each:

"I am love": Heart-center, very metta-type energy. Radiates out from the chest, glowing bubble, a soft, gentle kind of energy, expands and contracts. Includes half-smile. Passive and open, accepting and appreciating what is.

"I am light." Energy moves up and down my spine, the closest thing I get to kundalini. It moves in a double-helix kind of spiral. Mostly top of head to base of spine. It feels like (is) Reiki. Much more active than the metta. Creative, dynamic, wants movement and change.

"I am here." State of mindfulness. Attention on my body, sensations, everything right here, right now. Sometimes it can also involve grounding with the tree-root image. Connected to the earth, the air, my body, my mind.

Sometimes I only go through the mantra once, sometimes I switch the order, sometimes I focus on just one of them, it depends.

7) Return to breath concentration. When thoughts or impulses arise, try to notice them without reacting, label them, and gently--ie, without judgment--return my attention to my breath. I'm lucky if I get through 30 seconds of concentration before my mind is distracted by a thought. That's okay though.

Try to just be in the present, with my practice, for at least 10 minutes. When the phone chimes, I can snooze for 5 minutes and continue (if it took 9 minutes to calm down and I'd like to stay there, then I do.) Or I can switch to:

8) Journaling for 5-15 minutes. Just whatever is there. About the practice, about whatever.

When I go running, I try to notice my breath, and try to let my thoughts flow, even if I am actually thinking. I tend to do good problem-solving and planning while exercising, because my mind is actually more relaxed.

I also try to spend time outside, and spend time appreciating all I see/sense.

I haven't been able to move into as much of the objectless attention mindfulness practice, because I can barely concentrate on my breath mindfully for more than 30 seconds.

I think that writing this might actually have been the most useful thing I did today . . . and then I go home and practice.

Current Mood: calmcalm
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