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Week 4 - Receptive Awareness Practice

Let’s begin with a mindful centering practice to fully settle into this space with each other.

First, notice your body posture at this moment and begin to make adjustments to sit in an upright position that allows you to pay attention fully in the next few moments.

You can let go of anything you may be holding onto. Bring your feet flat on the floor, back straight but not stiff, shoulders relaxed, facial muscles relaxed, and hands resting comfortably on your thighs or in your lap. Let your eyes close.

Now, let’s take a few deep breaths as an invitation for the mind and body to come together in the present moment. Take a deep breath inside through your nose, and let the breath cycle back out through your mouth. Make the exhalation slow and long. Let’s do this two or three more times. Watch the body release as you exhale slow and long.


Now let your breath move at its own pace and just pay attention to the flow of the breath in and out. Just notice the sensations of breathing.

(short pause)

As you pay attention, you will notice that your mind starts to wander. Remember that you can always bring yourself back, noticing the distraction and then quietly redirecting your attention to the breathing.

(short pause)

Now, let’s explore what is happening in our body and mind.

The purpose is not to make any judgements about what or how much you can notice.

The purpose is simply to notice what is happening inside of us right now.

(short pause)

First, bring your attention to your physical body and see what sensations you notice.

How is your body feeling right now? What sensations can you detect?


Now, bring your attention to your mind and see what thoughts are there.

Instead of following the thoughts, just notice what thoughts are arising in your mind right now. Can you just watch them for a moment as if you were watching a movie on a screen?

(short pause)

Now, begin to notice any emotional sensations in the body and mind.

Whatever you notice, can you allow these sensations to be there without having to change them, push them away, or hold on to them? Can you just notice them as if you were watching the night sky flickering with stars? And when your mind wanders, just bring yourself back with gentleness.

(short pause)

Now, let’s focus on the breath in the body and tune into the experience of your breath again.

Notice the rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.

Notice that without having to do anything, you can simply be receptive tothe breath’s movements.

Let your awareness be attentative to all the sensations of breathing.

(short pause)

Now, let’s experiment with receiving other sensations of movement.

Bring your attention to your fingers and hands and slowly begin to move your fingers by alternatively stretching them out and letting them relax, with the hand otherwise stationary.

Notice and receive all the sensations related  to that movement.

You can move your fingers quickly at first and then gradually slow down in the rhythm of stretch and relax.

Just receive all the sensations of moving your fingers.

(short pause)

Now, let your fingers relax and then remain still.

Notice the shift in your experience.

Let yourself receive the sensations of the fingers’ stillness.

(short pause)

Now, let’s move your hands and rotate them at the wrist clockwise, then counterclockwise..

Notice all the sensations as you stretch your hands and wrists. Alternate directions and speed as you like.

Just receive the sensations in your hands and wrists as they move.

(short pause)

Now, let your hands become still and rest them on your lap however is comfortable for you.

Notice the change in sensations and your experience.

Let yourself receive the experience of the hands’ stillness.

(short pause)

Now, let’s try that with our toes.

Move your toes around however you want and just let yourself receive all the sensations.

(short pause)

Then let the feet rest and just receive the sensations of stillness in your feet.

(short pause)

Then, try to make a few ankle rotations,  alternate direction and speed as you like.

Let your awareness be receptive to the sensations of stretching and moving your ankles.

(short pause)

Now, let your feet rest and just receive the sensations of stillness in your feet.

(short pause)

Now, bring your attention back to your breath in the body as an anchor for your present moment experience.

Just receive the sensations of the breath rising and falling.

Nothing to do, just let your awareness be receptive to the experience.


To close our practice, let’s bring to mind a sense of gratitude for how our body and mind is constantly involved in movement and stillness, dynamically adapting to our contexts, even without our conscious direction. By letting awareness come these shifts we can receive all the sensations that are happening in our bodies without having to judge them or change them. Sometimes it may be quite appropriate to change what is happening in the present moment inside or outside us, but in other cases it may be more appropriate to just let it be. This practice aims to cultivate allowing our awareness to just receive in those latter contexts, and thus lessen the inner conflict between the present moment and our projections onto our experiences.


Now, slowly begin to bring some movement into your fingers and toes, bring some movement into the whole body, stretching gently, and then allow the eyes to open when you’re ready. Take your time.


Week 4 - Receptive Awareness Practice
Collection The Art and Science of Human Flourishing - Fall 2017
Visibility Public - accessible to all site users (default)