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Week 4 - The Zooming Lens Practice

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

First, notice your body posture at this moment and begin to make adjustments to sit in an upright position that will allow you to be fully aware in the next few moments.

You can let go of anything you may be holding onto - worries, regrets, etc.. Let your feet settle flat on the floor (if you are sitting on a chair, or your lower legs if sitting 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.

To begin, let’s experience a few deep breaths. Slowly breathe in through your nose. Slowly breathe out through your mouth. Enjoy the experience of breathing slowly and deeply.


Now let your breath move at its own pace and depth - slow or fast, shallow or deep - and just pay attention to the flow of the breath in and out. Just notice the sensations of breathing.

(short pause)

As you do this you may notice your mind wandering away. Remember that this is natural. Just notice where you attention went and then let your attention return back to the breathing.

(short pause)

Today we will explore our  capacity to focus by zooming our attention in and out. Just like a camera lens can focus on a small detail or take a wide view of everything around us, we can focus our attention on something very small, like the breath at the nostrils, or completely zoom out and perceive our body as a whole along with the space in which its located. In this way, we’re practicing how to sharpen and widen our attention and focus.

(short pause)

Let’s begin by letting our awareness focus on the sensations of breathing at our nostrils.

Be attentive to the feeling and temperature of the air entering your nose with each inhalation.

Notice any similarities or differences in sensation around your nose as the air is released from the body with each exhale.

Let your focus stay with the sensations at the nostrils.

Be attentive to possible tension in your attention or trying too hard to focus.

The goal is to simply let your your focused attention rest on the sensations of the breath.

(short pause)

Now, let your attention expand to the whole breath cycle for a more expansive focus.

Instead of focusing just on the nostrils, pay attention to the whole process of breathing.

Feel the nostrils, chest, and belly as they move with each breath.

Again, there is no need to try too hard, simply rest your attention on the whole movement of the breath.

(short pause)

Now, zoom your attention in again on the a specific part of breath, this time at the chest.

Let your natural curiosity arise to experience the movements of the chest.

Can you feel the chest expanding and contracting with each breath?

Can you feel the side of the chest move?

Does the upper back move also?

Just experiment with focusing onto the movement of the chest with each breath.

(short pause)

Now, let’s expand our awareness from the chest and zoom out to the whole body as its sitting here.

Let your attention encompass the whole space your body is occupying. Feel your body as a complete unit, sitting, breathing. Experience the entire body and its sensations as if the body is breathing as a whole, changing in quiet felt rhythms with each inhalation and exhalation.

Let your mind rest on the experience of the whole body for a few moments.

(short pause)

Now, let’s focus our attention in a more finely grained way again, this time precisely on the movement of the belly with each breath.

Let your breath deepen and feel the belly expand with each inhalation and contract with each exhalation.

Feel the walls of the stomach move.

Can you feel the sides of the stomach moving?

Does the lower back move too?

Just experiment with focusing in on the movement of the belly with each breath.

(short pause)

Now, expand your awareness out again, this time on the whole body and the space around you.

Let your mind stay alert but without any specific anchor, sensing the surrounding space in rhythm with your breathing in and out.

The breath is there, weaving together body and space.

Let your attention encompass the wholeness of your experience at this moment, feel the fluidity between inside and outside.

(short pause)

Now, let your awareness return back to the quiet rising and falling of the breath.

Let your attention be grounded and anchored again.

Let your mind rest on the rhythmic waves of our own breath.


To close the practice, bring the mind to a sense of gratitude for our awareness’s capacity of dynamic focus. Our minds are capable of dynamically and constantly shifting focus in and out on multiple scales in intimate interrelation with our actions and contexts. In this way, we can process an extraordinary amount of information to zero in on, or zoom out to, what is relevant in the moment. These practices are helping us be more aware of this process, and  learn how to do that with clarity and wisdom. Take a moment to appreciate your mind just as it is, sometimes clear, sometimes foggy, sometimes focused, sometimes lost. All our experiences are part of a human life and here we’re practicing skills that will allow us to better find those experiences which in the right context allow us to live our life more fully.


Now, slowly begin to bring some movement into your fingers and toes, then 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 - The Zooming Lens Practice
Collection The Art and Science of Human Flourishing - Fall 2017
Visibility Public - accessible to all site users (default)