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Week 5 - Thoughts & Emotions Without Judgement

Let’s begin with a mindful centering practice. Wherever you just came from or whatever you were just doing before this moment, let’s fully settle into this space now.

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

You can let go of anything you may be holding onto - worries, stress, concerns. 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 gently close.


Often it happens that our body is here but our mind is wandering somewhere else. The intention of mindful centering is to bring our mind back to the body and to the present moment.

To do that, let’s take a few deep breaths as an invitation for the mind and body to come together. Experience a deep breath through your nose, and let the breath come out through your mouth. Make the exhalation slow and long. Let’s do this two or three more times. Watch the body relax as you exhale slow and long.


Now let your breath move at its own relaxed pace and just pay attention to the flow of the breath in and out. Notice the sensations of breathing for a few moments.

(short pause)

As you do this you may notice that your mind starts to wander. You may start thinking about other things. If this happens, it’s not a problem, but is instead quite natural. Just notice what took your attention away without any judgement. Then simply let it go and redirect your attention back to the breathing.

(short pause)

As you pay attention to your breath, notice when any thoughts arise.

When you notice a thought, focus your attention on it and label it as “thinking”. In this way, we’re not judging our experience in any way, we’re simply noticing our thinking.

After you label the thought, there is no need to engage with it more. Simply let go of that thought and return back to the experience of breathing.

(short pause)

If many thoughts arise at the same time, just label them as “thinking” and pause for a moment. If the thoughts feel a bit overwhelming, take a few deep breaths in between. Notice your body sitting in a mindful posture and feel your body breathing as a whole.

Then, when you’re ready, start noting and labeling again.


Notice that we’re not trying to get rid of any experiences. We’re just paying attention to what’s happening here and now, while staying balanced and grounded, persevering in our commitment to be aware of our breath, and noticing thoughts as they rise and fall.

Stay with your breath for a few more moments, noticing any thoughts.


Now, just as we paid nonjudgmental attention to our thoughts, we will do the same with our emotions.

Emotions are a natural part of human life and they manifest in our bodies through physical sensations - trembling, tension, a lightness. These emotional sensations in our body get interpreted by our minds and can lead to creating elaborate narratives about their meaning and implications.

Here, we are learning to simply recognize them without having to analyze them, judge them, transform them into narratives, or change them in any way.

(short pause)

Scan your body for any emotional sensations. If you’re feeling strong emotions, you may notice the sensations in your body right away. If there are only mild emotions, it may take more practice to notice the subtle sensations that are being interpreted into those emotions.

Also, you may not notice anything at all. That’s perfectly fine. We’re simply practicing noticing.

Start with scanning your body for any emotional sensations in the shoulders...

In the chest...

In the belly...

In the head, jaw, forehead...

When you notice any emotional sensations, or feelings, focus your attention on them and simply label them as “feeling”. In this way, we’re not judging our experience in any way, or giving way to some interpretation or elaboration of these feelings into full blown emotions or emotional narratives. Rather, we are just noticing what is arising in our experience.

(short pause)

If at any moment, you get overwhelmed by any sensations, just take a few deep breaths. Notice your body breathing and sitting in a mindful posture.

(short pause)

Then, whenever you’re ready, return back to noting and labeling any emotional sensations in the body. Label the sensations as “feeling” without having to engage with it in any other way.

Try this for a few moments on your own.

(short pause)

Remember it’s very natural to get lost in our thoughts and emotions, or give way to the impulse to elaborate and narrativize, so there is no need for judgement. Bring yourself back to the present moment, returning to the practice of noticing and labeling sensations.


Finally, let your attention anchor again on the breath.

Just like a boat is being rocked on the waves of the ocean, let your mind rest on the rising and falling of your breath.

Notice the sense of nourishment with each inhalation.

Notice the sense of release with each exhalation.


To close our practice, let’s bring to mind a sense of gratitude. As humans, we have the great opportunity to not only feel, but to be deeply aware, to notice, and to reflect upon those feelings. Our minds and bodies generate a wide range of thoughts and emotions. Here, we’re learning to pay attention to our experiences in a new way that ultimately is intended to support our own flourishing. Take a moment to appreciate the  ability to feel, be aware, to notice, and to reflect without judgment and without getting caught up in the experience.

In this way, you’re developing the skills of awareness, focus, and clarity that are necessary for a life of flourishing.  


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 5 - Thoughts & Emotions Without Judgement
Collection The Art and Science of Human Flourishing - Fall 2017
Visibility Public - accessible to all site users (default)