Let’s begin with a mindful centering practice and 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.
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.
Now, let’s explore what is happening in our body and mind.
First, bring your attention to your physical body and see what sensations you can notice.
Now, bring your attention to your mind and see what thoughts are there. When you notice a thought, just label it as “thinking”.
Now, begin to notice any emotions in the body. When you notice any emotional sensations, just label them as “feeling”.
Remember that the purpose is not to make any judgements about what or how much can you notice. The purpose is simply to notice what is happening inside of us.
Today, we will practice bringing a compassionate attitude towards ourselves when a difficult situation arises. To begin, remind yourself that if at any moment any feelings or thoughts become overwhelming, you can return back to the physical sensations of your breath as an anchor. Take a few deep breaths, notice the body sitting here, and when you’re ready return to the practice.
We will begin by recalling a mildly difficult situation that happened in the last week or so. Please, choose something that is mildly challenging rather than very intense.
Just like in a gym, we don’t want to start with the heaviest weights.
So, choose a mildly difficult situation that generates a little bit of stress in your body when you think of it. If there are few situations like this, just pick one to focus on right now.
Now, clearly visualize the situation that happened.
As clearly as you can, see what happened.
As you recall this situation, notice what emotions are arising in your body.
Is there anger? Sadness? Grief? Confusion? Fear? Despair? Shame?
What is the strongest emotion you can notice?
And where in the body do you can feel it the strongest?
Stay with these sensations for a moment, gently inclining towards them as you would incline towards a best friend or pet who is struggling, namely with care and sympathy, but also with a critical eye looking for how to help resolve the problem without being overwhelmed yourself.
First, we need to allow the discomfort to be there without having to push it away, or avoid it, or make it into some elaborate narrative that leads to depression, shame, anxiety, and other negative emotions.
Remember that adversity and discomfort is a natural part of human life and, while the setback or challenge may involve quite intractable external causes, our responses often make the situation much worse as we get reactive, anxious, depressed, angry, and so forth. When we respond in these ways, we can’t bring attention and care to the problem that will allow our full range of awareness, unconscious and conscious, to work fluidly on the challenge to find the best way forward.
So we have to begin by just accepting the situation, and allowing ourselves to bring quiet awareness to it, both how it feels, and all that it stirs up inside us, but letting it be without indulging in our reactivity.
Quietly tell yourself, “letting be... letting be… letting be...,” while keeping such intentions in mind and your awareness on the situation and how it makes you feel.
If at any moment, the sensations become too strong to handle, remember that you can always return to your breath and your body sitting here. Taking a few deep and relaxing breaths, let your mind relax, and when you’re ready, return to the practice.
Secondly, we will invite this place in your body and mind to become less rigid and fixed, to open up again, so that and your body’s and mind’s inherent intelligence, flexibility, and responsivity can come into play.
Remember that we’re not trying to make the sensations go away, we’re simply inviting them to open up, instead of constricting and becoming a tight, dark knot of concern, worry, and fixation.
Quietly tell yourself, “opening... opening... opening...”, while keeping such intentions in mind and your awareness on the situation and how it makes you feel.
Thirdly, we will invite our invite flow back into our experience. We invite our inherent intelligence and natural flexibility to become fluid again, so that we can explore dynamic paths forward. Remember that we’re not trying to make the sensations go away, we’re simply inviting them to become more flexible and fluid. To not obsessively circle into a whirlpool of repetition, gathering negative sensations and associations, but to start to flow again, be dynamic, be responsive, be alive.
In your mind, say a few times “flowing... flowing... flowing...”, while keeping such intentions in mind and your awareness on the opening and recirculation of the attention and concern that was knotted up in this situation.
Now we will combine these three processes together to evoke, and explore, the letting be, opening, and flowing of our own being as we reweave a sense of wellbeing, flow, and integration from within, and through, the challenge. In the process, we give our own self the care and patience we would extend to a loved one, and trust in our own capacity to gradually find a way forward.
Quietly tell yourself, over and over, Letting be.... Opening… Flowing...
Now, let’s return to your breath and anchor your attention there again.
For a few moments, pay attention to the rise and fall of each breath.
Let your mind rest in the natural cycle of your breath.
There is no need to do anything right now.
Just resting in the experience of your breath.
Remind yourself that all of us experience a variety of adversity throughout the day, including small moments in which we bang our knee against a table, stumble as we walk, turn up late for a class, have a proposal met with resistance, have a friend say something bothers us, or get caught out in the rain. Sometimes such discontinuity, rupture, challenges, and suffering can be so huge that it stretches our capacity to respond to the breaking point - this is when challenge becomes crisis. But whether the adversity is small or large, often we make it worse by how we react to the situation, which then obscures our own internal capacity to respond with intelligence and flexibility to find paths forward.
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.