Meditation 1: Simple Awareness Meditation
We'll begin by cultivating awareness. While this practice may seem simple, it is also very subtle and powerful. As we gain the ability to rest in awareness, greater freedom and self-knowledge become available.
Meditation 1: Simple Awareness
Welcome to the first meditation in this unit, The Power of Awareness. This meditation will be a simple awareness practice. And when I say simple, I mean that what we're going to do is simply learn how to be aware. And this is an incredibly powerful skill. If we can learn to:
- be open and to receive whatever is happening in the body without automatically judging, without automatically reacting...
- receive what's happening emotionally without automatically reacting and judging...
- be open to the thoughts that are flowing through the mind without automatically identifying with the content of thoughts, just see them as mental events flowing through the mind like clouds passing across a clear blue sky of awareness...
Then this is a very, very powerful basis for everything else that's going to flow out of this program.
Establishing a posture
The first thing to do is to choose our position. You can do this sitting, you can do it lying down, or you could even do it standing. Now, it may be that during the ten-minute practice you get very, very uncomfortable, for example if you've got a pain condition. It's absolutely fine to move. So if you notice yourself getting very tense and tight, you could adjust your posture a little bit.
On the other hand, if you're getting very mentally fidgety, it can be interesting to practice stillness. So I leave that up to you. That's quite a subtle thing to decide, but it's part of the practice: being curious. Do I need to move or do I need to be still? That's very interesting in itself.
So choosing our position and then beginning to settle into stillness. You might like to close your eyes. I'm going to close my eyes. I always find that supportive. But if for any reason that's disturbing, it's absolutely fine to keep your eyes open or to lower your gaze.
If for any reason you need to stop the practice before the 10 minutes is up, that's also completely fine. If you notice yourself getting very agitated, it might be better to stop. So I leave that up to you.
So let's begin to settle and to allow the weight of the body to rest down into the support beneath us. Whether we're sitting, whether we're lying down, or whether we're standing, seeing if we can have a quality of yielding and resting and arriving. I find it interesting to see if I can rest into the chair rather than perching on top of it: seeing if I can release a little bit around gripping and holding, and allow my body to be held and supported.
To help this, you might want to take a deeper breath in and then release on the out-breath, and arrive a little bit more. Let the next breath flow back in on its own time. You could do that a few times if you'd like to. Have a quality of arriving, yielding, resting, releasing a little bit more with each out breath.
When you're ready, allowing your breathing to find its own natural rhythm, there's no need to alter the breath or force the breath. A sense of opening on the in-breath and then releasing, yielding, letting go down into the support with each out-breath.
First of all, let's have a broad and general sense. Here we are cultivating awareness, this remarkable quality. What's your general sense of your body? What's your general sense of your mood, your mind?
And of course, we're resting within an environment. Maybe tuning into the sounds around us, the smells.
So we're cultivating presence and we're cultivating wakefulness. Most of us, for most of the time, are very distracted. We're not really present. You could say we're not really awake to each moment. So, very gently, we're learning how to be present, open, and a little more awake right here, right now.
Awareness of the body
Now let's bring the body a little bit more to the foreground of awareness. Many of us naturally reside in the head and are very occupied with thinking, worrying, planning—all these kinds of things. But imagine that awareness is like water, and it's pouring down inside the body to fill the body. Becoming more open and receptive to this quality of being present in the body.
There'll be a sense of the weight of the body and the contact between the body and the surface beneath. Feeling into those points of contact as best we can. What does that feel like? It might be intense; it might be dull or numb.
In this practice, we're more interested in the process of being aware than the content of awareness. We can be aware of numbness or we can be aware of intensity.
If at any point, as we go through this practice, your pain is very intense or becomes disturbing, then by all means move your awareness away from that area and perhaps choose to rest in another, more neutral area: maybe the hands or feet. That's also the skill of awareness: having choice.
Being aware of temperature in the body, is it warm or cool? Are some parts of the body warm, other parts cool? See if you can receive this into awareness.
A gentle awareness
We're not forcing experience. We're opening to what's happening. Allowing this awareness to be warm and curious and kindly, gentle. And so we wake up to our moment-by-moment experience.
Awareness of body parts
Bringing awareness to the legs, allowing awareness to feel the legs. Seeing if we can allow awareness to be inside the legs, experiencing them directly rather than thinking about them in the abstract as an idea. We're learning how to come closer to our actual experience rather than our ideas about our experience.
Allowing awareness to feel the arms, flowing through the shoulders all the way down to fingers. What's happening? Is it dull, numb, or intense? Alive? Is the experience in the arms energetic or dull? Relaxed or tense? Numb? Warm or cool? Or a whole mixture of many things? Seeing if we can receive it into awareness without automatically pushing and shoving against it.
Allowing awareness to fill the neck and the head. Very often it can seem as if the head is somehow separate from the body, but the head is a limb of the body. So feeling into the physicality of the head: sensations in the face, mouth, jaw, tongue, lips.
Being aware of the whole body as we rest inside, moment by moment by moment.
Staying aware of the body, let's include our emotional weather. What's your mood right now? It might be positive or it might be challenging. It might be confused. It might be a mixture of things. Maybe you don't know.
The main thing is that we are bringing awareness to this emotional dimension of our experience with curiosity, with openness, with kindness.
So it's a warm quality of awareness and a sense of gently breathing with our emotions. If at any point they become very intense and challenging and difficult, then by all means broadening awareness, coming back to something stabilizing: maybe the bottom on the chair, the feet on the floor, the hands resting.
It is as if we're waking up to our emotional life a little more right now. And if we're awake to what's happening, we can learn to work with what's happening, which is what we'll be doing throughout this program. The first thing is cultivating awareness.
Turning awareness towards thinking
Let's turn our awareness towards our thinking life right now. Staying in the body, staying with our emotions, and including our thoughts. Very often we're completely identified with the content of our thoughts. But we have this extraordinary ability as humans to be able to step away from the content and to be aware of our thoughts. So we're looking at our thoughts rather than from our thoughts.
We can imagine our thoughts are like clouds passing across the clear blue sky awareness, or like fish swimming through the ocean of awareness. Let them come, let them go; let them come, let them go. It's completely normal to think. It's what minds do. But we can learn to have a much more creative relationship with ourselves using awareness.
And to conclude, let's broaden. Let's be aware of the whole body; resting inside the whole body; our emotional weather, the arising and passing of our emotions; our thoughts flowing through the mind, flowing through awareness. Just resting here inside the richness of this experience. Cultivating this extraordinary quality of awareness: awareness that's a little less reactive and a little more open and receptive and kindly.
Staying centered and grounded, opening our awareness to include sounds around us, our environment, other people.
And when we're ready to bring a little bit of movement to the body, maybe the hands and the fingers. What's it like to move? We're receiving movement into awareness.
Opening the eyes if we've had them closed. Looking around and coming into bigger movements if you want to. I always want to stretch at the end of the meditation.
Perhaps forming an intention to take this quality of awareness with us into whatever's coming next: gently, kindly aware and loving.