Concentration Meditation, Open Awareness

Labelling Senses

A MEDITATION TO SHORT-CIRCUIT OVERTHINKING

Do you remember watching the film The Sixth Sense for the first time? How shocking it was when the wedding ring drops to the floor and we learn that (spoiler alert!) Bruce Willis was actually dead all along?

If you’ve seen the movie a second time you’ll know that without the same curiosity and suspense, it’s a pretty different experience. Pleasant and enjoyable perhaps, but not nearly as vivid, exciting and alive.

We tend to live our lives a bit like a re-run — on autopilot, consumed in an exclusively-thinking mode where we live out our day through thoughts and barely give our senses the time to show us what they’re all about.

And they’ve got so much to offer!

So here’s a meditation that brings a couple of the senses centre stage to give thoughts a back seat for a while.

Hello. This is a meditation that brings our senses into the foreground of our experience.

HANDS

First, finding yourself a comfortable position. Adjusting your posture. Finding a comfortable place to rest your hands. And just while you’re doing that, noticing how the hands feel. Noting the temperature; which parts feel cool and which parts feel warm. And feeling all the different sensations running through the fingers. Prickling. Throbbing. Pulsing.

If you haven’t already, you can close your eyes; but of course, if you prefer to keep them open, just lower your gaze a little way in front of you.

And at any time through the meditation feel free to open your eyes if you’re feeling sleepy or are in need of a reset.

BREATH

Now we’ll connect in with the breath. And we’ll make this connection with three deliberate deep breaths. Taking a big full in-breath to fill up the lungs and then gradually letting it escape your body.

Allowing the breath to leave the body until all that’s left is a pause and a space before the need for the next big in-breath.

And then after three big breaths, noticing how you settle down into a more relaxed and natural way of breathing that needs no effort.

MEDITATION

And for this meditation we’re going to do a variation on the noting or labelling technique.

But instead of labelling thoughts as they arise, which you may have had experience with before, we’re going to work with just two labels – ‘hear’ and ‘feel’ – and use these to note your experience of sound and sensations in the body.

Because when we experience life through our senses – such as hearing and feeling – we experience what’s happening in real-time. Not as a preview. Or a re-run. But the live broadcast of our life as it unfolds.

And what this does, is help us switch from an exclusively-thinking mode into more of a sensing mode. And it’s in sensing mode when our body softens, our breathing slows and thoughts have the chance to retreat to the background.

HEAR

So, we’ll begin with the sense of hearing. And all you need to do, is use the label ‘hear’ whenever you’re aware of sound.

Tuning in to all the sounds that come into your experience and acknowledging them with the label ‘hear’.

TV in the background. Hear

Footsteps coming and going. Hear

Car door closing outside. Hear

Even thoughts can be heard in your mind’s ear if they’re dominant enough; so, for the really loud ones, you can label them ‘hear’, too.

FEEL

Now we’ll move on to the sense of touch. Tuning in to all the different sensations in the body, and using the label ‘feel’ to note your experience.

Itchy scalp. Feel

Thighs resting on the chair. Feel

Breath going in and out. Feel

And of course, emotions. We feel those too, so if an emotion presents itself like frustration, calm, or impatience, it too, can be labelled ‘feel’.

And as you go about the rest of the meditation, you can continue switching between these two senses, noting ‘hear’ whenever sounds are dominant, and using ‘feel’ whenever you’re drawn to a physical sensation.

Remembering that this technique doesn’t need a great deal of effort, just approach it quite passively. It’s a place that you can return to in between sessions of thinking and daydreaming. And if you start to feel settled then you can drop the labelling altogether.

Enjoy.

Concentration Meditation

Just. Enjoy. This.

A MEDITATION ON BEING PRESENT AMIDST THE CHAOS

There I was, sprinting to my Pilates class; having wrung out my to-do list of every task possible before leaving the house (dishes from last night’s dinner party, crumbs off the bench, de-sludging the dishwasher filter.) I love my Pilates class – for my physical and mental wellbeing – but as I neared the studio all I could think about was all the things that would be tugging on my attention when I got home. Kids, washing, phone call to my mother, emails.

Thankfully, I practice this little thing called… mindfulness!

And as I set foot through the studio door, I reminded myself that for the next 45 minutes, I could JUST. ENJOY. THIS.

So, go on – you can too. xx

Sometimes we want to be doing something pleasant, relaxing or fun and our thoughts have other ideas.

We sign up to do something just for ourselves, or even carve out some time to be with a loved one, but when the time actually arrives, we’re a thousand miles away.

Planning tomorrow night’s dinner. Replaying yesterday’s argument. Wishing we could be watching Netflix.

We wish the time away so often. With our monkey-mind in charge – flitting errantly from one scenario to the next – we sabotage the quality of this moment. And what could be a moment full of colour and flavor and joy, is instead so watered down there’s really not much point tasting it.

The next time we find ourselves “doing” but not really “being” we can switch on this mindfulness practice and make the most out of the time we’re here to experience:

Just. Enjoy. This.

This moment you’ve arrived at. This moment that is yours to enjoy. Taking a deep breath and making a mental note.

Just. Enjoy. This.

Recognising the tasks and thoughts that are knocking at the door. But gently reminding yourself, ‘Not now, this is my time,’ and returning with a breath-in and a breath-out.

Just. Enjoy. This.

Becoming aware and focused on all that there is to be aware of in this moment; in this activity or person you’ve committed to. Giving yourself a smile and the permission to release tasks and thoughts and give your whole self to right now.

Just. Enjoy. This.

It could be exercise, a meal, or listening to your child read; what it is doesn’t really matter. But what does, is that this time isn’t going to last forever, so why not stay with it, make it count?

Just. Enjoy. This.

Dropping into your body to help ground you to this moment. Placing awareness on your hands. Your legs. Your face. Feeling the breath fill up your nostrils, throat and lungs and the warm energy flow back out on exhalation.

Just. Enjoy. This.

Just enjoying whatever it is that you are doing right now. Just enjoying whomever you are with right now. Even if that is just you. Just being and enjoying; opening yourself up to receiving this experience just as it is.

Just. Enjoy. This.

MEDITATION

For the remainder of this meditation, continue repeating the mantra for as long as it takes to settle into being present.

Repeating the phrase deliberately slowly to slow down your racing mind.

Repeating the phrase whenever you realise a new story has taken over.

A gentle reminder that for the next little while, all you’re going to do is:

Just. Enjoy. This.