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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.