Body Scan, Gratitude

Feeling meh? This eyes-open meditation and body scan will lift your spirits

Gratitude and an inner body scan that’s more than skin deep.

This eyes-open meditation and body scan is inspired by all the walks out in the neighbourhood while we’ve been isolated at home during coronavirus. Having the simple pleasure of time to notice the little things in and around the streets of where we live and even within our houses.

It reminds me of being a tourist in a brand new country. As soon as we land, our eyes are wide open, looking all around and marvelling at the things that we’ve never seen before. Our camera is out, ready to take a photograph of the most simple things. The welcome sign at the airport! An interesting rooftop, or a collection of colourful plants on a windowsill.

Something about this backyard mushroom is really, quite, magical!

In Stephen Batchelor’s book, After Buddhism, he refers to this concept as the ‘everyday sublime.’

The quality of beginner’s mind – the mind of a traveller exploring new sights – that brings unexpected joy; bliss and a reverence for life, even in our own backyard.

So despite isolation; of not being able to travel very far, we can still take a trip at any time, just like the tourist.

The Tourist

– MEDITATION –

Grab your headphones, settle in and hit listen in browser.

Welcome. Today’s practice helps us notice and appreciate the very things right in front of us.

So, spending a few moments setting yourself up. Getting cosy. In whatever position feels appropriate for you for the kind of day you’re having.

And before you close your eyes, take some time to bring yourself fully into your surroundings.

WHAT CAN YOU SEE?

Glancing around at all the things you can see in your midst… Looking at your environment… like you’re a tourist

What things grab your attention? What things have you never really looked at before in any detail?

Perhaps it’s as ordinary as the weave of the carpet. Or something so basic as the shapes and sharp edges of a remote control. Or some other object that’s right before you.

Just opening your eyes to all the sights like you’ve never been in this place before.

Using the gift of vision to become present and to be open to receiving a glimpse of something quite magical you’ve not ever spotted before. The awe in the ordinary.

EXPERIENCE THE BREATH

So now, if you’d like to do so, you’re welcome to close your eyes.

And make a connection with your breathing however you perceive it best. Taking the inquisitive nature of the tourist to really experience the breath like it’s the first breath.

You might like to place a hand on your tummy… and feel the rise and fall as the oxygen travels in, and the carbon dioxide travels out.

And just like a tourist, taking a snapshot of the in-breath. Maybe at the top.

And a snapshot of the out-breath. Perhaps at the bottom.

scan the BODY

And as you continue to breathe, the next destination on this little itinerary is the body.

And today we’ll explore the body beginning from the outside and travelling in.

FEEL THE SKIN

And so, we’ll start things off with the skin.

Just gently resting your attention on whichever part of the skin is most obvious, or sensitive to you.

Perhaps for you, it’s the hands, or the face, that are exposed to the cool air… or perhaps it’s a place where you can feel a lot of warmth… where the clothes are hugging snuggly against your body.

And breathing into the skin and out through the skin.

Pausing to observe all the different sensations that you can feel on your skin.

DISCOVER THE FLESH

For our next stop, we’ll travel a little deeper. Breathing into the flesh that lies beneath the skin. Inviting an awareness of the tender flesh just underneath. Breathing in and out through this soft layer of the body.

RELAX THE MUSCLES

And breathing more deeply still, going further within, next aware of your muscles… noticing any tightness that your muscles may be experiencing. …And using the breath to ever-so-slightly relax and dissolve this tension.

SCAN THE SPINE

Beyond the muscles lay the bones; like the spine, the ribcage, collar and shoulder bones. Perhaps you’d like to scan the spine… From top, down to bottom, and back up again.

FIND YOUR HEART

And for our final stop the organs. Discovering the kidneys. Lungs. Liver and Heart.

And as we draw to the end of this internal body scan, you might like to place a hand on your heart.

BREATHE IN LIFE

And just breathe. … Breathe life into all the layers of the body, from outside to within. Breathing life into every tiny little cell.

And if you feel like continuing, when you’re ready, transition into your own meditation. Allow the moments unfold … and for thoughts, emotions, and interruptions to be a welcome part of your experience.

Bon, voyage!

Gratitude

Lean into Joy

A GRATITUDE MEDITATION TO BUILD UP YOUR HAPPINESS MUSCLES

If you’ve heard of the brain’s negativity bias you’ll know that humans evolved to favour bad news. That is, to be on the lookout for threats (as do antelope in the Serengeti) and commit negative events to memory to be able recall and avoid them next time.

A handy skill to have when it’s you or the lion. But in modern times? A nuisance for the most part! It means we worry about stuff that will likely never happen, we blow things out of proportion and we don’t actually see the amazing things that are happening before us each and every day.

Happiness is a skill. It’s something we should teach our kids they can choose, develop, practice, learn – as enthusiastically as we do about their sports, their manners and their times tables.

So this a meditation for playing ‘spotlight’ with joy. To seek it out, to recall it, to commit it to memory so that we recognise it in mindful moments and actually shift our happiness set point.

En-joy!

This meditation is one you can do to build up your happiness muscles. Muscles that just like the ones in your body, need to be strengthened and conditioned for a brighter mental landscape.

So getting yourself into a comfy position. Inviting an ease and loosening of the body, and of the mind, ahead of our meditation.  

ALERT RELAXATION

And if you’ve found yourself fighting sleep in meditation recently – that’s actually OK you can accept the sleepy state just as it is and if it means nodding off then so be it. 

But if you prefer, you can also try to encourage a more alert kind of relaxation by freeing your back to sit unsupported at various times throughout the meditation, as well as tilting your chin slightly upwards to shake off any dullness.  

But together we’ll start with the intention of a wakeful kind of relaxation and we’ll do this by first connecting with the breath.   

Connecting in with the breath where you can feel it best. Using the cooling in-breath and the warming out-breath to get things started.  

Breathing in energy and alertness. 

Breathing out relaxation into the body.  

·

Breathing in attention and vibrancy. 

Breathing out a deep restfulness into the body.

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Breathing in wakefulness and clarity. 

Breathing out calm and stillness through the body.

RECALLING JOY

And what I’d like you to do now is cast your mind back on your day. And see if you can recall any moments of pleasure or joy. A conversation. Or a song you heard on the radio. Any moments outside in the sunshine, or the first sip of coffee for the day.  

Just sitting here and allowing any little moments of happiness from your day to present themselves to you in memory. 

And if not today then maybe yesterday or sometime in the past week. 

Something, or many things, that brought a smile to your face either inwardly or outwardly. 

PRESENT MOMENT JOY

And having recalled these little glimpses of joy or contentment from the recent past, now I’d like you to bring your awareness into the present moment. To the here and now. To all the things that you can hear – inside and outside. And all the things you can feel – either emotions or other sensations in the body. Just noticing whatever is arising moment to moment. 

Is there anything in there you can appreciate? Anything you can you feel happy about? 

There may be pain in the body, there may be fatigue, there may be feelings of sadness or anxiety or anger. You can accept all of these things just as they are…. But you can also ask yourself – in every moment that arises – can I feel grateful for this? 

This breath. 

This time you’ve carved out for yourself. 

This body. 

These sounds that are all around.

Memories that return from the past, or thoughts that arise about the future. 

Any people in your midst either known or unknown.  

What about any of your experiences, both here in meditation, and out in the world, can you appreciate? Find the joy in? See beauty within? 

I’ll leave you now to continue on in silent meditation. You can keep going with this cultivation of a positive, thankful state of mind… or move on to whatever style of meditation presents itself to you in the first few quiet moments. 

Enjoy.

Gratitude

Rejoice

A MEDITATION TO HELP SHIFT THE BRAIN’S NEGATIVITY BIAS

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about mindfulness in the workplace. The pursuit of corporate and career growth, achievement of goals and the spirit of competition seems so at odds with things like compassion, non-attachment and single-tasking.

But I’ve just finished reading a fantastic book by Lodro Rinzler called The Buddha Walks Into the Office and I’m feeling more optimistic the two camps can get along!

Lodro talks about remembering to stop and celebrate the moments we are proud of – and in fact ALL that we’ve got going for us.

This is my version of his ‘rejoicing’ meditation.

Let’s get settled for our meditation practice.

Adjust your body so that you’re nice and comfortable. Spine elongated towards the sky. Relaxed shoulders. And arms. Hands resting in your lap or on your thighs.

And taking a deep, beautiful breath to mark the start of this meditation. Feeling the refreshing air enter your nose or your throat. And as you exhale, releasing the day’s activities to the past, and tomorrow’s activities to the future.

Spending a couple of moments becoming acquainted with this breath. Gradually moving from those deliberate deep breaths back to a natural rhythm of breathing. In and out. In and out.

MEDITATION

And for this meditation we’re going spend some time cultivating an attitude of celebration. Rejoicing all that we’ve got going for us. Dwelling in positive thoughts about our place in the world and our impact on those around us.

So to kick things off, think back on your day or week, and contemplate this question:

What have I done that I can be proud of?

Sitting with this question as the object of our meditation for the time being.

Thinking about what we accomplished at work, or in a hobby or a project. Or perhaps it was an interaction with someone; a child, or a co-worker or friend.

What things have you done today, or this week, that have made a difference in someone else’s life?

Just contemplate this for a few more moments.

And if you catch yourself starting to wander or creating stories or judgements around your list, gently come back to the question:

What I have I done that I can be proud of?

Contemplating all there is to rejoice in our lives right now. Quietening the inner critic. Shifting the needle on our brain’s negativity bias.

And even if we’ve had a particularly rough day and we’re struggling to come up with something specific, we can still bring to mind everyday things that can be celebrated. Thinking back to the barista who made us an exceptionally good coffee this morning. The generous driver who let us cut in in traffic. Or simply that we were able make some time for this meditation.

We’ll now close off that exercise. Take a pause, reconnect with your breath and switch your attention to your body.

Investigate whether the attitude of celebration is a felt experience in the body. Inhaling in to these areas; perhaps around the heart or the tummy. Keeping your attention focused there if it feels good for you.

We’ll now carry this intention of celebration with us into the rest of silent meditation.

Choose a mindfulness technique that feels best for you right now, and begin again whenever the connection is broken.

Well done.