Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. – William James
Hold your thumb in front of you and look at it closely. Your thumb is a part of you, but obviously not all of you. What if you could observe mind in the same way?
Cup both hands together in front of you and imagine holding your mind within them. Suppose every thought showed up as a zigzag of light zipping through and every emotion as a cloud of moving colour.
Your mind and the lights passing through, just like your thumb, would not describe all of you either. After all there is the heart, the body, the awareness.
When taking mind as the object of mindfulness practice, the aim is to observe what is there without judgment and to notice that the mind does not describe the fullness of being.
So in this practice welcome mind just as it is, thoughts and all.
Become the observer of the stream of thoughts moving through mind. Do not be afraid of this internal dialogue or its apparent never-ending nature. Engage it with your curiosity. Notice how its activity can coast along without your direction. Sit calmly, watch carefully and see where mind takes you.
Set a timer for five, ten or fifteen minutes.
Begin by finding a comfortable posture and by bringing your attention to the breath. Take a few moments to let yourself arrive and allow the breath to draw you gently into internal awareness. Allow the gaze to soften, the eyes to close.
Bring your focus to the mind and quietly observe what it is doing.
The mind is very likely to be carrying a stream of thoughts. The aim of this practice is to be aware of those thoughts without energising them.
A thought is energised when followed up with another Intentional Thought, choice, comment, or association or when scheduled for action or added to a to-do list.
At first it can be challenging to disengage the mind’s natural tendency to energise thoughts but, with repeated practice and perseverance, it becomes second nature.
If you notice that you have energised a thought it is important to practise two things:
Non-judgment means that when realising you have energised a thought, you do not treat it as a failure. In fact this realisation is a vital moment within the practice, as you are immediately offered the opportunity to return to the focus of the exercise (i.e. bring awareness back to a neutral observation of mind).
Hand in hand with non-judgment comes self-compassion. Being gentle with yourself is necessary because it gradually generates an ability to stay present in quiet observation of mind. If scolding the mind for messing up or doing it wrong this compassionate awareness is lost.
Patiently continue until the timer sounds.
Return to wakefulness in your own way.
Record your experience in your Mindfulness Journal noting the subject of thoughts that arise. As you repeat this practice over time, notice if the mind is producing similar or different thoughts as your mindful awareness develops.
If practising with others, take turns sharing your discoveries.
This practice is an extract from 100 Mindfulness Meditations: The Ultimate Collection of Inspiring Daily Practices by Neil Seligman published by Conscious House and available on Amazon priced £12.99.
10 Mindfulness Meditations is an album of audio meditations to accompany the book and is now available on iTunes priced £7.99.
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