This is a 7-minute guided meditation that I recorded to connect feelings of compassion with your body.
Find a quiet and comfortable spot. It’s ideal if you can lie down for deeper relaxation, but sitting is also okay. You may want to try it more than once and see how each session is different for you. Enjoy!
With our current state of affairs in the nation and in the world, it’s important to practice self-care so we can continue to show up ready to serve the greater good.
1. Go within first. If you encounter a difficult story in the news or witness something unjust, take a moment to check in with yourself. Connect with the breath in your body.
2. Be compassionate. Offer yourself self-compassion. As we bear witness to violence and injustice, we experience suffering. Acknowledge this and allow the grief, rage, anger, or fear to process through.
3. Stay connected. Remember that we’re all in this together. There isn’t a us and a them. There’s only an us. Try to cultivate feelings of compassion for others, even if they are behaving in ways that are harmful.
4. Grow the good. The world is full of goodness. We each have so much to be grateful for. Focus on the good all around you and see if you can’t build upon it.
One of the benefits of a meditation practice is that you’ll begin to experience an overall increase in feelings of calm and ease. This doesn’t mean that you’ll become indifferent or numb to life, but that you’ll be more skillfully responsive and less momentarily reactive. You’ll notice some space around your thoughts and emotions in which you can pause. You’ll likely turn to the practice in moments of chaos, stress, and emotional upset as a way to move through the difficulty. Instead of getting knocked off center and spinning out into fear, doubt, or worry, you’ll maintain a feeling of being grounded and sure even as you are overcome with difficult emotions. There will be a still point within you that you can return to as often as needed. You can take refuge there to regain your strength, cultivate compassion, or rest your mind. Cultivating this still point is the work of our practice.
1. Start small with 2-8 minutes of sitting practice each day.
2. Orient your practice around something you already do each day, such as your morning cup of coffee, afternoon snack break, evening walk, etc.
3. Begin again every time. Embrace the fact that you don’t have to be an expert at this. Allow yourself to start fresh. There isn’t a wrong way to practice.
4. Keep trying. Keep trying, Keep trying. Day after day. When you feel the most discouraged is when you know you’re on the right track.
Mindfulness isn’t new. In fact, it’s ancient. It doesn’t require a lot of resources or any gadgets. It’s simple, yet profound. It begins with the breath and our attention and leads to a complex unfolding of awareness. Basic mindfulness practice sounds like it should be easy. So easy that many people disregard it, but it’s actually quite difficult and the results of practice can be surprising. There’s a good chance you’ll discover parts of yourself you didn’t know were missing. You may see something that’s been right in front of your for years in a revelatory new light. You may find that you are actually, truly, and deeply okay just as you are, which may be one of the most compelling reasons of all to practice mindfulness.
Stress is inevitable and sometimes unrelenting. It ranges from mild to toxic, and from helpful to harmful. We’ve all experienced the full spectrum of stress, from being motivated to immobilized, and we know that much of how it effects us is determined by how we respond to it.
This is REALLY good news, because it means we have agency. We can’t stop stress, but we can choose how it will impact us. Just like we can learn to surf a wave or to simply get out of the way, we can learn to manage and reduce stress.
Mindfulness has been studied and taught as a method for stress reduction for over thirty years, and the results are promising. Just as we can count on stress recurring in our lives, we can learn to count on mindfulness as a way to respond to stressful situations and to cope with the feelings and effects of stress.
The first step is to notice that you’re stressed. This may sound like an oversimplification, but we all have moments when stress sneaks up on us. Occasionally, stress gets the better of me and I loose my cool. And it’s usually my kids who put me over the edge.
Afterwards, I feel terrible. I should know better, I think. Fact is, what I know isn’t of consequence in those moments. What makes the difference is how I feel. If I haven’t attended to myself and stress has accumulated, like a glass that’s been filled to the rim, then all it takes is one small thing–one more drop–to cause an overflow.
Sometimes, I don’t realize how full the glass is until I’m in a moment of overflow.
Before deepening my mindfulness practice, these moments were more common. Over the last several years as I’ve become more mindful, they’ve become less and less frequent. I’m grateful for the skillful means to manage stress as it’s helping me set a better example for my children, though I still have much to learn.
One practice that I return to for stress reduction, is heartbreathing.
Once you have taken the first step and identified that you’re feeling stress, the next step is to attend to it. Name it. This is stress. I feel stressed. Then, make a choice to manage it. I’m going to take a few moments to breath and reduce this feeling of stress.
Try this: Heartbreathing
Heartbreathing is a technique developed and taught by the HeartMath Institute.
- Find a comfortable place to sit or stand. Silence is preferable, but not necessary.
- Close your eyes, or find a gazing point.
- Take several normal breaths, noticing where the breath is in your body. Try to breathe all way into your belly, and then to push the breath all the way out on the exhale.
- Now, notice the area around the heart. The front, the back, and each side.
- Continue normal breathing. Just noticing.
- On an in-breath, imagine that you can breath directly through the chest wall and into the heart. Practice a few of these breaths, imagining that you can breathe directly in and out of the heart. This is called heartbreathing.
- Next, notice the sensations around the heart. How does the area around your heart feel?
- Return to normal breathing.
When you’re done, notice how you feel. You’re likely to feel at least a little bit more relaxed but, if not, that’s okay. I once suggested some breathing exercises to a family member new to mindfulness and, after trying them, she reported with frustration that she, “just can’t breathe!”I assured her that she could learn to breathe in this new way with practice.
In fact, the only way any of us benefit from mindfulness is through practice, which is also the only way anyone learns to surf a wave, or to cope better with the inevitable stressors of life. The reward for our commitment to practice are moments of calm and ease. I wish you many of both.