Mindfulness Meditation: Basic Guided Instructions

David Nichtern, a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, presents a basic introduction to the practice of Mindfulness Meditation.

Instructions from the video:

[Mindfulness meditation] is a wonderful and ancient remedy for the stress and anxiety of modern life. It can help us develop strength, clarity, and stability in our mind, and also help us to live in a less distracted, more wakeful and productive way.

There are 3 steps to the practice:

Step 1: Taking Our Seat

Start by taking a meditation seat. Usually a cross-legged sitting position on a cushion on the floor. You should feel grounded and stable. Then you can just rest your hands on your thighs or knees, whiehever is more comfortable for you.

You can extend your spine. Your torso, head and shoulders should be upright but relaxed. Gently tuck in your chin a little bit. The posture should feel uplifted but not stiff or tense. If you have trouble sitting cross-legged for whatever reason, you can take a kneeling posture, or just sit upright on a chair. The main ponit is to use whatever support you need to be comfortable. But in any of these positions your back should be as straight as possible and not supported by the wall or the back of the chair.

In general we say, “not too tight and not too loose.” And that’s a good guideline all the way through the practice. There’s a feeling of containment of settling down and reducing your sphere of activity.

Your eyes are open with a soft, downward gaze 4 to 6 feet on the floor in front of you. You’re not shutting down your awareness of the space around you. But you can relax your focus somewhat.

Step 2: Placing Attention on the Breath

Having settled your body in this way begin to pay attention to your breathing in and out. In this case it’s natural breathing. Not pranayama or any other breathing technique. You just bring your awareness to your breath.

Here again there’s a light touch, rather than becoming too intense and hyperfocused. Just a nice, relaxed attentiveness to the breath going in and out of the body.

When you notice that your awareness is elsewhere–maybe you’re thinkng of your relationship, the workweek coming up, or a big bowl of chocolate ice cream–whatever your thoughts are, when you notice that your mind is somewhere else, just bring your attention back to your breathing. Without any kind of judgement, commenting or evaluation. Just bring it back.

Step 3: Labeling Thoughts

When you notice that you’re thinking, just say to yourself, “thinking.” Just label it with that one word, “thinking.” And then bring your attention back once again to your breath. As your body is settling down, your mental acitivity will settle down as well.

It’s helpful to take a democratic approach to your thoughts. They are all equal in some sense. You do not favor some thoughts or freak out about others. Very simply, when you notice that you’re thinking and have drifted away from awareness of the breath, just label any and all thoughts: “thinking.” And once again bring your attention back to your breath.

It’s important to note that we are not depressing our thoughts, neither are we following them. We’re simply letting them be as they are, noticing them, then returning attention to our breath.

During longer periods of sitting, if you need to move to restore your circulation, or when you have a real discomfort, you can just bring your legs up in front of your chest and continue the practice. Then just resettle your self and take a fresh start.

If you hear sounds and notice physical sensations, simply take note of them and continue your practice.

About David Nichtern

David writes a blog about Buddhism and meditation on The Huffington Post and leads yoga and meditation workshops worldwide with his wife Cyndi Lee (renowned yoga teacher and founder of OM yoga).

To learn more about David’s work, his teaching schedule, or get in touch, visit DavidNichtern.com.

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