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In our guided meditation practice this week, we established three to five things we would like to see improved in our life. What were your choices? What would you like to improve?
How hopeful are you that these conditions can improve? Do you remember a time when you didn’t experience these limitations? Do you notice that some days are better than others? What has improved these conditions in the past?
Observe at least one of these conditions. Remember what it was like before you felt this way. Be aware—without judgment—of what has brought you to this place? Do you accept this as a permanent aspect of who you are? Don’t analyze the condition. Just become aware of it.
As you continue your practice through the day, contemplate where you would like to be. If your condition improved, how would that look? What changes would you notice?
This week’s practice is self-observation. We are on a journey of radical growth, but as we grow, we may not always see that growth. So, for today’s meditation practice, I would like you to stop for a moment and observe your life. Where are you beginning today? Take inventory of your life. Where are you physically, mentally, and emotionally? How do you feel about where you are?
So much of our life is driven by our external experience. As we begin to learn healthy meditation practices, the best place to begin is by becoming aware of our internal experience. As I mentioned in the class this week, there are two ways to have a conscious impact on our homeostatic state. We can use the mind or we can use the body. Let’s begin with the body today.
After you have completed your Stage One practice, take a moment to observe yourself. How does your body feel? Do you have pain? Are you stiff or tight anywhere? Are you experiencing any discomfort? If you are comfortable, how does it feel to be in your body? How does it feel to be in your current position?
Now, as you observe your body, I would like you to take a deep breath. Connect with every aspect of your breath you can. Do you breathe deep into your belly or does your chest expand when you breathe? If you pause for a moment, are you more comfortable pausing on the in-breath or out-breath? As you breathe deeply, what do you notice in the rest of your body?
Spend the rest of your meditation today focusing on how your breath affects your body. Does it change the way your muscles feel? Does it modify your thinking? How do you feel emotionally as you take deep breaths? Does it create a release of emotion? Does it calm how you feel? Do you want to stretch or adjust as you breathe? How does deep breathing affect you as an individual? How does it affect your body and how does it affect your mind?
As you spent more time yesterday, becoming aware of your body, how did it feel? Did you have any judgment? Did you wish you could be different? A fine line can exist between striving for more and hating where we are. Part of self-awareness is being honest and seeing where we are, without judgment while we improve the conditions of our lives. Once we see ourselves and our lives in an honest, authentic way, we gain the power to make real change.
As you meditate today, spend time accepting where you are. What have you overcome in your life to be where you are today? What growth have you experienced? How much have you invested in being here—as you are today—alive and striving to move forward? Can you recognize your efforts? Can you honor yourself for those efforts? Can you cherish your current condition and recognize all that you have done to come to this place?
How does it feel to recognize your journey? Whether we have worked diligently or not as hard as we wished; either way, our efforts have brought us here. We are alive and willing to improve. This is all we need. How does it feel to think of being able to create something more?
As we deepen our practice, it is imperative that we come to the place of observing the mind. Now, the way I use the mind is not necessarily the way most people think of the mind. The mind and the brain are not the same things. The brain is a biomechanical system of mechanisms. It is not just our thoughts, but it includes our thoughts. It is the overall, interoceptive system of our bodies.
Over the last two days of practice, we spent an extended amount of time exploring the body. The way I look at it, the body is an effect of the mind, and while the body can affect the mind, the lion’s share of the time it is the mind that affects the body. I’ll use the example of chronic pain. Chronic pain affects the mind. It creates a reactive state of consciousness by the constant triggering of systems. In this way, the body affects the mind. Being in chronic pain, however, is an effect of the mind. Most physical conditions of the body are an effect of the mind. This is where we use the term mind over matter.
Today, as you meditate, I would like you to become aware of your mind. We will use our mental, physical, and emotional states to measure our state of mind. To begin, before you do your Stage One practice, I would like you to note where you are. What is your mental state? Are you thinking? How is your thinking? Is it positive or negative or analytical or maybe even curious? What is your mental state? Ask the same of your emotional state. How are you feeling? Do you consider the emotions you are currently feeling to be positive or negative? Finally, how do you feel physically? Are you in good health or do you suffer?
After you are done observing your state before you begin your meditation practice, do your Stage One practice of preparation and measure yourself by reviewing the above questions again? Do you notice a change and if so, where is it most prevalent? Do you feel it most mentally, emotionally, or physically?
Finally, to finish your practice, do a body scan. Begin with your feet or maybe with your head and observe the individual parts of your body. Don’t assess them, just notice your toes, each toe. Then, observe your feet. Continue until you have taken notice of each part of your body. This is your Stage Two practice. When you are complete, measure yourself by reviewing the above questions again? Do you notice a change and if so, where is it most prevalent? Do you feel it most mentally, emotionally, or physically?
Yesterday we contemplated the interoceptive nature of our mind. We meditated on the connection between the mind and the body through observing their effect on one another. As we continue today, I would like you to use your Stage Two practice to consider how accepting you are of how your body maintains homeostasis.
After completing your Stage One practice, continue with the following questions. How you do feel about the relationship between your body and your mind? What did you notice as you moved through your practice? Do you appreciate the workings of your mind and how it communicates so effortlessly with the body or do you wish it could be different? Do you wish you had more control?
As we learn to manipulate brain function rather than trying to effects the result of brain function, we gain a lot more control of our experience of life. How does it feel knowing you can affect your state of mind without arduous effort, without continually evaluating it? What abilities are you beginning to notice in yourself that affect your state of mind? Are there any ways you can integrate those things into an ongoing Stage Two practice—a practice you can use throughout the day to relieve life’s stressors?
As you’ve spent the week observing your life, how do you feel about where you are today? Whether you experience life from a place of suffering or your life is perfectly acceptable to you where you are today, are you ready to experience something new? Are you willing to do a practice every day to expand your experience of consciousness?
For some of you, daily practice is easy. For others, it may be difficult to think of committing to even one more thing in our life. We may decide we aren’t ready and that’s okay. There may be gaps of time between your practices. You may finish Day Fourteen and then not return for a few days, weeks, or even months. Progress happens this way sometimes. Sometimes we fall away from what is best for us, but the thing I would like you to remember with this program is that you never need to return to the beginning. If you miss your practice, when you return, return to the next day in line. If you miss tomorrow or even the rest of the week, when you return, return to Day Fifteen.
Momentum is a great thing, but when it comes to improving brain function, the results are permanent. We’re simply prodding the brain in a direction it inherently wants to go. It might be nice to repeat the process, but it is better for the brain to have completed the process. Of course, the more committed you stay, the quicker you’ll experience the results of your effort. So, for you, for your health and well-being, I suggest you try to do at least 20 minutes a day of practice, but also be kind to yourself. You are never starting over. You are starting from where you are today, from what you’ve learned so far and you’ll know more tomorrow. I promise.
For your practice today, spend a few moments in Stage One. Spend time savoring the process you use to begin your meditation. As you move into Stage Two of your practice, can you accept where you are right with kindness and patience? Are you willing to try again tomorrow, and the next day? Are you willing to be patient if you miss a day? Where can you be most kind to yourself on this journey? Where can you be most forgiving?