A Meditation is a deliberate action in order to focus one’s thoughts on something, this can be in the form of a mantra, a word, a chant, a metta (or loving kindness) meditation, yoga or prayer.
Often one enters an altered state of being, with a sense of calm, or connection to spacious awareness or vastness. This can be very beneficial to help calm one’s system and give one a break from the hectic world we live in. We can then practice bringing this state to our lives or do a quicker version when we are stressed as in taking a few deep breaths.
Mindfulness is a part of meditation; being aware of the moment-to-moment experience without judgment or with openness and acceptance. Dr. Heather MacLean defines it in her resource booklet for University of Ottawa Medical students as the 4P’s; Paying attention, on Purpose, in the Present moment, in a Particular way, with an open, accepting attitude.
Learn more about the benefits of Mindfulness
The benefits of mindfulness help us to pause in our hectic lifestyles, interrupt our automatic way of reacting to our environment. Mindfulness helps us to know where we are so we can then decide where and how we would like to proceed. Mindfulness helps us to be aware of what we are experiencing in any given moment. It is difficult to be with “what is” when “what is” is not what we want, or “what is” is not where we want to be. So, we pay more attention to where we want to be or where we should be, or what we should be experiencing. This resistance to “what is” and the gap between where we are and where we want to be causes great suffering for humans. Everyone suffers, everyone has had loss or hardship, some, granted, more than others. None of us are free from everyday trials and struggles. Generally, though we respond to these struggles by denying the impact of the emotional pain caused by our suffering. We learn to cope by denying, projecting, avoiding or distracting ourselves from “what is”. Then there is an impact to this kind of coping. Being mindful allows us to become of aware of experience and possibly turn toward it with curiosity and acceptance. Practicing with mindful meditations helps us to build resources to tend to ourselves when we have difficult experiences.
In my mindful self compassion training, a course developed by Kristen Neff and Chris Germer, we learn how to respond to these difficult mindful experiences with kindness. When loving-kindness bumps into suffering (and stays loving), it is compassion. (pg 100, Christopher Germer & Kristin Neff (2017), Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher Guide. San Diego, CA; Center for Mindful Self-Compassion). One of the reasons people find mindfulness difficult is that it is hard to be with “what is”, sometimes it feels easier to resist our experiences and move on. If we can see that a part of us is having an experience then it becomes easier to step back and respond with compassion towards the experiencer, ourselves. In this way we can respond to life’s challenges without our usual inner criticism and turn toward ourselves with curiosity, openness and compassion. This often results in a “felt” or embodied sense of calm, strength and competence to handle life’s challenges.
Below I offer you different meditations and teachings to assist you in practicing mindfulness and mindful self-compassion. Enjoy!
Working with Difficult Emotions - Meditation
Working with Difficult Emotions – Meditation
During this challenging time difficult emotions may surface from time to time. My hope is this meditation will help you to Soften, Soothe & Allow.
Mindful Self Compassion Break - Meditation
Mindful Self Compassion Break – Meditation
The self-compassion break is an informal exercise. It is given here as a reflective meditation, however, once learned and practiced can be used quickly and efficiently to be with any difficult moment or situation, or when you notice a part of you that is particularly activated. It includes the 3 components of self-compassion. Mindfulness- we have to become aware of moments when we are struggling; Common Humanity-we can remember that suffering is a part of living and that we are not alone in these common experiences; and Kindness- asking ourselves what do I need to hear in this moment or how would I treat a friend, and treating myself the same way?
Affectionate Breathing - Meditation
Affectionate Breathing – Meditation
The following meditation is one of the core meditations of the Mindful Self Compassion Course. This meditation trains the mind to be more focused and calm, by focusing and being mindful of the breath with added suggestions that bring affection to the process.
Awareness of What Is - Meditation
Awareness of What Is – Meditation
The goal of mindfulness is not to clear out our thoughts or emotions or be rid of our ego. The goal is to be aware of our moment to moment experience without judgement. In other words, we are not trying to feel a certain way, we are feeling the way we feel. In this meditation, we are invited to just be aware of awareness itself. Through awareness, while you can still hear your brain and its thoughts/opinions/judgments, and feel your emotions, you become aware that those are not you. This creates a “space” around those thoughts and feelings. This distances your true self from your thoughts slightly. This is called detachment.
Another perspective might be to say “a part of me is feeling…, or a part of me thinks…, or a part of me is experiencing… again this helps to give you a little space to just be and allow whatever your experience is, to be present.
Loving Kindness for Ourselves - Meditation
Loving Kindness for Ourselves – Meditation
In this meditation called Loving Kindness for Ourselves, the second core meditation of the MSC course, we use our own personalized phrases to cultivate a warmhearted attitude toward ourselves.
If you do not have phrases you may start with any or all of the following:
May I be happy
May I be well
May I be safe
May I be peaceful
May I live with ease
May I know I am loved
Giving & Receiving Compassion - Meditation
Giving & Receiving Compassion – Meditation
Giving and Receiving Compassion is the 3rd core meditation of MSC (Mindful Self-Compassion). This meditation builds on the first two core meditations, Affectionate Breathing and Loving Kindness for Ourselves, by focusing on the breath and allowing loving kindness and compassion flow in on the breath in the form of a word, image, colour or felt-sense and practicing self-compassion in connection with another. It has also fondly been referred to as the “Breathing Compassion In and Out” meditation and” Loving Others without Losing Yourself”. It reminds me of when I used to dole out smarties to friends or siblings and knew how to not leave me out of the deal… One for Me, One for You.
Short Breath Meditation
Short Breath Meditation
This short breath meditation was adapted from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. By simply saying the words while breathing in and out, it is much easier to come into the present moment.
Loving Kindness for a Loved One Meditation
Loving Kindness for a Loved One – Meditation
Loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is a way of training the mind to be more loving and compassionate. LKM uses the power of words-phrases-as the anchor for concentration, instead of the breath or other focus. By concentrating on the words or phrases, a calming sensation arises. This particular LKM also includes the power of connection and imagery as we are imagining our loved one with us. This meditation helps to cultivate good will and good intention which can then cultivate a compassionate internal conversation.
Body Scan & Gratitude Meditation
Body Scan & Gratitude – Meditation
A body scan is a mindful practice, allowing the individual to use all of their senses to notice each part of their body. The purpose is to connect to your physical body and bring awareness to any areas and spaces that may cause a reaction. The reaction may be physical (tension, pain, resistance, discomfort, soft, relaxed, limp), mental (reminds you of a story, a place, a memory, perhaps you avoid it), or emotional (angry, sad, frustrated, anxious, peaceful).
- We can learn to relate to these reactions in a variety of ways;
- Bring compassion whenever there is discomfort in the body
- Provide soothing or supportive touch to the body part that is in discomfort
- Bring an inner smile when we focus on our body
- Appreciate the body for the wonder and awe of how it functions or helps us
We can learn to return to an emotionally neutral body part creating or experiencing the body as a safe place to return to when in discomfort, emotionally, physically or mentally.
The body scan can enhance mindfulness of the body and nurture a more respectful, appreciative attitude toward the body, especially when there is physical or emotional discomfort .
UCLA – Mindfulness Awareness Research Center shows that a gratitude practice enhances wellbeing and changes the molecular structure of the brain, making us feel happier and healthier.
Gratitude helps to offset our Negativity Bias, the brain’s natural home base, as described by Rick Hanson, he also states we are “Velcro for negative and Teflon for positive emotions” (2015 p xxvi “Hardwiring Happiness”). We need to intentionally pay attention to positive experiences to develop a balanced awareness. Frederickson (2004), who writes in The Psychology of Gratitude, emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, narrow our field of perception, whereas joy, love, gratitude opens up our perceptual fields of awareness and allows more openness.
This meditation includes gratitude for our bodies and for those who helped us along our journey.
Soles of the Feet Meditation
Soles of the Feet – Meditation
When we pay attention to physical sensations, such as the soles of our feet, we have a direct gateway to the present moment. When we pay attention to our senses- hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and touch we tend not to be in our heads or with our thoughts.
This exercise can be done anytime and is a good one for busy people. You can pay attention to the soles of your feet while you are walking, or as a transition when you get to your destination, finding your center, anchoring yourself with the soles of your feet, and then re-engaging in the next activity. You can remember to come into the present moment by paying attention to the sensations of the soles of the feet.
Compassionate Body Scan - Meditation
Compassionate Body Scan – Meditation
This compassionate body scan contains elements that explicitly cultivate an attitude of warmth and goodwill toward our bodies. We can do this by inclining toward the body with curiosity, comforting the body with soothing touch if there is discomfort, returning to an emotionally neutral body part of the body if we experience something unpleasant, difficult to allow, or when judgments arise, bringing kind words and attitude to your body or to yourself, sending compassion whenever there is discomfort in the body and appreciating the gifts of each body part.
Let this be as easy as possible, feeling free to move to another body part especially if a body part feels emotionally or physically neutral compared to other parts. Whenever it feels like a struggle, perhaps softening the heart in sympathy for the struggle or placing a hand on that part of the body as a gesture of compassion and support , imaging warmth and kindness flowing through your hand and fingers into your body.