What I am experiencing during a daily mindfulness meditation sitting session:
My experiences during my formal cushion sitting practice varies according to the mood of my mind and the flexibility my body has to offer that day. During a typical sitting I am able to sit comfortably for twenty to thirty minutes, on a floor cushion in a seiza position, supported by a bolster lifting my hips above my knees which allows a natural tilt in my pelvic region. My posture triggers my body and mind for practice, I start with a five to seven minutes prānāyāma (breath work) exercise to ease my body, clam my mind, and create space for my formal meditation practice. Once I feel eased and concentrated I set my aspiration for the sit, “Melanie you are safe and loved, open your heart and be with whatever arises, if you feel unsafe come back to your breath and self-sooth yourself.” The aspiration changes according to the needs of my emotional self.
I then proceed into a Bare Awareness practice, feeling the sensations within my body, noticing the mood of my mind, allowing great space for each moment to come and go without judgement, desire for change, or frustration, while practicing unconditional friendliness towards my mind. If I am unable to open into Bare Awareness, I then begin to note past mind/future mind, the feeling tones within the thoughts that are pulling me back or pushing me forward, easing myself through the physical exercise of regulated breathing, and nurture my mind with loving self-talk (mantra, Melanie you are safe, I see you, I love you).
Most days I am able to open into Bare Awareness for this has been the practice that has allowed me to reflect with loving openness and become my own best friend.
Techniques and tools I use during a meditation sitting:
108 Mala Practice, (my favorite) counting each bead with SO inhale HUM exhale breathing exercise.
Counting 1-5, inhale 1 exhale 2 inhale 3 exhale 4 inhale 5 exhale 4 inhale 3 exhale 2 inhale 1
What is This, Don’t Know, using the practice of a curious child with each passing moment, Zen practice don’t know mind or beginner’s mind.
Contract and Relax Body, inhale contract abdominal region, chest, hands & arms, shoulders up to ears, jaw, whole face, hold for a count of three and exhale releasing until belly is soft and shoulders relax, good for racing mind/tense body.
Candle Gazing, night time practice, starting with eye movement exercise, gazing at flame until you are able to bring the light within, relaxing and warming practice.
I teach more techniques that I learned while in India, I find teaching the techniques to beginners offers them clear instructions which seems to be less intimating then asking them to close their eyes and welcome whatever arises. Giving them a technique also gives them ownership of the practice, they seem more receptive to sit on the cushion/chair at home.
How I explain my experience during a sitting meditation to a beginner:
When I explain my experiences with Bare Awareness or Unfiltered Awareness to a beginner, I try to keep it very simple: I sit down in a proper posture (explained above) that is comfortable for me, begin to regulate my breathing by inhaling and exhaling through my nostrils, extending/lengthening the breath while releasing any held tension in my body. By releasing held tension my body becomes relaxed which will help relax my mind, “The mind follows the body and the body follows the mind”.
I then move into my formal meditation practice/training, if you can picture this, my breath is the gate keeper that readies me to walk through the gate of open awareness, an awareness that allows me to welcome each thought, each body sensation, with kindness. I return to my natural breath and take a seat as an observer, if I could describe my observer it would be a light house and I am the light looking over the waves of thoughts and body sensations.
I observe the thoughts and body sensations that come and go as fast as the waves hitting the shore. I am not trying to stop the thoughts or sensations happening within my body, I practice friendliness towards my thoughts and allow my mind to do its job “think”. If I become overwhelmed by the activity of my mind I am able to return to my gate keeper, my breath, and self-sooth myself until I am able to open my awareness again without confusion, judgement, or reactivity towards my practice.
Picture: 2015, Melanie Yetter (Rev. Jabul, while still a practicing monastic) being photographed for a local art exhibit, with Dan Garcia owner The Photoshoot Factory.