Teens Day 1: Use the breath to center yourself

There will be some posts over the next four weeks to accompany the Introductory Mindfulness Course which I am running with teenagers.

Breath is the bridge that connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold again.

In our community, where people are practicing the mindfulness of doing laundry, washing dishes, eating, walking and so forth, everybody learns to use breath as a tool for restoring mindfulness.

Thich Nhat Hahn

How to work with thoughts and emotions in meditation

Whatever thoughts and emotions arise in meditation, allow them to rise and settle, like the waves in the ocean. Whatever you find yourself thinking, let that thought rise and settle, without any constraint. Don’t grasp at it, feed it or indulge it, don’t cling to it, don’t try to solidify it. Neither follow thoughts nor invite them; be like the ocean looking down at its own waves, or the sky gazing down on the clouds that pass across it.

You will soon find that thoughts are like the wind; they come and go. The secret is not to “think” about the thoughts but to allow them to flow through your mind, while keeping your mind free of afterthoughts.

Sogyal Rinpoche

A key way of working with fears: Stay with the emotion in the body

As the previous post noted, we try to bring awareness to the patterns which repeat in our lives. However, they can often have very deep roots in the emotional wounds which we carry with us from the past  of which we are unaware. This quote points to  a way of working with them as they actually manifest in the day-to-day of our experience. Most of our deep wounds are connected to relationships in the past and therefore we  can imagine a situation where a current relationship causes our anxiety and fears to rise.  These then give rise to a cascade of thoughts about ourselves or others, painting worse-case scenarios or stories about deficiencies in ourselves. What is the best way to work with this?  In this moment we do not know the roots in the past which the experience has touched into. However, we do have a very real feeling – of fear, or of  flight – in the body. So we stay with that. We acknowledge, if possible,   the story line that the mind is running, but leave it to one side. We try to stay with fear or anxiety as an embodied feeling and work with the energies associated with the feeling.  Stay with the emotion with kindness and non-judgment as much as you can as a feeling in the body, breathing into the feelings and widening the space around them. In this way we hold ourselves  and our fears in awareness and acceptance, just as a mother would hold a frightened child.

You may not yet be able to bring your unconscious mind activity into awareness as thoughts, but it will always be reflected in the body as an emotion, and of this you can become aware.

Eckhart Tolle

What way it is ‘supposed’ to be?

The more things go “our way” for a while, the more we can believe that that is the way it is supposed to be. And when things don’t go “our way,” which sooner or later they will not, we can get angry, disappointed, depressed, devastated forgetting that it was never “supposed to be” any one way at all.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Arriving at your own Door