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Gillian Sanger

What is one favourite mindfulness practice for you right now?

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I offer this  simple effective exercise to clients / students to keep in their self-help toolbox because tough stuff has a habit of popping up in this age of uncertainty. 

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LIKE A MOUNTAIN, SITTING . . . 

Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, or on a straight-backed chair with feet flat on the floor which is supported by Earth.

Close the eyes and gently direct the inner gaze down toward the heart.

Inhale a slow, full, deep breath ... then slowly release the breath.

Do it again. 

Now breathe normally and just be aware of the breath easily flowing in and flowing out.. 

Imagine a majestic mountain, its base deep in Earth and its peak in the passing clouds. Hold this image steadily in the mind as you’re aware of the natural ebb and flow of the breathe. 

If mind starts up a chat session or five, just return the attention to the mountain and the rhythmically flowing breathe.

If strong emotions rise up, just note them without being dragged around by them.

If tears come, let them flow (you too, guys).

If a smile comes, don't grasp at it ... just let it be and be it.

Do this for five minutes (or longer, as time permits). Give yourself entirely to this experience. 

To close this exercise, tell yourself: 

“I am like the mountain, rooted, steady, receptive and strong with an expansive view of everything around it … no matter what the circumstances.”

Repeat this a few times to remember that you are as if a mountain.

The seasons swirl around the mountain. Clouds and mountain intersect. Showers, mist, sleet, and snow continuously reshape the surface. The view is endlessly repainted with light and shadow. Creatures shit and piss on the mountain. The mountain’s rocky surface continuously expands, contracts, and vibrates with the baking sun, the chill of the night, the light of the moon, the rotations of Earth from which it rose, and the mechanics of the heavens that move Earth through space. Towns, cities, whole civilizations rise up and fall away on the mountain’s slopes. 

All the while, mountain is being mountain … rooted, steady, receptive, and strong with an expansive view of everything.

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Keep an image of a mountain on your refrigerator door and in your mobile device. In daily life, especially when muck and thorns are flying fast, recall your mountain essence.

Wherever you are, if circumstances veer toward overwhelming, step outside or into a restroom stall and do this exercise for a few minutes (it's ok to take this time to restore balance). There are times when it helps to remember our true nature.

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Edited by Jeff Miller
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Wow Jeff. This was incredibly beautiful. I find myself increasingly drawn to nature-inspired mediations. I find such peace in reflecting upon or connecting with the natural elements of this world. I also really loved the invitation to let tears flow if they come. Often in guided practices, we are instructed to just be with whatever arises, and yet this very clear invitation to embrace tears of sadness if they come up delves right into the heart. Thank you for this 🙏 Did you write it? Do you do recordings?

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14 hours ago, Jeff Miller said:

Hi Gillian, thanks.
 

Yes, I wrote it. I haven’t done any recordings, I don’t have the voice for it,  but I’m going to have some practice videos made for the site I’m building using a voiceover provider. 

That's great! Share the site with us when it's done 🙂

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Because I tend to be coldly rational and judgmental, my practice nearly always focuses on "bottom-up" processes starting with awareness of bodily sensations, then resting attention on the breath, and then moving into global awareness of the body. For me, this progression serves gradually to admit awareness and acceptance of feelings (pleasant, unpleasant, or neither-pleasant-or-unpleasant) and then thoughts and emotions. It really releases the grasping aspects of disembodied thinking and judgment and results in a pleasant abiding with whatever affective states arise in the body/mind. Depending on what seems called-for, I either emphasize mindful awareness and investigation or abandon the breath and the substantial body for a more open awareness. Either way, I find formal meditation often reboots my system from being somewhat hyper-vigilant and tense to being much calmer, flexible, and openly present.

For many weeks before the election, I had been emphasizing loving-kindness practice after briefly settling as described above. I have found this hard to keep up while doomscrolling election results, so I'm taking this week off.😄 My consistent intention is to find refuge in the flow of natural conditions as they manifest in the constantly changing experience of this body and then to broaden it to include an interconnectedness with all manifestations such that my "top-down" process of evaluative and creative thinking are well-integrated and aligned with the "bottom-up" and greater external processes. During the day, I try to do a lot of brief pauses and checks with how well integrated mind and body are (which is not to say they are well-integrated).

On rare occasions, I will listen to music--usually Deva Premal. I do not journal although from time to time I will do brief essays sometimes to myself and sometimes to others to organize my thoughts. For myself, there is danger in journaling and even "noting" in meditation practice. The danger is reinforcing the tendency to take too seriously the stories and views projected in my mind to explain experiences. For me, this just increases the rift between my mind and my body including heartfelt emotions. It tends to cause me to contract around a somewhat narcissistic sense of myself and of being separate from everything and everyone else. I don't dislike the storytelling aspect of my mind and attend to it with interest with its arisings and passings. I simply have learned not to trust it without much investigation and even then to hold it lightly. The fact that it generally does not appear during formal meditation and is much less salient during daily activities tells me the ordinary tendency is to give it undue authority. (This is a longwinded way of confessing I tend to be a "head-case" and have had a history of lending the storytelling mind way too much authority in the past.) Isn't it interesting how different we can be?

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On 11/6/2020 at 2:50 PM, David Weiskopf said:

Depending on what seems called-for, I either emphasize mindful awareness and investigation or abandon the breath and the substantial body for a more open awareness. Either way, I find formal meditation often reboots my system from being somewhat hyper-vigilant and tense to being much calmer, flexible, and openly present.

Likewise David! I am finding silent, formal practice to be quite grounding these days. 

That said, I have also been listening to Deva Premal a bit this past week, specifically her song Om Asatoma. It is probably my favourite mantra.

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