Class #2 Clarifying what you see when meditating
For this class, we want to clarify what happens when you close your eyes. In order to move to the next skill called "noting" in a mindfulness practice, it's helpful to know what you are seeing in order to practice the skill of "noting."
We'll explore the difference between a thought, emotion and body sensation, then learn how to "ground" through concentration, then discuss "noting" your experience as a mindfulness skill.
Some of these pictures are videos to see what I mean visually. Click away.
We discussed concentration last week and explored how hard it is to meditate. It's hard because so many thoughts, emotions and body sensations rush into our minds.
Today's class aims at helping you see what is rushing into your mind so you can eventually slow it down, note it, and see it rising and falling in your mind.
This practice takes us in the direction of being less identified or having less ego in life.
We reviewed concentration and came to the consensus that it's hard to do. We practiced "catching" and "holding" our concentration by striking the bell and holding onto the sound.
This was a way to understand concentration as a process of catching awareness and holding onto it just long enough to see it fade away.
In the class today we looked deeper into the meaning and consequence of things fading away.
We started the class with examining "what do we see" when we close our eyes. It is important to acknowledge how chaotic our minds are, without mindful training. I'm hoping you'll leave this course with realistic expectations about mindfulness so you'll continue to practice throughout your life.
Thoughts, emotions and body sensation continuously flow into our consciousness. This is a common experience for people who meditate. Even very experienced meditators have to keep working on their concentration.
First a word about symbols. The blue circle represents our cognition or thinking. We can "see" what we are thinking when we choose to step back from our thoughts mindfully. The red circle represents emotions and the green circle represents body sensations. This is tricky because emotions are physical sensations in or around the body. We need to recognize our emotions so we can make balanced rational decisions versus purely emotional decisions. We recognize our emotions by observing what happens in or around the body. This is subtly different than body sensations that are exclusively physical such as back aches, knee pain or hunger.
If we see the difference between these three domains we are less likely to be overwhelmed when we meditate.
When starting out as a meditator it's good to see your mind like a flashlight "watching" your thoughts, emotions or body sensations (we'll call these "objects" for short). These "objects" are always rising into view and falling out of view. These "objects" rise up from our unconscious into our conscious view.
The key concept to remember is each object rises, peaks, and falls away in rapid, continuos succession.
We want to "note or label" whatever rises and falls as either a thought, emotion or sensation.
Mindfulness is about learning to manage the constant flow of thoughts, emotions and body sensations. Realistically our minds are messy. We can be overwhelmed by the constant flow of "objects."
If we have enough concentration to "catch" and "hold" these "objects" rising and falling, we can deepen our understanding of the core concept. Everything is changing including our thoughts and identity.
When we see our identity in flux, we can increase the freedom from our egos.
What to do Part 1 Anchor or Ground
You have a couple of choices when your mind gets messy. As a beginner it's good to start with concentration first to anchor, ground and calm things down before you go to mindfulness in Part 2.
Anchoring or grounding is also a fail-safe. If your mind gets too messy or overwhelmed by difficult thoughts and emotions, anchoring in the body is the safe play. It keeps you connected to reality instead of flying off into an escapist state. And anchoring can be very calming and restful in case you need a break from difficult thoughts or emotions during your practice.
What to do Part 2 Practice Mindfulness
If you've established some concentration and the objects rising and falling in your mind has slowed to a reasonable pace, you can now practice mindfulness. What this means is, instead of going back to your anchor whenever an object rises, you watch each object rise and fall - ideally one at a time.
You do this by "noting"or "labelling" it in your mind. Without judgement, you can say to yourself "I'm thinking about bananas" as it rises and falls away. Or you can just note it as "thinking," "thinking," or "feeling," "feeling."
We're going to build on this next week with the practice of bare awareness.
Because our thoughts, emotions and body sensations are continuously rising and falling, we can conclude
"We are just the constant flow of thoughts, emotions and body sensations."
This is who and what we are. This insight (as they call it) permits us to understand how our identities are based on these objects, and because these objects are in constant flux so is our identity.
Less identity leads to greater freedom from our egos.
Bare awareness will help us practice this next week.