If you’re a frequent reader, you understand how much emphasis I place on embracing the present moment. I would venture to say that it is the centerpiece of this blog. We cannot have effective relationships, self-reflection, or art without being present at least some of the time. And some of the time is better than not at all.
I’ve also stated quite frequently how beneficial and effective meditation can be for this purpose. Ultimately, meditation is the practice of cultivating presence within ourselves. Remember, it’s practice. We are instilling ourselves with the tools to stay present not just on the cushion, but in our daily lives as well.
One of the best ways to cultivate presence is to be very aware of what’s going on inside at all times. Does that sound impossible? It’s not. And it is not what you think it is either. When I first attempted this, I thought how ridiculous and distracting it was. For a beginner, these are natural thoughts. If you stick with it, you will eventually realize that being aware of your inner-workings actually requires minimal effort. But, we need to practice. So without further exposition, I give you a simple meditation exercise that you may include into your daily routine. This may be done in addition to mindfulness of breath meditation and/or lovingkindness. Or it can be done exclusively. For some, this is a more effective practice than the others. As always, decide what works for you.
Mindfulness of Feeling and Thought
- If you are a beginner, read Simplicity of Meditation for notes on posture, common hindrances, and how to deal with them.
- Assume posture, start your timer (if applicable), close your eyes and focus on the breath—either the rise and fall of the abdomen or the tip of your nostrils where the breath passes in and out.
- After you’ve settled a bit, you will notice that thoughts start to bombard your mind. This is natural and presents good opportunity for the beginner. Do not resist these thoughts, but do not let them carry you away.
- Shift your attention from the breath to the stream of thoughts. This will be difficult at first. You will not understand how to engage these thoughts without letting them sweep you away. The key is to simply watch as if it were a film.
- Every time you indulge too deeply in one thought, gently bring your mind back to the position of the observer.
- Eventually, you will begin to see all of these thoughts as if in a river, bubbling up from every which way and then floating away.
- When this happens begin to notice the emotions associated with thought. This can be very subtle. It may just be a hint of anger, anxiety, or sadness. Or perhaps it’s joy, giddiness, or serenity. Avoid being swept away by any of these. Simply notice the feeling and let it go into the river.
- When you become very proficient at this, you will notice the thoughts and emotions become less and less. You begin to experience an extreme sense of peace.
Questions or comments? Let me know! Wishing you the best this Monday.
By Terence Stone
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.