This section is dedicated to questions on Mindfulness Meditation from many students all over the world. If you have a question that you would like to ask you can said it to this address: Send a Message
thankyou and take care,
QUESTION from Joe: Is it necessary to feel the soles of our feet and gravity throughout the entire meditation process? And can u please elaborate on how to observe a thought without being lost in it ?
ANSWER: When 'feeling' your feet and gravity within your body it is necessary to focus on the 'sensate' quality. The 'feeling' of your feet touching the ground may be experienced as 'pressure', hardness', 'softness', and the gravity may be experienced as 'heaviness'.
To initially establish your awareness within your body hold these sensations clearly in mind. Once Mindfulness and concentration become establish you can allow these sensation to stay in the background of your awareness using them in the same way a boat may use and anchor in the sea. While holding this 'anchor point' in mind it is then possible to observe habitual thinking when it arises. This is because the sensations within your body can only be experienced 'right now' in the present, where habitual thinking is always focussed towards the past or the future.
So by using the sensations in your body as anchor to the present you will be able to notice when thinking arises because you will 'forget' the anchor point. With practice this skill becomes stronger and observing the thought process easier.
QUESTION from Carolyn: I would be interested to hear your strategies for how to deal with fearful thoughts and fearful rumination. Should we treat these thoughts like any other thoughts during meditation or can we include CBT techniques to try and rationalize that we are catastrophising?
ANSWER: Hello Carolyn, When using Mindfulness meditation to work with fearful thoughts and memories the content of the thought is irrelevant. The content is what you are remembering or thinking about. This is because the content of fearful thoughts is just past habitual relationships 'talking to you', perceiving what you are experiencing 'now' through your past relationships.
To try to find a solution at the level of the 'story' is a never ending process because while you may come to terms with the contents of your thoughts, your relationship of wanting to run away from unpleasantness attached to them remains the same. So you may come to terms with a particular fear within your life, but another will take its place because you have not removed the root cause - You don't like unpleasant feelings. By not addressing your aversion to unpleasantness and attraction to pleasantness new things to like and dislike will continue to arise throughout your life and no conclusion will ever be reached.
The question then is not "How do I deal with fearful thoughts?" the question is "Where do I experience fearful thoughts? It is your relationship to the experience of fear that drives the process, in particular the unpleasantness of the fearful feelings.
Steps to take:
1) During seated meditation or everyday life it is enough to acknowledge that the fearful thoughts are present. Do not waste one moment analysing the content of the thought.
2) As soon as you notice the fearful thoughts are present 'ground' your attention within the touch of your feet on the floor, body touching the chair etc.
3) Notice where you feel the fearful response within your body, notice any tightness / resistance within that response.
4) Break the fearful response within your body into its different sensations, 'hard, tight, hot etc", investigate it.
5) Notice the unpleasant feeling / flavour that permeates the different sensations, separate the unpleasantness from the sensations in the same way you would separate a bananas texture from its flavour.
6) Use SLOW, gentle breaths, relaxing on the out-breath to soften into, relax into the unpleasant feeling.
NOTE: Never try to get rid of the unpleasantness, this will make it stronger, soften, soften, soften, accept.
7) When the unpleasantness dissolves through acceptance, usually 2 - 3 breaths. You can then let a big sign out and relax, let drop any physical tension remaining in your body, this is just muscle memory.
8) Rinse and repeat and the unpleasantness each time will become weaker, in this way the emotional charge will decondition and never come up again.
Once the unpleasantness has dissolved the thought process will collapse because its fuel in you not liking the unpleasant feeling that arose in your body through habitual response to thoughts of the future.
QUESTION from Carolyn: Thankyou for your reply. You are so absolutely correct that once one fear is resolved another takes its place. That made me smile because I have noticed it myself. My fearful thoughts stem from nerve damage in my legs that give me constant discomfort...causing me to catastrophise. I have noticed that this discomfort gets worse when I am under stress. Because there is actual discomfort I find it hard to separate the actual discomfort from the uncomfortable fear feelings...mainly in my abdomen.....and they seem to override my efforts to separate the 'banana texture from its flavour'....but I will continue to practice. Thankyou so much for sharing your wisdom. The guide you sent me is invaluable
ANSWER: Hello Carolyn, If you have chronic pain and discomfort it is not necessary to separate the feelings of fear from the discomfort within your body. This is because the feelings of fear are only a symptom of an aversive relationship to the constant discomfort within your body. The aversion to experiencing the discomfort within your body is the key.
What is it about the discomfort within your body that you don't like?
It is that you find the sensations associated with the discomfort within your body unpleasant. Since you find them unpleasant then you want them to go away, this wanting to go away is mental aversion and the soil in which the fear grows. The fear arises because you can not escape from the unpleasantness, the thoughts arise to try to find a way to escape. If on the other hand you found the sensations of discomfort to be pleasant, then you would want to experience more of the discomfort so that you could get the pleasant feeling.
The feeling of discomfort within your body is neither pleasant or unpleasant, it is neutral, it is just sensations. Pleasantness and unpleasantness is a habitual mental judgement that is overlayed over the experience of sensations that make up discomfort, it is not physical it is mental.
What you need to do is be aware of the general feeling of discomfort within your body and notice how it has an unpleasant flavour / taste to it.
Then soften, soften, soften into the unpleasantness.,
QUESTION from Ash: Hi Stephen, I have been practicing your mindfulness meditation practices on Insight Timer and they have been the best for me to quieten my mind. However, whenever I practice the meditation lying down (to prevent back pain) I end up falling asleep. Is falling asleep a sign that I am not practicing the meditation properly? I think it is a good sign as I usually cannot quiet my mind enough to fall asleep but I wanted to make sure.
ANSWER: Hello Ash, Yes it is possible to meditate in any posture, even laying down. The reason an upright posture is used during meditation is because the effort to sit upright and the slight discomfort of the posture makes it harder to fall asleep. Laying down, especially on a bed is usually habitually associated with sleeping, so it is easy to end falling asleep when lying down. If you want to meditate to fall asleep in bed then this is fine, just breathe gently and relax on each outbreath each night and if you wake up in the middle of the night just meditate to sleep again.
If you want to meditate lying down and not fall asleep, then I suggest laying on a carpeted floor or a yoga mat. The solidness of the floor plus always having your palms facing upward when lying down will keep you alert. If you place a blanket or pillow under your knees it will stop your back from arching.
There are other options, a one seater lounge chair is wonderful for meditation and is also comfortable.
Sleepiness is a normal part of meditation and comes from an imbalance of energy, namely too much concentration and not enough Mindfulness. To stimulate Your Mindfulness and increase the energy levels you need to Investigate your meditation object, for example try to experience the changing sensations within the breathing. It also helps to put effort into noticing whenever your attention moves towards thinking. The effort to try to catch the moment your attention wanders off to a thought will strengthen Mindfulness and rebalance the energy.,
QUESTION from Linda: During meditation I seem to only be able to relax and experience calmness to a certain level then I come out of the meditation. What am I doing wrong?
ANSWER:Hello Linda, It is normal to 'bounce' in and out of the depth of calm during this exercise. When you reach a certain point the 'danger' signal of the fight / flight anxious response will pull you back into alert mode because it does not want your defences dropped. When this happens, acknowledge it, relax and gently soften again.
Without speaking in person I would say that the increase in heat during the deep breathing is coming from over effort and too much oxygen if your system, this will have the opposite effect then you want. The softening skill uses slow, deep, gentle breaths with the breathing becoming almost unperceivable as your skill develops. The new guide will give you an exercise to train this, for now:
Place your palms below your belly button. Breathing slowly through your nose picture your breath moving slowly in down towards the ground. Your chest will not move and there will be hardly any movement in your belly when done correctly.
Next breathe out from the ground through your nose. Focus on making the breaths slow and gentle. Allow your body to 'slide down' the out-breath and gently / quietly sign along its length. You will know when it is correct because it will be 'calming' and you will have a feeling of physically and mentally sinking / softening.