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 Kornelius: Dear Stephen, I wanted to thank you for your help. Breathing becomes my way to work against fear and anxiety but also to get a better body feeling. I’m at the beginning still and I do have a lot of problems to follow your exercises but I can do the diaphragm breathing and can concentrate on the breath of belly and chest. What is the reason to practice the diaphragm breathing? Do you think it is better to do the meditation in groups?
ANSWER: By retraining diaphragm breathing in a soft gentle way and using the out-breath to learn how to physically and mentally relax the “fight or flight – danger signal’ switches off in the brain and anxiousness dissipates. The fight or flight – danger signal is habitual so this exercise needs to be repeated regularly but if you do so it also has the effect of deconditioning the habitual response altogether through Mindful non-participation.
There is no need to do this exercise in a group it just needs to be done regularly. When you do it investigate what it means to relax both physically and mentally – this is the key
QUESTION from Dee: Hi Stephen, When you said 'hear but don't listen' I found it difficult .. it's not easy meditating is it :) especially with a noisy bridge above me and trucks, cars etc Thank you.
ANSWER: Hello Dee, what is difficult is separating perception from the actual pure experience. Perception is habitual, we spend our whole life training it and the whole of our education system is designed to re-enforce it. Perception is the way that we identify experience as a 'thing'. It is fast and habitually automatic.
When you say that you can hear a "noisy bridge above you and trucks and cars" - can you? Sitting with your eyes closed, hearing the sounds around you, what tells you its a bridge above you, what tells you there are trucks and cars - perception. With your eyes closed you can not know trucks or cars and you definitely can not know the bridge above you - they are all added extra - habitual commentary of your mind.
So what can you know? You can know the purity of the experience of the sound as it strikes your ear drum, you can observe that each sound is made up of many flowing events that come and go. You can observe how these small flowing events are stitched together to create a permanent thing - that can not be known - like the bridge. You can observe your relationship to the sound, your resistance to it and Soften Into that resistance.
The sounds around us - the disturbances during meditation are not your enemy, they are your friend. They are trying to teach you about yourself, but only if you are quiet enough to listen.
QUESTION from Chris: Hi Steven, your meditations and content of information is very in depth and easy to follow. I am very surprised that more people haven' t taken the time to view and learn. Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge. Your detailed and timely responses to any queries I have had is amazing. Especially considering you are sharing this course and your time for free.
I'm curious about the softening and breathing into. I notice in the video there is no notable movement as you breath. I may be taking the "letting your body sink and relax with the exhalation" too literally and allowing the shoulders and body to fall and sink on the exhale and rise again with the inhale/expansion. Which in turn means that I am the over focusing on shoulder slouch and maintaining good posture . Chris
ANSWER: Hello Chris, Thankyou for your kind words, the breathing used to develop Softening Into is a skill; yes you are correct there is no actual discernable movement in the chest or belly when using this skill. This is because the initial training is towards learning to breathe using slow movement of the diaphragm rather then the usual breathing in the chest or belly.
Softening Into is the skill of learning to Soften / relax into our relationship to the underlying flavour / taste of pleasantness or unpleasantness (pali: Vedana) that permeates all perceived experience. It is this relationship that causes us to react / respond to sense experience. Once developed the skill of Softening Into allows us to be with pleasantness and unpleasantness without responding thereby deconditioning the habitual relationship of attachment or aversion to them – this then creates the MIDL path.
When training this breathing picture the breath as it comes in moving from the base of your ribs down below belly button towards the ground. Learn to use the diaphragm muscles to do this – not your chest or belly. As the breath comes in relax your chest and allow the air to fill from the base of your ribs to the top of your chest. As the diaphragm moves from the ribs downwards your chest fills from the bottom of the ribs up. This is important – learn to do this without engaging the chest muscles to breath.
When your breath goes out – the diaphragm moves back up below your ribs, your chest and body will deflate like a balloon deflating. As your body deflates physically relax with the movement of the deflation – slide down the movement of the deflation – allow the deflation of each out breath to relax your body. To feel this deflation you can be aware of the Softening / relaxing of the shoulders / chest / upper back with each out-breath. This is the first training.
The next stage is to use the feeling of Softening / relaxing on the out-breath to train yourself to mentally soften / relax. You do this by letting out a silent, gentle sigh through your nose along the full length of the out-breath allowing yourself to mentally sink – fully let go.
Once this skill is learnt then you no longer need to control the breath to learn how to Soften Into. The expansion and contraction of the breath within the body was just a vehicle to learn what mental Softening Into means. You then train this skill in seated meditation by observing the expansion and contraction of the natural breath in your body – without controlling it – and Softening with the contraction.
QUESTION from Laurie: I have completed one to ten and am wondering if I should repeat these until I feel no difference from couch to everyday life? I feel a big difference although been doing them since October ... really like it!
ANSWER: Hello Laurie, this is a good question. Exercise 1 - 10 is designed to create your 'viewing platform' for seated MIDL practice. Exercises 11 - 24 then train different ways of structuring your attention from the basis of your 'viewing platform'. The finished 'viewing platform' is Mindfulness 'Immersed' with the 'experience' of 'expansion and contraction' of the breath within your body.
It is beneficial to keep repeating these first 10 stages to make the 'viewing platform' solid and established. Think of its development as being a tightening spiral rather then a straight line - covering the same ground but each time with a different level of understanding and skill. Once Mindfulness is immersed within 'expansion and contraction' - on the expansion (in-breath) open up to and become more aware of the six sense doors (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind) and any experience that arises at them.
On the contraction (out-breath) - use the Softening Into skill developed in exercise 3, to use the falling / relaxing of the contraction to Soften Into / relax into any attraction or aversion you experience towards the sense experience. Allow each 'contraction' to take you deeper into your 'hearts centre'. Daily Life: To transfer Mindfulness into your daily life, start paying attention to the ending of your seated meditation. End it by 'grounding' your awareness within your body, next align your attention with any sounds around you - allow them to 'ground your attention, then slowly open your eyes - be aware of 'seeing'. See if you can carry the Awareness as you stand up and walk around.
Do this in a general way by 'remembering' the 'touch' of your feet on the ground - make the 'touch' of your feet on the ground your meditation object throughout the day. You will forget it but that's ok, as soon as you notice you have forgotten - acknowledge it and 're-ground' your attention in the feet 'touching' the ground.