In MIDL Mindfulness Training 1/52 you develop your initial skill in grounding your attention by bringing awareness to the sensate quality of your body as it sits in meditation. Through systematically opening up to the general sensate quality of your body, awareness naturally immerses within it. This creates a reference point from which you develop the skill of observing habitual shifts of your attention away from your body towards thoughts, sounds etc. strengthening mindfulness. Submit Your Question
Your first training:
MIDL Mindfulness Training 1/52: Grounding Your Awareness
1. Creating a 'grounding point' for awareness by Immersing awareness within the sensate quality of your body.
2. Develop flexible attention by observing habitual movements of your attention away from your 'grounding point'.
Keep the sensate experience of your body as it sits in mind and notice whenever your attention habitually moves away from it.
Practice daily for 1 week, always play with how little effort you need to observe these habitual movements. Take interest in the collapsing of mindfulness, the periods of knowing and unknowing.
1. Develop initial investigation and mindfulness.
2. Develop ability to observe your attention move.
3. Foundation for MIDL mindfulness of breathing.
Your Question: How do I experience warmth and coolness during meditation and what is meant by 'within the body'?
Stephen Procter: 'Within the body' refers to the whole body as a sense organ of touch and the sensations that arise within it. To experience warmth and coolness within your body means to just generally be aware of the experience of any warmth or coolness within your body, wherever it appears. Location is not important and the experience of both warmth or coolness is not important, we are using the fire element as a gentle 'grounding point' for awareness, one that it can wander from if it wishes to. Whatever appears to you and wherever it appears is correct.
For this training observe with a very open awareness to avoid the absorbing of awareness within it, this is necessary if you are going to develop the skill of observing habitual movements of attention between the six senses.
You Asked: How do I experience the feeling of heaviness during meditation?
Reply: Heaviness is the experience that arises within your body when it totally relaxes and your muscles no longer hold your weight. We can only experience heaviness when we are totally relaxed.
To feel it now:
1. Hold your arm out in front of you.
2. Relax your effort to hold your arm up without dropping it.
3. The downwards 'pull' in your arm is the experience of heaviness.
In your meditation posture:
1. Align your posture so that your body is balanced within itself, balancing on your spine.
2. Gradually relax the muscles in your body and tune into the experience of heaviness.
You Asked: Question about posture adjustments during meditation, should these be carried out? For instance, I found my spine curving into a C and consciously sat erect to fix it. Is there a specific way to carry out such adjustments?
Reply: Yes, in the beginning it is beneficial to play with our posture to reteach our body how to balance within itself. During my intensive practice days my posture was continuously collapsing, the strength of my samadhi continued (concentration) and the collapse did not bother me but my body was suffering from this continued abuse - this is not the middle way.
One of my teachers changed my meditation object from mindfulness of breathing to mindfulness of posture for the next 3 weeks. I made the collapse of my posture my meditation object. In this way I noticed the collapsing earlier until I could notice the very moment the alignment of my posture started to change. In observing this it is helpful to observe the relationship between the deflation of the out-breath and the compacting (or collapsing) of the body within itself, importantly the stacking of the vertebrae and alignment of the bowling ball (head) on the bow of the neck.
This is a wonderful mindfulness practice if done slowly with curiosity, also always be aware of and delay the intention to make the adjustment or movement, before following it so that the intention becomes clear to you.
You Asked: Does it make sense when I say that it felt as if the mind has excitation levels? There were times when there seemed to be a "buzzing" in the mind. I don't mean auditory buzzing, just an awareness of restlessness even as I was indeed paying attention and wasn't wandering. Then at times there was a "blip" of settling down and much better attention and no buzzing, then again the buzzing? Any explanation for this?
Reply: Yes, this is what the mind does and its normal state throughout the day. It is busily doing its job, moving awareness between any stimulation that arises within the field of the six senses. When there is little concentration and collapsing mindfulness this buzzing will be a 'bouncing' between the six senses. When some concentration develops and continuity of mindfulness then the mind is experienced as buzzing as it tries to 'move out' towards the six senses but is held back, 'grounded' within the meditation object. When concentration levels are high then the buzzing will settle as the mind becomes enchanted by the object of meditation, five hindrances are suppressing and it temporarily no longer is drawn towards the six senses.
So yes, we can observe the mind in its un-suppressed state, its grounded state or in its suppressed state. All of these have varying degrees of excitement within the mind, if you were to head into the direction of absorption there would be varying degrees of calming of this excitement.
Your Question: I found it difficult to stay with my body during this meditation, my mind kept thinking. How do I make it stop?
Stephen Procter: One of our first lessons in mindfulness meditation is that it is not easy to stop wandering off and becoming lost within thinking during the meditation session - and that this is perfectly ok. One of the key points to understand is that your mind wandering is not a problem - this is what it does. Your heart beats, your lungs breathe and your mind thinks.
Your task during meditation is not to stop your mind from wandering but rather to develop the skill of being able to observe when it does wander. By taking interest in the points of change between being fully aware that you are sitting in meditation and forgetting that awareness, the clarity of your mindfulness will increase and the periods in which you become lost within thinking will naturally become shorter. With practice the habitual wandering of your mind towards thinking will settle by itself and your mind will fall into stillness.
Your Question: I love this practice but I can't grasp the moment thinking begins. I experience moments without a thought and then I find myself in the middle of thinking and don't know how I got there. If I repeat this lesson maybe I will get the idea. Do you have any suggestions for improving this process?
Stephen Procter: These gaps between being fully aware of the experience of your body sitting in meditation and when you suddenly realise that you have been lost within thought, is the basis for MIDL mindfulness training. To develop your meditation practice your effort should be placed towards trying to notice the moment a thought arises.
Treat it like a game, feel the touch of your hands, relax your mind - mental silence - then watch. You may suddenly realise that that you have been lost within a thought again - wonderful. This realising is how mindfulness is strengthened and your skill sharpens.
Once you have returned to full awareness notice what it feels like to be Mindful once again. Compare this to what it felt like to be lost within the thought, fully unaware of your surroundings. Once you have acknowledged this return to the experience of your body sitting in meditation, take a slow gentle breath out to mentally relax and then watch your mind like a cat watching a mouse hole.
This is the game of MIDL mindfulness meditation training. I also suggest practicing this without the guided meditation playing by just sitting down, becoming aware of your body and allowing your mind to wander, developing the skill of observing any movements of your attention - you will develop greater results.
This very act of watching, trying to notice these periods of unawareness is the key. In this way the sharpness of your investigation and mindfulness will develop and you will start to notice thoughts as they arise. But this needs to be approached with the right attitude; of interest and fun, just like a game.
Your Question: Sometimes I doubt whether or not I’m properly aware of my body, the sensations for the most part seem somewhat elusive. It is definitely easier for me to hold my attention on touch rather than the body, could you give some guidance on this?
Stephen Procter: Doubt is considered the 5th hindrance to meditation, it is just a defense mechanism of your mind and when it arises it should be acknowledged but never believed. Always be careful to observe and acknowledge the relationship within your mind towards your experience within mindfulness meditation.
In mindfulness meditation you are not cultivating the ability to experience different sensations within your body but rather the clarity of the knowing factor of the awareness that is observing them. The clarity of awareness itself will fluctuate and this will affect your ability to observe different sensations within your body. It is not necessary to look for any experience that is not present to you but rather to just acknowledge what is there.
The sensations of touch are also part of the experience of your body, they are not separate from the sensations. Touch is made up of pressure, hardness, softness, warmth, coolness. Within your whole body right now can you experience any warmth or coolness? These are also sensations within your body.
What you are aware of at any time is unimportant during this MIDL Mindfulness Training. The experience of your body be it warmth, coolness, heaviness or touch, is just being used as a grounding point - a reference point from which to train the skill of observing when your attention moves away from it. This is the game that you are playing during mindfulness meditation, it is about observing the movement of the attention that knows the experience, not the experience itself.