Starting next week I’ll be teaching a 6-week class series entitled Being Here Now through the adult learning center here in town. I’ve taught a few other similar class series’ through them as well but its been a couple of years since my last session. The description I provided for the class is as follows :
When we learn the art of mindfulness through the cultivation of meditation, relaxation, and joy our lives have the opportunity to become more spacious and at ease. This class will be focusing on the practice of sitting meditation, watering seeds of joy within ourselves, and learning how to rest our bodies and minds through the process of guided relaxation. No experience necessary, great for beginners. This is a non-faith based approach to living more happily and mindfully in the present moment, all are welcome. A variety of cushions, benches, and chairs will be provided.
Since it turns out that in the span of 5 days I’ll be giving a talk for Unity Church’s interfaith day of prayer service, performing in a poetry slam (this Friday! Gulp!), starting my class series, and giving a teaching talk at my local sangha I’m especially finding the need to write out my preparations for these speaking engagements in order to keep them all organized. So, once again in line with two of my most recent posts, this one is to help me sort through what to cover in my first class.
The syllabus I’ve mapped out is:
Class One: Introduction to mindfulness, sitting meditation & deep breathing
Class Two: Slowing down with sitting meditation & walking meditation
Class Three: Guided deep relaxation
Class Four: Teaching on the cultivation of connection & joy
Class Five: Tools for practicing gratitude: mindful eating, daily verses
Class Six: Guided deep relaxation (with a free CD to take with you)
What is mindfulness? Simply put, mindfulness is the ability to be here now, connecting with the present moment just as it is. Without a want to change anything – offering our full presence – mindfulness is our capacity to wake up to what we’re doing while we’re doing it and what’s going on within and around us. We may have experience with such activities that naturally bring about this state such as: gardening, surfing, bike riding, running, creating art, playing an instrument, cooking, fishing, spending time with children, playing a sport, and so on. But the art of mindfulness can extend to all aspects of our everyday life and be cultivated with intention so as to become an ongoing practice of engaging with the world around us with interest, presence, and joy.
What creates the biggest roadblock for us at first is the separation of our mind and body. When we first start trying to water the seeds of mindfulness within ourselves we must become aware of how much time we spend mentally disconnected from our physical bodies. So often our minds are full of chatter and distraction. We get wrapped up in worrying, over-thinking, planning, regretting, day dreaming, judging, comparing, self-analyzing, and spinning around and around about mundane or unhelpful things. Mindfulness involves uniting the body and the mind so that they are both in the same place at the same time. Our attention is on what and who we’re engaged with rather than lost in some mode of unproductive thought process that has little to do with the present moment. The more able we are to bridge the mind and body together the stronger our presence grows and the more capacity we have to connect fully in the here and now.
So where and how do we start? We start with slowing down and we start with our breath. Sitting mediation does not need to be linked to any particular spiritual or religious sect. It can be used simply as a practice of slowing down. The practice of meditation allows our bodies to become still and our minds to learn how to start quieting down. Note: the mind will take much longer than the body to figure out how to settle in to itself and slow down. Often when we’re first doing sitting meditation our minds can actually become more active than usual. Our minds are not used to having such spaciousness and quiet and may kick up all sorts of stuff – maybe even things we’ve thought were long since resolved and forgotten. This is very normal. We’re used to being distracted my a multitude of things. When we encounter sitting meditation our minds have a tendency to be quite confused as to what to do with themselves. This can make it difficult for people to stick with meditation. Knowing that we’re not doing it wrong, that it’s normal for the mind to be running amok, and that it will, over time, start settling down can make it easier to keep practicing.
Our breath is our anchor to the present moment. It helps us to reconnect our minds and bodies.
Breathing in I know I am breathing in. Breathing out I know I am breathing out.
This is a simple verse we can say to ourselves during sitting meditation, driving, washing the dishes, walking to our office, or whenever. It may seem overly simplistic to the point we may question its effectiveness or importance. Try it out for a while and see what happens. Our own experience is what matters most and is the best motivation for continuing with anything new. Whether we are newly beginning on the path of meditation and mindfulness, or have been practicing for many years, the above verse is a crucial tool we can use to reconnect with ourselves in the present moment. And the more we return fully to the here and now the more content and at ease we tend to become as a result.
Well – I think this is a good foundation for my first class next week. Thank you for reading dear friends.