Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Rooted in Nature: Guided Mindfulness Meditation using Natural Metaphors

"Meditation helps us wake up from this sleep of automaticity and unconsciousness, thereby making it possible for us to live our lives with access to the full spectrum of our conscious and unconscious possibilities. Sages, yogis, and Zen masters have been exploring this territory systematically for thousands of years; in the process they have learned something which may now be profoundly beneficial in the West to counterbalance our cultural orientation toward controlling and subduing nature rather than honoring that we are an intimate part of it." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p3.
"There are many other rays, or transformation bodies, expounding the Dharma — the trees, the birds, the violet bamboo, and the yellow chrysanthemum." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Buddha's Teaching (2008), p159.

Sitting upright like a mountain away from the back of the chair, rooted in a dignified feeling.
"...we sit like mountains, feeling rooted, massive, and unmoving in our posture. Our arms are the sloping sides of the mountain, our head the lofty peak, the whole body majestic and magnificent, as mountains tend to be. We are sitting in stillness, just being what we are, just as a mountain "sits there," unmoved by the changing of day into night and the changes of the weather and of the seasons." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p126.

Thoughts like clouds drifting across the sky detached from us as we simply observe their coming and going.
"Just as clouds moving across a vast spacious sky are sometimes dark and stormy, sometimes light and fluffy, so thoughts take different forms. Sometimes clouds fill the entire sky. Sometimes they clear out completely, leaving the sky cloudless." - Professor Mark Williams, Mindfulness: A practical guide to peace in a frantic world (2011), p146.

Air gently moving in and out of our nostrils and down into our bellies.
"When you place your attention in your belly and you feel the belly moving, or you place it at the nostrils and you feel the air passing in and out, you are tuning in to the sensations your body generates associated with life itself. These sensations are usually tuned out by us because they are so familiar. When you tune in to them, you are reclaiming your own life in that moment and your own body, literally making yourself more real and more alive." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p76.

The spine like a lively blade of grass reaching for the sun.
"This wholeheartedness must be as a single blade of grass or a single tree, because it is your single moment of life and your single moment of death." - Japanese 'Soto Zen' Founder Master Eihei Dōgen (1200-1253),  Shobogenzo (Translated by Hubert Nearman, 2007), p773.

Awareness filling the body like a peaceful lake of fresh water.
"Breathing with the lake image moment by moment, feeling its body as your body, allow your mind and your heart to be open and receptive, to reflect whatever comes near. [...] Can you identify not only with the surface but with the entire body of the water, so that you become the stillness below the surface as well, which at most experiences only gentle undulations, even when the surface is whipped to frothing?" - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (2004), p142-143.

The waves of one's breathing flowing in and out as if lazily washing onto a beach.
"Bring your attention to your belly, feeling it rise or expand gently on the inbreath and fall or recede on the outbreath. Keep the focus on your breathing, "being with" each inbreath for its full duration and with each outbreath for its full duration, as if you were riding the waves of your own breathing." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p58.

Calmly alert like a frog watching for a passing meal.
"A frog also sits like us, but he has no idea of zazen. Watch him. If something annoys him, he will make a face. If something comes along to eat, he will snap it up and eat, and he eats sitting. Actually that is our zazen—not any special thing." - Japanese Soto Zen teacher Shunryu Syzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1995), p80.

Allowing any unnecessary tension to thaw and dissolve like icicles during the arrival of Spring.
"When we’re still frozen solid... It’s a very lonely and cold life. In fact, what we really want is to melt. We want to be a puddle. Perhaps all that we can say about practice is that we’re learning how to melt." - American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special - Living Zen (1995), p134.

Acceptance of the present moment opening like a flower in the morning sunshine.
"As you continue practicing, the flower of insight will blossom in you, along with the flowers of compassion, tolerance, happiness, and letting go. You can let go, because you do not need to keep anything for yourself." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun My Heart (1988), p121.

The mind like the infinite sky - not discriminating against, or pursuing anything within it - whether a soaring eagle or a raging storm.
"Mindfulness involves settling into awareness itself, which is as different from thoughts and feelings as the sky is different from the clouds, birds, and weather patterns that pass through it. It is a bigger container, in which all the other events of mind and body unfold. It is a different way of knowing, a different way of being. It is a capacity that we all already have, one that is innate to being human. And we can learn to trust it." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, The Mindful Way Through Depression (2007), p99-100.

Cradling one's emotions like a mother comforting a baby.
"Awareness, like a field of compassionate intelligence located within your own heart, takes it all in and serves as a source of peace within the turmoil, much as a mother would be a source of peace, compassion, and perspective for a child who was upset. She knows that whatever is troubling her child will pass, so she can provide comfort, reassurance, and peace in her very being." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (2005), p324.

Rooted in the moment with a sense of precariousness like a pine tree on the side of a steep rocky mountain.
"No amount of outside support can substitute for that inward fire, that quiet passion for living life as if it really mattered, for knowing how easy it is to miss large swaths of it to unconsciousness and automaticity and to our deep conditioning. That is why I urge those who practice with me to practice as if their lives depended on it." - Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Coming To Our Senses (2006), p305.

Our bright awareness softly shining out like a sun illuminating and warming the infinite space around us.
"Throughout your meditation, keep the sun of your awareness shining. Like the physical sun, which lights every leaf and every blade of grass, our awareness lights our every thought and feeling, allowing us to recognize them, be aware of their birth, duration, and dissolution, without judging or evaluating, welcoming or banishing them." - Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, The Sun My Heart (1988), p13

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